The Ledes

Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

New York Times: "The Iranian foreign minister rejoined the nuclear talks [in Vienna, Austria,] Tuesday morning as the United States looked for signs that he had arrived with more flexible negotiating instructions."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Greek financial crisis.

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
June 30

12:05 pm ET: President Obama & President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil hold a joint press conference

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Here's a short film by activist Bree Newsome. The film won the best -short-film category at the BET awards (ca. 2010):

Washington Post: "After three years of work by Michelle Obama and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a new look was unveiled [in the State Dining Room] Friday[, June 26,] that will be a design legacy of the Obama years." With slideshow, including former incarnations of the room.

Daniel Bethencourt & Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press: "Famed street artist Shepard Fairey, who visited Detroit last month to create the largest mural of his career, faces felony charges of tagging other properties across the city on his own time." The reporters put the charges in the larger perspective of street art.

David Haglund on "James Salter in the New Yorker."

Twelve beautiful bookshops.

Livraria Lello & Irmão, Porto, Portugal.

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that [Fox "News" leader Roger] Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion. Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan."

The Waldorf-Hysteria. New York Post: Bride "hysterical," lets out "blood-curdling scream," when Waldorf is forced to cancel her million-dollar reception because drunken relatives of the groom allegedly shot some other guests & Waldorf employees. Here's more of the story. You can the boys out of Brooklyn, but....

Sophia A. McClennen in Salon: The real Jerry Seinfeld has become the TV character Jerry Seinfeld. Without the irony. So not funny.

Washington Post: "... thanks to diligent sleuthing and painstaking restoration by a team of art historians at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, the shadowy, richly colored 'Saul and David' is considered a Rembrandt masterpiece once more. It goes on display at the museum this Thursday, the star of a special exhibition entirely devoted to the painting and its tumultuous past."

New York Times: "Since [the] Clinton [Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York,] opened in 1845, dozens of inmates have escaped over, under or through the prison’s thick walls, their exploits detailed in breathless, often sensationalistic, newspaper reports of earlier eras." CW: As if the Times' extensive coverage of last week's escape wasn't sensationalistic. ...

New York Times: The life of a fugitive presents many opportunities to blunder -- and get caught.

Washington Post: "It’s a happy day for luggage manufacturers. The world’s major airlines could soon be changing their requirements for carry-on luggage, potentially forcing people to buy new bags. Working with airlines and aircraft manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association, unveiled a new best-size guideline on Tuesday for carry-on bags at 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. That's 21 percent smaller than the size currently permitted by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines."

CW: Okay, I finally found a Daily Mail story I'm willing to link. The hills are alive.

Stephen Colbert, Lyricist:

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Eight-hundred years ago this month, rebellious barons and a despised, cash-strapped king gathered in a verdant riverside meadow 20 miles outside London to seal an agreement that would change the course of history. The words of the Magna Carta have inspired democratic movements the world over and formed a basis for countless constitutions...." But not for Great Britain, which "is one of just three major democracies that lack formal, written constitutions." Some Britons are thinking it's time to fix that.

Washington Post: Actor Jason Alexander reveals why the "Seinfeld" show killed off George Costanza's fiancee Susan.

When a Cop Loves a Cheapskate. Taylor Berman of Gawker: "Last July, NYPD Officer Ymmacula Pierre and her partner found Kenneth Sanden dead after being called to his East Village apartment by a concerned relative. So Pierre allegedly did what any respectable cop would do: pocket the dead man’s Mastercard and use it to buy a diamond ring." Pierre ordered the ring while in her boyfriend's apartment, & that is where the ring was to be shipped. It appears to me that Pierre is (allegedly) a girl who believes in traditional marriage. Very sweet.

Dylan Byers of Politico (June 1): "Jake Tapper will take over as host of CNN's 'State Of The Union' on June 14, he announced Monday.... He replaces Candy Crowley, who served as host of 'SOTU' until late last year. Tapper will also continue to host his 4 p.m. weekday program, 'The Lead.'" ...

Mediaite (May 29): "CNN’s Jake Tapper will no longer moderate a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative’s upcoming conference in Denver, Colo., to avoid a conflict of interest involving the recent coverage of its parent foundation’s controversies."

 

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, appears on the cover of Vanity Fair, with the cover & other photos by Annie Liebovitz. There's a firewalled cover story. ...

... Another reason to admire actor Jessica Lange: she didn't know what "trending on Twitter" meant.

Reuters: "A $100,000 check is waiting for a mystery woman who donated a rare Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm. CleanBayArea in Milpitas, California, said on its website that a woman in her 60s dropped off some electronic goods in April, when she was cleaning out the garage after her husband died. The boxes of computer parts contained a 1976 Apple 1, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000 in a private auction. The recycler’s policy is to split the proceeds 50-50 with the person who donated the equipment. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak built the computers in 1976 and sold them for $666.66 each. Only a few dozen of the groundbreaking home computers are known to still exist."

New York Times: "On Tuesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, along with the Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Slave Wrecks Project, and other partners, will announce in Cape Town that the remnants of the São José [-- which sank off the Cape of Good Hope in 1795 --] have been found, right where the ship went down, in full view of Lion’s Head Mountain. It is the first time, researchers involved in the project say, that the wreckage of a slaving ship that went down with slaves aboard has been recovered."

New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

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Tuesday
Jun022015

The Commentariat -- June 3, 2015

Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "In a remarkable reversal of national security policy formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Senate voted on Tuesday to curtail the federal government's sweeping surveillance of American phone records, sending the legislation to President Obama's desk for his signature. The passage of the measure, achieved after a vigorous debate on the Senate floor, will lead to the reinstatement of government surveillance efforts that were blacked out on Monday after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, blocked their extension. The vote was a rebuke to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, as lawmakers beat back a series of amendments that he sought that would have rolled back proposed controls on government spying.... The vote was held after members of the House starkly warned that they would not accept any changes to the law, setting off an unusual stalemate between House Speaker John A. Boehner and Mr. McConnell." ...

     ... New Lede (9:00 pm ET Tuesday): "In a significant scaling back of national security policy formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Senate on Tuesday approved legislation curtailing the federal government's sweeping surveillance of American phone records, and President Obama signed the measure hours later.' ...

... As Dana Milbank points out in his column, linked under Presidential Race, both McConnell & Paul "came out losers. Paul, an opponent of the Patriot Act, not only failed in his effort to block the reauthorization, but he antagonized his colleagues so much that they refused to take up his (reasonable) amendments. McConnell, a fan of the original Patriot Act, tried to outmaneuver Paul by pushing the vote to the deadline, but this miscalculation caused the Patriot Act to lapse, and McConnell failed in his bid to strengthen the new legislation." ...

Glad the Senate finally passed the USA Freedom Act. It protects civil liberties and our national security. I'll sign it as soon as I get it. -- @POTUS

... Sabrina Siddiqui of the Guardian: "The US Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would end the bulk collection of millions of Americans' phone records, the most significant surveillance reform for decades and a direct result of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations to the Guardian two years ago." ...

... Tuesday Afternoon. Mike DeBonis & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The Senate advanced a sweeping remake of U.S. surveillance powers Tuesday, two days after an internal split among Republicans caused the legal authority for key counterterrorism programs to temporarily expire. By a vote of 83 to 14, the measure cleared a crucial procedural hurdle, as senators acted to close debate on the USA Freedom Act, a House-passed bill that would end the National Security Agency's practice of collecting troves of call data from telephone companies.... Depending on the amendment votes and procedural maneuvers, the bill could be signed into law as soon as Tuesday night." (Also linked yesterday.)

The TSA as Audience-Participation Kabuki Theater. David Graham of the Atlantic: "The TSA doesn't work and never has.... TSA's failure to detect undercover agents might seem like familiar news, since it's a part of a pattern. Reports about the TSA failing to find planted weapons and the like pop up every few years."

Fear of the Supremes. Louise Radnofsky & Stephanie Armour of the Wall Street Journal: "Officials from states across the nation flew to Chicago in early May for a secret 24-hour meeting to discuss their options if the Supreme Court rules they have to operate their own exchanges in order for residents to get health-insurance subsidies." CW: You'll probably have to access this article via Google. Starting here worked for me. ...

... The Kaiser Foundation has a state-by-state map of how many people would lose subsidies if the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell prevail & how much federal money is at stake for people in these states. Via Greg Sargent, who writes, "... the greatest numbers of people who stand to lose subsidies live in states that are key presidential battlegrounds and home to some of the most contested Senate races of the cycle."

Jon Swaine & Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "A plan to force all American law enforcement agencies to report killings by their officers was unveiled by US senators on Tuesday, a day after the Guardian published an investigation into the fatal use of force by police. Senators Barbara Boxer [D] of California and Cory Booker [D] of New Jersey proposed legislation that would demand all states submit reports to the US Department of Justice that they said would bring 'transparency and accountability to law enforcement agencies nationwide'."

Jack Gillum, et al., of the AP: "Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned. The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas.... Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they're not making a call or in public. Officials said that practice, which mimics cell towers and gets phones to reveal basic subscriber information, is used in only limited situations." ...

... Digby: "Well, ok then. Their identity is hidden behind front companies, they don't bother with warrants and they only use the information for really, really important stuff to catch real criminals."

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "At least one member of Congress was aware that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) allegedly sexually molested a male former student prior to his time in Congress. Relatively early on during Hastert's speakership, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) was approached with news about the alleged abuse, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation that took place with Watt.... According to the source, the person who approached Watt was an intermediary for the family of the abuse victim and knew the North Carolina congressman informally.... After The Huffington Post first reported the claims on Tuesday, Watt sent a statement saying that he had, in fact, heard about allegations against Hastert during the early days of his speakership. But he said the information did not appear either reliable or serious enough to prompt action."

Eesha Pandit in Salon: In EEOC v. Abercrombie, "Why would [Justice] Scalia, such a noted opponent of civil rights protections, leverage the Civil Rights Act which he has challenged in many of the opinions he's penned? In fact, this kind of ruling is of a piece with other recent decisions within the Roberts Court, in which the conservative judges are more open to civil rights claims in which religious discrimination is alleged.... Particularly interesting here is the burden of protection: If employers like Abercrombie are required to make accommodations for a person's religious expression, then how can they be allowed to dictate their employee's access to health care (like birth control) at the behest of the employer's religious beliefs? How might Justice Scalia, who notes that it was Abercrombie's responsibility to ensure that Samantha Elauf could practice her religious expression, find that it was acceptable for Hobby Lobby's owners to foist their values on employees?"

Jerry Hirsch of the Los Angeles Times: "Elon Musk says his companies don't need the estimated $4.9 billion they enjoy in government support, but the money will help them move faster to transform the dirty business of energy. 'If I cared about subsidies, I would have entered the oil and gas industry,' said Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Motors and SpaceX and the chairman of SolarCity. Musk's remarks came in response to a Times story detailing his corporate strategy of incubating high-risk, high-tech companies with government money — estimating the total received or pledged so far at $4.9 billion, a figure Musk did not dispute." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sam Borden, et al., of the New York Times: "Sepp Blatter ... said Tuesday that he would resign his [presidency of FIFA] as law enforcement officials confirmed that he was a focus of a federal corruption investigation. Mr. Blatter had for days tried to distance himself from the controversy, but several United States officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that in their efforts to build a case against Mr. Blatter they were hoping to win the cooperation of some of the FIFA officials now under indictment and work their way up the organization." CW: No surprise here. ...

... (Tuesday Afternoon.) Sam Borden: "Sepp Blatter said Tuesday that he would resign from the presidency of FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, in the wake of a corruption inquiry, an extraordinary turn just four days after he was re-elected and defiantly insisted that he was blameless and committed to cleaning up the organization. Mr. Blatter, 79, said he would ask FIFA to schedule a new election for his replacement as soon as possible. The next FIFA congress is scheduled to meet in May 2016, but he acknowledged that the organization could not wait that long for new leadership given the current situation." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

David Fahrenthold, et al., of the Washington Post: "Today, the Clinton Foundation is unlike anything else in the history of the nation and, perhaps, the world: It is a global philanthropic empire run by a former U.S. president and closely affiliated with a potential future president, with the audacious goal of solving some of the world's most vexing problems by bringing together the wealthiest, glitziest and most powerful people from every part of the planet." The writers take a deep dive into history & doings of the foundation. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... unlike the scandal-seeking missile that is the New York Times coverage of All Things Hillary, the WaPo take concedes that the Clinton Foundation's genesis is almost entirely altruistic, and that whatever benefits donors or the Clintons derived from its efforts were a byproduct of the unique situation of two people with a globally significant past and (perhaps) future." ...

... James Rosen of Fox "News": "Over a five-year span, senior officials at the National Archives and Records Administrations (NARA) voiced growing alarm about Hillary Clinton's record-keeping practices as secretary of state, according to internal documents obtained by Fox News." CW: Despite the source, this story would seem to be credible. Rosen cites specific NARA e-mails obtained via an FIOA request. ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Chris Hughes, the publisher of The New Republic, and his husband, Sean Eldridge, will hold a fund-raiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, two people briefed on the invitation said. The event will be held on June 30 at the couple's lower Manhattan home, the people said. Mr. Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, and Mr. Eldridge have sought in the last few years to become political players."

He seems nice.Jamelle Bouie of Slate: "The Republican Party consensus has turned back toward Cheneyism.... Like Cheney, these [presidential] candidates have plans for an aggressive, more confrontational United States."

"The Senate Held Hostage by Presidential Ambitions." Dana Milbank: Senate Republicans who are running for president "have discovered that tying the Senate in knots is a cheap and easy way of gaining attention. But a casualty of their game is governing: turning Congress, already barely functioning, into a legislative mess. It is no small irony that Republicans are running for president by proving that their party can't govern."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: Rand Paul's campaign against bulk collection of telephone records has raised his standing with his father Ron's libertarian supporters.

** Jennifer Senior profiles Jeb Bush in New York. Pretty entertaining. Here's a tidbit: "He is stubborn, relentless, exhausting.... [When he was governor,] Jeb mainly espoused a gentlemanly approach to dissent. But on occasion, he could be ruthless. When Alex Villalobos, a Republican state senator, refused to support an education initiative of his in 2006, Jeb stripped him of his position as majority leader and moved him to a minuscule office with only a TV tray for a desk." CW: Make that petty, vindictive, obnoxious. ...

     ... Here's Senior's take on Jeb's competition: "Almost all of the other candidates seem to have more Achilles' heels than they do feet." Ha! ...

... "Making a Mockery of the Law." Eric Lichtblau & Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: "... lawyers say [Jeb] Bush ... is stretching the limits of election law by crisscrossing the country, hiring a political team and raising tens of millions of dollars at fund-raisers, all without declaring -- except once, by mistake -- that he is a candidate. Some election experts say Mr. Bush passed the legal threshold to be considered a candidate months ago, even if he has not formally acknowledged it. Federal law makes anyone who raises or spends $5,000 in an effort to become president a candidate and thus subject to the spending and disclosure restrictions. Some limited activities are allowed for candidates who are merely 'testing the waters' for a run.... Last week, two campaign watchdog groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, called on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether Mr. Bush had broken election law...." ...

... Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "The Nevada Legislature adjourned Monday without voting on a measure to change the state's presidential nominating process from caucuses to a primary, a blow to Jeb Bush, who was hoping for the switch. Some Nevada Republicans supported the change, but the party's leaders in the Assembly did not think there were enough votes for passage and never called the roll. That was in part because Harry Reid, the state's senior United States senator and the Democratic leader, intervened to help torpedo the change. Mr. Reid called Harvey Munford, the lone Democratic member of the Assembly ... to support the switch in committee, and persuaded him to drop his support."

Daniel Strauss of TPM highlights some features of Scott Walker's state budget proposal, the better to make him popular among the nation's buttheads: drug-testing public assistance recipients (somebody get a big ole pee cup for Elon Musk); slashing the state university system's budget (get thee behind me, liberal profs); getting rid of half the scientists in the state natural resources department (heathens!); cutting state parks funds (stay indoors more, kids); cutting public broadcastings (bunch of leftist liars). ...

... Digby in Salon: "No matter how far to the right [Scott Walker] goes, it will never be enough for a Republican base gone mad."

Megan Apper & Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee joked earlier in the year he wished he could have pretended to be transgender in high school 'when it came time to take showers in PE.' Huckabee made the comments at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this year but the comments were uploaded to YouTube over the weekend by World Net Daily. 'For those who do not think that we are under threat, simply recognize that the fact that we are now in city after city watching ordinances say that your 7-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom cannot be offended and you can't be offended if she's greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man.'"

David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said this week that he was a 'huge fan' of Pope Francis but that the pontiff should stop buying into the global warming debate and, instead, 'leave the science to the scientists.'" ...

... Stupid AND Ignorant. Steve M.: "Does Santorum not realize that the pope actually is 'leaving science to the scientists' -- including the eighty credentialed members of the Vatican's own Pontifical Academy of Sciences, under whose aegis last year's statement on 'Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility' was issued?" ...

... CW: Besides all those non-sectarian members of the Pontifical Academy, some of whom are Nobel-Prize winners, Pope Francis himself has an M.A. in chemistry. Nonetheless, you can bet Santorum will repeat his advice to the Pope. Because stupid AND ignorant works for Santorum.

Steve Benen: Ted Cruz goes to Massachusetts & tells the folks gathered before him that John Kennedy would be a Republican today. Because tax cuts. Benen walks back Cruz's "reasoning."

Carrie Dann of NBC News: "Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will make a 'major announcement' about his 2016 plans in New Orleans on June 24. Jindal, who has already made frequent visits to key primary states and launched a presidential exploratory committee, has previously said that he would made his 2016 plans known after the end of Louisiana's legislative session on June 11." ...

Stephanie Graham of the Washington Spectator, in Salon: Bobby Jindal, at the behest of Grover Norquist, has ruined Louisiana's fiscal health, and all three Republicans who are running to succeed him --including diaper-fetishist Sen. David Vitter -- are running against Jindal's Norquist-centric policies. They are say, BTW, they would accept the Medicaid expansion.

Beyond the Beltway

Texas Winning Arms Race! Manny Fernandez & Dave Montgomery of the New York Times: "Students and faculty members at public and private universities in Texas could be allowed to carry concealed handguns into classrooms, dormitories and other buildings under a bill passed over the weekend by the Republican-dominated Legislature. The measure is being hailed as a victory by gun rights advocates and criticized by many students and professors as irresponsible and unnecessary. The so-called campus-carry bill is expected to be signed into law by the Republican governor, Greg Abbott." ...

... CW Reminder: Many towns in the "Wild West" did not allow people to carry guns within the town limits.

David Kumbroch of WHNT-Huntsville, Alabama: Alabama legislators think they've figured out a way to avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples; they'll do away with the licenses altogether & issue contracts -- to different-sex couples only. CW: Why do I suspect this stunt won't work?

Ben Mathis-Lilley of Slate: "On Tuesday morning, a 26-year-old Muslim man named Usaama Rahim was shot and killed by FBI and Boston law enforcement officials after allegedly drawing a knife during a confrontation. An FBI agent says Rahim had been under 24-hour surveillance as the subject of an 'ongoing' investigation; Boston's police chief says the investigation was terrorism-related and that Rahim was considered a 'threat' who was being approached for questioning.... Rahim's older brother, however, disputes this account.... It's not clear how the elder Rahim, who is said to be 'an imam at a mosque in the San Francisco area,' arrived at his account of events."

CBS Denver: "Della Curry..., the former kitchen manager at Dakota Valley Elementary School in Aurora..., lost her job on Friday after giving school lunches to students who didn't have any money.... In the district, students who fail to qualify for the free lunch or reduced lunch program receive one slice of cheese on a hamburger bun, and a small milk. Curry says that meal is not sufficient. Many times she paid for lunches out of her own pocket."

News Lede

AP: "Doctors completed surgery Tuesday on Secretary of State John Kerry's broken leg at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and predicted he would make a full recovery."

Monday
Jun012015

The Commentariat -- June 2, 2015

NEW. Sam Borden of the New York Times: "Sepp Blatter said Tuesday that he would resign from the presidency of FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, in the wake of a corruption inquiry, an extraordinary turn just four days after he was re-elected and defiantly insisted that he was blameless and committed to cleaning up the organization. Mr. Blatter, 79, said he would ask FIFA to schedule a new election for his replacement as soon as possible. The next FIFA congress is scheduled to meet in May 2016, but he acknowledged that the organization could not wait that long for new leadership given the current situation."

NEW. Mike DeBonis & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The Senate advanced a sweeping remake of U.S. surveillance powers Tuesday, two days after an internal split among Republicans caused the legal authority for key counterterrorism programs to temporarily expire. By a vote of 83 to 14, the measure cleared a crucial procedural hurdle, as senators acted to close debate on the USA Freedom Act, a House-passed bill that would end the National Security Agency's practice of collecting troves of call data from telephone companies.... Depending on the amendment votes and procedural maneuvers, the bill could be signed into law as soon as Tuesday night."

NEW. Jerry Hirsch of the Los Angeles Times: "Elon Musk says his companies don't need the estimated $4.9 billion they enjoy in government support, but the money will help them move faster to transform the dirty business of energy. 'If I cared about subsidies, I would have entered the oil and gas industry,' said Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Motors and SpaceX and the chairman of SolarCity. Musk's remarks came in response to a Times story detailing his corporate strategy of incubating high-risk, high-tech companies with government money -- estimating the total received or pledged so far at $4.9 billion, a figure Musk did not dispute."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday revived an employment discrimination lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch, which had refused to hire a Muslim woman because she wore a head scarf. The company said the scarf clashed with its dress code, which called for a 'classic East Coast collegiate style.' 'This is really easy,' Justice Antonin Scalia said in announcing the decision from the bench. The company, he said, at least suspected that the applicant, Samantha Elauf, wore the head scarf for religious reasons. The company's decision not to hire her, Justice Scalia said, was motivated by a desire to avoid accommodating her religious practice. That was enough, he concluded, to allow her to sue under a federal employment discrimination law. The vote was 8 to 1, with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting.... In dissent, Justice Thomas wrote that the company's dress code was a neutral policy that could not be the basis for a discrimination lawsuit."

... The Washington Post story, by Robert Barnes, is here. ...

... CW: I'm just glad Scalia recognizes non-Christian practices. In the past, he has argued that the cross stands for people of all religions & has ridiculed the idea that it does not.

Adam Liptak: "The Supreme Court on Monday made it harder to prosecute people for threats made on Facebook and other social media, reversing the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who directed brutally violent language against his estranged wife. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said prosecutors must do more than prove that reasonable people would view statements as threats. The defendant's state of mind matters, the chief justice wrote, though he declined to say just where the legal line is drawn. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for seven justices, grounding his opinion in criminal-law principles concerning intent rather than the First Amendment's protection of free speech." ...

... Robert Barnes' story is here.

Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "A federal judge who is hearing a lawsuit from House Republicans against President Obama is requesting more information about a funding dispute at the center of the case.... Judge Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of former President George W. Bush..., appeared skeptical last week of the administration's request to dismiss the lawsuit.... The administration last week asked Collyer to dismiss the lawsuit ... argu[ing] the House lacked standing, meaning there is no particular harm to the House and the body is, therefore, ineligible to bring the suit. But Collyer ... indicat[ed] that there could be harm to the House if the administration had ignored its funding decisions."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Mona Lynch in a New York Times op-ed: "For decades, our federal court system has been quietly perpetrating some of the deepest injustices in the name of the war on drugs.... We must rein in these practices if we are to reshape our country's criminal justice system for the 21st century.... Data also indicate that mandatory minimums and enhancements ... have been disproportionately used against black defendants." See also the story of Lester Bower under Beyond the Beltway.

Tierney Sneed of TPM profiles Edward Blum, the man behind the Supreme Court case that could change one-person-one-vote to one-voter-one-vote.

The Guardian is liveblogging today's Senate debate on the USA Freedom Act. ...

... Mitch's Latest Game Plan. Dustin Volz of the National Journal: Rand Paul "won't be scoring votes on the surveillance amendments he so desperately wanted. But Mitch McConnell will.... The majority leader came to the floor late Sunday evening — after most senators had gone home for the night -- to offer a handful of amendments to the surveillance-reform bill known as the USA Freedom Act. The measure would revive the Patriot Act's dead authorities but reform its most controversial one, Section 215, to effectively end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of U.S. phone metadata. By 'filling the tree' with what he called 'modest' changes to the measure, McConnell effectively blocked off debate on other potential amendments -- including two Paul had said he would stand down for if he was promised simple-majority votes on them.... If any of [McConnell's amendments] pass, they would need to go back to the House, which could prompt a game of legislative Ping-Pong delaying the bill's final passage -- and keep the Patriot Act lapse from ending." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "Mitch McConnell -- even in the face of an Appellate Court finding against the NSA -- has been demonstrating why Rand Paul is right. "... the only amendments there ought to be room for are ones that McConnell wouldn't like." (CW: And which, according to Volz, Mitch has precluded.)

Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "The families of four Americans imprisoned or unaccounted for in Iran will testify Tuesday before a House committee poised to call for Iran to release the detainees immediately."

Justin Fishel, et al., of ABC News: "An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nation's busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News has learned. The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system. According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General's report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints." Emphasis added. ...

... CW: This should make the usual scaredy cats a lot more anxious than the sunsetting of the NSA's bulk data collection program. ...

... Adam Lerner of Politico: "Melvin Carraway, the TSA’s acting administrator was reassigned, according to a statement issued by Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security. Mark Hatfield, who had been the agency's acting deputy director, will take the reins. Carraway, who joined the agency in 2004, had been the acting administrator only since January. Johnson's moves came the same day of an embarrassing report about the agency's handling of security at the nation's airports."

Michael Grunwald of Politico: "The public debate [on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal] has focused on the adequacy of TPP's environmental and labor safeguards, its potential to feather the nests of well-connected pharmaceutical, software and finance interests, and the secrecy of its negotiations. But the heart of the deal is an effort by the twelve participating countries to phase out tariffs and other export barriers for more than 11,000 categories of commodities, and [U.S. Trade Rep Michael] Froman is frustrated that isn't getting more attention. In an interview with Politico, he said export-supported U.S. jobs pay 13 to 18 percent more than the average job, and argued that freer trade along the Pacific Rim would create a lot more of them." ...

... Nick Gass of Politico: "WikiLeaks announced an effort Tuesday to crowd-source a $100,000 reward for the remaining chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, after the organization published three draft chapters of the deal in recent years. 'The transparency clock has run out on the TPP. No more secrecy. No more excuses. Let's open the TPP once and for all,' WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a statement."

Still Doin' the Obummer Care Song & Dance. Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "House GOP leaders are offering a glimpse into how they plan to respond to this month's highly anticipated decision on ObamaCare. The trio of House leaders plans to outline specific policy proposals sometime before the court's ruling, but will hold off on releasing legislative language until afterwards, according to a spokesman for Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). 'We'll have a plan that will be public before the ruling, but given that we don't know exactly what they'll say, we'll have to wait for the ruling to have text to align with the situation,' spokesperson Brendan Buck said Monday." CW: Some glimpse. Just one more effort to influence the Supremes in a decision they probably already have made. ...

... Simon Maloy of Politico: "The day before oral arguments in the case began in March, the three working group members published an op-ed laying out in determinedly vague terms the principles for their Obamacare 'off-ramp' proposal. After the oral arguments, the working group released a statement saying 'we will be ready to act' if the court rules for the plaintiffs. That was three months ago. The court's ruling is expected to be released very soon. So where is the 'contingency plan' majority leader [Kevin] McCarthy said would be forthcoming back in January?... He and his colleagues have insisted over and over that they'll be 'ready' for the fallout of the King decision, but when pressed to demonstrate that readiness, they demur. The reality of the situation -- which McCarthy and his colleagues have worked to obscure -- is that the Republicans remain as divided as ever on how to actually handle the impossibly complex task of crafting healthcare legislation." ...

... MEANWHILE in Kansas. Katrina vanden Huevel of the Nation, in the Washington Post: "This 'real live experiment [to reject the ACA Medicaid expansion, among other catastrophic decisions],' as [Gov. Sam] Brownback once put it, has resulted in the pain and suffering of many Kansans. And yet, instead of acknowledging those consequences as a warning sign, the Republican presidential candidates have embraced them as a blueprint. It's all part of the same GOP pattern -- a continued retreat away from reason and toward a blind ideology -- one that always comes with a body count."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The federal judge assigned to preside over the criminal case against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) donated at least twice to Hastert's congressional campaigns, federal campaign finance records show. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin gave Hastert for Congress $500 in 2002 and $1000 in 2004, according to the Federal Election Commission. Thomas Durkin made the donations while he was a partner at a private law firm, Mayer Brown." He also made other small donations to Republican candidates. Durkin is an Obama appointee. "One of [the defense] lawyers [in another case against Hastert], Hastert's son Ethan, is a partner at Mayer Brown -- which happens to be the same firm Durkin worked at before he was appointed to the federal bench." ...

... CW: Hey, Durkin is a gentleman & a judge. I'm sure he'll be impartial. This is how the system works. ...

... Bill Press thinks Denny Hastert got a raw deal. It was his own money! It was private! He's not a drug dealer or a Mafia guy! ...

... Jeffrey Toobin: "The precise contours of Hastert's relationship with Individual A remain mysterious, but his legal ordeal is easily understood and, it seems, richly deserved." BTW, according to Toobin, paying off an extortionist is legal.

Opera Buffa. Dana Milbank: Yet another bungled GOP effort at "minority outreach." CW: A low-comedy version of "The Marriage of Figaro," without the sex. But music! Betrayal! Missed meetings! Buffoons! Buffoons! Buffoons!

Brady Dennis & Lenny Bernstein of the Washington Post: "The National Cancer Institute's announcement Monday that it will soon begin a nationwide trial to test treatments based on the genetic mutations in patients' tumors, rather than on where the tumors occur in the body, highlights a profound shift taking place in the development of cancer drugs. Researchers increasingly are using DNA sequencing, which has become far faster and cheaper over time, to identify molecular abnormalities in cancers. That technology is allowing them to develop drugs they hope will prove more effective in specific sets of patients and to design clinical trials that get the most promising drugs to market more quickly. 'We are truly in a paradigm change,' James H. Doroshow, director of the division of cancer treatment and diagnosis at the NCI, said in announcing the initiative Monday."

William Rashbaum & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Federal authorities believe that Sepp Blatter's top lieutenant at FIFA made $10 million in bank transactions that are central elements of the bribery scandal engulfing international soccer, United States officials and others briefed on the case said Monday. The revelation puts the money trail closer to Mr. Blatter, FIFA's president, than had been previously known." ...

Presidential Race

Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "In a wide-ranging interview [with Katie Couric], the Vermont independent senator and Democratic presidential hopeful [Bernie Sanders] said he is running because someone needs to stand up for the middle class":

... CW: Thanks to Yahoo! for giving Bernie a halo.

Sam Frizell of Time: "Hillary Clinton will officially launch her campaign for president on June 13 with a rally on New York City's Roosevelt Island, ending the gradual ramp-up phase of her bid for president."

Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: Run Warren Run is shutting down.

Katie Glueck of Politico: "He's spent a third of his life in Congress and is a fixture on the Sunday morning news-show circuit, making nearly 70 appearances in the past five years. But as he announced his presidential bid Monday here in the tiny town where he grew up, Lindsey Graham sought to knock down the notion that he's a creature of Washington, telling a personal story that's largely been overlooked over the course of his two decades in the House and Senate. It's the tale of a son of pool-hall owners, who grew up near-impoverished in the back room of his parents' bar. As a college student, he raised, and eventually adopted, his little sister after their parents died, before going on to have a career as an Air Force lawyer and then rising to become South Carolina's senior senator." CW: I'm glad to find out Graham is an actual human being & not just a talk-show clown. I'm not sure why coming up through the school of hard knocks turns a person into a warmonger. ...

     CW Update: Oh, I forgot. Contributor D. C. Clark reminds me that Graham answered my question last week:

My family owned a restaurant, a pool room, and a liquor store, and everything I know about the Iranians I learned in the pool room. I ran the pool room when I was a kid and I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying. -- Lindsey Graham

... Jose DelReal of the Washington Post: "Lindsey Graham has a plan to win the GOP nomination. If it works, it'd be a first." DelReal explains the flaw in the plan. CW: What DelReal doesn't discuss is how much control Graham has over his state's GOP organization, a consideration crucial to his thesis & Graham's plan.

As Akhilleus might say, "He seems nice."According to the Wall Street Journal (no link), Dick Cheney is making a comeback with a book & an "advocacy group" -- lovely daughter Liz is his co-conspirator -- that is meant "to make a splash on the national stage" and "is bound to make himself a flash point in the 2016 debate." ...

     ... Steve M. is not quite convinced. ...

     ... Neither is Simon Maloy of Salon. ...

     ... "Can't Keep a Bad Man Down." As Ed Kilgore notes, most of the GOP slate is already pretty much on board the Cheney train; indeed, two of Cheney's policy aides are already advising Jebbie. ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post on "the ridiculous non-candidate charade.... [Jeb] Bush maintains that he can't decide whether he wants to become the next Decider." CW: What makes it not ridiculous is that it allows the pre-candidates to raise gobs of money without having to comply with our campaign laws.

Beyond the Beltway

Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "The Garden Valley School school district in Idaho purchased four rifles and 2,000 rounds of ammunition to help school officials protect students against potential threats, Idaho television station KBOI reported on Saturday. 'We just have to protect our kids and we didn't want to do it in a haphazard way,' Garden Valley School District Superintendent Marc Gee told KBOI." CW: Providing arms & ammo to a few "school officials" doesn't seem haphazard to me.

Mainiacs. Steve Mistler of the Portland Press: "A bill that would allow Mainers to carry a concealed handgun without a permit moved a step closer to becoming law Monday when it cleared a key vote in the House of Representatives. The 83-62 vote increases the likelihood that Maine will become only the seventh state that allows a person to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. The legislation has the backing of Republicans and Democrats, including 15 Democrats in the House.... In the Senate, the bill passed Friday on a 23-12 vote [but requires more procedural votes]. Gov. Paul LePage is expected to sign the bill if the Legislature passes it."

Another Texas Execution. Jordan Smith of the Intercept: "Now 67 and one of Texas's oldest and longest-serving death row inmates, [Lester Bower] has faced seven execution dates. His eighth -- and most likely final -- is scheduled for Wednesday, June 3. This time, unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, he will almost certainly be executed. Bower maintains his innocence. He has alleged his defense at trial was deficient, and that prosecutors withheld critical evidence from his attorneys. Moreover, since his conviction, witnesses have come forward to say that they know who really killed the four men in the aircraft hangar at the B&B Ranch -- and it wasn't Les Bower."

News Ledes

Politico: "President Barack Obama will deliver a eulogy at Beau Biden's funeral in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday, the vice president's office announced Tuesday. The Catholic funeral mass will cap three days of ceremonies to mourn the death of Vice President Joe Biden's eldest son. Beau Biden, the former attorney general of Delaware and an Iraq veteran, died of brain cancer on May 30 at age 46."

Washington Post: "A video released Monday by Oklahoma Highway Patrol shows [Nehemiah] Fischer, an associate pastor at a local Tulsa church, pushing a trooper moments before he was shot on Friday. For authorities, the video is proof that Fischer started the scuffle that ended in his death. For the Fischer family, it's an uncomfortable but unavoidable epitaph to an otherwise 'God-fearing man.'"

Sunday
May312015

The Commentariat -- June 1, 2015

Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times (7:11 pm ET Sunday): "In a rare Sunday night session, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to begin a debate on a bill passed by the House to curtail a national security surveillance program approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the law that authorized the program was set to expire at midnight in the face of continuing opposition from Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. The 77-to-17 vote was a remarkable turnabout — grudgingly approved by the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, a fellow Kentucky Republican — just a week after the Senate narrowly turned the bill away at his behest. Mr. McConnell, in a desperate attempt to keep the surveillance program going, encouraged senators to vote for a bill that he still found deficient.... Mr. Paul ... said he would decline to let Mr. McConnell move to a rapid passage of the bill, which requires the consent of every senator, before midnight." ...

nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; ... New Lede (12:10 am ET today): "The government’s authority to sweep up vast quantities of phone records in the hunt for terrorists expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday after Senator Rand Paul ... blocked an extension of the program during an extraordinary and at times caustic Sunday session of the Senate. Still, the Senate signaled that it was ready to curtail the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program with likely passage this week of legislation that would shift the storage of telephone records from the government to the phone companies. The House overwhelmingly passed that bill last month. Senators voted, 77 to 17, on Sunday to take up the House bill." ...

... Ellen Nakashima & Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post (7:19 pm ET Sunday): "The legal authority underpinning several national security programs appeared all but certain to expire at midnight Sunday, with Senate Republicans unable to maneuver around ... Rand Paul, who has pledged to block efforts to extend the law. After emerging from an evening caucus meeting, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the majority whip, said he did not expect the Senate to approve the only legislation that could avoid a lapse in the authority — a House-passed bill that would provide for an orderly transition away from the most controversial program authorized under the current law, the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of call records from telephone companies." ...

nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; ... New Lede (12:01 am today): "The legal authority for several national security programs expired at midnight Sunday and will not be renewed for at least two days, after Senate Republicans leaders were unable to maneuver around Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a presidential candidate who followed through on a pledge to block an extension of the law." ...

... Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times (7:44 pm ET Sunday): "The National Security Agency's once-secret program for collecting the records of millions of Americans' telephone calls is on the verge of ending after running for most of the last 14 years, as the Senate seems all but certain to fail to renew the spy agency's legal authority by a midnight deadline. ...

nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; ... New Lede (12:00 am Sunday): "After 14 years and hundreds of millions of records of Americans’ telephone calls, the National Security Agency stopped bulk collection of phone data Sunday, officials said, as legal authority for the once-secret program expired."

... The Guardian has a liveblog here. ...

... Dan Roberts, et al., of the Guardian: "Sweeping US surveillance powers, enjoyed by the National Security Agency since the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, shut down at midnight.... Almost two years after the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to the Guardian that the Patriot Act was secretly being used to justify the collection of phone records from millions of Americans, critics of bulk surveillance went further than expected and forced the end of a range of other legal authorities covered by the Bush-era Patriot Act as well. The expired provisions, subject to a 'sunset' clause..., are likely to be replaced later this week with new legislation – the USA Freedom Act – that permanently bans the NSA from collecting telephone records in bulk and introduces new transparency rules for other surveillance activities. The USA Freedom Act, once passed, will be the first rollback of NSA surveillance since the seminal 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "For the first time since the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans will again be free to place phone calls ... without having logs of those contacts vacuumed up in bulk by the National Security Agency. And for the first time in nearly 14 years, if government agents identify new phone numbers that they suspect are linked to terrorism, they will have to subpoena phone companies for associated calling records.... The N.S.A. can no longer simply query its database for the information. This unusual situation may last only a few days, until Congress can reach an accommodation over three counterterrorism laws that expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday.... But interviews with law enforcement and intelligence officials about what they will do in the interim suggest there are multiple workarounds to the gap." ...

... Dan Froomkin of the Intercept has quite a fine rant on the "parliamentary farce." ...

... Lauren Fox of the National Journal: "In the last hours before key provisions of the Patriot Act were expected to expire, there were few senators who could deny the role that one man—Edward Snowden — had played in the law's demise." ...

... Manu Raju & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Behind closed doors in the Senate’s Strom Thurmond Room, Republican senators lashed out at [Rand Paul]’s defiant stance to force the expiration of key sections of the PATRIOT Act, a law virtually all of them support. Indiana Sen. Dan Coats’ criticism was perhaps the most biting: He accused the senator of 'lying' about the matter in order to raise money for his presidential campaign, according to three people who attended the meeting.... [Paul] skipped the hour-long meeting. That only infuriated his colleagues more." ...

     ... (CW: How lovely that the leaders of the American confederacy meet in the Strom Thurmond Room. The South has indeed risen again.) ...

... Alex Rogers of the National Journal: "Rand Paul got what he wanted — expiration of the Patriot Act — but he alienated a lot of people along the way." ...

... Charles Pierce offers his usual (and appropriately) cynical take on the show. ...

... AND of course Li'l Randy gets carried away. Alex Byers of Politico: "Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday evening that some people in Washington are 'secretly' hoping for a terrorist attack to hit the U.S. to make him look bad.... 'People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake,' Paul said [on the Senate floor]. 'Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.'” ...

... FINALLY, Andy Borowitz: "The National Security Agency is compensating for the expiration of its power to collect the American people’s personal information by logging on to Facebook, the agency confirmed on Monday." Thanks to contributor D. C. Clark for the link.

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "In a town [-- Washington, D.C. --] where few events ever truly break through the thick layer of partisanship, the death of Joseph R. Biden III on Saturday night unleashed an outpouring of sorrow."

Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd., Corporate Welfare Edition. Jerry Hirsch of the Los Angeles Times: "Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space. And he's built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies. Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups." CW: So glad I could help.

Nirvi Shah of Politico: "Indicted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s Illinois alma mater, [fundamentalist Christian] Wheaton College, said Sunday that it is stripping his name from a center on economics and public policy 'in light of the charges and allegations that have emerged,' the college said in a statement." CW: The real scandal is that the college named a center for him in the first place.

Celebrity Justices. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: Supreme Court justices "seem to like the acclaim and influence that come from appearances before friendly audiences. But many of them appear wary of more general public scrutiny.... The recent flurry of public appearances is part of a trend that has been decades in the making. As the court’s workload has dropped, the justices have found time for more outside appearances.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Brian Stelter of CNN: "Brian Williams may lose his seat as anchor of the 'NBC Nightly News,' but executives are looking for a way to keep him at the network in a new role." CW: One possibility: he could host a prime-time reprise of Johnny Carson's old daytime show "Who [sic.] Do You Trust?" Other suggestions welcome.

Charles Pierce bids a fond farewell to Bob Schieffer. ...

... Driftglass's tribute to Schieffer  is far nicer. ..

... AND here's what Schieffer said to us:

MEANWHILE, Cardinal Ross Douthat, the Vatican's Principalis Emissarium de Sexualem Habitus, is weighing in on the prospects for polygamy in the U.S.

Paul Krugman: "There’s a definite 1914 feeling to what’s happening [to the European economy], a sense that pride, annoyance, and sheer miscalculation are leading Europe off a cliff it could and should have avoided.... Some major players seem strangely fatalistic, willing and even anxious to get on with the catastrophe – a sort of modern version of the 'spirit of 1914.' in which many people were enthusiastic about the prospect of war. These players have convinced themselves that the rest of Europe can shrug off a Greek exit from the euro, and that such an exit might even have a salutary effect by showing the price of bad behavior." ...

... Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph: "Greek premier Alexis Tsipras has accused Europe's creditor powers of issuing 'absurd demands' and come close to warning that his far-Left government will detonate a pan-European political and strategic crisis if pushed any further."

Presidential Race

Trip Gabriel & Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "The first evidence that Mrs. Clinton could face a credible challenge in the Iowa presidential caucuses appeared late last week in the form of overflow crowds at Mr. Sanders’s first swing through that state since declaring his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. He drew 700 people to an event on Thursday night in Davenport, for instance — the largest rally in the state for any single candidate this campaign season, and far more than the 50 people who attended a rally there on Saturday with former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland." ...

... CW: That could be because the O'Malley campaign is not exactly reaching out to voters. When I tried to find out when & where O'Malley would appear in New Hampshire Sunday, the campaign site gave no information, I couldn't find it via Google & the campaign did not respond to my phone call or e-mail. ...

... E. J. Dionne: "The senator from Vermont has little chance of defeating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. But he is reminding his party of something it often forgets: Government was once popular because it provided tangible benefits to large numbers of Americans.... He wants government to do stuff, and the sort of stuff he has in mind is potentially quite popular." ...

... Ben Schreckinger of Politico: Many of Bernie Sanders' "scary," radical "communist schemes" of 1981 have become mainstream. CW: My compliments to Politico & Schreckinger. Really.

David Sirota in Salon: "While [Hillary] Clinton was secretary of state, her department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors. That figure from Clinton’s three full fiscal years in office is almost double the value of arms sales to those countries during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term. The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that gave to the Clinton Foundation. That was a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.... Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, says they 'raise a fundamental question of judgment' — one that is relevant to the 2016 presidential campaign."

Beyond the Beltway

Michael Specter of the New Yorker: Vermont "has now become the first to remove philosophical exemptions from its vaccination law.... Perhaps because the debate over removing the philosophical exemption has been rancorous and long, the governor [Peter Shumlin (D)] first opposed the legislation. More recently, he suggested that he was neutral. On Thursday, possibly sensing the political peril involved in siding with the anti-vaccine movement, Shumlin signed the bill without much publicity."

Janet DiGiacomo & Jethro Mullen of CNN: "Highway patrol troopers in Oklahoma fatally shot a man whom they had been trying to get out of high water, authorities said." ...

... Michael Miller of the Washington Post reports the family's side of the story.

Saturday
May302015

The Commentariat -- May 31, 2015

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Joseph R. Biden III, the former attorney general of Delaware and the eldest son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., has died of brain cancer, his father announced on Saturday. The younger Mr. Biden was 46.... A popular Democratic politician in his home state who was known to be very close to his father, Mr. Biden served two terms as Delaware's top law enforcement official before announcing last year that he would not run for a third term so he could make a bid for governor in 2016." ...

... Vice President Biden's statement is here.

... Beau Biden's Washington Post obituary, by Paul Kane, is here. ...

... President Obama's quite moving statement is here.

Manu Raju of Politico: "Rand Paul plans to force the expiration of the PATRIOT Act Sunday by refusing to allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to expedite debate on a key surveillance bill. In a statement to Politico Saturday, Paul warned that he would not consent to any efforts to pass either an extension of current law or the USA Freedom Act, a reform bill passed overwhelmingly by the House earlier this month. 'So tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,' Paul said." ...

... Raju's background story is here.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Kimberly Kindy, et al., of the Washington Post: "... at least 385 people [have been] shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete. 'These shootings are grossly under­reported,' said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement.... About half the victims were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic.... So far, just three of the 385 fatal shootings have resulted in an officer being charged with a crime -- less than 1 percent."

Mary Troyan of USA Today (May 29): "U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller announced Friday he will resign Aug. 1, almost one year since he was arrested and charged with battery of his wife. By resigning, Fuller, 56, gives up what had been a lifetime appointment. The departure creates another vacancy on the federal bench in Alabama, which is already depleted.... Fuller's caseload was reassigned to other judges after his arrest but he continued to collect his salary.... Most members of Alabama's congressional delegation had publicly urged him to step down within weeks of his arrest, but Fuller resisted while his criminal case worked its way through the courts.... Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, had begun preparing possible impeachment proceedings. And women's advocacy organizations had launched campaigns for his removal."

The Affable Opportunist. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Federal law enforcement agents say [former House Speaker Dennis] Hastert's [R-Ill.] years as a lobbyist and rainmaker explain how he was able to promise $3.5 million in cash to a former student who claims Mr. Hastert sexually molested him decades ago. A former wrestling coach and high school teacher, Mr. Hastert did not enter Congress as wealthy as some of his colleagues. Yet he was still able to amass a small fortune with land deals, one aided by an earmark he secured for a highway interchange. But it was at his own post-Congress lobbying firm and at the professional services firm Dickstein Shapiro that Mr. Hastert swelled his cash flow, working all sides of issues and glad-handing members of Congress for controversial clients.... The Hastert era in the House ... was known for loose reins on spending and the extensive use of earmarks, legislation that directed tax dollars to home-district projects." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker writes an excellent post, tying together the threads of what has been revealed & surmised in the Hastert case. ...

... CW: I listened to this to hear what vapid gibberish Brooks would spout, and he didn't disappoint, but Mark Shields is worth hearing:

Nicholas Kristof: "In California, 80 percent of water used by humans goes to farming and ranching.... It's time for a fundamental rethinking of America's food factory.... Something good could come from the California drought if it could push this revolution a bit further, by forcing a reallocation of water to the most efficient uses. But remember that the central challenge can't be solved by a good rain because the larger problem is an irrational industrial food system.... You can also calculate your own water footprint at National Geographic's website."

Bill Moyers, in Salon: "... the challenge of journalism today is to survive in the pressure cooker of plutocracy." From "remarks were made by Bill Moyers at the presentation of the Helen Bernstein Book Awards for Excellence in Journalism. The ceremony took place at the New York Public Library on May 26, 2015." CW: If you don't feel like reading something serious today, at least read the Robert Benchley anecdote.

CW: Looking for something else, I came across these remarks by former Supreme David Souter on the Constitution, written as "a great compromise," which is "in a state of inconsistency with the daily practice of politics" & a "culture of intransigence":

Alana Massey's essay in the New Republic on "the white Protestant roots of racism" is a bit disjointed, thus unsatisfying, but she still manages to offer some insights into our racist past & present.

The Quality of Stench. Daniel Politi of Slate: "Anyone hoping that FIFA President Sepp Blatter would take on a more conciliatory tone after his re-election in the midst of a corruption scandal that has shaken global soccer to its core was in for a rude awakening Saturday. As he started his fifth term on Saturday, Blatter directly hit out at the United States, essentially implying that the Justice Department timed its arrests in Zurich and the announcement of a major corruption probe to hurt his chances of re-election. 'No one is going to tell me that it was a simple coincidence, this American attack two days before the elections of FIFA,' Blatter told Swiss television, according to the Guardian. 'It doesn't smell good.'"

Presidential Race

Socialism for Me but Not for Thee. Bob Cesca in Salon: Ted Cruz railed against disaster relief for the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy, but with parts of Texas under water, he's imploring the federal government to "fulfill its statutory obligation" & send aid to Texas. Cesca is under the impression Cruz is asking for "redistribution" of money from all us to Texas. CW: No word on his views about how man-made climate change likely has exacerbated Texas's drought-and-flood cycles.

Ali Breland of Politico: "Sen. Marco Rubio will not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll, his campaign team confirmed Saturday. The Florida senator and 2016 hopeful's decision marks the latest blow to the August event long considered a staple on the Republican road to the presidential nomination. Jeb Bush, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee have all said they won't participate this cycle. Many, including Gov. Scott Walker. Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz have yet to signal if they will attend."

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "While acknowledging that he cannot appeal an acquittal, an Ohio prosecutor says a judge made serious errors before finding a Cleveland police officer not guilty in the deaths of two unarmed suspects, and he wants an appeals court to order the judge to correct the record. The prosecutor, Timothy J. McGinty of Cuyahoga County, said in court documents that were posted Friday on The Plain Dealer website that Judge John O'Donnell's reasoning in the voluntary-manslaughter trial of Officer Michael Brelo could set a legal precedent that would 'endanger the public.'"

News Ledes

New York Times: Lenny "Merullo, who died on Saturday at 98 in Reading, Mass., played shortstop for the 1945 Cubs, the franchise's last pennant winner, and was the last surviving ballplayer to have worn a Cubs uniform in a World Series."

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry has cut short his trip to Europe after breaking a leg while bicycling on Sunday and is returning to Boston for medical treatment. The State Department said that Mr. Kerry's bike struck a curb while he was cycling near Scionzier, France. He was taken to a hospital in Geneva and never lost consciousness."

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