The Ledes

Friday, March 27, 2015.

Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia pressed its bombardment of neighboring Yemen on Friday, striking near the presidential compound in the rebel-controlled capital at dawn as well as at military installations, residents reported. Egyptian warships were also steaming toward the Yemeni coast as part of an Arab-led offensive against Shiite rebels seeking to take over Yemen in what has become a showdown between the major powers in the Middle East."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Reuters: "Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi left his refuge in Aden for Saudi Arabia on Thursday as Houthi rebels battled with his forces on the outskirts of the southern port city."

CBS News: "A National Guardsman arrested for supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, had allegedly planned an attack on a military post in Illinois, the Justice Department said Thursday. Army National Guard Spc. Hasan Edmonds, 22, was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport Wednesday night while he was attempting to fly to Cairo to allegedly join ISIS, the department said in a statement."

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
March 26

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

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday
Feb282015

The Commentariat -- March 1, 2015

David Newhauser of the National Journal: "Reports of Speaker John Boehner's demise have been greatly exaggerated." ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Republicans are fuming over the House GOP's decision to extend the standoff over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a move that they say uses up political oxygen and burns precious time on the legislative calendar."

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: U.S. "Immigration officials are moving to deport at least 150 Bosnians living in the United States who they believe took part in war crimes and 'ethnic cleansing' during the bitter conflict that raged in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In all, officials have identified about 300 immigrants who they believe concealed their involvement in wartime atrocities when they came to the United States as part of a wave of Bosnian war refugees fleeing the violence there. With more records from Bosnia becoming available, the officials said the number of suspects could eventually top 600."

Shahien Nasiripour of the Huffington Post: "The U.S. Department of Education, under fire for its lackluster oversight of student loan contractors, said Friday it will terminate its relationship with five debt collectors after accusing them of misleading distressed borrowers at 'unacceptably high rates.' The surprise announcement follows years of complaints about allegedly illegal debt-collection practices by Education Department contractors, the department's seeming lack of interest in ensuring that borrowers are treated fairly, and the relative opacity of the entire operation." CW PS: Arne Duncan is the most corrupt tool in Obama's box. If you're looking for a cabinet-level department to eliminate, go for Education.

Love in the Age of Feminism. Jeb Lund of the Guardian on CPAC's side in the "War on Women," where the strategy is, "To win the War on Women, you better put a ring on it." Also, "vague problems demand vague solutions." Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

... Love in the Age of Gilded. Lund's column led me to this year-plus-old column by Jill Filipovic of the Guardian: "... stable marriages -- the kind that are most likely to produce successful, socially mobile, healthy children -- are disproportionately available to people who are already financially stable and well-educated.... Accessible family planning tools, coupled with a reason to delay childbearing, means that when middle and upper-class women give birth, their child has a series of advantages." ...

... AND, Filipovic's column led me to Dana Goldstein's 2013 column in the Daily Beast on why the poor have children outside of marriage. ...

... So here's the thing, Mitt Romney, et al., in your notion that poor people should marry to pull themselves & their children out of poverty: you're putting the cart before the horse. Marriage doesn't fix poverty; poverty fixes marriage.

Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Gun-rights advocates are up in arms over a new proposal by Barack Obama's administration that aims to ban a popular 'armor-piercing' bullet used in AR-15 semiautomatic rifles. The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) this month quietly unveiled a proposal that would ban the popular 5.56mm green tip rifle bullets, in a move that the bureau said would help protect police officers. But pro-gun supporters, from Congress to NRA leader Wayne LaPierre pushing on Friday to 'take back the country', cast the administration's plans as an attempt to undermine the manufacture and sale of AR-15 rifles themselves." Thanks to safari for the link.

The FCC just voted for government to sensor all content distributed onto the web. Prepare to be brainwashed with Liberal propaganda, and the word Freedom stripped from our vocabulary. -- Fox "News" Commenter

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. If you'd like to know the starting point of this outlandish claim, look only to Fox "News" itself: Here's their Twitter "report." via Scout Finch of the Daily Kos: "Breaking News: The Federal Communications Commission, in a party-line vote, approves sweeping 'net neutrality' plan allowing broad regulation of how Americans use the Internet. So, yes, the commenter, & others Finch highlights are somewhere between misinformed & outright insane, but Fox "News" helped make them that way. It's no wonder Fox doesn't care that Bill O'Reilly is a serial liar. Serial lying is their business model. Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link.

Sergei Loiko & Carol Williams of the Los Angeles Times: "World leaders on Saturday joined allies of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Y. Nemtsov in mourning the loss of a tireless advocate for democracy in a country increasingly dominated by an autocratic ruler." ...

... The Guardian story, by Shaun Walker & Chris Johnston, is here. ...

... Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "Russia's imperiled opposition movement on Saturday accused the Kremlin of being linked to the gangland-style murder of a towering figure of post-Soviet politics, amid the first signs that the true culprits may never be known. The killing of Boris Nemtsov -- at the Kremlin's doorstep and beneath the colorful domes of St. Basil's Cathedral -- stunned the opposition." ...

... Julia Ioffe, in the New York Times Magazine, reports on more reactions of Russian liberals about Nemtsov's assassination.

Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "After ISIS's seemingly unstoppable rampage from June to August of 2014, the Iraqi government and its allies have turned the tide. Slowly, unevenly, but surely, ISIS is being pushed back."

Presidential Race

Nicholas Confessore & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Long before the season of baby-kissing and caucus-going begins in early primary states, a no less decisive series of contests is playing out among the potential 2016 contenders along a trail that traces the cold-weather destinations of the wealthy and private-jet-equipped. In one resort town after another -- Rancho Mirage, Calif.; Sea Island, Ga.; Las Vegas -- the candidates are making their cases to exclusive gatherings of donors whose wealth, fully unleashed by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, has granted them the kind of influence and convening power once held by urban political bosses and party chairmen." ...

     ... CW: Corruption is so much more chic these days. Thanks, Supremes!

Ariana Cha of the Washington Post: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)  took the top spot for the third year in a row at Saturday's Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, edging out Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) as the favorite in the last CPAC presidential preference contest before primary voting begins. Paul had been the prohibitive favorite heading into this year's balloting, which featured 17 candidates. More than 3,000 attendees voted, a 20 percent increase over 2014's turnout."

CW: Yesterday I linked to two stories, one in Jezebel & one in the Daily Beast, about how the Scott Walker administration had used the state budget to remove sexual assault reporting requirements from state universities. Both publications have retracted their stories. The Jezebel correction reads, in part,

Walker delete[d] the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Clery Act. Scott Walker's camp assures that he's committed to protecting victims. We reported this piece without full context, and while this piece conveys factual information, omission of that context for that information presents an unfair and misleading picture.

... I've updated the stories in yesterday's Commentariat. Here's the AP story that prompted the corrections.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Minnie Minoso, the hugely popular All-Star outfielder from Cuba who was the major leagues' first black player out of Latin America and a treasured figure in the history of the Chicago White Sox, died on Sunday in Chicago. His true age was never entirely clear, but by an account in his autobiography, he would have been 89 when he died." ...

For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Minoso is and will always be 'Mr. White Sox.' -- President Obama, in a statement

New York Times: "Tens of thousands of people from a wide range of political parties and movements turned out in central Moscow on Sunday to honor the opposition leader Boris Y. Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday near Red Square. Many of the mourners walked right past the Kremlin walls, holding signs saying 'I am not afraid.'"

Friday
Feb272015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 28, 2015

David Espo & Erica Werner of the AP: President Obama signed the one-week extension into law just before midnight. ...

... Night of the Jackasses. Sean Sullivan & Michael DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Congress passed a one-week stopgap funding measure late Friday to avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security at midnight, sending the bill on to President Obama for his expected signature. The last-minute deal came together after a whirlwind day of negotiations in which House Republicans suffered a humiliating defeat when their 20-day funding bill was rejected. After the House bill went down, the Senate sought to pull DHS back from the brink by swiftly passing the one-week bill. The House followed suit shortly thereafter." ...

     ... "Democrats to the Rescue." Daniel Newhauser, et al., of the National Journal report some of the Democrats' behind-the-scenes manuevering & grumbling. Democrats should use their headline in campaign ads. ...

... Gail Collins: "There was absolutely no agreement on what will happen next. We look back with nostalgia on the era when congressional leaders would get together in secret and make deals to pass big, mushy pieces of legislation that were littered with secret appropriations for unnecessary highways and a stuffed-owl museum in some swing vote's district. We complained a lot at the time, but that was because we didn't realize it was the golden age." ...

... Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Republicans vowing to govern effectively as a congressional majority failed a fundamental test Friday evening, when House leaders could not pass a temporary measure to avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, leaving lawmakers scrambling for a solution before money was to run out at midnight. In a stunning and humiliating setback for Speaker John A. Boehner and his leadership team, the House voted 224 to 203 against their plan to extend funding for the department for three weeks. The bill was defeated during a tense evening vote on the House floor, despite leadership optimism that, after a day of arm-twisting behind the scenes, they had the muscle to win a narrow victory." Story has been updated several times. ...

... Banner headline at Politico right now (9 pm ET 2/27/15): "Boehner Fails Again." ...

... John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "After 52 GOP lawmakers brought down a three-week spending bill for the agency, House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team were scrambling Friday to find a way to keep the Department of Homeland Security from shutting down at midnight.... The speaker's aides said he had no plans to give up his position, but there was widespread speculation in private among Republican lawmakers and aides about his future." ...

... Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: A "Democratic measure, sponsored by Reps. Brad Ashford (Neb.), Gwen Graham (Fla.), Scott Peters (Calif.) and Ami Bera (Calif.), would halt pay for members of Congress if they don't agree to a new round of funding for the agency by Friday.... The legislation is similar to several bills that would have halted lawmakers' salaries during the government-wide shutdown of 2013. Those measures never made it out of committee.... Federal statute only allows lawmakers to change the salaries of future members of Congress, so the new House bill would put their wages in an escrow account until the potential Homeland Security shutdown ends." ...

     ... CW: Hicks is understating/misstating the case. It isn't "federal statutes" that prohibit Congress from diddling with Congressional salaries; it's the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, "No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened." Were the restriction a statute, Congress could change it with a new statute.

Natasha Singer of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday proposed a wide-ranging bill intended to provide Americans with more control over the personal information that companies collect about them and how that data can be used, fulfilling a promise the president had talked about for years. But some privacy advocates immediately jumped on the proposed legislation, saying it failed to go far enough, particularly given the broad statements President Obama had made on the issue. They said the bill would give too much leeway to companies and not enough power to consumers."

Be Careful What You Wish For. Sandhya Somashekhar, et al., of the Washington Post: "Officials in several Republican states that balked at participating in President Obama's health-care initiative are now revisiting the issue, amid mounting panic over a possible Supreme Court decision that would revoke federal insurance subsidies for millions of Americans.... At least six states where Republican leaders had previously refused to set up state marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act are now considering what steps they might take to preserve the subsidies being paid to their residents. Efforts to try to hold on to the subsidies are even under consideration in South Carolina, which supported the challenge now before the Supreme Court. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said in an interview that her state may consider setting up a marketplace...." ...

... Be Careful, Addendum. Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Former Arizona county sheriff Richard Mack, a fierce opponent of Obamacare and a leader in the 'constitutional sheriff' movement, is struggling to pay his medical bills after he and his wife each faced serious illnesses. The former sheriff and his wife do not have health insurance and started a GoFundMe campaign to solicit donations from family and friends to cover the costs of their medical care." Thanks to Haley S. for the link. Also, see yesterday's comments thread for a discussion of this story. ...

     ... CW: For more discussion, scroll down to the comments on Mack's GoFundMe page. (Better do it fast; I'd expect the comments to be disabled/disappeared at any moment). ...

... Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "Even if you don't receive Obamacare subsidies, you could still be harmed by the Supreme Court case that could take them away. A court ruling for the plaintiffs in the case, King v. Burwell ... could [cause] surging prices and reduced choice for health insurance shoppers across the income spectrum.... The loss of all those low-income, relatively healthy people could destabilize the individual health insurance markets for everyone else."

White House: "In this week's address, the President reiterated his commitment to middle-class economics, and to ensuring that all hard-working Americans get the secure and dignified retirement they deserve":

Portrait by Simmie Knox. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times: "As he prepares to leave office in the next week or two, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. called for new civil rights legislation, warned of the mounting threat of terrorism and described his worst day in office [-- the day of the Sandy Hook murders --] in a round of farewell media interviews Friday. Noting that the Justice Department said this week it would not prosecute George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black youth in Sanford, Fla., Holder said the law needed to be changed to make such prosecutions easier. Before he steps down, Holder is expected to announce that the Justice Department will not seek to prosecute Darren Wilson, the police officer in Ferguson, Mo., who shot and killed Michael Brown last year in a confrontation over a jaywalking offense. The case sparked widespread public protests and clashes with police." ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama shed tears and soul legend Aretha Franklin gave a surprise performance as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. bid farewell to the Justice Department on Friday after a 39-year career, including the past six as the nation's top lawyer. During a ceremony to unveil his official portrait, Holder, 64, said he was proud of his accomplishments and praised hundreds of colleagues who turned out to honor him. He was the country's third-longest serving attorney general":

     ... CW: My favorite moment: when President Obama adjusted the stand for Franklin. A President and a Gentleman.

... Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "Attorney General Eric Holder is conducting exit interviews with many major news outlets -- CNN, ABC, NBC, CNN, and Politico -- but not Fox News. And Fox is not happy about this." Why Holder would pass up an opportunity to be on the O'Reilly Channel is beyond me, although Fox "News" veep Michael Clemente had a supposition: "Ultimately, however, we're not surprised that Holder would try to evade a thorough accounting of his record in office, including his decision to investigate our Chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen through an illegal seizure of emails and phone records of Rosen and his parents." ...

... In fact, Holder has said that he "regrets" his wording of the Rosen subpoena.

Prebuttal. David Sanger & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Just four days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to a joint meeting of Congress, the Obama administration sought on Friday to refute the Israeli leader's expected critique, arguing that he has failed to present a feasible alternative to American proposals for constraining Iran's nuclear program. In a briefing for reporters, senior administration officials contended that even an imperfect agreement that kept Iran's nuclear efforts frozen for an extended period was preferable to a breakdown in talks that could allow the leadership in Tehran unfettered ability to produce enriched uranium and plutonium." ...

... AFP: "The United States set out what it called its 'bottom lines' to reach a deal with Iran to rein in its nuclear program ahead of new talks next week. Washington had stuck to its guns that it wanted a 'good deal' and had agreed to several extensions of the negotiations 'because we have held firm to certain bottom lines,' a senior US administration official said." ...

... CW: If Iran's negotiators were smart, they would agree to the deal 15 minutes before Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to give his big speech to the U.S. Congress. ...

... Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe on why Congressional Democrats should boycott Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress: Natanyahu has cast his lot with Republicans. "... his vision for Israel is hardly one that Democrats in the United States should be embracing. Netanyahu is ... an opponent of the two-state solution. He has unabashedly -- and in opposition to long-standing US policy -- expanded Israeli settlements in the West Bank." Democrats should not sit & allow themselves to be used as props in a campaign ad for a politician whose views they don't share.

Paul Singer of USA Today: "Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., has repaid the government $35,000 from his personal funds to cover the cost of redecorating his House office in the style of the PBS drama Downton Abbey.... Schock did not tell the Post or other news organization that his office had already paid $35,000 [from federal government funds to his decorator Annie Brahler] through the end of December.... After the Post story, [published Feb. 2,] Brahler reimbursed the U.S. Treasury $35,000, the documents show, and Schock then paid her the same amount from his personal account.... USA Today has reported that Schock had spent more $100,000 than of his taxpayer-funded account on office renovations in prior years. The expenses included thousands for leather furniture, hardwood floors and marble countertops for his offices in his central Illinois congressional district." ...

... Anna Palmer, et al., of Politico: "Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock is canceling fundraising events as he continues to face scrutiny about his spending and whether he accepted improper gifts." ...

... See also yesterday's Commentariat.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. USA Today Editors: Bill "O'Reilly stands exposed of the same kind of puffed-up truth-bending he so regularly derides on his show.... By journalism ethics, Fox should distance itself from its truth-challenged employee. But that's not likely to happen because for Fox and its fans..., having common enemies matters more than factual detail. That's why Fox has left a canyon-wide gap between its standards and those of NBC.... It's unfortunate that neither the network nor its star sees a need for allegiance to the truth. But for O'Reilly and Fox, the perceived vast liberal conspiracy that helped create the network two decades ago means not having to say you're sorry today." ...

... CW: There are two excellent things about the USA Today op-ed: (1) Rather than tiptoeing in with they-said/he-said qualifiers, the editors presents O'Reilly's lying as a given; (2) the paper's readership includes a lot of FoxBots.

Presidential Race

CPAC ♥ Randy. Ben Schreckenger of Politico: "A day after other Republicans tossed out hawkish lines that clashed with his own brand of more cautious foreign policy, the raucous response to [Rand] Paul's Friday afternoon speech from a standing-room-only crowd proved that CPAC remains friendly territory for the Kentucky senator. As he warned against an 'inept' government venturing overseas, he received standing ovations and supporters chanted 'President Paul.'"

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Jeb Bush survived his Conservative Political Action Conference appearance here on Friday, holding his own on immigration and education in front of activists who see him as the GOP's most moderate potential 2016 candidate. On immigration, Bush ... said the country 'first and foremost' must secure its borders. Still, he also defended his record of supporting in-state tuition and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in Florida." ...

... It's So Easy to Say "President Bush." Chris Cillizza, the Washington Post's Permanent Cub Reporter, swoons, "Jeb Bush was very, very good at CPAC today.... Bush was energetic -- maybe due at least in part to nervousness in facing a testy crowd -- and informed. He refused to back down -- particularly on immigration -- from positions that he knew would be unpopular with the crowd. He insisted that Republicans were good at opposing things but bad at 'being for things.' He was composed. He was up to the moment. He looked, in a word, presidential." CW: Remember, people, the Post fired Dan Froomkin & promoted this guy. ...

... CW: For a more comprehensive report on Jeb's performance, go to Andrew Desiderio of Mediaite. That's right, the personality-driven site Mediaite does a better job of reporting the story than does the Washington Post's Cuddly Cub Reporter. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "So Jebbie’s long-awaited Q&A session at CPAC has come and gone, and a lot of people who aren't conservative movement types (e.g., the entire WaPo contingent at the event seemed to be very impressed.) You can expect Jeb's many Beltway fans to make this a Game Changing moment in the 2016 cycle.... But he's still got a 'base problem' that cannot be conjured away, much as his fans wish he could." Also hilarious, Jeb dodges a question on the Congressional hoohah re: funding the DHS by saying, "I'm not an expert on the ways of Washington." ...

... Dana Milbank: "Bush, preceded onstage by 'Duck Dynasty's' Phil Robertson, who gave a speech that rambled from genital herpes to Nazis, deserves big points for bravery -- both for choosing to speak at CPAC and for standing up for his controversial views in his 20-minute tête-à-tête with Hannity.... The two men chose to stand on the stage, awkwardly.... Bush's attempt to affect a casual manner, by inserting a hand into a pants pocket, didn't help. He shifted and fidgeted his way through the performance, at one point losing control of his syntax by suggesting that we 'put ISIS around a noose.' Asked about securing the border, Bush replied with a jovial 'Let's do it, man!' And when Hannity said he had a final question, Bush blurted out, 'Boxers!'" ...

... Mollie Reilly of the Huffington Post reports on Robertson's rant. Robertson was at CPAC "to accept the Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award from Citizens United." ...

... Brendan Bordelon of the National Review: "... Robertson told a CPAC crowd on Thursday that the U.S.A. should be run by Christians, and not any others -- adding ominously that 'we got too many 'any others' in the White House.'" ...

... CW: If Bush wanted to demonstrate some actual "bravery," Dana, he could have remarked that Robertson was a hateful, ignorant crackpot bigot. ...

     ... Update: Looks like Bush let close ally & advisor Ana Navarro do the brave part. Luke Brinker of Salon has the details. Also, turns out Wayne La Pierre of the NRA spoke between Robertson's & Bush's appearances. What a warmup! (Bush, BTW, is a typical GOP Second Amendment-hugger. He signed Florida's notorious stand-your-ground bill into law, though after George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, he said the law did not apply to that case since Zimmerman chased Martin. He opined that "it's always good to review laws," suggesting some applications of the stand-your-ground law were, um, overkill.)

Marco's "Epic Error." Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) inexplicably told a conservative audience on Friday that President Barack Obama lacked a military strategy to confront ISIS because he feared upsetting Iran.... There's just one problem: Iran has been fighting ISIS just like the United States and has publicly urged America to take a larger role in the operation. Obama has even sent a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting anti-ISIS cooperation." ...

... CW: Marco likes to differentiate himself from many of the other GOP presidential candidates by claiming that unlike many of them, he has foreign policy "experience": he sits on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee & Senate Intelligence Committee. I guess "sits" is the operative word, because he sure hasn't been paying attention. This wasn't a "gaffe" on Marco's part; it was an extended display of ignorance. ...

... Steve Benen: "... for Rubio to criticize Obama for adopting a policy Rubio endorses, all while getting Iran's position backwards, is a bad sign for a guy whose 'clear view of what's happening in the world' is supposed to set him apart from his GOP rivals."

James Downie of the Washington Post: "... even [Scott] Walker knew that compari[ng Wisconsin union members to terrorists] was in poor taste: Afterward, he told reporters, 'There's no comparison between the two, let me be perfectly clear.' But what Walker said right after that clarification -- 'I'm just pointing out the closest thing I have to handling a difficult situation was the 100,000 protesters I had to deal with' -- shows just how deep the GOP's foreign policy problem goes. Across the board, the Republican field has no serious candidates with real foreign policy experience." ...

... Paul Waldman: "... what's alarming isn't that [Scott Walker] 'compared' a bunch of Wisconsinites to ISIS, which of course he wasn't trying to do. What's alarming is that he thinks that you need the same skills and approach to dealing with unhappy constituents as you do with terrorists.... All the Republican candidates ... will all be eager to tell you that on this problem, Barack Obama is weak and indecisive, whereas if you're sufficiently tough, the problem can be solved. But you know who was tough, uncompromising, and brimming with the 'confidence' Walker cites? George W. Bush." ...

... YEAH BUT. Laura Ingraham notices Scott Walker is just like Reaganus Maximus (even if maybe she had to make up the Reagan story). Also, too, never forget: the media hate conservatives. Steve M. comments. ...

... Scott Walker, the Pro-Rapist Candidate. Natasha Vargas-Cooper of Jezebel: "Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget -- which would cut $300 million dollars out of the state's beloved public university system -- has a non-fiscal bombshell tucked in between its insane pages. Under Walker's budget, universities would no longer have to report the number of sexual assaults that take place on a campus to the Department of Justice. Under Walker's plan, university employees who witness a sexual assault would no longer have to report it. There are no policy recommendations in Walker's budget how or what would replace these reporting mechanisms." ...

     ... **UPDATE: The story is not true. The Walker budget removes the wording at the request of the University, because it was redundant.

... Brian Weidy of the Daily Beast: The language "may be the governor's ploy to pick a fight with the federal government. Under the Clery Act, any school that receives public funding must report sexual assault incidences to the federal Department of Justice, so Walker's proposal goes just short of explicitly violating Title IX regulations -- and it still may be crossing a legal line.... Even Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has expressed reservations about Walker's proposal." ...

     ... **UPDATE: This story is not true. See Jezebel correction above.

... CW: Now ask yourself -- Is seeking to nullify a portion of major federal civil rights law a good political move? Will the general public see standing up for rapists as a heroic effort by a little guy fighting evil federal regulations?

Simon Maloy of Salon on Rick Perry's "border security" scam. Yeah, he's still telling people -- including the CPAC crowd -- that he secured the border when Obama wouldn't. Facts, be damned.

Beyond the Beltway

** David Sirota, in a story republished in Raw Story, has figured out why former presidential contender Chris Christie settled with Exxon for a teeny fraction of the amount the state had sued for in a $9BB environmental disaster case. If you pay taxes in New Jersey, you should be outraged at the sheer audacity of this legalized theft. P.S. Christie has done this before. ...

... Here's more from Scott Fallon & James O'Neill of the Bergen Record. ...

... CW: Bridgegate was a prank. The deals with Exxon, Occidental & other comprise a multi-billion-dollar scandal.

Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Tom Schweich, Missouri's Republican state auditor and a leading contender for the governor's office in next year's election, died Thursday after apparently shooting himself in his Clayton home.... A 911 call was made from Schweich's home at 9:48 a.m., seven minutes after Schweich had left a voicemail requesting an interview with a Post-Dispatch reporter.... The Post-Dispatch interview, which was also to include an Associated Press reporter, was set at his Clayton home for later in the day.... On Tuesday morning, Schweich confided in Post-Dispatch Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger that he believed that John Hancock, the newly elected chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, had spread disinformation about Schweich's religion. That topic was what Schweich wanted to discuss with reporters for the Post-Dispatch and the Associated Press Thursday. In several conversations via text and phone in the days leading up to Thursday morning, Schweich told Messenger that Hancock mentioned to people in passing that Schweich was Jewish. Schweich wasn't Jewish. He was a member of ... an Episcopal congregation in Clayton.... He said his grandfather was Jewish, and that he was 'very proud of his connection to the Jewish faith.'"

News Lede

AP: "The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can stay in Massachusetts, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said any high-profile case would receive significant media attention but that knowledge of such case 'does not equate to disqualifying prejudice.'... In its 2-1 ruling, the appeals court found that the defense did not meet the standards necessary to have the trial moved."

Thursday
Feb262015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 27, 2015

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The Senate on Friday passed a bill to finance the Department of Homeland Security, sending the legislation to the House with just hours to avert a partial shutdown of the agency at midnight. The spending bill, which removed restrictions on President Obama's executive action on immigration that were included in a bill passed by the House, easily passed the Senate, 68 to 31. Democrats also blocked a separate bill to undo the president's action." ...

... At 11:00 am ET, Reuters has a breaking news banner which reads, "House of Representatives approves rule for three-week funding extension of homeland security funding." No link. ...

     ... Update. Here's the brief, by David Lawder: "A Republican bill to provide a three-week funding extension for the Department of Homeland Security cleared a procedural hurdle in the House of Representatives on Friday, indicating support for final passage in the chamber.The House voted 240-183 along strict party lines...." ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "House Republicans on Thursday presented a plan for a stopgap bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks, raising hopes of averting a looming shutdown of the agency. The plan, which the leaders pitched to rank-and-file Republicans in a closed-door meeting, was the first sign they were willing to pass a new bill after passing another one weeks ago that takes aim at President Obama's executive actions on immigration and has been blocked in the Senate. But the plan faces an uncertain outlook, as House Democratic leadership decided to marshal support against it." ...

... John Boehner really doesn't give a fuck anymore:

... Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday doubled down on his promise to block a conference committee with the House on funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). House Republicans on Friday are poised to vote on a short-term bill to fund DHS through March 19, along with a motion to go to conference with the Senate to negotiate a final funding deal. In the conference committee, Republicans could decide whether the bill should reverse President Obama's executive actions on immigration. With the Senate poised to approve a 'clean' bill that funds DHS through September, Reid is vowing that Democrats will filibuster to ensure the conference committee never takes place."

Rebecca Ruiz & Steve Lohr of the New York Times: "The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility, a milestone in regulating high-speed Internet service into American homes. Tom Wheeler, the commission chairman, said the F.C.C. was using 'all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers' and preserve the Internet's role as a 'core of free expression and democratic principles.' The new rules, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, are intended to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes...." ...

... Cecilia Kang & Brian Fung of the Washington Post: "Cable and telecommunications companies, as well as GOP lawmakers, quickly condemned the move as an overreach of government intervention into their businesses, and lawsuits are expected to follow." ...

... Jeff Roberts of Gigaon: "It took four million public comments and a pitched political fight invoking everything from civil rights to Presidential power, but the FCC has finally passed new rules on net neutrality."

... Stacey Higgenbotham of Gigaon has a brief take on experts' responses to the FCC move. ...

... CW: Speaking of "experts," I've been reading some right-wing comments about the new FCC ruling. As nearly as I can tell -- because the writers aren't particularly articulate -- they think that the "secret" regulations which will guarantee "net neutrality" are ones that will allow the "liberal media" to steal the airwaves or Internets waves or something from the more popular, free-market Fox "News." So "net neutrality" = "free stuff for liberals." I despair.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), in a Washington Post op-ed, explains why she will not be attending Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the U.S. Congress.

Chutzpah. If they're [the Obama administration] not looking at some kind of contingency plan, I think that's irresponsible. It's kind of like hostage-taking. Jonathan Adler, an architect of King v. Burwell

The problem with the argument is that Adler [is] both taking and shooting the metaphorical hostages, and ... asking Obama to tell the public that everyone is fine while the hostage-takers look for a getaway car. -- Scott Lemieux, in LG&M

... BTW, law professor Eric Segall does a close (or maybe even a cursory) reading of the ACA & finds that the plain text of the law -- not just a reasonable interpretation -- makes clear that federal insurance exchanges are to be treated just like exchanges established by states. The King plaintiffs' lawyers' interpretation is what's absurd, not the IRS's correct reading. Via Greg Sargent.

Lucia Mutikani of Reuters: "U.S. economic growth braked more sharply than initially thought in the fourth quarter amid a slow pace of stock accumulation by businesses and a wider trade deficit, but the underlying fundamentals remained solid." ...

     ... CW: Hard to believe. The big political news of the 4th quarter was that Republicans won big in the November elections, as expected. According to Mitch McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor just after the new, improved Congress was sworn in, the new, improved economy "appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration's long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress." (Brian Beutler: "Parse McConnell carefully, and he's actually selling Republicans a little short. The uptick doesn't just 'appear' to coincide with the expectation of a new Republican Congress. It absolutely does coincide with the expectation of a new Republican Congress. Relatedly, things that coincide are called 'coincidences.'") Shall we hold our breaths till McConnell explains that "economic grown braked more sharply" because businesses were reflecting their "expectation of a new Republican Congress"?

Josh Barro of the New York Times: "The big challenge for President Obama -- and for Republicans seeking their own agenda to woo the middle class -- is that middle-income economic fortunes are driven mostly by private employers.... Right now, the best middle-class economic agenda might be to do no harm: Let the positive trends on job growth and gas prices continue, watch them flow through to wages, and hope the Federal Reserve doesn't get in the way and that Congress and the president can keep policy at an approximate status quo...." ...

... CW: Barro is a conservative (but not the usual crazy type). So not a word about, say, passing legislation to empower unions, which would help drive up worker wages; nothing about enacting tax legislation that would make it more financially attractive for businesses to invest in workers as opposed to stockholders, executives & financial instruments; no acknowledgment that driving up the minimum wage will lead to higher wages for better-paid workers; no acknowledgment that infrastructure spending would help middle-class workers, etc. This is a New York Times columnist advocating for Republican do-nothing policies, & you should be aware of that. ...

... New York Times Editors: "In a nation where the long decline in unions has led to a pervasive slump in wages, Republicans' support for anti-union legislation is at odds with their professed commitments to helping the middle class. Right-to-work laws do not attract businesses and create jobs, as proponents claim. Rather, they are linked to lower wages, fewer benefits and higher poverty. They win support among conservative lawmakers not because they are in the public interest but because cutting labor costs is a priority of far-right groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is tied to the Koch brothers. The Wisconsin bill is almost verbatim from a model provided by ALEC."

In case you were wondering, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is still stupid:

... Jaime Fuller of New York: "Although Inhofe is not the first lawmaker to question global warming by looking out the window on any given day, many scientists and science journalists have shown that 'polar vortex' conditions may be a result of climate change, not a refutation of it. And although we have had a few unexpected chances to make snowballs in the U.S., the trend has been toward more and more unseasonably warm days."

Randal Archibold of the New York Times: "Cuba's spot on the American list of states that sponsor terrorism is emerging as a major sticking point in the effort to restore diplomatic ties with the United States and reopen embassies that have been closed for nearly five decades. On Friday, Cuban and American officials will meet in Washington for a second round of talks -- the first were in Havana in January -- aimed at carrying out the vow of President Obama and President Raúl Castro to restore diplomatic relations as a prelude to more normal ties. But whether Cuba should be removed from the state terrorism list is a particularly nettlesome issue...."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

** This Is LOL-Funny. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Former colleagues of Bill O'Reilly ... have disputed his account of surviving a bombardment of bricks and rocks while covering the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. Six people who covered the riots with O'Reilly in California for Inside Edition told the Guardian they did not recall an incident in which, as O'Reilly has claimed, 'concrete was raining down on us' and 'we were attacked by protesters'.... Several members of the team suggested that O'Reilly may instead be overstating a fracas involving one disgruntled Los Angeles resident, who smashed one of their cameras with a piece of rubble. Two of the team said the man was angered specifically by O'Reilly behaving disrespectfully after arriving at the smoking remains of his neighbourhood in a limousine, whose driver at one point began polishing the vehicle. O'Reilly is said to have shouted at the man and asked him: 'Don;t you know who I am?'"

If Fox "News" Does It..., Homina Homina. Andrewl Kirell of Mediate: Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) "has been a fierce advocate in encouraging websites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to police its users posting videos or images that promote or support ISIS actions in any way.... CNN anchor Carol Costello led the lawmaker into a trap of self-contradiction by getting him to agree that ISIS execution videos should 'absolutely' be banned from websites like YouTube":

... Costello begins the exchange about Fox "News" at about 4:25 min. in.

Aaron Schock's knockoff Downton.

Downton Abyss. Marin Cogan of New York: "How Downton Abbey Office Décor Morphed Into a D.C. Spending Scandal." The accidental story of Aaron Schock's (R-Ill.) lavish spending. A thoroughly enjoyable read about a thoroughly obnoxious little twit who is getting his comeuppance for wasting your money. He's lawyered up! ...

... MEANWHILE, Politico found a new & apropos ethics violation: Schock dined at Buckingham Palace with Prince Charles & Duchess of Cornwall, & attended some other toney London events without paying or receiving the approvals required. He also held a fundraiser last September & failed to pay for the facility or for services that included -- massages & custom-rolled cigars for the guests. ...

... Now, thanks to revelations of Schock's taxpayer-funded hedonistic jaunts, all stemming from the Downton story ...

... Anna Palmer, et al., of Politico: "Rep. Aaron Schock has hired two prominent Washington defense attorneys and a public relations firm to respond to the swirling controversy and a potential ethics probe over how he has financed his lavish lifestyle." CW: Are we paying his lawyers & PR firm, too?


Souad Mekhennet & Adam Goldman
of the Washington Post have some sketchy details on the brutal ISIS killer "Jihada John," who is "Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming." ...

... Anne Barnard of the New York Times writes a heartbreaking piece on ISIS's barbaric rampages in Northern Syria & Iraq: "... to residents, it ... seems to be part of the latest effort by the Islamic State militants to eradicate or subordinate anyone and anything that does not comport with their vision of Islamic rule -- whether a minority sect that has survived centuries of conquerors and massacres or, as the world was reminded on Thursday, the archaeological traces of pre-Islamic antiquity." CW: To me, too.

Barbarians Everywhere. AP: "A prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger known for speaking out against religious extremism was hacked to death as he walked through Bangladesh's capital with his wife, police said Friday. The attack Thursday night on Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen, occurred on a crowded sidewalk as he and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University. Ahmed, who is also a blogger, was seriously injured."

Paul Krugman: "Provisionally, at least, Greece seems to have ended the cycle of ever-more-savage austerity. And ... in so doing, Greece has done the rest of Europe a favor."

Scott Kaufman of the Raw Story: Liberals & smartasses take over CPAC's "Ask a Speaker a Question" hashtag." Typical question: "@SenMikeLee In your opinion Senator, who is the laziest minority group?" ...

Presidential Race

I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their [sic.] power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil.... We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world. -- Gov. Scott Walker, Thursday

If Scott Walker thinks that it's appropriate to compare working people speaking up for their rights to brutal terrorists, then he is even less qualified to be president than I thought. -- DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee, Thursday

The protesters in Wisconsin ... earned plenty of legitimate criticism. But they're not ISIS. They're not beheading innocent people.... They don't deserve to be compared to murderous terrorists. -- Jim Geraghty of the National Review, Thursday ...

... Because Schoolteachers Are a Lot Like Terrorists. Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday said that his experience with protests over his law eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employees has prepared him to confront terrorists." ...

... Reversal of Fortunes. Jonathan Martin & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "In the early stages of the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is the hot property, his poll numbers rising and the chatter from activists and contributors growing steadily more positive. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is the mirror opposite, his political stock falling along with his standing in surveys of Republicans." It showed at CPAC. ...

... Shushannah Walshe of ABC News: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continued to bash the media [Thursday] at the Conservative Political Action Conference, playing into a popular topic among the activists in the crowd, saying 'elite folks from the media' cover him 'every day.'... This is the second day in a row Christie has taken on the media, specifically The New York Times, possibly laying out a theme that tends to be popular with the conservative primary voting base and something he can return to in a 2016 stump speech. On his monthly radio call-in show, 'Ask the Governor,' he ... blamed the bad headlines on 'the national media following you around trying to justify their air fare going over there.'" ...

... Paul Krugman: "Gail [Collins (column linked here yesterday)] thinks [the New Jersey pension brouhaha] is the end of [Chris] Christie’s presidential ambitions; I think this gives his party too much credit for caring about reality. Christie probably is toast ... because ... he apparently doesn't know when to stop bellowing -- you do need to make nice to the big money, and he hasn't.... The Christie affair is yet another demonstration that there are no true fiscal hawks on the right, only deficit peacocks who strut around and preen themselves on their supposed fiscal virtue, but never show themselves willing to make any sacrifices for the cause."

Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast: "Ted Cruz, CPAC's favorite travelling salesman, was back and selling his favorite product: himself." With an assist from ruthless interrogator sidekick Sean Hannity.

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "On Friday..., [Jeb Bush ]will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference, taking part in a Q&A with Fox News host Sean Hannity. How the crowd reacts could indicate just how steep a challenge Bush will face in winning over the GOP grass roots, especially during the primary. CW: I wonder of Hannity will ask him why he loves America.

McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "To an extent that would have been unthinkable in past elections, one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination has stocked his inner circle with advisers who are vocal proponents of gay rights. And while the Bush camp says his platform will not be shaped by his lieutenants' personal beliefs, many in the monied, moderate, corporate wing of the GOP -- including pragmatic donors, secular politicos, and other members of the establishment -- are cheering the early hires as a sign that Bush will position himself as the gay-friendly Republican in the 2016 field."

Nick Gass of Politico: "Ben Carson kicked off the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference with a speech that laid out his vision for the economy, foreign policy and domestic issues. The retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon offered up red meat to the early-morning crowd...."

Beyond the Beltway

There is no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. -- Will Rogers

... Tim Egan: "Oklahoma ... is facing a $611 million budget shortfall. So, of course, the politicians who run this fine piece of the prairie are busy with legislation to keep children ignorant, and to protect gay conversion therapy -- the emotionally abusive and psychologically unsound attempt to, you know, fix the homosexuals. The push against professional educators is part of a larger national effort by conservatives to get rid of the history they don't like.... The party of science denial is now getting into history denial.... If you believe in American exceptionalism, then empower students with critical thinking skills so they can defend it. Don't give them a Bible lesson."

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "A long-fought legal battle to recover $8.9 billion in damages from Exxon Mobil Corporation for the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in New Jersey has been quietly settled by the state for around $250 million.... Richard B. Stewart, a New York University law professor and a former head of the Justice Department's environmental division, noted the 'striking disparity between the damages claimed, which have been exhaustively litigated, and the settlement amount,' particularly with a judicial ruling expected soon." ...

... CW: Exxon always wins. Big.

Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich, a leading Republican candidate for governor in 2016, died Thursday in 'an apparent suicide,' police said. Schweich, 54, was hospitalized earlier Thursday following a single self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in suburban St. Louis. He was pronounced dead at Barnes Trauma Center, according to Clayton, Mo., Police chief Kevin Murphy."

News Ledes -- R.I.P.

Guardian: "Prominent Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and a sharp critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was reportedly shot four times in the chest by a killer in a passing car. The killing took place in the very centre of Moscow late on Friday evening on a bridge near St Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin, two days before Nemtsov was due to lead a major opposition rally in Moscow."

New York Times: "Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut 'Star Trek,' died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83."

New York Times: "The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the scrappy former president of the University of Notre Dame who stood up to both the White House and the Vatican as he transformed Catholic higher education in America and raised a powerful moral voice in national affairs, died late Thursday. He was 97."

New York Times: "Earl Lloyd, who became the first black player to appear in an N.B.A. game when he took the court for the Washington Capitols in October 1950, three and a half years after Jackie Robinson broke modern major league baseball's color barrier, died on Thursday in Tennessee. He was 86."

Wednesday
Feb252015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 26, 2015

Christi Parsons & Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times: "Senate leaders moved toward a deal Wednesday to avoid a shutdown of the Homeland Security Department, sidestepping a fight over immigration policy, as President Obama declared his administration would curtail deportations of immigrants in the country illegally despite losing a court fight on the issue this month." ...

... Washington Post Editors: "CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS are so busy this week flirting with a partial government shutdown -- their target is the Department of Homeland Security and its 240,000 employees -- that they may have missed fresh evidence of how badly out of step with the American public they are on the issue of illegal immigration.... In a large and important new survey, majorities in all 50 states favored a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants." ...

... Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald: "Likening immigration reform to the great civil-rights movements in U.S. history, President Barack Obama vowed in Miami on Wednesday to veto any legislation from Congress undoing his executive order protecting from deportation up to 5 million people who are in the country illegally." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "A top House Democrat said Wednesday that President Obama is eying a partial launch of his new deportation-relief programs, despite a federal court's recent decision to block them. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said the administration is weighing whether it has the authority to initiate the executive actions in the states not involved in a lawsuit against them." ...

... Dana Milbank: "John Boehner ... can defy conservatives by abandoning their fight to undo President Obama's immigration actions and perhaps lose his speakership in the process. Or he can stand with the conservatives and be blamed for shutting down the Department of Homeland Security." Milbank goes on to the recount Boehner's responses -- make that "response" -- at his press conference Wednesday. It's not nice to laugh at someone when he's down, but my lips keep'a curling upward. ...

... CW: Boehner may be about to lose his speakership, and what does he do? ...

... He Enforces the Dress Code. Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) halted floor proceedings Wednesday to remind members of chamber decorum. During the final vote series of the day, Boehner reiterated the rules for proper behavior on the House floor. Boehner, who is known for ribbing lawmakers and reporters for their attire, has made reminding members of House rules a regular practice."

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "Almost four months after Loretta E. Lynch was picked by President Obama to be the next attorney general, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to approve her nomination on Thursday, with a handful of Republicans joining the committee's Democrats in backing her. Ms. Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will then face a challenge on the Senate floor from Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and other staunch conservatives. They have called on all Senate Republicans to reject her nomination, in part because she has defended Mr. Obama's executive actions on immigration." ...

     ... UPDATE. Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to confirm U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch as the next attorney general, sending her nomination to the full Senate, where it is expected to be voted on in the coming days.... Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) voted with the committee's nine Democrats to approve Lynch's nomination.... A vote on the Senate floor could come as early as next week."

Dominic Rushe of the Guardian: "The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) looks set to pass strict new rules to govern broadband internet in the US on Thursday, following one of the most intense -- and bizarre -- lobbying battles Washington has ever seen.... At [today's] meeting the commission's two Democrat members, Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, are expected to approve the plan put forward by the Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, with some objections. They will overrule the two Republican commissioners who have already lambasted the plan...." ...

... Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "The Senate Commerce Committee is slated to grill all five Federal Communications Commission members during an oversight hearing on March 18, according to Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.). FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the four other commissioners will answer questions about the agency's 'over-reaching' net neutrality order expected to be approved on Thursday."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a Washington Post op-ed on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement: "Agreeing to [Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions] in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty. ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws -- and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers -- without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court."

Jonathan Chait explains why a government loss in King v. Burwell would not permanently cripple the ACA. Short explanation: middle-class citizens of all political stripes who are already benefiting from the tax subsidies will raise hell. Also Chait doesn't think Chief Justice Roberts will decide for the plaintiffs, thus wasting the Court's political capital on a farcical lawsuit that would hurt Republicans & ultimately fail anyway. ...

... BUT Joshua Green of Business Insider: "The immediate effect of a ruling against the ACA would be to hurl the political system, and no small part of the economy, into chaos. Yet there's little sign that Washington is preparing for that scenario." ...

... Greg Sargent: A few Republicans get this: "... a Republican Senator, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, is sounding similar warnings in the Wall Street Journal. Sasse tells fellow Republicans they'd better have an alternative to deal with those who might lose insurance, to avert a political nightmare for Republicans: 'Chemotherapy turned off for perhaps 12,000 people, dialysis going dark for 10,000. The horror stories will be real.'"

... Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "Some Republicans say they simply do not believe that the Obama administration isn't developing a fallback plan in case the Supreme Court dismantles a piece of the healthcare law this summer. Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), has repeatedly said there is no plan B if the high court rules that subsidies for insurance cannot be distributed through the federal exchange HealthCare.gov." CW: I do believe "some Republicans" are right.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court seemed inclined Wednesday to agree with a Muslim woman who charged that retailer Abercrombie & Fitch violated anti­discrimination laws when it denied her a job because her head scarf conflicted with the company's dress code."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A Florida fisherman narrowly defeated the federal government at the Supreme Court Wednesday, winning a 5-4 ruling that the three undersized red grouper he threw overboard to avoid an inspector were not covered by an obstruction of justice provision in a financial fraud statute." CW: The Justices can be amusing.

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran, calling it as wrongheaded as the prime minister's backing of the Iraq War. 'Israel is safer today with the added time we have given and the stoppage of the advances in the nuclear program than they were before we got that agreement, which by the way the prime minister opposed,' Kerry said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. 'He was wrong.'"

Seumas Milne & Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian: "Al-Qaida has developed a seaborne unit to attack targets around the Mediterranean, according to a confidential report from Russian intelligence, one of a cache of secret documents from spy agencies around the world tracking jihadi terrorist groups. According to the Russians, North African al-Qaida (Aqim -- al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) has established a 60-strong team of suicide bombers to plant mines under the hull of ships and to use small, fast craft for kamikaze attacks."

Rosalind Helderman & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday." ...

... Josh Gerstein: "In hundreds of documents released to Politico under the Freedom of Information Act, not a single case appears where the State Department explicitly rejected a Bill Clinton speech. Instead, the records show State Department lawyers acted on sparse information about business proposals and speech requests and were under the gun to approve the proposals promptly. The ethics agreement did not require that Clinton provide the estimated income from his private arrangements, making it difficult for ethics officials to tell whether his services were properly valued.... The pact ... imposed no vetting on donations to the Clinton Foundation by individuals or private companies in the U.S. or abroad."

Jessica Roy of New York: "A senior State Department official was arrested on Tuesday on charges of soliciting sex from a minor.... Director of Counterterrorism Daniel Rosen was busted in a sting operation by a detective posing as a child online, because life imitates To Catch a Predator. Rosen was charged with use of a communications device to solicit a juvenile, and shuttled off to jail in D.C.... The State Department is already working hard to distance itself from him...." Here's the AP story. ...

... CW Orange Alert: So how come the State Department's tippy-top counterterrorism "expert" can't tell a little girl from a police detective? If Rosen represents the high-water mark of expertise employed to defend us from slippery bad guys, this is the Scariest Story of the Day.

"The Chairman's Flight." Jessica Roy notes that it's great to be the chairman of the New York & New Jersey Port Authority. It appears to include "bespoke air travel.... Kids, one day you too could have your own airline route, if only you are rich in money or bankrupt in morals." CW: I'll bet United didn't break his guitar, either.

Mike DeBonis & Aaron Davis of the Washington Post: "Flanked by members of the D.C. Council and the city's top lawyer, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser announced on live television Wednesday that marijuana possession will become legal in the District at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. 'We believe that we're acting lawfully,' Bowser said, offering a direct retort to House Republicans who late Tuesday urged the mayor -- and even threatened prison time -- to reconsider moving forward with legalization.... House Republicans said Wednesday that they are not preparing to take legal action against the city should it proceed in defiance of a congressional funding rider. Instead, one congressman said, it would fall to the Justice Department to intervene -- a much less likely scenario under the Obama administration." ...

... Marc Fisher, et al., of the Washington Post provide some background & write that "legalization is ... a pivotal moment for the nation and the city." CW P.S.: Certain limited-government Congressional Republicans still think the limited government should boss around black people.

Annals of "Journalism, Ctd.

Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Craig Spencer, the doctor who was found to have Ebola days after returning to New York City from Guinea, wrote in an essay published on Wednesday that he was mistakenly cast as a 'fraud, a hipster, and a hero' by the media as he fought for his life from a hospital bed." Spencer's essay is here.... 'The media and politicians could have educated the public about Ebola,' he wrote. 'Instead, they spent hours retracing my steps through New York and debating whether Ebola can be transmitted through a bowling ball.'"

The Return of Forrest Gump. Olivia Marshall of Media Matters: "Bill O'Reilly has claimed repeatedly that he witnessed the execution of nuns while reporting in 1981 on the civil war in El Salvador, an apparent fabrication that is at odds with both history and what O'Reilly himself has said about arriving in the country after the event took place, according to new information unearthed by Media Matters." ...

... Geez, he even lies to his sainted mother:

Both Sides Do It. Charles Pierce: "One of our Beltway fave-raves, Ron (Keep Up The Fight) Fournier of the National Journal, is back with another survey of the deplorable fashion in which politics keeps getting involved in our politics. Like the veteran journalist that he is, Ron gets right to it in what we call the lede. "Who's at fault for the looming Homeland Security Department shutdown? Everyone in power." ...

... CW: BTW, Pierce's claim that Obama "had a nominal veto-proof majority in the Senate, where all the easily reached chokepoints are, from his inauguration day until Ted Kennedy died in September of 2009" is just wrong. There wasn't a 60-vote Senate majority (which included the Despicable Lieberman, et al., & Sen. Robert Byrd, who was sick & not in attendance most of the time) till Al Franken won the Minnesota vote recount & was sworn in in early July. Also, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick replaced Kennedy with Paul Kirk, a Kennedy factotum who was a reliable Democratic vote. The Democratic supermajority (in name only because of Byrd's last illness) lasted between July 7, 2009, till Scott Brown (R) was sworn in February 10, 2010."

Presidential Race

Ariel Edwards-Levy of the Huffington Post: "'The fundamental challenge for my side is the seemingly inexorable change in the composition of presidential electorates,' Republican pollster Whit Ayres ...said.... 'And there's no reason to believe that that's going to stop magically.' The demographic change poses little problem for the GOP in midterm elections, when young and minority voters are far more likely than older, white voters to stay home.... That's the stunning part for me in running these numbers -- to realize that the last Republican to win a presidential election, who reached out very aggressively to minorities, and did better than any Republican nominee before or since among minorities, still didn't achieve enough of both of those groups in order to put together a winning percentage' for 2016, Ayres said."

A War of His Own. Margaret Hartmann: "During a radio interview on Wednesday, [winger] host Hugh Hewitt brought up a concern about a third Bush presidency that probably hadn't occurred to most people: Would Jeb 'be overly cautious about using force for fear of having a "third Bush war" occur?' Everyone can rest easy, because the answer is no."

Jack Schafer of Politico: "A candidate like [Scott] Walker who can't answer a question that isn't in his briefing book or campaign white paper fails one of the most elemental tests for becoming president: how to handle the unexpected/undesired. Pouting or playing the victim when asked a hazing question just makes a bad situation worse. Just ask Sarah Palin."

Gail Collins writes that Chris Christie's presidential hopes just bit the dust in a pretty boring way: his "signature achievement" -- reforming the state's public pension system -- is a disaster.

Beyond the Beltway

... Mary Walsh of the New York Times: "First in Detroit, then in Stockton, Calif., and now in New Jersey, judges and other top officials are challenging the widespread belief that public pensions are untouchable. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey delivered the latest blow on Tuesday, when he proposed to freeze that state's public pension plans and move workers into new ones intended not to overwhelm future budgets or impose open-ended demands on taxpayers." ...

... Matt Arco of NJ.com: "Hours before Gov. Chris Christie delivers his annual budget address today, the state's largest teacher union is seeking to make clear today that a deal has not been struck between the union and the governor on overhauling New Jersey's ailing pension system.... The statement comes after Christie's office said Monday the governor will announce today he's teaming up with the NJEA on 'groundbreaking changes' to tackle New Jersey's pension woes. The governor's office did not say it had reached a deal with the union." ...

... Matt Arco: "The governor declared Tuesday during a joint legislative session that the commission he appointed to propose solutions to fixing New Jersey's pension system 'reached an unprecedented accord with the NJEA.' But the governor's declaration appeared to take the union by surprise." Christie blamed the media's "careless reporting" for any misunderstanding between the teachers' union & him.

Julie Bosman of the New York Times: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel "won more than 45 percent of [Tuesday's] vote to [Jesús 'Chuy'] Garcia's 34 percent, but the gap was close enough to raise sharp questions about whether Mr. Emanuel, a former congressman and chief of staff to President Obama, could easily shake off the insurgent." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "Garcia is unabashed in making this contest an ideological struggle. He has cast Emanuel -- who received an endorsement from his old boss, President Obama, and vastly outspent his opponent -- as a local reincarnation of Mitt Romney, 'Mayor 1 Percent.'"

American "Justice," Ctd. Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "Vic Suter, a protester arrested before the 2012 Nato summit in Chicago, has told the Guardian about her experience of being detained inside Homan Square, a warehouse where multiple detainees allege they have been unable to contact legal counsel. Suter described a situation in which she was neither booked nor permitted a phone call.... Suter's account echoes that of Brian Jacob Church, whose story of extended detention without public notification and delayed legal access was featured in a Guardian's exposé on Tuesday."

Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Jonathan Gruber, the consultant who said ObamaCare became law due to the 'stupidity of the American voter,' was fired from the board of the Massachusetts health exchange on Wednesday.Gov. Charlie Baker (R) asked Gruber, an MIT professor, to resign, along with three other members of the board, according to the governor's office."

Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "Three officers unloaded a volley of 17 bullets at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, of which 'five to six' struck the unarmed Mexican national during a fatal encounter with police in Pasco, Washington, the police unit investigating his death has revealed. Zambrano-Montes was killed on the evening of 10 February at a busy intersection in the majority Hispanic city. Video footage of the incident, uploaded to YouTube and viewed more than a million times, shows Zambrano-Montes running away from three officers, at one point raising his arms, before he turns to them and is gunned down."

News Ledes

New York Times: "An Argentine judge on Thursday dismissed the criminal allegations against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner that had been brought by Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who had accused her of conspiring to shield Iranian officials from responsibility for the deadly bombing of a Buenos Aires community center in 1994.The judge, Daniel Rafecas, decided that the criminal complaint Mr. Nisman put forward before his mysterious death last month was not sufficient to open an investigation into the president."

New York Times: "Continuing its assaults on a string of Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, the Islamic State militant group has seized scores more residents over the past two days, bringing the number of captives to as many as several hundred, Assyrian organizations inside and outside Syria said on Thursday."

Guardian: "A British man has been identified as the knife-wielding militant who appears in Islamic State (Isis) videos claiming responsibility for the beheadings of US, British and other hostages. The Guardian understands that Mohammad Emwazi, a 26-year-old west Londoner and university graduate, is the militant."

Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Remus dumped as much as a foot of snow on the South, and its trek will continue up the East Coast on Thursday. In addition to heavy snow, the storm system left hundreds of thousands without power. Businesses and schools were closed as the entire region slowed to a halt when the snow began to fall. Northern Alabama's roads were extremely treacherous. Overnight Wednesday along Interstate 65, multiple motorists were stranded on the highway and had to spend the night in their vehicles, according to My Fox Alabama."