The Ledes

Friday, July 25, 2014.

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a two-stage plan to halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip that would first impose a weeklong truce starting Sunday, an official involved in the negotiations said on Friday. As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending." ...

... AFP: "Israeli fire Friday pushed the Palestinian death toll in Gaza to above 800, as Washington pressed Israel and Hamas to agree a week-long humanitarian ceasefire and thrash out a durable truce."

AFP: "The United States on Thursday said it had evidence Russian forces were firing artillery from inside Russia on Ukrainian troops, in what officials called a 'clear escalation' of the conflict. Moscow is also planning to 'deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers' to the pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine, US deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said." ...

... AFP: "Ukraine's prime minister resigned after his governing coalition collapsed, plunging the former Soviet state into political limbo as it struggles to quell a deadly rebellion in the east.... Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he was stepping down over the "dissolution of the parliamentary coalition and the blocking of government initiatives" after several parties walked out on the ruling group. The collapse of the ruling coalition paves the way for early elections to be called by President Petro Poroshenko within 30 days."

New York Times: "As a detachment of French soldiers reached the crash site in Mali of an Air Algérie jetliner, officials in Paris said Friday that the accident was most likely weather-related and that the distribution of the wreckage over a limited area suggested that the plane probably hit the ground intact."


Guardian: "The Washington Post's correspondent in Tehran has been arrested along with his Iranian wife and two American photojournalists. Iranian judicial offficials confirmed on Friday that Jason Rezaian, who holds dual American and Iranian citizenship, had been detained and is under investigation."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, July 24, 2014.

New York Times: "A series of explosions at a school run by the United Nations sheltering hundreds of Palestinians who had fled their homes for safety from Israeli military assaults killed at least 16 people on Thursday afternoon and wounded many more. The cause was not immediately clear."

Bloomberg News: "Jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 284,000 in the week ended July 19, the fewest since February 2006 and lower than any economist surveyed by Bloomberg forecast...."

Guardian: "A flight operated by Air Algérie carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early on Thursday, the plane's owner said." ...

... New York Times UPDATE: "An Air Algérie jetliner with 116 people on board crashed early Thursday in a remote area of Mali near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, officials said."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Gaza crisis. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, many of them children.

Reuters: "A powerful Ukrainian rebel leader has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia. In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence."

Los Angeles Times: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday night lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
July 23

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the NAACP national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (audio only)

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

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


New Yorker illustration.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Commentariat -- June 27, 2014

NEW. Josh Lederman of the AP: "Blasting the GOP as wilfully indifferent to American struggles, President Barack Obama issued a rebuke Friday to Republican attempts to thwart his economic agenda, offering a stark contrast that Democrats hope will yield electoral success in November. Obama's remarks at a picturesque lake in Minneapolis were billed by the White House as a speech on the economy. But as Obama ripped into his political foes before 3,500 cheering supporters, the political undertones were less than subtle":

Adam Liptak, et al., of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court issued a unambiguous rebuke to President Obama on Thursday, saying he had overreached in issuing recess appointments during brief breaks in the Senate's work. The court was unanimous in saying that Mr. Obama had violated the Constitution in 2012 by appointing officials to the National Labor Relations Board during a break in the Senate's work when the chamber was convening every three days in short pro forma sessions in which no business was conducted. Those breaks were too short, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a majority opinion joined by the court's four other more liberal members. At the same time, the court largely reinstated an uneasy, centuries-long accommodation between the executive branch and the Senate, in which recess appointments were allowed during more substantial breaks. Justice Breyer said such appointments generally remained permissible so long as they were made during a break of 10 or more days." The ruling is here. ...

... Amy Howe of ScotusBlog explains the decision "in plain English." ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "Leaning heavily upon a long history of Congress and presidents finding ways -- sometimes clumsy -- to make the federal government work, and perhaps silently wishing for a day when they might do so again, a sharply divided Supreme Court on Thursday embraced a practical constitutional solution to filling temporary vacancies in U.S. government posts. Refusing to strip presidents of nearly all power to make such appointments, as four dissenters would have, the majority set some limits but still kept that authority mostly intact." ...

... David Atkins of Hullabaloo: "Honestly, recess appointments are antiquated holdover from the days before telecommunications and air travel. Allowing appointments during recess that cannot be accomplished during regular business should probably go the way of the telegraph. That said, an obstructionist Congress will now have an even easier time not only derailing a president's choice and agenda, but of hamstringing entire departments of government by simply not allowing appointments to be made at all. Which means that control of Congress is now an even bigger deal than it was before."

Adam Liptak: "The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that barred protests near abortion clinics. The law, enacted in 2007, created 35-foot buffer zones around entrances to abortion clinics. State officials said the law was a response to a history of harassment and violence at abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including a shooting rampage at two facilities in 1994. The law was challenged on First Amendment grounds by opponents of abortion who said they sought to have quiet conversations with women entering clinics to tell them about alternatives to abortion. The court was unanimous about the bottom line but divided on the reasoning. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote a relatively narrow majority opinion. He was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He suggested that the state could pursue other alternatives. Justice Antonin Scalia, in a concurrence joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, said the majority's approach was too tentative. The law, he said, is 'unconstitutional root and branch.' Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. filed a separate concurrence." Roberts' decision & other opinions are here. ...

... Lyle Denniston: "The lead opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in McCullen v. Coakley went to considerable lengths to suggest ways that cities or states could pass new laws to protect patient' access to abortion facilities. But all of those approaches, it appeared, would be to thwart actual obstruction, physical intrusion, or actual intimidation of patients, not the kind of 'counseling' that the Court found threatened by the Massachusetts law." ...

... Federal Appellate Judge Richard Posner (a conservative), on this & other recent cases: ".. .the opinion fetishizes First Amendment rights.... Who wants to be buttonholed on the sidewalk by 'uncomfortable message[s],' usually delivered by nuts? Lecturing strangers on a sidewalk is not a means by which information and opinion are disseminated in our society.... (Has Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the opinion, ever done such a thing?) The assertion that abortion protesters 'wish to converse' with women outside an abortion clinic is naive. They wish to prevent the women from entering the clinic, whether by showing them gruesome photos of aborted fetuses or calling down the wrath of God on them. This is harassment of people who are in a very uncomfortable position; the last thing a woman about to have an abortion needs is to be screamed at by the godly."

... In-Your-Face. Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Protesters will be allowed to crowd the sidewalks around the clinic and speak directly to patients -- something that can make people feel uncomfortable enough to avoid the clinic and skip out on the health services they need."

Laurence Tribe in Slate: "Even when the court agrees 9–0 over a case's holding, it can divide, sometimes sharply, over the reasoning and rule to be applied. And it is precisely this sort of division that we see in both Noel Canning and McCullen. A look at the two cases together illustrates the need to dig deeper to understand what this week's unanimous decisions are really all about." Justice Scalia's "concurrences," one of which he read from the bench, are really dissents.

Kate Nocera of BuzzFeed: "One year after the Supreme Court struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Congress is nowhere near close to moving forward with restoring a federal approval requirement for certain voting process changes. While Democratic leaders rallied this week to urge Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA) -- a law to rewrite the section 4 formula -- a top House Republican [-- Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) --] said Thursday the bill wasn't going to move quickly, if at all."

The suit is a stunt. -- President Obama, on Boehner's lawsuit

... Benjamin Bell of ABC News: "Despite Republican House Speaker John Boehner's threat this week to sue President Obama over his use of executive orders, the president refused to apologize for his actions during an exclusive interview with ABC News and took the Republican Party to task for what he described as its attempt to interfere with the basic functions of government.... 'I'm not going to apologize for trying to do something while they're doing nothing,' the president added later." ...

     ... Update: Here's the interview, as broadcast this morning:

... ** Steve M.: "Why do you think Boehner got through primary season without a scratch this year, while Eric Cantor lost his job and Thad Cochran nearly did? It's because Boehner knows how toss the ravenous rubes large chunks of red meat." Also, Boehner's lawsuit against Obama, besides being made of red meat, "could be taken very, very seriously in the federal courts." Steve provides a history lesson on why. ...

... Paul Waldman, in the American Prospect, is not as impressed with Boehner's suit as are Jonathan Capehart of the WashPo (see links in yesterday's Commentariat) & Steve M.: "... it'll be an intensely partisan document whose purpose is to shake a fist at the president Republicans so despise, and it'll get tossed out of court and thrown in the dustbin where it belongs, one more futile, angry gesture from an opposition that has lost the ability to offer anything else."

Elias Isquith of Salon: "Speaking with NBC's David Gregory during an interview that will run in full during this Sunday's edition of 'Meet the Press,' former President Bill Clinton argued that there is something 'unseemly' about former Vice President Dick Cheney's willingness to criticize President Obama for the chaos and dysfunction that's still plaguing Iraq.... Clinton emphatically rejected the question's premise, saying, 'If [the second Bush administration] hadn't gone to war in Iraq none of this would be happening'":

... Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post: "How the Clintons went from 'dead broke' to rich: Bill earned $104.9 million for speeches. Bill "Clinton has leveraged his global popularity into a personal fortune. Starting just two weeks after exiting the Oval Office, Clinton has delivered hundreds of paid speeches, lifting a family that was 'dead broke,' as wife Hillary Rodham Clinton phrased it earlier this month, to a point of such extraordinary wealth that it is now seen as a potential political liability if she runs for president in 2016." ...

... "Out of Context"/Out of a Job. Jon Herskovitz of Reuters: "Johnny Rhoda, who was chairman of the Republican Party in the Second Congressional District in Arkansas ... has resigned after telling a magazine former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would 'probably get shot' if she returned to the state where she was a lawyer and served as first lady, officials said on Thursday.... U.S. Representative Tim Griffin, a Republican who represents the district, labeled Rhoda's comments offensive and inappropriate and called for his resignation."

Tim Egan: Land of the free. Where a Washington state family & friend (the husband is 70) may go to jail for 10 years under mandatory sentencing laws for growing pot for medicinal purposes -- in a state where growing pot is legal.

David Stout of the New York Times: "Howard H. Baker Jr., a soft-spoken Tennessee lawyer who served three terms in the Senate and became known as 'the great conciliator' in his eight years as the chamber's Republican leader, died on Thursday at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88." ...

... The Washington Post obituary, by James Gerstenzang, is here. ...

Matt Lauer of NBC News demonstrates how to ask a successful woman a series of sexist questions. Lesson 1: Begin with "Some people say...." See, it's not your fault. Hell, you hadda ask. People are talking. Lesson 2: Imply you're not a raving chauvinist. Say something like, "I want to tread lightly here," before asking the next blatantly sexist question. Lesson 3: After the fact, think up a lame defense for this shit & post it on Facebook. Pretend you "relate." ...

... And Matt, sweetie-pie, never you mind that digby awards you Moron o' the Day status & labels your lame defense bullshit. It's just outrageous the way powerful women like digby pick on men who are only trying to "relate."

Right Wing World

The Boundless Intellectual Dishonesty of Right Wing World. Brian Beutler of the New Republic: Whether or not those missing Lois Lerner e-mails are retrieved, & no matter what is in them, the right will cry Scandal! Coverup! "Heads I win, tails you lose." Beutler calls this "maddening illogic." ...

... Boundless Intellectual Dishonesty, Ctd. Jonathan Chait: "A couple months ago, conservatives had an aha! moment when an initial report suggested that health-care spending had spiked in the first quarter of 2014. A one-time jump in health-care spending had been expected all along, but its arrival brought a chorus of triumphant cries from the right.... But the ... revised data shows that health-care spending actually shrank in the first quarter." So now right-wing pundits -- including the Wall Street Journal editors -- are screaming that the reduction in healthcare costs are ruining the economy. No matter what the facts are, ObamaCare is destroying America! ...

... Paul Krugman: "The Affordable Care Act has receded from the front page, but information about how it's going keeps coming in -- and almost all the news is good.... What's interesting about this success story is that it has been accompanied at every step by cries of impending disaster.... While it has been funny watching the right-wing cling to its delusions about health reform, it's also scary. After all, these people retain considerable ability to engage in policy mischief, and one of these days they may regain the White House. And you really, really don't want people who reject facts they don't like in that position. I mean, they might do unthinkable things, like starting a war for no good reason. Oh, wait." ...

... CW: In fairness to right-wing loons, I should add that, to a much lesser extent, this illogical, conspiracy-laden mindset exists on the left, too. The other day I was directed to a blogpost that asserted that President Obama was secretly the brains behind the recent media rollout of Iraq War hawks because he figured they would make a good case for getting the U.S. involved in military ops in Iraq again, which is what he really, really wants. Uh-huh. Maybe Obama is also the brains behind the reputed Armenian who hacked my Google account because he wants to rile up Americans to support an American-military-led Armenian coup.

CW: Ha! In a comment in yesterday's Commentariat, Kate M. wrote that as a boy, Ken Cuccinelli was a lousy soccer player. I replied, "Well, soccer is kind of a sissy European-y sport, anyway. These days, Cooch [i.e., Ken Cuccinelli] is more into manly GOP pursuits; like shooting doves at one of those phony Cheney-type hunting farms." ...

... Sure, enough, comes now the lovely Ann Coulter to back me up. And then some. Elias Isquith: "In her latest syndicated column right-wing troll and pundit Ann Coulter rails against the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S., which she blames on a pro-soccer liberal media and America's millions of immigrants. 'Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay,' Coulter writes before listing all of the reasons why she thinks soccer sucks.

... CW: I am getting way too good at channeling crazy bigots. ...

     ... Update. Well, not as smart as I thought. Apparently one can become a Doctor of Conspiracy, which trumps me. Dr. Keith Ablow (no idea what kinda doctor he actually is) said on a Fox "News" show that he suspected the purpose of all the hoo-hah over the World Cup matches was to district Americans from paying attention to all of President Obama's problems.

Beyond the Beltway

James Hohmann of Politico: "A Wisconsin special prosecutor clarified Thursday that GOP Gov. Scott Walker was not the target of his investigation into what he described in earlier court papers as a 'criminal scheme.'"

Eric Russell of the Portland Press-Herald: Maine Gov. Paul LePage (RTP), unhappy because federal stats show Maine had the worst income-growth rate in New England & one of the worst in the nation, largely because Maine refuses to accept the ACA Medicaid expansion, simply eliminated federal payments from the stats -- payments from Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, etc., called them all "welfare, pure and simple," then recalculated the income figures -- a "welfare-free" recalculation that made Maine appear to be in line with other New England states. CW: I wonder if LePage's old fart Tea Party backers will be upset to find out he considers them welfare moochers. His opponents hope s & are milking his remarks.

Legal Corruption/Business as Usual in New Jersey. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Corporations that contributed millions of dollars to the Chris Christie-led Republican Governors Association and other GOP campaigns have received public funding deals worth almost $1.25bn from his New Jersey administration in less than two years. A review of the 30 biggest corporate subsidies awarded by the state of New Jersey since Christie appointed one of his closest allies as head of the state's 'bank for business' found that 21 went to ventures involving firms that made significant donations to Republicans, or had senior executives who did.... The Guardian's findings prompted calls from Democratic state legislators and watchdog groups for reforms to the New Jersey economic development authority (EDA), which awards the subsidies and is led by Michele Brown, a close friend and veteran aide to Christie."

Monica Davey of the New York Times: "In a city that desperately needs to hold onto residents, there is a virtual pipeline out [of Detroit]. At least 70,000 foreclosures have taken place since 2009 because of delinquent property taxes. And more than 43,000 properties -- more than one in 10 in this city -- were subject to foreclosure this year, some of them headed for a public auction where prices can start as low as $500.... Several factors have brought the city to the point that crucial revenues are not being collected and thousands of houses are being taken away each year -- not by banks..., but by the government, for failure to pay taxes. Contributing are soaring rates of poverty, high taxes despite painfully diminished city services and a long pattern of lackadaisical tax collection by the city." ...

... Liz Dwyer of Take Part: "Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department has begun turning off the taps of 150,000 residents who are at least two months behind on payments. People are being left without a drop to drink and no ability to bathe or use the toilet. Now a coalition of water and human rights activists has banded together to ask the United Nations to step in and end the disconnections."

News Ledes

Detroit Free Press: "General Motors late Friday said it will recall 446,066 four-wheel drive pickups and SUVs to prevent them from rolling away when the transfer case accidentally shifts into neutral. These are among the company's best-selling and most profitable vehicles, including the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban SUVs from the 2014 and 2015 model years. It's the 48th recall for the company so far this year, covering more than 20 million vehicles, a record." CW: None of this would have happened if GM CEO Mary Barra were a better mother.

New York Times: "Iraq's top Shiite cleric on Friday urged the country's divided political factions to select a prime minister by early next week in a public call for a political solution that increases the pressure on the embattled prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Speaking from the holy city of Karbala, Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalaie, a cleric representing Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on Iraq's political blocs to select a new leader before the recently elected Parliament sits on Monday."

AP: "President Barack Obama is seeking to bolster U.S. efforts to train and arm select members of the Syrian opposition, a move that comes amid increased U.S. concern that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are becoming an intertwined fight against the same Sunni extremist group. Obama sent Congress a $500 million request Thursday for a Pentagon-run program that would significantly expand previous covert efforts to arm rebels fighting both the Sunni extremists and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad."

AP: "Ukraine's new president signed a trade and economic pact with the European Union on Friday, pushing his troubled country closer into a European orbit and angering Russia, which warned of unspecified consequences."


The Commentariat -- June 26, 2014

Since you suspicious lot are not buying the scam financial & dietary products I've been hawking here, I have tried yet another stunt to lose my Armenian "business partner." I'll give it a day to see if Stunt 2 works. -- Marie of Armenia

Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Wednesday that he intended to initiate a federal lawsuit seeking to declare President Obama’s executive orders as an unconstitutional power grab by one branch of the government." ...

... Dana Milbank: "To sue the president, Republicans are tying themselves in ideological knots. After howling about excessive lawsuits, they are embracing long-shot litigation. After lamenting activist judges, they are now insisting that judges be more activist and shed their long-standing reluctance to adjudicate disputes between the elected branches.... But the real problem with the lawsuit approach is that it misunderstands the cause of the problem: congressional dysfunction." ...

... Jonathan Capehart has a terrific post on the GOP's history of moves to obstruct President Obama (and government in general, of course), of which this latest is only one. And, yeah, crazy ol' George Will is still in the loop; his advocacy last weekend for just such a move certainly did not spring from the head of Zeus George. ...

... Capehart has a follow-up post which features this chart from the Brookings Institution:

CLICK ON THE CHART TO SEE A LARGER IMAGE.     ... Capehart, citing Brookings: "Republicans are right: President Obama is absolutely unique … in how infrequently he issues them! The last president to issue executive orders at such a slow rate was Grover Cleveland who served from 1885-1889 & 1893-1897. What’s more, Republican complaints about President Obama’s use of such powers is a bit ironic, given historically Republican presidents use executive orders more frequently." As for Capehart, he call Boehner's lawsuit "a dress rehearsal for Obama’s impeachment." ...

    ... CW: Worth Noting: there are executive orders & executive orders. While I suspect the chart is a more-or-less accurate reflection of presidential assertion, if, for instance, FDR had limited his orders to fixing the date of Thanksgiving Day (he didn't) while Dubya had used them solely for starting wars (he didn't), then the chart would be meaningless. A chart of "meaningful" or "substantive" orders would be highly subjective. One might be able to put a dollar value to each order -- though again conclusions would be nebulous -- but even then, does an order that saves $1BB cancel out one that costs $1BB, or is the total there $2BB? 

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest. While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies." The opinion, by Chief Justice Roberts, is here. ...

... Amy Howe of ScotusBlog explains the ruling "in plain English." ...

... In Salon, Marcy Wheeler links the decision with the Snowden disclosures (and to an earlier Sotomayor opinion). CW: I'm surprised others have not remarked on the Snowden connection. As for this being a liberal opinion, I'm not so sure. I think conservatives have always been attuned to privacy rights, though it's tough for them because they love the police state law-and-order so much.

... CW: In a column titled "The Supreme Court Justices Have Cellphones, Too," Linda Greenhouse amplifies what I wrote a few days ago about conservatives lacking empathy: "I had planned to conclude my discussion of the court and the search cases with a mention of 'empathy,' the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, so often missing from the Supreme Court’s criminal law decisions but perhaps on display here. But on reflection, it’s not really empathy. The justices are walking in their own shoes. The ringing cellphone could be theirs — or ours."

Adam Liptak & Emily Steel of the New York Times: "In a case with far-reaching implications for the television industry, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Aereo, a start-up streaming service, had violated copyright laws by capturing broadcast signals on miniature antennas and delivering them to subscribers for a fee. The 6-3 decision was a victory for the major television networks, which had argued that Aereo’s business model amounted to a theft of their programming. The judges’ ruling leaves the current broadcast model intact while imperiling Aereo’s viability as a business after just over two years in existence.... In a dissent that expressed distaste for Aereo’s business model, Justice Antonin Scalia said the service had identified a loophole in the law. “It is not the role of this court to identify and plug loopholes,” he wrote.Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the dissent." The opinion, written by Justice Breyer, is here. ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog analyzes the opinion.

Hannah Fairfield & Adam Liptak of the New York Times on the liberal views of individual justices, based on their 2013 opinions:

CW: Sam Alito & Clarence Thomas are liberal 40 percent of the time. Really? This would get the right wing a-squawkin' -- if they only read the Times.

Jessica Miller, et al., of the Salt Lake Tribune: "A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that states outlawing same-sex marriage are in violation of the U.S. Constitution. By upholding a Utah judge’s decision, a three-member panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver became the first appeals court in the nation to rule on the issue, setting a historic precedent that voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment rights of same-sex couples to equal protection and due process. But the court immediately stayed the implementation of its decision, pending an anticipated appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Utah attorney general’s office said Wednesday it will initiate that appeal."

Steve Benen: "This was the worst quarter for economic growth since the first quarter of 2009 – when the economy was facing a massive crisis. So, is this GDP report cause for alarm? It’s certainly not good news, but for a few reasons, it’s probably best to keep the handwringing in check. For one thing, most economists and financial-industry analysts expect the economy to bounce back in the second quarter, which ends next week." Also, unlike in 2009, the economy is adding jobs, not hemorrhaging them.

Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "The Office of Congressional Ethics, in a preliminary review, unanimously concluded in March that there was 'substantial reason to believe that Representative [Michael] Grimm [R-N.Y.] threatened a reporter with bodily harm and engaged in a threatening or menacing act that created a fear of immediate injury,' which would violate local law in the District of Columbia as well as House ethics rules. The investigation took place after Mr. Grimm, a second-term Republican from Staten Island and a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, threatened to 'break' a NY1 reporter and throw him off a House office building balcony at the end of a television interview with the reporter. Any further investigation of the threats against the NY1 reporter, Michael Scotto, is being put off at the request of federal criminal investigators. They separately charged Mr. Grimm with fraud in April...." ...

... CW: It's reassuring to know, isn't it, that members of Congress find this kind of behavior unethical? --

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "More than four dozen Iraqi citizens are scheduled to travel to Washington to testify in court against the former Blackwater guards who they say fired wildly on unarmed citizens, leaving 17 Iraqis dead."

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a 'slippery slope' into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.The group found that more than a decade into the era of armed drones, the American government has yet to carry out a thorough analysis of whether the costs of routine secret killing operations outweigh the benefits."

Maya Rhodan of Time: "The Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that two senior officials are stepping down next week as the agency looks to rebound from a scandal over concealing long wait times for veterans to get care. The VA said the resignation of Will A. Gunn, the current General Counsel, and the replacement of Dr. Robert Jesse, the acting Under Secretary for Health, are 'aimed at accelerating Veterans’ access to quality health care and rebuilding the trust of America’s Veterans.'”

Oboy. Another Issa-generated scandal: the EPA can't retrieve some 2009 e-mails Darrell Issa says he has to have. This Lost E-Mails thing is a bonanza for him. He can just keep asking agencies for more e-mails. Not infrequently, he'll find out their antiquated archival system crashed. Then he calls a presser & yells SCANDAL!!! COVER-UP!!! Why, Issa hard has to do any work at all. ...

... Dave Weigel: "New IRS Scandal: Lois Lerner Thought About Doing Something, Then Didn’t Do It."

Ari Rabin-Havt, in Salon: WalMart "fact-checks" Tim Egan's last column -- with anecdotes. Or less.

Senate Race

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: In helping Republican Sen. Thad Cochran win the GOP primary against Tea party challenger Chris McDaniel, Mississippi's black voters remember the martyred Rev. George Lee of Belzoni, who fought for black voting rights in the 1950s. “'I’m sure that George Lee would be smiling at the impact that black voters have had in trying to determine the next senator for the state of Mississippi, 50 years after the Freedom Summer, and the passage of the civil rights bill,” []Wardell] Walton, who served as mayor [of Belzoni] from 2005 to 2013, said in a telephone interview after the polls closed. 'His life and death was not in vain.'” ...

... Harry Enten of Five-Thirty-Eight: "... we have county-level results to go on, and that data [sic.] suggests that traditionally Democratic voters provided Cochran with his margin of victory." ...

... Here's Another Way to Put It. Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Conservative Freakout Blames 'Uncle Tom' And Voter Fraud For McDaniel Loss." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Now it’s time for Mr. Cochran to return the favor by supporting a stronger Voting Rights Act and actively working to reduce his party’s extreme antigovernment policies." ...

     ... Update: Sam Levine of the Huffington Post: "In an interview with HuffPost Live, Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, said that Cochran could thank black voters by supporting efforts to re-establish protections in the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down last year." As Johnson points out, Cochran would have lost if not for the civil rights movement's efforts to restore voting rights to black Southerners.

Anna Palmer of Politico: "On Wednesday afternoon, [McDaniel's] campaign released a statement saying they would look into 'irregularities' before deciding whether to challenge his loss." ...

Ken Cuccinelli, dove hunting in King George's County, Va., during his losing campaign for governor.... CW: My favorite part of Palmer's report: "Senate Conservatives Fund’s Ken Cuccinelli hung up on a POLITICO reporter when asked if they would consider challenging the result in court." Emphasis added. I recall Kate Madison's saying that Little Kenny had obnoxiously good manners. Apparently he got over that. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... what these birds are really complaining about is black participation in a 'white primary.' This is certainly not an argument consistent with broadening the appeal of the GOP or the conservative movement."

Yo, Chris. The GOP Presidential Primaries Are for Losers, Too. Steve M. thinks McDaniel is setting his sights way too low: "He should declare himself a Republican candidate for president. He should say he's taking on the entire party establishment.... Could he actually win it? Maybe not -- but just being a contender would open up a much more elevated level of right-wing grift to him. Go for it, Chris. Visit Iowa and New Hampshire soon."

Dave Weigel of Slate: Actually, the Tea party has had a pretty bad primary season all around, Eric Cantor's defeat notwithstanding. ...

... Molly Ball of the Atlantic. "The Tea party blew it.... Tuesday's Republican primaries were the Tea Party's last chance. And the Tea Party struck out. In Mississippi, challenger Chris McDaniel failed to dethrone six-term incumbent Senator Thad Cochran in the second round of their hard-fought contest. In Oklahoma, Representative James Lankford won by a massive margin over conservative favorite T.W. Shannon. The Tea Party industrial complex — groups like the Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks, figures like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz — invested heavily in both races and came up short. Now both of these red states will almost assuredly send Republican senators to Washington who owe the national Tea Party nothing, and quite likely wish it ill.... In state after state this Republican primary season—particularly in Senate races—candidates acceptable to the party's business wing have defeated, co-opted, or marginalized right-wing populists." ...

... Palin, of course, remains the gracious, articulate loser she always was. ...

     ... CW: Funny thing is, it sounds to me as if the towns of the Mississippi Delta where people came out to vote for Cochran are precisely the sort of places Palin had in mind when she described "real America":

We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. -- Sarah Palin, in Greensboro, North Carolina, October 2008

Whatevah could be the difference?

OR, Maybe Gail Collins Gets It Right: "Nobody came straight out and said: 'Look, Mississippi gets three bucks back from the federal government for every dollar we send in. Don’t kill the golden goose.' But the message was pretty clear, and in some ways a little revolutionary. Like voters in many poor, conservative states, Mississippians have spent decades happily deluding themselves that they’re victims of Washington rather than its top beneficiaries. You could argue that Thad Cochran staged an intervention for his state’s residents, in which he pierced, at least temporarily, their veil of denial."

Congressional Race

Kate Taylor of the New York Times: "Representative Charles B. Rangel, the Harlem Democrat who said he wanted to be able to decide on his own when to retire from a career in Congress that began in 1971, held off a determined challenge by State Senator Adriano D. Espaillat to win the primary for a run for a 23rd term. Mr. Rangel’s lead of about 1,800 votes in the primary held on Tuesday was enough to overcome any gains Mr. Espaillat could make in the counting of absentee and affidavit ballots filled out by voters at the polls, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday afternoon, citing new information from the New York City Board of Elections. Mr. Rangel had 47.4 percent of the vote; Mr. Espaillat, 43.6 percent."


The Commentariat -- June 25, 2014

Martin Matishak of the Hill: "Republican lawmakers tasked with finalizing legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Department slammed an independent cost estimate of the revamp on Tuesday. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Senate bill, passed earlier this month, would cost $35 billion, and up to $50 billion if the measure was fully implemented after two years. The budget office said a similar measure adopted by the House would cost $44 billion.... Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, has said the bill would cost $2 billion and would be paid for through emergency funds. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who hammered out the Senate version of the legislation with Sanders, called the estimate 'wildly inaccurate' if looked at from a 'rational viewpoint.'" CW: Okay, so somewhere between $2BB & $50BB, give or take.

... Daniel Neuhauser of Roll Call: "Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told Republicans Tuesday he could have an announcement within days on whether the House will file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, challenging the executive actions that have become the keystone of the administration. The lawsuit could set up a significant test of constitutional checks and balances, with the legislative branch suing the executive branch for ignoring its mandates, and the judiciary branch deciding the outcome."

Cruel Nation. Charles Pierce: "... there is something different abroad in the politics now, perhaps because we are in the middle of an era of scarcity and because we have invested ourselves in a timid culture of austerity and doubt. The system seems too full now of opportunities to grind and to bully. We have politicians, most of whom will never have to work another day in their lives, making the argument seriously that there is no role in self-government for the protection and welfare of the political commonwealth as that term applies to the poorest among us."

Zeke Miller of Time: Dick Cheney keeps talking, has no regrets about Iraq. Also, fond of Egypt's President al-Sisi, who unceremoniously deposed the last elected president.

Today in Officially Encouraging Assassination. David Catanese of U.S. News: "Asked how [Hillary] Clinton would fare in Arkansas if she pursued the presidency in 2016, 2nd Congressional District chairman Johnny Rhoda [R] told U.S. News, 'She'd probably get shot at the state line.'" ...

     ... Update. Ha Ha, Just Kidding about the Assassination Thing. Colin Campbell of Business Insider: "'That comment was taken way out of context.... It certainly was not meant in a threatening or hostile way at all. It was just a comment. Perhaps I used the wrong word,' Second Congressional District Chairman Johnny Rhoda told Business Insider on Tuesday. 'It was completely blown out of proportion.' Rhoda, who has been described as a prominent member of his state's Republican Party, did not dispute the accuracy of the quote.... [U.S. News Reporter David] Catanese disputed the notion that the quote was taken out of context. 'Oh, yes, "taken out of context,'" Catanese wrote to Business Insider, dryly. 'As in -- taken out of our on-the-record conversation and into print.'" ...

... CW Note to Yahoos on the Meaning of "Out of Context." If I say, "How will Hillary fare in Arkansas?" and you say, "She'll be shot," the remark is in context. Asked & answered. If you make a long, rambling reply, & somewhere in there you say, "It's shocking, I know, but I've heard people say she'll be shot," then isolating "she'll be shot" as a stand-alone remark would be taking it out of context & would misrepresent your meaning & intent. You weren't saying "she'll be shot"; you've heard other people say that, & you're not condoning the sentiment nor suggesting it is your own. Catanese did not misrepresent Rhoda's remark; he did not take it out of context. ...

     ... Context is also circumstance. You could find hundreds of instances of Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert's making horribly antisocial remarks. But when you find out they're making those remarks on satirical TV shows, you realize they mean something entirely different. Of course context is usually more subtle than that. If I were a Hillary supporter, for instance, & I said, "She'll be shot," I'd be saying it as a warning of the hostile, dangerous environment which Rhoda & his ilk have created. The context here is my general point-of-view & is not limited to a particular Q&A. ...

... Ann Friedman in New York on how men -- and the NRA -- compare & contrast guns and women. It's all about control. CW: I connected this to the "She'll be shot" story for a reason.

Brett Logiurato of Business Insider: "Analysts are starting to warn about the possibility of the second government shutdown in two years, due to the looming fight over the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.... The dispute over the bank has made some unusual allies -- the White House and the Republican establishment-friendly Chamber of Commerce both pressed the case for the bank's renewal on Monday.... Four top House Republicans are opposed to reauthorizing the bank -- [Kevin] McCarthy, incoming House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). But their Republican counterparts in the Senate -- as well as Republican governors -- have been more supportive in public statements about the bank. Moreover, GOP senators wouldn't want to risk a shutdown with a Senate majority on the line."

Drones! Not so Much. Sam Frizell of Time: "The Federal Aviation Administration is upholding a ban on using drones for commercial purposes, including delivering packages, according to a memo released this week. The FAA has long said that commercial drone use is illegal, but a federal judge ruled in March that the FAA must accept public comment before adopting the rules, according to Ars Technica. The recent memo is a call for public input on its rules."

Congressional Races

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "With an unusual assist from African-American voters and other Democrats who feared his opponent, Senator Thad Cochran on Tuesday beat back a spirited challenge from State Senator Chris McDaniel, triumphing in a Republican runoff and defeating the Tea Party in the state where the movement's hopes were bright." ...

... Geoff Pender, et al., of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger: "But McDaniel didn't concede Tuesday night and in a speech to supporters referenced 'dozens of irregularities' in voting Tuesday and indicated he would challenge the results over Democrats voting in the Republican primary." CW: Because sometimes what's both legal & common practice is unfair. Ya know, Chris, that's what the South is all about. It's just that you're not usually on the short end of the unfair stick.

Nikita Stewart of the New York Times: "Representative Charles B. Rangel, seeking a 23rd term, held a slim lead in a fierce battle early Wednesday with State Senator Adriano D. Espaillat in their primary election contest, a rematch that was largely fought along ethnic and generational lines. With 100 percent of precincts reporting after 1 a.m., Mr. Rangel led by just over 1,800 votes, or 47.4 percent to 43.6 percent."

Gubernatorial Race

John Wagner & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown cruised past his two rivals in Maryland's bitter Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, setting up a November contest with GOP nominee Larry Hogan, a Cabinet secretary under the state's last Republican chief executive. Brown, who would be Maryland's first African American governor and only the third elected in the nation, received about half the Democratic vote in an election marked by lackluster voter interest."

As much as it hurts my feelings, I am embedding the video -- mentioned in today's Comments -- of John Oliver's segment exposing the sale of unregulated dietary supplements. I take umbrage at Oliver's position because, as some readers have learned, I am inadvertently hawking this shit myself (see yesterday's Commentariat; also James S.'s comment on same). -- Marie of Armenia

... P.S. If you're still getting ads purportedly from me, let me know.

News Ledes

AP: "Sanctions aimed at key economic sectors in Russia because of its threatening moves in Ukraine might be delayed because of positive signals from Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Obama administration officials."

Hill: "The U.S. economy felt the worst aftershock of the recession yet in the first quarter of the year, shrinking 2.9 percent. The third and final revision of Commerce Department data shows the quarter, weighed down by a brutal winter, was even worse economically than previously thought. The government had estimated the economy shrank by 1 percent in the first three months of the year. The last time the economy shrank by so much was in 2009, when the nation was still in the midst of a recession."

AFP: "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday ruled out forming a national emergency government to confront a Sunni militant offensive that has overrun large parts of the country." ...

... The Hill: "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday rejected calls to create a new national unity government that the Obama administration has been pushing.... Al-Maliki, however, said he is still committed to launching the process that would form a new government.... Secretary of State John Kerry received a commitment from al-Maliki at a meeting in Baghdad on Monday that he would initiate the process by July 1 that would pave the way for a new government."

New York Times: "Eli Wallach, who was one of his generation's most prominent and prolific character actors in film, onstage and on television for more than 60 years, died on Tuesday. He was 98."


The Commentariat -- June 24, 2014

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania

-- Dorothy Parker, 1937

No, I am not selling Asian fruit that burns fat. Google sent me a notice early Monday morning that someone in Armenia was using my old password to access my gmail account. Google told me to change the password immediately, which I did. Two Several readers, however, have written to me that they got crazy messages "from" me delivered hours after I changed my password. I may have to cancel the account, but I'll give it a day or two. Meanwhile, I can't tell who's getting what, as the offending e-mails don't show up in my "sent" mailbox. -- Marie of Armenia

Odd Men Out.... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday handed President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency a victory in its efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants, even as it criticized what it called the agency's overreaching. 'E.P.A. is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,' Justice Antonin Scalia said in summarizing the decision from the bench. '... Under our holdings, E.P.A. will be able to regulate sources responsible for 83 percent of those emissions.' ... That part of the decision, which effectively sustained regulation of nearly all the sources the agency had sought to regulate, was decided by a 7-to-2 vote. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined that part of the decision.... Another part of the decision rejected, in harsh terms, the agency's primary rationale for the regulations.... 'An agency has no power to "tailor" legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms,] Justice Scalia wrote. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined that part of the decision, which was decided by a 5-to-4 vote." ...

... Scott Lemieux of the American Prospect: "As Justice Breyer notes in his persuasive dissent, the EPA's response is preferable to Scalia's reading of the law: 'What sense does it make to read the Act as generally granting the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and then to read it as denying that power with respect to the programs for large stationary sources at issue here?' ... Having said that, the majority's opinion (which is notably lacking in the conservative talk radio-style pronouncements that have increasingly saturated Scalia's work) could have been much worse." CW: Yo, Scott. Scalia doesn't have to make sense. All that science stuff is just theory. So whatever. ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog translates the rulings. Excellent explanation, as usual. ...

... New York Times Editors: "The Clean Air Act is a complex and often confusing piece of legislation, especially when it comes to confronting the challenges of global warming, which were not fully understood when the original law was passed in 1970.... The case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. E.P.A., preserves the government's ability to confront global warming while also demonstrating Congress's persistent failure to update the law to meet modern needs. In the absence of congressional action, the E.P.A. was left alone to deal with an impossible situation." ...

... CW: The EPA is trying to confront the realities identified by today's scientists under the restrictions of a law that is older than the majority of Americans (and many of the scientists). Think of that. If we had a real Congress, when the Supreme Court -- rightly or wrongly -- identified a technical difficulty with a law, & that's really what this is, the Congress would just update the law to eliminate the snafu. But we have what we have: a Fred Flintstone Congress.

Kevin Freking of the AP: " A top federal investigator has identified 'a troubling pattern of deficient patient care' at Veterans Affairs facilities around the country that she says was pointed out by whistleblowers but downplayed by the department. The problems went far beyond the extraordinarily long wait time for some appointments -- and the attempts to cover them up -- that has put the department under intense scrutiny. In a letter Monday to President Barack Obama, Carolyn Lerner of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel cited canceled appointments with no follow up, drinking water contaminated with the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease and improper handling of surgical equipment and supplies. One veteran was admitted to a long-term mental health facility but didn't get a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation for eight years." ...

... The New York Times story, by Richard Oppel, is here.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Representative Darrell Issa of California, the Republican who is leading one of the investigations into the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of Tea Party groups, accused the I.R.S. commissioner on Monday of lying, an allegation that only deepened the partisan mistrust about the motivations behind the numerous congressional inquiries into the matter." Read the whole article. ...

It's vile enough to look a man in the face and accuse him of perjury without submitting any evidence. It is much worse when all the evidence supports the version of the facts of the man you are facing. -- Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-W.D.C.-non-voting) to Issa

Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Winding up a day of crisis talks with Iraqi leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the Sunni militants seizing territory in Iraq had become such a threat that the United States might not wait for Iraqi politicians to form a new government before taking military action."

Matea Gold & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "... campaign strategists and legal experts nationwide are closely watching the inquiry [into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's loosey-goosey campaign coordination with the Wisconsin Club for Grown, Karl Rove, etc.] as a major test of what practices cross the line in the loosely governed and increasingly murky area of big-money politics.' Gold & Hamburger try to explain the intricacies of Walker's escapades & how various "non-profits" coordinate with candidates & other political groups. ...

... CW: The best explanation I saw, however, of the bizarre campaign finance laws & their applications was this one by Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart -- who had super-PACs -- & their campaign attorney Trevor Potter:

... Thanks, Supremes! You shmucks.

Drones! Part 2. Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "The number of [drone] accidents [within the U.S.] has jumped as the military has brought back drones from overseas and operated them more frequently in airspace shared with civilian planes. The military has almost tripled the number of hours its drones have flown annually in shared U.S. airspace since 2011, according to federal data."

Drones! Part 3. Craig Whitlock: There has been "a rash of dangerous encounters between civilian airplanes and drones flown in contravention of FAA rules intended to safeguard U.S. airspace. Hazardous occurrences are becoming more frequent as more drones -- legal and illegal -- take to the skies, according to a yearlong investigation by The Washington Post."

ACLU: "In response to a court order in consolidated Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times, the Obama administration has released a key Justice Department legal memo on U.S. targeted killing operations. The July 2010 memo was the basis for the government's extrajudicial killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, in 2011. In the memo, the government claims broad authority to kill American terrorism suspects without judicial process or geographic limitation." The memo is here.

Conservatives Finally Admit Why They Hate ObamaCare: It Helps Poor People. Jonathan Chait: "... conservatives are now representing their true bedrock position on Obamacare. It is largely a transfer program benefitting people who either don't have enough money, or pose too high a health risk, to bear the cost of their own medical care. Conservatives don't like transfer programs because they require helping the less fortunate with other peoples' money."

James Berger of the New York Times on Richard Rockefeller, who died in a small plane crash June 13: "Mr. Rockefeller was what is commonly called a Renaissance man, a Harvard-trained family doctor who could, among other enthusiasms, play the bagpipe, take polished photographs, carve wood, and ski, hike and sail expertly. But he devoted himself to a half-dozen causes, among them healing the wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder, curing sleeping sickness in Africa and saving the seas." ...

... Here is Jim Fallows' brief tribute to his long-time friend: "People often speculate about what they would do 'if they could do anything.' Richard could have done anything, or nothing -- such were his resources and options -- and what he chose to do was be of service, to his friends and family and community and eventually his country and the world."

Beyond the Beltway

It's over, it's done with and I'm moving on. -- Chris Christie, on Bridgegate, June 14, 2014

Bridgegate II. Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Investigations into the Christie administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have zeroed in on possible securities law violations stemming from a $1.8 billion road repair agreement in 2011.... While the inquiries were prompted by the apparently politically motivated lane closings at the George Washington Bridge last year, these investigations center on another crossing: the Pulaski Skyway, the crumbling elevated roadway connecting Newark and Jersey City. They are being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission." CW: Apparently Christie strong-armed the Port Authority to fund the bridge improvements even though the Pulaski Skyway is a state bridge, not a PA bridge, & therefore not eligible for PA funds. And where was the money to come from? From that much-needed Hudson River rail tunnel that Christie cancelled.

Bridgegate III, IV, Etc. From the same story: "In addition to the Pulaski Skyway, the Manhattan district attorney is also in the early stages of investigating repair projects on the Goethals and Bayonne Bridges, among others.... One person briefed on the matter said the funds had been used to fill a hole in the New Jersey state budget, noting that the inquiries seek to determine whether the fiscal contortions were creative politics or criminal maneuvers."

Congressional Race

Actual Mississippi state flag.Arit John of the Atlantic: "Here's a story that sounds way too familiar: Mississippi conservatives will be watching the polls during Tuesday's primary, to make sure black Democrats aren't breaking any voting laws. Following incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran's outreach to black voters in his bid to ward off a primary challenger, a coalition of conservatives groups backing his Tea Party opponent Chris McDaniel have formed a 'voter integrity project' to 'observe whether the law is being followed.' ..." ...

... CW: I do believe the Justice Department should send a passel of federal marshals to Mississippi to watch the poll watchers. And make arrests. ...

... AND whom do you suppose is coordinating this effort to police black voters? Why, it's Kate Madison's former ward Li'l Kenny! From the New York Times story, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Theodore Schleifer: "Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Mr. Cochran's Tea Party opponent, State Senator Chris McDaniel, said in an interview on Sunday that his group was joining with Freedom Works and the Tea Party Patriots in a 'voter integrity project' in Mississippi." Yeah, everybody knows black voters have no integrity. ...

     ... Update. Deborah Berry of the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger: "NAACP officials said they will send monitors to the polls in Mississippi today to make sure black voters aren't intimidated when they try to cast ballots in the state's high-profile Senate race.... Mississippi secretary of state's office and the state attorney general's office said state officials will monitor polling places. Officials sent out guidelines Monday for poll watchers, including how far they must stand outside polling sites. Officials said state law makes no provision for political action committees or other outside groups to place 'election observers' at polling places."

MEANWHILE. Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal: "Former Rep. Travis Childers [D] will be announcing he's running for the Senate seat in Mississippi, according to two sources familiar with his decision, giving Democrats a chance to capitalize on the Republican division within the state.... Childers, a Blue Dog Democrat, held a solidly Republican House seat from 2008 to 2010, proving his ability to win over conservative voters despite his Democratic affiliation."

Presidential Election 2016

Brian Beutler has a pretty good piece on Hillary Clinton's recent "gaffes" about her financial status. CW: I've pretty much ignored the hoohah about them because I don't think they're important. Neither does Beutler. I will say that I don't think Clinton knows what it's like to be poor. What she knows is what it's like to be poor compared to her friends. (That's exactly what came out in the Guardian interview.) The Clintons did have money problems while they lived in Arkansas -- a circumstance that led to cattle futures & Whitewater. Bill's salary was negligible. Even though they had free housing & other amenities, Hillary, like many wives before her, had to work. And she had a job where she had to produce -- remember those billing records? Moreover, she had to ask rich people for money, both in her work & in promoting Bill's career. She & Bill hung out with the rich, but Hillary was apparently painfully aware she wasn't one of them. So she knows what it's like to struggle, and she knows what it's like to worry about being kicked out of a house she didn't own (Bill had to run for re-election every two or four years). This should make it pretty easy for her to understand what it's like to wonder how you'll feed the kids & pay the rent, if you'll be fired from your lousy job, if your car will break down & ruin you, etc. ...

... Luckily, Hillary did not communicate her money worries to her daughter. ...

... The Most Boring Young Woman in the U.S. Talks about Herself. And Money. Leslie Larson of the New York Daily News: "Hillary Clinton insists she isn't 'well-off' and now daughter Chelsea, according to a recent interview, claims she couldn't care less about money. 'I was curious if I could care about (money) on some fundamental level, and I couldn't,' she told Fast Company in an interview that ran in the magazine's May edition, explaining why she gave up lucrative gigs to join her family's philanthropic foundation." ...

... Hamilton Nolan of Gawker: "That quote, by the way, is Chelsea's explanation of why she left her earlier job at a hedge fund. The $600K pseudojournalism job reporting on Nice Celebrities Who Are Good came after that. This is all from a profile of Clinton in the The Telegraph this weekend, which contains enough gobsmackingly un-self-aware pontification to prove once and for all that Chelsea Clinton -- who may be bright, capable, and politically savvy -- is also a clueless nepotism beneficiary of the first order.... The problem with nepotism of this sort is ... that these highly desirable, lucrative, and influential jobs are not equally accessible for the non-celebukids of the world.... It is undemocratic. It is unAmerican. To the degree that it persists, the notion of 'equal opportunity' or 'meritocracy' is a joke. For the daughter of the possible presidential candidate from the Democratic Party, this is not a small philosophical concern."

News Ledes

AP: "Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said Tuesday he will not interfere in court rulings, a day after three Al-Jazeera journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison in a verdict that prompted an international outcry.... According to Egypt's constitution, the president has the right to issue a pardon or commute the sentences. U.S., Australian and other officials have urged el-Sissi to use this right to immediately release the journalists. Rights groups have described the trial as a politically motivated sham reflecting the tense relations between Egypt and the Qatar-owned station. Qatar has been a strong supporter of Islamists in the region and in particular Egypt's former president, Mohammed Morsi, overthrown by the military last summer."

Guardian: "David Cameron's former communications chief Andy Coulson is facing jail after being found guilty of conspiring to hack phones while he was editor of the News of the World. Rebekah Brooks, his predecessor in the job, walked free from the Old Bailey after she was cleared of all four of the charges she faced in the eight-month trial."