Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President discussed climate change and how the most ambitious climate agreement in history is creating private sector partnerships that are advancing the latest technologies in clean power.":

Hill: "President Obama will send a budget to Congress that increases the amount of funding toward clean energy research and development by about 20 percent, he said Saturday."

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 5

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

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

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

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

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

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

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

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

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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Friday
Jan222016

The Commentariat -- January 22, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: On MSNBC, "The governor of Michigan said on Friday that race was not a factor in the state's response to reports of lead in the drinking water in Flint, a poor, majority-black city where the supply has been contaminated for more than a year, even as state officials insisted that it was safe to drink." CW: Well, okay then, that's settled.

*****

Gregory Korte of USA Today: "President Obama promised more help for America's cities Thursday, telling a gathering of mayors at the White House that they're on the front lines of providing services to citizens. Obama promised $80 million in water infrastructure grants to Michigan, the day after returning from a trip to Detroit in which he lamented the water crisis in Flint":

... Lenny Bernstein & Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday ordered the city of Flint and the state of Michigan to treat, test and report on the beleaguered municipality's water supply, in an emergency directive issued because their responses to a lead crisis in the water there 'have been inadequate to protect public health.' EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy also accepted the resignation of Susan Hedman, the agency's top official for the region that includes Flint, where 100,000 people are unable to drink the water that comes into their homes because of elevated levels of lead. President Obama also sharply criticized Michigan officials for failing to respond more quickly to the crisis, saying that 'our children should not have to be worried about the water they're drinking in American cities.'" ...

... Charles Pierce: "We should never forget that the voters of Michigan overturned the expanded emergency-manager law in 2012, only to have a new Republican majority in the state legislature pass another bill slightly adjusting the parameters of the law that was defeated. Would you like a banana with your republic?"

Sara Wire of the Los Angeles Times: "First Lady Michelle Obama urged the nation's mayors Thursday to redouble efforts to ease homelessness among military veterans in a speech that both highlighted progress and underscored the magnitude of the problem. Obama, speaking at the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, said it was 'an absolute outrage' that veterans were sleeping on the nation's streets. 'It is a horrifying stain on our nation, particularly when you think about all that these men and women have done for our country,' she said. The first lady lauded the city of Los Angeles for finding homes for more than 5,500 of the 7,000 veterans estimated to be on the streets as of January 2015, and for developing mental health and job placement services to keep them housed."

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "In a significant victory for President Obama, a federal appeals panel [of the D.C. District] on Thursday rejected an effort by 27 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups to block the administration's signature regulation on emissions from coal-fired power plants while a lawsuit moves through the courts.... By rejecting the petition on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the court required states to move forward with plans to shut down polluting coal plants and build new wind and solar sources.... The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit set June 2 to hear arguments in that case, although it is widely expected to be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, most likely in 2017."

Andrew Roth of the Washington Post: "In their first interview since [Washington Post reporter Jason] Rezaian left Iran, his wife [Yeganeh Salehi] and his mother, Mary, described the tortuous end to a saga that began with the journalist's arrest on July 22, 2014, and eventually involved top-level negotiations between Tehran and Washington that produced a deal to free him and three other jailed Iranian Americans."

Robert Bateman of Esquire: What did British Judge Robert Owen mean when he concluded, "Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the FSB operation to kill [Alexander] Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin"? Bateman translation: "In Britain, 'probably' is nearly the opposite of 'inconclusive.' This statement says the equivalent of, 'You definitely did this, you pissant Putin, but I am too refined to say "definitely" because I want to leave wiggle-room for my country.'"

Presidential Race

... ** Paul Krugman: "Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama. (In fact, the health reform we got was basically her proposal, not his.)" Read the whole column. It's a reality chek that should be required reading for every liberal who says, "I'll never vote for Hillary Clinton." And it is another reminder of how multi-talented our current president is.

Frank Rich weighs in on Sanders v. Clinton, Palin + Trump, & the all-white Oscars & Chris Rock.

Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "The Republican National Committee has ended a debate partnership with National Review after the venerable conservative magazine devoted its new issue to a 'symposium' of reasons why voters should reject Donald Trump's presidential campaign.... RNC spokesman Sean Spicer Fowler ... added in a comment to Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray that 'a debate moderator can't have a predisposition.' That leaves CNN, Salem Radio, and Telemundo as the co-sponsors of the planned February 25 forum in Houston." CW: Also, too this is the Republican party's official act of contrition & capitulation to its New Leader. ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: The RNC's "Houston debate is now an embarrassment of indecision and thought control. Recall that the RNC earlier this month announced that the original broadcast partner, NBC, had been bounced from the event because of the behavior of moderators from CNBC in a widely panned October debate.... RNC's decision surfaces a deep-set ignorance about the role of National Review."

It's like being shot or poisoned. What does it really matter? -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, on the choice between Trump & Cruz ...

... Ted, Worse Than Trump. Robert Costa, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Republican establishment -- once seen as the force that would destroy Donald Trump's outsider candidacy -- is now learning to live with it, with some elected and unelected leaders saying they see an upside to Trump as the nominee. In the past few days, Trump has received unlikely public praise from GOP luminaries who said they would prefer him to his main rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.... But other Republicans still believe it is impossible to choose between the two, because they believe that either would be a disaster as the nominee -- and that others can eventually rise." ...

... Manu Raju, now of CNN, quotes a number of Republican senators badmouthing Ted. It seems they don't enjoy his fingering them as sleazy operatives in a "corrupt cartel." ...

... Erica Werner of the AP: "Cruz has become such a pariah that one of his colleagues, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, told supporters at a campaign fundraiser for his own re-election that he would vote for liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders for president before Cruz, according to one person who attended the event. Burr did not appear to be joking, said the person, who demanded anonymity to discuss the private gathering. ...

     ... Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer: "U.S. Sen. Richard Burr on Thursday strongly denied a news report that said he had told people he would vote for Democrat Bernie Sanders over Republican Ted Cruz. Burr's aides asked The Associated Press for a retraction. An AP spokesman said the news agency was sticking by its story." ...

... So why have the GOP party elite picked Trump over Cruz? Digby says it's because they "see [Trump] as a sort of simple clown they'll be able to dominate once he's in office and is dependent upon their superior knowledge and experience. What planet are they on? Do they really look at Trump and see someone who plays well with others? Someone who isn't a stone cold narcissist and megalomaniac who is clueless about everything important to the job he is seeking? Do they think this is all an act?... They hate Ted Cruz for being rude and self-serving more than they are concerned that Trump is promising to turn this country into an authoritarian police state.... Trump has expressed admiration for only two leaders during this campaign: Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un. It's highly unlikely if Trump becomes the most powerful man in the world he'll be humbly asking the House GOP Weenie Caucus to hold his hand and tell him what to do."

... Nick Gass of Politico: "Ted Cruz revealed on Thursday that he is not currently covered by any health insurance.... 'I'll tell you, you know who one of those millions of Americans is who's lost their health care because of Obamacare? That would be me,' Cruz told a Manchester, New Hampshire, audience. 'I don't have health care right now.... So our health care got canceled, we got a notice in the mail, Blue Cross Blue Shield was leaving the market.... I hope by the end of the month we'll have a policy for our family. But our premiums -- we just got a quote, our premiums are going up 50 percent.'... Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas did stop selling some of its individual policies for 2016 but not all of them.... Blue Cross HMO plans ... are still available in Texas on HealthCare.gov, and other insurance companies in the state offer a variety of network types. Also, while premiums did rise across the country this year, they did not spike 50 percent." ...

... CW: Also, too, when an insurance company notifies a customer it will not renew his coverage, it doesn't just cut him off that day. Under the ACA (& most state laws), the insurer must give the policyholder at least 30 days' notice of cancellation. "If your plan is cancelled, you have several options, including a Special Enrollment Period." So what Ted is saying is that he & the wife were too busy promoting Ted to make sure the family had health insurance. Which Is Obama's Fault.

** Nate Silver: "I'm now much less skeptical of Trump's chances of becoming the nominee." His reasons why are interesting (and readable), especially the part about the community dump on Cruz. ...

Teresa Tritch of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump has been making wild-eyed claims about unemployment since at least last June, when Politifact rated his pronouncements as 'False.' But he keeps it up because, obviously, his goal is not to inform. It's to inflame. The facts would not stoke the raw emotions that power Mr. Trump's candidacy, so he uses lies. What he loses in credibility among detractors he gains in popularity among supporters." ...

Okay, one more: "Speaking in Tongues":

Manuel Roig-Franzia & Scott Higman of the Washington Post: When he was 18, Marco Rubio "was arrested ... for being in a crime-plagued public park after closing time, according to police records and an interview with a friend who was cited with Rubio that night. The previously unreported misdemeanor ... eventually was dismissed.... Rubio, who has no history of criminal convictions, has never discussed his arrest publicly, and he did not mention it in his 2012 memoir, 'An American Son.'... 'When he was 18 years old, he violated a municipal code for drinking beer in a park after hours,' [campaign stragegist Todd] Harris said. 'He was never taken into custody, never hired a lawyer and never appeared in court. Why The Washington Post thinks that is a story is beyond me.'" ...

... CW: Harris is mostly right. This is akin to the hundreds of stories and thousands of posts & comments about young Barack Obama's smoking pot. Very few people think this kind of thing is a disqualifier for high (no pun intended) office. There's no particular reason for the MSM not to write it up, though. BTW, I think teenagers' arrest & misdemeanor records should be automatically expunged after a number of years.

Hey, Remember Her? She's Still at It. Adam Gabbatt of the Guardian: "Carly Fiorina has been accused of 'ambushing' a group of children, after she ushered pre-schoolers, who were on a field trip to a botanical garden, into an anti-abortion rally ... at the Greater Des Moines botanical garden. Entering the rally, before a crowd of about 60 people, she directed around 15 young children towards a makeshift stage.... The children's parents had not given Fiorina permission to have their children sit with her -- in front of a huge banner bearing the image of an unborn foetus -- while she talked about harvesting organs from aborted babies.... During the rally an anti-abortion activist, carrying a scale model of four-month-old foetus, joined Fiorina at the front of the room." CW: If those kids had been, say, embryos, Carly would have protected them. But, hey, they're little kids, living kids, so why not push them around & maybe scare the crap out of them?

Congressional Race

Reid Wilson of the Morning Consult: "Former State Department official Liz Cheney is likely to launch her bid for Congress within days, several Republicans in Washington and Wyoming tell us, and unlike her short-lived Senate bid two years ago, this time she'll almost certainly begin as the favorite. Cheney will run for an open seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis, the only woman in the House Freedom Caucus. It's also the seat once held by Cheney's father, former Vice President (and House Minority Whip) Dick Cheney." ...

     ... Via Paul Waldman, who says, "And Liz Cheney, who practically makes her dad Dick look like Daniel Berrigan (ask your parents), is probably going to run for Congress from Wyoming, a state she has visited numerous times."

Beyond the Beltway

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "A white police officer was indicted [in Decatur, Georgia] Thursday on six counts, including felony murder, in the fatal shooting last year of an unarmed black man who was naked and described as acting in an erratic manner. The indictment of Officer Robert Olsen of the DeKalb County Police Department came about two weeks after the district attorney said he would ask a grand jury to pursue criminal charges in the death of Anthony Hill, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran."

Sean Murphy of the AP: "A former police officer convicted of raping and sexually victimizing women while on his beat in a low-income Oklahoma City neighborhood was ordered Thursday to spend the rest of his life in prison. Jurors had recommended that Daniel Holtzclaw be sentenced to 263 years in prison for preying on women in 2013 and 2014. District Judge Timothy Henderson agreed, said Holtzclaw will serve the terms consecutively and denied his request for an appeal bond.... Defense attorney Scott Adams said Holtzclaw will appeal."

Mike McPhate of the New York Times: "An associate professor at Kent State University in Ohio is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over possible involvement with the Islamic State. The inquiry came to light as federal agents arrived at the campus this week to interview students and professors about Julio Pino, an educator in the history department known for making incendiary remarks on Israel.... In 2011, he shouted 'death to Israel' during a lecture at the university by a former Israeli diplomat." Pino is tenured & will continue to teach. CW: So hate speech is protected at Kent State.

News Ledes

The Washington Post is liveblogging developments related to the winter storm that has hit the Mid-Atlantic region. The Post's stories about the storm are free to nonsubscribers.

(U.K) Independent: "At least 45 refugees travelling from Turkey have drowned after two overcrowded boats sunk off the coast of Greece. The bodies of 34 people, including 11 children, were found near the small Greek island of Kalolimnos where a wooden sailing boat went down. Another eight bodies, including six children and two women, have been recovered after another boat carrying 49 people sank near the island of Farmakonisi, reports BBC."

Guardian: "The number of dead in a school shooting in northern Canada was revised down to four from five, the Canadian police said late Friday, but gave no new details on either the victims or the one male in custody."

Washington Post: "A University of Virginia student honored as an 'intellectual risk-taker' has been arrested in North Korea, its state-run media said Friday, accusing the American of an unspecified 'hostile act' against the state."

Washington Post: "With an epic blizzard virtually certain to pummel the Washington area this weekend, Metro threw up a white flag Thursday, announcing that it will shut down the nation's second-busiest subway and all bus service Saturday and Sunday in a move that apparently is unprecedented in the transit system's 40-year history."

New York Times: "At least 14 civilians were killed and dozens were wounded after Islamist militants struck a popular beachside restaurant Thursday night in Somalia's capital that had become a symbol of the city's struggling renaissance...."

Wednesday
Jan202016

The Commentariat -- January 21, 2016

Everything Is Obama's Fault.

CW: I'm putting the link in the graf below at the top of today's Commentariat &, barring some really big news, leaving it here. I don't want anyone to miss the pathology of today's Republican party, exemplified & exaggerated in Sarah Palin's attempt to blame President Obama for her son's behavior. I do think it possible that Track Palin suffers from PTSD; he served in Iraq in 2008. (See this WashPo report by Phillip Bump, who notes that several factors related to antisocial behavior apply to Track.) But the determinant here sounds an awful lot like Palin Traumatic Stress Disorder. The President and Michelle Obama have worked tirelessly to help and to honor our military veterans. The gall of Sarah Palin to place responsibility for her son's drunken rampage on President Obama is unparalleled. If you wonder why I seldom link to stories about Sarah Palin, even when they are quasi-newsworthy, look no further. ...

... Obama Made My Son Punch His Girlfriend in the Face. -- Sarah Palin. Nick Gass & Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Sarah Palin addressed the 'elephant in the room' at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally for Donald Trump on Wednesday, linking her son Track's recent arrest on domestic violence charges to President Barack Obama's neglect of veterans." ...

... "Sarah Palin's Circle of Victimhood." Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: "In endorsing Donald Trump, Sarah Palin faced a challenge. How does a woman who has built her brand on hating cultural elites endorse a billionaire, Manhattan TV star? Her answer: by turning Trump into a victim.... The same people who screwed Palin, and who screw American troops and workers, the people who 'stomp our neck and tell us to chill,' are now savaging Donald Trump as well. But he alone, perhaps because he is a billionaire and from their elite world, may be able to stand up to them and strike a blow on behalf of the little people." See also Digby's post, linked under Presidential Race.

*****

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Senate Democrats' plan to force Republicans to take a politically uncomfortable vote on Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country fell apart Wednesday. Republicans leaders declined to strike a deal and hold a vote on the issue, leading Democrats to then filibuster legislation that would effectively prevent the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States.... The Wednesday vote to begin considering the refugee bill failed on a 55 to 43 tally, with 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. The bill, which the House passed last month, would suspend the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees until the Obama administration can certify that no one coming to the United States poses a security threat."

Lydia Wheeler of the Hill: "The Supreme Court on Wednesday handed a defeat to businesses, ruling that they cannot stop a class-action lawsuit by offering to pay the full amount sought by the original plaintiff. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court sided against advertising firm Campbell Ewald that was trying to avoid a class-action lawsuit. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the majority opinion said a settlement offer that isn't unaccepted [CW Note: s/b "accepted"] does end a legal challenge, and that there is no immunity shield for federal contractors that violate both federal law and the government's explicit instructions. An unaccepted settlement offer or offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff's case,' Ginsburg wrote.... Chief Justice John Roberts filed a dissenting opinion on which Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito joined...." ...

... New York Times Editors: "On Wednesday, the Supreme Court gave an important victory to regular Americans, ruling that companies may not avoid class-action lawsuits by offering to buy off the individual plaintiffs before they can establish a class of similarly harmed people. The 6-to-3 decision was a surprising break from a long line of extremely pro-business and anti-class-action rulings by the five conservative justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr."

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in the historical record by far, breaking a record set only the year before -- a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world. In the contiguous United States, the year was the second-warmest on record, punctuated by a December that was both the hottest and the wettest since record-keeping began. One result has been a wave of unusual winter floods coursing down the Mississippi River watershed."

Kate Linthicum of the Los Angeles Times: "The number of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally is at its lowest in more than a decade and, for the first time in years, has probably dropped below 11 million. A new study by the Center for Migration Studies estimates that 10.9 million immigrants are living in the country without authorization. That is the lowest level since 2003 and the first time the number has dipped below 11 million since 2004. The decline, which has been documented by previous studies as well, runs counter to the widespread image on the Republican presidential campaign trail of a rise in illegal immigration."

Via Politico.

Julie Bosman, et al., of the New York Times: "A top aide to Michigan's governor referred to people raising questions about the quality of Flint’s water as an 'anti-everything group.' Other critics were accused of turning complaints about water into a 'political football.' And worrisome findings about lead by a concerned pediatrician were dismissed as 'data,' in quotes. That view of how the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder initially dealt with the water crisis in the poverty-stricken, black-majority city of Flint emerge from 274 pages of emails, made public by the governor on Wednesday. The correspondence records mounting complaints by the public and elected officials, as well as growing irritation by state officials over the reluctance to accept their assurances." ...

... John Wisely, et al., of the Detroit Free Press: "House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said he was very disappointed with redactions in the e-mails and the fact Snyder only released what he said were his own e-mails, instead of all Flint-related e-mails to and from officials in the executive office. The first e-mail in the file released by Snyder is from Michael Gadola, then Snyder's legal counsel, and includes 2 1/2 pages of blacked-out text." ...

... Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: "... as in New Orleans, unravelling what went wrong in Flint will probably require more than the release of e-mails and a prime-time apologia. The headwaters of Flint's crisis are not located in the realm of technical errors; rather, there are harder questions about governance and accountability in some of America's most vulnerable places." ...

... Matt Latimer in a New York Times op-ed: "EVER since I became a conservative as a teenager growing up in the city of Flint, Mich., I've heard again and again from Republican leaders about their commitment to minorities and the poor.... If only Republicans would get a chance to prove it. That chance has arrived in a big way. Unfortunately, my party is not taking it.... The Republicans were never there, until 2011, that is, when the first of four state-appointed emergency managers was brought in by the Snyder administration to address the city's financial woes.... Flint was not mentioned in the last Republican debate. Though Ben Carson, a Detroit native, on Tuesday blamed local Flint officials for the troubles.... I don't believe it's impossible for conservatives to help a place like Flint. But first you have to show up." ...

     ... CW: Wake up, Matt. The victims of Republican "management" in Flint are those "urban," "blah" people that your party counts on to serve as bogeymen -- the oppressors of the nice, white people in the GOP's basest of bases.

Presidential Race

Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: "With the help of the Simon and Garfunkel song 'America,' Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has released a powerful 60-second commercial in Iowa that seeks to remind his supporters how far he, and they, have come -- and to inspire them anew to caucus for him on Feb. 1.... Mr. Sanders has created an ad with a vastly different feel from anything else seen in the race since Mrs. Clinton announced her candidacy in a hope-filled two-minute video":

... Greg Sargent: "... it's worth noting that the differences between Sanders and Clinton go beyond policy, to the very core of how change can be secured. Clinton has come to see politics as essentially a form of trench warfare. Clinton's closing ad in Iowa vows to 'stop the Republicans from ripping all our progress away,' an implicit acknowledgment that a new Democratic president (whoever it might be) would be deeply constrained from realizing his or her agenda.... Clinton acknowledges the true nature of the structural impediments to change; that the country is deeply divided ideologically; and that we will probably remain stuck in a grueling holding pattern for years -- meaning legislative advances will be ground out on the margins, thorough difficult, painstaking efforts to peel off Republicans and forge compromises that will look dirty and will really, really suck." ...

Jessica Taylor of NPR: "Hillary Clinton dismissed a report that emails she sent on her private email server contained a high level of classified material. Speaking to NPR's Ari Shapiro in San Antonio on Wednesday, the Democratic presidential candidate continued to maintain that she 'never sent or received any material marked classified' while at the State Department 'and that hasn't changed in all of these months.'" ...

... Anita Kumar of McClatchy News: "Hillary Clinton's spokesman accused the Intelligence Community Inspector General Wednesday of working with Republicans to attack the Democratic presidential front-runner. 'I think this was a very coordinated leak,' Brian Fallon said on CNN. 'Two months ago there was a ... report that directly challenged the finding of this inspector general, and I don't think he liked that very much. So I think that he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have an excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited.' The comments came after Inspector General Charles McCullough III told senators that he believes at least several dozen of emails Clinton sent and received while she was secretary of state contained classified material at the highest levels, according to a letter obtained by McClatchy." ...

... Hillary Clinton, in an essay on her Website, titled "What President Obama's Legacy Means to Me": "If you take a step back and look at all America has achieved over the past eight years, it's remarkable to see how far we've come. But you'd never know it from listening to the Republicans. They're quick to demonize and demean President Obama. At the last GOP presidential debate, two candidates referred to him as a 'child.' [CW: because even they didn't dare say "boy"] That kind of racially coded rhetoric has no place in our politics. Instead of insulting our president, we should be thanking him. Republicans aren't just harshly criticizing the president. They're threatening to undo just about everything he has achieved." ...

... Tina Nguyen of Vanity Fair: "A last-minute town-hall-style event, announced Wednesday by CNN and scheduled to take place just one week before the Iowa caucuses, could be a saving grace for Hillary Clinton, whose presidential campaign has faced an unexpectedly formidable challenge from Democratic rival Bernie Sanders. The prime-time gathering will air Monday at nine P.M., a huge change from the three debates that the Democratic National Committee scheduled on inconvenient weekend nights.... With ... setbacks growing more worrisome, Clinton has seized on a new strategy: clinging as hard as possible to the Obama brand, and casting Sanders as someone who would undo his legacy." ...

... Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Democrats backing Hillary Clinton, nervously eyeing Senator Bernie Sanders's growing strength in the early nominating states, are turning to a new strategy to raise doubts about his candidacy, highlighting his socialist beliefs to warn that he would be an electoral disaster who would frighten swing voters and send Democrats in tight congressional and governor's races to defeat.... And after months of ignoring Republican cheerleading for Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Clinton's campaign has started aggressively highlighting how much the opposition is openly providing him aid and comfort -- mostly recently in a new ad by Karl Rove's group American Crossroads that echoes Mr. Sanders's attacks on Mrs. Clinton's ties to Wall Street." ...

... Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "... in recent weeks, the scandals of the 1990s and [HIllary] Clinton's role in them have taken on a life of their own, delivering an unexpected headache to a campaign predicated on inspiring female voters. Mrs. Clinton had hoped to galvanize women late last month in her critique of [Donald] Trump, [whom she said had 'a penchant for sexism']. Instead, two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, her campaign has found itself trying to shore up support among women as discussions about past Clinton scandals have moved from conservative critics to broader public consciousness.... Now that the stories are resurfacing, they could hamper Mrs. Clinton's attempts to connect with younger women, who are learning the details of the Clintons' history for the first time."

Bob Cesca, who's a serious liberal, in Salon, weighs Sanders' v. Clinton's chances to win a general election. He's leaning toward not taking the Bernie gamble. ...

... CW: Although it's likely I'll vote for Sanders (in Florida), I'm mindful that a vote for Bernie might be akin to a vote for Ralph Nader (which I wasn't stupid enough to do).

Amy Sherman of Politifact: Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie "Wasserman Schultz says the party came up with a debate schedule 'to maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates.' Wasserman Schultz's best point is that the Democrats largely scheduled their debates with TV networks, which means viewers without cable can see them. But other than that, her statement is very disingenuous. There are six Democratic party debates compared with 11 scheduled for the Republicans, and half of the Democratic debates are on weekends -- including one the weekend before Christmas and another on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. If the Democrats had wanted to 'maximize' opportunities for viewers, the party could have added more debates, scheduled them on weekdays and avoided holidays." CW: Nice to know Politifact isn't as gullible as Debbie thinks we are.

Keith Laing of the Hill: "President Obama on Wednesday knocked the Republican candidates vying to replace him next year for being 'dead set' against bailing out the U.S. auto industry in 2008 and 2009. 'It's strange to watch people try to outdo each other in talking about how bad things are. But remember...these are the same folks that would've let this industry go under,' he said during a speech to the United Auto Workers union in Detroit.... He cast the federal government's $80 billion bailout of General Motors and Chrysler as a fundamental difference between Democrats and the Republicans who are running for the White House. 'These are some of the same folks who back in Washington called our plan to save the auto industry 'the road to socialism,' he said. 'They said it was going to be a "disaster;" said "they'll run it into the ground." Those are quotes by the way, I'm not making that up. Look it up'":

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee..., said that the party would suffer 'cataclysmic' and 'wholesale losses' if [Ted] Cruz was the nominee, and that Donald J. Trump would fare better. 'I question his allegiance to the party,' Mr. Dole said of Mr. Cruz. 'I don't know how often you've heard him say the word "Republican" -- not very often.' Instead, Mr. Cruz uses the word 'conservative,' Mr. Dole said, before offering up a different word for Mr. Cruz: 'extremist.' 'I don't know how he's going to deal with Congress,' he said. 'Nobody likes him.' But Mr. Dole said he thought Mr. Trump could 'probably work with Congress, because he's, you know, he's got the right personality and he's kind of a deal-maker.'" Dole supports Jeb! for president. ...

... Gail Collins: Donald Trump has had a super week, what with Iowa Gov. Terry Bransted's (R) urging Iowa Republicans not to caucus for Ted Cruz & Sarah Palin's endorsing Trump over Cruz. ...

... ** Jonathan Chait: "... throwing in with Donald Trump is an extremely bad idea for Republicans. He is wildly unpopular among the public at large, and his mix of racism, misogyny, and flamboyant ignorance is perfectly calibrated to motivate and hold together the Obama coalition of minorities, single women, and college-educated whites.... What, then, could explain the GOP's bizarre capitulation? One possible reason is undue fear of Trump's threat to run an independent candidacy if he feels mistreated by the party.... But perhaps the more important factor at work is the rise of Ted Cruz, which has coincided with a sapping of the Republican Establishment's will to oppose Trump.... If Republicans despise Cruz so much that they allow Trump to prevail, they are making a historic mistake and choosing the devil they don't know over the one they do." ...

... Digby, in Salon: "It's tempting to look at both of these characters [-- Trump & Palin --] and write them off as jokes. They truly are ridiculous in a dozen different ways. But their combination of modern media celebrity and white nationalism is something new and potentially very powerful in American politics, if Trump manages to pull off this nomination. These conditions have been ripening for years, waiting for someone to take advantage. Trump is nothing if not a world class opportunist."

Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times: "Florida's Republican primary would be a Donald Trump blowout if held today, according to a Jan. 15-18 poll by Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative. Trump leads with a whopping 47.6 percent support among likely Republicans, followed by 16.3 percent for Ted Cruz, 11.1 percent for Marco Rubio, 9.5 percent for Jeb Bush, and 3.3 percent for Ben Carson...." ...

... Steve M. points out that the Florida poll poses quite a challenge to the theory laid out by David Wasserman of 538 (linked here yesterday) that because "The GOP's primary calendar is surprisingly front-loaded with states friendly to insurgents like Trump and Cruz," it's possible for another candidate to break out in later primaries & win the nomination.

CW: I'm late to the party, but it's really worth your reading Driftglass's takedown of David Brooks' "plan" to defeat TrumpCruz. ...

The Tailgunner Takes Aim. Matt Flegenheimer & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: Ted Cruz has begun to attack Donald Trump, after months of declining to do so. "Perhaps the surest sign of Mr. Cruz's bind has been his sharpening tone. After months not only demurring but scolding reporters who invited him to take shots at Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz abruptly changed course last week. He derisively said Mr. Trump embodied 'New York values,' poked fun at his knowledge of foreign affairs and suggested that he was taking his cues from Democrats." ...

... Birtherism, 2.0 Syllabus Update. Einer Elhauge, another Constitutional scholar, "close-reads" the Constitution & finds that Ted Cruz is not qualified to run for president because he does not meet the requirement of being "natural born citizen." ...

... Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: Ted "Cruz, the most ardent death penalty advocate of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's clerks in the 1996 term, became known at the court for his signature writing style. Nearly two decades later, his colleagues recall how Mr. Cruz, who frequently spoke of how his mentor's father had been killed by a carjacker, often dwelled on the lurid details of murders that other clerks tended to summarize before quickly moving to the legal merits of the case.... In interviews with nearly two dozen of Mr. Cruz's former colleagues on the court, many of the clerks working in the chambers of liberal justices, but also several from conservative chambers, depicted Mr. Cruz as 'obsessed' with capital punishment." ...

... digby: "If you read nothing else today, read this Bloomberg article about Ted Cruz's top benefactor, the certifiably looney tunes wingnut billionaire, Robert Mercer. He makes the Kochs look like Ike by comparison." ...

Beyond the Beltway

Denis Theriault of the Oregonian: Oregon "Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday had harsh words for the federal government's handling of a 19-day occupation at the Malheur National Wildfire Refuge -- calling the response too slow and saying it's left neighbors in Harney County lacking as tensions worsen." ...

... Rebecca Woolington of the Oregonian: Neil Sigurd Wampler, "one of the protesters taking part in the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, is a 68-year-old former woodworker and, according to court records and authorities, a convicted killer."

Dana Milbank: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared to be gutsy when he dared to show up as a featured panelist "at the opening plenary luncheon of the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting. The topic: 'Reducing Violence and Strengthening Police/Community Trust.' But then "He didn't even mention the [police killing of Laquan McDonald] incident directly, instead proffering a variety of facts and figures indicating everything is awesome in Chicago.... Asked for an update on crime in Chicago and 'the biggest problems you currently face,' Emanuel said nothing about Topic A. 'Guns and gangs,' he answered."

Way Beyond

Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "A high-profile British inquiry into the poisoning of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. officer turned critic of the Kremlin, concluded in a report released on Thursday that his murder 'was probably approved' by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the head of the country's spy service. The finding by Robert Owen, a retired High Court judge, presented in a 328-page report, represented by far the most damning official link between Mr. Litvinenko's death on Nov. 23, 2006, and the highest levels of the Kremlin."

Tuesday
Jan192016

The Commentariat -- January 20, 2016

... Haeyoun Park & Matthew Bloch of the New York Times: "Deaths from drug overdoses have surged in nearly every county across the United States, driven largely by an explosion in addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin. Some of the largest concentrations of overdose deaths were in Appalachia and the Southwest, according to new county-level estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of these deaths reached a new peak in 2014: 47,055 people, or the equivalent of about 125 Americans every day."

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "The Syrian refugee issue returns to Capitol Hill on Wednesday with Senate Republicans eager to bring up a bill passed by the House in November to tighten scrutiny of those entering the United States from Syria and Iraq. Senator Mitch McConnell ... has set a vote for Wednesday afternoon on opening debate over the refugee measure, which was approved by the House before Thanksgiving in the immediate aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks."

Julie Bosman & Mitch Smith of the New York Times: "President Obama planned to meet on Tuesday in Washington with the mayor of Flint, Mich., about the health crisis that has erupted from the city's contaminated drinking water, White House officials said. The meeting was scheduled for the afternoon, hours before Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan [R] was to deliver his annual State of the State address in the capital, Lansing. Local news media reported that a large part of his speech would be devoted to the Flint situation and that he would discuss assistance for residents. Mr. Obama is scheduled to be in Michigan on Wednesday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but the administration said he was not planning to visit Flint during the trip." ...

     ... New Lede: "Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan issued a sweeping apology on Tuesday to the residents of Flint for a contaminated water supply. He pledged to promptly release his emails about the issue, and laid out more specifics than had previously been known about the state's handling of the matter.... Over and over on Tuesday, Mr. Snyder expressed contrition, referring to the matter as a 'crisis' and 'catastrophe,' saying 'mistakes' had been made and promising to pray for the people of Flint. But he also left residents of the city, whose population has dwindled with the departure of the auto industry to fewer than 100,000, with unanswered questions." ...

... The Detroit Free Press story, by Paul Egan & Kathleen Gray, is here. ...

... Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press: Snyder's "encouraging words -- 'We are praying for you.' 'We are working hard for you.' 'We will not let you down' -- weren't hollow. I believe that he meant them. But it may have been the first time in a long time, if ever, that he spoke directly to people who aren't rich, who don't have a lot of choices and who have been using poison water for more than a year." ...

... ** Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Nation in a Washington Post op-ed: "In early 2015, shortly after his victory in a heated reelection contest, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) began exploring a run for president.... He embarked on a national speaking tour and set up a fundraising organization. Its name: 'Making Government Accountable.' As Snyder was testing the presidential waters, however, his government was being shamefully unaccountable' [to the residents of Flint].... The biggest obstacles to desperately needed public investments are politicians like Snyder who conflate 'accountability' with austerity." CW: vanden Heuvel does a good job of summarizing the fiasco. ...

... Everything Is Obama's Fault. Inexplicably, Julie Davis of the New York Times thinks the Flint fiasco is President Obama's problem.

Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "The federal budget deficit is expected to increase in 2016 for the first time in six years, due mostly to a massive tax package Congress passed last month as part of a year-end budget deal." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Adam Liptak & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it would consider a legal challenge to President Obama's overhaul of the nation's immigration rules. The court ... will now determine the fate of one of his most far-reaching executive actions." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Greg Sargent: "This is very big news, not only because it could help determine the status of millions of undocumented immigrants whose fates are hanging in limbo, but also because it could thrust the immigration debate to the forefront right when the presidential race is hitting full boil.... Whatever happens at the Court, it's hard to see this debate playing in the GOP's favor." ...

... OR, as Brian Beutler puts it, "Great news: Unelected Supreme Court justices will decide if Obama is Caesar.... But as in previous Supreme Court cases, like King v. Burwell and others, it will also test the merits of the right's reflexive opposition to administrative action in the Obama era." ...

... Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: "... the Court's decision today to hear the case was a victory for the President. If the Court had put off its decision for even another week or two, the clock might have run out on this year's Supreme Court term.... The question of executive authority has also split the Justices along ideological lines, but with unpredictable implications for the current case.... It will be interesting to see if [Justice] Thomas and his conservative colleagues are as solicitous of President Obama's claims as they were of President George W. Bush's. Likewise, we will see whether the liberals who slapped down Bush on Guantánamo apply the same reasoning to Obama's claims on immigration." ...

... New York Times Editors answer all of Toobin's questions: "The states should never have been allowed standing to sue in the first place, and their substantive claims are groundless.... Mr. Obama's pragmatic deportation exemption programs are well within his legal and constitutional authority. The Supreme Court explicitly stated in 2012 that the federal government had 'broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens' under the Constitution.... Congress should have passed comprehensive immigration reform years ago, rather than, say, threatening to impeach the president when he took on the issue." ...

... BUT the big question is, "What will Judge Judy decide?" Daniella Diaz of CNN: "Nearly 10% of college graduates surveyed in a poll believe Judith Sheindlin, aka 'Judge Judy,' serves on the Supreme Court.... The poll, conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in August 2015 but released in January 2016, concluded from the 1,000 surveyed that college graduates 'are alarmingly ignorant of America's history and heritage.'"

Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "The US Supreme Court now has twice heard major challenges to the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, and twice it's come down on the side of the Obama administration and upheld the law. But that hasn't kept opponents from trying again -- and again and again. Today, the court refused even to hear the latest challenge to the law, a sign that the justices are perhaps ready to move on. The case, Sissel v. HHS, involves an artist and National Guard reservist who, like other anti-ACA plaintiffs, really doesn't want to buy health insurance." CW: Oh, & Ted Cruz, along with his Senate pals John Cornyn (Texas) & Mike Lee (Utah) wrote a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Sissel.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: A strange First Amendment case -- or maybe it's not a First Amendment case -- gets a hearing before the Supreme Court. "... the question was what happens when the boss retaliates against an employee on the mistaken belief that the employee has" exercised his First Amendment right to support a particular political candidate. CW: This would have been a super case for moot court.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge has rejected President Barack Obama's assertion of executive privilege to deny Congress access to records pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, a gunrunning probe that allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to flow across the border into Mexico. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Tuesday that the Justice Department's public disclosures about its response to the so-called 'gun walking' controversy undercut Obama's executive privilege claim.... Jackson, an Obama appointee, left open the possibility in her ruling Tuesday that some of the disputed records could still be held back from Congress because they contain sensitive information on law enforcement techniques, implicate foreign policy concerns or discuss matters covered by attorney-client privilege."

Zygote News Today. "The Best Interests of the Embryos." Tamar Lewin of the New York Times: "Anti-abortion groups are seeking a foothold on a new battlefield: custody disputes over frozen embryos.... As scientific advances have made frozen embryos common, they have brought new complications to divorces. Most courts have treated embryos as marital property, often favoring the party that plans not to use the embryos, emphasizing a right not to be forced to procreate.... But anti-abortion groups argue that such cases should be decided according to the best interests of the embryos, the same legal standard used in child-custody disputes."

Jane Mayer in Politico Magazine: "Charles Koch might claim that his entry into politics is new, but from its secrecy to its methods of courting donors and recruiting students, the blueprint for the vast and powerful Koch donor network that we see today was drafted four decades ago." The article is adapted from Dark Money.

Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "Russia's military intervention in Syria is finally generating gains on the ground for Syrian government forces, tilting the battlefield in favor of President Bashar al-Assad to such an extent that the Obama administration's quest for a negotiated settlement to the war suddenly looks a lot less likely to succeed.... Peace talks scheduled to start in Geneva next week are already in doubt because of disputes between Russia and the United States, their chief sponsors, over who should be invited."

Mark Hosenball, et al., of Reuters: "Three U.S. citizens who disappeared last week in Baghdad were kidnapped and are being held by an Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia, two Iraqi intelligence and two U.S. government sources said...."

Reuters: "A media outlet associated with Islamic State on Tuesday released a eulogy for 'Jihadi John', a member of the militant group who gained notoriety for his filmed execution of hostages, the monitoring organization SITE reported. The militant was identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a British citizen of Arab origin. The U.S. military said in November it was 'reasonably certain' it had killed him in a drone strike."

Andrew Roth & Brian Murphy of the Washington Post: Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, who was held in an Iranian prison for more than four years, on Tuesday talked with the media about his release.

Presidential Race

On the One Hand ... On the Other Hand.... Greg Sargent tackles the question of which Democratic candidate is more electable in a general election -- Clinton or Sanders.

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Speaking on the national holiday commemorating [Martin Luther] King's legacy, [Bernie Sanders] told an overflow crowd estimated at more than 7,000 people [in Birmingham, Ala.,] that King's work, in addition to civil rights, focused on helping poor people, regardless of race. Sanders reminded the audience that King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, where he had traveled to show solidarity with striking city sanitation workers. 'The fight for economic justice is exactly what this campaign is about,' Sanders said, vowing to fight to carry on King's 'radical and bold vision for America.'" ...

... Callum Borchers of the Washington Post: Bernie Sanders & his campaign have been complaining about the scant media attention he has received relative to his popularity among voters. But. "He's managed to strike a remarkable balance in which the media takes him seriously enough to note his rise but not quite seriously enough to pick apart his record in great detail. The longer he can maintain this balance, the better for him. But it can't last forever. Part of me wonders whether Sanders's desire for more coverage is actually genuine; decrying the 'corporately owned media; fits perfectly into his populist image. But ... surely, he knows that an influx of media attention would bring a level of scrutiny and negativity that he's been able to avoid so far." ...

... Paul Krugman gives Bernie the old one-two, whacking both Sanders' plan to curb Wall Street (which Krugman has done before) and his health "plan." And there's a big three: Krugman calls the health plan dishonest: "On health care: leave on one side the virtual impossibility of achieving single-payer.... The Sanders health plan looks a little bit like a standard Republican tax-cut plan, which relies on fantasies about huge supply-side effects to make the numbers supposedly add up.... And look: if the political theory behind supporting Sanders is that the American people will vote for radical change if you're honest about what's involved, the campaign's evident unwillingness to fully confront the issues, its reliance on magic asterisks, very much weakens that claim." ...

... Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: Republican superPACs are promoting Sanders' campaign. ...

Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider: "Emails that passed through Hillary Clinton's private server while she served as US secretary of state reportedly contained intelligence so sensitive that it has since been marked beyond 'top secret,' Fox News reported on Tuesday. The network reported on the contents of a letter authored by Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III. The January 14 letter to senior lawmakers has not yet been made public." CW: Gosh, I wonder how Fox got hold of the letter.

Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday blasted the Republican field [of presidential candidates] for their rhetoric on destroying the Islamic State. 'First of all they, they don't know what they're talking about,' Gates told MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.'... Alluding to political outsiders [Donald] Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Gates challenged their ability to be an effective president. '... I think that if you don't have any experience in how government works, if you have never been in government, your ability to make the government work is going to be significantly reduced.'... Asked ... whether any candidate had met his criteria, Gates said, 'I don't see any.'" CW: The Bush presidents père et fils, who employed Gates in high public positions, must be thrilled to hear him deem Jeb! not qualified to fill their fancy footwear.

David Wasserman of 538: "The GOP's primary calendar is surprisingly front-loaded with states friendly to insurgents like Trump and Cruz. But because of Republican National Committee rules, all but one of these states will award their delegates on a proportional basis, intentionally making it difficult for any one candidate to build a durable or commanding lead."

Match.com, another successful hook-up. -- Diane, in yesterday Comments ...

... CW: Guess I have to mention this, since it's the top o' the news. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Sarah Palin ...will endorse Donald J. Trump in Iowa on Tuesday, officials with his campaign confirmed. The endorsement provides Mr. Trump with a potentially significant boost just 13 days before the state's caucuses." CW: And a reminder that the Republican party didn't get stupid all of the sudden. A linguist should have fun with their speeches. ...

     ... Update. Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post reports on Palin's endorsement, which Palin delivered at a Trump rally in Ames, Iowa. ...

... CW: This is all I could stand, but you can hear Palin's full speech in this YouTube video, via Fox "News":

... OR, if you prefer to read it ... Kyle Blaine of BuzzFeed: "So, Uh, Here's The Full Text Of Sarah Palin's Bizarre Trump' Speech." ...

... THEN AGAIN, I particularly like Kevin Drum's annotated snippets. ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic: Why would Palin endorse Trump when he's not the most conservative candidate? Because they're both a couple of rogues who challenge Republican orthodoxies. CW: On the other hand, so is Ted Cruz. Maybe Palin has become one of the millions of people who just can't stand Ted. ...

     ... OR, maybe Palin just knows how to pick a winner. Ask Ted Cruz about that. ...

... AND, right on cue, the Palin clan rejoins the circus. Earlier in the day, Bristol Palin, daughter of Todd & Sarah, wrote a post complaining that "staffers from Ted Cruz’s office ... slam[med] my mom." CW: The Cruz campaign did not slam Sarah Palin, IMHO, but then I'll never have the grievance quotient of a Palin. ...

... BUT wait, there's more ...

... Jordan Sargent of Gawker: "Track Palin -- the 26-year-old son of Sarah Palin... -- was arrested [Monday] night, and court documents obtained by Gawker reveal more details about the bloody and frantic altercation." Thanks, Track, it wouldn't have been a Big Palin News Day without some Palin punching a woman in the face, kicking her & brandishing a gun (according to the woman, IDed as his girlfriend, Track threatened to kill himself, not her). The gun, an AR-15 rifle, was not loaded when the police found it on the kitchen counter of Sarah & Todd Palin's house. The police officer stated that Track was initially "uncooperative, belligerent & evasive." Also drunk. ...

... Steve M.: "Donald Trump got Sarah Palin's endorsement today, which is amusing because he's been portraying himself as a great defender of women, unlike that woman-hating Hillary Clinton.... Talk to us about defending women, Donald. Really, this would be the perfect time." ...

... Corn Dawg. Timothy Cama of the Hill: "Donald Trump said Tuesday that federal regulators should increase the amount of ethanol blended into the nation's gasoline supply. Speaking at an event hosted by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Trump ... said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ought to follow the ethanol volumes Congress set in 2007.... Trump spoke very briefly about the ethanol mandate at the beginning of his speech, reading from notes in a straightforward fashion, before continuing onto other subjects in the more lively manner he usually shows in stump speeches. The event came hours after Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told voters ... that they shouldn’t vote for Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas).... Branstad cited Cruz's opposition to continuing the ethanol mandate after 2022, saying Cruz is 'heavily financed by Big Oil.'"

They have this phony [unemployment] number, 5.2 percent. Everybody that quits looking for a job is considered statistically a person that has a job. It's a phony number. You probably -- real numbers like 22, 23 percent. -- Donald Trump, at Liberty University, Jan. 18

So why does Trump claim 23 percent? We have no idea, since as usual his campaign refused to explain his reasoning.... Trump's claims on the unemployment rate would not pass muster in an Economics 101 course. While he has apparently cut his estimate of the unemployment rate from 42 percent to 23 percent, his figure is still more than double the most expansive rate published by the government. -- Glenn Kessler, Washington Post

... Trump’s 'reasoning' seems like a pretty charitable description of his mental processes. -- Greg Sargent

Dana Milbank on what British members of Parliament think of Donald Trump. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) CW: How does being reviled by our allies makes America great again.

Brendan O'Connor of Gawker: "Following Sarah Palin’s endorsement Tuesday of Donald Trump, GOP consultant Rick Wilson ... described members of the American 'alt right' (which is basically code for white supremacists) ["who think Donald Trump is the greatest thing"] as 'mostly childless single men who masturbate to anime.' The point was to discredit them as a category, bereft of any 'real' political significance.... However, it is also a discredit to those who masturbate to anime." ...

... CW: I did have to look up "anime."

I love Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is fantastic. Without her friendship and support I wouldn't be in the Senate today. And so regardless of what Sarah decides to do in 2016 I will always remain a big, big fan of Sarah Palin's. -- Ted Cruz, minutes before Palin confirmed her endorsement of Trump

... Here's Cruz, boosting his rogue creds. Katie Glueck of Politico: "Ted Cruz on Tuesday dismissed Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as a crony capitalist who is part of the GOP establishment, hours after the prominent Republican governor indicated that he did not want Cruz to win Iowa. 'It is no surprise that the establishment is in full panic mode,' Cruz told reporters [in Center Barnstead, N.H.]. 'We said from the beginning, that the Washington cartel was going to panic more and more. As conservatives unite behind our campaign you're going to see the Washington cartel firing every shot they can, every cannon they can. Because the Washington cartel lives on cronyism, it lives on making deals, it lives on picking winners and losers and supporting corporate welfare and cronyism. This is what people are so fed up with.'"

They sold out of those boots online. They’re made in Wisconsin. Florsheim! You know what that means? That means I did more for American business in one week than Barack Obama did in seven years! -- Marco Rubio, Waverly, Ohio, Jan. 18

His Florsheim ankle boots aren't made in the Badger State, where the company is headquartered. Florsheim told us ... Rubio's boots came from India. -- Joshua Gillin, Politifact

Now, don't say I don't cover the important stuff. -- Constant Weader

... This one does matter:

When I become president of the United States, our adversaries around the world will know that America is no longer under the command of someone weak like Barack Obama, and it will be like Ronald Reagan, where as soon as he took office the hostages were released from Iran. -- Marco Rubio, on "Meet the Press." Sunday

Rubio said that Iranian hostages were released in 1981 as Reagan took office because Iran perceived that America was 'no longer under the command of someone weak.' In reality, Reagan's foreign policy approach wasn't a factor in the hostages' release, as scholars told us. The Carter administration negotiated the deal months before Reagan's inauguration, without involvement by Reagan or his transition team. Rubio's claim is an imaginative re-reading of history. -- Angle Holan & Louis Jacobson of Politifact

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and his wife, Mary Pat, underwent marriage counseling to wrestle with what he called 'really challenging times' in their relationship. They waited seven years to have children to ensure they 'definitely liked each other.' And to this day they retreat to a walk-in closet to loudly argue away from their children's earshot, according to a new book." (Also linked yesterday.)

Beyond the Beltway

Emily Reyes & Matt Lait of the Los Angeles Times: "The Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to pay more than $24 million to settle lawsuits from two men who alleged that investigations by dishonest LAPD detectives led to their wrongful murder convictions and caused them to spend decades behind bars. Kash Delano Register, who won his freedom in 2013 after lawyers and students from Loyola Law School cast doubt on the testimony of a key prosecution witness, will receive $16.7 million -- the largest settlement in an individual civil rights case in the city's history, his attorneys said. Bruce Lisker, who was released from prison in 2009 after a Times investigation into his conviction, will get $7.6 million."

Ivan Penn of the Los Angeles Times: "California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is investigating whether Exxon Mobil Corp. repeatedly lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change -- and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws.

Les Zaitz of the Oregonian: "The divide among friends and neighbors over the refuge occupation boiled into the open [in Burns, Oregon,] Tuesday night in a community meeting that crackled with emotion.... In sometimes highly personal remarks, speaker after speaker vented anger -- at public officials, at the federal government and at the man in the brown cowboy hat sitting high in the bleachers to take it all in -- Ammon Bundy." ...

... Where the Deer & the Antelope Play. Katherine Krueger of TPM: Some militiamen at the Malheur Refuge call "Christians" to join them:

... CW: So did they bring these instruments with them, or did they kill off some antelope (or whatever) on the supposed refuge for the horns? ...

... Update: Sam Biddle of Gawker points out that the horns the militants are using to call Christians resemble shofars, which are traditional horns used during various Jewish high holy days.

News Lede

New York Times: "At least 19 people were killed and several wounded when militants attacked a university campus in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, a senior government official said.... A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban called reporters in Peshawar to claim responsibility for the attack and say that four of their men were involved."

Monday
Jan182016

The Commentariat -- January 19, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Adam Liptak & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it would consider a legal challenge to President Obama's overhaul of the nation's immigration rules. The court ... will now determine the fate of one of his most far-reaching executive actions."

Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "The federal budget deficit is expected to increase in 2016 for the first time in six years, due mostly to a massive tax package Congress passed last month as part of a year-end budget deal."

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and his wife, Mary Pat, underwent marriage counseling to wrestle with what he called 'really challenging times' in their relationship. They waited seven years to have children to ensure they 'definitely liked each other.' And to this day they retreat to a walk-in closet to loudly argue away from their children's earshot, according to a new book."

Dana Milbank on what British members of Parliament think of Donald Trump.

*****

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "The Obama White House is working frantically to quell the political outrage among immigration rights advocates and Latino leaders who say they feel betrayed by a recent series of deportation raids launched by the administration, mostly against women and children from Central America. While the raids continue with administration support, White House aides announced an expanded State Department partnership with the United Nations to resettle Central American refugees in the United States and elsewhere, and Vice President Biden traveled to the region last week to meet with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador."

Eric Levitz of New York: "If the wealthiest 62 billionaires on the planet decided to pool their resources, they could buy up every last thing owned by the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report from Oxfam. The report, which was released just as some of those billionaires were arriving in Davos for the World Economic Forum, shows that the gap between rich and poor has grown wider in recent years: In 2010, the bottom half owned as much as the richest 338 individuals. Analyzing data collected by Credit Suisse, the anti-poverty organization further reports that the global one percent controlled as much wealth as the bottom 99 percent in 2015 -- a milestone that was reached one year earlier than Oxfam had previously predicted." (Also linked yesterday.)

Andrew Roth & William Branigin of the Washington Post: "Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter freed Saturday after almost 18 months of incarceration in an Iranian prison, met with Post editors Monday for the first time since his release and said he was 'feeling good' physically as he recovers in a U.S. military hospital [in Landsthul, Germany]." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The Iranian authorities held the wife and mother of the journalist Jason Rezaian without telephones for hours in a separate room at a Tehran airport on Sunday before finally agreeing under American pressure to let them leave along with prisoners released in an exchange with the United States. The last-minute conflict came close to unraveling a prisoner swap that was negotiated during 14 months of secret talks and that had already been announced to the world. In the end, Mr. Rezaian's wife and mother were permitted to fly with him to Europe later on Sunday, but the episode underscored that parts of Iran's factionalized system still strongly resist any rapprochement with the United States." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Emily Shapiro of ABC News: "The price of gas hit a stunning low -- just 47 cents per gallon -- in Michigan on Sunday. Michigan was the first state to have gas under $1 in likely over a decade, Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, told ABC News today. A gas station in Houghton Lake, Michigan, hit the 47 cents mark after a price war between three stations in the town, DeHaan said."

Robert Barnes: An Alaskan moose-hunter has his day in the Supreme Court. John Sturgeon's suit challenges the federal government's authority to regulate Alaskan rivers, even in national preserves.

Rebranding -- You're Going to Love These Avaricious Billionaires. Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "As the Kochs prepare to launch the most ambitious political effort of their lives, they appear to be undergoing the best image overhaul that their money can buy." ...

... Speaking of manipulation, those of you enthralled with or enraged by the Netflix documentary "Making of a Murderer" should read Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker essay. Bronwen Dickey, writing in Slate, makes similar points about the series.

Amy Chozick & Brooks Barnes of the New York Times: "... 'Weiner,' a new documentary that The New York Times was allowed to view exclusively ahead of its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, provides an unfettered look at the implosion of [Anthony] Weiner's [New York City] mayoral campaign and a wrenching inside account of [his & his wife's] interactions in the aftermath of his second explicit texting scandal.... The footage also centers on [Weiner's wife Huma] Abedin, who is best known as the closest aide to Hillary Clinton.... The film comes at an uncomfortable time for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign, as it grapples with attacks from both the Republican candidate Donald J. Trump and others reminding voters of the more sordid sexual episodes of her husband's past.... 'Weiner,' which will be released in theaters on May 20, is expected to have its television premiere on Showtime in October, just weeks before the general election."

"Happy Slaves." Sara Jerde of TPM: "Scholastic announced Sunday it was pulling 'A Birthday Cake for George Washington' from shelves after it received criticism for the way it depicted happy slaves. The publishing company wrote in a news release that all returns will be accepted and that the book needed more context on the 'evils of slavery.'... The book is about an enslaved worker who bakes the president a birthday cake alongside her daughter.... The publishing company had previously defended the book, saying it approached the topic with the "utmost care" and that it depicted a story of slaves who were living in 'near-freedom' and were happy because they found pleasure in cooking...."

Presidential Race

Amy Chozick: "Facing a tougher than expected challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Hillary Clinton's campaign is preparing for a primary fight that could stretch into late April or early May and require a sprawling field operation in states and territories from Pennsylvania to Guam.... For all its institutional advantages, the Clinton campaign lags behind the Sanders operation in deploying paid staff members...." ...

... CW: I find this odd & worrying. Hillary now has been at the center of four presidential campaigns, more than anyone since the Roosevelts. In 2008, she practiced how not to run one. Yet she seems to be doing it again. If her operation can't beat Bernie -- once again because she was overconfident she would wrap up the nomination in February -- what will happen in a general election? ...

... The horse-race touts called the Democratic debate for Bernie Sanders, by a nose. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jonathan Chait makes the case against nominating Sanders: "... it seems bizarre for Democrats to risk losing the presidency by embracing a politically radical doctrine that stands zero chance of enactment even if they win."

... Your Philosophy Minute. Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect: "In a sense, [the] difference [between Hillary & Bernie] calls to mind the famous essay by political philosopher Isaiah Berlinabout the fox, who knows many things, and the hedgehog, who knows one important thing. Hillary's the fox, of course; Bernie's the hedgehog." ...

... Henry Farrell in the Washington Post: Bill O'Reilly says that if Bernie Sanders is elected president, he will move to Ireland to escape Sanders-style socialism. Yes, Ireland, where "the effective top Irish income tax rate is a little over half of income"; where the government runs the hospitals & "everyone is entitled to free basic health care in hospitals"; where welfare benefits are far more generous than in the U.S.; & where Billo would not be able to own a handgun (luckily for his family). And the government is even promising to liberalize its draconian anti-abortion laws. Thanks to D.C. Clark for the link. (Also linked yesterday afternoon. Because this is very important.)

Hadas Gold of Politico: "The Republican National Committee officially severed ties on Monday with NBC for what was supposed to be a Feb. 26 Republican primary debate in Houston. Instead, CNN will host the debate in Houston on Thursday, Feb. 25, five days before Super Tuesday. The committee voted via conference call Monday after negotiations with NBC failed.... The RNC initially suspended the relationship with NBC on Oct. 30, following a debate on CNBC that angered many of the campaigns and the RNC for the network's handling of the debate format and the moderators' line of questioning."

David Brooks is desperately seeking Not-Trump/Cruz. Here's his dream candidate: "What's needed is a coalition that combines Huey Long, Charles Colson and Theodore Roosevelt: working-class populism, religious compassion and institutional reform." CW: I didn't make that up. What's most hilarious is that Brooks already has -- and opposes -- two out of his three ideal candidates; i.e., (1) Trump/Long & (2) Cruz (&/or Carson)/Colson. There are no Teddy Roosevelts in today's GOP. ...

... The WashPo's version of Brooks, in the person of Michael Gerson, is also warning against a Trump or Cruz victory: "For Republicans, the only good outcome of Trump vs. Cruz is for both to lose. The future of the party as the carrier of a humane, inclusive conservatism now depends on some viable choice beyond them." CW: The trouble, of course, is that the GOP has not represented "human, inclusive conservatism" for decades.

Meredith Griffiths of ABC News: "British MPs have spent three hours in the House of Commons debating whether they should ban US presidential hopeful Donald Trump.... UK legislators from all sides criticised Mr Trump during the heated discussion, branding him an 'attention seeker', a 'fool', a 'buffoon', a 'demagogue' and a 'wazzock'. But many more lawmakers opposed the ban, saying it would go against free speech. Ultimately the MPs did not vote on the matter, and the Prime Minister, who has the final say, had already indicated he had no intention of banning Mr Trump." ...

... According to Griff Witte of the Washington Post, it's the home secretary, not the PM, who has the authority to ban undesirables. ...

The WashPo is dumping its research on Donald Trump, Real Estate Mogul. Here's the latest installment: Robert O'Harrow: "The Post found that Trump's statements during the campaign about his companies' bankruptcies play down his personal role in the downfall of the Taj [Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey]. Trump took extreme risks in a shaky economy, leveraged the Taj deal with high-cost debt, and ignored warnings that Atlantic City would not be able to attract enough gamblers to pay the bills, documents and interviews show." It would seem Trump doesn't agree with the paper's reporting: "'This was not personal. This was a corporate deal,' he said. 'If you write this one, I'm suing you.'" ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "'I am a Protestant and I am very proud of it,' Donald Trump told Liberty University..., on Monday, as he attempted to appeal to this key demographic in the Republican primary. The GOP frontrunner also told the crowd that if he is elected, 'every store will have to say Merry Christmas'. [CW: Including Katz Deli.] But a biblical reference fell flat when he introduced a passage from 2 Corinthians as 'Two Corinthians' rather than 'Second Corinthians.' Other than this, Trump did not seem to tailor his address to the crowd of clean-cut Christian students. Instead..., [he] talked about his poll numbers and discussed his desire to build a wall on the Mexican border, which he claims that Mexico will pay for." ...

... Kevin Drum: "... today's gaffe, as trivial as it seems, suggests ... that he literally has paid no attention to Christianity at all. In fact, given how hard that is in a country as awash in religious references as the United States, it suggests much more: Donald Trump has spent most of his life actively trying to avoid religion as completely as possible." ...

     ... CW: Oh, please. The fault lies with the staffer who found the citation (which is about "liberty" -- get it?) & wrote "2 Corinthians" instead of "2nd Corinthians" or "Second Corinthians." A 2 is a "two." I know enough to say "Second Corinthians" should I ever have occasion to do so, but when I read it, I always think "Two Corinthians." Because that's what it says.

... Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly: "Liberty University was founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971, in Lynchburg, Virginia. And Jerry Falwell was a segregationist who badmouthed Martin Luther King, Jr, James Farmer, and Desmond Tutu, and encouraged his followers to invest in the Apartheid regime in South Africa. So, really, Liberty University is a wholly inappropriate place to go to celebrate Martin Luther King Day." ...

... Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg: "... Donald Trump won glowing praise from a Christian evangelical leader in one of the nation's biggest battleground states on Monday. Jerry Falwell Jr., head of the Virginia-based Liberty University, didn't formally endorse the billionaire, who spoke at the school's convocation, but his remarks went further than for any other candidate to speak there during this race." ...

... Molly Ball of the Atlantic: "There were many unbelievable moments over the course of Donald Trump's speech on Monday at Liberty University.... But the most breathtaking part of Trump's appearance may have come before he spoke. It was his introduction by Jerry Falwell Jr., the school's president and son of its founder, who praised the thrice-married, socially liberal tycoon at great length.... (The Falwells, with their history of racism and misogyny, have often spoken for a branch of the religious right that more thoughtful leaders find distasteful, [Liberty alum Jonathan] Merritt noted; in this, Jerry Falwell Jr.'s comparison of Trump to his father may not have been so far off.)" ...

... CW: Now here is a candidate who is knowledgeable about his Christian faith. This is actually quite an impressive sermon:

... AND it helps explain why Marco has no trouble believing, or at least spouting, other myths, like this one about the wrath of the Angel Ronaldo:

When I become President of the United States, our adversaries around the world will know that America is no longer under the command of someone weak like Barack Obama. And it will be like Ronald Reagan where as soon as he took office, the hostages were released from Iran. -- Marco Rubio, on "Meet the Press" Sunday ...

... CW: I forgot to mention yesterday how completely STUPID (accidentally hit the caps lock; stet) Marco's "I, Reagan" posture was (not to mention, Chuck Todd's failure to call him out). So here's Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "It wasn't the case, [Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corporation] said, that the release was simply prompted by a tough-talking Reagan's inauguration -- rather, diplomats under President Jimmy Carter negotiated a resolution finalized on Carter's last full day as president. Carter secured the 52 hostages' release in exchange for the unfreezing of Iranian assets, an American pledge not to meddle in internal Iranian affairs and the creation of a framework for resolving post-revolution financial claims.... Senior Reagan administration officials later went on to engage in secret talks with Iran to gain the release of hostages held by Iranian client groups in Lebanon. The deal negotiated by the Reagan officials included the sale of arms to Iran, the proceeds of which were funneled to right-wing rebels in Nicaragua, later exploding into the Iran-Contra affair." ...

... CW: STUPID is not funny in presidential candidates. I like Paul Waldman's comment: "Some Republican candidates say that when it comes to Iran, when they're president they'll Reagan like Reagan did, with extra Reagan.... [As for] Ronald Reagan's actual record on Iran. Here's a hint: Guess which president sold them weapons to give to terrorists?" ...

... "Die Hard Conservatives." AND here's what Paul Krugman has to say about Marco's Christmas gun that he bought to save his family from ISIS terrorists: "Adults are supposed to realize that they aren't characters in a Bruce Willis movie. But Republican presidential candidates not only have such fantasies, but are proud of them."

"New York Values." Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "Arguments over cultural affinity are a mainstay of Republican politics, and [Ted] Cruz knows that if he's going to win, it's going to be by traveling a path where folks don't much like big-city Northeasterners, one that starts in Iowa and runs through the South. And that's what Cruz is really talking about when he mentions 'New York values' -- not a specific issue, not liberal politics, but the idea that New York is alien, different, even threatening, and the people from there just aren't our kind of people.... Ted Cruz's home town of Houston (population: 2.2 million) has more in common with New York than with, say, Osterdock, Iowa (population: 59). But bashing the big city is an easy way to tell Republican voters, 'I'm one of you.'" CW: A good deal like putting on blackface to accept the endorsement of the "Duck Dynasty" kook.

Jill Lepore argues in the New Yorker that Ted Cruz is eligible to become president "in the spirit of the Constitution," even if Ted doesn't share that spirit when it comes to everybody else. "To cling to the narrowest possible meaning of 'natural born citizen' is to cling to the narrowest possible understanding of citizenship. That may be what Cruz himself is doing. But it's not what the American people stand for." CW: Personally, I don't mind a bit seeing Cruz hoisted with his own petard.

Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: President Tailgunner Ted would get rid of a lot of stuff. Like the IRS, the ACA & ISIS. CW: I suppose in Ted's mind, one is as bad as the others. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Zeke Miller of Time: "In an interview with Time in Iowa Sunday, [Chris] Christie issued a sharp rebuttal to [Ted] Cruz, who recently characterized 'the values in New York City' as 'socially liberal and pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage.' Christie called Cruz's language divisive and insulting to the people of New York and of his own state across the Hudson River, before mocking Cruz for taking money from the very people whose views he was disparaging.... 'You want to be President of the United States, you have to unite this country. And for him to somehow be implying that certain values are more appropriate, more American, depending upon what region of the country you're from, is to me just asinine.'"

Beyond the Beltway

So Cal Gas Decides Not to Set Off Catastrophic Explosion. Matt Hamilton of the Los Angeles Times: "Southern California Gas Co. said Monday that it has abandoned a plan to capture and burn the leaking natural gas that has forced thousands of Porter Ranch residents to relocate, citing safety concerns. The announcement came just two days after the South Coast Air Quality Management District announced that the company's proposal to burn the gas would be placed on hold because of the risk of a catastrophic explosion. The AQMD said the burn plan needed approval from state and federal regulators, along with fire officials."

Mara Gottfried of the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press: "St. Paul police have placed a sergeant on leave as they investigate a report that he posted on Facebook, 'Run them over,' in response to an article about an upcoming Black Lives Matter protest. The comment detailed what people could do to avoid being charged with a crime if they struck someone during the unpermitted march on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which blocked traffic on the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue Bridge."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "A high-impact snowstorm for the [Washington, D.C.,] region is nearing inevitability and there is some chance it will be historic, paralyzing travel and disrupting normal routines. Every major computer model is now forecasting double-digit snowfall totals for the D.C. area Friday and Saturday."

New York Times: "Rescue workers on Tuesday combed the beaches and waters off the north shore of Oahu for a fifth day, searching for any sign of 12 Marines who went missing after two helicopters apparently collided last week.... It was not immediately clear what caused the helicopters to disappear. The Marine Corps has released the names of the aircrew." The article includes the names of the Marines.