The Ledes

Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Guardian: "The UK supreme court has cleared the way for the publication of secret letters written by Prince Charles to British government ministers, declaring that an attempt by the state to keep them concealed was unlawful. The verdict – the culmination of a 10-year legal fight by the Guardian – is a significant blow for the government, which has been battling to protect the Prince of Wales from scrutiny over his 'particularly frank' interventions on public policy."

Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country. The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen’s capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces­ last week." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE: "Egypt said Thursday that it was prepared to send troops into Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to drive back the Iranian-backed Houthi advance, signaling the growing likelihood of a protracted ground war on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula."

New York Times: "As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a [Germanwings] jet with 150 people on board crashed amid a relatively clear sky, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in." ...

     ... ** UPDATE: "The co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 deliberately crashed the aircraft, French officials said Thursday, pointing to voice recorder evidence that he had locked the captain out of the cockpit, ignored his pleas for re-entry and steered down into the French Alps as passengers were heard screaming. The assertions instantly changed the nature of the Tuesday crash, which obliterated the Airbus A320 and killed all 150 aboard, into a wide-ranging criminal investigation that focused on the co-pilot, a 28-year-old German with no obvious reason to commit mass murder, who had been hired less than two years ago." ...

     ... The Guardian's live updates are here.

... Washington Post: "A mother and daughter from Prince William County were among three Americans who perished when an Airbus jet plunged into a frozen ridge in the French Alps this week, officials said Wednesday. Yvonne Selke, a longtime government contractor, and Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University, died Tuesday along with 148 others on the Germanwings flight from Spain to Germany."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

New York Times: "On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant [Beau] Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life."

New York Times: "Rescuers on Wednesday resumed the difficult task of searching for the 150 victims of a deadly plane crash in the French Alps, as France’s interior minister said that terrorism was not at the top of the list of potential causes."

Washington Post: "Yemen’s embattled president was pushed deeper into crisis Wednesday after fleeing a last-ditch refuge as advancing Shiite rebels seized a key air base in a push to overrun the country’s second-largest city. The whereabouts of Western-allied President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear."

Put Some Ketchup on that Velveeta. New York Times: "Kraft Foods and H. J. Heinz, two icons of the American food industry, are merging in a blockbuster deal involving the billionaire Warren E. Buffett and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, creating what will be the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world.... Heinz, which is owned by 3G Capital and Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, will control 51 percent of the combined company, while Kraft shareholders will own 49 percent."

AP: "Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be released from a federal prison on Thursday and will serve out the remainder of his term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press after visiting Jackson. Kennedy said he spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, where the son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 ½-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items."

CBS New York: "The Connecticut home of the man who carried out the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been demolished, Newtown officials said Tuesday. The 2-acre lot where the 3,100-square-foot house once stood in a leafy, suburban neighborhood will be left as open space under a plan approved by town officials.... Everything inside the home, including rugs and lighting fixtures, had previously been removed and incinerated so that no remnants were available to become memorabilia."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
March 26

4:10 pm ET: President Obama speaks about the economy in Birmingham, Alabama

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

Patrick LaForge of the New York Times: "Welcome to a parallel universe. It is a world of tired news language where the verb 'stir' is bound to be followed by 'debate,' where those debates are always 'heated' or 'bitter.' In this world, anything newsworthy is automatically 'controversial,' and a 'hike' involves taxes, not a trail up a mountain. It is often a 'hardscrabble' place, sometimes 'densely wooded,' sometimes graced with 'manicured' lawns and 'leafy' streets. 'Landmark' agreements are 'hammered out' there, while adversaries are 'lambasted' and 'assailed.'” Meet journalese: a strained and artificial voice more common to news reports than to natural conversation." LaForge cites numerous examples of NYT reporters' use of these cliches.

"In March 2015, Robert Kenner, the Director of 'Food Inc' and other acclaimed documentaries, will debut his newest, 'Merchants of Doubt'. Based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway, the film follows the development of sophisticated methods for distorting science, used by the Tobacco industry to hide the poisonous nature of their products, and adapted by the Fossil Fuel industry to distort the science around climate change":

... Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post discusses the documentary: "... Marc Morano, a professional climate-change denier and founder of the Climate Depot Web site ... is, arguably, the star of Kenner’s film. After a stint in the 1990s reporting for Rush Limbaugh, Morano worked briefly as a flack for Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who famously called global warming a 'hoax.' He also plays dirty. In 'Doubt,' Morano recounts with glee how he has published the e-mail addresses of climate scientists, subjecting them to intimidation and flaming attacks from anonymous critics. (Several of the abusive e-mails are read aloud in the film by their recipients...."

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Tuesday
Mar102015

The Commentariat -- March 11, 2015

The Senate's Forty-Seven Percent
Are Way More Irresponsible than Mitt's 47 Percent

Dana Milbank: "... 47 Republican senators did their level best to bring us closer to war by writing a letter to Iran's mullahs, attempting to scuttle nuclear talks with the United States.... It's ... as if they're operating their own independent republic on Capitol Hill. Call it the State of Republicania.... On Tuesday, the day after his letter to Hezbollah's masters became public, Cotton provided a clue about his motives: He'd had a breakfast date with the National Defense Industrial Association -- a trade group for Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and the like.... The event was 'off the record and strictly non-attribution.' But you can bet it was what Dwight Eisenhower meant when he warned of the military-industrial complex." Read the whole column. ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Democrats say that as concerned as they are about an emerging deal with Iran, Republicans' extraordinary moves to undermine Mr. Obama's efforts to reach an agreement are weakening their resolve to cross party lines and challenge their own president.... On Tuesday, Democrats took to the Senate floor to denounce the letter to Iran. Noting that she had opposed the war in Iraq under President George W. Bush, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, her voice shaking with rage, said, 'I never would have sent a letter to Saddam Hussein.'" ...

... Greg Jaffe & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "Many in the GOP foreign policy establishment, meanwhile, expressed disappointment over the increasingly partisan nature of U.S. foreign policy. Former senator Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who previously served as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, described Cotton's letter as 'an unfortunate venture' and said he would have advised the freshman senator and Army veteran not to send it." ...

.. Tim Mak of the Daily Beast: "A day after releasing a letter that potentially threatened the administration's negotiations with Iran, some Republicans who signed on are realizing it was a bad call." ...

... It Was Supposed to Be a Hilarious Joke! Republican aides were taken aback by what they thought was a lighthearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a 'cheeky' reminder of the congressional branch's prerogatives. 'The administration has no sense of humor when it comes to how weakly they have been handling these negotiations,' said a top GOP Senate aide. ...

... Andy Borowitz: "Stating that 'their continuing hostilities are a threat to world peace,' Iran has offered to mediate talks between congressional Republicans and President Obama." ...

... ** Daniel Drezner in the Washington Post elaborates on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's letter responding to the 47 percent: "The Iran negotiations are not a bilateral arrangement between Iran and the United States, but a P5+1 negotiation with Iran. If a deal is reached, it's a deal that has the support of all the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.... Does the next president want one of his/her first actions to be revoking a deal negotiated in part by America's closest allies? Methinks not.... The next president is going to ink a lot of executive agreements, as well, and would not want the credibility of this legal instrument in general to be sabotaged." ...

... CW: Drezner & Zarif's points are well-reasoned. But Drezner's assumption that boys like Cotton give a crap about our allies is questionable. Because American exceptionalism. Remember Freedom Fries. Our allies are only our allies when it suits the GOP's rhetorical & warmongering purposes. Don't think they wouldn't throw our BFF Israel under the proverbial bus if Bibi loses the election & a more moderate coalition gains control. ...

... Steve M.: "... Republicans don't care about advancing an agenda. They just care about keeping their fans pumped up and enraged." ...

... Mehdi Khalaji in Politico Magazine: "Thanks, Tom Cotton. You Just Got Us a Hard-line Supreme Leader. The next Iranian ruler could reject a deal just as easily as the next U.S. president. He probably will." ...

... MEANWHILE, in Politico, Burgess Everett writes a piece describing Cotton as a "GOP phenom." ...

... AND Michael Crowley of Politico shows that Congressional Democrats, too, have communicated with foreign leaders over the years in attempts to mitigate presidential policies. CW: What's remarkable about Crowley's piece -- though Crowley doesn't in any way acknowledge it, is that in every case he cites, Democrats were attempting to advance prospects for peace. The Senate's 47 percent, obviously, are intent upon leading us closer to use of force. Even a person who believes that regulations on business should be eliminated, that climate change is a hoax, that Mitt's 47 percent are moochers, that entitlements should be cut, that abortion should be punishable by death & that there should be an arsenal in every home, should vote Democratic because Democrats want to keep Americans out of wars whenever possible. ...

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. -- U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3

... Mark Klaiman of the Washington Monthly explains what "treason" is as defined by the U.S. Constitution: "... even if you think -- contrary to any evidence I'm aware of -- that Cotton & Co. were trying to damage the United States as well as actually damaging the United States -- that still wouldn't amount to 'treason' in the Constitutional sense of that term.... Please don't call them 'traitors.' For that crime, they lacked the opportunity, the intention, and the guts." ...

... Philip Weiss of MondoWeiss speculates on who actually wrote that letter attributed to Tom-Tim Cotton: "I don't know who wrote the letter, but I can tell you whose fingerprints are on it: the only folks who are supporting it publicly, the hard-right Israel lobby. Even as Cotton himself splutters on national television, rightwing lobby groups are the main voices out there defending the letter." Thanks to Keith H. for the link.

Unfortunately, Obama Will Not Be Taking Your (Armor-Piercing) Bullets Away. At This Time. Tim Devaney of the Hill: "The Obama administration is backing off its plan to ban a type of armor-piercing ammunition following a deluge of criticism from gun rights groups and congressional Republicans. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said Tuesday it will not ban bullets commonly used in AR-15 hunting rifles 'at this time,' after receiving more than 80,000 comments on the proposal.... Democrats and gun control groups blasted the move, accusing the administration of caving. 'It's shameful that the gun lobby has, yet again, successfully worked to block an effort that would keep our communities safer from the threat of gun violence,' said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).... Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) threatened to practically defund the ATF in an agency meeting last week. 'I explained to the ATF that if they continued to interfere with law-abiding Americans' Second Amendment rights, they were going to have a very bad budget year,' he told The Hill."

John Eligon of the New York Times: "The city manager of Ferguson, whom a Department of Justice report blamed as one of the officials responsible for much of the questionable conduct by the police and the courts here, has agreed to resign. The announcement came during a City Council meeting here on Tuesday, about a week after the scathing Justice Department report. The manager, John Shaw, 39, had held the post since 2007. As Ferguson's chief executive, he is the city's most powerful official." ...

... Two Americas. Just watch this. Hold onto your jaw, as you're likely to drop it:

Lifestyles of Congressional Crooks. Da Bears! Jake Sherman & Anna Palmer of Politico (March 9): "Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock reported on federal campaign finance documents that he spent more than $3,000 on software on Nov. 14. But in fact, the expenditure was part of the cost of flying in a software executive's private plane to a Chicago Bears game and his district, the pilot and company executive said." ...

... Jake Sherman: Schock "argued that if the media spent time digging into the spending of other lawmakers -- like they have his -- reporters would 'find a story to write about any member of Congress.'"

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Charles Pierce has another go at Politico "reporting."

Presidential Race

Anne Gearan & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged Tuesday that she had erred in using only a private e-mail server for work correspondence at the State Department, saying that she sent about 60,000 e-mails from her private account during her four-year tenure as secretary of state":

     ... In her presser, she also whacks the 47 senators. Alan Yuhas of the Guardian reports on her comments re: the senators. ...

... The Washington Post has the transcript of Clinton's remarks. ...

... Paul Richter & David Lauter of the Los Angeles Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton directed aides to delete some 30,000 emails from her personal server after determining that they were not related to work, the former secretary of State disclosed at a news conference Tuesday." That's the lede.

... Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Hillary Clinton failed to quell mounting criticism over her controversial private email account on Tuesday evening after her office suggested she had erased more than half of her emails before turning them over for release to the American public. In a statement released after a press conference intended to end a week-long controversy, Clinton's office said that she did not preserve 31,830 of the 62,320 emails she sent and received while serving as Barack Obama's secretary of state from 2009 to 2013." ...

... To Avoid Bad Press, Clinton Pisses off Media. Peter Nichols & Natalie Andrews of the Wall Street Journal: "Mrs. Clinton chose to address the media at the United Nations, a venue with a strict media vetting and credentialing policy that has presented tough challenges for the reporters scrambling to cover her news conference. Reporters were given little advance notice that Mrs. Clinton would speak publicly today at the United Nations, where she is headlining the United Nations women's conference. In the small UN press credentialing office, staff charged with issuing credentials were overwhelmed by dozens of reporters.... The line moved slowly; tempers were short." ...

... So here's one pissed-off reporter, Maggie Haberman, who wrote what is now (10:20 pm ET Tuesday) an online front-page story for the New York Times: "Mrs. Clinton's attempt to put a whirlwind of questions and critical news reports behind her -- and to get back to mustering enthusiasm ahead of her expected announcement that she will make another run at the White House -- devolved, over the course of 21 minutes, into an exchange of sharp-toned questions and increasingly defensive responses, both in what she said and in her demeanor in saying it.... She asked the public to trust her: to take her word that the 30,000-odd emails that she said she had deleted were truly personal, not professional or political; truly private, not merely embarrassing." ...

... As Steve M. points out, John Harris of Politico is appalled that a presidential candidate would, as Harris puts it, tell the media to "go to hell." Because, ya know, Republicans would never be critical of the media. ...

... CW: AND here's the funny, funny thing: Republicans don't pay for their diatribes against the media the way Hillary did with her "tight-lipped" presser. Maybe here would be a good place to point out that Haberman worked for Politico until January of this year. ...

... CW: Here's a question: what kind of incriminating content do critics think Clinton is hiding? That she said Barack Obama had cooties? That she confessed she didn't care Americans died in Benghazi? The woman is a control freak; I doubt she writes down her dark thoughts. ...

     ... Another question for anyone who has owned a Blackberry. Clinton said in her presser that "she had used a single account on one mobile phone for 'convenience', adding: 'I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn't worked out that way.'" Um, can't you put more than one e-mail account on a Blackberry? ...

... Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner: "At a press conference on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said the server that housed her emails while she was secretary of state (that was reportedly housed at her home in New York) was set up for President Bill Clinton. She also said that some of the 'personal' emails she deleted were between her and her husband. But just before Hillary began the press conference at the United Nations building, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bill Clinton does not use email." ...

... Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal: "Bill Clinton doesn't use email." ...

... Scott Shane of the New York Times: "'I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email,' Mrs. Clinton said at a news conference on Tuesday at the United Nations. 'I'm certainly well aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.' But some secrecy experts and former government officials on Tuesday were skeptical, noting the interesting turnabout that had a former top official insisting, for once, that none of her exchanges were secret." ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic: "... I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and personal emails," [Hillary] Clinton said. 'Looking back, it would've been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone.' Yet as recently as two weeks ago, she told journalist Kara Swisher that she carried two phones during at least part of her tenure as secretary of state. Clinton also argued that because most of her work-related emails were sent to other people using official government accounts, they were being recorded, anyway. But some of the communication that has aroused the most interest is her communiqués with close staffers including Huma Abedin, who appears to have used her own account on Clinton's personal server." ...

... Timothy Lee of Vox: In her press conference, Clinton said there were no security breaches to her homebrew e-mail server. "The reality is that if there were a security breach, there's no reason to think she would know about it. If a foreign intelligence agency had managed to hack into her server, they wouldn't have told anyone. Instead, they would have silently collected copies of her communications and send them back home for analysis."


** Greg Sargent
: "Lurking underneath the searing controversy around the GOP letter to Iranian leaders is a dynamic that will far outlast the current headlines...: If President Obama reaches an international deal curbing Iran's nuclear program, all of the 2016 GOP presidential candidates will likely campaign on a pledge to cancel it.... All signs are that the 2016 GOP candidates will shape their agendas largely around rolling back Obama accomplishments on a number of fronts."

Ed O'Keefe & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: Jebbie & Scottie are out on the new playground calling each other names.

Dave Weigel: Michigan Republicans are preparing once again to rig the Electoral College. Their vote-splitting "bill represents a new flush of Republican chutzpah." And there's a good chance they'll get away with it this time.

Beyond the Beltway

S. P. Sullivan of NJ Advance Media: "New Jersey may end up spending as much money on legal fees from a controversial settlement with Exxon Mobil as it will dedicate toward environmental programs, documents show. Roughly $50 million -- one fifth of a $225 million settlement between the state and the oil giant over pollution at their facilities in New Jersey -- could go toward payment to an outside counsel if the agreement is approved by a judge." ...

... Matt Arco of NJ Advance Media: "Gov. Chris Christie says the controversial settlement agreement with Exxon Mobil is 'actually a really nice settlement,' and blasted The New York Times for not getting its facts straight when the newspaper first reported the agreement. The governor, speaking today at a town hall event in Somerville, stressed the $225 million the oil giant agreed to pay is on top of the billions Exxon will dole out to pay for cleanup at contaminated sites in New Jersey." ...

... Flim-flam Man. Kate Zernicke & Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "Mr. Christie, on Tuesday, in citing Exxon's obligation to 'fix what they created' without a limit on cost, was referring to the provisions of a 1991 consent order that Exxon reached with the state to clean up the contaminated refinery sites.... But New Jersey's 2004 lawsuits covered different issues, seeking recovery for damages to the state's natural resources and for their loss of use to the public."

Richard Fausset of the New York Times: "A witness to the fatal police shooting of a naked, unarmed man here said Tuesday that the man had approached the officer with his hands in the air, prompting the frightened officer to shoot at close range with a handgun."

Today in Post-Racial America. Amanda Holpuch of the Guardian: "University of Oklahoma's president has expelled two students who led others in racist chants in a video that drove the school to close a fraternity. School president David Boren said Tuesday that the students had created a 'hostile learning environment' while leading a chant at an event hosted by the the school's branch of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) -- one of the largest fraternities in the US.... Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and US senator, ordered the fraternity house shut down on Monday. The two students have until Friday to contest their expulsion." ...

... Susan Svrluga of the Washington Post: One of the expelled frat brothers apologizes; the other lets his parents do it for him. Turns out he's "a good boy" and "not a racist." The post reprints the statements.

... Eugene Volokh, who's kind of an oddball winger, argues that expelling the students violates their First Amendment rights. CW: However, the content of the chant, which Volokh reproduces, suggests to me that the students are doing more than using a racial epithet & incendiary racist imagery; the chanters declare they will never allow black men to becomes members of SAE. That is discriminatory, & racial discrimination is not lawful. If the members are allowed to vote on whom to admit to the fraternity, as is customary, then it seems to me the chanters don't get a First Amendment pass, though Volokh argues otherwise: "I don't think that a discussion saying that discrimination ought to take place, or even that at some unspecified time it will take place, would suffice to constitute a violation of the antidiscrimination rules, though it might be used as evidence in a future case where discrimination against a particular applicant might be alleged." He might be right. ...

... Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post has more on the students' legal case. CW: AND he addresses a question I had as soon as I read Volokh's analysis: does OU have a student code of ethics that the SAE boys violated? Does the code itself violate the First Amendment? ...

... The Paula Dean of Housemothers. Oklahoma Daily (the OU campus paper): "A video surfaced Monday evening appearing to depict OU's Sigma Alpha Epsilon house mom. The Feb. 24, 2013 Vine, shows a woman who appears to be Beauton Gilbow saying the n-word repeatedly. The Daily identified Gilbow by comparing the Vine to her GoFundMe page, which was created to raise funds for her after Sigma Alpha Epsilon's closure resulted in her sudden joblessness. The campaign page has since been taken down." Includes video. ...

... This is precious. Pete Volk of Oklahoma City News 9, in an earlier interview: “'Did you ever get any indication there was anything like this going on?' News 9's Kelly Ogle asked [Gilbow]. 'No, no, no. Never heard the song,' Gilbow responded." She is, according to the report, "a longtime friend" of legendary OU football coach Barry Switzer.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Obama administration said Wednesday that it would provide another $75 million in nonlethal aid to Ukraine's military. It also imposed sanctions against a handful of pro-Russian separatists and others blamed for fomenting the civil war that has torn apart Ukraine's eastern regions."

Washington Post: "The Italian weather Website MeteoWeb reports that Capracotta, Italy saw 100.8 inches of snow in just 18 hours on Thursday, March 5 -- a total that, if verified, would set a new world record for snowfall in a 24-hour period."

Monday
Mar092015

The Commentariat -- March 10, 2015

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The fractious debate over a possible nuclear deal with Iran escalated on Monday as 47 Republican senators warned Iran against making an agreement with President Obama and the White House accused them of undercutting foreign policy. In an exceedingly rare direct congressional intervention into diplomatic negotiations, the Republicans sent an open letter addressed to 'leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran' declaring that any agreement could be reversed by the next president 'with the stroke of a pen.' The letter appeared aimed at unraveling an agreement even as negotiators grow close to reaching it.... The letter generated anger inside the White House...." ...

     ... Correction: "A previous version of this article misstated the given name of the senator who drafted the letter from American lawmakers to Iranian leaders. He is Tom Cotton, not Tim Cotton." Note to Tim-Tom: The New York Times is not a place were everybody knows your name.

... Here's the letter (pdf). It is an "Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republican of Iran." As Jim Newell of Salon notes, "'open letter' is politics-speak for 'stunt.'" CW: I do think this is a more serious stunt than their near-monthly threats to shut down parts of the federal government. ...

... Greg Jaffe & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "The White House responded by accusing the Republicans of conspiring with Iranian hardliners, who oppose the delicate negotiations, and suggesting that their goal was to push the United States into a military conflict. 'I think it's somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,' President Obama said a few hours after the letter was made public. 'It's an unusual coalition.'... The letter [was] written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)...." ...

... Julian Borger of the Guardian: "... Joseph Biden said the letter ... was 'expressly designed to undercut a sitting president in the midst of sensitive international negotiations'. It was 'beneath the dignity of the institution I revere', Biden said in a statement." ...

     ... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "In a lengthy and harshly worded statement released late Monday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Senate veteran of more than three decades and a former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he could recall no other instance in which senators had written to the leaders of another country, 'much less a foreign adversary,' to say the president had no authority to strike a deal with them. 'This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American president, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States,' Mr. Biden said. 'Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.'" ...

     ... NEW. Kendall Breitman of Politico: "Sen. Tom Cotton is firing back at Vice President Joe Biden's criticism of his letter to Iran, saying: What does he know about foreign policy? 'Joe Biden, as [President] Barack Obama's own secretary of defense has said, has been wrong about nearly every foreign policy and national security decision in the last 40 years,' Cotton said Tuesday on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe,' in a reference to former Pentagon chief Robert Gates, who ripped Biden in a tell-all memoir after leaving office." CW: The audacity of this ignorant twerp rivals even Ted Cruz's off-the-wall rantings. In a normal world, this would be a crash-and-burn moment, & Tom-Tim would not be heard from again till a brief mention appeared on the local obituary page. But this country at this moment is not normal. BTW, if Cotton could get his head out of the deep recess of his ass (the font of all of his knowledge) for a brief moment, he might learn that Biden (and a number of journalists) had pretty-well demolished Gates' criticisms of Biden. ...

     ... ** Update. From a press release by Iran's U.N. mission: "... the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that 'in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.' Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not. understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution...." Read the whole release. Thanks to Deborah S. for the link.

Let's be very clear: Republicans are undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs. This letter is a hard slap in the face of not only the United States, but our allies. This is not a time to undermine our commander in chief purely out of spite.... Today's unprecedented letter originated by a United States senator who took his oath of office 62 days ago. As a kind of pettiness that diminishes us as a country in the eyes of the world. Republicans need to find a way to get over their animosity of President Obama. I can only hope that they do it sooner, rather than leader. -- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), on the floor of the Senate, Cotton presiding

... Martin Matishak & Jordan Fabian of the Hill report other Democrats' responses. ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic lists the GOP Senators who didn't sign the letter, including Bob Corker (Tenn.), who heads the Foreign Relations Committee. ...

... The Distinguished Gentleman from Arkansas. Burgess Everett & Michael Crowley of Politico: "Some of the seven dissenters told Politico they have doubts about Cotton's move, saying there are more effective means to force President Barack Obama to address Congress' concerns about the deal.... 'It's more appropriate for members of the Senate to give advice to the president, to Secretary Kerry and to the negotiators,' Collins said. 'I don't think that the ayatollah is going to be particularly convinced by a letter from members of the Senate, even one signed by a number of my distinguished and high ranking colleagues.'" ...

... CW: I hate to say it, but 47 U.S. Senators are traitors who are following orders of a somewhat mad foreign leader: Benjamin Netanyahu. We are on dangerous ground here. This is the way tribalism works. It is rather more genteel than ISIS, but nonetheless, these Senators would have us be the 13th tribe of Israel. ...

... I see Charles Pierce has the same idea: "Condescension aside -- and an argument can be made that [Sen. Tom] Cotton doesn't understand the Constitution any better than Ali Khamenei does..., is this really any more than an attempt by the Republican caucus to monkeywrench any deal that does not meet the approval of their new majority leader, Benjamin Netanyahu?... In case you missed it, there has not been much of a consensus on anything within the American government since the Kenyan Usurper moved into the White House. The commitment of the opposition to preventing his acting as president remains unyielding. It's just a little clumsier and more obvious now, as Cotton's letter to his new pen pal attests." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Cotton stands revealed as a true fanatic. He's stalwart in his convictions as regards things about which he knows exactly dick. What he and practically every Republican in the Senate did was nothing short of a slow-motion, partial coup d'etat. It was not quite treason, and it was not quite a violation of the Logan Act...." ...

... The New York Daily News is hardly subtle in its disdain. Here's the better part of its front page:

... EVEN THOUGH the editors are opposed to the peace negotiations: "Regardless of President Obama's fecklessness in negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, 47 Republican U.S. senators engaged in treachery by sending a letter to the mullahs aimed at cutting the legs out from under America's commander-in-chief. We join GOP signatories in opposing the pact as outlined, but we strenuously condemn their betrayal of the U.S. constitutional system. The participants represented the bulk of the Republicans' 54-member senatorial majority, vesting their petulant, condescending stunt with the coloration of an institutional foreign policy statement. They are an embarrassment to the Senate and to the nation." ...

... Jack Goldsmith, Assistant AG in the Bush II administration: The letter's "premise is that Iran's leaders 'may not fully understand our constitutional system,' and in particular may not understand the nature of the 'power to make binding international agreements.' It appears from the letter that the Senators do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements." Goldsmith's objection is "a technical point that does not detract from the letter's message that any administration deal with Iran might not last beyond this presidency.... But in a letter purporting to teach a constitutional lesson, the error is embarrassing." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker provides a summary of the letter: "'Dear Iran, Please don't agree to halt your nuclear-weapons program, because we don't like Barack Obama and, anyway, he'll be gone soon.'... What is the source of the crying need that certain members of Congress, particularly Republicans, feel to make sure that everybody, and every last mullah, knows that they are much more important than some guy named Barack Obama?" ...

... Even ABC News's official right-wing reporter Jonathan Karl seems stunned by the Cotton, et al., brazen endrun around the President. Karl raises his voice at Cotton in what is supposed to be just a sitdown interview. ...

... ** CW: AND Cotton provides more evidence that Cotton he has no fucking concept of the Constitutional structure of the U.S. government. He tells Karl, "Congress has a Constitutional role to approve any deal...," & repeats a version of this remark. This is bull on two levels. (1) As Goldsmith explains, the Senate can give its advice & consent to an agreement negotiated by the administration; (2) but the President can & does negotiate & sign international agreements without the Senate's consent; & (3) it is not the Congress that has the constitutional power to give advice & consent, but the Senate. ...

     ... This may be what is confusing Tim-Tom: "Because it is not a treaty, an agreement with Iran would not require immediate congressional action. Mr. Obama has the power under current law to lift sanctions against Iran that were imposed under his executive authority and to suspend others imposed by Congress. But to permanently lift those imposed by Congress would eventually require a vote," Peter Baker writes in the Times article linked above. ...

... The War Senator. Lee Fang of the Intercept: "In an open letter organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office.... Twenty-four hours later, Cotton will appear at an 'Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution' event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors." ...

... CW: One thing of which we can be absolutely sure: the guy who appears in Tom Cotton's mirror every morning (or many times a day) is called "President Cotton." ...

** Daniel Drezner, a center-righty foreign policy writer, has a helpful explanatory piece on the possible ramifications of the GOP letter. He pretty much takes the Senators for ignorant buffoons who may unwittingly help the President's negotiating team. "It's like Tom Cotton went into the GOP cloakroom and said, 'Hey, guys, I just watched Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and it gave me a super-keen idea about what to do about Iran!!'" ...

... AND Paul Waldman: "Republicans are embarking on an entirely new enterprise: They have decided that as long as [Barack Obama] holds the office of the presidency, it's no longer necessary to respect the office itself.... To directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling.... The only direct precedent I can think of for this occurred in 1968, when as a presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly communicated with the government of South Vietnam in an attempt to scuttle peace negotiations the Johnson administration was engaged in. It worked: those negotiations failed, and the war dragged on for another seven years."

Oh, Wait, There's More. Ryan Cooper of the Week: The "hilariously over-the-top fear-mongering" ad below is the work product of "the American Security Initiative..., founded by three ex-senators, Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). Their ad is reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson's 'Daisy' ad in 1964, which famously featured a nuclear holocaust. Except it's the other way around: 'Daisy' implied that Barry Goldwater's snarling bellicosity would lead him to start a nuclear war, not the Soviets. A voiceover from Johnson made clear that ... the USSR and America must find some way to co-exist. 'These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God's children can live... We must either love each other, or we must die'":

... Cooper, ctd.: "... Bayh and company's berserk ad ends on a limp note. 'Tell Washington. No Iran nuclear deal without Congressional approval.' Oh really? So unless we get about the most despised and incompetent institution in American politics to sign off, then we're all going to be vaporized?... It is almost as if anti-Iran hawks do not actually believe their own rhetoric, and are seeking to scuttle a deal for a host of reasons -- politics, knee-jerk opposition to President Obama, an allergy to diplomacy, desire for a free military hand in the Middle East -- that have nothing to do with nuclear weapons."

Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department on Monday will notify more than 1 million federal employees that they can sue the government for not paying them on time during the partial shutdown of 2013. The alerts, required under a court order, will inform personnel who worked during the budget lapse that they can join a lawsuit claiming the government owes them damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act."

Former speechwriter Jim Fallows on President Obama's Selma speech: "... for once, a public figure expressing exactly how I feel.... When the political passions of our time have passed, people of all parties will quote this speech as expressing an essence of our American creed." CW: If you didn't hear the speech, do yourself a favor & listen. Fallows has it embedded in the linked post, & I put it up in the March 8 Commentariat. ...

... Paul Waldman on the stories we tell about ourselves: "... not just Obama's patriotism but his very American-ness has been questioned from the moment he became a serious candidate for the presidency. In the eyes of Giuliani and millions like him, America is not people like Barack Obama. It's people like them, and only like them.... Conservatism is about conserving, so of course the story they tell about America isn't one of constant change in order to improve the country. Their story, particularly in the last few years, is one of a kind of immaculate conception, in which the framers issued forth the nation in a state of perfection."

CW: I put this story in Wednesday's News Ledes, because I came across it in the middle of the day. In case you missed it, here's the good news again. Washington Post: "The estimated cost of President Obama's signature health care law is continuing to fall. The Congressional Budget Office announced on Monday that the Affordable Care Act will cost $142 billion, or 11 percent less, over the next 10 years, compared to what the agency had projected in January."

Taking A Byte of the Apple. Jeremy Scahill & Josh Begley of the Intercept: "Researchers working with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple's iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

** Mitch Smith of the New York Times: "A state judge will take over municipal court cases in Ferguson, Mo., the Missouri Supreme Court announced Monday evening. The change comes days after the federal Department of Justice sharply criticized municipal courts in the St. Louis suburb for acting largely as a fund-raising operation that disproportionately fined and jailed black people.Ronald J. Brockmeyer, the current municipal judge [and winner of Reality Chex's Worst Worm of the Week prize], resigned his post effectively immediately, according to a news release sent by a lawyer in his firm."

Steve Visser of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The GBI was called in to investigate whether a DeKalb[, Georgia,] police officer acted properly when he fatally shot an unarmed man, who appeared to be mentally ill Monday.... The DeKalb officer responded to an apartment complex around 1 p.m. on a 'suspicious person' report in which a man, who lived in The Heights at Chamblee, was knocking on apartment doors, had disrobed and was crawling around naked....

Maurice Possley of the Marshall Project, in the Washington Post: "More than a decade after Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for the arson murder of his three young daughters, new evidence has emerged that indicates that a key prosecution witness testified in return for a secret promise to have his own criminal sentence reduced."


Annals of "Journalism," Ctd
. You have to read this sentence in context (where it is equally stupid) to know what particulars Ron Fournier is writing about, but Mr. Both-Sides-Do-It is so lacking in self-awareness that he actually typed into his little writing box, "Both sides do it." Well, his exact words: "Both parties are roughly equally drawn to their extremes." Ron Fournier is a stereotype of himself. ...

... Both Sides Do It, Ctd. Fournier is not alone. Steve M. writes of Josh Rogin, who broke the 47-Senators-letter story (i.e., a GOP staffer or Senator gave him a heads-up), "Republicans told Bloomberg's Josh Rogin that Both Sides Do it!, and Rogin retransmitted that claim exactly as it was dictated to him." Steve patiently explains to Josh that Colin Powell is not Vladimir Putin, & Jesse Helms writing to a Republican Secretary of State is not Tom Cotton writing to some ayatollahs. Sometimes such subtle nuance is very hard to see.

Presidential Race

CW: Paul Waldman writes a letter to Hillary Clinton that I find right in every respect but one: I really don't want to have to deal with that old familiar Clinton drama one more time. If I were prone to anxiety attacks, Waldman's letter would have given me a doozy. ...

... Gene Robinson & I are right in sync, too: "... the e-mail flap projects the sense that she considers herself both embattled and entitled. In the end, I'm not convinced that voters will necessarily care how Clinton's electronic communications were routed. But they may well ask themselves whether they're ready for the dynasty and the drama." ...

Hillary Clinton, 1994, during her "shoulda, coulda, woulda" press conference on Whitewater.... Oh, Lord, Another Pink Suit Moment. Glenn Thrush & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Hillary Rodham Clinton is likely to hold a press conference in New York in the next several days to answer reporters questions about a controversy surrounding her use of a private email account at the State Department, according to three people close to the potential Democratic frontrunner." ...

Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "Hillary Clinton is closing in on April 1 as the operational start date of her long-awaited presidential campaign, multiple sources with knowledge of Clinton's growing operation in Iowa have told the Guardian. With plans to hire as many as 40 staffers in the battleground state around the beginning of April, the sources said, there is essentially no turning back on Clinton campaign expenditures -- nor on the starting gun for the 2016 election." CW: Yes, April Fools Day is a perfect day to launch a presidential campaign.

... Here's a list of some Democrats I think should run for president this year. You can probably offer some additions (and objections) to my list:

Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator, Rhode Island

Amy Klobuchar, Senator, Minnesota

Sherrod Brown, Senator, Ohio

Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator, New York

Martin O'Malley, former Governor, Maryland

Al Franken, Senator, Minnesota

Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff

Julian Castro, HUD Secretary

Bernie Sanders, Senator, Vermont (I)

Elizabeth Warren, Senator, Massachusetts

Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "A majority of voters see 2016 frontrunners Hillary Clinton (D) and former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush (R) as a 'return to the policies of the past,' according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that shows the potential perils for each party's biggest names. Fifty one percent of registered voters view Clinton's policies as retreads of the past, but she's viewed much more favorably with Democrats. Only twenty three percent hold that view, and 73 percent believe she'll provide 'new ideas for the future.' Bush's numbers aren't as strong. Sixty percent of registered voters, and 42 percent of Republicans, see his policies as leaning backwards." ...

... CW: Don't kid yourselves, people. "Bush's numbers aren't as strong" because he has primary competition. The wingnuts will learn to love whoever is the party's standardbearer, including Jebbie. Besides, Republicans love "the policies of the past." Top past eras they prefer: Gilded Age, Northern War of Aggression, American Revolutionary War, Dark Ages & Stone Age, not necessarily in that order.

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Obama took a direct swipe at Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican and likely presidential candidate in 2016, for signing a so-called right-to-work bill that will limit the power of private-sector unions."

News Lede

New York Times: Claude Sitton, a son of the South whose unwavering coverage of the civil rights movement for The New York Times through most of that era's tumultuous years was hailed as a benchmark of 20th-century journalism, died on Tuesday in Atlanta. He was 89."

Sunday
Mar082015

The Commentariat -- March 9, 2015

Washington Post: "Thousands of marchers, government officials and other public figures gathered Sunday for a second straight day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a brutal police assault on civil rights demonstrators that spurred the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Starting from early morning, groups of people -- some with locked arms, some in song, some taking to their knees to pray -- began to march across Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of Selma's 'Bloody Sunday' march on March 7, 1965. By midafternoon, police said at least 15,000 to 20,000 people had joined the crush on and around the bridge...."

Richard Fausset of the New York Times: "Echoing a speech given by President Obama a day earlier, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Sunday that access to the polls was 'under siege' by a flurry of recent state laws, and by a 2013 United States Supreme Court decision that weakened the Voting Rights Act, the landmark legislation that was the great prize for the civil rights activists who marched here a half-century ago. Mr. Holder spoke at ceremonies before veterans of the civil rights era and ordinary citizens who gathered [in Selma, Alabama,] for a commemorative march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of a violent confrontation between the police and protesters that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "At a minimum, Congress should honor Selma by restoring an effective Voting Rights Act, once a bipartisan cause.... But let's be more adventurous and make voting in federal elections an obligation of citizenship." ...

... CW: Dionne doesn't go far enough. As much as possible, local elections should be tied to federal elections. One of the problems in Ferguson, & in many other communities, is that local elections are held in off-months &/or off-years, severely limiting turnout. Thousands of elected officials are serving at the whims of tiny minorities of eligible voters, giving the officials little incentive to answer to the broader public. That's precisely what happens in Ferguson. As the Washington Post reported last August, "Ferguson holds municipal elections in April of odd-numbered years. In doing so, the town is hardly unique. Approximately three-fourths of American municipalities hold their elections in odd years, a Progressive-era reform intended to shield municipal elections from the partisan politics of national contests, but one that has been shown to have a dramatic effect on reducing turnout." ...

... Greg Sargent explains why -- and of course it's obvious -- Republicans are not going to allow restoration or expansion of the Voting Rights Act. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "The president's speech at Selma on Saturday will definitely make the history books as one of his finest flights of oratory. But it was notable not just for its heights but for its gritty practical impact. It was not one of those 'civil rights speeches' absolutely anyone could nod along with, safely distant from the revered events of a past rapidly receding into history. Indeed, its central thrust was to insist the dynamics of Bloody Sunday are still being played out on the streets and in the courts and Congress." ...

... Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker: "If we have learned anything new from the D.O.J. report [on Ferguson, Mo.], it is about the ways in which racism facilitated corruption, and the way that stereotypical views of black criminality camouflaged a practice of targeting -- and all but extorting revenue from -- African-American residents.... Ferguson ... is an object lesson in the national policing practices that have created the largest incarcerated population in the Western world, as well as a veil of permanent racial suspicion...." ...

... CW BTW: If you want to know how John Roberts, et al., get away with claiming that racism is so over, you need only read the headline of the National Review article by Ian Tuttle, which Cobb cites: "The Injustice the DOJ Uncovered in Ferguson Wasn't Racism." The denizens of Right Wing World live in an absurd, fraudulent bubble which they invoke at every turn to justify their elitist, racist, sexist, anti-science policies. This bubble allows Mitt Romney to disown the 47 percent, Haley Barbour to claim that the white supremacist Citzens Councils were really gentlemanly businessmen who outlawed the KKK, Todd Akin to claim that nice girls can't be impregnated by rapists, and Rick Scott to render climate change unspeakable (see links under "Beyond the Beltway" below). ...

... That's Not de Mississippi. It's de Nile. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who had not read the DOJ entire report at the time of his interview, did not find the report convincing. Carimah Townes of Think Progress: "He also maintains that there is 'no proof' of gross civil rights violations." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... By Sunday, Knowles seemed a little more willing to accept some of the report's findings, but complained the town had undergone a level of scrutiny to which other communities had not been subjected & suggested that he & the city council members didn't bear much responsibility because they were part-timers wh outsourced day-to-day operations to "professional staff."

Somani Sengupta of the New York Times: "Despite the many gains women have made in education, health and even political power in the course of a generation, violence against women and girls worldwide 'persists at alarmingly high levels,' according to a United Nations analysis that the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to present to the General Assembly on Monday. About 35 percent of women worldwide -- more than one in three -- said they had experienced violence in their lifetime, whether physical, sexual, or both, the report finds. One in 10 girls under the age of 18 was forced to have sex, it says." ...

... CW: I think the percentage is higher than that. I suspect women underreport violence against them, because they are ashamed, because they fear further violence, or because they're so abused, they think they "deserve" it & don't consider it abuse. I write from personal experience.

Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday warned President Obama not to agree to an unsatisfactory deal over Iran's nuclear program, suggesting the president's unilateral moves on Iran had their limit. 'Obviously, the president doesn't want us involved in this. But he's going to need us if he's going to lift any of the existing sanctions. And so I think he cannot work around Congress forever,' McConnell said in an interview aired on CBS's 'Face the Nation.'"

We really don't have 218 votes to determine a bathroom break over here on our side. So how are we going to get 218 votes on transportation, or trade, or whatever the issue? -- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.)

... Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "In their first major test of governing this year, Republicans stumbled, faltered -- and nearly shut down the Department of Homeland Security. And that vote may have been the easy one. In April, physicians who treat Medicare patients face a drastic cut in pay. In May, the Highway Trust Fund runs dry. In June, the charter for the federal Export-Import Bank ceases to exist. Then in October, across-the-board spending cuts return, the government runs out of money -- and the Treasury bumps up against its borrowing limit.... While many of these measures used to be pushed through in an almost unthinking bipartisan ritual, there is no such thing as simple in Congress anymore.... The Republican turmoil has, in turn, empowered congressional Democrats, who found that by standing unified, they can wield significant power from the minority...." ...

There's never been a time when we've taken progressive action and regretted it. -- Dan Pfeiffer

... ** Jonathan Chait spoke to outgoing presidential advisor Dan Pfeiffer about how the White House gave up on Republicans. "If you had to pinpoint the moment this worldview began to crystallize, it would probably be around the first debt-ceiling showdown, in 2011, when Obama tried repeatedly and desperately to cut a budget deal with House Speaker John Boehner only to realize, eventually, that Boehner did not have the power to negotiate. The administration has now decided that in many cases, even adversarial bargaining fails because the Republican leadership is not capable of planning tactically."

Paul Krugman hopes the Fed is smarter than Paul Ryan & won't raise interest rates over a fear -- real or imagined -- that the rate of inflation could top 2 percent because a hike in the interest rate could cost millions of jobs & perhaps also cause the U.S. economy to slide "into a Japanese-style deflationary trap, which has already happened in Sweden and possibly in the eurozone."

Supreme Tenthers May Save ObamaCare. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "In 2012, the Supreme Court declared that Congress had put 'a gun to the head' of states by pressuring them to expand Medicaid, and it said that such 'economic dragooning' of the states violated federalism principles embedded in the Constitution. Now, in a separate case, comments by several justices indicate that they could uphold a pillar of the Affordable Care Act -- insurance subsidies for millions of lower-income people -- by invoking those same principles."

Carvin v. Carvin. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: In his argument before the Supremes in 2012, the lawyer for the anti-ObamaCare side directly contradicted his statements to the Court during his 2015 argument in King. Millhiser has the goods on Michael Carvin & on Scalia & Alito., who also contradicted their 2012 statements: "Carvin, as Roberts alluded to, is an advocate who is paid to advance the views of his client. Scalia and Alito do not have the same excuse."

Ian Austen of the New York Times: "For years, cycling's top officials turned a blind eye to doping, operating in deference primarily to one rider -- Lance Armstrong -- according to a reform commission that spent the past year excavating the sport's doping problems. The three-member commission issued a scathing indictment of the sport's officials Sunday, laying much of the blame on a governing body that, it said, had interests that ran counter to any genuine efforts to expose doping. The 227-page report detailed how Mr. Armstrong's extraordinary influence had not only compelled officials to ignore drug use but had also enabled his lawyer to secretly write and edit the report of an earlier investigation into Mr. Armstrong's doping practices."

Presidential Race

Coronation Interruptus

Obviously, Hillary isn't actually texting in the photo. She's just looking at photos of sunny beaches.Adam Sneed of Politico: "The top House Republican Benghazi investigator says the emails Hillary Clinton has handed over for review have 'huge gaps' that challenge her credibility over what happened in the 2012 attacks in Libya. 'There are gaps of months and months and months,' Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said on Sunday on CBS's 'Face the Nation.' In the batch of emails handed over to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Gowdy said there’s no record of any communication on the day that Clinton was famously photographed wearing sunglasses and typing on her Blackberry." ...

... Allen Rappeport of the New York Times: "Mr. Gowdy said that he was interested only in communications relating to Benghazi, but that Mrs. Clinton’s evasiveness on the matter was wrong. 'It's not up to Secretary Clinton to decide what's public record and what's not,' he said. Other leading Republicans sought to further press the issue of Mrs. Clinton's emails." ...

... Ben Brody of Bloomberg Business: "Members of a House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack tussled Sunday over whether they should release the committee's cache of messages from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private e-mail account." CW: Darrell Issa seems to suggest that the purpose of the subpoenas is to render illegal Clinton's private e-mails. ...

... Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times: "... Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D-Calif.] ... said [Hillary] Clinton should speak publicly about her emails or risk damaging her potential 2016 presidential campaign. 'She is the leading candidate, whether it be Republican or Democrat, to be the next president, and I think she needs to step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is,' Feinstein said on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' 'I think from this point on the ... silence is going to hurt her.'" ...

... Real Men Don't Type. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-19th-Century) has never sent an e-mail. ...

... CW: The beau of the cotillion does have a Twitter account. The nature of the content suggests staff members are the "real tweeters." ...

... Former Secretary of State Colin Powell lost his e-mails: "I don't have any to turn over. I did not keep a cache of them. I did not print them off. I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files. A lot of the emails that came out of my personal account went into the State Department system. They were addressed to State Department employees and state.gov domain, but I don't know if the servers in the State Department captured those or not." ...

     ... CW: Could we now hear from the right-wing outrage machine on the horror & duplicity of Colin Powell's lost e-mails? What about that one where he wrote, in part, "I bet my phony dog-and-pony show convinced a lot of those yokels that Saddam really does have WMDs. I should get an Oscar. LOL." Or the one where he wrote, "My boss is the Dumbest Oaf in America." Oops, deleted. Laptop tossed.

... Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "... as Mrs. Clinton commemorates her 1995 women's rights speech in Beijing in back-to-back events in New York, she finds herself under attack for her family foundation's acceptance of millions of dollars in donations from Middle Eastern countries known for violence against women and for denying them many basic freedoms. This was not how she intended to reintroduce herself to American voters."


Screwing Wisconsin's workers and proud of it. Journal Sentinel photo.Meg Kissinger & Jason Stein
of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Overhauling more than a half century of labor law in Wisconsin, Gov. [Scott] Walker Monday signed so-called right-to-work legislation banning labor contracts that require private sector workers to pay labor fees.... The passage marks a shift in the GOP governor's position that comes as he pursues an all but certain presidential run. Walker said repeatedly during the intense battle over Act 10 -- his 2011 law that repealed most collective bargaining for public workers -- that he would not let legislation affecting private-sector unions reach his desk." ...

... Charles Pierce: "At this point, if Scott Walker's positions on most major issues get any more fluid, he's going to have to campaign in a wine skin."

Rand Paul for President! And Senator! Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader: At Rand Paul's urging, the Kentucky Republican executive committee voted unanimously to hold a caucus next March rather than a primary, as the party has in the past. This would allow Paul to run for both president & Senate. Kentucky law disallows a person to appear on two ballots simultaneously. "While winning approval for a caucus from the executive committee was key to Paul's efforts, the state central committee, which comprises more than 350 members, will still have to vote on a formal proposal, with caucus rules and details, when it meets Aug. 22."

Senate Race

Arelis Hernández of the Washington Post: "U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) plans to announce on Tuesday that she will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara A. Mikulski (D), according to two Democrats familiar with her plans, setting up a potentially bruising primary fight with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)."

Beyond the Beltway

Ben Brumfield of CNN: "A fraternity fraught with scandal quickly shut down a chapter in Oklahoma when a video surfaced that showed members singing a racist chant that used the n-word. The video shows a group of young white students chanting the n-word loudly and boisterously while riding on a bus. Sigma Alpha Epsilon's national chapter shut down the chapter Sunday night, suspended all of the chapter's members and threatened to remove those responsible from the fraternity for life." ...

... Mecca Rayne of KOCO Okalahoma City: OU "President David Boren said the members of the fraternity have until midnight to get off campus." ...

... CW: By Right Wing News standards, this "wasn't racism," but "a failure of university discipline" or something. (See Jilani Cobb post, linked above.)

We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact. -- Kristina Trotta, former Florida Department of Environmental Protection employee. ...

... Officially Ignorant. Tom McCarthy of the Guardian: "Officials with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP, the agency in charge of setting conservation policy and enforcing environmental laws in the state, issued directives in 2011 barring thousands of employees from using the phrases 'climate change' and 'global warming', according to a bombshell report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR). The report ties the alleged policy, which is described as 'unwritten', to the election of Republican governor Rick Scott and his appointment of a new department director that year. Scott, who was re-elected last November, has declined to say whether he believes in climate change caused by human activity. 'I'm not a scientist,' he said in one appearance last May.... The 2014 national climate assessment for the US found an 'imminent threat of increased inland flooding' in Florida due to climate change and called the state 'uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise'." ...

... Digby: "You have to love the idea that someone told scientists that they are not allowed to discuss anything that isn't a 'true fact.' Presumably they would not likewise be barred from talking about God ... It's true that this small band of elites have unfettered power but they are more reminiscent of the Inquisition than anything in the 1920s. (If you click that link you can see the original Vatican document declaring the Copernican system 'foolish and absurd.')"

Phil Willon & Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times: "A U.S. Supreme Court case that could force California to redraw its congressional districts has stirred up fears of a return to partisan gerrymandering, a divisive process that has been criticized for both cementing and crushing political careers. While the potential impact remains uncertain, both Democratic and Republican leaders agree that the ruling could solidify the Democrats' tight grip on California's 53-member House delegation, the largest of any state."

Ugly Americans. Rosie Scammell of the Guardian: "Tourists are once again getting into trouble in Italy, with two American women caught carving their names into Rome's Colosseum. The Californians, aged 21 and 25, snuck away from their tour group on Saturday and began scratching their initials into the amphitheatre with a coin." CW: One of the two letters they carved was a "J." There is no "J" in Italian (or Latin).

Anne Barnard of the New York Times: "In those areas of Iraq and Syria controlled by the Islamic State, residents are furtively recording on their cellphones damage done to antiquities by the extremist group. In northern Syria, museum curators have covered precious mosaics with sealant and sandbags. And at Baghdad's recently reopened National Museum of Iraq, new iron bars protect galleries of ancient artifacts from the worst-case scenario. These are just a few of the continuing efforts to guard the treasures of Iraq and Syria, two countries rich with traces of the world's earliest civilizations." ...

... CW: ISIS reminds me of medieval & later Christian fundamentalists: "In the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones around the [Avebury, England,] henge, both for religious and practical reasons.... At some point in the early 14th century, villagers began to demolish the monument by pulling down the large standing stones and burying them in ready-dug pits at the side, presumably because they were seen as having been erected by the Devil and thereby being in opposition to the village's Christian beliefs.... In the latter part of the 17th and then the 18th centuries, destruction at Avebury reached its peak, possibly influenced by the rise of Puritanism in the village, a fundamentalist form of Protestant Christianity that vehemently denounced things considered to be 'pagan'...."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Sam Simon, the often-overlooked but instrumental co-creator of 'The Simpsons,' which popularized the hapless patriarch Homer ('D'oh!') and his puckish son, Bart ('Eat my shorts!'), and became a phenomenon in the new genre of irreverent animated sitcoms, died March 8 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 59."

Washington Post: "The estimated cost of President Obama's signature health care law is continuing to fall. The Congressional Budget Office announced on Monday that the Affordable Care Act will cost $142 billion, or 11 percent less, over the next 10 years, compared to what the agency had projected in January."

Saturday
Mar072015

The Commentariat -- March 8, 2015

Peter Baker & Richard Fausset of the New York Times: "As a new generation struggles over race and power in America, President Obama and a host of political figures from both parties came [to Selma] on Saturday, to the site of one of the most searing days of the civil rights era, to reflect on how far the country has come and how far it still has to go.... But coming just days after Mr. Obama's Justice Department excoriated the police department of Ferguson, Mo..., the anniversary ... provided a moment to measure the country's far narrower, and yet stubbornly persistent, divide in black-and-white reality":

"WelKKKome to Selma!" Rich Schapiro of the New York Daily News: "Within sight of the bridge where President Obama will commemorate the 1965 Bloody Sunday march is a billboard set up by a group dedicated to honoring Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest. The sign, set up in recent days, invites visitors to see 'Selma's War Between The States Historic Sites.' But it also features a picture of the Confederate flag and an image of Forrest, who was also a Confederate general. Beside Forrest's picture is a quote adopted by his men: 'Keep the skeer on 'em.' In a bizarre twist, the other side of the billboard -- a straight shot and about a half-mile east of the Edmund Pettus Bridge -- contains a welcome message to President Obama." ...

... Athena Jones & Deirdre Walsh of CNN: "House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will now go to Selma Saturday to join in the 50th anniversary events. McCarthy tells CNN he considers John Lewis a close friend, and wants to be there to commemorate the historic anniversary." ...

... CW: Maybe this piece in the right-wing National Review, by Charles C. W. Cooke, is what embarrassed McCarthy into going to Selma: "By electing to skip the proceedings ... the Republican leadership suggests that it does not recognize what Selma represents within America's long history of public dissent.... If we are to put George Washington upon our plinths, and to eulogize him on our currency, we must agree to elevate Martin Luther King Jr. to the same dizzy heights. They are less famous, perhaps, but by virtue of their brave march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, John Lewis and Hosea Williams immortalized themselves into quintessential American heroes in the mold of Sam Adams and George Mason. To miss an opportunity to solemnize their daring is to blunder, disgracefully." Read the whole post; it's pretty powerful. ...

... OR this one, in the Daily Beast, by winger Ron Christie: "Somehow, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) are too busy with other plans than to commemorate the bravery of those who helped remake American society. The same may be said for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX). Are they too busy on the golf course, raising money, or otherwise content to sit on the couch to head to Selma?" ...

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: Republicans "will continue to try to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible -- one of the reasons why the Selma memorial is so problematic for them." ...

... Alice Ollstein of Think Progress: Republicans who attended the Selma commemoration express a profound lack of concern for voting rights.

... Former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.) writes a fascinating remembrance in Politico Magazine of the second Selma march. ...

... ** I Know that My Redeemers Cometh. Jamelle Bouie: "If the 1960s were a Second Reconstruction -- a second attempt to fulfill the promise of emancipation -- then our present period is a second Redemption, where a powerful movement attempts to reverse gains and dismantle our fragile efforts at racial equality.... In appearance and in effect, the program of 21st-century conservatives is remarkably similar to the one of 19th-century Redeemers. It guts civil rights laws, shrinks state spending, and limits the scope of activist government. Yes, there are important differences.... But it's undeniable that the two are connected by history."

Greedy Bastards. Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone.** Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: The utility & fossil-fuel industries are waging a war against rooftop solar panels. "The campaign's first phase -- an industry push for state laws raising prices for solar customers -- failed spectacularly in legislatures around the country, due in part to surprisingly strong support for solar energy from conservatives and evangelicals in traditionally 'red states.' But more recently, the battle has shifted to public utility commissions, where industry backers have mounted a more successful push for fee hikes that could put solar panels out of reach for many potential customers.

Legislation to make net metering illegal or more costly has been introduced in nearly two dozen state houses since 2013. Some of the proposals were virtual copies of model legislation drafted two years ago by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a nonprofit organization with financial ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship don't want you to forget Sheldon Adelson, the gambling magnate who is "the Godfather of the American right," and of the Israeli right, too. ...

... MEANWHILE, Adelson's man in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, credited his speech to Congress with slowing down the Iran nuclear negotiations.

Bill Curry, in Salon, lambastes both parties & their leaders as soulless incompetents overseeing a "broken, venal, dysfunctional" government.

Cristian Farias in Slate: "... the fate of Obamacare now rests with Kennedy. Or with Roberts. Or both. But let's also credit Sotomayor for finding a way to corner them both and hold them to precedents the Supreme Court has long believed in."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW: If you enjoy office gossip about people you don't know, but some of whom you might have seen on teevee, Gabriel Sherman of New York has the story for you: "(Actually) True War Stories at NBC News."

Presidential Race

Reena Flores of CBS News: "President Obama only learned of Hillary Clinton's private email address use for official State Department business after a New York Times report, he told CBS News...":

... Not exactly a ringing endorsement:

... CW: One of the down sides to this Hillary-Is-the-Only-Alternative is having to repeat, more than once, "Maureen Dowd has a point." To wit, in today's predictable column, Dowd writes, "Everyone is looking for signs in how Hillary approaches 2016 to see if she's learned lessons from past trouble. But the minute this story broke, she went back to the bunker, even though she had known for months that the Republicans knew about the account." ...

... Todd Purdum, in a Politico Magazine piece, compares Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon. Purdum is married to former Bill Clinton aide Dee Dee Myers.

... Andy Borowitz: "In what could be a prelude to a Presidential run in 2016, on Friday Joe Biden released to the public both e-mails that he has written while serving as Vice-President for the past six years."

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush's charter school is a ruin baking in the Miami sun.... Mr. Bush moved on." ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "In his first major public appearance in Iowa as a potential presidential candidate, Jeb Bush took a low-key approach at the Iowa Agricultural Summit." ...

... Dave Weigel of Bloomberg Politics: Jeb Bush, confronted by a DREAMer in Iowa, compared President Obama's executive actions on immigration to decrees by a "Latin American dictator." Impressively, he did it in Spanish. He said, "We need to do this by law, not by executive order." CW: He's right. He should tell that to the House leadership, not to our very own "dictator."

Trampling on History. Betsy Woodruff of Slate: "Republicans' overwhelming victories in the last few election cycles have let them dominate the state government, so they don't really face much of a fight anymore. That's why the state that birthed the organized labor movement in the United States is now right-to-work. In Madison, it's clear that Walker and his allies have learned how to take charge, get things done, and render their ideological foes irrelevant. First Wisconsin, then the country? The governor's presidential prospects hinge on the possibility that that idea isn't too far-fetched." ...

... Dave Zweifel, former editor of the Madison, Wisconsin, Capital Times: "Why don't we just cut to the chase and call this governor of ours what he really is: 'Slippery Scott.'... Scott Walker, of course, has become a master of the sleight of hand. One thing that we all should have come to learn these past four years is that you can never take this man at his word. The classic example played itself out the last couple of weeks as the state Legislature passed a right-to-work law." CW: Note doubt Slippery Scotty is the odds-on favorite to win this year's "Bait and Switch" Champ prize at the annual convention of Hucksters, USA.

Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade: "Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul said on Friday affording the distinction to marriage to same-sex couples 'offends myself and a lot of other people.'" CW: I could not care less that equal rights "offend" L'il Randy, but his misuse of the reflexive pronoun deeply offends me, myself and I. I hope he cares. ...

... Digby is offended, too, on somewhat more substantive grounds: "This is why it's hard to take libertarianism seriously. This man is the acknowledged leader of that faction. And he is unable to say that it's none of his business who marries whom or admit that women own their own bodies (but says they do own their children!) It's inconsistent on such a fundamental level that it gives away the game: he's either whoring for the social conservative vote or he's philosophically incoherent."

Ted Cruz Announces His Obama Conspiracy Theory of the Week. Ben Jacobs: "Senator Ted Cruz has alleged that the leak of the pending indictment of the New Jersey Democratic senator Bob Menendez may be a politically motivated act of retaliation by Barack Obama and the Department of Justice. Speaking to reporters at the Iowa Agricultural Summit in Des Moines on Saturday, the Texas Republican said he found it 'awfully coincidental' that charges were reportedly set to be brought against Menendez, a leading Democratic critic of Obama's Middle East policy, during such a fraught period in US negotiations with Iran." Also, too, Selma & Daylight Savings Time.

Beyond the Beltway

Samantha Masunaga of the Los Angeles Times: "A bill dissolving Cover Oregon, the state's dysfunctional health insurance exchange, has been signed by Gov. Kate Brown. The measure, which had bipartisan support, transfers responsibilities for the Oregon exchange to the state Department of Consumer and Business Services."

Katie Dean of the Capital Times: "Protesters gathered at noon Saturday in front of the Madison Police Department at 211 S. Carroll St. in response to the shooting of a 19-year-old African-American man, identified by friends and family as Tony Terrell Robinson Jr., who was killed Friday evening after an incident with a Madison police officer."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Two Chechens, one a police officer who fought Islamic insurgents and the second a security guard, were charged in a Moscow court on Sunday in connection with the killing of Boris Y. Nemtsov, a leading Kremlin critic, while three other suspects were jailed pending further investigation.Judge Nataliya Mushnikova of Basmanny District Court said that the officer, Zaur Dadayev, had confessed to involvement in the killing and that other evidence confirmed his participation...."

New York Times: "A suspect in the murder of the opposition politician Boris Y. Nemtsov blew himself up as the police closed in on him overnight, Russian news reports said on Sunday, while new disclosures indicated that one of the men already detained in the killing had served as a police officer in the fight against Islamic insurgents. Five suspects were due to be arraigned at Basmanny District Court in Moscow.... Security forces established a cordon around the court."