The Wires
The Ledes

Monday, March 18, 2019.

NBC News: “Heavy rain and melting snow that overpowered the Missouri River forced hundreds of families out of their homes in the Midwest and forced the base that is home to U.S. Strategic Command to sharply scale back operations on Sunday. At least three people are confirmed to have died in what the National Weather Service called 'major and historical river flooding' along parts of the Missouri and Mississippi river basins.”

TPM: "Fox News has hired former interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile as a contributor, the network announced Monday. According to the press release, Brazile will offer political analysis on Fox News and Fox Business News. A source close to the situation told TPM that Brazile will not play any role related to the debate or town hall process."

New York Post's Page Six: "Brian Williams could come back from TV news exile, Page Six is told. The anchor was booted from the 'NBC Nightly News' in 2015 after it was revealed that he’d embellished some stories with fictional details — and sent to the relative Siberia of 11 p.m. on sister station MSNBC. But despite his tarnished reputation and graveyard-adjacent time slot, Williams has made his '11th Hour With Brian Williams' show a legit hit, beating CNN and Fox News for three months straight. Now 30 Rock insiders say Williams could move to a more prominent time slot, possibly replacing vet Chris Matthews at 7 p.m." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Despite his less-than-liberal views, Williams' 11 pm newscast is really pretty good. He's a pro. Another pro at MSNBC who impresses me is Richard Liu. The other night, a feed from Los Angeles went dark, and within 90 seconds, Liu got himself on the air & conducted a full segment (with Ken Dilanian as one of the last-second guests) with what I would guess was zero prep. Years ago, when I was not much younger than Liu appears to be now, I worked for a national news network, and I had actual nightmares that I might get stuck on-air with no copy. (I was not an on-air personality, but I could have got stuck with an on-air spot during a strike.) I could not have done then what Liu did this week.

Everybody liked this Oscar moment:

Cartoon by R.J. Matson. Thanks to forrest m. ... The Verge has the complete list of Oscar winners.

Ars Technia: "Excavations at two ancient quarry sites in western Wales suggest how ancient people probably quarried some of the stones now standing at Stonehenge. The 42 stones in question are some of the smaller parts at Stonehenge, relatively speaking: they still weigh two to four tons each. They're called the bluestones, and they came all the way from western Wales [about 180 miles from the Stonehenge site]. Chemical analysis has even matched some of them to two particular quarries on the northern slopes of the Preseli Hills. One, an outcrop called Carn Goedog, seems to have supplied most of the bluish-gray, white-speckled dolerite at Stonehenge. And another outcrop in the valley below, Craig Rhos-y-felin, supplied most of the rhyolite. University College London archaeologist Michael Parker Pearson and his colleagues have spent the last eight years excavating the ancient quarry sites, and that work has revealed some new information about the origins of Stonehenge.... The ancient quarry-workers left behind mudstone wedges and stone hammers, which they would have driven into the cracks between the pillars to carefully pry them apart.”

The dollhouse of Petronella Oortman, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.Emily Landau in the New York Times: "The whole point of a dollhouse is that it’s not to be played with. It’s untarnished by the workaday furniture we get for our real homes, the Sears dining tables and cheap Ikea Billy bookcases. And for many people, it’s the only place where ludicrously opulent décor is attainable, where you can go all out on mother-of-pearl doorknobs or Versailles-worthy brocade chaises without losing your savings or your dignity." Mrs. McC: I think Laudau helps explain why I have so enjoyed moving from a mansion-sized house to one that is one-tenth the size of the "mansion."

The Los Angeles Times has the full list of Oscar nominees here.

NBC Sports: "Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, and Mike Mussina have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America as part of the 2019 class. The results were just announced on MLB Network. Rivera received votes from every single writer who submitted a ballot, becoming the first player ever to be unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame. Halladay and Edgar Martínez each received 85.4 percent of the vote and Mussina appeared on 76.7 percent of ballots. Rivera, 49, spent all 19 of his seasons in the majors with the Yankees. He was initially used as a starter, but quickly moved to the bullpen, becoming the greatest closer of all-time. He racked up 652 saves — the most in baseball history — during the regular season along with a 2.21 ERA anda 1,173 strikeouts across 1,283 2/3 innings. He saved his best work for the postseason. Rivera appeared in 96 postseason games, saving 42 saves in 47 opportunities with a 0.70 ERA and a 110/21 K/BB ratio in 141 innings. Rivera won five championships, five Rolaids Relief Awards, as well as MVP awards in the World Series, ALCS, and All-Star Game. He made the AL All-Star team 13 times."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."

Constant Comments


Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling


The Commentariat -- April 5

Tim Kaine, current DNC Chair & former Virginia governor, announces he will run for the Senate in 2012:

The Road Wreck is now relabeled "The Plan for Disparity Prosperity." It's the SOS. ...

... "The Threat Within." Paul Krugman: "The great danger now is that Obama — with the help of a fair number of Senate Democrats — will kill Medicare in the name of civility and outreach. This doesn’t have to happen. Republicans have, in fact, offered Democrats a huge political opportunity — much as Bush did in 2005. But I’m sorry, I have no confidence in the current leadership’s willingness to do the right thing, even when it’s also politically smart."

Brian Beutler of TPM has a pretty good summary of Paul Ryan's new Road Wreck for America budget plan, the details of which are conveniently TBA but the broad outlines of which are radically Gilded Age. ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM on "how political actors use press cowardice to deceive the public. Rep. Paul Ryan's plan, which is now the official Republican plan, phases out Medicare over 10 years. Yet you'll be treated to numerous articles that call this a 'reform' or 'overhaul' or even 'saving' Medicare. But each are no better than straight outright deceptions, whether by design or ignorance." ...

... AND Kevin Drum of Mother Jones remarks on "the courageous, serious. gutsy Paul Ryan.... I imagine that within a few days this will be the consensus view of the entire Beltway punditocracy. A plan dedicated almost entirely to slashing social spending in a country that's already the stingiest spender in the developed world, while simultaneously cutting taxes on the rich in a country with the lowest tax rates in the developed world — well, what could be more serious than that? I think I'm going to be sick." ...

... Which brings to mind David Brooks' dishonest paean to Paul Ryan's "courageous budget reform proposal," I urge you to read some of the comments. The first five are informative; I'm sure many more are, too. Too bad the Times won't let us say what we really think. I came as close as I could within the paper's guidelines, & Gemli inadvertently crossed over the line, but the moderators didn't catch him. His closing sentence is my Quote of the Day:

I don't know what Paul Ryan is grabbing with both hands, but I don't think it's 'reality.' It seems a lot more personal, and I'm already starting to feel the squeeze. -- Gemli of Boston

... Ezra Klein has a much more honest analysis (which does not copy Ryan's talking points as Brooks does, & which I cited in my comment on Brooks) of the Ryan/Republican Road Wreck. ...

... Merrill Goozner of the Fiscal Times, in an article reprinted in Kaiser Health News, backs up Klein. "... just because the government slowed its spending doesn’t mean that old people and the poor wouldn’t have the same health care bills they had before. Health care for these vulnerable populations absent some other force in the marketplace would continue growing at rates significantly faster than the Ryan plan’s GDP+1 formula, just as it has for decades." Who will pay? Why, you will, and at a rate higher than your tax liability would have been under current Medicare & Medicaid laws. ...

... AND Bob Reich explains federal fiscal policy so even a child can understand it: "Here’s the truth: The only way America can reduce the long-term budget deficit, maintain vital services, protect Social Security and Medicare, invest more in education and infrastructure, and not raise taxes on the working middle class is by raising taxes on the super rich." Any questions?

Monica Davey of the New York Times: a judicial race in Wisconsin turns into a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker & state Republican legislators.

Binyamin Appelbaum & Jo McGinty of the New York Times: "During the frenetic months of the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve stretched the limits of its legal authority by lending money to more than 100 banks that subsequently failed.... Eight owed the Fed money on the day they failed, including Washington Mutual, the largest failed bank in American history."

Neil Irwin of the Washington Post: prices are rising, but wages are not. "In the past three months, consumer prices have been rising at a 5.7 percent annual rate while average weekly wages have barely budged, increasing at an annual rate of only 1.3 percent. And the particular prices that are rising are for products that people ... have the least flexibility to avoid. For the most part, it’s not computers and cars that are getting more expensive, it’s gasoline, which is up 19 percent in the past year, ground beef, up 10 percent, and butter, up 23 percent."

Joe Nocera of the New York Times writes about General Electric's super-duper tax break. Comments are here. ...

... BUT Allan Sloan & Jeff Gerth of Fortune say the Times story (link to the Times story) on which Nocera bases his column was misleading. Sloan & Gerth write what they call "The Truth about GE's Tax Bill" (link to Sloan & Gerth story): "Did GE get a $3.2 billion tax refund? No. ... Will GE ultimately pay U.S. income taxes for 2010? After much to-ing and fro-ing -- the company says it hasn't completed its 2010 tax return -- GE now says that it will pay tax.... Why should you care about this? Because we all have a stake in how this plays out. Thanks to the uproar over GE, we now risk ending up with legislation that targets GE but produces all sorts of unintended consequences. Public rage can make for bad law." CW: I think Allan Sloan is a good financial reporter, but I should tell you that Jeff Gerth is the guy who practically single-handedly dreamed up Whitewater -- the "scandal" that wasn't, but that ultimately led to Bill Clinton's impeachment & cost taxpayers millions.

CW: I linked to a story on this on Saturday, but if you want to read it in the Times, here ya go: Geraldine Fabrikant: "Lawsuits involving David L. Sokol after he joined Berkshire Hathaway suggest that management had some warnings about his rules-pushing nature long before his resignation last week for buying stock in a company shortly before Berkshire acquired it." ...

... AND Andrew Ross Sorkin of the Times wants to know: "... as speculation of insider trading swirls around [financier Warren] Buffett’s onetime heir apparent, David Sokol, it has to be asked: Why hasn’t Mr. Buffett been ruthless?"

Michael Kinsley in Politico: "... the Washington culture of influence peddling is not entirely, or even primarily, the fault of the corporations that hire the lobbyists and pay the bills. It’s a vast protection racket, practiced by politicians and political operatives of both parties."

Jonathan Chait of The New Republic on why Democrats are such wimps: "The reason you see greater levels of partisan discipline and simple will to power in the GOP is that it has a coherent voting base willing to support aggressive, partisan behavior and Democrats don't."

Local News

AP: "If Gov. Paul LePage [R-Maine] does not want to display a mural depicting the state’s labor history, then the federal money used to create it should be returned, the United States Department of Labor says. The department said Monday that when the governor removed the artwork from state offices last month, he violated the terms of federal laws governing money that was used to pay for most of its $60,000 cost. ...

... Susan Sharon of Maine Public Broadcasting Network: "Hundreds of artists, labor activists and others upset over the decision by Governor Paul LePage to remove a labor history mural from the Maine Department of Labor rallied at the State House today to demand its return." ...

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins is depicted in this panel (left). A likeness of former Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman is second from right. ... Ted Homer of WGME: The Maine Republican party, noting that one of the mural's panels includes a likeness of former state Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman, said in a statement: "The real story here is not that Governor LePage decided to move this mural. The real story is that [Democratic former Gov. John] Baldacci's Labor Commissioner wasted $60,000 of taxpayer funds to decorate her office with a painting of herself.... This is an insult to the hard working people of Maine." Homer reports that, "The artist commissioned to paint the mural, Judy Taylor, [said] ... that no one asked her to be in the mural.... Taylor said she used several people in real life to go by when painting the mural."

News Ledes

President Obama speaks at the White House press briefing on the budget impasse:

Here's John Boehner's response:

New York Times: "United States government engineers sent to help with the crisis in Japan are warning that the troubled nuclear plant there is facing a wide array of fresh threats that could persist indefinitely, and that in some cases are expected to increase as a result of the very measures being taken to keep the plant stable, according to a confidential assessment prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

Politico: "President Barack Obama has chosen Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, top Democratic sources said Tuesday. Wasserman Schultz, 44, was chosen for her strength as a fund-raiser and as a television messenger, and for her clout in the crucial swing state of Florida, the sources said.

The Plan. New York Times: "House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a far-reaching budget proposal that cuts $5.8 trillion from anticipated spending levels over the next decade and is likely to provide the framework for both the fiscal and political fights of the next two years. The ambitious plan, drafted principally by Representative Paul D. Ryan..., proposes not only to limit federal spending and reconfigure major federal health programs, but also to rewrite the tax code, cutting the top tax rate for both individuals and corporations to 25 percent from 35 percent, reducing the number of income tax brackets and eliminating what it calls a “burdensome tangle of loopholes.” Here's the plan, which the Times has annotated.

Washington Post: all sides in the budget battle (and there are at least four) agree that if a deal is not reached by the end of today, the government will shut down Friday when the government "runs out of money." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "In dueling news conferences just moments apart, President Obama and the speaker of the House, John A. Boehner, dug in their heels on Tuesday over terms of a budget deal to stave off a partial shutdown of the federal government as early as Saturday." See videos above. ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The first federal government shutdown in more than 15 years drew closer Tuesday as President Obama and congressional leaders failed to make progress after back-to-back meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Obama and Congress remained billions of dollars apart and at odds over where to find savings after an 80-minute West Wing meeting that included House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). In the meeting, Boehner floated the possibility that he may seek as much as $40 billion in cuts, $7 billion more than the two sides have been discussing for the past week."

Washington Post: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said that even if he uses 'extraordinary measures' to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations, lawmakers will need to raise the legal limit on government borrowing by July 8. Current projections show the United States will reach its $14.3 trillion cap on borrowing 'no later than May 16,' Geithner wrote in a letter Monday to leaders on Capitol Hill." The letter is here.

** New York Times: "The United Nations and France went on the offensive Monday against Ivory Coast’s strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, striking targets at his residence, his offices and two of his military bases in a significant escalation of the international intervention into the political crisis engulfing the nation." CW: I've brought this story forward from yesterday's ledes. It has been updated: "By early Tuesday, Mr. Gbagbo was in a bunker beneath his residence and was negotiating a possible surrender through the French ambassador, according to Alain Lobognon, a spokesman for the prime minister, Guillaume Soro." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "Ivory Coast’s embattled strongman Laurent Gbagbo clung precariously to power Tuesday as his military commanders offered to surrender in the face of attacks by a coalition of French troops, U.N. peacekeepers and fighters loyal to the country’s internationally recognized president-elect."

New York Times: "The Obama administration dropped financial sanctions on Monday against the top Libyan official who fled to Britain last week, saying it hoped the move would encourage other senior aides to abandon Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the country’s embattled leader. But the decision to unfreeze bank accounts and permit business dealings with the official, Moussa Koussa, underscored the predicament his defection poses for American and British authorities, who said on Tuesday that Scottish police and prosecutors planned to interview Mr. Koussa about the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and other issues....”


The Commentariat -- April 4

President Obama launches his "endorse the status-quo" re-election campaign with this video:

... Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant who is not a loon, assesses the ad.

... Here's the full text of the e-mail from President Obama -- I mean Barack -- minus the bit that links to the video above:

Today, we are filing papers to launch our 2012 campaign.

We're doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you -- with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build.

So even though I'm focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today.

We've always known that lasting change wouldn't come quickly or easily. It never does. But as my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we've made -- and make more -- we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest.

In the coming days, supporters like you will begin forging a new organization that we'll build together in cities and towns across the country. And I'll need you to help shape our plan as we create a campaign that's farther reaching, more focused, and more innovative than anything we've built before.

We'll start by doing something unprecedented: coordinating millions of one-on-one conversations between supporters across every single state, reconnecting old friends, inspiring new ones to join the cause, and readying ourselves for next year's fight.

This will be my final campaign, at least as a candidate. But the cause of making a lasting difference for our families, our communities, and our country has never been about one person. And it will succeed only if we work together.

There will be much more to come as the race unfolds. Today, simply let us know you're in to help us begin, and then spread the word:

 Thank you,

... Karen Garcia provides talking points for Obama campaign workers. ...

... AND conservative Ross Douthat of the New York Times laments that Obama's really good Republican opponents have chosen not to run. CW: I'm really linking Douthat's column for the comments. Gemli's (#6) is a classic; here's part of it, but read the whole comment:

If your list of Republican candidates represents the best and the brightest of the Party of Lincoln, then the End Times are truly upon us. This litany of racially intolerant retrograde homophobic anti-scientific fundamentalist luminaries may be just smart enough to realize that the 'ideas' they have about crushing the middle class under the wheel of false austerity, reaching into women's wombs, vilifying gays, and giving more breaks to corporations may not fly just now with the voters.

Quote of the Day. I would like to publicly applaud the Florida legislature for having the cajones once again to defy an RNC-endorsed/coerced national primary electoral 'system' that gives wildly disproportionate influence in the selection of our nominee (and potentially our next president) to a collection of syrup farmers and ethanol freaks in New Hampshire and Iowa. -- Lew Oliver, Chair of the Orange County, Florida, Republican party

E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post: Will President Obama stand up to Rep. Paul Ryan, who is proposing to dismantle key parts of the government while cutting taxes for the rich. ...

... Ezra Klein links to this January 2011 policy analysis by Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy Institute titled, "Paul Ryan's Plan for Millionaires' Gain & Middle-Class Pain. The 'Ryan Roadmap' leads to an entitlement raid and middle-class tax hikes in order to enrich the wealthy." (pdf) Klein dregs up the Ryan Roadmap because "Paul Ryan ... is such a big spender that each and every Senate Republican voted to declare his Roadmap unconstitutional?" See Bartlett's & Klein's posts below.

Bruce Bartlett of Capital Gains & Games: Last Thursday "all 47 Senate Republicans introduced a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget.... This is quite possibly the stupidest constitutional amendment I think I have ever seen. It looks like it was drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin. Every senator cosponsoring this POS should be ashamed of themselves." ...

     ... Ezra Klein: "Every single Senate Republican has endorsed a constitutional amendment that would’ve made Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policy unconstitutional. That’s how far to the right the modern GOP has swung."

So What's a Teabagger to Do? Russell Berman of The Hill: Funding runs out for the federal government this Friday. "The [House] freshman class, vaunted for its unprecedented size and its Tea-Party ties, has been caught between party leadership nudging it toward compromise on one end and anti-spending activists clamoring for a clash on the other."

NEW. Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker: "... the vulgar truth about Citizens United, the doomed Arizona law [Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett], and related future cases remains: the five Justices appointed by Republicans are thrashing the four appointed by Democrats — to the enormous advantage of the G.O.P. Coincidence? You be the judge."

David Callahan in a New York Times op-ed: the Koch brothers & other corporations can not only keep secret their contributions to political advocacy organizations, they can write them off as "charity." But you can't -- private individuals have to pay taxes on donations to such groups. CW: notice how the Supreme Court has decided a corporation is "a person" when it comes to free speech, but the IRS code says a corporation is not subject to the taxes "a person" must pay on political donations. Callahan writes that the IRS "should create a new category for nonprofits engaged in policy advocacy."

Anthony Grafton of the New Yorker: "Around the country, public universities are under attack. Governors and legislators deny that research and higher education are public goods that deserve support from public monies." Grafton notes that the University of Wisconsin-Madison did the right thing by "meticulously balancing the public right to information against countervailing rights to privacy" in regard to the GOP's open-records request for e-mails from Prof. Bill Cronon.

Paul Krugman: Republicans held a committee hearing on climate change last week that "was a farce: a supposedly crucial hearing stacked with people who had no business being there and instant ostracism for a climate skeptic who was actually willing to change his mind in the face of evidence." Comments are here.

New York Times Editors: politicians at the federal and state levels have recklessly endangered the chances for a robust economic recovery.

Nina Totenburg of NPR: Harry Connick, Sr., the New Orleans D.A., who has admitted in court to dropping the ball in his office's prosecution of an apparently innocent man, John Thompson, who sat on death row for 18 years, feels "vindicated" by the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in his (Connick's) favor. CW: Connick shouldn't feel vindicated; he should feel ashamed. With audio, which is well-worth hearing.

Christopher Hitchens in Slate: Afghan President Hamid Karzai makes Quran-burning frenzy worse. Why are we still supporting this guy?

Right Wing World

Steve Benen explains Mitt Romney's latest explanation for Massachusetts' Romneycare. In a nutshell:

That radical, communistic health care policy you hate so intensely? Don't worry, I only did that at the state level.

     ... Trouble is, Romney is on the record saying Romneycare would make a good model for a federal health plan -- you know, one just like the Affordable Health Act. Don't worry, Mitt; Right Wing World is a fact-free zone. You can say anything you want.

In Right Wing World anti-union ads produced for Wisconsin & Florida, only a fake teacher will do.

Local News

How to Get a Well-Paid State Job in Wisconsin. Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the lead story in the online version of the paper: "Just in his mid-20s, Brian Deschane has no college degree, very little management experience and two drunken-driving convictions. Yet he has landed an $81,500-per-year job in Gov. Scott Walker's administration overseeing environmental and regulatory matters and dozens of employees at the Department of Commerce. Even though Walker says the state is broke and public employees are overpaid, Deschane already has earned a promotion and a 26% pay raise in just two months with the state. How did Deschane score his plum assignment with the Walker team? ... His father is Jerry Deschane, executive vice president and longtime lobbyist for the Madison-based Wisconsin Builders Association, which bet big on Walker during last year's governor's race. The group's political action committee gave $29,000 to Walker and his running mate...." ...

... Ken Vogel of Politico: "A conservative judge’s campaign for re-election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court has become the next front in a growing multi-state Republican effort to limit the power of organized labor. The once-obscure judicial race, which will be decided in a Tuesday [tomorrow] election, has taken on national implications both because Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation stripping public union bargaining powers could be decided by the court and because it’s the first time voters have gone to the polls since Walker signed the bill that sparked the national push. The contest between incumbent David Prosser and liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg has attracted an infusion of outside spending that could total as much as $5 million...."

Karen Garcia on the New York State budget, passed behind closed doors, which cuts spending for New York City, public schools & many social services, while lowering taxes on the rich who now will be taxed at a lower rate than the middle class. CW: New York has a Democratic governor -- Andrew Cuomo -- and a Democcratic assembly. Republicans hold the majority in the senate, but it really doesn't matter, does it? Democrat or Republican, most of them work in service of their rich benefactors and against the interests of the general public.

Jessica Yellin of CNN: "Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is planning to announce he will run in 2012 for the Virginia U.S. Senate seat currently held by fellow Democrat Jim Webb, who is retiring, two senior Democratic sources told CNN on Sunday."

Christine Stapleton & Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach (Florida) Post: "Angry and exasperated by faulty foreclosure documents, judges throughout Florida are hitting back by increasingly dismissing cases and boldly accusing lawyers of 'fraud upon the court.' A Palm Beach Post review of cases in state and appellate courts found judges are routinely dismissing cases for questionable paperwork. Although in most cases the bank is allowed to refile the case with the appropriate documents, in a growing number of cases judges are awarding homeowners their homes free and clear after finding fraud upon the court. Still, critics say judges are not doing enough."

News Ledes

The court’s opinion offers a road map — more truly, a one-step instruction — to any government that wishes to insulate its financing of religious activity from legal challenge. -- Justice Elena Kagan, in her first dissent

New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday effectively upheld an Arizona program that aids religious schools, saying in a 5-to-4 decision that the plaintiffs had no standing to challenge it. The program itself is novel and complicated, and allowing it to go forward may be of no particular moment. But by closing the courthouse door to some kinds of suits that claim violations of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion, the court’s ruling in the case may be quite consequential." Read the opinion, concurring opinion by Justice Scalia & dissent here (pdf).

New York Times: "Southwest Airlines said on Monday that it had detected subsurface cracks in a third aircraft during inspections and that it had canceled more flights after a five-foot hole ripped through the roof of a jetliner on Friday.... The airline also said in the statement that it had canceled 70 flights from its schedule of 3,400 departures on Monday. That came after Southwest canceled about 300 flights each on Saturday and Sunday."

New York Times: "Major banks, retailers and other businesses warned their customers on Monday to be on the lookout for possible e-mail schemes after a security breach at an online marketing firm exposed the e-mail addresses and names of millions of customers. The marketing firm, Epsilon, which handles e-mail marketing lists for prominent companies like JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Kroger, Walgreens and Disney issued a brief statement on Friday saying that hackers had stolen names and e-mail addresses of customers." CW: I got a notice from BestBuy about it, which said only my name & e-mail address had been compromised.

CBS News: "Attorney General Eric Holder today will announce that self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad will be tried in a military commission, the CBS News Investigative Unit has learned. A source says the commission will be held at the Guantanamo Bay prison." New York Times story here.

Here's the Wall Street Journal story on House Republicans' proposed 2012 budget, prepared by Rep. Paul Ryan: The plan "would cut more than $4 trillion from federal spending projected over the next decade and ... would essentially end Medicare.... Mr. Ryan’s proposal would apply to those currently under the age of 55, and for those Americans would convert Medicare into a ‘premium support’ system.... The proposal would also convert Medicaid, the health program for the poor, into a series of block grants to give states more flexibility." CW: the New York Times story on this proposal is linked in yesterday's ledes.

Washington Post: "With the prospect of a government shutdown looming Friday, leaders of both parties publicly staked out seemingly inflexible positions while staff members worked in private on a possible compromise to finally pass the 2011 budget."

AP: "Libyan rebels pushed into the strategic oil town of Brega on Monday but came under fire from Moammar Gadhafi's forces, as a government envoy began a diplomatic push in Europe to discuss an end to the fighting."

New York Times: "Tokyo Electric Power Company will release almost 11,500 tons of water contaminated with low levels of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, as workers struggle to contain the increasing amounts of dangerous runoff resulting from efforts to cool the plant’s damaged reactors."


The Commentariat -- April 3

** The Super-Rich Just Don't Get It -- and They Won't till It's Too Late. Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair: "The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government.... The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent.... America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way.... Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community...." CW: read all of Stiglitz' essay; the few bits I've copied here don't give the whole picture.

** Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "With revolutionary fervor sweeping the Middle East, Israel is under mounting pressure to make a far-reaching offer to the Palestinians or face a United Nations vote welcoming the State of Palestine as a member whose territory includes all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority has been steadily building support for such a resolution in September, a move that could place Israel into a diplomatic vise. Israel would be occupying land belonging to a fellow United Nations member, land it has controlled and settled for more than four decades and some of which it expects to keep in any two-state solution."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) Press Release: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today questioned why the Federal Reserve provided more than $26 billion in credit to an Arab intermediary for the Central Bank of Libya. The total includes at least $3.2 billion in loans that the Fed was forced to make public today in addition to earlier revelations under a Sanders provision in the Wall Street reform law. Sanders also asked why the Libyan-owned bank and two of its branches in New York, N.Y., were exempted from sanctions that the United States this month slapped on other Libyan businesses to pressure Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s government." ...

... John Nichols of The Nation: "... what’s the point of sanctions if they don’t crack down on the dictator’s bank? ... The senator is also asking Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner – a long-time Fed retainer -- to explain the Arab Banking Corp. was borrowing money at almost zero interest from one arm of the government, the Fed, at the same time the Treasury Department was borrowing money at a higher interest rate." And why aren't more Members of Congress asking these same questions?

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: can litigants get due process in huge class action suits? Some judges, and apparently at least one Supreme Court Justice, don't think so.

Nicholas Kristof: "Mr. Obama and other world leaders did something truly extraordinary, wonderful and rare: they ordered a humanitarian intervention that saved thousands of lives and that even Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s closest aides seem to think will lead to his ouster." The comments are here.

Bara Vaida of the Washington Post: "From Washington to California, the year-old health law, with its layers of complexity, is setting off a gold rush for high-priced lawyers and consultants. It’s 'a full employment act for health-care consultants,' said Ian Morrison, a founding partner of Strategic Health Perspectives in Menlo Park, Calif. Much of the activity — and the prospect of glitteringly high fees — is swirling around a widely discussed provision that encourages doctors, hospitals and insurers to team up in treating patients."

Maureen Dowd: "Republicans hate social engineering, unless they're doing it." And they're doing it. CW: The comments are here.

Dan Eggen & Perry Bacon of the Washington Post: "Facing an energized Republican Party and deep-pocketed conservative groups, President Obama is kicking off his 2012 reelection campaign with a concerted push for help from wealthy donors and liberal groups unbound by spending limits. The strategy — which could begin in earnest as early as Monday with the formation of an official presidential committee — suggests a notable shift in emphasis for a president who has long decried the outsize role of money in politics." ...

Jeff Zeleny's New York Times profile/puff piece on Jim Messina, who will head up President Obama's re-election campaign, strikes me as a bore, but it is receiving a lot of attention. Ben Smith explains why in a post titled "The Messina Wars." ...

... AND Seth Meyers checks out the field of Republican candidates:

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times examines Mike Huckabee's efforts to re-energize the Christian right -- last week at a political non-partisan forum for Iowa evangelical ministers & their wives.

Right Wing World *

Tim Pawlenty Is a Liar Now & Was a Terrible Governor Then. Tom Hamburger & Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times: "A close look at [probable Republican presidential candidate Tim] Pawlenty's record [as governor] in Minnesota, and conversations with former Republican allies in the state, suggest that the former governor's tough rhetoric does not match Minnesota's reality.... To [try to balance the budget], he relied on money from the federal stimulus — a program he has decried as wasteful — and other one-time fixes. He postponed school and other obligations, leading to hikes in local property taxes and strains on school districts as burdens shifted downward. Most strikingly, he left the state with a $5-billion projected deficit, one of the highest in the nation as a percentage of the state's general fund." It gets worse. As you read, bear in mind this is a straight news story, not an opinion piece.

What's a Liar to Do? Dan Balz of the Washington Post writes a column -- not a news story -- that begins, "This is not an easy time for Republicans who are thinking of running for president in 2012. Whatever assumptions about the road ahead that may have existed a few months ago suddenly look more complicated, because of unfolding events here and abroad." Balz outlines the changing circumstances, and the changing public reactions to those circumstances, that make it hard for a Republican presidential candidate to know what to do. CW: but, without Balz's saying it or meaning it, what comes across to me is the underlying assumption that Republican candidates don't know what storylines they should invent. A candidate with principles wouldn't have any trouble.

CC of Daily Kos: Sen. Rand Paul has conveniently "forgotten" he voted in favor of a resolution urging the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. He has apparently instructed his staff to say he didn't vote for it the resolution, or the Democrats who wrote it were "sneaky." Or whatever. Lawrence O'Donnell has a recording of another young Paul staffer being coached by a senior staffer who tells an NBC producer another convoluted version of why Paul's vote wasn't a vote. O'Donnell is pretty longwinded, but the tape is interesting. Here's Paul on the Senate floor proposing a 180-degree counter-resolution, saying, "There has been no Constitutional authority given to the President to be committing troops to this war":

... AND here, having executed his own flipflop, Sen. Paul bashes Newt Gingrich for his multiple positions on the Libyan intervention:

... It must be fun to be a Republican, because you can say whatever you want. Why, you can even criticize your potential presidential opponents for doing exactly what you just got through doing!

* Where facts never intrude.

Local News

Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/St. Pete Times: "In the next 30 days, Florida lawmakers are poised to make it easier for insurance companies to raise rates, make it more difficult for women to receive an abortion and hand over control of prisons to private companies. These are just a few of the proposals the Republican-led Legislature is pushing in the final weeks of their 60-day session. Others include dramatically changing the way the state handles Medicaid, state pensions, courts, growth and the environment."

News Ledes

New York Times: "House Republicans plan this week to propose more than $4 trillion in federal spending reductions over the next decade by reshaping popular programs like Medicare, the Budget Committee chairman said Sunday in opening a new front in the intensifying budget wars."

New York Times: "BP has asked United States regulators for permission to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, two company officials said on Sunday, creating a delicate situation for the Obama administration as it seeks to balance safety concerns with a desire to increase domestic oil production."

New York Times: "The United States, which long supported Yemen’s president, even in the face of recent widespread protests, has now quietly shifted positions and has concluded that he is unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be eased out of office, according to American and Yemeni officials."

... ABC News: "In his first interview since leaving the White House last fall, former Obama National Security Advisor Jim Jones warned that the way events were unfolding in Yemen were 'not good.' Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been an ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism, is facing increasing pressure to step down; Jones echoed language coming from the White House...."

Al Jazeera: "Abdel Ati al-Obeidi, Libya's acting foreign minister, told the Greek prime minister in Athens that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi wants the fighting to end. 'It seems that the Libyan authorities are seeking a solution,' Dimitris Droutsas, the Greek foreign minister, said." ...

... Washington Post: "Libya’s rebel military struggled Saturday to explain an apparent rift within its highest ranks while acknowledging its soldiers’ role in a mistaken NATO bombing of rebel columns the night before. The strike, which killed 13 rebels and injured seven, illustrated the hazards of conducting an aerial bombing campaign against a fluid and fast moving front line. Several cars and an ambulance were also incinerated, and opposition leaders said rebels may have been responsible for the bombing because they had fired their guns into the air in celebration." ...

... AP: "Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the vice chairman of the [Libyan rebel] National Provisional Council..., says the opposition to longtime leader Moammar Gadahfi seeks to install a parliamentary democracy in the country."

AP: "Afghan protests against the burning of a Quran in Florida entered a third day with a demonstrations in the south and east Sunday, while the Taliban called on people to rise up, blaming government forces for any violence." ...

     ... Politico Update: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CBS's Bob Schieffer on Sunday that some members of Congress were considering some kind of action in response to the Florida Quran burning that sparked a murderous riot at a United Nations complex in Afghanistan and other mayhem." ...

     ... CNN Update: "Top U.S. officials in Afghanistan on Sunday condemned the burning of a Quran in the United States that sparked three days of protests in which more than 20 people died. Burning the Muslim holy book 'was hateful, it was intolerant and it was extremely disrespectful and again, we condemn it in the strongest manner possible,' said Gen. David Petraeus, who heads the U.S.-led international forces in Afghanistan."

AP: "The United Nations and the government it supports in embattled Ivory Coast are trading accusations over the killings of hundreds of civilians in a western town. The U.N. accused hunters fighting in a force to install democratically elected President Alassane Ouattara of 'extra-judicial executions' of more than 330 people in Duekoue. Ouattara's government Saturday night accused U.N. peacekeepers of abandoning civilians there to vengeful militiamen fighting for incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to accept his election defeat."

AP: "It could take several more months to bring Japan's tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant under control, a safety agency spokesman said Sunday as engineers tried to find a way to stop highly radioactive water from pouring into the Pacific." A second attempt to seal a leak of radioactive contaminants is not working yet, and new problems arise daily.

AP: "A week ago, Wisconsin Republicans thought they'd won the fight over the state's polarizing union rights bill. They'd weathered massive protests, outfoxed Senate Democrats who fled the state and gotten around a restraining order blocking the law by having an obscure state agency publish it. They even started preparations to pull money from public workers' paychecks. But the victory was short-lived. A judge ruled Friday that the restraining order will stay in place for at least two months she while considers whether Republicans passed the law illegally."

AP: "Federal records show cracks were found and repaired a year ago in the frame of the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 that made an emergency landing at an Arizona military base after a hole was torn from the passenger cabin.... Southwest grounded 80 similar planes to carry out inspections."

Reuters: "Al Qaeda operatives are in Brazil planning attacks, raising money and recruiting followers, a leading news magazine reported Saturday, renewing concerns about the nation serving as a hide-out for Islamic militants. Veja magazine, in its online edition, reported that at least 20 people affiliated with al Qaeda as well as the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, the Palestinian group Hamas and two other organizations have been hiding out in the South American country."