The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President commemorated Memorial Day by paying tribute to the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in service to our country":

The Ledes

Saturday, May 23, 2015.

New York Times: "The United States and China on Friday escalated their dispute over contested territory in the South China Sea, after the Chinese repeatedly ordered an American military surveillance plane to abandon flights over areas where China has been building artificial islands.The continued American surveillance flights in areas where China is creating new islands in the South China Sea are intended to challenge the Chinese government’s claims of expanded territorial sovereignty. Further raising the challenge, Pentagon officials said they were discussing sending warships into waters that the United States asserts are international and open to passage, but that China says are within its zone of control."

Guardian: "An inflatable dam in drought-stricken California was damaged on Thursday, causing the loss of nearly 50,000,000 gallons (190m litres) of water. Police said vandals caused 'irreversible damage' to the inflatable dam in Fremont, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area. The vandalism caused water meant for local residents to instead flow into San Francisco bay."

Washington Post: "The man convicted in the 2001 killing of federal intern Chandra Levy is likely to get a new trial after prosecutors on Friday dropped their long-standing opposition to defense efforts to have a new jury hear the case. Since 2013, attorneys for Ingmar Guandique, 34, have argued that a key witness in the 2010 trial had lied when he testified that Guandique, his onetime cellmate, confessed to him that he killed Levy."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 22

10:00 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony (audio only)

11:00 am ET: President Obama speaks at the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

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Thursday
Apr232015

The Commentariat -- April 24, 2015

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "By most accounts, hundreds of dangerous militants have, indeed, been killed by drones, including some high-ranking Qaeda figures. But for six years, when the heavy cloak of secrecy has occasionally been breached, the results of some strikes have often turned out to be deeply troubling. Every independent investigation of the strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit. Gradually, it has become clear that when operators in Nevada fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the other side of the world, they often do not know who they are killing, but are making an imperfect best guess." ...

... Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "... current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials said that Thursday’s disclosures [that U.S. drone had killed two Western hostages held by Al-Qaeda] undercut years of U.S. claims about the accuracy of the drone program and provided new ammunition for skeptics of administration policies that are supposed to require 'near certainty' that no civilians will be harmed. Despite [President] Obama’s equanimity in public, officials said that his reaction behind closed doors was considerably harsher. Obama’s advisers have for years told him that 'this would never happen, and now it did,' said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'It is going to be a big deal.'” ...

... Juan Cole: "... as many as a fourth of those killed by US drone assassinations are non-combatants. Death by drone is inherently lawless. There is no constitutional or legal framework within which the US government can blow people away at will. For a while in the 1970s through 1990s, assassination was outlawed. Now it is back, but has taken this freakish form where bureaucrats thousands of miles away fire missiles from large toy airplanes." ...

... Jim Newell of Salon: "You would have thought yesterday, upon hearing President Obama’s admission that a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed an American held hostage by al-Qaida, would rank among the most serious (and legitimate) scandals of his presidency. A disaster of this nature was bound to happen, given the White House’s loose standards for green-lighting drone strikes. Yet the reaction was fairly ho-hum. Media coverage of the event and statements from members of Congress, allies and critics of the president alike, were basically, Well isn’t that sad. Also: It’s al-Qaida’s fault." ...

... CW: Why is Benghaaazi! -- where Libyans murdered four Americans -- a scandal of such magnitude that it has engendered a small industry of political & media "investigations" & hyperbole, but the U.S.'s drone-killings of three Americans & an Italian is not?

An Odd CYA Bill. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The Senate's top five Republican leaders have cosponsored legislation to extend until 2017 the Obamacare insurance subsidies that may be struck down by the Supreme Court this summer. The legislation, offered by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), one of the most politically vulnerable Senate incumbents in 2016, would maintain the federal HealthCare.gov tax credits at stake in King v. Burwell through the end of August 2017..... Such a move would seek to protect the GOP from political peril in the 2016 elections when Democrats would try to blame the party for stripping subsidies — and maybe insurance coverage — from millions of Americans in three dozen states.... The Johnson bill also contains sweeteners for conservatives which are non-starters for Democrats — it would repeal Obamacare's individual mandate and employer mandate, and remove federal rules requiring that insurance plans cover a minimum package of 'essential health benefits.'" ...

... Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "People who bought coverage through ObamaCare are generally more satisfied than those with other types of insurance, according to a new national survey." ... CW: That's funny, because Ron Johnson there says his bill as "a first step toward reversing the damage that Obamacare has inflicted on the American health care system." Because getting people coverage that they couldn't get before & that they like is pretty terrible.

Reuters: "Legislation to speed trade deals through the US Congress cleared a key [House] committee but low Democratic support signalled a looming battle over a Pacific trade pact central to President Barack Obama’s strategic shift toward Asia.... A companion 'fast-track' bill cleared a Senate panel on Wednesday and both are now ready for action in their respective chambers. Still, the way forward is likely to be treacherous with many of Obama’s fellow Democrats in opposition over worries that trade deals could harm jobs and the environment, leaving the White House to rely heavily on Republican support." ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama rallied his staunchest allies Thursday to support his free trade push in the face of stout Democratic opposition, arguing that his critics are wrong to say the deal will harm the middle class. Appearing before 200 members of Organizing for Action, the progressive advocacy group born from his campaign apparatus, Obama said the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact his administration is pushing for is far superior to past trade deals that labor unions have blamed for job losses. Specifically, he cited the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993."

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux of the Washington Post: "One year after the largest scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs history, a congressman says he will introduce the VA Accountability Act, which would give the new VA secretary sweeping authority to fire corrupt or incompetent employees. Rep. Jeff Miller’s (R-Fla.) bill comes in response to increasing frustration from lawmakers and veterans service organizations over the slow pace of reform in holding VA employees accountable for a litany of problems, from patient wait times to delays in benefits."

Emily Steel, et al., of the New York Times: "Facing intense regulatory scrutiny, Comcast is planning to abandon its $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable, people briefed on the matter said on Thursday, ending a bid that would have united the country’s two largest cable operators and reshaped the rapidly evolving video and broadband markets.... Had the deal been approved, the combined company would have controlled as much as 57 percent of the nation’s broadband market and just under 30 percent of pay television." ...

... Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times: "At the end of the day, the government’s commitment to maintaining a free and open Internet did not square with the prospect of a single company controlling as much as 40 percent of the public’s access to it. All the more so given the accelerating shift in viewing habits, with increasing numbers of consumers choosing streaming services like Netflix over traditional TV. In this sense, it didn’t really matter if Comcast and Time Warner’s cable markets overlapped. The real issue was broadband." Oh, P.S. Thank you again, John Oliver.

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Loretta E. Lynch’s long wait to become U.S. attorney general ended Thursday, with the Senate voting to confirm the veteran New York prosecutor’s nomination five months after President Obama submitted it to Congress. Ten Republicans joined the Senate’s 44 Democrats and two independents in supporting Lynch’s confirmation, a margin slightly wider than expected ahead of the vote.... Twenty Republicans supported a procedural move earlier Thursday to close debate and proceed to Lynch’s confirmation. But only half of them voted to confirm her in the final vote: Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio). [Leader Mitch] McConnell joined them after expressing reservations in the weeks leading up to the vote." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The New York Times story, by Jennifer Steinhauer, is here. ...

... Tom McCarthy of the Guardian: Democrats react to Lynch's confirmation.

Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: "David H. Petraeus ... pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials he provided to his former mistress and biographer. Petraeus will be spared prison time but will face a two-year probationary period and a $100,000 fine.... The deal angered FBI agents who worked on the two-year investigation and who thought Petraeus should have been treated more harshly because of the information in the notebooks and what they considered his lack of candor while running the CIA. When FBI agents confronted him in his CIA office in October 2012, Petraeus said he had never provided classified information to [his lover Paula] Broadwell, prosecutors said. Making a false statement to a federal law enforcement agent during an investigation is a felony, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The New York Times story, by Michael Schmidt & Matt Apuzzo, is here. "The sentencing was the end of a leak investigation that embarrassed Mr. Petraeus and created bitter disputes inside the Justice Department about whether he was receiving too much leniency from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.... Giving special treatment to Mr. Petraeus was a double standard, some argued, particularly when the Justice Department has led an unprecedented crackdown on leaks and prosecuted several low- and midlevel officials for disclosing secrets to reporters." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: Pardon my conspiratorial musings, but I wonder if the delay in Lynch's confirmation had something to do with Holder's decision to go easy on the GOP's favorite general. Maybe they feared Lynch would throw the book at loverboy.

** Tom Donnelly, in Slate, on John Bingham, who edited the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to protect "any person."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Charles Pierce: "It appears that the 'exclusive' ratfking arrangement entered into by The New York Times and Washington Post has brought us all back to the Mena Airport again, and that it has done so by strict application of the Clinton Rules, first devised in the mid-1990's, as the nation's elite political press turned laundering oppo research into a smoothly running machine. The very first Clinton Rule, established by most of the original reporting into the Whitewater non-scandal, is that if you can blow enough smoke, you can say there's fire." Pierce raps the Washington Post story, linked here yesterday, about Bill Clinton's big speaking fees, some of which came from contributors to the Clinton Foundation WHILE HILLARY CLINTON WAS SECRETARY OF STATE. "Wealthy interests might use their wealth to 'build friendly relations' with politicians? In 2015? Has anyone told Anthony Kennedy?"

Susie Madrak in Crooks & Liars on the New York Times story, linked here yesterday, about Russians taking over a Canadian uranium company that operates in the U.S.: "This story (and the ones that will surely follow) has no solid evidence. It is nothing but innuendo. The Times has taken a book written by someone who is quite specifically paid to bring down Democrats, and has a long history of distorting and making up facts, and they're using it as a template -- adding no informed context (like the number of agencies who had to sign off on this deal) and no evidence that Hillary Clinton did anything to get this deal passed."

Presidential Race

Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Having pledged to be the champion of everyday Americans, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton came out swinging during a speech in New York on Thursday night that expanded her personal doctrine – 'women’s rights are human rights' – to the plight of mothers, fast food workers, immigrants, retirees, students, gay and transgender people and victims of sexual abuse. In her first big speech since declaring her presidential run, Clinton took jabs at Hobby Lobby for opposing employer-covered contraception, chided the World Economic Forum for not exactly being a 'hotbed of feminist thought' and slammed Republicans for stalling the nomination of Loretta Lynch, whom the US Senate confirmed on Thursday after a lengthy delay." ...

... New York Times Editors: "The increasing scrutiny of the [Clinton] foundation has raised several points that need to be addressed by Mrs. Clinton and the former president. These relate most importantly to the flow of multimillions in donations from foreigners and others to the foundation, how Mrs. Clinton dealt with potential conflicts as secretary of state and how she intends to guard against such conflicts should she win the White House." ...

... Jonathan Chait on "the disastrous Clinton post-presidency": "... the best-case scenario is bad enough: The Clintons have been disorganized and greedy. The news today about the Clintons all fleshes out, in one way or another, their lack of interest in policing serious conflict-of-interest problems that arise in their overlapping roles.... The Obama administration wanted Hillary Clinton to use official government email. She didn’t. The Obama administration also demanded that the Clinton Foundation disclose all its donors while she served as Secretary of State. It didn’t comply with that request, either.... The Clintons’ charitable initiatives were a kind of quasi-government run by themselves, which was staffed by their own loyalists and made up the rules as it went along.... Their experience running their own privatized mini-state has been a fiasco." ...

... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Representative Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks, is pushing ahead with plans to make Hillary Rodham Clinton testify further about the attacks and her use of a private email account as secretary of state." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** ... Zombies! Paul Krugman: "A deep attachment to long-refuted ideas seems to be required of all prominent Republicans.... In the world of Republican politics ... voodoo’s grip has never been stronger.... Pundits will try to pretend that we’re having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead."

Russell Berman of the Atlantic provides a handy list of billionaire donors & their favorite puppet presidential candidates. ...

... Digby, in Salon: "The only problem for the billionaires is that these candidates all have to eventually perform in a series of tryouts we call 'party primaries' where the audience, also known as voters, gets a chance to weigh in. They may not agree with the billionaires’ choice, no matter which lucky fella they anoint in their auditions. Democracy is such an inconvenience that way. These rich donors obviously believe that founder John Jay had it right when he said, 'Those who own the country ought to govern it.' Unfortunately for them, he was outvoted." ...

... The Two Faces of Marco. McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "Even as Rubio labors to publicly distance himself from the [immigration] legislation [which he initiated & is] so loathed by conservative primary voters, he and his aides have privately highlighted [his immigration reform initiative] in his resume when soliciting support from the deep-pocketed donors in the party’s more moderate business wing."

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Senator Ted Cruz has positioned himself as a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, urging pastors nationwide to preach in support of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, which he said was 'ordained by God.' But on Monday night, at a reception for him at the Manhattan apartment of two prominent gay hoteliers, the Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful struck quite a different tone. During the gathering, according to two people present, Mr. Cruz said he would not love his daughters any differently if one of them was gay. He did not mention his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying only that marriage is an issue that should be left to the states." ...

... Digby: "I get why some rich gay people would be Republicans. They are clearly rich first and gay second. But why any of them would support a nutcase like Ted Cruz is beyond me.... It's not a problem for someone like Ted Cruz to do this, however, because his voters all know that he really truly hates gay people and they are happy for him to take their money to use against them." ...

... Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "So far this year, Cruz has missed 25 percent of all Senate votes, according to data tracked by Congressional Quarterly. He has a voting participation score of 74.8 percent. By comparison, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who also has his eye on the White House, has voted 81.6 percent of the time. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another presidential candidate, has managed to vote 98.9 percent of the time this year. If Paul can juggle both, why can’t Cruz?"

Walker Finds Another Way to Keep His Foot out of His Mouth. Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that he won't discuss how to pay for federal programs for retirees unless and until he becomes a formally declared presidential candidate."

CW: As a result of my linking to stories on Li'l Randy's uncool Ray Ban eyegear, Ray Ban has latched onto me & is now e-mailing me promotional material. If libertarian Randy were really serious about freeeedom! he would not have let Ray Ban find & harass me.

Beyond the Beltway

Peter Hermann & Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "Protests over the arrest and death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray continued for a sixth day on Thursday, with about 200 people circling the grassy plaza in front of a cordoned-off City Hall and then marching in the streets at the evening rush hour."

Elliot Hannon of Slate: "Marissa Holcomb, the five-months-pregnant manager of [a Popeyes franchise in Houston, Texas], was fired from her job this week for refusing to pay back money taken from the cash register during an armed robbery three weeks ago." Under public pressure, the franchisee later offered to un-fire her. CW: If only Popeyes were unionized.

Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "Thomas K. Norment Jr., the majority leader of the Virginia Senate, has acknowledged a relationship with a lobbyist whose firm regularly pushed for legislation that Norment voted for and, in two cases, sponsored directly. Norment ... admitted the relationship while defending himself against allegations of wrongdoing made by a former legal client who tried to blackmail him. The allegations prompted federal investigators to review the relationship, but they closed the matter without bringing criminal charges."

Way Beyond

Daniela Deane of the Washington Post: "This tidal wave of humanity landing in Italy, seeking shelter, is now a daily occurrence — and the country is struggling under the enormous weight. Italian officials are deeply concerned that the approaching summer, with its calmer weather, could bring tens of thousands more migrants to their beleaguered shores."

Wednesday
Apr222015

The Commentariat -- April 23, 2015

Afternoon News:

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Loretta E. Lynch's long wait to become U.S. attorney general ended Thursday, with the Senate voting to confirm the veteran New York prosecutor's nomination five months after President Obama submitted it to Congress. Ten Republicans joined the Senate's 44 Democrats and two independents in supporting Lynch's confirmation, a margin slightly wider than expected ahead of the vote.... Twenty Republicans supported a procedural move earlier Thursday to close debate and proceed to Lynch's confirmation. But only half of them voted to confirm her in the final vote: Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio). [Leader Mitch] McConnell joined them after expressing reservations in the weeks leading up to the vote." ...

... The New York Times story, by Jennifer Steinhauer, is here.

Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: "David H. Petraeus ... pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials he provided to his former mistress and biographer. Petraeus will be spared prison time but will face a two-year probationary period and a $100,000 fine.... The deal angered FBI agents who worked on the two-year investigation and who thought Petraeus should have been treated more harshly because of the information in the notebooks and what they considered his lack of candor while running the CIA. When FBI agents confronted him in his CIA office in October 2012, Petraeus said he had never provided classified information to [his lover Paula] Broadwell, prosecutors said. Making a false statement to a federal law enforcement agent during an investigation is a felony, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison." ...

... The New York Times story, by Michael Schmidt & Matt Apuzzo, is here. "The sentencing was the end of a leak investigation that embarrassed Mr. Petraeus and created bitter disputes inside the Justice Department about whether he was receiving too much leniency from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.... Giving special treatment to Mr. Petraeus was a double standard, some argued, particularly when the Justice Department has led an unprecedented crackdown on leaks and prosecuted several low- and midlevel officials for disclosing secrets to reporters." ...

... CW: Pardon my conspiratorial musings, but I wonder if the delay in Lynch's confirmation had something to do with Holder's decision to go easy on the GOP's favorite general. Maybe they feared Lynch would throw the book at loverboy.

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Representative Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks, is pushing ahead with plans to make Hillary Rodham Clinton testify further about the attacks and her use of a private email account as secretary of state."

*****

Peter Baker & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama on Thursday offered an emotional apology for the accidental killing of two hostages held by Al Qaeda, one of them American, in a United States government counterterrorism operation in January, saying he takes 'full responsibility' for their deaths.... Mr. Obama said he had ordered the incident declassified because the families of Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto 'deserve to know the truth":

Nahal Toosi of Politico: "U.S. counterterrorism operations aimed at Al Qaeda mistakenly killed an American and an Italian hostage earlier this year along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, while also killing two prominent American members of the terrorist network, the White House announced Thursday. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that an operation aimed at an Al Qaeda-associated compound in January killed Warren Weinstein, an American held by Al Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national held by the group since 2012." ...

... David Taintor of NBC News: "An American held by al-Qaida for four years, and two other U.S. citizens who fought for the terror group, were killed in U.S. strikes in January along the Afghan-Pakistan border, the U.S. government acknowledged for the first time Thursday. An Italian citizen held hostage since 2012 was also killed in one of the strikes on an al-Qaida compound, likely by a drone."

Jenny Staletovich & Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday paid his first visit to the Everglades, delivering an Earth Day speech linking the threat rising seas pose to the imperiled River of Grass and South Florida's drinking water to wider climate change risks across the nation. His choice of a venue, Everglades National Park, also was clearly calculated to make political points. Voters will elect Obama's successor in 18 months, and the Republican field so far is teeming with would-be candidates, including two from Florida, who question whether climate change is man-made, despite significant scientific scholarship concluding that it is largely a result of carbon emissions." Here's a clip:

The President's full speech:

Jack Ewing of the New York Times: "Deutsche Bank will pay a $2.5 billion penalty to United States and British authorities to settle accusations that it helped manipulate the benchmarks used to set interest rates on trillions of dollars in mortgages, student loans, credit cards and other debt, American and British officials said on Thursday. The penalty is by far the largest in a yearslong investigation into whether large banks conspired to set the price of debt in ways that would be profitable for them. Until Thursday, the largest fine was the $1.5 billion the Swiss bank UBS agreed to pay in 2012. The fixing of interest rates by Deutsche Bank employees in London and Frankfurt from 2005 to 2009 was deliberate and the employees were aware that it was wrong, Benjamin M. Lawsky, the New York State superintendent of financial services, said in a statement on Thursday."

Yesterday, contributor P. D. Pepe linked this "fact sheet" by Sen. Bernie Sanders on "why the TPP must be defeated." I've put "fact sheet" in scare-quotes because Sanders doesn't back up his assertions with footnotes or other data. Like Pepe & others, I remain confused about the deal. I am aware that NAFTA was a disaster for American workers & a boon for certain corporations, & Sanders makes the TPP sound way worse even as he notes he doesn't really know what's in it because the insider parties to the deal are not revealing the details. But if this is so, as Victoria D. (I think it was) asked the other day, why is President Obama pushing it? ...

... Zach Carter of the Huffington Post: "The rift between President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats over trade policy deepened Wednesday as the administration opposed an effort to fully restore aid for American workers who lose their jobs to international trade.The conflict threatens to undermine Obama's repeated claim that he is revamping trade policy to fix problems Democrats have cited in prior trade pacts."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Jonathan Chait: Ed Rogers, a Beltway GOP hack in good standing, writes in the WashPo about climate change without bothering to find out anything about efforts to abate it. "At some level Rogers is probably embarrassed by outright climate-science denial, but he wants to land on the conclusion that the Republican do-nothing stance is correct, and he also doesn't want to bother paying attention to anything that's happening with the issue."

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday aimed at combating sex trafficking, ending a delay that stretched more than six weeks amid partisan sparring about abortion restrictions embedded in the bill. In the end, the practical effect of the bill approved on a 99-to-0 afternoon vote was not discernibly different than the bill that came to the Senate floor in early March. But amendments adopted Wednesday under a bipartisan compromise allowed Democrats to claim that they had blocked a subtle expansion of long-term federal abortion restrictions.... With the anti-trafficking bill's passage, [Attorney General Nominee Loretta] Lynch is expected to win Senate approval Thursday afternoon."

WTF? Dave Philipps of the New York Times: "The nationwide scandal last spring over manipulated wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals led to the ouster of the secretary of veterans affairs and vows from the new leadership that people would be held accountable. Then in February, the new secretary, Robert A. McDonald, asserted in a nationally televised interview that the department had fired 60 people involved in manipulating wait times.... In fact, the department quickly clarified after that interview, only 14 people had been removed from their jobs, while about 60 others had received lesser punishments. Now, new internal documents show that the real number of people removed from their jobs is much smaller still: at most, three." Three. Three. Emphasis added.

Missy Ryan & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon plans to move up to 10 detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, possibly in June, as officials scramble to reduce the prison's population before Congress attempts to stop future transfers and derail President Obama's plan to shutter the U.S. military facility." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post, who just won a Pulitzer for her reporting on Secret Service lapses, is still on the case: "The Secret Service took more than a year to replace a broken alarm system at former president George H.W. Bush's home, raising concerns within the agency about the safety of the Houston residence and the Bush family, according to a government report scheduled to be released Thursday."

Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Responding to a series of computer security breaches, the House is expected on Wednesday to pass a bill, years in the making, that would push private companies to share access to their computer networks and records with federal investigators.... The cybersecurity bill, similar to a measure approved overwhelmingly by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would be Congress's most aggressive response yet to a burst of computer attacks...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

In a New York Times op-ed, Newt Gingrich, of all people, makes sense, arguing that today's Congress, as did Congress back in Newt's day, should double the National Institute of Health's budget: "As a conservative myself, I'm often skeptical of government 'investments.'" But when it comes to breakthroughs that could cure -- not just treat -- the most expensive diseases, government is unique. It alone can bring the necessary resources to bear. (The federal government funds roughly a third of all medical research in the United States.) And it is ultimately on the hook for the costs of illness. It's irresponsible and shortsighted, not prudent, to let financing for basic research dwindle.

Thomas Edsall, in an antidote to Brian Beutler's claim that seniors' attitudes about the Affordable Care Act shouldn't matter (linked in the April 21 Commentariat), explains why seniors oppose ObamaCare & other social welfare programs: they're concerned the federal government will shift spending from Medicare & Social Security to programs for younger Americans/ "The Kaiser Family Foundation has data (see chart 2) that shows how even with Medicare, out-of-pocket health costs are larger for over-65 households -- both in dollar terms and as a percentage of income -- than for younger households: In other words, the data suggest that the elderly are right to be worried."

Bertrand Olotara in a Guardian op-ed: "Every day, I serve food to some of the most powerful people on earth, including many of the senators who are running for president: I'm a cook for the federal contractor that runs the US Senate cafeteria. But today... I'm on strike ... because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty.... I'm a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week -- putting in 70 hours between my two jobs -- I can't manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps.... My co-workers and I ... want the current president -- and those running to succeed him -- to make sure that federal contracts are preferentially awarded to good American companies that pay workers a living wage, offer decent benefits like paid leave and allow us to collectively bargain so that we don't need to strike to have our voices heard." ...

... CW: Unfortunately, Olotara's right to be paid a living wage conflicts with the policies & plans of these guys ...

... Koch America. Ken Vogel of Politico: "The Koch brothers' political machine is expanding into new states and recruiting new donors as it seeks to shape the Republican Party -- and its presidential field -- headed into 2016, according to interviews with multiple sources, as well as confidential donor briefing documents obtained by Politico. The documents detail plans to beef up the network's state-of-the-art data system, and pay hundreds of staff embedded in local communities across the country in preparation for get-out-the-vote efforts that are unprecedented from a third-party group." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "That they're moving into deep red states just demonstrates that they're ready to complete their acquisition of the Republican party. It's not enough to have allies among the GOP -- the GOP must be assimilated wholly into the Kochs' machine."

Ed Kilgore is still having fun. See George Packer's complaint, linked in yesterday's Commentariat. CW: As for me, I find the Clown Car continually amusing. See Randy's Ray-Bans, below. Or Carly Fiorina for POTUS, for pete's sake. ...

... Brad DeLong: "Does George Packer really think the purpose of American politics is to thrill him?"

Dana Milbank: "Michigan Republican Tim Walberg was a Christian minister before winning election to Congress in 2010 -- and he hasn't entirely changed jobs. In a rare Tuesday-night committee meeting at which House Republicans advanced a bill curtailing reproductive rights, Walberg took the even rarer step of lecturing his colleagues on Scripture.... Claiming Jesus in a political dispute is inflammatory, particularly when you accuse your opponents, as Walberg did, of 'a continued attack on religion.' The appeal to theocracy Tuesday night was even more incendiary because it was used to justify a bid to strike down a new District of Columbia law protecting women from workplace discrimination if they receive fertility treatments, use birth control or have abortions." ...

... CW: Walberg is one ignorant minister. The Scripture he cites -- "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's" -- has zip to do with women or reproductive rights. It is, ironically enough, the gospel writers' argument for the separation of church & state, precisely the opposite of what Walberg was doing.

Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "In the summer of 2010, Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, began recording a secret audio diary, detailing his frustrations with a White House that he believed was too willing to listen to the military and too often mistook domestic political calculations for strategic thinking.... The notes are featured in 'The Diplomat,' a documentary about Mr. Holbrooke that will have its premiere on Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be shown on HBO in the fall.... The notes lay bare Mr. Holbrooke's doubts that President Obama's decision to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan would lead to an end of the war."

Sarah Bailey of the Washington Post: "Pope Francis, who has taken a public role in U.S.-Cuba relations, will visit Cuba on the way to the United States this fall, the Vatican announced Wednesday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times: "... this year, we're reaching new lows: The Republican race has devolved into a battle among headstrong billionaires, each with a pet candidate. David Koch, whose family made its money in coal, has Walker.... Norman Braman, who owns 23 car dealerships, has Marco Rubio. Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund manager, has Ted Cruz. Foster Friess, an investment manager, has Rick Santorum. (Yes, Santorum is still in the running -- thanks in large part to the generosity of Friess.) The biggest mega-donor of them all, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, is still playing hard to get." P.S. Thanks, Supremes! (CW: for an update, see Alex Isenstadt's report below.) ...

... See also Ken Vogel's piece on Koch America, linked above, & related links, AND Digby's & Steve M.'s posts, linked below.

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Bill Clinton was paid at least $26 million in speaking fees by companies and organizations that are also major donors to the foundation he created after leaving the White House, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records and foundation data. The amount, about one-quarter of Clinton's overall speaking income between 2001 and 2013, demonstrates how closely intertwined Bill and Hillary Clinton's charitable work has become with their growing personal wealth." CW: Looks the WashPo has just published its first Breitbart News Special, although Helderman claims, "This article is based on reporting and documents collected independently from [Breitbart contributor Peter] Schweizer's book." ...

... Wait, Wait, There's More. Jo Becker & Mike McIntire of the New York Times catch up to Helderman: "As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One[, a mining & production company,] in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation.... Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal [to sell off to Russians what was a Canadian company d/b/a the U.S.] had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton." ...

     ... CW: Becker & McIntire acknowledge, "Some of the connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation were unearthed by Peter Schweizer...." Let's face it. Bill Clinton always has been a sleazy character, & his wife has always enabled or aided him. (I have reluctantly done so myself, twice, & I'll probably be forced to abet him again.) The particulars may be news, but the dynamics are not. The arrangement has served them well. Every GOP presidential candidate is just as sleazy as Bill; the difference is that they have been -- so far -- less successful than Bill (although in fairness, I have to admit their product line is a much tougher sell than his). ...

... Jonathan Allen of Reuters: "Hillary Clinton's family's charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors.... The charities' errors generally take the form of under-reporting or over-reporting, by millions of dollars, donations from foreign governments, or in other instances omitting to break out government donations...." ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "...so far, there's no smoking gun.... If the early reports are any indication, untangling the former (and possibly future) first couple's professional and charity work is going to be an arduous task for journalists, and the findings may test the limits of America's interest in Clinton scandals." ...

... Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign on Wednesday accused congressional Republicans of politicizing the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, by dragging out an investigation until the waning months of the 2016 election. The House Select Committee on Benghazi said its investigation would not be completed this year, as earlier planned.... The committee cited factors 'beyond the committee's control,' including what a spokesman characterized as delays and foot-dragging by the Obama administration, for being unable to complete its work until sometime in 2016." ...

... Joshua Green of Bloomberg defends Clinton Cash writer Peter Schweizer: "... he wrote a well-regarded book about the Bush dynasty and another, detailing insider trading in Congress, that led to a new law, the bipartisan STOCK Act of 2012.... Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush's finances that he expects to publish this summer." ...

     ... CW: Sorry, Josh. A Breitbart/Hoover fellow "and the author of a hagiographic book about Ronald Reagan" who trashes Bushes & Clintons does not necessarily show bipartisan creds in the trashing.

Tim Alberta & Tiffany Stanley of the National Journal: Jeb Bush may not seem like the candidate of the Christian right now, but ".... powerful Christian conservatives are operating what amounts to a stealth campaign on Bush's behalf."

Nick Gass of Politico: "Marco Rubio runs best against Hillary Clinton among all Republican 2016 contenders, according to a new Quinnipiac University national poll released Thursday. Clinton has a clear lead over all potential Republican opponents in prospective match-ups, with the exception of Rubio, whom she leads by just 45 percent to 43 percent -- within the margin of error." ...

... Marco Takes Lead in Adelson Primary. Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Before Iowa and New Hampshire, GOP candidates are competing in the Sheldon Adelson primary, and some will travel to his posh Venetian hotel in Las Vegas this in hopes of winning it. But one candidate -- Marco Rubio -- has emerged as the clear front-runner, according to nearly a half-dozen sources close to the multibillionaire casino mogul."

Digby, writing in Salon, posits that David Koch's sudden denial of his apparent endorsement of Scott Walker was the result of Walker's little chat with Glenn Beck, during which Walker suggested he was against even legal immigration "to protect American workers & American wages." "It's hard not to fall down laughing (or lose your lunch) over the most notorious union buster in America waxing on about protecting American jobs, but he's the last person to understand the irony of his comments." CW: Remember, too that Scottie seemed to think $7.25/hour-- or less -- was plenty to live on. ...

... Steve M., however, notes that another anti-immigration hardliner -- now-Texas Gov. Greg Abbott -- "earned" Koch money & speculates that Walker is counting on Koch support by serving their interests in other ways.

Randy Ray-Banned. Molly Hooper & Alexandra Oliveira of the Hill: "Ray-Ban has asked Sen. Rand Paul's presidential campaign to quit selling the brand’s Wayfarer sunglasses, which Paul had imprinted with the 'Rand' logo. The Rand-Ban sunglasses were for sale for $150 on Paul's website as recently as Tuesday. The website described the product as 'the intersection of politics and cool.' But the campaign didn't have Ray-Ban's consent, and the company didn't think that was cool." The campaign removed the purloined product from its site. Without comment. Thanks to Akhilleus for the lead. See also his comment in yesterday's thread. ...

... AP: "A son of Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has been cited for driving under the influence of alcohol in Kentucky. Police in Lexington say William H. Paul was driving a 2006 Honda Ridgeline at 11:24 a.m. on Sunday when he crashed into the back of an unoccupied parked car. Some people nearby heard the crash and alerted authorities.... A campaign spokesman said Sen. Rand Paul does not comment on any private matters in regards to his family." CW: Sorry, Randy, this is a public offense, not a "private matter." And, no, your son's bad acts do not speak to your qualifications -- or lack thereof -- for high public office.

This is hilarious. Li'l Randy & his good buddy Tailgunner Ted (whom Paul Waldman suggests would fight to the death if Sheldon Adelson told them to) write a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging passage of a fast-tracking bill they claim would "put Congress in charge" of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, when in fact, as Steve Benen points out, fast-tracking would put the President in charge....

... Benen: "When Obama launches a military offensive against ISIS, congressional Republicans effectively tell the president, '... You wage war; we'll wait over here.' But when Obama negotiates an international nuclear agreement with Iran, Republicans switch gears, effectively telling the president, 'Congressional oversight is everything, and we demand multiple opportunism to derail a diplomatic solution.' And when Obama works on the TPP, suddenly Republicans switch back, this time effectively telling the president, 'Forget about that oversight stuff. Let us know when the deal's done so we can rubber-stamp it.'" ...

... CW: Being a Republican means never having to be truthful, consistent or embrace a coherent political philosophy. ...

... John McCain & Lindsey Graham coordinate their counterattack on Rand Paul, who called the two "lapdogs" for President Obama's foreign policy. The McCain-Graham line: Paul is the "worst possible candidate." McCain elaborated: "worse than Cruz." Note to Randy: Do not go out of your way to piss on lapdogs pitbulls.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will launch her campaign for president on May 4, according to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday."

CW: If you'd like to know why Bobby Jindal is "protecting" the faithful from the gays, go to the NYT front or opinion page & click on his op-ed. I could not be bothered.

Beyond the Beltway

Emma Fitzsimmons of the New York Times: "A federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to display an ad from a pro-Israel group on buses after the agency declined to run it last year.... The ad shows a man with a scarf across his face next to the words, 'Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,' attributed to 'Hamas MTV.' Below that, it reads: 'That's his Jihad. What's yours?' The judge, John G. Koeltl, of United States District Court, ruled that the ad qualified as protected speech and granted a preliminary injunction ordering the transportation authority to run the ad. He said the order would not take effect for 30 days so the agency could consider whether it would appeal the decision."

Oliver Laughland & Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "The Baltimore police supervisor suspended over the death of Freddie Gray was accused of threatening to kill a man as part of an alleged 'pattern of intimidation and violence' that led to a temporary restraining order.... [Lt. Brian] Rice, 41, was one of six officers suspended pending a criminal inquiry into the death of Gray, who died after his neck was '80% severed' by the breaking of three vertebrae, according to his family's attorney, who said Gray's voice box was almost crushed." ...

... Swaine & Laughland: "The Baltimore police officer who led the initial chase of Freddie Gray, the young man who died after being arrested and suffering a broken neck, has twice been accused of domestic violence and was temporarily ordered by a court to stay away from a second person. Lieutenant Brian Rice faced actions in Maryland's civil courts over alleged domestic violence in 2008 and 2013, according to public filings. In both cases, requests for protective orders were denied by the judge." ...

... Ashley Southall of the New York Times: "What happened to ... Freddie Gray, 25, when he was arrested by Baltimore police officers has been a mystery since his death on Sunday, a week after his arrest."

Jon Swaine: "The family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting by police led to months of unrest last year, are suing the city of Ferguson, Missouri, their lawyers said on Wednesday evening."

Scott Lemieux in LG&M: Florida Gov. Rick "Scott and his allies aren't opposed in principle to the federal government giving Florida money to cover health care for poor people. They're opposed to the federal government giving Florida money to cover health care for poor people if it's done via 'Obamacare.' It's pretty hard to argue that there's some sort of major liberty interest involved when you're literally making (idiotic) arguments that the state of Florida is constitutionally entitled to federal health care grants." ...

     ... Paul Waldman: "Written like someone who doesn't truly understand freedom."

News Lede

AP: "Frail and tired of leading a secret life for four decades, 66-year-old Clarence David Moore called police this week to surrender.... Moore escaped from police custody three times during the 1970s and eventually settled into a quiet life, living in Kentucky since at least 2009. His health is poor from a stroke late last year and he has difficulty speaking. When Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton showed up at Moore's house to make the 'arrest,' Moore was in a hospital bed. He broke down in tears. He told the sheriff he needed medical help." CW: Great. Now we can all pay for Moore's upkeep in his declining years.

Tuesday
Apr212015

The Commentariat -- April 22, 2015

Afternoon News:

Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Responding to a series of computer security breaches, the House is expected on Wednesday to pass a bill, years in the making, that would push private companies to share access to their computer networks and records with federal investigators.... The cybersecurity bill, similar to a measure approved overwhelmingly by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would be Congress's most aggressive response yet to a burst of computer attacks...."

Missy Ryan & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon plans to move up to 10 detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, possibly in June, as officials scramble to reduce the prison's population before Congress attempts to stop future transfers and derail President Obama's plan to shutter the U.S. military facility."

Sarah Bailey of the Washington Post: "Pope Francis, who has taken a public role in U.S.-Cuba relations, will visit Cuba on the way to the United States this fall, the Vatican announced Wednesday."

Kevin Liptak of CNN: "President Barack Obama will venture into the South Florida Everglades on Wednesday to lend urgency to his environmental agenda, declaring the dangers of climate change an imminent threat to the state's economy." ...

David Nakamura & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top Democrats began feuding over President Obama's trade initiative Tuesday as his bid for a major late-term win began tearing at the party's unity and threatened to expose old divisions ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The tensions broke into public view after Clinton hedged during her first remarks on whether she would support an Obama-backed trade package that is gaining traction in Congress but is opposed by some on the party's politically potent liberal wing." ...

... President Obama speaks with Chris Matthews about the TPP:

... Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday said he is emphatically against the new trade powers legislation that is moving through Congress. 'I have never, ever ... supported a trade agreement, and I'm not going to start now,' the Nevada Democrat told reporters. 'So the answer is not only no, but hell no.'" ...

... Kyle Cheney of Politico: "A coalition of labor, environmental and progressive interests is launching a seven-figure ad campaign aimed at pressuring congressional Democrats to block legislation that would expedite an Obama administration-backed trade deal with the United States' Pacific allies."

Dustin Volz of the National Journal: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill Tuesday night that would reauthorize a controversial surveillance authority of the Patriot Act until 2020, a push that comes just as a group of bipartisan lawmakers is preparing a last-minute push to rein in the government's mass-spying powers. A McConnell aide said the majority leader is beginning a process to put the bill on the Senate calendar but said that the chamber will not take the measure up this week. That process, known as Rule 14, would bypass the traditional committee process. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr is a cosponsor."

New York Times: The Senate has set the confirmation vote on Loretta Lynch for attorney general for Thursday.

Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "Barack Obama has sent a clear signal to the Iranian government that further arms deliveries to Houthi rebels in Yemen would be unacceptable. '[The crisis will] not be solved by having another proxy war fought inside Yemen and we've indicated to the Iranians that they need to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,' the US president said on Tuesday night."

Eli Lake of Bloomberg: "The Barack Obama administration has estimated for years that Iran was at most three months away from enriching enough nuclear fuel for an atomic bomb. But the administration only declassified this estimate at the beginning of the month, just in time for the White House to make the case for its Iran deal to Congress and the public." ...

... Jim Snyder of Bloomberg: "Nuclear inspectors will need unfettered access in Iran as part of a deal to lift economic sanctions, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said a day after an Iranian general said military sites must be off limits. 'We expect to have anywhere, anytime access,' Moniz, a nuclear physicist who negotiated the technical details of a framework nuclear accord, said Monday in a meeting with editors and reporters at Bloomberg's Washington office."

Michael Crowley of Politico: "President Barack Obama will not use the word 'genocide' to describe the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians in his annual statement commemorating the historic atrocity later this month."

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to resign soon, according to U.S. officials, following revelations about 'sex parties' involving prostitutes overseas and other misconduct among its agents. Michele Leonhart, who has served at the helm of the DEA since 2007, has come under heavy criticism on Capitol Hill since an inspector general report last month documented a series of episodes in which agents hired prostitutes. Agents were also found to have had sex parties with some women hired by drug cartels in Colombia." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

American Justice, Ctd. Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department said Tuesday it was launching a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, who died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in the custody of the Baltimore police. Gray's death has sparked repeated protests in Baltimore, where six police officers have been suspended as authorities there investigate what happened."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the police may not prolong traffic stops to wait for drug-sniffing dogs to inspect vehicles. 'A police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution's shield against unreasonable seizures,' Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. The vote was 6 to 3.... Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg's majority opinion." ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress discusses the impact of the decision, which may be of little consequence, even for the plaintiff in the case. ...

... Noah Feldman in Bloomberg: "Are the past year's examples of racially charged police abuses from Ferguson to Staten Island to North Charleston affecting the U.S. Supreme Court?... It's possible to discern a subtly changing attitude on stop-and-frisk policing, the centerpiece of the broken-windows approach.... Tuesday's decision suggests that the judicial pendulum may be beginning to move. The first movement may seem small. But the pendulum tends to have momentum." CW: This was my first thought upon reading the decision. Read the whole post because Feldman explains why Ginburg concentrated on the time element.

Tim Devaney of the Hill: "Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) last week tweeted a picture of himself and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the leader of the House's Benghazi investigation, holding an AR-15. Having the AR-15 in the District could be a violation of the city's strict gun laws, and the city attorney general's office has referred the matter to police, a spokesman told The Hill."

The Thrill Is Gone. George Packer of the New Yorker: Politics isn't fun any more. Packer makes some suggestions that he thinks would enliven the moribund sameness of it all.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Digby, in Salon, on the history of mainstream media's "eagerly chasing every shiny object that David Bossie [of Citizens United] and other right-wingers threw in their path.... The press's track record during [the 1990s] and into the 2000 campaign can only be described as malpractice. It's beyond belief that after all their failures and journalistic malfeasance they would formalize an agreement with a right wing operative to 'share' his information."

The Rich Man's Burden. Simon Miloy of Salon explains basics of the U.S. tax structure to Bill O'Reilly, whose ignorance thereof has led him to conclude that "the real inequality is found in the government's unfair taxation of wealthy people like himself."

Presidential Race

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: Clinton surrogates point out that Hillary Clinton has been a "populist" for decades. "Mrs. Clinton was the original Elizabeth Warren, her advisers say, a populist fighter who for decades has been an advocate for families and children; only now have the party and primary voters caught up.... A 16-page dossier, titled 'Hillary Clinton: A Lifetime Champion of Income Opportunity' and assembled by a close friend and adviser to Mrs. Clinton, calls Ms. Warren a 'footnote.' The document, provided to The New York Times, presents 40 instances in which Mrs. Clinton took the same stance as Ms. Warren on issues -- like organized labor and tax increases on the wealthy -- in some cases years before the senator's ascent in the national spotlight." ...

... Greg Sargent: "Clinton's agenda may end up looking a lot more like the Center for American Progress' 'Inclusive Prosperity' agenda, with its focus on boosting wages, workplace flexibility, and investments in education and the future, than like Warren's emphasis on the rigged,inequality-ridden rules that hold sway on the domestic and global economic playing field. But even so, Clinton will draw on Warren's repertoire, and the differences won't be all that vast."

Myth-Busting. Ed Kilgore in TPM: Their executive experience & outside-the-Beltway status "were supposed to make the rich bumper crop of GOP governors and former governors in the field this year the collective frontrunners. But in case after case, their records back home are undermining their credibility...."

Alex Roarty & Scott Bland of the National Journal: "When Chris Christie went to New Hampshire to propose the most sweeping set of changes to Social Security in recent memory last week, he set off a rush among top Republican contenders, including Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, to offer their own aggressive plans for the program. But according to many Republican strategists, Christie's dive into Social Security did more than that -- it pushed the party in a perilous direction ahead of the 2016 election. Because while 'entitlement reform' has become part of the Republican platform, Social Security, the strategists say, is a topic still too perilous to touch."

Koch Cattle Call. Jonathan Chait: "Mike Allen [of Politico] report[ed] that, per an unnamed 'top Koch aide'..., 'Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the [Koch] brothers' support.' The Kochs seem to be hoping for a lead character who can play the role a little less patrician and a little more Middle America, but Jeb will be given an opportunity to show that he can stretch. So for anybody concerned that the democratic process might be short-circuited by the Kochs precipitously anointing a front man, rest assured. All the candidates will have the chance to curry their favor." ...

Fredreka Schouten of USA Today: "Charles Koch said he is considering throwing his political might into the Republican presidential primary for the first time and is likely to provide financial help to several contenders before settling on a single candidate." CW: Let's hope the Brothers Koch start feuding/brawling over which candidate to support. ...

... MEANWHILE, Andy Borowitz "reports," "Koch Industries is defending its acquisition of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker against charges that it overpaid for the Midwestern politician." ...

... Sam Brodey of Mother Jones: "Liz Mair, the GOP operative who resigned from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign-in-waiting after a day on the job, is in campaign mode again -- and this time, she's targeting her former boss. On Tuesday morning, Mair sent an email detailing Walker's 'Olympic-quality flip-flop' on the issue of immigration. On Monday, Breitbart reported that Walker is the only declared or likely GOP candidate so far to support rolling back legal immigration to the United States, including for highly skilled workers." ...

Actual immigration advisor to Scott Walker.... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Top Republican senators criticized GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker on Tuesday for casting doubt on legal immigration policies and echoing calls by outspoken restrictionist Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for a discussion about whether immigrants harm wages for native-born American workers." ...

... Dave Weigel of Bloomberg: "Walker's statement [suggesting putting limits on legal immigration] puts him to the right of even Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who told New Hampshire voters this weekend that there was 'no stronger advocate' for legal immigration than him.... Just as surprisingly -- and just as impactfully -- Walker's dalliance with immigration limitation puts him at odds with the Koch networks, just a day after David Koch told reporters that he was inclined to back Walker. The Charles Koch Foundation has aggressively campaigned for immigration reform...."

Nick Gass of Politico: "Lindsey Graham and John McCain are 'lapdogs' for President Barack Obama's foreign policy, Rand Paul said Tuesday, at once firing back at recent remarks from the hawkish Republicans and seeking to distinguish his defense credentials. 'This comes from a group of people wrong about every policy issue over the last two decades,' the Kentucky Republican said in an interview with Fox News, touting his credentials as the 'one standing up to President Obama.'... On Monday, Graham said Paul is 'more wrong than right' when it comes to foreign policy and that the current president is stronger in dealing with overseas threats. McCain asserted that Paul 'just doesn't understand' and has carried a naïveté in the Senate." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Putting aside any analysis of the truth or error of what Paul is saying here about Obama, Graham/McCain, or himself, what’s interesting here is that he's showing every sign of wanting a big debate within the GOP on foreign policy and national security; the 'lapdog' line is media-bait of the highest order."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Running for president in New Hampshire over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz told a group of gun owners he's 'pressing' Sen. John McCain to convene hearings on whether soldiers should be allowed to carry concealed guns on military bases. McCain (R-Ariz.) says the request is news to him. 'I was fascinated to hear that because I haven't heard a thing about it from him. Nor has my staff heard from his staff,' McCain said of Cruz (R-Texas). 'It came as a complete surprise to me that he had been pressing me. Maybe it was some medium that I'm not familiar with.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Craig Patrick of Fox 13 Tampa: Florida GOP legislators opposing the Medicaid expansion locked reporters out of a meeting in violation of Florida's sunshine law. Something about "liberty." "But they may not have realized a veteran Associated Press reporter was listening through the door." Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Jonathan Cohn on why Rick Scott, et al., are "throwing an ObamaCare tantrum": "The level of hostility to Obamacare makes very little sense -- unless it's about something beyond the policy particulars. It could be the fact that Democrats finally accomplished something big, for the first time in several decades, thereby expanding the welfare state at a time when conservatives thought they were on their way to shrinking it. Or it could be the idea that, on net, the Affordable Care Act transfers resources away from richer, whiter people to poorer, darker people. Or it could be the fact that 'Obamacare' contains the word 'Obama,' whose legitimacy as president at least some conservatives just can't accept."

News Ledes

Hartford Courant: "Mary Doyle Keefe, the model for Norman Rockwell's iconic 1943 'Rosie the Riveter' painting that symbolized the millions of American women who went to work on the home front during World War II, has died. She was 92."

Slate: "A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned Barry Bonds' obstruction of justice felony conviction related to performance enhancing drugs, undoing the only criminal conviction to come from the years-long investigation of the former slugger. The 2011 conviction grew out of answers Bonds gave to a grand jury in 2003."

Monday
Apr202015

The Commentariat -- April 21, 2015

Afternoon News:

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to resign soon, according to U.S. officials, following revelations about 'sex parties' involving prostitutes overseas and other misconduct among its agents. Michele Leonhart, who has served at the helm of the DEA since 2007, has come under heavy criticism on Capitol Hill since an inspector general report last month documented a series of episodes in which agents hired prostitutes. Agents were also found to have had sex parties with some women hired by drug cartels in Colombia."

*****

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, announced this morning that a deal had been reached to resolve a dispute with Democrats over a bill to halt sex trafficking.... Referring to the stalled nomination of Loretta E. Lynch, he noted that as soon as the measure was completed, 'we'll move to the president's nominee for attorney general -- hopefully in the next day or so.'" CW: Do bear in mind that the trafficking bill has zip to do with confirmation of the attorney general. Tying a vote for Lynch to the bill was just another GOP stall tactic. ...

     ... Update. The full story, by Jennifer Steinhauer & Emmarie Huetteman, is here.

Clare Foran of the National Journal: "As President Obama rushes to cement his climate legacy, other nations are questioning whether his administration can make good on its promise to slash greenhouse-gas emissions ahead of a major climate summit in Paris at the end of this year.... Legal challenges and political attacks faced by the regulations, which stand as a major pillar of the U.S. climate pledge, highlight the uncertain fate of Obama's most ambitious action to tackle global warming." ...

... CW: This is the second story I've linked to in less than a week (see the top of the April 18 Commentariat) in which other nations mistrust the U.S. on major issues because the GOP is working to undermine international cooperation. (And this doesn't include their egregious behavior on the Iran nuclear deal.) It is not President Obama who is "making the U.S. weaker" as Republicans claim; it is, as it has been, Republican obstinacy. When will voters wake up to the damage they are causing their country & themselves?

Grandpa Is a Selfish Bastard. Brian Beutler of the New Republic looks at poll numbers & finds that the demographic that most hates ObamaCare is old folks who, you know, are on Medicare.

Today in Right-Wing Loony. Dana Milbank: "As the Supreme Court prepares to take up same-sex marriage next week, conservative scholars have produced a last-ditch argument to keep the scourge of homosexual unions from spreading across the land:... They're saying that legalizing same-sex marriage will cause 900,000 abortions. The logic is about as obvious as if they had alleged that raising the minimum wage would increase the frequency of hurricanes."

Charles Pierce has noticed that Dave Brat (R-Va.), the Tea Party victor over former House Majority Leader & current $3.4MM/year investment banker Eric Cantor, "is several tentacles short of an octopus." CW: worth remembering -- Brat is a certified Ph.D. from a respectable university, thus providing more evidence that American education ain't what it used to be.

Dana Somberg & Maariv Hashavua of the Jerusalem Post: Israeli "President Reuven Rivlin has refused to meet with former US president Jimmy Carter during his upcoming visit to the region, due to his stances over recent years seen as 'anti-Israel.'"

Annals of Journalism. Here's the Pulitzer Prize Committee's list of 2015 winners of Pultizer Prizes. The Washington Post story, by Paul Farhi, is here. The New York Times story, by Ravi Somaiya, is here.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Dylan Byers of Politico: "The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton, a move that has confounded members of the Clinton campaign and some reporters, the On Media blog has confirmed.... On Monday, a source with knowledge of the arrangements told the On Media blog that CBS' '60 Minutes' and ABC News turned down offers for similar exclusive access to portions of the book's contents." ...

... As Byers notes, Media Matters is already on the case: "Media should be cautious with Republican activist and strategist Peter Schweizer's new book Clinton Cash. Schweizer has a disreputable history of reporting marked by errors and retractions, with numerous reporters excoriating him for facts that 'do not check out,' sources that 'do not exist,' and a basic failure to practice 'Journalism 101.'" The report, by Eric Hananoki, cites case after case of Schweizer's misreporting.

Washington Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes of the Washington Post responds to Garry Trudeau's lecture on "appropriate" cartooning.

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Staff writer Dylan Goforth and enterprise editor Ziva Branstetter of The Tulsa World newspaper published a report Thursday that cited multiple anonymous sources alleging supervisors had signed off on firearms certifications and field training that Reserve Deputy Robert Bates did not complete.... Branstetter was named Monday afternoon as a 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist for local reporting.... The reporters left the publication on Monday.... Goforth told TPM in a direct message over Twitter that he, Branstetter and two other The Tulsa World reporters had another job offer in the works for a few months."

Presidential Race

Steve M. on money in politics, & specifically, Clinton money in politics: "Here's the thing: We will elect a corrupt president in 2016. That's simply a fact. The question is whether we'll elect a corrupt president who'll take a wrecking ball to what's left of the social safety apparatus, to voting rights, to reproductive rights, to progressive taxation, and so on. I say: Vote for the left-centrist crook, as opposed to one of the other crooks." CW: Reality sucks. ...

... Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg: "Hillary Clinton dismissed scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation's donors as just part of running for president and said [in Keene, N.H.,] Monday that she's ready for the incoming attention. 'It's worth noting that Republicans seem to only be talking about me,' she told reporters after a roundtable discussion on small businesses.... 'I don't know what they'd talk about if I weren't in the race.'" ...

... Mary Bruce & Jonathan Karl of ABC News: "The White House today declined to address reports that Clinton Foundation donors were purportedly given preferential treatment by the administration while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. 'I know there's been a lot of accusations made about this, but not a lot of evidence,' Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing. 'The president continues to be extraordinarily proud of the work that Secretary Clinton did as the secretary of State. But for the details of some of those accusations, I'd refer you to Secretary Clinton's campaign.'" CW: Earnest sure does a lot of talking for someone "declining to comment."

Margaret Hartmann of New York is a tiny bit skeptical of claims that Mayor DeBlasio has a secret plot to become President DeBlasio.

The Princes & the Populist. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Charles G. and David H. Koch, the influential and big-spending conservative donors, have a favorite in the race for the Republican nomination: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker was the Republican Party's best hope for recapturing the White House. 'We will support whoever the candidate is,' said Mr. Koch, according to two people who attended the event. 'But it should be Scott Walker.'" CW: In case you were wondering who-all might back an anti-labor "populist." (See yesterday's comments thread for context.) ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "In a statement, David Koch said that his comments did not constitute an endorsement." ...

... CW P.S.: Many a Democratic rival could use the Kochs' backing to their great advantage. Hillary? Not so much. ...

... Charles Pierce: "... back in America's Dairyland, they may never get out of the death spiral into which Walker has shown the actual state he allegedly actually governs. His new budget is so draconian that even some of the Republicans in his pet legislature are starting to get nervous. And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, a newspaper of wild ambivalence regarding Walker and his prospective candidacy, dropped a dungbomb on him that demonstrated that, while Scott Walker may have bought a shirt at Kohl's, he isn't qualified to run a cash register there." ...

... Regression of the Meanies. Only last week we learned that "Gov. Scott Walker's approval rating of 41 percent is its lowest point in three years, according to the latest Marquette Law School Poll." ...

... New Jersey, We Have a Winner. Quinnipiac University: "New Jersey voters disapprove 56 - 38 percent of the job [Chris] Christie is doing as governor, his lowest approval rating ever and the lowest approval rating for any governor this year in the nine states surveyed by Quinnipiac University."

A Plan for All Seasons. Jonathan Chait explains why Marco "Rubio's plan is so crazy and unrealistic it might as well be no plan at all." Even mathematically-challenged Republicans have noticed the "plan"'s flaws. They "are afraid that Rubio's plan to cut taxes for the middle class would cost too much, forcing him to 'fix' his plan by curtailing his promises to rich people." CW: Of course we know that is not what would happen: Republicans -- and some Democrats -- will always keep their promises to the rich. The unwashed masses get to vote only once. Wealthy puppetmasters hold the strings 365 days/year.

Paul Steinhauser of the Washington Post & NH1News: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich Monday took a big step toward a possible 2016 Republican presidential run with the launch of a new a 527 group, the Washington Post and NH1 News in New Hampshire have learned. The new group is called New Day for America, and one of the biggest political names in New Hampshire -- former Sen. John E. Sununu -- is serving as a director." CW: Does this mean God has spoken? (See yesterday's Commentariat.)

Beyond the Beltway

Dark & Dirty. Mary Bottari in the Huffington Post: "Two court cases next week -- one being heard in open court, another being considered in silence behind closed doors -- will decide the future of Wisconsin campaign finance law, the independence of the Wisconsin judiciary, and will impact the future of presidential candidate Scott Walker. The stakes could not be higher, but the converging cases have garnered little national attention."

Lindsey Bever & Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "A 25-year-old man who died several days after being arrested by Baltimore police suffered a fatal spinal injury, authorities said Monday, as city officials announced that six police officers have been suspended." A court document "reports that [Freddie] Gray 'was arrested without force or incident' on April 12."

Jessica Roy of New York: "88,000 people applied for the 55 affordable rental units available at [New York City's] Upper West Side 'poor door' building. The condo features 219 luxury river-facing condos, and 55 street-facing units for those who earn 60 percent or less than the median income." CW: Apparently hobnobbing with the rich & famous was not uppermost in the minds of the applicants.

Steve Schmadeke & Jeremy Gorner of the Chicago Tribune: "In a stunning, abrupt end to the first trial in years of a Chicago police officer for a fatal off-duty shooting, a Cook County judge acquitted the veteran cop Monday on a legal fine point, drawing outrage from the black victim's family and leaders in the African-American community. Judge Dennis Porter ruled that prosecutors failed to prove that Dante Servin acted recklessly, saying that Illinois courts have consistently held that anytime an individual points a gun at an intended victim and shoots, it is an intentional act, not a reckless one. He all but said prosecutors should have charged Servin with murder, not involuntary manslaughter." CW: A legal fine point? How about a blunt corruption of justice.

News Ledes

AP: "An Egyptian criminal court on Tuesday sentenced ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to 20 years in prison over the killing of protesters in 2012, the first verdict to be issued against the country's first freely elected leader.

AP: "Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries issued a voluntary recall Monday night for all of its products on the market after two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeria, a potentially deadly bacteria."

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