Weekly Address

The Ledes

Saturday, April 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine." ...

... Washington Post: "Pro-Russian­ militants, boasting that they do not take orders from diplomats in Washington or Moscow, refused to end their armed occupation of a dozen government buildings across eastern Ukraine on Friday, upending hopes for a quick end to the standoff."

Los Angeles Times: "The captain and two crew members of a ferry that capsized off the southern coast of South Korea were detained Saturday on suspicion of negligence in the accident that left at least 28 people confirmed dead and 274 missing, officials said.

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, April 18, 2014.

Washington Post: "An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest early Friday morning, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three others missing, officials said, in what is now said to be the single deadliest disaster to hit the world’s highest peak.”

The New York Times outlines some of the shocking errors made after the Korean ferry began to list. ...

     ... UPDATE: "Prosecutors in South Korea on Friday sought to arrest the captain, third mate and another crew member of a ferry on charges of deserting their vessel and passengers after it capsized and leaving more than 270 people missing, many of them high school students on a trip to a resort island. Prosecutors asked the court to issue arrest warrants for Captain Lee Jun-seok, 69, and the 26-year-old third mate, who they said was steering the ship at the time of accident.... The vice principal, Kang Min-kyu, 52, of Danwon High School, who survived the ferry accident on Wednesday, was found hanging from a tree on a hill near a gymnasium where families of the missing had gathered. The police suspected Mr. Kang had hanged himself."


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/10/3772409/fbi-rescues-kidnapped-wake-forest.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 18

1:00 pm ET: Jay Carney 's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: President Obama presents the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the US Naval Academy football team

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

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MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

 

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

Washington Post: "Stephen Colbert and his writing staff were in fighting form Monday night, after a controversy stemming from an out-of-context tweet had hashtag activists calling for his head." ...

... This is kinda must-see TV:

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Saturday
Mar222014

The Commentariat -- March 23, 2014

In anticipation of President Obama's meeting with Pope Francis this Thursday, Jason Horowitz of the New York Times examines Obama's many interactions with the Roman Catholic Church.

David Sanger & Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "American officials have long considered Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, a security threat, blocking it from business deals in the United States for fear that the company would create 'back doors' in its equipment that could allow the Chinese military or Beijing-backed hackers to steal corporate and government secrets. But even as the United States made a public case about the dangers of buying from Huawei, classified documents [provided by Edward Snowden] show that the National Security Agency was creating its own back doors -- directly into Huawei's networks."

New York Times Editors: "Hobby Lobby ... and Conestoga Wood Specialties ... are not religious organizations, nor are they affiliated with religious organizations. But the owners say they are victims of an assault on religious liberty because they personally disapprove of certain contraceptives. They are wrong, and the Supreme Court's task is to issue a decisive ruling saying so. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the owners trying to impose their religious beliefs on thousands of employees."

David Morgan of Reuters: "The Obama administration will soon issue new Obamacare guidelines allowing people to enroll in health coverage after a March 31 deadline, but only under certain circumstances, according to sources close to the administration. The sources said the new federal guidelines for consumers in the 36 states served by the federal health insurance marketplace and its website, HealthCare.gov, would allow people to enroll after March 31 if they had tried earlier and were prevented by system problems including technical glitches." ...

... Lisa Zamosky of the Los Angeles Times has tips for last-minute ObamaCare shopping. ...

... ** Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "In the poorest state in the nation, where supper is fried, bars allow smoking, chronic disease is rampant and doctors are hard to come by, Obamacare rolls into town in a lime green bus. It took some real convincing by the Obama administration and a leap of faith by one state Republican official to get one of the nation's largest insurance companies -- Humana -- to set up shop across Mississippi. Virtually no other insurer was willing to do so, discouraged by the acute health needs here and most elected officials' outright hostility to the law. Four months and more than 200 bus stops later, enrollment numbers here remain dismal. Only 9 percent of the state's Obamacare-eligible population have signed up...." ...

     ... CW: I was about to cite Haberkorn's report as evidence that Politico does have some serious reporters (and it does) when I read this disclaimer at the bottom of the report: "This story was produced with the support of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, a program of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism's California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships." So, if you pay Politico to publish important content, they'll do so.

Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker on President Obama's Supreme Court "farm team": a group of Obama-appointed judges from which he might choose to replace a current justice.

** Gregor Schmitz of Der Spiegel interviews mega-financier George Soros on the future of Europe. The interview, which appears in the New York Review of Books, is excerpted from their upcoming book. ...

Nicole Flatow of Think Progress: "A Buddhist student and his family won a settlement last week against a Louisiana school district where the student's religion was ridiculed in class as 'stupid,' the teacher taught that evolution is 'impossible,' and that the bible is '100 percent true.' The court-approved consent decree prohibits future religious discrimination in a school district that had portraits of Jesus Christ in the halls and a 'lighted, electronic marquee' outside one school that scrolls Bible verses." Via Steve Benen. The underlying report, by Heather Weaver of the ACLU is interesting/disturbing, too.

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Rod Nordland of the New York Times: "... about 13 years after the Bamian Buddhas were blasted into rubble [by the Taliban], the world faces a new quandary: whether to leave the gaping gashes in the cliff where the giant statues once stood, to rebuild the Buddhas from what pieces were left, or to make copies of them.... Opinion is passionately split. The major donor countries that would have to finance any restoration say the site should be left as it is, at least for now. The Afghan government wants at least one of the statues rebuilt."

Beyond the Beltway

Paul Egan & Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press: " The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, after first signaling it would not intervene in Michigan's gay marriage case until Tuesday, posted a new order late Saturday imposing a stay in the case until Wednesday. That means U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's Friday order declaring unconstitutional Michigan's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is temporarily stayed, and clerks will no longer be able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples before Wednesday at the earliest."

AP: "Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox [D] is resigning from his leadership post and will not run for re-election, he said Saturday, a day after federal and state authorities raided his Statehouse office and home as part of a criminal investigation that they would not detail." ...

... Gregory Smith & Katherine Gregg have the Providence Journal story, with nothing further on the nature of the investigation. They do cite Steven O'Donnell, the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police who said, "'Fox knows what's going on.... He's certainly aware of what happened' Friday and why it happened."

Gubernatorial Race

Maureen Dowd interviews California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times: Glenn Champ, "one of four gubernatorial candidates introduced to California Republicans recently, is a registered sex offender who spent more than a decade in state prison, convicted of crimes including voluntary manslaughter and assault with intent to commit rape.... Champ's rap sheet is lengthy. Court records show that in 1992, he pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed firearm. In 1993, he was convicted of two counts of assault with intent to commit rape and as a result was placed on the state's sex-offender registry. In March 1998, he accepted a plea deal on a charge of loitering to solicit a prostitute; later that year, he pleaded no contest to a voluntary manslaughter charge after hitting a man with his vehicle, for which he was sentenced to 12 years in state prison, according to court records."

Senate Race

Daniel Strauss of TPM (March 20): "North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC) has listed two different colleges as his alma mater. Tillis, who's running in the GOP primary to face Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), is a graduate of the University of Maryland but he actually went to the independent online school University of Maryland University College. Tillis' LinkedIn page listed the University of Maryland at College Park as where he got a Bachelor of Science Degree in Technology Management, Technology & Project Management. Similarly on Tillis's biography page on his House Speaker website, Tillis listed the University of Maryland as his alma matter and links to College Park's website. But according to officials contacted at both the University of Maryland at College Park and the University of Maryland University College, Tillis graduated from the University of Maryland at University College."

John Frank of the Raleigh News & Observer: "A day after questions surfaced about his alma mater, U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis said where he went to college shouldn't matter and dismissed suggestions he misled voters."

CW: Yeah, and I went to Harvard. A/k/a the Harvard Online School of Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning. But I admit I flunked out.

Right Wing World

So, what, it took us what 100 years to find the Titanic? It took us 2,000 years to find Noah’s Ark. Do we ever find Flight 370? -- Fox "News" anchor Bill Hemmer, right there on the teevee during a "news" show

It's impossible to exaggerate how stupid Hemmer's remark is. Steve Benen explains. -- Constant Weader

News Ledes

Washington Post: "With a burst of automatic weapons fire and stun grenades, Russian forces in armored personnel carriers on Saturday broke through the walls of one of the last Ukrainian military outposts in Crimea, then quickly overpowered Ukrainian troops armed only with sticks. The fall of the Belbek air base, along with the loss of a second Ukrainian air base Saturday near the Crimean town of Novofedorivka, removed one of the last barriers to total Russian control of the Crimean Peninsula."

Malia, Michelle & Sasha Obama walk a section of the Great Wall of China. AP photo. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

AP: "U.S. first lady Michelle Obama told Chinese professors, students and parents on Sunday that she wouldn't have risen to where she was if her parents hadn't pushed for her to get a good education. Mrs. Obama made her comments before hosting a discussion about education on the third day of a weeklong visit to the country aimed at promoting educational exchanges between the U.S. and China. She also walked a section of the Great Wall with her two daughters."

Guardian: "Images taken by Chinese and French satellites and separate sightings of scattered debris have become the focus of the search in the Indian Ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370."

Friday
Mar212014

The Commentariat -- March 22, 2014

Claire Miller of the New York Times: "... tech companies abroad, from Europe to South America, say they are gaining customers that are shunning United States providers, suspicious because of the revelations by Edward J. Snowden that tied these providers to the National Security Agency's vast surveillance program.... Tech executives, including Eric E. Schmidt of Google and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, are expected to raise the issue when they return to the White House on Friday for a meeting with President Obama." ...

... The Guardian story, by Dan Roberts & Dominic Rushe, is here.

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "... roughly one-third of American households -- 38 million of them -- are living a paycheck-to-paycheck existence. These are families who hold little to no liquid wealth.... But a staggering two-thirds of these households are not actually poor...; they own substantial holdings ($50,000, on average) in illiquid assets.... The wealthy hand-to-mouth are older, more educated and have substantially higher incomes than their poor counterparts.... While the poor hand-to-mouth tend to stay that way for long periods of time, wealthy-hand-to-mouth status is transient, lasting an average of only 2½ years."

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "The White House has added meetings with the leaders of China and Japan to Barack Obama's visit to Europe and Saudi Arabia next week, as it seeks to use the six-day trip to build an international coalition and isolate Russia over its annexation of Crimea." ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The White House cast doubt Friday on the Kremlin's claims that thousands of troops massing on the border of southeastern Ukraine are merely involved in training exercises, deepening fears that Russian aggression will not end in Crimea. 'It's not clear what that signals,' the national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, said to reporters in a briefing at the White House. But she added, 'Obviously given their past practice and the gap between what they have said and what they have done, we are watching it with skepticism.'" ...

... Steven Myers & Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times: "American and European sanctions rattled Russia's economy on Friday, with Moscow's stock indexes opening sharply lower, rating agencies threatening to reduce the country's creditworthiness, and hints of trepidation coming from Russia's tycoons as they concluded an annual conference here. But if the aim of the sanctions is to put economic pressure on the wealthy allies crucial to President Vladimir V. Putin's continued grip on power, there were few signs they would succeed, largely because those targeted were among the new generations of oligarchs who owe their fortunes and loyalties to Mr. Putin." ...

... Steven Myers, et al., of the New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Friday formally completed the annexation of Crimea, signing into law bills passed by Parliament reclaiming the contested province from Ukraine.... As he cemented Russian control of Crimea, Mr. Putin declared a temporary cease-fire in a tit-for-tat battle of economic and political sanctions between Moscow and the West."

... Please click on Bolling's Daily Kos page so he gets a click credit for the 'toon. Thanks.

Charles Blow: "By suggesting that laziness is more concentrated among the poor, inner city or not, we shift our moral obligation to deal forthrightly with poverty. When we insinuate that poverty is the outgrowth of stunted culture, that it is almost always invited and never inflicted, we avert the gaze from the structural features that help maintain and perpetuate poverty -- discrimination, mass incarceration, low wages, educational inequities -- while simultaneously degrading and dehumanizing those who find themselves trapped by it." ...

(CW: A few days ago, I ID'd the guest host of Lawrence O'Donnell's show as Ari Berman. For some reason, the same guy calls himself Ari Melber. Maybe I'll start calling him that, too. My apologies to both men.)

... Jelani Cobb has an excellent essay in the New Yorker about black aspiration. CW: I completely disagree with his conclusions. If I get around to it, I'll explain why in the Comments section. ...

... Here's Ta-Nehisi Coates, continuing along the same line (Cobb links to an earlier Coates post).

Scott Kaufman of the Raw Story: "Although black children only represent about 18 percent of the students enrolled in preschool, according to a study released on Friday by the Department of Education's Civil Rights division, more than half of students suspended on multiple occasions are black. The study -- which includes 15 years of data collected from all of the nation's 97,000 schools -- indicates that the pattern of race-based inequality that begins even earlier than previous studies have suggested."

White House: "In this week's address, President Obama highlights the importance of making sure our economy rewards the hard work of every American...":

New York Times Editors: "... a proposed National Women's History Museum..., foiled by largely Republican opposition for years, suddenly started to gain traction when the House Republican majority leader, Eric Cantor, unexpectedly told The Hill that a vote would be permitted this year on a study commission for the museum." The museum would be entirely funded by private donors. ...

We already have, ladies and gentlemen, I don't know how many museums for women all over the country, they are called malls.... Hey, I could have said brothel but I didn't. -- Rush Limbaugh

Republican obstruction of the National Women's History Museum was never about the money. It was always about the low regard in which the GOP holds women, combined with Fear of Rush. The reason for Cantor's change of heart? It's an election year. That's what Rush says. And I agree with Rush Limbaugh. -- Constant Weader

Rick Warren is praying that God will ensure that American workers do not get the health care they need if their bosses claim a religious objection. ...

     ... CW: The question is this: are the conservatives on the Court so thoroughly corporatist that they will find this additional corporate cudgel to be fine & dandy, or will they have an iota of sense & realize that disallowing contraceptive coverage here means disallowing all kinds of necessary treatment for millions of employed Americans elsewhere? If history tells us anything, I'd guess the former rather than the latter. The conservatives on the Court are not particularly concerned with the obvious consequences of their rulings (although Scalia will sometimes predict the "dire consequences" of liberal-leaning decisions). I suppose, however, they might split the baby & grant corporate leaders the right to "reasonable religious objections." This would be very good for the legal profession, because hundreds of lawsuits later, we'll find out what "reasonable" means.

Charles Pierce on presidential hopeful Rand Paul's amazing popularity, as outlined by Sam Youngman in Politico Magazine: "So he can appeal to Jeebus fanatics, tricorn-wearing crackpots, and the wealthier members of the supply-side cult. That certainly covers the gamut from A to A-minus. I get that he can be the nominee, but that is because the Republican party is insane at its base."

Danielle Ivory & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Federal authorities' nascent investigation into General Motors is looking in part into whether the automaker committed bankruptcy fraud by not disclosing defects that could lead to expensive future liabilities, a person briefed on the inquiry said on Friday. The question is whether G.M. knew about the defect -- a faulty ignition switch -- when it filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and failed to fully disclose the problem, while realizing that it could lead to a cascade of liability claims."

... Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: Paul Taylor of Columbia, Maryland, may have found lost or forgotten photos of Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession in New York City. "If Taylor is right, scholars say he has identified rare photos of Lincoln's marathon funeral rites, as well as images that show mourners honoring the slain chief executive. Plus, it appears that the photographs were taken from an upper window of the studio of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, which was across the street from [Grace C]hurch.... The digital photographs were made from some of the thousands of Brady images acquired by the federal government in the 1870s and handed down to the National Archives in the 1940s."

CW: I missed the obituary of Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh. New York Times: "Lawrence E. Walsh, a former federal judge and a mainstay of the American legal establishment who as an independent counsel exposed the lawbreaking in the Reagan administration that gave rise to the Iran-contra scandal, died on Wednesday at his home in Oklahoma City. He was 102." ...

... Charles Pierce has a remembrance. And then some.

Beyond the Beltway

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "A federal judge Friday struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the state failed during a two-week trial to justify a prohibition that he said violates the equal protection rights of gays. U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman dismissed the state's contention that Michigan voters adopted the ban on the premise that heterosexual married couples provided the optimal environment for raising children." ...

... The Detroit Free Press story, by Tresa Baldas, et al., is here. The judge's decision is here.

Congressional Races

** David Atkins explains progressive voters to dummies, the dummies being Democratic elected officials, beginning with the President: "For a young voter or voter of color, voting for Democrats isn't a matter of hope for a better future. It's basically a defensive crouch to prevent the insane sociopaths from taking over. To provide real hope, Democrats would have to start pushing for a $15 minimum wage, for basic universal income, for single-payer healthcare, for a green jobs Apollo Program, for student loan forgiveness, and similar policies.... But there's no way Democrats are going to solve their midterm problem without providing a real, positive vision for the country. If even hardcore activists like me see voting as a defensive rather than an offensive weapon, it's no surprise that many more apolitical people can scarcely be bothered to care."

Right Wing World

Dylan Scott of TPM: "It seems conservative monolith Matt Drudge is taking some pride in paying the penalty for not purchasing insurance under Obamacare.... There's just one problem: Americans don't pay a penalty for not having health insurance until they file their 2014 taxes -- in 2015. So either Drudge is lying or he paid a huge penalty a year earlier than he needed to." In response to Scott's story, Drudge claimed he was talking about the penalty he has to pay as a small business owner. "If Drudge was referring to the employer mandate, it only applies to companies with more than 50 employees.... But companies with less than 100 employees are exempt from any penalty until 2016. Drudge has never revealed the full extent of his staff, but the Huffington Post characterized it as 'small' in a 2012 article about two new hires." ...

... CW: So not only is Drudge lying, what catches him out is his amazing ignorance of the law against which he's been railing for lo these many years. Ignoramus.

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "The Creationist group Answers In Genesis, which was already incensed about Neil deGrasse Tyson's revival of Cosmos, is now complaining that the show lacks scientific balance because it fails to provide airtime for evolution deniers."

CW: Despite their many hangups & obsessions, you might think the one type of sex wingers would favor was consensual sex between married adults (or at least between heterosexual married adults). But no. Scott Keyes of Think Progress reports that Massachusetts State Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Ross (R) has introduced (and re-introduced) a bill making it illegal for married couples with children who have filed for divorce to have sex in their own homes without a court order permitting it. Under Ross's bill the couples could not even have dinner or a drink together in the home. In an update, Keyes writes that Ross claims that the bill was a constituent's idea & that he (Ross) doesn't support it.

Argumentum ad Hitlerum. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters: "Clinging to persecution fantasies that seem to grow darker each year, conservative voices continue to hype doomsday scenarios in which President Obama is scheming to confiscate firearms, socialize American medicine, silence his critics through brute political force, and wage violent class warfare.... The result? Wallowing in self-pity and convinced of the dark forces moving against them, conservatives launch attack after attack, insisting they're fighting forces at home akin to Hitler's Nazi storm troops."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "On Saturday, Pope Francis named [seven] people to a new panel to help the Catholic Church combat sexual abuse of minors by clerics."

Reuters: " Russian troops forced their way into a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea with armored vehicles, automatic fire and stun grenades on Saturday, injuring a Ukrainian serviceman and detaining the base's commander for talks. A Reuters reporter said armored vehicles smashed through one of walls of the compound and that he heard bursts of gunfire and grenades."

Washington Post: "Michelle Obama became an ambassador for cultural exchange Saturday, taking her goodwill tour of China to the Stanford Center at Peking University to discuss the importance of study abroad and the free exchange of ideas. In a 15-minute speech she delivered before a mix of American students studying at Peking University and Chinese students who have studied in the United States, she called on young people to be 'citizen diplomats' and stressed the importance of the free flow of ideas over the Internet and through the media."

AP: "A satellite image released by China on Saturday offered the latest sign that wreckage from a Malaysia Airlines plane lost for more than two weeks could be in a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean where planes and ships have been searching for three days."

Reuters: "The United States on Friday said it was disappointed at the lack of an apology from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon for his criticism of U.S. policies in a speech on Monday."

Thursday
Mar202014

The Commentariat -- March 21, 2014

BBC News: "EU leaders have signed an agreement on closer relations with Ukraine, in a show of support following Russia's annexation of Crimea. The EU signed the deal hours after announcing further targeted sanctions. Pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych's abandonment of the deal in November had led to deadly protests, his removal and Russia taking over Crimea." ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama on Thursday announced that he would expand sanctions against Russia, blacklisting wealthy individuals with ties to the government and a bank used by them, and opening the door to broader measures against Russian energy exports.The measures deliver on Mr. Obama's warning this week that the United States would ratchet up the costs for Russia if President Vladimir V. Putin moved to annex the breakaway province of Crimea. But they were aimed at forestalling further Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine.... In a tit-for-tat response, Moscow banned nine American officials from entering Russia, including Speaker John A. Boehner, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, Senator John McCain of Arizona, as well as three senior White House officials":

... Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The Pentagon says it has received assurances that Russian forces will not push further into Ukraine, despite Moscow massing thousands of troops on the border in what it describes as a military exercise. US defense secretary Chuck Hagel spoke for an hour on Thursday with his counterpart, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu, in what was described as an occasionally blunt phone call." ...

... Phil Stewart & David Alexander of Reuters: "The Pentagon said on Thursday it was focusing for now on Ukrainian requests for non-lethal support, as opposed to any weaponry, as a senior U.S. official said Washington wanted to avoid further militarizing the standoff with Russia." ...

... Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: "... Ukraine's political tumult has instead brought back an old story line -- a confrontation redolent of the Cold War that has only underscored Europe's divisions and exposed the chasm between the bloc's high-minded aspirations and the rough reality of geopolitics as practiced by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia." ...

James Surowiecki of the New Yorker: Putin uses Russia's vast supply of natural gas as an "unconventional weapon." CW: Thanks to Victoria D. for the link. Surowiecki seems to think Putin is making a short-term calculation that will have bad effects long-term. But he doesn't take this into account:

     ... Timothy Heritage & Vladimir Soldatkin of Reuters: Putin signals, "if Europe and the United States isolate Russia, Moscow will look East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances. The Holy Grail for Moscow is a natural gas supply deal with China that is apparently now close after years of negotiations. If it can be signed when Putin visits China in May, he will be able to hold it up to show that global power has shifted eastwards and he does not need the West." ...

     ... CW: It seems to me -- and I place myself right up there with Mitt Romney as an expert on international affairs -- that as Russia makes its landgrabs to solidify its Western flank, it is attempting to increase its Eastern influence. China is, indirectly, as big a player in the Ukraine crisis as is Russia. ...

     ... Update. And this. Kristina Wong of the Hill: "Away from the conflict in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is quietly seeking a foothold in Latin America, military officials warn. To the alarm of [U.S.] lawmakers and Pentagon officials, Putin has begun sending navy ships and long-range bombers to the region for the first time in years. Russia's defense minister says the country is planning bases in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, and just last week, Putin's national security team met to discuss increasing military ties in the region.... China is making a play for Latin America a well, and is now the fastest growing investor in the region, according to experts."

... Alexey A. Navalny, "a Russian lawyer, anti-corruption activist and opposition politician," in a New York Times op-ed, published March 19: "Western nations could deliver a serious blow to the luxurious lifestyles enjoyed by the Kremlin's cronies who shuttle between Russia and the West. This means freezing the oligarchs' financial assets and seizing their property. Such sanctions should primarily target Mr. Putin's inner circle.... The notion that this reunification should be achieved at the end of the barrel of a gun is supported only by Mr. Putin's hard-core base. ...

     ... Miriam Elder of BuzzFeed: "The names on the latest list of sanctions released by the White House on Thursday read like a who's who of Vladimir Putin's innermost circle -- ex-KGB colleagues, top advisers, and the men believed to hold the Russian president's personal purse strings." ...

     ... AP: The E.U. "did not immediately release the names of those it had targeted Thursday with travel bans and asset freezes, but they are expected to close in on members of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle to punish him in the escalating Ukrainian crisis." ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "... Putin's actions have been driven less by a belief that the West is weak than his knowledge that Russia is.... He dreams of restoring Russia's empire.... The main goal of the United States, the EU, and NATO should be to deter and dissuade Putin from moving his troops deeper into Ukraine.... Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who used to know better, could lay off their absurd yelping about Obama's 'weakness' and 'feckless leadership.' ... It's not true; at least when it comes to this crisis, they've recommended very few steps that Obama hasn't already taken."

Carl Hulse & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Americans for Prosperity turned the [Jolly-Sink] Florida contest into its personal electoral laboratory to fine-tune get-out-the-vote tools and messaging for future elections as it pursues its overarching goal of convincing Americans that big government is bad government." Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

Paul Krugman: "... I'd argue that an important source of [economic] failure was what I've taken to calling the timidity trap -- the consistent tendency of policy makers who have the right ideas in principle to go for half-measures in practice, and the way this timidity ends up backfiring, politically and even economically. In other words, Yeats had it right: the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

The Trans Pacific Partnership -- "A Race to the Bottom" -- & Kinda Like the Opium Wars. Joe Stiglitz in the New York Times: "When agreements like the TPP govern international trade -- when every country has agreed to similarly minimal regulations -- multinational corporations can return to the practices that were common before the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts became law (in 1970 and 1972, respectively) and before the latest financial crisis hit.... One of the reasons that we are in such bad shape [economically] is that we have mismanaged globalization. Our economic policies encourage the outsourcing of jobs." ...

     ... CW: Like contributor MAG, I meant to link this piece earlier. I've linked to other pieces that make many of the points Stiglitz does, but he succinctly weaves them together, & his creds should get Obama's attention, which is what he is attempting to do here: "Given that the president himself has emphasized that inequality should be the country's top priority, every new policy, program or law should be examined from the perspective of its impact on inequality." Also, thanks to the whistleblowers who have leaked some of the provisions of the secret TPP.

Alex Hern of the Guardian: "Microsoft has tightened up its privacy policy after admitting to reading emails from a journalist's Hotmail account while tracking down a leak. The new rules prevent the company from snooping on customers' communications without first convincing two legal teams, independent of the internal investigation, that they have evidence sufficient to obtain a court order were one applicable. The company did not apologise for the search.... The initial search occurred in September 2012, when the company was attempting to discover who had handed an anonymous blogger the source code to Windows 8, its then-upcoming operating system. It discovered that the blogger was using a Microsoft Hotmail email address, and that they had used it to send the code to a third party."

Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "Michelle Obama, on the first day of a good-will tour to China with her daughters and her mother, tried her hand on Friday at three quintessentially Chinese specialties: calligraphy, table tennis and mathematics. Her hostess was China's first lady -- though strictly speaking there is no such title in China -- Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping and a glamorous, nationally known singing star."

Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post: Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan banned Twitter -- which caused Twitter usage to explode. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "While Turkish users who try to access Twitter still see a government notice citing four court orders that authorize the ban, many are using VPNs to circumvent the block. The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey quickly became a top trend worldwide, and Twitter posted instructions on how to keep posting via text message...."

** Chauncey DeVega of AlterNet, in Salon, on the White Supremacy Party, a/k/a the GOP: "Colorblind racism inverts reality and distorts the facts. It involves denying that racism still exists as a serious social problem; black and brown people are limited in their life chances not because of institutional discrimination but because of their 'bad culture' or 'laziness'; white supremacy and systems of white racial advantage are dismissed as either exaggerated or non-existent; racism is reduced to mean words by white people, as opposed to systematic institutional discrimination against people of color."

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg is irreplaceable.... If anything, Ginsburg has been stronger in recent years than ever and has been a crisper, more urgent voice for women's rights, minority rights, affirmative action, and the dignity of those who often go unseen at the high court than ever before." Lithwick provides many links to articles urging & not urging Ginsburg to retire.

Internets "Journalism"

Sorry, Drudge. Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed: "The Drudge Report went big Thursday with KPHO reporter Catherine Anaya's story that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gets questions from reporters ahead of the daily press briefing in advance so he can prepare his answers. The story was false, and in an email to BuzzFeed, Anaya says the day of online speculation about it was 'my mistake and I own up to it.' ... Reporters who regularly attend White House briefings are not asked to provide questions in advance, nor are they given answers in advance."

Sexists, Right & Left, Attack BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray. Tom Kludt of TPM: Tucker Carlson & Patrick Howley of the Daily Caller have apologized & deleted offensive tweets. No apologies from Firedoglake, tho D. S. Wright, um, amended the language in his story from "[Eli] Lake may be pumping more than stories into Gray" to "may be having a romantic relationship with Gray." after BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith complained on Twitter.

style="font-size: 120%;">Congressional Races

** "Thank God for ObamaCare!" Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "... when [Scott Brown] stopped by the home of Herb Richardson, a Republican state representative..., Brown called Obamacare a 'monstrosity' that members of Congress didn't even bother to read before they passed. At that point, according to the Coos County Democrat, Richardson chimed in to explain that the law had been a 'financial lifesaver' for him and his wife.... '"Thank God for Obamacare!" [Mrs. Richardson] exclaimed.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Philip Messing, et al., of the New York Post: "The Freedom Tower, America's top terror target, doesn't have a single working surveillance camera inside -- a stunning security lapse that let a New Jersey teen roam the top floors undetected for two hours, The Post has learned. The video system for 1 World Trade Center 'won't be operational until the building opens later this year,' said a source familiar with the security plan."

** David Atkins of Hullabaloo: "DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas and the execrable Third Way are in a minor media tussle at the moment. Markos correctly pointed out that in both the House and Senate, the Democratic caucus has shifted significantly to the left over the last 10 years with the defeats of many conservative Democrats. The usual Third Way flacks Matt Bennett and Jim Kessler were Elizabeth Warren's form of economic populism and anti-Wall Street sentiment is that it's the most popular piece of the Democratic agenda."

News Ledes

AP: "A fire early Friday destroyed a New Jersey shore motel that was housing people displaced by Superstorm Sandy, killing four people and injuring eight, authorities said." The Star-Ledger story is here.

AP: "Israel's defense minister [Moshe Yaalon] has apologized to his U.S. counterpart [Chuck Hagel] for criticizing Washington and for calling it weak when it comes to its stance on Iran's nuclear program.... Earlier, he also criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, saying the top American diplomat was unrealistic and naive in trying to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. In a statement Thursday, the Defense Department said Hagel 'expressed deep concern' to Yaalon about his remarks. Kerry on Wednesday called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest Yaalon's remarks."

Guardian: "An Indian court sentenced four men to life in prison on Friday for raping a call-centre operator last year inside an abandoned textile mill in the financial hub of Mumbai."

Guardian: "Thailand's constitutional court has ruled that a general election held in February was invalid, setting the stage for a new vote and further deepening the country's political crisis. The judges voted by six to three to declare the 2 February election unconstitutional because voting was not held that day in 28 constituencies where anti-government protesters had prevented candidates from registering. The constitution says the election must be held on the same day nationwide."

Wednesday
Mar192014

The Commentariat -- March 20, 2014

David Herszenhorn & Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "Bowing to the reality of the Russian military occupation of Crimea a day after Russia announced it was annexing the disputed peninsula, the Ukrainian government said on Wednesday that it had drawn up plans to evacuate all of its military personnel and their families and was prepared to relocate as many as 25,000 of them to mainland Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and sailors have been trapped on military bases and other installations here for more than two weeks, surrounded by heavily armed Russian military forces and loosely organized local militia." ...

... Luke Baker of Reuters: "European leaders hold critical talks on Thursday about how to tighten the screws on Russia following its seizure of Crimea, how to support Ukraine's stricken economy and how best to wean themselves off Russian oil and gas in years to come." ...

... Marco Rubio has an op-ed in the Washington Post that doesn't sound insane & only mildly criticizes President Obama. But gives the President lots of advice. The op-ed appears to be Rubio's cover for voting for a bill that includes IMF reforms Republicans don't like. ...

... A terrific piece by Paul Waldman of the American Prospect, in the Washington Post, on how U.S. "tough guys" -- McCain & Co. -- "sound awfully weak" when you see what they would do differently on the Ukraine front. Waldman does cite Bill Kristol as an exception, a pundit (who of course has no responsibilities) longing for hot war.

Fernanda Santos of the New York Times: " A federal judge in Kansas on Wednesday ordered federal election authorities to help Kansas and Arizona require their voters to show proof of citizenship in state and local elections, in effect sanctioning a two-tier voter registration system that could well set a trend for other Republican-dominated states.... Judge [Eric] Melgren's decision holds particular significance this election year, as it could prevent thousands of people from voting just as the governorship and other major offices are on the ballot in both states.... The ruling takes effect immediately unless the courts grant a stay pending an appeal. The Justice Department said that it was reviewing the court's decision." Melgren is a George W. Bush appointee. ...

... Rick Hasan: "... in states which impose citizenship requirements, the streamlined path of voter registration just got a whole less streamlined." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "... there is no evidence that people who are in the country illegally want to vote, or have tried in any significant number. But that hasn't stopped Arizona and Kansas from insisting on proof of citizenship in order to register, knowing full well that the legitimate voters who will have the most trouble coming up with that proof tend to lean Democratic.... The requirement can be added to the long list of other stumbling blocks -- voter ID requirements, early voting cutbacks, stringent absentee ballot rules -- that have no civic purpose other than to give Republicans a political advantage."

The POTUS Is Black. He Should Act It. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said Wednesday that President Obama should be particularly wary of domestic spying, given the government's history of eavesdropping on civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., injecting the issue of race into the contentious debate over surveillance."

I find it ironic that the first African-American president has without compunction allowed this vast exercise of raw power by the N.S.A. -- Rand Paul, speaking at U.C. Berkeley.

I wonder if Li'l Randy finds it ironic that when it comes to spying, this POTUS acts pretty much like all those white POTUSes since Harry Truman. What's troubling the Little Philosopher here is that President Obama is not playing to stereotype. -- Constant Weader

CW: I missed this excellent piece by Tom Edsall of the New York Times on the Koch brothers defense of anonymous political campaign contributions: "It's interesting, to say the least, to see the Koch brothers -- each of whom is worth $36 billion -- summoning the founding fathers and the N.A.A.C.P. in defense of their policy of donor secrecy."

Linda Greenhouse: Context matters. "How far the Supreme Court should go to acknowledge the real-world context of its decisions is a question worth considering."

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency's widespread collection of data, contradicting months of angry denials from the firms. Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called 'upstream' collection of communications moving across the internet."

Babies Puke & Poop. Nicholas Kristof: A reality teevee show "16 & Pregnant," & its spinoffs have "been remarkably effective in cutting teenage births.... In no other developed country are teenagers as likely to get pregnant as the United States.But here's the good news: Teenage birthrates have plunged by 52 percent since 1991 -- one of America's great social policy successes, coming even as inequality and family breakdown have worsened."

Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "On the eve of a decision about his sentence on sexual misconduct and other charges, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair on Wednesday tearfully apologized to the women he had wronged, and to the Army where he had spent 27 years, saying that he 'felt a deep and abiding sense of shame and remorse. I have squandered a fortune of life’s blessings, blessings of family, work and friendship,' General Sinclair said, standing as he read a 366-word statement from behind a lectern inside a military courtroom at Fort Bragg."

Obama & Ellen talk Twitter records & dog poop. Oh, and health insurance:

News Ledes

CNN: "Fred Phelps -- the founding pastor of a Kansas church known for its virulently anti-gay protests at public events, including military funerals -- has died, the church said Thursday." ...

... WIBW, Topeka, Kansas: "Margie Phelps, Phelps daughter, told WIBW-AM that there will be no funeral for him."

New York Times: "The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, said on Thursday that satellite imagery had detected floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean that might be parts of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet that vanished on March 8. But he and an Australian rescue organizer both counseled caution about the sighting."

Washington Post: "Robert S. Strauss, a smooth-talking Texas lawyer and businessman who became a consummate political insider and played a key role in reviving the Democratic Party's fortunes after its landslide loss to Republicans in the 1972 election, died March 19 in Washington. He was 95."