The Ledes

Thursday, July 30, 2015.

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy rebounded between April and June, new government data showed Thursday, expanding at an annualized rate of 2.3 percent. Growth in the second quarter remained modest, particularly compared with the breakneck pace seen in much of 2014, but it also signaled a bounce-back from a surprisingly sluggish winter when the economy was at a crawl."

The Wires

The Ledes

... Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. (This video tends to start near the end. If it does that for you, cursor back to the beginning.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015.

Guardian: "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday continued to pave the way for an increase in interest rates as early as September. The US central bank left its key interest rate unchanged at near zero – where it has been since the 2008 financial crisis – but once again signalled that rates will rise later this year. While the Fed chair, Janet Yellen, has left little doubt that rates will rise this year, the Fed left itself wiggle room as it has set no timetable and said rates would only be raised if the economy continues to improve and unemployment continues to fall." ...

... The Fed's statement is here.

New York Times: "A large object that appeared to be an airplane part washed up Wednesday on the shore of Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, prompting speculation that it might be debris from Flight 370, the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared in March 2014." ...

     ... AP UPDATE: "Air safety investigators have a 'high degree of confidence' that aircraft debris found in the Indian Ocean is of a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared last year, a U.S. official said Wednesday."

New York Times: "After months of speculation, Afghan officials announced Wednesday that they were now certain that the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, died in Pakistan in 2013."

Guardian: "Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has approved the immediate construction of hundreds of settlement units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in an effort to stave off a growing threat posed by pro-settler parties in his rightwing coalition government. The issue was brought to a head on Wednesday by a supreme court ruling that two buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El – built on private Palestinian land without permits – should be destroyed, despite Netanyahu’s opposition."

Washington Post: "An Albuquerque 911 dispatcher has resigned after audio was released of him hanging up on a 17-year-old as she tended to a friend who was shot at the party. The victim, 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver, later died.... Emergency responders had already been dispatched to the house before [the dispatcher] hung up." Includes 911 audio.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "A big-game hunter from the Twin Cities found himself at the center of an international firestorm Tuesday over the death of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, but said he regrets killing the animal and believed his guides were leading him on a legal hunt.... Earlier Tuesday, the Telegraph newspaper of London identified [dentist Walter] Palmer as the hunter who shot Cecil and reported that he paid $54,000 for the hunt. The Telegraph said the lion was illegally lured out of Hwange National Park, where it had protected status, and onto a neighboring game farm, where Palmer was on safari." ...

... Salon: Yelp contributors are whacking Palmer.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
July 30

2:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: Open government public meeting

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Will Oremus of Slate likes Windows 10. CW: I haven't had the courage to try switching over yet. I'll lose EVERYTHING!

Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done for you, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

New York Times: "In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to [singer Katy] Perry’s proposed purchase of their order’s convent on eight acres [in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles] disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.... The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with [another buyer]."

NASA: "In the latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named 'Tombaugh Regio' (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

Hill: "President Obama is making a final 'Daily Show' appearance before host Jon Stewart leaves the political comedy program after 17 years. Obama will sit down for his final chat with Stewart on Tuesday, the White House confirmed Friday."

For an actual feel-good moment, Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post tells the story of 16-year-old small-plane crash survivor Autumn Veatch. Veatch, who was injured in the crash that killed her grandparents, walked untold mild through rough terrain until she came to a public road & parking area.

Washington Post: "Nearly two months after a molestation scandal prompted TLC to pull reruns of the popular reality program '19 Kids and Counting' from the air and online, the network announced that it has officially canceled the program."

Washington Post: "Filmmaker George Lucas, singer-songwriter Carole King and dancer-actress Rita Moreno are among an unprecedented six honorees to be saluted at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. Seventies rockers the Eagles, actress Cicely Tyson and conductor Seiji Ozawa will also be honored at the Dec. 6 event, Kennedy Center officials said Wednesday. A major fundraiser for the arts center, the gala celebration will be televised on CBS on Dec. 29."

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker reviews Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. ...

... Laura Marsh of the New Republic: "Scolars have been pointing out Atticus Finch's racism for years."

New York Times (July 15): "It was the last day of business at F. A. O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan."

New York Times: "A day after its successful flyby, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back the first close-up photographs of Pluto, revealing a young surface dotted with ice mountains. The piano-size spacecraft traveled nine years and three billion miles to study the dwarf planet and its five moons." Includes one close-up photo from 25 miles out. More on NASA's site.

New York (July 14): "We're halfway through July, but until this morning, there was still snow on the ground in Boston. The last of the city's historic snowfall, a disgusting frozen mass of dirt, snow, and trash, was officially pronounced melted this morning"."

Here are time-lapse photos of the long melt:

Sean Hollister of Gizmodo: "The Mozilla Firefox web browser now blocks Flash by default. And when I say “blocks,” I don’t mean it asks you nicely if you’d really like to use Flash. I don’t mean it automatically pauses Flash videos like Google Chrome. I mean Mozilla has decided that Flash is going down.... Why such a hard-on for Flash? Why now? Well, it could be that the world just rediscovered just how prone Flash is to nasty, nasty vulnerabilities. When the Hacking Team — an Italian security company that sold intrusive spy tools — got hacked, one of those tools got out into the wild. A nasty hole in Flash that Adobe has yet to patch.... It’s probably worth noting that [Monday July 13], Mozilla’s Facebook’s chief security officer publicly asked Adobe to kill off Flash once and for all.... Update: Adobe has already released a newer version of Flash, 18.0.0.209, which Firefox doesn’t block by default. You’ll want to manually download it."

Contributor Nisky Guy takes us back in time to February 2006, when Lewis Black complained, "I can't wait that long":

Washington Post: "On its approach to Pluto, the spacecraft [New Horizons] obtained the most arresting image yet of the dwarf planet. Pluto is not a bland and featureless ball of ice, but rather a complex, variegated, mottled world with broad snowfields, structures that look like cliffs or fault lines, and a strikingly bright heart-shaped area that could be the eroded remnant of a giant impact crater."

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-- Constant Weader

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Tuesday
Jul142015

Scott Walker's Announcement Speech -- Abbreviated & Annotated

When Kevin Drum of Mother Jones abbreviated Hillary Clinton's economic speech to include only her specific proposals (see link in Tuesday's Commentariat), he inspired me to abbreviate & annotate the policy prescriptions in Scott Walker's speech announcing his run for the presidency. I easily whittled the speech from six full pages to a half-page, including his his lead-in & closing.

I love America. [CW: Does that include Canada & Mexico? How about Venezuela?]

The federal government needs to support strong families by ending the marriage penalty.... [CW: The “marriage penalty” does not affect low-income workers, & it usually benefits families where one parent stays home to care for the kids. Does Scottie know that?]

First, we must repeal ObamaCare.... [CW: Too bad if you get sick & can't afford medical attention.]

We need a President who will approve the Keystone pipeline on the very first day in office.... [CW: Sorry, environment.]

No Common Core.... [CW: But let's all use those Texas textbooks.]

We need to terminate the bad deal with Iran on Day One, put in place crippling economic sanctions and convince our allies to do the same.... [CW: Busy Day One, Scottie!]

That means lifting the political restrictions on our military personnel in Iraq so they can help our Kurd and Sunni allies reclaim land taken by ISIS.... [CW: So, declaring war before Day One. Okay.]

There should be absolutely no daylight between [the U.S. & Israel].... [CW: That is, the U.S. should allow Israel to dictate our international policy. Welcome, Co-President Bibi.]

That begins with rebuilding the Defense budget at least to the levels recommended by Secretary Gates.... [CW: Wherever will we get the funds to do that, Scottie? I'll bet I know.]

We need to … give [the military & veterans] the quality and timely healthcare they deserve when they return home.... [CW: So the only way to get government-assisted health care is to join the military. Uncle Sam wants you, poor people!]

God bless you. God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America. [CW: Which she will, because God told me, Scott Walker, to run for president.]

Monday
Jul132015

The Commentariat -- July 14, 2015

Afternoon Update:

The New York Times is updating reactions to the international nuclear agreement with Iran. "The Iran nuclear deal was welcomed by world leaders like David Cameron of Britain, Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis." ...

... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton took her campaign to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, where she made overtures to Congressional Democrats and spoke cautiously -- and with a potential eye toward the future -- about the Iran nuclear deal announced earlier in the day." ...

... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Statements from [GOP] White House hopefuls warned of nuclear chaos in the Middle East, criticism of President Obama's abilities as a negotiator, and calls on Congress to stop the deal in its tracks." ...

... Julian Borger of the Guardian outlines the key points of the agreement. ...

... Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "In a remarkable reversal, the goal of freezing Iran's progress toward a weapons capability was achieved not with warplanes but with handshakes."

*****

President Obama spoke this morning about the Iran deal:

... David Sanger & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States have agreed to a historic accord to significantly limit Tehran's nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran, a senior Western diplomat involved in the negotiations said on Tuesday. The deal, which President Obama had long sought as the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency, culminates 20 months of negotiations. A formal announcement of the agreement was expected later on Tuesday, when foreign ministers from Iran and the six nations it has been negotiating with will meet at a United Nations complex in Vienna." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging developments. ...

... This guy -- this president and Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry -- when someone disagrees with their nuanced approach, where it's all kind of so sophisticated it makes no sense. You know what I'm saying -- big-syllable words and lots of fancy conferences and meetings -- but we're not leading, that creates chaos, it creates a more dangerous world. --Jeb! last week

In case you were wondering the the Doofus is qualified to be president. -- Constant Weader

... David Sanger: "For President Obama, the deal struck Tuesday morning with Iran represents ... a bet that by defusing the country's nuclear threat -- even if just for a decade or so -- he and his successors would have the time and space to restructure one of the United States' deepest adversarial relationships. Mr. Obama will be long out of office before any reasonable assessment can be made as to whether that roll of the dice paid off.... Nothing in the deal announced Tuesday eliminates Iran's ability to eventually become a nuclear threshold power -- it just delays the day.... [When] Mr. Obama [said in] his first inaugural address ... [that he would] 'extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,' even to governments 'who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent,' there was little doubt that he had Iran's leaders in mind. At the time, it was also meant as a signal that the era of George W. Bush had ended, and that a renewed reliance on diplomacy had begun."

The price of nuance is uncertainty. The price of simpleness is war. -- Constant Weader

... Peter Beaumont of the Guardian: "Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, moved pre-emptively to denounce the deal on Iran's nuclear programme, even before the details had emerged. Heading a chorus of condemnation from Israeli politicians -- including members of his rightwing coalition -- Netanyahu said the emerging agreement was a 'capitulation', and a mistake of historic proportions.... Netanyahu's combative comments came as criticism of his handling of the diplomacy around Iran has grown over the past two days, as a deal appeared increasingly imminent. Leading the charge have been Netanyahu's political opponents, among them Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, who denounced Netanyahu's diplomatic campaign as a 'colossal failure'." ...

... Michael Crowley of Politico: "During their 2008 battle for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton argued bitterly about Iran. When Obama said he would meet with Iran's leader without preconditions, Clinton called him 'reckless and naïve.' After Clinton threatened to destroy Tehran if it used nuclear weapons against Israel, Obama likened her to George W. Bush. But now, Clinton and Obama are inextricably linked on the subject, thanks to the nuclear deal reached in Vienna today. As her former rival's secretary of state, Clinton helped to launch the historic diplomacy with Iran. And, should she succeed him as president, its fate could depend on how committed Clinton is to making it work." ...

... Nahal Toosi of Politico: "... the presidential candidates who have threatened to cancel the deal -- so far all of them Republicans -- can keep their promise by using the presidency's executive authority to reimpose suspended U.S. sanctions on Iran and withdrawing from panels involved in implementing the accord. That abrupt approach may be quick, but it also carries risks. For one thing, a sudden U.S. withdrawal could anger the European and Asian countries also involved in the deal, making them less inclined to reimpose their own sanctions on a country they consider an alluring trading partner. The international business community may resist efforts to once again seal off a youthful, well-educated nation with vast energy reserves. And Iran could respond to the U.S. move by resuming elements of its nuclear program, which the West has long suspected is aimed at making weapons. 'If we try to reimpose sanctions on Iran and no one follows, then we have the worst of all worlds,' said Robert Einhorn, a former Iran nuclear negotiator at the State Department."

Aristocracy Issue. Today we have a President-for-Life, a Candidate-for-Life & a Columnist-for-Life. Sadly, none of these fellows is the One Anointed by God who buys his shirts at Kohl's for practically nothing (which is apparently a presidential qualifier). (See full Walker announcement speech, linked below).

Martin Matishak of the Hill: "An internal Veterans Affairs Department report states that about one-third of the veterans waiting to receive medical care from the agency have already died. A review of veteran death records provided to the Huffington Postfound that, as of April, 847,822 veterans were awaiting healthcare and that of those, 238,647 were already deceased. The report was handed over by Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA's Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta. He also sent copies to the House and Senate VA panels and to the White House."

Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "The Pentagon is finalizing a plan to allow transgender people to openly serve in the military beginning early next year, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Monday."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama announced on Monday that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders, more than doubling the number of nonviolent criminals to whom he has granted clemency since taking office.... In a letter written to each of the inmates in which he personally notifies them that their sentences have been commuted, Mr. Obama says he has chosen them out of the thousands who apply for clemency because 'you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around'": (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

... The Washington Post has brief profiles of the 46 people whose sentences President Obama has commuted.

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America has unanimously approved a resolution that would drop the group's ban on openly gay leaders, a key step that sends the resolution to the organization's national board later this month. If the national executive board ratifies the change when it meets on July 27, it would become official Scouts policy, a little more than two months after the organization's president [-- former Defense Secretary Robert Gates --] cast the ban as an existential threat to the group." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Wake Up, Sheeple! The Military Exercise That Drove Texas Insane Is Finally Here. The multi-state U.S. military training exercise dubbed 'Jade Helm 15,' which has spawned myriad conspiracy theories and vexed public officials who struggled to allay the concerns of constituents, is finally here. The 'unconventional warfare' exercise is scheduled to begin Wednesday and run until Sept. 15. Training is planned for certain areas of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. California, Colorado and Nevada had originally been listed as areas where the training was to take place but have since been left out." CW: I'm quaking in my jack-boots. If I'm not immediately turned into a pod-person, I'll try to let you know what it's like in my re-education camp. Toward the end, I'll probably tell you it's absolutely wonderful. USA, USA! Obama, President-for-Life!

Le jour de gloire est arrivé!:

     ... Thanks to D. C. Clark for reminding us that today is Bastille Day. Ken Walsh in U.S. News: President "Obama also is scheduled to speak Tuesday at the annual NAACP convention in Philadelphia and discuss the criminal justice system, focusing on what he considers the excessive incarceration of African-American men, an Obama adviser said."

Columnist-for-Life. Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "It is a testament to the Washington Post opinion page's tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints -- even when those viewpoints are offensive or rooted in objectively false claims -- that the paper continues to publish [George] Will's column."

Presidential Race

By Paul Jamiol."Primary Amnesia." Jeff Greenfield, in Politico Magazine, reminds us how early primary campaign indicators gave little hint of the final results. CW: My Trump Bouffant is already falling flat.

Perry Bacon of NBC News: "... the policy ideas [Hillary] Clinton articulated [in her economics speech Monday] were generally of the more establishment wing of her party. Many of the proposals, like expanding sick leave for workers and preschool for young children, have been staples of President Obama's agenda. Increasing Social Security benefits, breaking up large banks, creating tuition-free college, all ideas proposed [by Bernie] Sanders and backed by [Elizabeth] Warren, went unmentioned by Clinton. The former secretary of state avoided proposing a drastic overhaul of Wall Street regulations, unlike another Clinton opponent, ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Clinton's team has suggested the former secretary of state is listening closely to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. But she also avoided many of the ideas he has laid out to fix the economy: increasing marginal tax rates for the wealthy, investing more than $1 trillion on an infrastructure program that would employ lots of American workers, and making aggressive attempts to rein in CEO pay.... Clinton did not take a position on the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] agreement.... Her speech was a kind of populism-lite." ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has the abridged Hillary speech: policy prescriptions minus the fluff. ...

... Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone: "... much of what Clinton proposed sounded like it was written by Bob Dole's economic team, including her promise to 'push for broader business tax reform to spur investment in America.'... But Clinton didn't leave the Democratic base out in the cold. Many of her most specific policy proposals are unmistakably progressive." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... this speech, at least, was not the clean break from the past that she really needs." CW: Get over it, Charles. Hillary is no Bernie. Bernie is the guy everybody hoped Barack would be. If you voted for Obama in a 2008 primary, you voted against the person who is still Hillary. ...

... Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post: "There are very few unspoken rules among major-party candidates for president, and Bernie Sanders is breaking one of them. He's saying that America's leaders shouldn't worry so much about economic growth if that growth serves to enrich only the wealthiest Americans.... 'Unchecked growth -- especially when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent -- is absurd,' he said. 'Where we've got to move is not growth for the sake of growth, but we've got to move to a society that provides a high quality of life for all of our people....'"

Greg Sargent: Democratic candidates should relish the contrast between their brand of international diplomacy & GOP candidates' belligerent postures. (See Lindsey Graham quote below.)

Hanna Trudo of Politico: "Hours after announcing his candidacy for president, [Scott] Walker took to the airwaves in an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News to defend his anti-union track record of success in his home state, as well as attempt to refute remarks made against him. The left claims they're for American workers, and they've got lame ideas, things like minimum wage,' Walker said. 'We need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.'" ...

... Tim Alberta of the National Journal: "Walker has mastered the art of governing in a manner that mobilizes the party faithful while campaigning in a way that doesn't scare off moderates, independents, and even some Democrats. This misdirection has been the source of much of Walker's political success.... In a National Journal magazine profile last year, the governor's friends and foes alike remarked on his unique ability -- demonstrated over the past two decades -- to wrap a fierce ideological agenda in a neighborly, nonthreatening persona.... According to Walker allies, he's going to pursue exactly the opposite strategy Romney used in 2012. Whereas Romney started in the middle and moved rightward throughout primary season, Walker is starting on the right and will shift toward the middle." ...

... Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal: No, Scott Walker doesn't have the crossover appeal he claims to have. "Walker's success [in winning Wisconsin elections] had as much to do with the political calendar and the state's polarized electorate as it did with crossover appeal. He won only 6 percent of Democratic voters in his 2014 reelection. Many African-American voters simply stayed home during Walker's gubernatorial campaigns, while a disproportionate number of college students sat out the contentious June 2012 recall election -- which took place after campuses' spring semester concluded. That's not likely to repeat itself if he's the GOP presidential nominee." ...

... Brian Beutler: "... Walker's biggest liability may be this: He is incredibly dull. Not just plodding-speaker dull, though he's often that, too, but an actually boring person.... His boringness is encapsulated by this sequence of 37 incredibly boring tweets, going back more than four years." CW: Here's a typical tweet "Drove my car over to get an oil change @ a place near our home & then got groceries." Beauter: "Walker abbrevi8es like a tween. His life turns on snow, dairy, hot ham, Kohls, haircuts, Packers, Badgers, and watching American Idol while eating chili." ...

... Steve M.: on why the "elite media" won't cover for Walker the way they did for Dubya: "I think Walker will try to lull the press into thinking he's a moderate, and I think the press would like to be lulled into thinking the GOP nominee is a moderate, but I don't think Walker can pull it off. But it won't be for a good reason. It'll be because the press thinks Walker is an unsexy stupid hick." Read the whole post. ...

... CW: Steve doesn't say so, but his thesis suggests that the "elite media" would cover for Jeb! just as they did for Dubya. Hillary could learn something from Steve's post & Dubya's interaction with the boyz on the bus: she could start sitting on the press bus & yukking it up with the people who are going to characterize her on the pages of American journals. She could have a no-policy rule, & just talk about the grandbaby & that time she came under enemy fire in Bosnia. She does have to figure out a way to make the press like her.

... CW: Walker's tweets remind me of one-sided phone conversations I often overhear in restaurants -- an elderly lady calls a friend (or relative) & relates every thing she has done that day: she got up at 7:45, she had oatmeal for breakfast, & so forth. Tomorrow's "conversation" will be just like today's, unless she goes nuts & has wheat toast. Her own daily routines seem to be all that animate her. I always feel sorry for these poor, dull-witted, self-centered old gals. I don't feel sorry for Scott Walker. ...

... If you have forgotten why Walker wasn't graduated from Marquette, Annie Laurie cites an old WashPo report that looked into it. CW: Here's a hypothesis: At the end of four years, Walker, despite his comments to the contrary, was a full year short of credits to graduate. I don't know what percentage of his studies his parents financed, but most parents would pull the plug after four years of their son's pursuit of a four-year degree. ...

I am certain: This is God's plan for me and I am humbled to be a candidate for President of the United States. -- Scott Walker, in an e-mail to supporters

... Peter Montgomery of Right Wing Watch: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ... has sent an email to activists declaring that his presidential run 'is God's plan for me.' 'My relationship with God drives every major decision in my life,' starts the note, which is clearly designed to appeal to Religious Right voters who make up a major part of the GOP base vote, particularly in the early primary states Iowa and South Carolina." ...

... CW: Were I a believer, like the folks on Scottie's mailing list, I would be mighty put off by a fellow who claimed he was God's chosen one. ...

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who announced his presidential bid on Twitter this morning and will have a launch event later today in Waukesha, has sent an email to activists declaring that his presidential run "is God's plan for me."

... Colin Campbell of Business Insider: "A contact-lens and eyeglass company is having a blast after realizing its logo shares similarities with that of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) presidential campaign. Both Walker's campaign and America's Best Contacts and Eyeglasses feature a cartoonish, four-part American flag logo as the "E" in their names. The same flag icon is also their stand-alone logos when the text is removed." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

CW: MIKE HUCKAB and RICK PRRY must be among Scottie's rivals who are really pissed they didn't think of this first.

Ezra Klein: "Quite a bit of Bush and the GOP's economic agenda really does revolve around pushing Americans to work longer hours or more years. But the means differ sharply by class. For the rich, Republicans want to push them to work more through tax cuts; for the poor and middle class, Republicans want to push them to work more through social service cuts. Bush has endorsed raising the Social Security retirement age, which would push workers to spend more years in the labor force, and repealing Obamacare, which makes it easier for workers to retire early. Republicans want to sharply cut Medicaid and food stamps, and perhaps add a work requirement to one or both programs. At the same time, tax cuts on the rich continue to be core to the Republican agenda. This, too, is an effort to increase the time Americans spend working -- in this case, by giving the well-off reason to work more hours, more jobs, or more years."

CW: As the termites crawl out of the woodwork to chew up the international Iran agreement, let's give Lindsey Graham a heads-up for setting the chew bar high. Josh Rogin of Bloomberg: "The newly announced deal between Iran and six world powers is 'akin to declaring war on Israel and the Sunni Arabs,' and will be a huge problem for Hillary Clinton, according to GOP presidential candidate and Senator Lindsey Graham, who promised to not uphold the deal if he is elected next year."

The End of Marriage as We've Known It for a Couple of Weeks. Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg: "Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Monday he wants a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman in all 50 states, less than three weeks after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.... The remarks put Santorum to the right of rivals such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who are pushing a different kind of constitutional amendment that would allow states to decide whether to allow or ban same-sex marriage...." ...

... Dana Milbank: "Polls put Rick Santorum in 11th place out of 15 Republican presidential candidates. Given that next month's debate will accept only the top 10 candidates, that's like being the 11th person in line for a 10-man lifeboat.... Had they used the same standards in the debates last time [2012], 'I wouldn't have been included and yet I was on the way to winning the Iowa caucuses. So to me, it's a miscarriage.'" ...

... Alex Pappas of the Daily Caller: "As reigning victor of the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum is arguing he should be guaranteed a spot on the Republican presidential debate stage regardless of his polling numbers. 'I call it the Masters exemption,' the former Pennsylvania senator said during an hour-long discussion with The Daily Caller on Monday. After winning the Masters, professional golfers automatically receive a invitation to compete for the rest of their lives." CW: I think it would be GREAT if Santorum appeared in every GOP presidential debate till the end of his days. Santorum, BTW, won the the caucuses by 34 votes. That surely qualifies him as Candidate-for-Life.

TMZ: "Donald Trump tells TMZ he is contacting the FBI to investigate threats just made by a man claiming to be the son of escaped Mexican drug lord El Chapo. Trump is reacting to a tweet reportedly made by El Chapo's son, in which he blasts Trump for saying El Chapo is 'everything that's wrong with Mexico.' The tweet was written in Spanish, with the rough English translation, 'Keep f***ing around and I'm gonna make you swallow your bitch words you f***ing whitey milks***tter (that's a homophobic slur).'" CW: I do think TMZ is the proper outlet for Trump News. ...

... Caitlin Cruz of TPM: "One of the nation's most prominent immigration hardliners said on Sunday that Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump needs to develop some tact when peddling his harsh anti-immigrant beliefs. Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) told the Denver Post that the real estate mogul 'needs to be a little bit more artful' when talking about his views on immigration. Tancredo has had an extreme obsession with immigration and border issues. Some highlights include his claim that then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was a member of the 'Latino KKK' for her membership with National Council of La Raza and that Miami was becoming 'a Third World country.'"

Beyond the Beltway

David Goodman of the New York Times: "New York City reached a settlement with the family of Eric Garner on Monday, agreeing to pay $5.9 million to resolve a wrongful death claim over his killing by the police on Staten Island last July, a lawyer for the family said."

This Is Sensible. Katherine Krueger of TPM: "An all-Republican county commission in Missouri voted unanimously Monday to observe a full calendar year of 'mourning' after the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision, a protest that will include lowering flags to mark the somber occasion. Flags at the Dent County Courthouse and Judicial Building will now fly at 'below half-staff' on the 26th day of every month from July 2015 until July 2016, the Salem News reported, to mark the day SCOTUS handed down the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide."

Way Beyond

Dave Graham & Alexandra Alper of Reuters: ">The dramatic escape on Saturday of the world's most notorious drug lord [Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman] has raised pressure on Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to curb corruption and the drug gangs that play an outsized and violent role in his country.... Members of the ruling party and opposition alike are convinced that the escape had to have been an inside job. The mile-long tunnel would have required noisy digging equipment and produced tons of dirt to be disposed of, they note. Moreover, the tunnel came up exactly under the shower in Guzman's cell, which suggests that the drug lord's accomplices had detailed information about the prison's design."

News Ledes

AP: "Greece's finance ministry says the draft bill needed to start talks on Greece's third bailout has been submitted to Parliament. The bill will be discussed Wednesday and voted on later than night. It includes reforms to Greece's consumer tax."

AP: "Italy's finance minister says that only Italy, France and Cyprus supported a compromise deal with Greece, while the rest of the eurozone nations fell in behind Germany's hard-line position."

Sunday
Jul122015

The Commentariat -- July 13, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama announced on Monday that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders, more than doubling the number of nonviolent criminals to whom he has granted clemency since taking office.... In a letter written to each of the inmates in which he personally notifies them that their sentences have been commuted, Mr. Obama says he has chosen them out of the thousands who apply for clemency because 'you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around'"

Colin Campbell of Business Insider: "A contact-lens and eyeglass company is having a blast after realizing its logo shares similarities with that of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) presidential campaign. Both Walker's campaign and America's Best Contacts and Eyeglasses feature a cartoonish, four-part American flag logo as the "E" in their names. The same flag icon is also their stand-alone logos when the text is removed." ...

CW: MIKE HUCKAB and RICK PRRY must be among Scottie's rivals who are really pissed.

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America has unanimously approved a resolution that would drop the group's ban on openly gay leaders, a key step that sends the resolution to the organization's national board later this month. If the national executive board ratifies the change when it meets on July 27, it would become official Scouts policy, a little more than two months after the organization's president [-- former Defense Secretary Robert Gates --] cast the ban as an existential threat to the group."

*****

James Kanter & Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: "European leaders said Monday morning that they had reached a deal meant to resolve Greece's debt crisis and avert a historic fracture in the Continent's common currency project.... The deal announced early Monday allows only the start of detailed negotiations on a new assistance package for Greece. But the prospect of a new bailout program was expected to give the European Central Bank the leeway to continue channeling sorely needed emergency funding to Greek banks hollowed out by a long economic slump and the withdrawal of billions of euros in recent months by account holders as the country's financial crisis worsened." ...

... "Disaster in Europe." Paul Krugman: "There are only terrible alternatives at this point, thanks to the fecklessness of the Greek government and, far more important, the utterly irresponsible campaign of financial intimidation waged by Germany and its allies. And I guess I have to say it: unless Merkel miraculously finds a way to offer a much less destructive plan than anything we're hearing, Grexit, terrifying as it is, would be better." ...

... Here's Krugman's column: "This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can't accept; but even so, it's a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.... Who will ever trust Germany's good intentions after this?... The European project -- a project I have always praised and supported -- has just been dealt a terrible, perhaps fatal blow. And whatever you think of Syriza, or Greece, it wasn't the Greeks who did it." ...

... Matt O'Brien of the Washington Post: "Germany seems to want to humiliate Greece. This latest melodrama, playing out in Brussels as European finance ministers meet to discuss whether or not to approve a new Greek bailout, appears so nonsensical that it can be hard to believe these people are deciding the future of Europe. Although you wouldn't know it from the headlines, the truth is that Greece and Europe have been close to a deal for awhile now." ...

... Larry Summers in the Washington Post: "Financial problems are in some combination always about two things -- arithmetic that does not add up and a loss of confidence. Incremental steps that provide some but not large sums of assistance, that postpone but do not reduce scheduled debt payments and that defer decisions about the future to the future run the constant risk that they will not bring convincing arithmetic into view and will be insufficient to restore market confidence." CW P.S. Hillary should make me Secretary of the Treasury again because "I'm, like, a really smart person."

George Jahn & Matthew Lee of the AP: "Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks plan to announce Monday that they've reached a historic deal capping nearly a decade of diplomacy that would curb the country's atomic program in return for sanctions relief, two diplomats told The Associated Press on Sunday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Richard Cowan of Reuters: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, interviewed on the 'Fox News Sunday' television program, said the Senate is unlikely to confirm any U.S. ambassador to Havana nominated by [President] Obama. McConnell added, 'There are sanctions that were imposed by Congress. I think the administration will have a hard time getting those removed. This is a policy that there is substantial opposition to in Congress.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Howell Raines, former executive editor of the New York Times, in an NYT op-ed: "Southern Republican officeholders ... still act as if tomorrow will be exactly like today, their tenure assured by unbendable evangelical Christians and testy white suburbanites.... Dramatic changes in voter attitudes will shift the region's party balance, to the detriment of the Republicans.... However..., affluent, suburban whites remain myopic about the obvious signs.... Anecdotal evidence indicates that affluent Southern Republicans continue to believe that minority voters can be attracted with punitive polices based on the Paul Ryan model.... It is a quintessential Southern pattern. The region's most affluent citizens always resist the obvious at first.... The longer they take to get it, the greater the odds that multiethnic Democrats will finally break the Republican lock on the solidly red South." ...

... ** Hugh Howard, in a Washington Post op-ed: "To a surprising extent, the way the North remembers the Civil War is also deeply flawed and misleading.... It's simply wrong-headed to presume that average, mid-19th-century farmers and factory workers in the North harbored abolitionist sympathies. They didn't.... The war for Lincoln was explicitly about union -- until it became expedient to make it about emancipation. The Emancipation Proclamation was primarily intended to hobble the Confederacy's war effort, which relied upon slaves for provisioning and other support. Even among those who recognized that human bondage must end, few thought blacks were equal to whites." ...

... Charles Blow: "While America's history in skin-color politics is long and deep, this aversion to darkness -- particularly dark femininity -- and aspiration to lightness, or even whiteness, isn't only an American phenomenon. It's a global sickness informed by history and culture and influenced by colonialism and the export of popular culture." ...

... Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "A day after South Carolina lowered the Confederate flag flying outside the Statehouse, the NAACP Board of Directors voted Saturday to end its 15-year economic boycott of the state. The civil rights group introduced an emergency resolution at its annual convention this weekend in response to the removal of the flag from the state capitol." ...

... Cathleen Decker of the Los Angeles Times: Latinos' "voting strength [in California] is only half their proportion of California's population, [according to a report said. They hold 1 in 8 state Senate seats and an even smaller percentage of supervisorial chairs. That's symptomatic of a troubling turn for Latino politicians and voters. Together with other data, it suggests the possibility of a ceiling forming over a group that, until recently, thought it had limitless upward mobility.... The higher up the political food chain the job, or the less Latino the political district, the worse their odds of success."

Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post: "That a wildfire has been able to burn so extensively and for so long in a rain forest [-- Olympic National Park --] is a testament to the severity of the drought that has wracked the American West from California to Alaska. Olympic National Park -- which occupies much of the Olympic Peninsula just west of Seattle -- just endured its driest spring in over 100 years and a winter snow pack that was a mere 14 percent of average, according to the Park Service."

Saeed Dehghan of the Guardian: "The spying trial of Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter held in Iran for nearly a year, has resumed in Tehran behind closed doors at a critical moment in the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the west."

Simon Romero & William Neuman of the New York Times: Pope "Francis' silence on various sensitive issues was noted repeatedly throughout his tour [of Bolivia, Equador & Paraguay], particularly in Paraguay, where activists in one of Latin America's most socially conservative countries had hoped for more on issues that included gay rights, killings over land disputes and the persistence of widespread economic inequality.... While Francis met with social leaders and criticized an economic model that sacrifices 'human lives at the altar of money and profits,' he spoke in general terms, opting against mentioning specific cases...." ...

... CW: For what it's worth, I think that's what a religious leader is supposed to do. Francis is not going to appear before the U.S. Congress & say to Paul Ryan, "Get thee behind me, Satan." With the help of the Pope's generalizations, Ryan is supposed to realize of his own free will that he is a nasty piece of work, repent & go forth to do good works.

Helen & Margaret are back. Helen (June 27): "Never in my life did I think I would live long enough to see the gays persecuting the Christians instead of the other way around. That was actually a Fox Exclusive! I read somewhere that Glen[n] Beck has 10,000 to 20,000 pastors ready to die before gay marriage would become legal. Funny. I haven't seen any obituaries printed. Religious conviction has its limits I guess, but that really is one herd I would love to see thinned. Of course if a government is able to show more compassion than your church, maybe you should join another church. It's just so odd that all this hatred and discrimination seems to be emanating from a bunch of Republicans who claim to represent Jesus." Via Bill of Daily Kos.

Marie's Sports Report. AP: "The Buffalo Bills offensive line coach, Aaron Kromer, was arrested Sunday in Florida after shoving a boy to the ground and punching him, authorities said. The Walton County Sheriff's Office said the dispute arose after Kromer and his son confronted three boys about their use of beach chairs while fishing near their home. In a statement, the sheriff's office said Kromer grabbed the boys' fishing pole and threw it in the water before assaulting one boy. 'The victim stated Kromer also told him if he reported him to the police he would kill his family,' the sheriff's office said." ...

... CW: A few weekends back, a couple of kids commandeered my lawn chairs to sit in while fishing off the lake across the road. When I noticed this, I asked the teens to put the chairs back when they were through fishing as the chairs are fairly heavy. I failed to toss the boys' fishing rods, punch any of the boys or threaten to kill their families. Also, the boys did put the chairs back on my lawn. Football sucks. ...

** Jim Sleeper in the Atlantic: "The Puritans were America's first Very Serious People.... First, in attempting to emulate the earliest Christian communities, they turned their backs on the golden thrones of popes and kings and countenanced neither aristocracy nor destitution -- a revolutionary innovation in the early seventeenth century. Although they were often shrewd businessmen, they never argued openly that prosperity brings freedom and dignity, preaching instead that it carried communal obligations. Second, they weren't out to 'make history' through scientific planning or by discerning great movements of Hegelian Reason in their strivings, but by fulfilling the pre-established biblical typology of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt on a sacred mission to a Promised Land.... Third, the Puritans' biblically covenanted, congregational communities combined public purpose with personal integrity in ways that survive in present-day understandings of the interplay between individual conscience and rights on the one hand and civic obligation on the other."

Presidential Race

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Even without the heartbreak of loss, this was bound to be a crossroads moment for a vice president who has spent four decades in Washington only to find an uncertain path ahead. [Vice President Biden] has not ruled out running for president again, and some friends are nudging him to, even if the political math does not seem to favor it. But he has good days and bad days, his mind never far from his late son, Beau Biden, and his staff is not planning further than two weeks ahead.

NEW. David Jackson of USA Today: "Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled her economic program Monday, including a call for corporations to share more profits with employees in a bid to increase take-home pay.... In slamming [Jeb] Bush for his comment that people need to 'work more hours' to help the economy grow, Clinton said that the former Florida governor obviously hasn't spoken to many actual workers. 'They don't need a lecture,' Clinton said. 'They need a raise.'" ...

... E. J. Dionne: Hillary "Clinton's ideas reflect a wide center-left consensus on behalf of bottom-up or, as many progressives call it, 'middle-out' economics. They also underscore how the nomination challenge she faces from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) differs from the problem created for Republicans by [Donald] Trump. By pulling the political conversation to the left generally and toward specific benefits government could confer on Americans in particular, Sanders is creating new political space for Democrats and highlighting issues that most of them (including Clinton, if she wins the nomination) want at the heart of the campaign next fall. Trump, on the other hand, is pulling Republicans far off message...."

** Paul Krugman (regular Monday column): "Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in just about every other wealthy country.... But Jeb Bush -- who is still attempting to justify his ludicrous claim that he can double our rate of economic growth -- says that Americans 'need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.'... You see this laziness dogma everywhere on the right. It was the hidden background to Mitt Romney's infamous 47 percent remark. It underlay the furious attacks on unemployment benefits at a time of mass unemployment and on food stamps when they provided a vital lifeline for tens of millions of Americans. It drives claims that many, if not most, workers receiving disability payments are malingerers -- 'Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,' says Senator Rand Paul.... If [Jeb Bush] makes it to the White House, the laziness dogma will rule public policy." ...

     ... Krugman takes a nice shot (albeit in the usual indirect way) at David Brooks & his moralizing.

NEW. Jason Stein, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "After four and a half years of leading Wisconsin, Scott Walker laid out Monday his goal of winning the White House, launching his campaign to become the world's most powerful leader." ...

Scott Walker is a national disgrace. -- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

... Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Dealing with legislation at home was supposed to be the low-drama part of [Gov. Scott] Walker's year. Instead, things ... in Madison have been in turmoil for months -- a complication for a governor building his presidential candidacy around his ability to get things done. Walker has spent much of the year feuding not only with Democrats -- a fight he relishes -- but also with fellow Republicans over proposals such as the Bucks' arena.... [Walker] has pushed hard to use $250 million in taxpayer money to pay for a new professional basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks...." ...

... Kimberly Hefling of Politico: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's trailblazing effort to weaken tenure protections at public colleges and universities is now a reality with his signing of a $73 billion budget on Sunday.... Specifically, the changes allow the University of Wisconsin system Board of Regents -- 16 of whose 18 members are appointed by the governor -- to set tenure policies instead of having tenure protections spelled out in state law.... The budget sent to Walker also includes other labor-related issues that frustrated unions, including a provision that rolls back a minimum pay protection for laborers working on local public construction projects like schools." ...

... Andy Borowitz has a preview of Walker's presidential announcement: "Serving notice that he intends to go toe-to-toe with the controversial real-estate mogul, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used the official announcement of his Presidential candidacy to assure Republican voters that he is as horrible as Donald Trump." ...

... Robert Costa of the Washington Postt: "In an expletive-laden interview over soft drinks [Donald] Trump ... said he has no plans to change the way he's running for the Republican nomination, which combines his trademark showmanship, an outsider-populist credo that resists ideological categorization and incendiary comments that have thrilled conservative activists." ...

... Mark Hensch of the Hill: "'Meet the Press' on Sunday aired a video documenting GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's various changes of heart on campaign issues. The clip -- titled 'Trump vs. Trump' -- shows the New York business mogul shifting his stances on abortion, ObamaCare and even Hillary Clinton, his potential Democratic rival in 2016. 'One of the reasons Trump is breaking through this year thought is because people feel they know where he stands,' says 'Meet the Press' host Chuck Todd in the video." CW: Which means that the Village People got together & sanctioned anti-Donald talk. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

... Jennifer Shutt of Politico: "Taking to Twitter on Sunday, Donald Trump used the escape of notorious drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman this weekend to criticize Mexico, the Media and fellow candidates for president. The mogul/reality TV host turned candidate for president, wrote: 'Mexico's biggest drug lord escapes from jail. Unbelievable corruption and USA is paying the price. I told you so!' He continued his posts through the day." ...

... Matt Chaban of the New York Times: An altar to Donald Trump -- a shop selling Trump stuff -- is stealing public space inside Trump Tower. City officials have been trying to get rid of it for years. "It is a New York peculiarity that an atrium lined with golden mirrors, Gucci logos and an 80-foot waterfall would qualify as a public amenity. Yet there are hundreds of these privately owned public spaces, colloquially known as POPS, dotting Manhattan and a sliver of Brooklyn.... In the case of Trump Tower, the developer, working on his first signature project, was able to add about 20 floors to the 66-story tower -- nearly a third of its total height -- in exchange for building public spaces and shops in the atrium. ...

... CW: Huh. I'm pretty sure if you or I set up shop in a public space, "city officials" would take about five minutes to shut us down.

Eric Bradner of CNN: "Sen. Lindsey Graham says Donald Trump is a 'wrecking ball' who has put the Republican Party's future on the line with his controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants. 'I think he's hijacked the debate. I think he's a wrecking ball for the future of the Republican Party with the Hispanic community and we need to push back,' Graham said in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on 'State of the Union' Sunday. 'This is a defining moment for the Republican Party. We need to reject this,' he said." With video.

It's not about me. Under this construct, nobody really cares about coming to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina any more. It's almost about money. And what you're going to reward, over time, is the people with the most money. And you're destroying the early primary process. And I think that's bad for the Republican Party. -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, complaining about Fox "News"'s "dumb" rule that will allow only the ten top-polling GOP candidates to appear in an August debate

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "... it's funny to see Senator Graham decide only now that policies that reward the people with the most money are problematic and unfair. That never seemed to bother him when it came time to cut earned benefits or assistance to the poor in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy. Senator Graham never seems to bat an eye when Fox News glorifies billionaires while denigrating the working poor."

Beyond the Beltway

Steve Mistler of the Portland Press Herald: Maine Gov. Paul LePage compares the IRS to the Gestapo, then "walks it back" by making it worse, claiming that the IRS was -- emulating the Gestapo -- "heading in the direction of killing a lot of people" by "rationing" health care. ...

... AP: "Democratic lawmakers said Sunday that another 51 bills have become law [in Maine] after Republican Gov. Paul LePage missed his deadline to act on them by midnight Saturday. But LePage has said he won't enforce the laws and is expected to take the issue to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.... Among the bills that Democrats say became law after Saturday are measures to expand access to a drug overdose antidote and to provide insurance coverage for reproductive services to more women."

News Ledes

Arutz Sheva: "In arguably one of its cruelest acts yet, the Islamic State (ISIS) has reportedly blown up a baby as part of a demonstration showing how to handle explosives. So reports The Clarion Project. The unparalleled incident took place in Diyala Province, eastern Iraq, this past Friday, according to Sadiq el-Husseini, Security Committee Chairman of the province on behalf of the anti-ISIS forces there. He recounted the event to the local Arabic-language A-Sumeriah News."

New York Times: "Iranian and American negotiators made significant progress on Monday toward a historic nuclear agreement and have narrowed the list of final issues, several diplomats involved in the talks said. While the negotiators have moved closer to announcing an accord -- an announcement could come as early as Tuesday -- they said the deal remained fragile and warned that last-minute hitches could emerge as they review pages of text that define limits on Tehran's nuclear capacity and the lifting of Western and United Nations sanctions."

ABC News: "The estranged son of a respected Boston police captain was arrested July 4 by FBI agents as part of a counter-terrorism operation against alleged ISIS-inspired domestic terrorists, federal officials told ABC News today. Alexander Ciccolo, 23, of Adams, Mass., was taken into custody on gun charges after buying two pistols and two rifles from an undercover FBI confidential informant, federal officials said. In a search of his apartment, officials reported they found it loaded with possible bomb-making equipment including a pressure cooker, a variety of chemicals, an alarm clock, along with 'attack planning papers' and 'jihad' paperwork. FBI agents said he used the name Abu Ali al-Amriki and neighbors said he was a recent convert to Islam."

Guardian: "Video footage has emerged that appears to show the moments leading up to the fatal shooting of a teenage stone thrower by a senior Israeli army officer, seemingly contradicting the soldier's account of the killing. Doubts about the account of Col Yisrael Shomer, a brigade commander in the occupied territories, began to emerge last week in witness accounts and medical evidence collected by the Guardian, Washington Post and human rights groups. They suggested that 17-year-old Mohammed Kasbeh was shot in the upper body by Shomer as the youth was fleeing, not in the midst of a life-threatening attack."

Saturday
Jul112015

The Commentariat -- July 12, 2015

Afternoon Update:

George Jahn & Matthew Lee of the AP: "Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks plan to announce Monday that they've reached a historic deal capping nearly a decade of diplomacy that would curb the country's atomic program in return for sanctions relief, two diplomats told The Associated Press on Sunday."

Richard Cowan of Reuters: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, interviewed on the 'Fox News Sunday' television program, said the Senate is unlikely to confirm any U.S. ambassador to Havana nominated by [President] Obama. McConnell added, 'There are sanctions that were imposed by Congress. I think the administration will have a hard time getting those removed. This is a policy that there is substantial opposition to in Congress.'"

Mark Hensch of the Hill: "'Meet the Press' on Sunday aired a video documenting GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's various changes of heart on campaign issues. The clip -- titled 'Trump vs. Trump' -- shows the New York business mogul shifting his stances on abortion, ObamaCare and even Hillary Clinton, his potential Democratic rival in 2016. 'One of the reasons Trump is breaking through this year thought is because people feel they know where he stands,' says 'Meet the Press' host Chuck Todd in the video." CW: Which means that the Village People got together & sanctioned anti-Donald talk.

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Dealing with legislation at home was supposed to be the low-drama part of [Gov. Scott] Walker's year. Instead, things ... in Madison have been in turmoil for months -- a complication for a governor building his presidential candidacy around his ability to get things done. Walker has spent much of the year feuding not only with Democrats -- a fight he relishes -- but also with fellow Republicans over proposals such as the Bucks' arena.... [Walker] has pushed hard to use $250 million in taxpayer money to pay for a new professional basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks...."

*****

Sean McElwee of Salon: Studies show that the only people whose policy preferences matter are rich, white men. In fact, if you're a woman, there's a negative correlation between what you want & what you get. Researcher Nicholas Stephanopoulos: "As male support increases from 0 percent to 100 percent, the odds of policy enactment rise from about 0 percent to about 90 percent. But as female support varies over the same range, the likelihood of adoption falls from roughly 80 percent to roughly 10 percent. When men and women disagree, then, stronger female backing for a policy seems entirely futile." Even Democrats favor the preferences of whites.

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "A federal trial opening in Winston-Salem on Monday is meant to determine whether recent, sweeping changes in [North Carolina's] election laws discriminate against black voters. These changes were adopted by the Republican-dominated state legislature in 2013, immediately after the United States Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it ended a requirement that nine states with histories of discrimination, including North Carolina, get federal approval before altering their election laws. But the case, as well as one involving a Texas law requiring voters to show a photo ID, could have far wider repercussions, legal experts say -- helping to define the scope of voting rights protections across the country in the coming presidential election and beyond."

Propublica, republished in Salon, interviews Sonia "Sotomayor biographer Joan Biskupic on the long, tortured history of Fisher v. Texas, [the affirmative action case,] and why it's being reheard." CW: Has some interesting inside-the-Court back-and-forth. As many have said, the Court's agreement to rehear the case doesn't bode well for affirmative-action considerations.

God News

Jim Yardley & Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "Having returned to his native Latin America, [Pope] Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism -- even as he called for a global movement against a 'new colonialism' rooted in an inequitable economic order. The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution." ...

... CW: I'll bet John Boehner is really, really glad he invited Francis to speak to a joint session of Congress this fall. Maybe Francis will endorse Bernie for president.

Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post: "Seventh-day Adventists voted Wednesday that individual regions of the 18 million-member Protestant denomination cannot choose to ordain female ministers." Via Steve Benen.

Jon Schuppe of MSNBC: "A group of more than 600 churches has joined a small but growing movement within the religious community to call for and end to the war on drugs through legalization. The New England Conference of The United Methodist Church, representing more than 600 congregations, voted last month to support efforts to address the nation's drug abuse problem through 'means other than prohibition.'" Via Benen.

Presidential Race

** Nate Cohn of the New York Times had a conversation with Bernie Sanders. Sanders "believes he can mobilize a working-class coalition spanning ideological divides.... Few, if any, recent Democratic candidates represented the economic, populist left. The anti-establishment candidate of the last four competitive primaries all featured challenges from intellectual, professional-class liberals. [Jerry] Brown, [Bill] Bradley, [John] Dean and [Barack] Obama -- each educated at some point at an Ivy League university -- all fared well in Marin County, Calif., and Greenwich, Conn.; none appealed much to voters in the Appalachians or along the Rio Grande. Even the candidate who came closest to running as a populist, John Edwards, fared best among voters in Iowa and South Carolina who made more than $100,000 per year.... But so far, Mr. Sanders's support looks a lot like the liberal coalitions assembled by those other candidates." ...

... Todd Gitlin, in a New York Times op-ed, on "the Bernie Sanders moment." CW: BTW, Todd, one need not have been a hippie to support Sanders' agenda. It's about fairness to the all Americans, which is good for the country.

Sanders-Lite. Michael Grunwald of Politico: "In a speech Monday at the famously progressive New School in lower Manhattan, [Hillary] Clinton will lay out her economic theory of the case, and her main theory is that the incomes of 'everyday Americans' have remained too low for too long. At a moment when the left wing of the Democratic Party is flexing its muscles -- and flocking to the rallies of her socialist challenger, Bernie Sanders -- she will stick with the liberal populism that has dominated the opening months of her campaign, contrasting the good times on Wall Street and corporate boardrooms with the wage stagnation of the middle class. But an outline of the speech provided by a campaign aide suggested that she will strike less of a rabble-rousing tone than Sanders, challenging 'top-down' Republican policies without suggesting that capitalism is inherently rigged against families on the bottom."

Paul Krugman: "Maybe we were unfair to Mitt Romney; Jeb 'people should work longer hours' Bush is making him look like a model of empathy for the less fortunate.... Partly it's Bush trying to defend his foolish 4 percent growth claim; but it's also, I'm almost certain, coming out of the 'nation of takers' dogma that completely dominates America's right wing." ...

... KISS. Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: Jeb! told the New Hampshire Union Leader that Obama's problem was that he used too many "big syllable" words & too much nuance, which together created "chaos" in the world. "Bush then advocated for more blunt and simple type of statesmanship -- reminiscent of the style of his brother, former President George W. Bush as well as Vice President Dick Cheney -- in dealing with world." CW: Yes, best to leave international policy to monosyllabic dimwits.

I think everybody knows that he's right. -- Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) on Donald Trump's remarks about Mexican immigrants

Everybody except those pesky people who care about facts. -- Constant Weader

... The Arizona Republic is so excited about Donald Trump's appearance in Phoenix (Saturday afternoon) that it's liveblogging his speech. A lady out in front of the arena has a professionally-made sign that reads "Trump/Arpaio/2016/Make American Narcissistic Again". ...

     ... CW: Apparently Trump missed his attendance estimates by a bit. His campaign had predicted 9,000 would attend the rally. Ben Schreckinger of Politico puts the number in attendance at 4,000. "[This crowd today blows away anything that Bernie Sanders has gotten,' Trump said (10,000 people recently came out to cheer Sanders in Madison, Wisconsin)." Schreckinger has expanded his story since first posting it. ...

I'm, like, a really smart person. -- Donald Trump, speaking in Phoenix

... Zeke Miller of Time has more stupid/inaccurate stuff Trump said at the rally. ...

... Rory Carroll of the Guardian has a comprehensive report. ...

... Maxwell Tani of Business Insider: Trump made two "surreal" speeches yesterday, the first in Las Vegas, Nevada. Oh, & the 4,000 at Phoenix; according to Trump's campaign it was actually 15,000. CW: Schreckinger wrote that the venue holds only about 2,100, but Trump claimed the fire marshalls allowed him to pack the room. If so, shame on the marshalls. ...

... Daniel Kreps of Rolling Stone: "David Letterman made a surprise visit to Martin Short and Steve Martin's A Very Stupid Conversation stage show Friday night in San Antonio, and the former Late Show host used the opportunity to gleefully mock beleaguered presidential hopeful Donald Trump:

Josh Voorhees of Slate: If Ohio Gov. John Kasich makes it to the GOP debate stage, he could pose more problems for the candidates than will Donald Trump. It's easy for candidates to separate themselves from Trump's outrageous rhetoric, but Kasich's more nuanced views on immigration reform might force other candidates to be specific about their proposals.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Daniel Politi of Slate: "During an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the Duke of Edinburgh lost patience with a photographer: 'Just take the fucking picture!' TV cameras caught the moment that showed him looking 'visibly distressed' while 'grandson Prince William laughed at his outburst,' reports the Press Association. The photographer didn't seem very offended and seconds later can be heard saying, 'eyes on me.'" CW: Hey, if you're a 94-year-old guy married to the Queen of England, you can can whatever the fuck you want.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the infamous Mexican drug kingpin whose capture last year had been trumpeted by his country's government as a crucial victory in the bloody campaign against the narcotics trade, escaped from a maximum-security prison through a tunnel that led from a shower, Mexican security officials said on Sunday. The government detailed the escape in a news conference early Sunday. Mr. Guzmán, known by the nickname El Chapo, or Shorty, absconded through a passage tall enough for a person to stand upright and equipped with overhead lighting and a motorcycle on rails likely used to transport digging equipment and haul out dirt." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "It is the second time Guzman, head of the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's largest and most lucrative trafficker of heroin, cocaine and marijuana, has been able to flee jail. The first time was 2001, from a different prison, when he famously hid in a laundry cart, and he remained a fugitive -- albeit sometimes a public one -- until his arrest last year. Guzman's escape is a major embarrassment for the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, which has prided itself for having taken down a string of top cartel leaders."

New York Times: "With just hours left for a deal to keep Greece in Europe's common currency, European finance ministers resumed negotiations Sunday after a day of fruitless talks and indicated that a decision on whether to cut Greece adrift or open the way for a new bailout would be left to a meeting later in the day of the the leaders of the 19 countries that use the euro." ...

... Washington Post UPDATE: "Bitterly divided European financial officials failed to agree on a path forward to save Greece on Sunday afternoon, passing the baton to a higher-level summit this evening of the 19 leaders of the euro zone to decide the fate of a country on the brink of financial collapse.... It was now up to Europe's leaders -- chiefly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Françios Hollande -- to attempt to forge a compromise on how and whether to push forward on what would be Greece's third bailout in five years."