The Ledes

Thursday, February 26, 2015.

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."

The Ledes

Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

Washington Post: "The Senate voted Wednesday to move ahead with a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security after Democratic leaders  dropped an earlier pledge to block it unless they get assurances from House Republican leaders that it would pass their chamber. The bill advanced on a procedural vote by a 98-2 margin. The only dissenters were Republican Sens. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.)"

A Message from Homeland Security. New York Times: "Three men living in Brooklyn were arrested and charged on Wednesday with providing material support to the Islamic State, a terrorist organization that controls large parts of Iraq and Syria and has been actively recruiting Westerners to its fight. One of the men was arrested early Wednesday morning at Kennedy International Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul and then planned to travel to Syria, according to the authorities." ...

     ... Politico Update: "A man arrested on charges of planning to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also mused about assassinating President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. Abdurasul Juraboev, a 24-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan, allegedly asked online, 'Is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here? What I’m saying is, to shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves, will it do?,' according to the Justice Department’s complaint."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

The Hill: "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden on Sunday [Feb. 1] warned that the U.S. could see a 'large outbreak' of measles.... There are at least 102 reported cases in 14 states, according to the CDC. Frieden said that the U.S. is 'likely to see more cases.'... The said the best way to prevent the spread of measles was vaccination.Frieden said despite the U.S.'s 92 percent vaccination rate, there is growing evidence more parents are not vaccinating their children."

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

White House Live Video
February 25

10:30 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks about the administration's economic policies & receives a distinguished public service award in Concord, New Hampshire (audio Only)

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden participates in a roundtable discussion at Manchester Community College in Manchester, New Hampshire (audio only)

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

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

Deadline: ESPN suspends Keith Olbermann for engaging in an "inappropriate" "Twitter War" with some Penn State students. ...

... CW: Hard to believe something like this hasn't happened sooner.

Buzz Aldrin during a spacewalk, November 1966. Last year Aldrin described the photo as the "BEST SELFIE EVER." CW: I'd say he's right.

New York Times: "Hundreds of photographs from the early years of the space age are for sale. That includes the first image taken from space — from an altitude of 65 miles by a camera on a V-2 rocket launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Oct. 24, 1946. (The boundary to outer space is generally placed at 100 kilometers, or 62.1 miles.) The prints are vintage — dating from that era, not modern reproductions — and come from the collection of a single European collector, said Sarah Wheeler, head of photographs at Bloomsbury Auctions in London."

** Charles Pierce comments on wingers' Twitter reactions to the Oscars.

Actor Patricia Arquette accepts her Academy Award & calls for women's wage equality:

... Which sparked outrage on the right. And dismay on the left.

#OscarsSoWhite. Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Sunday was a study in contradictions; there was overwhelming emphasis on the visibility of black people in Hollywood, yet their peers hadn’t deemed their work fit for nomination in any of the major individual categories."

Common & John Legend accept the award for the song "Glory" from the film "Selma":

The Los Angeles Times' Academy Awards page is here. The main story is here. The list of winners is here.

Los Angeles Times: "A Palm Springs home built using Joseph Eichler’s original blueprints is under contract to sell for $1.29 million. The newly built Modernist design, considered the first true Eichler home developed in 40 years, came to market on Tuesday. According to real estate brokers and developers Troy Kudlac and Ross Stout of KUD Properties Inc., which handled the listing side, it sold that day for the asking price." With slideshow.

If you just can't get enough of the Academy Awards, the L. A. Times has a guide to Oscar-related TV shows. If you want to watch the Oscars online, here's where & how.

D. R. Tucker in the Washington Monthly: "... give [Jon] Stewart his props for the positive things he has done over the years. He has inspired a new generation of commentators who will continue to call out political perversity and media mendacity. However, the man was not without his flaws — and the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a gigantic one. As Olbermann, Maher and Maddow have long argued, sanity has to defeat fear, not figure out some way to get along with it."

Matt Wilstein of Mediaite: "In addition to canceling Joy Reid‘s daytime show The Reid Report, which MSNBC sources confirmed to Mediaite earlier today, the network is also canceling Ronan Farrow’s show and moving Way Too Early’s Thomas Roberts back to a dayside role, anchoring a straight news show from 1-3 p.m. ET daily. Neither Reid nor Farrow have been fired by the network."

USA Today: "Random House Children's Books said Wednesday it will publish a recently discovered manuscript with Dr. Seuss sketches, called What Pet Should I Get?, on July 28. The publisher plans at least two more books based on materials found in 2013 by his widow, Audrey Geisel, and his secretary...."

Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post on the unlikeable Chevy Chase. ...

... Here's a segment from SNL's 40th anniversary show. You can watch some of the rest of it here:

 

 

New York: "Days after the sudden passing of Bob Simon and David Carr, on Sunday night the institutions they worked for paid tribute to the journalists by releasing their final work." Simon's last piece is embedded in the New York story; Carr's syllabus is here.

New York Times: Long Island University announced the winners of the George Polk awards for journalism.

Dwight Garner of the New York Times on the poems of Philip Levine.

Jennifer Senior of New York writes a lovely remembrance of David Carr.

Margaret Hartmann of New York reports some reactions to the death of New York Times columnist David Carr. ...

... A. O. Scott of the New York Times remembers David Carr. ...

... Terrence McCoy & Justin Moyer of the Washington Post on Carr's death.

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Thursday
Jan292015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 30, 2015

NEW. Philip Rucker & Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney told supporters Friday that he would not run for president in 2016, ending three weeks of public speculation and sparing the Republican Party a potentially bruising nominating battle between its past nominee and its rising stars." Ah, well, now he can go out & help the poor. Or maybe he's over that concern, too. Thanks to Akhilleus for the heads-up.

Steven Mufson, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Obama will present a federal budget proposal on Monday that would exceed restrictive spending caps mandated by Congress four years ago and propose new capital gains and bank taxes, an effort that will likely get bogged down in congressional opposition to taxes and big budget deficits."

Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama on Thursday will call on congressional Republicans to approve a 'clean' funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that preserves his executive actions on limiting deportations. During a visit to the House Democratic retreat, the president is expected to seize on a suggestion from some Republicans that they allow funding for the department to lapse if they are unable to secure concessions."

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to force approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.... The White House promptly declared that Mr. Obama would veto the measure -- which would force the approval of a proposed 1,179-mile oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico -- in a stroke of the pen that is expected to be the opening shot in a series of vetoes of Republican measures."

Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Loretta Lynch has enough votes to clear a key committee on her confirmation as the nation's next attorney general, as two Senate Republicans said Thursday that they'll back her and another one indicated his potential support. Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona both said after Lynch testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that they would vote to confirm the federal prosecutor, believing she is qualified to succeed Eric Holder.... Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said he was 'inclined' to back Lynch.... Four of the committee's Republicans -- Jeff Sessions of Alabama, David Vitter of Louisiana, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah -- are expected to oppose her nomination." Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) & other Republicans on the committee have not signaled their decisions. "Though they were split on whether they would support Lynch, Senate Republicans had a clear strategy on Day Two of her confirmation hearing: Make it all about Holder...." ...

... Tracy Walsh of TPM: "Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) accused his Republican colleagues on Thursday of turning the confirmation hearings for the next attorney general into 'a soundbite factory for Fox News and conspiracy theorists everywhere.' Whitehouse criticized GOP lawmakers for 'launch[ing] a series of unanswerable attacks' on outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder instead of focusing on the candidate under consideration, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. 'There are plenty of forums where the attorney general would have an opportunity to defend himself,' Whitehouse said. 'This is not one.'" Watch the video. Whitehouse, as usual, is terrific:

... Charles Pierce: "Unless the Senate starts listening to Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-Twelve Oaks), Loretta Lynch is going to be the new Attorney General.... The way you know what they're really about is that, [Thursday], the Republicans turned the Senate Judiciary Committee into an impromptu episode of Fox And Friends." Pierce, with some serious help from Sen. Whitehouse (above), goes on to relate pretty much what you need to know about Thursday's Hearing for Aggrieved Wingnuts & their Legal Aide(r & Abettor) Jonathan Turley. ...

... But Yet. Let's Give Sharyl Attkisson Her Moment. Tim Devaney of the Hill: "The Obama administration treats investigative journalists and their sources like 'enemies of the state,' a former CBS News reporter who accuses the government of spying on her told a Senate panel Thursday. 'The job of getting at the truth has never been more difficult,' Sheryl Attkisson testified at the Senate confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. She said the DOJ's surveillance of journalists could do 'long-term damage to a supposedly free press' and urged Lynch to chart a new course." ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "Many of the allegations made by former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson regarding alleged computer intrusions by the U.S. government are disputed in a report by the Justice Department's inspector general. 'The OIG's investigation was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise,' reads the inspector general's report.... The ... report was entered into the Senate record as part of the Lynch hearings.... In testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee..., Attkisson complained that a document request from Justice's inspector general office yielded only a 'partial' look at the report, which didn't include forensic details." ...

... Oh, enough with the whining. Let's have some snarling. ...

... In a Another Senate Committee Room.... Tom LeGro & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) confronted anti-war Code Pink protesters at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, saying 'Get out of here, you low-life scum.'"

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Many Republicans would view it as a dream come true if the Supreme Court were to slash a centerpiece of Obamacare by the end of June. But that dream could fade into a nightmare as the spotlight turns to the Republican Congress to fix the mayhem that could ensue. 'It's an opportunity that we've failed at for two decades. We've not been particularly close to being on the same page on this subject for two decades,' said a congressional Republican health policy aide who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. 'So this idea -- we're ready to go? Actually no, we're not.'" ...

     ... CW: In a story I linked yesterday, Sarah Ferris of the Hill reported, "Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter Wednesday to the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), demanding the administration show its hand in case the court rules against ObamaCare this summer." I doubt Republicans see anything ironic, hypocritical or galling about this demand. ...

... Of course, as Ed Kilgore reminds us, "It's not that there's anything inherently complicated about the 'fix.' Congress could resolve the problem in about a day with a one- or two-sentence amendment to ACA that made plain what the bill's sponsors clearly intended all along: the subsidies are available in all 50 states. The problem, of course, is that Republicans cannot support a simple 'fix' after years of treating Obamacare as a socialistic abomination unto the Lord." ...

... This morning Greg Sargent rips to pieces the final shred of the Republican charade that they will "fix" ObamaCare should the Supremes strike down tax credits to residents of states which have not established their own exchanges. ...

... CW: Just to be clear, should the Supremes rule for King, I believe the Obama administration can "fix" the problem for many (but not all) states, simply by having each state in jeopardy create its very own state-created link -- with the state seal & all -- to the federally-created exchange for that state. Or by some similar stunt. This will NOT help residents of confederate states who want to make sure their middle-class residents don't get the ACA tax breaks they would otherwise receive under the law. We'll have to wait & see how the overtaxed in those states react to their legislators/governors' decisions to screw them.

... Worse than Blackbeard. Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post: Archaeologists discover that even the ruthless Blackbeard had a universal healthcare system for his crew of pirates.

Lauren French of Politico: "President Barack Obama broadly took swipes at Republicans on Thursday night ... and he took a thinly veiled swipe at ... [Mitt Romney]. 'Even though their policies haven't quite caught up yet, their rhetoric is starting to sound pretty Democratic,' Obama said of the Republicans during a House Democratic retreat. 'We have a former presidential candidate on the other side and [who is] suddenly deeply concerned about poverty.That's great, let's go. Let's do something about it.'"

Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center: "President Obama's latest tax package, which he'll unveil in detail next week along with his new budget, would lower taxes for low-income households and significantly raise taxes for the highest income 1 percent -- those making $663,000 or more, according to new Tax Policy Center estimates. Middle-income households would see relatively modest changes in their tax bills." The chart Gleckman provides does not reflect the recent "changes in flexible savings accounts for child care and Sec. 529 [college savings] plans."

What a Coincidence. Sarah Posner: "Rachel Maddow broke the news last night that Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association's Director of Issue Analysis, has been fired, following media coverage and pressure from watchdog groups highlighting Fischer's racist and homophobic views in advance of an AFA-funded trip to Israel for members of the Republican National Committee.... The Southern Poverty Law Center ... urged RNC members to boycott the trip. (None have.)... Getting rid of Fischer, though, does not get rid of the AFA's problem. Not only did the AFA tolerate Fischer's outrageous statements for years, in 2010 former employees told me his views were actively and enthusiastically shared and supported within the organization." ...

... Southern Poverty Law Center: "In a letter to SPLC officials, the American Family Association (AFA) has disavowed a series of racist and bigoted statements made by its chief spokesman in recent years. The repudiation of Bryan Fischer's statements came just two days before members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) are scheduled to embark on a trip to Israel sponsored by the AFA. Last week, the SPLC wrote to all 168 members of the RNC urging them not to accompany the AFA on the trip.... The SPLC has named the AFA as a hate group due to its history of making false, demonizing statements about the LGBT community, including Fischer's contention that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust.... Fischer has claimed ... that black people 'rut like rabbits'; that the First Amendment applies only to Christians; that Hispanics are 'socialists by nature' and come to the U.S. to 'plunder' the country; that Muslims should not be permitted to build mosques in the United States; that an underground railroad is needed to protect children from gay parents; and more." ...

... Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch: "[Wednesday], the American Family Association announced that it was stripping Bryan Fischer of his position as a spokesman for the group. The AFA's move to distance itself from Fischer's regular barrages of bigotry apparently came in response pressure from its allies in the Republican National Committee, who are preparing to go on a tour of Israel on AFA's dime. (Though the fact that the group is retaining Fischer as a radio personality on its American Family Radio network makes the whole thing somewhat less convincing.)... One statement in the letter [to the SPLC] stands out: 'AFA rejects the policy advocated by Bryan Fischer that homosexual conduct should be illegal.' Really? Is AFA renouncing its support for criminal sodomy laws? We look forward to seeing the AFA issue a full retraction of its previous support for criminalizing 'homosexual conduct.' But we aren't holding our breath." ...

... Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch: "Bryan Fischer kicked off his radio program [Thursday] by refuting reports that he had been fired by the American Family Association, explaining that he has simply given up his role as an official AFA spokesman while retaining his role as a daily radio host for AFA's radio outlet, American Family Radio. As we noted earlier today, this supposed change is utterly meaningless and does nothing to absolve the AFA of its responsibility for giving Fischer a national platform from which to spread his hate."

Carl Hulse & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has been reaching out to leading Capitol Hill Democrats to try to ease criticism over his coming address to Congress, but has made little progress.... [Senate Minority Leader Harry] "Reid said that Mr. Netanyahu promised he would make the speech as nonpartisan as possible. 'He proceeded to tell me how distrustful he is of Iran and that is kind of an understatement,' Mr. Reid said." ...

... Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: "The U.S. Senate Banking Committee voted 18-4 on Thursday to advance a bill that would toughen sanctions on Iran if international negotiators fail to reach an agreement on Tehran's nuclear program by the end of June. However, the bill is not expected to come up for a vote in the full Senate until at least March 24. Ten Democrats, including the measure's co-author, Senator Robert Menendez, announced an agreement earlier this week to hold off for two months to allow time to reach a diplomatic solution.... In the committee, only four Democrats voted against the bill...."

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Two weeks after the Secret Service forced out four of its top officials, lawmakers are questioning whether the agency should have ousted one more -- its influential second-in-command. Members of Congress from both parties are concerned that by keeping in place Alvin 'A.T.' Smith, the Secret Service stopped short of fully reforming upper management following a string of embarrassing security lapses, according to government officials familiar with the discussions.... 'I'm worried that A.T. Smith is part of the problem, not part of the solution,' said the committee's chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). 'He seems to be in the middle of most of these really bad decisions.'"

Vice President Biden in a New York Times op-ed: "... on Monday, President Obama will request from Congress $1 billion to help Central America's leaders make the difficult reforms and investments required to address the region's interlocking security, governance and economic challenges.... The cost of investing now in a secure and prosperous Central America is modest compared with the costs of letting violence and poverty fester.... For the first time, we can envision and work toward having the Americas be overwhelmingly middle class, democratic and secure."

Paul Krugman is trying to convince Germans to get real about Greece & stop with their moralizing demands. ...

... George Packer's profile of Angela Merkel, published late last year in the New Yorker, may help to explain Germany's stance toward Greece. Here's one clue: "Volker Schlöndorff, the director of 'The Tin Drum' and other films, got to know Merkel in the years just after reunification. 'Before you contradict her, you would think twice -- she has the authority of somebody who knows that she's right,' he said. 'Once she has an opinion, it seems to be founded, whereas I tend to have opinions that I have to revise frequently.'"

Presidential Race

Uh-Oh. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "David Kochel, a Republican strategist based in Iowa who worked on both of Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns, is joining Jeb Bush's political action committee as a senior strategist and is in line to serve as Mr. Bush's national campaign manager.... The move to tap Mr. Kochel, who advised Mr. Romney for over six years, represents a shot across the bow of the 2012 Republican nominee, who is now considering a third bid for the White House."

The Candidate from the Past. Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: Wisconsin Gov. Scott "Walker's rise is a reminder that among Republican primary voters, and especially Iowa-caucus goers, the market for ideological or even stylistic innovation, may be smaller than the media assumes. Because the most striking thing about Scott Walker's speech at the Freedom Summit, and his emerging campaign message more generally, is how retro it is. Walker concedes nothing to the conventional wisdom about what the GOP must do to compete in a more culturally tolerant, ethnically diverse and economically insecure America. And the GOP faithful love it."

Sean Sullivan: "Sen. Marco Rubio this week may be sending the clearest signals yet that he intends to run for president rather than seek reelection to a second term in 2016. In a week when the Senate was consumed with a bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, Rubio (R-Fla.) was in California raising money for his political action committee and reelection campaign. He was the only Republican senator who did not vote on final passage of the Keystone bill Thursday.

Here's a fake "secret tape" Rand Paul released. I think you're supposed to be smart enough to know that's not really Hillary & Jeb on the phone:

Beyond the Beltway

After a while, you can't even tell what's a pre-shock or an after-shock. The ground just keeps moving. -- Rep. Jason Murphey, Guthrie, Oklahoma ...

... Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: In a state "founded on oil wealth," Oklahoma lawmakers, Gov. Mary Fallin & other state officials are having a right hard time deciding what to do about all them earthquakes caused by oil & gas deep-drilling. "Meanwhile, the state seismologist, Austin Holland, readily acknowledged that the industry has tried to influence his work -- even as he and his colleague ... are pelted with 'hate e-mail' from quake victims."

Behind this attractive, smiling face is a nasty piece of work.Reeve Hamilton & Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune: "Freshman state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, is not in Austin today to celebrate Texas Muslim Capitol Day. But she left instructions for the staff in her Capitol office on how to handle visitors who are, including asking them to declare allegiance to the United States. 'I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws,' she posted on Facebook. 'We will see how long they stay in my office.'" ...

... Jay Hathaway of Gawker: "I guess she wants American Muslims to renounce terrorism (of which they aren't actually a part) and pledge allegiance to the United States (the country where they already live) by taking a solemn oath in front of that very American icon, the flag of Israel*? Cool. Good. Neither crazy nor bigoted. Definitely what you want to hear from your elected representatives. Earlier in the day, White had shared a scaremongering story, originating from Breitbart, about a Texas 'Sharia court.'... Another victory for cultural understanding. Another proud day for Texas." ...

... John Amato of Crooks & Liars: "Texas Muslim Capitol Day is a good thing and has been going on since 2003. Its function is to have Muslims in the community meet lawmakers and learn about the political process. That's a surprisingly progressive thing to do in Texas, but as usual it turned ugly when conservative Christian protesters showed up and yelled Islamophobic rants at those participating in the event." ...

... When Nullification Leads to State-Sponsored Killing. Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "Texas has executed an intellectually disabled prisoner despite a high court ban on putting mentally impaired prisoners to death, the second such violation of constitutional protections to occur in the US this week. Robert Ladd, 57, died by lethal injection on Thursday evening. Under Texas's unique -- and widely ridiculed -- definition of intellectual disability, he was deemed capable of being executed because he did not match the degree of mental impairment depicted in a character in a John Steinbeck novel.... [The Supreme Court has] "banned executions of people with 'mental retardation' on the grounds that they were a form of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the eighth amendment. It also said that the death penalty states had to conform to standards set by medical science.... Yet this week two prisoners who were categorically found to be mentally impaired by numerous medical experts have been put to death. The first was in Georgia where Warren Hill, 54, was judicially killed on Tuesday." ...

... CW: Here's what I don't get: "The Supreme Court rejected both appeals to stop Robert Ladd's execution." Approval of a writ of certiori requires only four justices. Are the Supremes as smart as Lennie Small? ...

... Carimah Townes of Think Progress: "If Texas state Rep. Dan Flynn (R) gets his way, teachers will have the right to use deadly force against students in Texas classrooms, in the near future. The Lone Star State already permits teachers to have firearms in the classroom, but H.B. 868, also known as the Teacher's Protection Act, would authorize instructors to use 'force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator's person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator.' Instructors would also have the right to use deadly force 'in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.' Moreover, civil immunity would be granted to those who use deadly force, meaning they would not be liable for the injury or death of student." ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "This also stands to make turn-in-your-textbooks day considerably more exciting. Better hope I don't see any penned-in mustaches in your history book, you little snots."

Wednesday
Jan282015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 29, 2015

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "During an all-day confirmation hearing that highlighted Republican anger with the administration, [attorney general nominee Loretta] Lynch declined repeated opportunities to disavow actions taken by the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Instead, the first African American woman nominated to be attorney general cast herself as a career federal prosecutor determined to uphold the rule of law and willing to provide honest counsel to the president even when he might disagree." ...

... Lynch's opening remarks:

... Dana Milbank: Republicans "who figured they could take out their frustrations on Lynch had misjudged her: The nominee has a long and impressive résumé as a no-nonsense prosecutor, and she managed at Wednesday's hearing to be both assertive and anodyne in her testimony, expert in the law but opaque about controversial legal matters. As important, Lynch, with the help of committee Democrats, painted an unassailable biography: This daughter of a fourth-generation minister and a segregation-fighting mother from the South would be the first African American woman to be the nation's top law enforcement official.... Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) toned down his prepared statement as he read it.... Even the dyspeptic Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) acknowledged that his legal friends in New York describe her as 'a U.S. attorney who honored and respected the law.'" ...

... Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post: "Why is Sharyl Attkisson testifying at Loretta Lynch's confirmation hearing? Henderson lists some of the other witnesses Republicans have called: they all have zip to do with Lynch. Zip. These twisted old farts are going to pass Lynch out of committee. They don't give a whup about her. Their purpose is to hammer Holder & Obama.

Dana Milbank: "'Yes, there have been a couple of stumbles,' John Boehner acknowledged Tuesday.... What has happened since Republicans took full control of Congress three weeks ago has been less a stumble than a pratfall involving the legislative equivalent of a banana peel, flailing arms, an upended bookcase, torn drapes and a slide across a laden banquet table into a wedding cake.... Chaos could be found around every corner of the Capitol on Tuesday morning." ...

... CW: When all else fails, Dana, there is but one answer: vote to repeal ObamaCare. Ergo, that's exactly what Boehner has scheduled for next week. Hey, it passed the first 50 times, so there's little reason to think there will be a snafu this time.

The Bibi Bonus. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The decision by the Israeli prime minister to accept an unusual invitation from House Republicans to address a joint session of Congress has had the unintended effect of helping the [President Obama] rally Democrats as his administration negotiates a delicate nuclear deal with Iran. For months, the issue of imposing sanctions on Iran has split many Democrats from the president.... But Mr. Netanyahu's planned speech -- a provocation of the president that many Democrats found distasteful and undiplomatic -- has helped shift the political dynamic." ...

... Julie Davis of the New York Times provides some background on Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., who was born in the U.S. & who began his political career as a GOP operative. Dermer arranged Netanyahu's speech before Congress & kept it secret from Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom Dermer met the day before John Boehner announced the speech. ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this week warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his coming speech before Congress threatens to sink the nuclear talks between Iran and the United States, the Democratic leader said Wednesday. 'I think that such a presentation could send the wrong message,' Pelosi told reporters during the Democrats' annual issues retreat in Philadelphia. 'That's my view, and I shared that with the prime minister today.'" ...

** Juan Cole: "The audacity of Speaker of the House John Boehner colluding with the prime minister of a foreign country to undermine a sitting president is, I think, still not entirely appreciated. And the whole point of the plot with Binyamin Netanyahu is to stop a sitting president from successfully making an opening to a former enemy, reducing the likelihood of war.... And frankly I don't think a Speaker would have dared try to treat a white president that way." Read the whole post on how "Israel went from being a Democratic to a Republican project."

Law professor Eric Segall looks at the alternate history created by the instigators of King v. Burwell, the case claiming that residents of states which have not established their own health insurance exchanges are not entitled to subsidies: "... as of this moment, there is not a shred of evidence that, in 2010, when the law was passed, any member of Congress or the Administration believed federal subsidies would be unavailable on federal exchanges. If anyone can demonstrate otherwise, then we can have the argument. So far, no one has come close." ...

     ... Via Paul Waldman: "It's going to take a titanic act of disingenuousness for the Supreme Court to accept the plaintiffs' absurd argument in this case. But worry not: there are at least four justices, and maybe even five, who are up to the task." ...

... Brian Beutler: "It's not sufficient -- at least for political purposes, and probably for legal purposes -- for conservatives hoping to gut Obamacare to argue that 'the plain text of the ACA reflects poor statutory draftsmanship....' So they have concocted a theory of intent, wherein a few in-the-know Democrats drafted the law this way on purpose, and confusion reigned until a handful of conservative lawyers swooped in to inform the world.... King v. Burwell now rests on an argument that has crossed the fuzzy line dividing revisionist history from X-Files-style conspiracy theory." ...

... Steve Benen: "The rationale behind the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court -- the final Republican effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act -- has slowly unraveled in recent weeks, but just over the last couple of days, the entire anti-ACA argument has effectively become gibberish.... Left with no evidence or connection to reality, the people supporting this lawsuit -- which is to say, the people who pretend to believe the lawsuit has merit -- have resorted to an alternative-universe theory in which they see a reality no one else can see." ...

... Sam Baker of the National Journal: "Health insurance companies and hospitals mounted an aggressive defense of Obamacare's insurance subsidies Wednesday, warning the Supreme Court that eliminating the payments would be 'grossly inequitable' to millions of Americans. Both industries have a lot on the line as the court prepares to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit that aims to cut off the Affordable Care Act's premium subsidies in most of the country. In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, health insurers said a ruling against the subsidies would have widespread and severe ripple effects, potentially throwing states' entire insurance markets into chaos." ...

     ... CW: I doubt the confederate Supremes will carefully read (much less heed) briefs filed by Democratic legislators (you know, the people who wrote the law) & governors (who administer it), but surely they will care what captains of the insurance industry have to say. It seems to me these briefs could matter. ...

... AND This Is Rich. Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter Wednesday to the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), demanding the administration show its hand in case the court rules against ObamaCare this summer.... [HHS Secretary Sylvia] Burwell has repeatedly said she remains confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the subsidies. When asked about how the administration is preparing states for the worst-case scenario, Burwell has flatly declined to discuss the plan." CW: Republicans in Congress has been promising for, what, five years?, to develop a plan to replace ObamaCare, & they still don't have anything you couldn't scribble on a cocktail napkin. But they want the administration to immediately devise a contingency plan in case the Supremes rule in favor of the plaintiffs in a GOP-endorsed nonsense lawsuit to undermine the ACA. ...

... Oh, Excuuuuse Me. Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner: "House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on Wednesday night that after nearly five years of opposing President Obama's healthcare law, Republicans were preparing to release an alternative in this Congress. 'There will be an alternative and you'll get to see it,' Boehner told Fox News' Brett Baier. This is a worthy goal that's long overdue, but one that's easier said than done. As I detail in my new book, Overcoming Obamacare, the problem isn't that Republicans haven't released any healthcare plans, but that they've had trouble rallying around a single one due to some fundamental differences."

Gail Collins on drone control. Here's a part about Congressional oversight: "Take Representative Sean Patrick Maloney [D] of New York, whose wedding photographer had a drone taking pictures during the happy occasion. When critics accused him of violating F.A.A. rules[, which prohibit commercial uses], Maloney said he 'wasn't up-to-date on the lack of regulations around the emerging technology.' The same thing was true, the congressman argued, of 'most people who are about to get married.' Excellent point! Although most people who are about to get married are not serving on the House transportation subcommittee on aviation.... 'They better beware, because I've got a shotgun,' said Senator Rand Paul [R], when asked about drones after the White House incident." ...

... CW: If I'm not mistaken, both parties disqualify potential candidates who do too well on party-tailored intelligence tests. Sample question on both: Which of these people is least like the others? (a) Oil company lobbyist, (b) Eccentric billionaire, (c) SuperPac CEO, (d) Ordinary citizen. (See comment threads from yesterday & the day before for context.)

It Depends upon What the Meaning of "Rich" Is. Josh Barro of the New York Times on why President Obama's proposal to end tax benefits for college tuition accounts was doomed. ...

     ... CW: This also explains one of the major reasons ObamaCare remains unpopular despite all the people it has helped. Americans who are paying for the ACA -- both in insurance premiums & in taxes -- are those whom Barro labels the "merely affluent." ACA opponents are not just ignorant Tea party wahoos who actually benefit from the ACA; they are people whose incomes are -- not coincidentally -- in the range of many members of Congress, their staffs & professional political activists.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: Wingers are so over Sarah Palin. Tumulty runs down what some of the more influential confederates are saying now about Palin, & contrasting their comments today with their over-the-moon hype of 2008. CW Note: Poor Palin is so dumb that she has bought into the media myth that here teleprompter failed during her coherent 2008 convention speech. She told Sean Hannity that whopper just this week. And it is a whopper. ...

... Confederate Matt Lewis in the Daily Beast has had a teeny crisis of conscience: "... it does feel like we have finally reached a tipping point where criticizing Palin isn't only acceptable for conservative opinion leaders, it's now almost expected.)... Before most Americans had ever heard of her, I was among the few suggesting she'd make a fine veep pick. My intern at the time even started the Draft Sarah Palin movement. A few years later, I edited a book of Palin quotes, titled The Quotable Rogue.... It's probably time to concede that the early critics of Sarah Palin had a point, and that they shouldn't have been tarred and feathered and (in some cases) nearly purged from the conservative movement." ...

... CW: Here's what I really don't get. How is it possible for anyone who can write a newspaper column not to have realized Sarah Palin was a dimwit? How about, as a ferinstance, comparing Loretta Lynch's opening remarks with Palin's Iowa Freedom Summit speech, one for which "interested" presidential candidate Palin had months to prepare. Which of these women seems qualified for high public office? ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Charlies Pierce: "That a man under criminal indictment [-- Rick Perry --] can zip around the country, selling T-shirts off his own alleged wrongdoing, and do so full in the knowledge that his criminal indictment is treated in the coverage as less important than the fact that he wears glasses now, is a dreadful verdict on journalistic malpractice. The fact that Scott Walker is under investigation (again) for crimes in (another) office really ought to count more than the fact that he's learned how to yell at people on the stump."

Charles Pierce finds a few flaws in a Politico report on Joni Ernst. CW: I'm curious to see how long reporters give Ernst the Palin benefit-of-the-doubt pardon. Will it be long enough for Ernst to remake herself into a sane person? Or will she remain "unavailable for comment" forevah? Or must we wait five or six years for the MSM to start writing stories that put "Ernst" & "unhinged" in close proximity?

The Accidental Journalist. Catherine Thompson of TPM: In a Fox "News" interview, host Megan Kelly sort of called out the fellow she accidentally called "Fuckabee" on-air for saying that New York women -- presumably Fox "News" employees -- were "trashy." "'Well I do have some news for you before I let you go,' Kelly ribbed her former colleague. 'We're not only swearing. We're drinking, we're smoking, we're having premarital sex with birth control before we go to work, and sometimes boss around a bunch of men.' 'Oh, I just don't want to hear that,' Huckabee responded."

Steve M.: Over at Breitbart News, the folks are outraged that fundamentalist American Muslims resolve intrafaith conflicts pretty much the same way fundamentalist American Jews & Christians do. CW: Now all the confederate ladies will worry they'll soon be forced to wear burkas over their splendid Gone with the Wind hairdos, even if Michelle Obama doesn't have to. ...


... Ben Kamisar
of the Hill: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) praised Michelle Obama on Twitter Wednesday for not wearing a head covering while visiting Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. 'Kudos to @FLOTUS for standing up for women & refusing to wear Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia. Nicely done'."

Elias Isquith of Salon: "The long game [the Koch brothers are playing] is a House of Representatives that is, thanks in part to Citizens United and the 2010 census, almost guaranteed to stay Republican for the foreseeable future. The long game is a GOP establishment that knows it can only diverge from the Tea Party in style (and not substance) if it wants to survive a primary challenge from a Koch-funded opponent. The long game is a new era of almost unprecedented dominance on the part of the GOP when it comes to politics on the state level. And the long game is a feeder system that sends those far-right state-level conservatives to Congress -- while threatening to replace them with someone else if their time in D.C. weakens their devotion to the cause." ...

Presidential Election

Marco Wins Billionaires' Bowl. Ken Vogel & Tarini Parti of Politico: "In an informal straw poll of some conference donors, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came out ahead of four other would-be GOP presidential candidates who had been invited, according to an attendee familiar with the results. The poll was conducted by Frank Luntz, a veteran GOP pollster [& Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer's former boss], during a break-out session of the conference, which wrapped up Tuesday after a long weekend of presentations and discussions at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, Calif." Rand Paul came in last." CW: Maybe it was a beauty pageant. Hair matters. ...

... Steve M.: "These people are rich, influential CEOs, but they watch Fox News just like every other wingnut. If you want their money, before you open your mouth in their presence, ask yourself: Would Sean Hannity say this? If the answer is no, shut up."

The Many Mansions of Mitt. Matt Visor of the Boston Globe: "Two years ago, Mitt Romney didn't think he would run for political office again. And in the aftermath of his bitter defeat in the presidential campaign, he embarked on something of a real estate spree. He simultaneously began building two multimillion-dollar homes, one [in La Jolla, California,] and another outside Salt Lake City. He also bought a third, a slopeside ski chalet in Park City, Utah.... Romney ... may recognize the trouble his real estate holdings could cause in another campaign. He is taking steps to shed some of his property, including retaining a broker who is currently showing the La Jolla home to potential buyers...." Entertaining reading. ...

... Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the economy and foreign policy during a speech at Mississippi State University on Wednesday night. According to speech excerpts obtained by NBC, Romney, who has indicated if he decides to run for president again one of the pillars of his campaign would be inequality, will ask 'How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place?'" ...

     ... Update: Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: Mitt "Romney ... made clear that his prospective 2016 bid would focus squarely on foreign affairs and poverty -- and that [HIllary] Clinton ... was in his sights."

The reason I'm Republican is because I want to help the poor, the middle class. The rich in America, by the way, are fine. -- Mitt Romney, 2015

I'm not concerned about the very poor -- we have a safety net there.... I'm not concerned about the very rich -- they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling. -- Mitt Romney, 2012

Most of former Gov. Flip-Flop's flipflops are not true flipflops. His underlying political philosophy is consistent; only his rhetoric changes. And much of that rhetoric is disingenuous. The poor & middle-class he's so "concerned" about would definitely get the shaft if we all lived in RomneyWorld. -- Constant Weader

Ali Elkin of Bloomberg Politics: "With few other presidential prospects emerging in her party, Hillary Clinton is considering waiting until July to announce her candidacy, Politico reported Thursday, citing top Democrats."

Beyond the Beltway

Reuters: "The US supreme court on Wednesday agreed to temporarily block the execution of three Oklahoma prisoners who are challenging the state’s lethal injection procedure. The court's action means that convicted killers Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole will not be put to death using the sedative they object to until after the supreme court decides whether the procedure violates the US constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The court's brief order leaves open the possibility that the state could try to proceed with the executions using a different combination of drugs."

Steve Barnes of Reuters: "A bid to end Arkansas' practice of honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the same day failed in a state legislative committee on Wednesday.... [The] legislation was criticized by Confederate legacy organizations that saw it as a slight to an important figure in the South's history." CW: Once again, confederates carry the day. I think you'll agree it is right hard to see any difference between Confederates & confederates.

Alan Blinder & Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: After court proceedings reveal lurid details about a brutal campus rape committed by school football players, Vanderbilt students react with indifference: "In interviews, reactions mostly clustered around two poles: This is not the sort of place where such things happen, or they happen everywhere -- and either way, no one should point a finger at Vanderbilt.

Charles Pierce writes quite a good assessment of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo & seems not at all upset that U.S. Attorney Preet Bhahara is hot on Cuomo's heels.

Chris Fitzsimon of N.C. [North Carolina] Policy Watch on the abrupt firing of popular U.N.C. President Tom Ross: "There is a conspiracy here all right, a carefully orchestrated plan by right-wing political interests to complete their takeover of the state by firing the head of the university system, a public institution that they have been seeking to dismantle for years. It's not clear what happens next, though a search committee will be formed." ...

... Via Charles Pierce: "The empire building in places like Wisconsin and North Carolina by local oligarchs like Art Pope, abetted by the useful idiots they install in office, is the basic foundation for the politics of the new Gilded Age. Rarely, however, are things as blatant as this attempt to bring one of the country's finest systems of higher education forcibly into the theocracy of The Market. There are only two actual Koch Brothers, but there are dozens of distant cousins doing the same kind of damage." ...

... MEANWHILE, in Wisconsin. Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, defending proposed budget cuts for higher education, took a swipe at university professors who he said could be 'teaching more classes and doing more work.'"

News Ledes

New York Times: "... Greece backed away from strong statements denouncing sanctions [against Russia] and joined other countries in the 28-member [European] bloc in a unanimous vote in favor of expanding a list of sanctioned individuals, mostly Russians, and of work to prepare 'any further action' to pressure combatants to respect a stillborn truce agreement from last year."

CNN: "The U.S. military and intelligence community now suspect that one of the five Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May of last year has attempted to return to militant activity from his current location in Qatar by making contact with suspected Taliban associates in Afghanistan, multiple officials tell CNN."

Washington Post: Three American contractors and an Afghan national were killed in a shooting at a military base at Kabul's airport Thursday...."

Los Angeles Times: "Rod McKuen, a prolific songwriter and poet whose compositions include the Academy Award-nominated song 'Jean' for the 1969 film 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,' has died. He was 81."

New York Times: "Colleen McCullough, a former neurophysiological researcher at Yale who, deciding to write novels in her spare time, produced 'The Thorn Birds,' a multigenerational Australian romance that became an international best seller and inspired a hugely popular television mini-series, died on Thursday on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, where she had made her home for more than 30 years. She was 77."

Tuesday
Jan272015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 28, 2015

Carl Hulse & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Loretta E. Lynch on Wednesday will cast herself as an apolitical career prosecutor who is a departure from Eric H. Holder Jr. when she faces a new Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee that includes some of the administration's fiercest critics in Congress." ...

     ... New Lede: "Loretta E. Lynch, the nominee to become attorney general, on Wednesday defended the legality of President Obama's immigration policy at the start of a confirmation hearing in which the new Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee promised tough questions."

Field Guide to Outsmarting the Secret Service. Step 1. Borrow a toy drone. Step 2. Get drunk. ...

... Michael Schmidt & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "In the process of what officials describe as nothing more than a drunken misadventure with a drone, [an off-duty government intelligence agency] employee managed to highlight another vulnerability in the protective shield that the Secret Service erects around the White House complex. The drone, which measures about two feet by two feet, evaded White House radar that is calibrated to warn of much bigger threats, like an airplane or a missile. It was the latest in a string of incidents that have raised questions about how secure President Obama and his family are." ...

... Jeremy Diamond of CNN: "One day after a drone crashed at the White House, President Barack Obama reiterated the need to regulate the industry as the recreational and commercial use of drones expands. 'The drone that landed in the White House you buy in Radio Shack,' Obama said Tuesday in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria in India":

... CNN has a different plan:

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama, facing angry reprisals from parents and from lawmakers of both parties, will drop his proposal to effectively end the popular college savings accounts known as 529s, but will keep an expanded tuition tax credit at the center of his college access plan, White House officials said Tuesday."

Deb Reichmann of the AP: "Senate Democrats on Tuesday put the brakes on new Iran sanctions legislation, ending for now a looming showdown between Congress and President Barack Obama over negotiations to prevent Tehran from having the capability to make a nuclear weapon. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a leading proponent of the legislation, says he remains skeptical a deal will materialize, but says he and nine other Democrats now won't push the bill at least until the end of March. Menendez' concession to the White House is good news for Obama, who has threatened to veto any new sanctions legislation." CW: But it's bad news for House Speaker Bibi Netanyahu.

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to bring to the Senate floor next week a House-passed bill reversing President Obama's executive actions shielding millions of illegal immigrants from deportation." ...

... BUT. Seung Min Kim of Politico: "In a letter to be released later Tuesday, the Senate Democratic Caucus will press Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to put up a funding bill for DHS free of provisions rolling back President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration or other controversial riders. The fact that all members of the Senate Democratic Caucus are endorsing a clean funding bill is critical, since McConnell will need the aid of at least half a dozen Democrats to advance any legislation. In the letter, Senate Democrats also ruled out other potential Plan B's for the DHS bill, such as passing a series of short-term funding measures -- also highly opposed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson." ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg View: "The Republican House majority, which recently passed a series of bills to strip undocumented immigrants of protections, is building a fortress on shifting sand.... The paradox of this nation of immigrants is that it is often bitterly anti-immigrant.... Yet immigration was a tide not easily turned back even in eras when the public stood resolutely opposed to it.... Anti-immigrant rhetoric is growing more acceptable among Republican politicians. Its main effect is to polarize a previously bipartisan issue ... and to mobilize competing constituencies. However, it's unlikely to reverse the trend toward greater acceptance of immigrants."

Daniel Newhauser of the National Journal: "Speaker John Boehner is finalizing a plan to sue President Obama again, this time over the administration's decision to grant work visas to millions of undocumented immigrants. Boehner told his conference at a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he has a team exploring the best options to challenge last year's executive action, under which the Homeland Security Department will begin granting legal working status to millions of immigrants, according to sources in the room." Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "For a party with a history of railing against activist judges and frivolous lawsuits, Republicans sure do like to litigate.... What this is really about is Republicans looking to the courts to do what they have not been able to do legislatively.... The Republican maneuvering over Obamacare followed a similar pattern, only over a longer period of time.... Just a day before Boehner informed his members of the lawsuit, Republican leaders scrapped plans to vote on legislation bolstering border security.... The reality is that both Obama and Boehner have run out of patience with the legislative process. The president has chosen to do what he could himself, while the speaker, again, is turning to the courts."

Emily Bazelon in the New York Times Magazine analyzes Chief Justice John Roberts' modus operandi to make something of a prediction: gay marriage wins, ObamaCare loses. CW: I don't doubt her theory, but I'll make a different -- & optimistic -- guess on how the rulings come down: (1) Kennedy joins the four centrist justices to rule for national gay marriage, with all four of the confederates (see today's comments) dissenting; (2) Roberts (& maybe even Scalia) rule for the government in King v. Burwell. Nonetheless, the sheer cruelty of Roberts' apparent methodology is stunning: as Bazelon lays it out, it's okay if people get sick & die as long as the Supreme Court does well in public opinion polls.

Benghaaazi! New Clinton Edition. Martin Matishak of the Hill: "Hillary Clinton is willing to testify before the House Select Committee that is investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, according to the panel's top Democrat. Rep. Elijah Cummings(D-Md.) on Tuesday said he has spoken to Clinton about the possibility of testifying at the request of Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.), the panel's Republican chairman, and she 'did not hesitate for one second. She said ... I'll do it, period,' Cummings said after the committee's third hearing."

"The Netanyahu Disaster." Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, a sometime-Bibi fan: "Faced with this conundrum -- an American president who he believes is willing to strike a flawed deal with Iran '' Netanyahu has made the second-worst choice he could make. He has not attacked Iran, which is good — an Israeli attack holds the promise of disaster -- but he has decided to ruin his relations with Obama.... A sitting [U.S.] president cannot be written off by a small, dependent ally, without terrible consequences.... [Netanyahu's] His recent actions suggest that he doesn't quite know what he's doing." ...

... Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street, at CNN International: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and House Speaker John Boehner's latest gambit -- arranging an address to a joint session of Congress by the Prime Minister just two weeks before the Israeli election -- is severely taxing our special relationship.... Although the Republican Party is clearly hoping to hobble the current president's agenda, the real impact of the speaker's political stunt is likely to be a further erosion of the bipartisan nature of support for Israel, at a time when Israel increasingly needs America's backing as a bulwark against its growing international isolation." ...

... A Brief Note of Sanity. Jim Fallows: Neither a U.S. nor an Israeli war against Iran is feasible. "It can be shrewd to keep an opponent guessing about what you might do if provoked. This negotiating stance could be useful, as long as it doesn't spill over from fooling the Iranians to fooling ourselves. (A la, 'we'll be greeted as liberators!') Letting Iran's leaders think the U.S. is contemplating a strike might pay off. Actually contemplating it could be disastrous."

FreakOutNation: "First lady Michelle Obama did not cover her hair with a veil during a brief visit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday with the President.... Saudi Twitter users took to their Twitter accounts in disbelief, because veils. A Liberal Saudi Blogger is to receive 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam and they're concerned about a veil." Politico reported that Laura Bush did not wear a veil when meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia in 2006. "It will be interesting to see how Republicans spin this. They can't say that Obama bows down to Islam, while saying his wife isn't respecting their culture."

Your Louie Gohmert Weekly Reader

"Our Republican Female Members." David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Tuesday accused GOP congresswomen -- who he called 'Republican females' -- of sending 'entirely the wrong message' when they derailed a 20-week abortion ban because it did not have an acceptable exception for rape.... '... There was an exception put on there that unless there was a case of reported rape -- reported to authorities,' Gohmert continued. 'Well, that became the dividing factor among some of our female members of the House, Republican female members. But some were adamant they didn't want any exceptions, some were saying, no, we [should] not require it be reported to authorities.'" ...

... CW Note: Please, my friends, do not amuse us with any of the obvious howlers about "Republican female members." I'm already chuckling.

"Louis Gohmert, the Bibi Whisperer." Dave Weigel: "Before it was an international incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress was just a twinkle in Louie Gohmert's eye. The conservative east Texas congressman has been sending letters to colleagues, asking for Netanyahu to be invited to address the people's House, for five years.... Whatever Boehner says about Netanyahu, he cannot match the ardor of Gohmert. He's described the prime minister as a new King David, a figure of historical and religious import."

Scott Keyes of Think Progress: "Mike Huckabee channeled his internal Ned Flanders last week, lamenting the fact that he doesn't just hear cuss words in the office these days, but he even hears them coming from women.... 'In Iowa, you would not have people who would just throw the f-bomb and use gratuitous profanity in a professional setting,' Huckabee said. 'In New York, not only do the men do it, but the women do it! ... This would be considered totally inappropriate to say these things in front of a woman.' But 'for a woman to say them in a professional setting,' Huckabee went on, 'that's just trashy!'"

Nullification, Alabama-Style. Mike Cason of Alabama Online: "Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore has released a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley saying that he intends to continue to recognize the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and urging the governor to do so. Moore's office released the three-page letter that was delivered to the governor this morning in response to a federal judge's ruling Friday striking down the ban. Bentley issued a statement today after Moore's letter was released. '... "The people of Alabama voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between man and woman. As governor, I must uphold the Constitution. I am disappointed in Friday's ruling, and I will continue to oppose this ruling. The Federal government must not infringe on the rights of states.'... David Kennedy, an attorney for Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, the couple who successfully challenged the same-sex ban, ... mentioned the fact that in 2003, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from the state Supreme Court after he refused to obey a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument that he had placed in the state judicial building." CW: Thou shalt not covet another man's husband. BTW, legal scholar Ned Flanders' alter-ego there would say Moore's move was totally Constitutional. ...

... Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "It comes as no surprise that Moore, who founded a Religious Right group called the Foundation for Moral Law, has taken such a dogmatic stance on gay rights. Moore has gone so far as to claim that marriage equality is a Satanic plot to destroy America and likened homosexuality to bestiality. Moore previously admonished 'oppressive' judges who rule in favor of marriage equality for 'warping the law,' arguing that a constitutional convention may be necessary to add an amendment banning same-sex marriage to the U.S. Constitution. He also said that marriage equality is literally the work of the Devil, alleging that it is leading to divine wrath in the form of economic and societal suffering."

Shari Rudavsky & Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star: "After months of wrangling between Gov. Mike Pence and the Obama administration, Indiana won approval to expand its own brand of Medicaid that injects personal responsibility into the healthcare program for the poor. About 350,000 low-income Hoosiers who lack insurance could benefit from the program, whose approved expansion was announced Tuesday, the day enrollment began. Coverage could start as early as Feb. 1. Pence said the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, a revamped version of a program started by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, goes beyond standard Medicaid expansion by requiring that participants contribute to the cost of their care." ...

     ... CW: I'm looking forward to reading all about it in the taxpayer-funded "Mike Pence News."

Rick Rojas & Motoko Rich of the New York Times: "This month, Arizona became the first state to pass a law requiring its high school students to pass the [standard] citizenship exam [given to immigrants], stipulating that they must answer at least 60 of 100 questions correctly to receive a diploma. (Immigrants are given 10 of the 100 questions and must correctly answer six to pass.) Other states may follow suit: North Dakota's House of Representatives has passed a comparable bill, and its Senate approved it Tuesday; legislators in Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and seven other states have recently introduced similar initiatives."

Jesse McKinley, et al., of the New York Times: "Sheldon Silver, who faces federal corruption charges, is being replaced as speaker of the New York State Assembly next week, Democratic lawmakers said on Tuesday, paving the way for them to choose a new leader in an election to be held Feb. 10. A Rochester-area assemblyman, Joseph D. Morelle, who is the majority leader and a top contender to succeed Mr. Silver, will become interim speaker on Monday, officials said.... [The change] came after he mounted a last-ditch effort to keep the leadership position he had held since 1994, a tenure spanning five governors."

Presidential Race

Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose speech to activists in Iowa last weekend drew strong reviews, has taken the first formal step toward a presidential candidacy in 2016, establishing a committee that will help spread his message and underwrite his activities as he seeks to build his political and fundraising networks in the months ahead.... The steps come after a busy weekend of pre-presidential events that included his address at the Iowa Freedom Summit, a later appearance at a gathering in California hosted by the billionaire Koch brothers and a stopover in Denver for additional fundraising." ...

     ... CW: Excuse me, Dan. Wasn't kissing up to the Koch brothers the "first formal step"?

Since 2000 there have been 6 million net new jobs created in America.... How many of those net new jobs are held by people who were not born in this country? All of them. -- Rick Santorum, Iowa Freedom Summit

Actually, no. -- Michelle Lee of the Washington Post

Fact-checking just this one Iowa Freedom Summit speeches could become a full-time, life-long career. -- Constant Weader

RE: a discussion in the comments section yesterday & today:

News Ledes

U.S. Air Force: "Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, in coordination with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, has determined the Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next presidential aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One."

AP: "A disgruntled, former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist promised to build 40 nuclear weapons for Venezuela and design a bomb targeted for New York City in exchange for 'money and power,' according to secret FBI recordings released Wednesday.... The recordings were played Wednesday in US District Court in Albuquerque before a federal judge sentenced [Pedro Leonardo] Mascheroni, 79, to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release as part of a plea agreement." CW: Um, isn't this guy just a crazy old coot? He hasn't worked at Los Alamos since 1988.

Jacksonville, Florida, Channel 4: "Marissa Alexander, a woman whose case helped bring national attention to Florida's stand your ground and minimum sentencing laws, was allowed to leave jail late Tuesday afternoon to spend the rest of her sentence on house arrest." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the lead.

Washington Post: "On Tuesday, two years after the attack, a jury in Nashville convicted two former Vanderbilt University football players of aggravated rape and related charges. They were among four players who allegedly participated in the assault. Two others, who have pleaded not guilty, will be tried later. Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, both 21, now face 15 to 80 years in prison. They were convicted after a 12-day trial and about three hours of jury deliberation." The Tennessean story is here.

Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Juno pounded locations from Long Island to New England with heavy snow, high winds and coastal flooding late Monday into Tuesday. The storm is now winding down. The National Weather Service has dropped all winter storm and blizzard warnings for Juno.... In Massachusetts, up to 36 inches of snow has been measured in Lunenburg, while Boston has seen 24.4 inches. Juno was a record snowstorm for Worcester, Massachusetts (34.5 inches). Incredibly, 31.9 inches fell in Worcester on Jan. 27, alone!... Juno's most severe coastal flooding occurred in eastern Massachusetts, in areas most exposed to north to northeast winds gusting from 50-80 mph, at times."

Monday
Jan262015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 27, 2015

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "Barack Obama is travelling with a 27-strong delegation to cement ties with the new king of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as concerns over Yemen and the Islamic State take centre stage in the increasingly volatile region. Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, Republican hawk senator John McCain and General Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command forces in the region, are among the surprise additions to a hastily organised trip that has drawn critical comparisons with the US failure to send any senior figures to Paris following recent terrorist attacks."

Christi Parsons & Shashank Bengali of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama urged support for religious tolerance and human rights in a speech Tuesday in New Delhi, India, drawing on the American experience and his own personal ones to soften a message with the potential to give offense to his Indian hosts, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi."

Peter Baker & Ellen Barry of the New York Times: "President Obama pressed India on Tuesday to do more to curb the pollution that is choking its capital and contributing to global climate change, as he wrapped up a visit that yielded no meaningful breakthrough on the issue."

Elana Schor of Politico: "Republicans' Keystone XL pipeline push was stopped short by the first Senate filibuster of 2015 as Democrats blocked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's bid to end debate on the bill. The new Senate majority will now extend its debate on approving Keystone -- a measure that was seen as an easy GOP win just weeks ago -- as Democrats pressed McConnell to hold more amendment votes as proof of his commitment to a more open process in the chamber than their own party used while it was in power." ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "It was a small victory for Democrats, now the minority in the Senate, but it was a procedural vote that is highly unlikely to stop Republicans from eventually approving the pipeline.... President Obama is expected to veto the measure should it reach his desk."

Coral Davenport: "The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce a proposal to open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for oil and gas drilling, according to a person briefed on the plan. At the same time, in Alaska, the administration will ban drilling in some portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.... Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades and is a blow to environmental groups." ...

... "Obama's Arctic Power Grab." (Yep, that the Politico headline). Andrew Restuccia: "Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee, rarely starts political fights on Capitol Hill, but she came out swinging on Monday, saying that the Obama administration has 'effectively declared war on Alaska.' And she doubled down on her previous statement that the administration is 'willing to negotiate with Iran, but they won't negotiate with Alaska.'" ...

... Andrew Restuccia: "The White House struck back at Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Monday, calling her reaction to the administration's proposal to protect millions of acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge overblown. 'So we hope that we can find cooperation so that that wilderness designation ultimately can go through in the Congress. But we don't think that the reaction that particularly Senator Murkowski had to this announcement was warranted,' White House counselor John Podesta told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama." CW: They might have struck back at Politico, too.

Michael Shear & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The small drone that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House early Monday morning was operated by a government employee who has told the Secret Service that he did not mean to fly it over the White House fence or near the president's residence, according to law enforcement officials. The employee -- who does not work for the White House -- has told the Secret Service that he was flying the drone for recreational use at about 3 a.m. in the area around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when he lost control of it. So far, the Secret Service said it believed the man's account. In a second statement about the incident Monday afternoon, the Secret Service said an individual had called them at about 9:30 Monday morning to report that he had been the one controlling the drone when it crashed on the White House grounds." ...

     ... New Lede: "A White House radar system designed to detect flying objects like planes, missiles and large drones failed to pick up a small drone that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn early Monday morning, according to law enforcement officials. The crash raised questions about whether the Secret Service could bring down a similar object if it endangered President Obama."

... CW: Please don't tell me drones are not a threat to the President & to countless others: Shear & Schmidt: "The Secret Service also released a photo of the partially broken drone on the ground. It appears to be a version of the DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone Quadcopter that is sold on Amazon.com starting at $448. Models equipped with HD cameras sell for as much as $1,258 on the website." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Carol Leonnig & others is here.

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "A former CIA officer involved in a highly secretive operation to give faulty nuclear plans to Iran was convicted Monday of giving classified information about his work to a New York Times reporter and author. Jeffrey Sterling, 47, of O'Fallon, Mo., was convicted of nine counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other related charges for leaking materials that prosecutors said put lives at risk and compromised one of the U.S. government's few mechanisms to deter Iran's nuclear aspirations." ...

... Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage charges Monday, for telling a journalist for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has led an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration's approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the journalist, James Risen, refused to identify his sources."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "A federal judge ruled in 2007 that the U.S.A. Patriot Act empowered the National Security Agency to collect foreigners' emails and phone calls from domestic networks without prior judicial approval, newly declassified documents show. The documents -- two rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- fill in a chapter in the history of the N.S.A.'s warrantless surveillance program. They show the agency's secret moves in the months before Congress authorized the spying by enacting the Protect America Act in August 2007."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a chemical company may be able to cut the health benefits of its retired workers, unanimously reversing an appeals court ruling that said the benefits had vested for life. 'Courts should not construe ambiguous writings to create lifetime promises,' Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court."... The Supreme Court returned the case to the appeals court, telling it to use ordinary principles of contract interpretation.... In a concurrence, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the case that the retirees could prevail under the new, stricter standard. 'No rule requires "clear and express" language in order to show that parties intended health care benefits to vest,' she wrote.... Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg's concurrence."

Timothy Williams of the New York Times: "Oklahoma officials asked the United States Supreme Court on Monday to stay the execution of three inmates on death row until the court rules on the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection process. The court agreed on Friday to decide a case on the constitutionality of the new combinations of drugs that some states are using to execute prisoners, which critics say cause intense suffering."

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "More US prisoners were exonerated of crimes that they did not commit in 2014 than in any year since records began in 1989, indicating new resolve on the part of prosecutors and law enforcement to tackle the scourge of wrongful convictions across America. Some 125 inmates were exonerated and released last year, marking the first time that the number has risen above 100 in a single 12-month period. In 2013, the total number of exonerations was 91."

AFP: "An intellectually disabled death row inmate in the US state of Georgia is scheduled to die Tuesday, as lawyers and advocates petition for his life to be spared. On Thursday, lawyers for Warren Hill, 54, filed an appeal with the US Supreme court to stop the execution based on his intellectual disability. Hill's intellectual disability has been certified by numerous psychiatric experts and his execution has been postponed several times previously."

Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Loretta Lynch will set off the first major confirmation battle of the new GOP-led Senate when she goes before the Judiciary Committee this week. But the attorney general nominee also presents Republicans with a challenge -- finding a way to express their ire at the Obama administration without going too far.... Top Republicans concede she's likely to be confirmed -- unless she messes up." ...

... Bring on the Reactionaries. Julian Hattem of the Hill: Sharyl Attkisson, "a A former CBS investigative reporter who has filed a $35 million lawsuit against the Obama administration for hacking. will be among the witnesses at a hearing on President Obama's attorney general nominee.... Also testifying will be Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the Tea Party-aligned True the Vote, which she has said was unfairly targeted by the IRS when it attempted to seek tax-exempt status.... Both Attkisson and Engelbrecht have sued the Obama administration over the actions. A federal judge tossed out the case brought by Engelbrecht and other groups last October. Attkisson filed her lawsuit just this month...." CW: AG nominee Loretta Lynch had nothing to do with either of these women. So stupid AND irrelevant. Excellent.

Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "The annual budget deficit will fall to $468 billion in fiscal 2015, the lowest level of President Obama's tenure, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported Monday. Lower government spending and the improving economy are driving down the annual deficit, the CBO reported, with the shortfall for the year projected to be 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the lowest level since 2007.... The nation's debt load is steadily increasing. By the end of September, the CBO estimates U.S. debt will be 74 percent of GDP -- more than twice the level at the end of 2007 and higher than in any year since 1950." ...

... Sarah Farris of the Hill: "The total price tag for ObamaCare's insurance programs will be 20 percent less than expected, the government's budget office said Monday. The law's insurance provisions are now expected to cost $571 billion through 2019 -- a drop of about $139 billion from the government's earliest estimates five years ago, according to new estimates by the ... CBO." (See also, "It's okay if people die" below. ...

... Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Monday announced an ambitious new effort to reward quality medical care and phase out payments based solely on the volume of services provided in the Medicare program. For the first time, the agency is setting an explicit timetable for transitioning Medicare away from its dominant fee-for-service model." ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox explains how the HHS plan is intended to work -- and revolutionize health care delivery.

Yes, There Are More Pressing Deficits. Rebecca Shabad: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is flipping the script on the GOP with a seven-step plan to address national 'deficits' through increases in spending. Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said lawmakers must address deficits in jobs, income equality, infrastructure, trade, retirement security and education in their next budget blueprint. 'These deficits must be immediately address by the Budget Committee,' he said in an eight-page report."

Andrew Kaczynski & Ilan Ben-Meir of BuzzFeed: "Rep. John Yarmuth says Republican House Speaker John Boehner inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to the House of Representatives is ;close to subversion.' Speaking with the Stephanie Miller Show on Friday, the Kentucky Democrat added some Congress members' strong support for Israel 'had to do with fundraising.' Yarmuth noted that he was Jewish & a "strong supporter of Israel." ...

... Joel Greenberg of McClatchy News: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing criticism in Israel for a planned speech to the U.S. Congress about Iran, accused by his political rivals of damaging ties with Washington to promote his election campaign." ...

... Sins of the Leader: Brian Tashman of Right Wing News: "Rep. Louie Gohmert warned President Obama last week that his 'disdain' for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may cause God to punish America, insisting that the president 'would have that same disdain for anyone who was a strong leader for the nation of Israel and especially if they didn't bow down and worship at the altar of the White House.'"

Non-Profitism is Awesome, Too! Scott Higham & Steven Rich of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Monday that it has suspended one of its largest nonprofit contractors [-- International Relief and Development --] from federal work after investigators found 'serious misconduct' in the nonprofit's performance and management of taxpayer money.... The suspension comes after months of internal USAID reviews of IRD's performance in the field and reports from the agency's inspector general that the nonprofit allegedly mischarged millions of dollars in overhead costs. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the FBI are also investigating the organization.... Many of the allegations were contained in a Washington Post investigation published last May." (Because Actual Journalism Is Awesome." ...

This sweet little old lady looks so happy because she has no idea she just got robbed. The guy to the right? He's a little savvier.Also Awesome: "Scam PACS." Ken Vogel: "Since the tea party burst onto the political landscape in 2009, the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them.... A Politico analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million -- 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs."

Steve M.: No, Sarah Palin did not "wing" the latter half of her 2008 vice-presidential acceptance speech. The teleprompter was working the whole time. ...

... Conservative columnist Byron York of the Washington Examiner is all worried about Palin's continued participation in the campaign. CW: A sensible person would be worried about most of the other candidates, who are capable of reading their prepared speeches, but whose ideas & ideology are as wacko as Palin's.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Rarely do conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act acknowledge the real human consequences of their campaign to overturn the healthcare reform law. But an astonishing op-ed published Friday by the Washington Post does just that. [See Sunday's Commentariat.]... You can see [author Michael] Strain placing his thumb on the scale.... The U.S. may be a land of 'finite resources,' but there's no indication that the ACA breaches the resource ceiling. On the contrary, the signs are that the ACA is lowering healthcare's demand on resources.... The most important factor Strain ignores is that a key role of government is to moderate the impact of pure market economics.... Trying to dress up the argument for repeal as a cost-benefit balancing in which the cost can be counted in lost lives ... is crass, crude and spectacularly immoral." ...

... Erik Loomis of LG&M: "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that 'kill the poor' is now something you can say in the op-ed section of the Washington Post. I look forward to this argument becoming a central tenet of the 2016 Republican primaries." ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "Strain's whole argument boils down to 'screw the little people,' though he works hard to erect enough straw men and redirections to pretend that what he's really talking about is a viable replacement that would bring FREEDOM and not direct so many scarce resources to useless crap like health care."

... Jonathan Chait explains in detail to confused ideologues (who also happen to have good health insurance coverage) -- like maybe to Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt -- why killing the poor is not a morally-correct option. ...

... CW: Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Personally, I'd like to thank the WashPo headline writer who came up with: "End Obamacare, and people could die. That's okay." S/he really exposed Strain's disgusting argument.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. AND/OR Capitalism Isn't So Awesome, After All. Tom LoBianco of the Indianapolis Star: "Gov. Mike Pence [R-Ind.] is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news service that will provide pre-written news stories to Indiana news outlets, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star. Pence is planning to launch 'Just IN' in late February, a website and news service that will feature stories written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.... The news agency is being overseen by a governance board, made of communications directors, and an editorial board made of McCleery and the governor's communications staff.... The starting of Pence's news agency comes as he considers a run for the White House." CW: Gee, Mike, whatever happened to the free-enterprise system & independent journalism & pro-America Constitutional stuff? A government-run news agency sounds suspiciously like, um, TASS. ...

... Media critic Jim Romenesko (and others) are alarmed.

The Purchase of the Government 2016

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalelled effort by outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history. The goal, revealed Monday at the Kochs' annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, Calif., would effectively allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican parties. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party's two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million. The network's $889 million budget includes spending on both the presidential campaign and congressional races, and would be financed by donors as well as the Koch brothers themselves." ...

... Ken Vogel of Politico: "... while the leaked details seemed in part a show of defiance to Democrats, who had targeted the brothers as bogeymen, the spending goal also appeared to be a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the RNC.... Some Republicans, however, quietly grumbled about the continued migration of power and money from the political parties and their candidates to super-rich donors emboldened by recent court decisions loosening campaign finance restrictions." ...

... Hamilton Nolan's lede graf in Gawker sums up the news for the kidz: "Cartoonish evil billionaires The Koch Brothers have told their allies that the groups they support plan to spend $900 million to influence the 2016 elections. That's a lot!" ...

... digby: "They are willing to spend whatever it takes to fulfill their vision. Yes, that will undoubtedly end up making them more money. But that's no longer their prime motivation. They are so rich that they've become Bond villains. They want to run the world." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Engorged with profits, and unencumbered by any real limits on what they can spend, they are determined to shut down progressive politics for the foreseeable future. And it's yet another reason a lot of Republicans don't think they need to moderate their policies. Money covereth a multitude of sins, and the people providing it don't want moderation." ...

... Steve M.: "According to USA Today, a new political hero shot to stardom over the weekend because he [he, being Scott Walker] bargain-shops [at Kohl's].... The Kochs, who've given a hell of a lot of money to Ms. Bread Bag and (especially) to Mr. Kohl's Sale Rack, were born with silver spoons in their mouths. They've never had to scrimp or make do. So even if we get a Walker/Ernst ticket in 2016, I don't want to hear about the 'Main Street values' of the post-Romney GOP. The puppets were once of modest means. The puppet masters never were."

Presidential Race

Philip Bump: "Rick Perry wins the all-important Iowa Twitter primary," at least by Bump's calculation. And, as he quite fairly points out, his "methodology is at least as scientifically sound as the Iowa Straw Poll."

Harry Enten of 538: Chris "Christie's net favorable rating is more than two standard deviations below what we'd expect from a candidate like him.... Christie's relatively low popularity is one of the main reasons my colleagues at FiveThirtyEight and I aren't very high on his chances of capturing the Republican nomination."

Beyond the Beltway

Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post: "Alabama's only openly gay legislator is putting her anti-gay colleagues on notice: If they keep espousing family values rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she'll start making their marital infidelities public. 'I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about 'family values' when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,' wrote state Rep. Patricia Todd (D) on Facebook over the weekend, as reported by the TimesDaily in Alabama. 'I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.' Todd's post came after a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She told The Huffington Post that she decided to issue her threat after reading some of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from certain elected officials in the state."

Judd Legum of Think Progress: "On Thursday, 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard was shot dead by three police officers in the lobby of the Longview[, Texas,] Police Department. Coignard arrived at the station around 6:30 p.m. and asked to talk to an officer. Police say the girl was 'brandishing a weapon' before she was shot four times.... The incident, at this point, is shrouded in mystery. Officials could not 'confirm the type of weapon Coignard brandished at the officers.' Beyond the alleged, unspecified weapon, virtually no details about the events that immediately preceded Coignard's death have been released." According to relatives, Coignard suffered from mental illness. "Coignard's death also raises questions about use of force protocols in the United States. British citizens, for example, 'are about 100 times less likely to be shot by police,' according to the Economist." ...

... Elizabeth Brown of Reason: "Longview Mayor Jay Dean said he was told that Coignard was carrying a knife. A knife is certainly not nothing. But it is also not a gun. And one can't help but wonder why three cops, in the middle of their own lobby, were unable to subdue a knife-wielding teen girl without the use of lethal force.... In 2014, we saw a bevy of tragedies involving mentally troubled teens killed by police officers. Last January, for instance, a 90-pound schizophrenic teen with no weapon whatsoever was fatally shot less than two minutes after North Carolina police entered his home; his parents had called the cops for help subduing the agitated boy. Last August, a 19-year-old with bipolar disorder was fatally shot in Florida after police mistook a cordless drill she was holding for an Uzi and a suicidal Kansas teen was shot by police more than a dozen times."

News Ledes

Reuters: "The U.S. Army on Tuesday denied that a decision had been made to bring desertion charges against Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was released last year in a controversial prisoner swap after disappearing from his base in Afghanistan in 2009.NBC News said earlier on Tuesday that Bergdahl would be charged with desertion, citing senior defense officials. Major General Ronald Lewis, the Army's head of public affairs, said that report, and another from Fox News, were 'patently false.'"

Guardian: "Greece's prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has lined up a formidable coterie of academics, human rights advocates, mavericks and visionaries to participate in Europe's first anti-austerity government. Displaying few signs of backing down from pledges to dismantle punitive belt-tightening measures at the heart of the debt-choked country's international rescue programme, the leftwing radical put together a 40-strong cabinet clearly aimed at challenging Athens's creditors."

Guardian: "Moscow has condemned the arrest of a Russian man in New York on espionage charges as yet another instance of unfair persecution by the US. Yevgeny Buryakov, an employee of state-owned VEB bank, was href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/26/us-charges-alleged-russian-spies-new-york">arrested on Monday and charged with gathering 'economic intelligence' along with two other Russian men who had already left the United States."

New York Times: "The first major storm of the winter blasted across eastern New England on Tuesday, unleashing whiteout conditions driven by gale-force winds that left the island of Nantucket without power. The storm may not have lived up to its billing in New York City, but it more than delivered in New England. It cut off Nantucket, where almost all 12,000 year-round residents lost power and telephone service, and it flooded the Atlantic coastal town of Scituate, where a car floated downtown." ...

... Portland Press Herald: "Harsh winds and heavy snow marched into Maine overnight, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency early Tuesday morning. The slow-moving storm is dropping 2 to 4 inches of snow an hour, with north winds of 25 to 35 mph, gusting to 55." ...

... Boston Globe mid-morning report: "The persistent heavy band of snow continues over the Route 495 belt where the heaviest accumulations will likely end up once the storm is over. Snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour or more continue." ...

... Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Juno was pounding New England with moderate to heavy snow, high winds and coastal flooding Tuesday morning. Parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts have seen more than a foot of snow. Snow amounts in the New York City metro area have ranged from a half foot in Central Park to more than 18 inches on central Long Island near Islip. Wind gusts have topped 70 mph in parts of eastern Massachusetts. Coastal flooding has also closed some roads in eastern Massachusetts. Thundersnow was reported in coastal portions of Rhode Island and Massachusetts late Monday night and early Tuesday." ...

... Yahoo! News has area-wide live updates here.

AP: "Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Libya's capital Tuesday, killing at least five foreigners and three guards, authorities said. The attack, which included a car bombing, struck the Corinthia Hotel, which sits along the Mediterranean Sea." ...

     ... Washington Post UPDATE: "Among the victims in the attack was an American contractor, said two U.S. officials...."