The Ledes

Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Israel on Wednesday, as he pressed his effort to forge a cease-fire to bring a halt to the bitter fighting in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Kerry’s plane touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport just a day after the United States Federal Aviation Administration suspended American civilian flights to Israel." ...

... Guardian: "International airlines halted flights to and from Israel indefinitely on Tuesday citing security concerns in an unexpected twist to the two-week-old conflict in Gaza." ...

     ... CW: Guess that puts something of a damper on the Summer Vacation Insurance Theory of War.

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday afternoon ordered U.S. carriers to stop flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, prohibiting them from traveling through Israel’s largest airport after a rocket landed nearby."

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

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

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

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
July 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sunday
Jul062014

The Commentariat -- July 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presidential Election 2016

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

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

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

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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

Saturday
Jul052014

The Commentariat -- July 6, 2014

Barton Gellman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else."

New York Times Editors: "... the real [IRS] scandal is what Republicans did to cripple the agency when virtually no one was looking. Since the broad Tea Party-driven spending cuts of 2010, the agency's budget has been cut by 14 percent after inflation is considered, leading to sharply reduced staff, less enforcement of the tax laws and poor taxpayer service. As the economist Jared Bernstein noted recently in The Washington Post, a weakened I.R.S. enforcement staff will be unable to make a dent in the $385 billion annual gap between what taxpayers owe and what they pay -- an unintended tax cut, mostly for the rich, that represents 11 percent of this year's spending.... The nation's highest-income taxpayers, many of whom donate generously to Republican politicians to keep their taxes low...' are getting their money's worth from lawmakers who debilitate revenue collection while claiming to be deeply worried about the budget deficit.... The budget cutters are also trying to prevent the agency from performing its new job of collecting higher taxes on the rich to pay for health care reform, and distributing health insurance subsidies for low- and moderate-income people...."

Rick Jervis of USA Today: "Gov. Rick Perry told a U.S. House field hearing Thursday that President Obama should deploy the National Guard to secure the Texas border and should send thousands of undocumented child immigrants back to their home country. He also called on the federal government to reimburse Texas the $500 million that he said the state has spent on securing the border since 2005."

CW: There are many reasons the tuition is too damned high, but Peter Lunenfeld, writing in Salon, identifies one of them seldom mentioned: Ronald Reagan.

Dahlia Lithwick & Sonja West in Slate: "While the court has told us that we are not allowed to question the sincerity of corporations' professed religious beliefs, we remain free to question the sincerity of the court's pinky promise that the Hobby Lobby decision would have a limited scope." ...

... CW: So far the Roberts Court has rewritten the first two Amendments of the Bill of Rights. Next term: the Five Dancing Supremes will rule that the 47 percent will be required to quarter soldiers in their homes.

Steve M. responds to John Harwood of the New York Times, who wonders if Republicans will learn, as Bill Clinton did in 1992, how to take back the presidency. "Republicans have learned that the presidency is worth winning, but it's not mission-critical -- they bottled up Clinton, they bottled up Obama, they'll undoubtedly bottle up Hillary Clinton. They've lost the popular vote in five of six presidential cycles and look where we are: hedge fund managers still pay a lower tax rate than teachers, guns laws have become less stringent in much of America, the notion of human-created climate change still can't be the basis of federal legislation, our immigration policy still isn't reformed, abortion is subject to more and more restrictions in state after state.... That's just for starters. That's a pretty solid record of victory for the right." ...

Jamelle Bouie in Slate: Republicans aren't talking about the 47 percent anymore, but they're still thinking it: "... the basic idea -- that some number of Americans were lazy 'takers' addicted to welfare and entitlements -- never subsided. You can see it in the anger over Thad Cochran's win in the Mississippi Senate primary -- with opponents furious over his appeal to so-called 'moochers' -- and in the backlash to the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act; conservatives demanded women 'pay for their own birth control,' as if insurance coverage were an unearned benefit."

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "The South is America's poverty belt, and Republicans want to make all of America more like the South." ...

     ... CW: This map kinda puts the lie to the GOP Takers Theory (see Jamelle Bouie post, linked above. While most of these impoverished states are "taker" states, many of the poor white voters in those states are Tea Party through-&-through. Rather than turning people into "Democrat" lie-abouts waiting for their gummit checks, poverty or near-poverty makes many people stingy, fearful, bigoted & superstitious. It makes them Republicans "clinging to their guns & religion," one might say.

Judd Legum of Think Progress: "... a major new study [conducted in Austrailia] finds that kids raised by same-sex couples actually do a bit better 'than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion.' ... The lead researcher, Dr. Simon Crouch, noted that in same-sex couples parents have to 'take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes.' According to Crouch, this leads to a 'more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well being.'" ...

     ... CW: Not mentioned in Legum's piece nor in the abstract of the study -- I presume that the vast majority of children reared by same-sex couples were planned. Thus, the parents are -- on average -- better prepared to accommodate their children than are many heterosexual couples who become accidental parents.

Brendan Nyhan in the New York Times: Climate change & evolution deniers aren't ignorant of the facts; they just don't believe them. "Once people's cultural and political views get tied up in their factual beliefs, it's very difficult to undo regardless of the messaging that is used."

Mark Stern of Slate: "... as more and more states find marriage equality foisted upon them by a judicial mandate, [a] discordance in rights presents something of a ticking time bomb for the LGBT movement. Currently, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with both gay marriage (thanks to a federal judge) and no employment protections for gay people. But ... several other states also boast same-sex marriage while lacking hospital visitation, adoption rights, or housing protections for sexual minorities.... And when the Supreme Court almost inevitably legalizes marriage equality nationwide, the chasm between gay marriage and broader LGBT equality is going to expand rapidly in dozens of red states." ...

... CW: Let's face it: living in a red state -- except maybe in a university town (think Austin, Texas) or upscale resort community (Jackson Hole, Wyoming) is always going to suck.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Israeli police have arrested a group of Israeli suspects in connection with the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian youth from East Jerusalem who was found beaten and burned in a Jerusalem forest last week, a spokesman for the Israeli police said Sunday. After days of near silence about the case, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned what he called a 'horrific crime' and pledged that the perpetrators would 'face the full weight of the law.'" ...

... The Washington Post story is here.

New York Times: "With mystery enveloping a German intelligence service employee accused of spying -- reportedly for the United States -- German officials and commentators on Sunday angrily demanded a response from Washington, warning that an already troubled relationship was at risk of deteriorating to a new low."

Reality Chex Travel Advisory. Guardian: "Passengers using airports that offer direct flights to the US may be forced to switch on their mobile phones and other electronic devices to prove to security officials that they do not contain explosives, it was announced on Sunday.... The new measure is the first to be confirmed since Jeh Johnson, the US Homeland Security secretary, warned last week that enhanced security checks would be implemented imminently at 'certain overseas airports with direct flights into the United States'." CW: So charge your cellphone before leaving for the airport.

Friday
Jul042014

The Commentariat -- July 5, 2014

Robert Pear & Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Obama administration, reeling from back-to-back blows from the Supreme Court this week, is weighing options that would provide contraceptive coverage to thousands of women who are about to lose it or never had it because of their employers' religious objections.... Administration officials said they were determined to ensure the broadest possible coverage of contraceptives for the largest number of women without requiring employers to violate their religious beliefs.... Justice Sonia Sotomayor..., in her dissent in the Wheaton College case on Thursday..., said the challenge facing the government was 'daunting -- if not impossible.'" ...

... Loren Clark-Moe, a former federal employee, writes in a Washington Post op-ed, that she had to pay for her own abortion because Congress bars insurers from covering abortions except in cases of rape & incest. "I would have gotten an abortion with or without the restrictions placed upon me as a federal employee.... Restricting my access to health coverage didn't prevent my pregnancy, and it certainly didn't influence my choice. All it did was punish me, financially and otherwise, for making a responsible, physician-approved health-care decision." ...

... CW: Yeah, but if she'd only had stranger-counselors screaming at her & calling her a "baby-killer," she probably would have realized she really wanted to have that child & rear it on her own. Thanks, Supremes!

Andrew Koppelman of the New Republic: In the Wheaton injunction, the Supreme Court made things a whole lot worse for women. "The big mystery here is why justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer did not agree with Sotomayor." ...

     ... CW: It's no mystery to me. The Wheaton order is a temporary injunction. It's just as stupid, convoluted, nonsensical & inconsistent with the Hobby Lobby decision as Justice Sotomayor claims in her dissent (joined by Ginsburg & Kagan). It is unsigned, tho Scalia owns that he agrees with the result (but not the reasoning). So all the Supreme boys including Breyer & Kennedy, join in the order. But what I think this really means is that Breyer & Kennedy found Sotomayor's dissent too strong. I don't think Breyer & Kennedy had the stomach for asserting that the Wheaton injunction undermined the integrity of the Supreme Court, for instance, as the women on the Court (correctly, IMHO) asserted. You could argue Breyer & Kennedy just don't get it, & I'd agree with that. But I wouldn't rule out their finding for the government in the case proper, when Wheaton (or a similar case) comes before the Court for a decision. ...

     ... ALSO, belated congratulations to Sonia Sotomayor for out-Scalia-ing Nino. The only teensy difference is that Sotomayor's outrage was justified & well-reasoned; Nino's usual umbrage is just huffing & puffing.

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "At a precarious moment for his immigration policy, President Obama took part in a naturalization ceremony Friday for 16 members of the armed forces, two veterans and seven military spouses, saying he will take action so that 'hardworking' immigrants who come to the United States can 'join the American family'":

... MEANWHILE, They're Baaaack! Tony Perry & Matt Hansen of the Los Angeles Times: "Protesters have gathered near the entrance to a Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, Calif., on Friday to await buses of undocumented immigrants, but whether those buses will arrive is unknown. Unlike Tuesday when shouting, flag-waving protesters blocked three busloads of immigrants, Murrieta police Friday morning cleared the entry road. The estimated 100 demonstrators, including those favoring the immigrants,were being restricted to a 'safety zone' away from the road. Many had remained all night at the site, vowing a repeat of Tuesday's blockade." ...

     ... CW: Aw, shucks. I thought those women & children could use some "counseling" from citizens who only "wish to converse with fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks -- sites that have hosted discussions about the issues of the day throughout history." ...

     ... Update. Sort of. Tony Perry of the L.A. Times: "A charter plane believed to be carrying immigrants arrived [Friday] evening at San Diego's Lindbergh Field, apparently from Texas. Three Homeland Security buses arrived a few minutes later, trailed by numerous law enforcement vehicles. There is no information as to the buses' destination.... Since the blockade by protesters Tuesday at Murrieta, officials have declined to provide information about the movement of the immigrants."

Lynn Vavreck of the New York Times: "... patriotism in America is on the decline. But the decline seems to have more to do with reactions to the symbols of American democracy than its values. Older Americans remain remarkably high in their devotion to symbols like the flag, while young citizens ... express higher support for classic American ideals like equality and opportunity." ...

... Jill Lepore in the New Yorker on the history of the national anthem: Francis Scott "Key was a slaveholder and, as a U.S. Attorney, opposed abolition in print and in court. Abolitionists sang a song of protest: 'O say, does that blood-striped banner still wave / O'er the land of the fetter, and hut of the slave?' Key died in 1843. In 1857, his brother-in-law and former law partner, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, wrote the most infamous legal opinion in American history, in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford...." CW: They did not teach us this in my Southern whites-only schools. Also, when I had to memorize the six causes of the Civil War, slavery wasn't one of them. ...

... The "Anacreontic Song," music by John Stafford Smith, an 18th-century song which Key used to set the rhythms of his poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry," a/k/a the "Star-Spangled Banner." The story behind the "Anacreontic Song" is interesting, too":

Tim Egan on the rise of voters who self-identify as independent: "The independents are more likely to want something done about climate change, and immigration reform. They're not afraid of gay marriage or contraception or sensible gun laws. They think government can be a force for good.And none of those sentiments are represented by the current majority in the people's House. Remember that the next time Speaker John Boehner says that his members are doing the work of the American people. They're doing Fox's work, which is why they've had endless hearings on Benghazi, and voted more than 50 times to take away people's health care, but won't allow a vote on the minimum wage or immigration reform." ...

... CW: A problem with Egan's analysis. As John Sides documented in January 2014, most people who claim to be independent actually lean toward one party or the other & "behave like partisans" most of the time. Egan's point, however -- that the House doesn't represent the views of the general public on many/most major issues -- gun control, immigration reform, minimum wage, same-sex marriage, etc. -- is right on.

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: The CIA forced Jeffrey Scudder to retire after he tried to get old files on "long-dormant conflicts and operations" declassified. In addition, "his house was raided by the FBI and his family's computers seized.... Scudder's case also highlights the risks to workers who take on their powerful spy-agency employers. Senior U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly argued that Edward Snowden ... should have done more to raise his concerns internally.... Others who tried to do that have said they were punished." ...

     ... CW: I expect the CIA, NSA & other agencies that deal with security are worse than most in regard to "taking suggestions" about making changes or reforms. But what Scudder experienced is called "human nature" or "typical organizational behavior." In fact, if he had gone after a more fundamental target -- as Snowden did -- the hierarchical reaction he experienced would have been much worse. This is why government (and private) employees who see serious wrongdoing leak to reporters rather than try to initiate corrective actions through work channels. You well may have experienced this yourself, on a smaller scale. Now try to imagine former NSA Director Gen. Keith Collect-It-All Alexander's sitting down with a low-level hacker & listening to the young person's views on government transparency. Had Snowden made it into Alexander's Star Trek Enterprise war room for a little chat, I'm thinking Alexander's response would not go like this: "You make some great points here, Ed. I'm going to take your suggestion & call a presser to announce we've stored every damned thing every damned person in the world has said or written in the past five years. And I'm giving you a raise, kid. Keep up the good work."

Gail Collins on President Obama's poll numbers & Warren Harding's love letters to his neighbor with the "pillowing breasts."

Maureen Dowd (or her intern) calls a bunch of famous people & gets them to say the USA ain't what she used to be. Oh, woe is us. OR, how a cell phone can write a New York Times column.

C-SPAN Racism. Tom Kludt of TPM: "When C-SPAN invited viewers on Thursday to offer their thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, a handful of individuals used the opportunity to lament white oppression." ...

... CW: Obscenities are so much more tasteful when rendered in cross-stitch or needlepoint.

Sirius Racism. Aleksander Chan of Gawker: "Anthony Cumia, one half of the SiriusXM's comedy show The Opie & Anthony Show, claims to have been assaulted by a woman in Times Square Tuesday. According to his Twitter feed, he was apparently trying to take photos of the area when the woman was caught in the frame. When she objected to being in the photos, she allegedly starting punching him. He responded by calling her a cunt. Cumia then took to Twitter -- for hours -- for a racist, violent tirade." Chan has reproduced Cumia's tweets. ...

... So Now It's the Opie Show. Krishnadev Calamur of NPR: "Anthony Cumia, co-host of SiriusXM's Opie & Anthony, was fired by the satellite radio network his 'racially-charged and hate-filled remarks on social media.'" Maybe if Anthony had taken the time to cross-stitch his racist, sexist thoughts instead of just tweeting them, he'd still have a job. ...

... Tracie Morrissey of Jezebel: "... this isn't anything out of the ordinary for Cumia. He regularly makes jokes at the expense of black people on his SiriusXM show and his personal podcast. It's been going on for years...." Morrissey gives examples. ...

... CW: Since we're into racists & patriotic songs today, let's remember in ballad form 2014's most famous (15 minutes) racist American hero (so far -- the year is young & there's an election coming up, giving our politicians plenty of opportunity to top "blah people"). Besides, after a week like this, we need a laugh:

News Ledes

Haaretz: "The Palestinian youth who was caught on video earlier this week being beaten by members of the Israeli Border Police is a United States citizen from Florida, the U.S. State Department confirmed on Saturday. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki named the youth as Tariq Khdeir, 15. He was a cousin of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian whose burned body was found Wednesday in the Jerusalem Forest." ...

... CNN: "Mohammed Abu Khedair, a Palestinian teenager who was abducted and killed in Jerusalem this week, died from being burned alive and hit on the head with a blunt object, according to Palestinian General Prosecutor Mohammed al-Auwewy, citing a medical autopsy."

AP: Ukrainian "President Petro Poroshenko said in a statement that government troops took Slovyansk, a city of about 100,000 that has been a center of the fighting between Kiev's troops and the pro-Russian insurgents, after a night of fighting. It was a rare significant success for Kiev's forces in their struggle to quell the rebellion."

Guardian: "Six people were arrested on 4th July after demonstrators from dueling sides of the immigration debate clashed outside a US Border Patrol station in Murrieta, California, where a convoy of busses carrying some of the Central American migrants flooding the US-Mexico border was expected to arrive."

Thursday
Jul032014

The Commentariat -- July 4, 2014

From Page 1 of Thomas Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....

Punctuation Matters. Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times: "A scholar is now saying that the official transcript of the document produced by the National Archives and Records Administration contains a significant error -- smack in the middle of the sentence beginning 'We hold these truths to be self-evident,' no less. The error, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., concerns a period that appears right after the phrase 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' in the transcript, but almost certainly not, she maintains, on the badly faded parchment original. That errant spot of ink, she believes, makes a difference, contributing to what she calls a 'routine but serious misunderstanding' of the document. The period creates the impression that the list of self-evident truths ends with the right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' she says. But as intended by Thomas Jefferson, she argues, what comes next is just as important: the essential role of governments -- 'instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed' in securing those rights.'" ...

... CW: If you look at Jefferson's draft (excerpted above; full page 1 here), the punctuation following "happiness" is a semicolon, & there is another semicolon following "consent of the governed." That is, he meant it as one long sentence, with independent clauses meant to hang together.

That action evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court's precedents and undermines confidence in this institution. -- Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent on an order for temporary injunction in Burwell v. Wheaton College ...

* ... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In a decision that drew an unusually fierce dissent from the three female justices, the Supreme Court sided Thursday with religiously affiliated nonprofit groups in a clash between religious freedom and women's rights. The decision temporarily exempts a Christian college from part of the regulations that provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The court's order was brief, provisional and unsigned.... The order, Justice Sotomayor wrote, was at odds with the 5-to-4 decision on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which involved for-profit corporations. 'Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word, Justice Sotomayor wrote. 'Not so today.'" ...

     ... The brief order, Scalia's one-line concurrence, & Sotomayor's long dissent are here. ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "Expanding the rights of religious opponents of birth control, a divided Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon spared an Illinois college -- and maybe hundreds of other non-profit institutions -- from obeying government regulations that seek to assure access to pregnancy prevention services for female workers and students. In the same order, the majority essentially told the government to modify its own rules if it wants to keep those services available. Three Justices wrote a sharply worded dissent, accusing the majority of creating on its own a 'new administrative regime' that will seriously complicate the operation of the birth control mandate under the new federal health care law." ...

... Micah Schwartzman, Richard Schragger & Nelson Tebbe in Slate:" Hobby Lobby is for religion what Citizens United was for free speech -- the corporatization of our basic liberties. But Hobby Lobby is also unprecedented in another, equally important way. For the first time, the court has interpreted a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA), as affording more protection for religion than has ever been provided under the First Amendment.... The court has eviscerated decades of case law and, having done that, invites a new generation of challenges to federal laws, including those designed to protect civil rights.... The Roberts Court is now unconstrained by precedent. It has loosened itself from decades of First Amendment doctrine and has begun remaking the law of free exercise." ...

     ... CW: Yeah, not bound by precedent set way back on Monday.

... Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: "A reverend in Illinois organized a demonstration to hand out condoms outside of a local Hobby Lobby store in order to protest the Supreme Court's ruling on contraception, the Daily Herald reported. Rev. Mark Winters of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Naperville, Ill..., told the Daily Herald that he wanted the protest to show that not all Christians oppose birth control. He also said he hoped to get people to question whether the Supreme Court's decision was fair to Hobby Lobby employees' religious freedom. 'You can make the religious freedom argument, you can make the argument about contraception, but ultimately, for me, this is about power,' he said. 'Jesus had a lot of issue with powerful people using power over the powerless.'" ...

... Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "A flurry of Supreme Court decisions this year on reproductive rights, executive power and other issues could play a prominent role in the midterm elections this fall, rallying base voters on both sides and laying the groundwork for the larger fight to come in 2016."


Paul Krugman
: "The basic story of what went wrong [with the economy] is, in fact, almost absurdly simple: We had an immense housing bubble, and, when the bubble burst, it left a huge hole in spending. Everything else is footnotes. And the appropriate policy response was simple, too: Fill that hole in demand. In particular, the aftermath of the bursting bubble was (and still is) a very good time to invest in infrastructure.... But what actually happened was exactly the opposite: an unprecedented plunge in infrastructure spending.... And it's about to get even worse. The federal highway trust fund ... is almost exhausted. Unless Congress agrees to top up the fund somehow, road work all across the country will have to be scaled back just a few weeks from now.... The combination of anti-tax ideology and deficit hysteria (itself mostly whipped up in an attempt to bully President Obama into spending cuts) means that we're letting our highways, and our future, erode away."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "New York Times columnist David Brooks gets a lot of hate mail. And he doesn't read the comments section. 'I used to read them, but it was just too psychologically damaging,' Brooks said in an interview with Yahoo News' Katie Couric at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday. 'So then I would ask my assistant to read them.' Brooks was shocked at the volume of 'punishingly negative' comments when he joined the Times in 2003. 'It was the worst six months of my life,' he said. 'I had never been hated on a mass scale before.' CW: The post includes video of the full hour-long Couric-Brooks interview."

Beyond the Beltway

Michele Richinick of NBC News: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gun control bill on Wednesday that would have banned magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate called the restriction of the number of bullets 'trivial,' and denied such a limit could prevent future mass shootings.... Hours before Christie's decision, several families from Newtown, Conn., personally delivered a petition to Christie to encourage him to reduce the legal limit of magazines. More than 55,000 individuals supported their request. The governor wasn't available to meet with the parents...." CW: In other words, Gov. Confrontational & Mr. Straight Talk didn't have the guts to face the parents & tell them that their children's deaths by weapons equipped with high-capacity magazines were "trivial." Coward. Hypocrite. Huge sack of shit.

Ryan Takeo of KPIX: "The city of Berkeley[, California,] will require medical marijuana dispensaries to give away two percent of the amount of cannabis they sell each year free to low-income patients."

I don't want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I'm aware of. -- Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith, at a Natural Resources & Environmental hearing, explaining why coal can't possibly be contributing to climate change

... while the average temperature on Earth is roughly 58 degrees Fahrenheit, the average temperature on Mars is approximately -80 degrees Fahrenheit. In Sen. Smith's defense, he's only off by about 138 degrees or so, which happens sometimes.... There were plenty of other amazing and 'insightful' quotes in this hearing ... where the people who say Mars is the same temperature as Earth allege that climate scientists don't know what they're talking about. -- Blogger Joe Sonka

An Upside to Manhattan's One-Way Avenues: Danielle Tcholakian & Murray Weiss of DNAinfo: "A man who was driving the wrong way on Seventh Avenue early Wednesday was caught with assault rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and several knives -- and police found a note in his car saying he wanted to die in combat, police said." Via New York.

Senate Race 2014

Physicians Against Birth Control. Bruce Alpert of the Times-Picayune: "The Bill Cassidy Senate campaign announced Thursday that the candidate's unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant as she prepares for her senior year at a Baton Rouge high school. Cassidy, a Republican congressman from Baton Rouge, said in a statement provided NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune that his daughter faces 'a more challenging future' and that she has his and his wife Laura's unconditional support. The baby is expected later this summer.... Both Bill Cassidy and his wife, Laura, are physicians." Cassidy is the front-runner in the Louisiana GOP Senate race. ...

     ... I doubt his daughter will be getting an abortion. Cassidy, who is "staunchly pro-life," opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest. Planned Parenthood gave Cassidy a zero percent rating. So did the National Education Association & the Human Rights Campaign. He has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

Senate Races 2016

Dave Weigel of Slate: "... the 2016 election map gives Democrats a chance to refight the troublesome 2010 elections, and to do so with Hillary Clinton atop the ballot. The best case 2014 scenario for Democrats is that they only hold the Senate by one or two votes." Weigel lists "seven Senate races Democrats should be optimistic about in 2016."

News Ledes

New York Times: "In the latest turn in the yearlong tensions with Germany over American spying, a German man was arrested [by the German government, I surmise] this week on suspicion of passing secret documents to a foreign power, believed to be the United States. The American ambassador, John B. Emerson, was summoned to the Foreign Office here and urged to help with what German officials called a swift clarification of the case."

New York Times: "Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh philanthropist and reclusive heir to the Mellon banking fortune, whose support for right-wing causes laid the foundations for America's modern conservative movement and fueled the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died on Friday. He was 82. Mr. Scaife's death was reported by the The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a newspaper he owned. No cause of death was given." ...

... For your amusement, here's a 2008 Vanity Fair story on how Scaife's second marriage went.