The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, December 11, 2017.

Washington Post: Simeon "Booker, the Washington bureau chief of Jet and Ebony magazines for five decades, died Dec. 10 at an assisted-living community in Solomons, Md. He was 99 and had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia, said his wife, Carol Booker. Few reporters risked more to chronicle the civil rights movement than Mr. Booker. He was the first full-time black reporter for The Washington Post, serving on the newspaper’s staff for two years before joining Johnson Publishing Co. to write for Jet, a weekly, and Ebony, a monthly modeled on Life magazine, in 1954."

New York Times: "... the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting 'Salvator Mundi,' which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show. The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most of the Saudi Arabian elite, including members of the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment."

Politico: "PBS announced on Monday that CNN International correspondent Christiane Amanpour would be the interim replacement for Charlie Rose after he was fired and his long-running interview show was canceled over multiple allegations of sexual harassment.... 'Amanpour on PBS' will begin airing on New York’s PBS station on Monday and will roll out to other stations beginning Dec. 11."

Variety: "Netflix has reached an agreement to resume production on 'House of Cards' season 6 — the show’s final season — in early 2018, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos. Production of 'House of Cards' season 6 was suspended in October, following sexual assault allegations against star Kevin Spacey. Season 6 of the political thriller will be eight episodes, starring Robin Wright, Sarandos said. The final season will not include Spacey, as previously announced. Each of the previous season have comprised 13 episodes."

In reaction to the horrors of what happened in Charlottesville, which is named after this queen, her ancestry is very relevant. -- historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom, on Queen Charlotte of Britain's biracial heritage ...

... Washington Post: "When Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement Monday (Nov. 27), Twitter erupted with the news that the newest princess in the royal family would be bi-racial. 'We got us a Black princess ya’ll,” GirlTyler exulted. “Shout out to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Their wedding will be my Super Bowl.'... But Markle, whose mother is black and whose father is white, may not be the first mixed-race royal. Some historians suspect that Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III who bore the king 15 children, was of African descent. Historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom argues that Queen Charlotte was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family: Alfonso III and his concubine, Ouruana, a black Moor.” The report on Charlotte's heritage is fascinating.

... Mrs. McCrabbie: One of the best things about Southern white bigots is that, slavery being what it was, they're very likely to be less than 99 & 44/100ths percent pure white. For instance, these two young fellas have facial features that are remarkably similar:

But, um, one of them is David Duke & the other is Jesse Jackson. Separated at birth? Give Duke a 'fro, & he'd easily pass for African-American. Maybe a hood kinda relaxes curls.

Guardian: Britain's "Prince Harry is to marry his American actor girlfriend Meghan Markle in spring next year, Clarence House has announced. 'His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle,' it said in a statement on Monday."

 

The full Neiman's Christmas book is here, with some items costing less than $35K.

New Yorker: Thomas Hargrove, a retired journalist, is developing an algorithm to solve serial murders. Interesting & not a bit nutty. Hargrove's research suggests that the number of serial killers still out their doing their jobs is much greater than police departments realize (or will admit -- serial killers are bad for local tourism). Also too, the percentage of murders that get solved has dropped precipitously in the last half-century.

Donaldo da Trumpo. Guardian: "On Wednesday, a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for $450.3m, rocking the art world.... On Thursday, that same art world was given a reality check, when a sketch by the less celebrated Donald Trump sold for just $6,875 at an auction in Los Angeles. Trump’s untitled piece, which depicts the Manhattan skyline, barely cleared its minimum price of $5,000.... The president took on his project in 2009 for a charity event. Trump seems to have used either pencil or ballpoint pen for the piece, which measures 8in x 5in. The sketch shows what appear to be skyscrapers, alongside something representing the Empire State Building. Nate D Sanders, the auction house handling the sale, presented the sketch in a 15in x 18in frame, along with a signed photo of Trump."

New York Times: "After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Salvator Mundi' sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s 'Women of Algiers,' which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed." ...

... New York Times critic Jason Farago calls the painting "a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.... The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. [Some experts still think it's a copy.] Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted.... Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation."

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. Des MacHale (often misattributed to H. L. Mencken)

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

Friday
May152015

The Commentariat -- May 16, 2015

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "In a sweeping rejection of the defense case, a federal jury on Friday condemned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings."

Dave Philipps & Emma Fitzsimmons of the New York Times: "An assistant conductor on the Amtrak train that derailed on Tuesday believes she heard the engineer tell another regional train operator in a radio transmission that the train had been struck by something just before the accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. At a news conference on Friday, Robert L. Sumwalt, the safety board official who is leading the investigation, said that investigators had found damage to the left side of a portion of the windshield and that they had called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look at it. The F.B.I. was called in because it has experience with the forensics expertise needed for the investigation, officials said, but it has not yet begun its analysis."

Martin Matishak & Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the House on Friday passed a $612 billion defense bill in a 269-151 vote. All but eight Republicans voted in favor, along with 41 Democrats who went against Obama's veto threat and their party leaders, who whipped against it. Obama has threatened to veto the bill over its circumvention of spending caps."

Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) said Thursday that he does not support an idea backed by Senate Republican leadership to temporarily extend ObamaCare subsidies if the Supreme Court cripples the law.... On Wednesday, he reintroduced his Empowering Patients First Act, a plan he has also put forward in previous sessions of Congress. The bill would repeal ObamaCare and replace it with refundable, age-adjusted tax credits for buying insurance. It would give grants for high-risk pools as an insurance option for people with pre-existing conditions." CW: It's unfortunately that Sullivan doesn't mention that Price's "plan" is a crock. ...

... Greg Sargent: "... in a way, it's good to have a fleshed out GOP alternative, because it helps clarify the differences between the parties on health reform. GOP reforms would likely translate into lower-quality plans and a coverage expansion that would benefit fewer people. But that would be the tradeoff Republicans would make to achieve their goal of less government spending and interference in the market than that which occurs under Obamacare. The rub is that if somehow we did switch from Obamacare to the Price alternative, there would be vast disruptions.... Of course, even if the Court does gut subsidies, the Price alternative isn't going to happen. Even if Republicans could unite behind the Price plan, or some other alternative, Obama would veto it, and try to pressure Republicans -- in Congress and the states -- to implement a simple subsidy fix." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos agrees with Sargent, but she's much snarkier. CW: Which I find totally appropriate.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: Sen. Elizabeth "Warren may be a convenient foil for [President] Obama, but the path forward on the proposed trade bill, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has been forged largely by the Democrats' legislative policy brains: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Patty Murray of Washington. The opposition to an agenda that many Democrats and labor groups believe will cost American jobs has been led by Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Chuck Schumer of New York and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Yet away from the Capitol, it is all Elizabeth Warren." ...

... Matt Taibbi has a theory about what Obama is up to: President Obama, in attacking Warren, is purposely "triangulating": "beating up on the ideologues within [his] own party in order to shore up [his] centrist cred and reassure [the Democratic party's] money sources.... Along with a Democratic Party that would love one last chance to prove itself to Wall Street heading into 2016, Obama badly wants this deal passed, perhaps as a way to steer his legacy in a more bipartisan direction.... The part that's really irritating is that the same politicians who whine every chance they get about being unfairly painted as Marxists on Fox and Clear Channel are now cleverly using the animus generated by those news outlets against the Elizabeth Warrens of the world as shortcuts to political gain.... This goes back to Clinton, Al From, Dick Morris, the DLC days."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama on Friday saluted fallen officers as heroes and called for renewed efforts to support law enforcement, emphasizing the perils and challenges faced by the police as national attention is focused on the tensions between them and many African-American communities":

** Paul Waldman on the myth that 'faulty intelligence' caused the Iraq War. "Today, Republicans act as though the intelligence community burst into the Oval Office and said, 'Mr. President, Mr. President, Iraq is a terrible threat, and if we don't invade we're doomed!' and then [George W.] Bush said, 'Gee, if you say so, I guess we'd better.' But it worked the other way around. Taking out Saddam Hussein was a priority for many of the senior people in the administration from the moment they took office, and after September 11 it was amped up into a public campaign that can go by no other name but propaganda." ...

'Faulty intelligence' didn't produce the deaths of 4,000 American servicemembers and a couple of hundred thousand Iraqi civilians. Faulty intelligence didn't strengthen Iran's position in the region, lead to an exponential increase in anti-Americanism, and give rise to ISIS. It was the delusions, deceptions, and hubris of the Bush administration and its supporters. They got exactly the intelligence they demanded, and used it to ends they had decided on long before.

Missy Ryan of the Washington Post: "Republican lawmakers have accused former Guantanamo Bay detainees of taking part in militant activity following their release in a swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a year ago, and have warned President Obama against allowing the lapse of security restrictions on them. In a letter sent this week to the White House, all Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee urged Obama to ensure that Qatar does not permit the five former Taliban officials to leave the tiny gulf nation when their one-year travel ban expires on May 31. They have been living under government supervision there for the last year."

Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: "It has been a really bad week for the ice shelves of the quickly warming Antarctic peninsula.... The loss of oceanic ice shelves does not directly increase sea level, because these shelves are already immersed in the water. But their collapse speeds the seaward flow of glaciers held behind them. And when ice leaves land and enters water, that's when seas rise."

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post: "More than 60 Asian-American organizations filed a complaint ... with the federal government on Friday alleging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American students in the admissions process and calling for an investigation. The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper on campus, wrote in this story that 64 groups filed the complaint with the U.S. Education and Justice departments, arguing that the university makes an 'unlawful use of race' in its decisions that hurts Asian Americans."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. The headline writer at TPM writes the most laughable headline of the year: "Judith Miller And James O'Keefe Discuss Ethics In Journalism." ...

... Steve M. elaborates in a post titled "Wow ... Just Wow."

Presidential Race

Maggie Haberman & Steve Eder of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband made at least $30 million over the last 16 months, mainly from giving paid speeches to corporations, banks and other organizations, according to financial disclosure forms filed with federal elections officials on Friday.... The disclosure forms ... show that even as his wife has begun her pursuit of the presidency, Mr. Clinton has shown no signs of slowing down." ...

... CW: Because he's gotta pay their bills.

Gail Collins surveys the GOP field. And longs for George Pataki for Veep 2000. CW: Here's a "hypothetical" for you, Jebbie: if your dimwitted brother had selected Pataki as his running mate in 2000, would there have been an Iraq War?

Dana Milbank: Jeb Bush "managed over an extraordinary 72 hours to demonstrate that he is not anything like his older brother, the former president. He showed himself to be indecisive, uncertain where he stands, afraid of his shadow and nakedly calculating.... Answering a question is not a disservice to American heroes who died in Iraq doing what they were ordered to do. Failing to take a stand is a disservice to American voters, who deserve stronger leaders." Bush's equivocation "undermines the very logic of his candidacy. Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, is congenitally cautious, and her campaign goes to great lengths to keep her from saying much of anything to anybody."

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Sen. Marco Rubio's problem isn't just that his remark this week that he would not have ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq given the benefit of hindsight seemed at odds with his comments in March that the Iraq war was not a mistake. The broader question confronting Rubio (R-Fla.) is whether his shifting positions -- on this issue, and others -- will hurt his chances of winning the Republican nomination for president."

Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News: "Former Gov. Rick Perry has chosen Dallas to officially declare his second run for the Republican presidential nomination in three weeks." ...

... Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune in the Washington Post: "Unlike when he entered the 2012 race, Perry would be a decisive underdog in the 2016 contest. He has been polling in the low single digits in the early-voting states and still faces an indictment in Travis County on abuse-of-power charges. But he has been working to be more prepared for a presidential campaign than he was in 2011, brushing up on policy and spending more time in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina than most other potential candidates." ...

... CW: Hey, y'all. If things work out as they did in 2012, Perry can run for president of Texas.

News Ledes

Al Jazeera: "An Egypt court has sentenced former President Mohamed Morsi to death for a mass prison break in 2011. The court ruled on Saturday that the sentencing of Morsi and 105 others will be referred to the Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in Egypt, for confirmation. Many of those sentenced were tried in absentia, including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Islamic scholar based in Qatar. The court will pronounce its final decision on June 2."

NBC News: "A Proton-M carrier rocket carrying a Mexican satellite malfunctioned and crashed in Siberia soon after launch on Saturday, the latest in a series of mishaps for Russia's space industry."

New York Times: "F. A. O. Schwarz, the legendary toy store on Fifth Avenue, will close its doors July 15, a victim of rising rents and ultraluxury retailing in New York City's hottest shopping district. New Yorkers will have to make do with the F. A. O. boutiques inside Toys 'R' Us stores or with online shopping. But F. A. O. Schwarz, which has been a fixture in New York City for 145 years and a character in the 1988 Tom Hanks film 'Big,' is actively scouring Manhattan for a new, less costly location."

Thursday
May142015

The Commentariat -- May 15, 2015

Juliet Eilperin & Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "The United States Thursday reaffirmed its 'unequivocal' commitment to use 'all elements of power' to secure U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf and to protect partner nations in the region against any external aggression. In a rare visit to his presidential retreat, President Obama met with top officials from six gulf states in hopes of easing tensions that have developed between America and some of its longtime allies in the wake of a tentative nuclear deal with Iran, seen as a disruptive force in the region. At the end of the meetings, Obama made clear that he would not sacrifice the chance for a historic diplomatic opening in Iran or delve deeper into to Syrian conflict in order to assuage the anxieties of gulf leaders." ...

... Julie Davis & David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Obama on Thursday offered Saudi Arabia and smaller Arab states new support to defend against potential missile strikes, maritime threats and cyberattacks from Iran, calling his commitment to their security 'ironclad' in an effort to allay fears that a nuclear accord will empower Tehran, their main rival in the Middle East. But in a daylong meeting here, Mr. Obama stopped short of offering a formal defense pact that would obligate the United States to come to the nations' aid if they were attacked." ...

... Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "Barack Obama has secured support from Gulf leaders for his attempt to reach a nuclear deal with Iran as a summit outside Washington concluded on Thursday with the first glimpses of possible rapprochement on an issue that has alarmed many US allies in the region."

Seung Min Kim & Kate Tummarello of Politico: "Crucial parts of the PATRIOT Act, including a provision authorizing the government's controversial bulk collection of American phone records, first revealed by Edward Snowden, are due to lapse May 31. That means Congress has barely a week to figure out a fix before before lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day recess at the end of the next week. The prospects of a deal look grim...." Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) & Rand Paul (R-Ky.) "have threatened to filibuster any attempt to prolong the bulk collection program." ...

... Greg Sargent: "A bipartisan talking filibuster is being considered by both Senators, aides to Paul and Wyden tell me.... If that happens, it would be a real rarity, at least in our current era." ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "If this is a forever war, can a democracy wage it in secret? Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, suggested that it could not.... [Fourteen] years into the open-ended war there is no consensus on whether or where to redraw the line."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Two days after Democratic senators blocked it, the Senate voted on Thursday to take up legislation that would grant the president negotiating freedom to complete an expansive trade accord with 11 nations on the Pacific Rim, setting off a contentious congressional debate on one of President Obama's top priorities for his remaining time in office. While the motion to consider the legislation passed 65-33, that belied how hard the coming weeks will be for the White House. Most Democrats, including the top three Democratic leaders in the Senate, voted against even opening debate to give Mr. Obama so-called trade promotion authority."

** "The Plot Against Trains." Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: "... the will to abandon the public way is not some failure of understanding, or some nearsighted omission by shortsighted politicians. It is part of a coherent ideological project.... What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced..., because ... no ultimate good can be found in the state." ...

... Michael Shear & Jay Moauwad of the New York Times: "The Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night was equipped with an automatic speed control system that officials say could have prevented the wreck.... But the system, which was tantalizingly close to being operational, was delayed by budgetary shortfalls, technical hurdles and bureaucratic rules, officials said Thursday. In 2008, Congress ordered the installation of what are known as positive train control systems, which can detect an out-of-control, speeding train and automatically slow it down. But because lawmakers failed to provide the railroads access to the wireless frequencies required to make the system work, Amtrak was forced to negotiate for airwaves owned by private companies that are often used in mobile broadband." ...

... Arturo Garcia of the Raw Story: "Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was visibly angry at House Republicans during an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, nearly cursing on-air about the GOP's plan to cut $252 million in Amtrak funding hours after a train derailment that killed seven people and injured more than 50 others. 'Those SOBs, and that's all I can call them, these SOBs didn't even have the decency to table the vote,' Rendell told host Chris Hayes...." With video. Read the whole story. ...

... Michael Ruane, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday sped up from 70 mph to more than 100 mph in less than a minute before derailing, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday. There was no explanation for that acceleration, but the train's engineer has agreed to be interviewed by federal investigators." ...

... Jaime Fuller of New York: "All 238 passengers on the Amtrak train that crashed outside of Philadelphia on Tuesday have been accounted for, according to Mayor Michael Nutter. An eight victim was found by a cadaver dog this morning, and eight passengers being treated in hospitals are in critical condition, although all are expected to recover fully. More than 40 people are still being treated in nearby hospitals." ...

... Amel Ahmed of Al Jazeera: "The victims of Tuesday's tragic railway derailment in Philadelphia may find themselves twice victimized when they attempt to recover damages from Amtrak, thanks to a 1997 law that caps damages to all passengers injured in a major railway accident to $200 million. The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act (ARAA), passed to save the railway from bankruptcy, was lauded by then-President Bill Clinton as the 'most comprehensive restructuring of Amtrak since the early 1980s.'"

Linda Greenhouse speculates on how a Supreme Court decision on marriage may affect fundamentalist Christian crusaders. CW BTW: It troubles me the way Greenhouse & others imply that "Christians" are anti-gay. Some prominent Christian denominations, e.g., Episcopalian & United Church of Christ, have long supported gay rights, & others have come around.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd.

Jeremy Peters & John Koblin of the New York Times: "George Stephanopoulos, the chief anchor of ABC News, said Thursday he would not be involved in moderating a Republican presidential debate after he acknowledged an 'uncharacteristic lapse' by donating money to the Clinton Foundation in recent years. The nature of the disclosure of the donations, made only after news outlets began asking questions, combined with his longstanding ties as a former aide to President Bill Clinton, raised questions that could jeopardize Mr. Stephanopoulos' future as a top-draw interviewer and debate moderator." ...

... John Nolte of Breitbart "News": "This is a bombshell of a black eye for ABC News.... Reporting on and defending the Clinton Foundation in front of the whole world without disclosing your $50,000 donation to that very same foundation is a cover up, a four alarm scandal." ...

... Oh, the Horror! Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "How big a deal is this? Large: Stephanopoulos IS ABC News.... A donation from Stephanopoulos to the Clinton Foundation in any amount constitutes a scandal and an immediate crisis for ABC News." ...

... Catherine Thompson of TPM: "After Stephanopoulos interviewed Peter Schweizer last month on 'This Week,' he was criticized for not disclosing either his former employ with the Clintons or, later, his donations to the foundation. Schweizer is the conservative author of 'Clinton Cash,' a book billed as an expose of the former first family's corrupt connections to foreign donors. Schweizer told Bloomberg Politics in an email Thursday that he was 'stunned' by what he saw as Stephanopoulos' 'massive breach of ethical standards.' 'He fairly noted my four months working as a speech writer for George W. Bush,' Schweizer told the news outlet. 'But he didn't disclose this?'" ...

     ... CW: While Schweizer's "stunned" response is over the top, he does have a point. However, anybody who watches "This Week" is aware of Stephanopoulos's history with the Clintons. (Sure, many younger voters may not know his Clinton connection, but they don't watch the Sunday shows anyway.) ...

... "So What?" Jonathan Chait: "... donating money to a charitable foundation is not an interest.... If Stephanopoulos needed some angle to get in the room with the Clintons, donating to their foundation would not be the way to do it.... Stephanopoulos's defense -- that he just wanted to donate to the Foundation's work on AIDS prevention and deforestation -- seems 100 percent persuasive. He is the victim of the ethical taint of the Clintons' poorly handled business dealings, combined with an underlying right-wing suspicion of the liberal media, but what his critics have yet to produce is a coherent case against him." CW: I'm with Chait on this, & I'm no big fan of Stephanopoulos. ...

... Steve M.: News Corp. Foundation, the charitable arm of Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate, gave at least $500K to the Clinton Foundation. "Know who gave more than $1 million (and possibly as much as $5 million) to the Clinton Foundation? HOW CAN NEWSMAX OBJECTIVELY COVER THE 2016 ELECTION?????" CW: So it seems, under the strictures applied to Stephanopoulos that Fox "News" & the Wall Street Journal should be barred from covering the presidential election, too, unless Hillary Clinton drops out or loses the primary race.

Charles Blow: "This week, during a panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, President Obama lambasted the media, and in particular Fox News, for creating false, destructive narratives about the poor that paint them broadly as indolent and pathological.... Obama was right to call out the media's poverty narratives. There are people across the income spectrum who are lazy and addicted and want something for nothing. But it's unfair and untenable to pretend this is the sole purview of the poor. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Fox News is angry that Obama knows what's on Fox News."

God News, Friday Edition

New York Times Editors: "The practical effect of the Vatican's decision to sign a treaty recognizing the state of Palestine is debatable, but it is a symbolic victory for Palestinians who are struggling to keep alive their dream of a Palestinian state, which has been thwarted by the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." ...

... Rachel Bade of Politico: "Several House conservatives seemed exasperated that Francis, who will address Congress this fall, approved the Vatican's recognition of Palestine as a state. On Wednesday, critics said Rome needs to leave the question of Palestinian statehood to be sorted out in the Middle East."

Tim Egan: "Last year, [Pope Francis] was asked about his secret to happiness. He said slow down. Take time off. Live and let live. Don't proselytize. Work for peace. Work at a job that offers basic human dignity. Don't hold on to negative feelings. Move calmly through life. Enjoy art, books and playfulness."

Presidential Race

David Knowles of Bloomberg: After calling for the repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act during a Thursday stop at a brewery in Tempe, Ariz., [richy-rich Jeb] Bush touted the potential of the health apps on his new Apple Watch.... Bush did not specifically promise free Apple Watches for every man woman and child in the country if he is elected president, however." ...

... Steve M. is excited to learn that Jeb may have a product right there on his wrist which can help that South Carolina Republican guy who purposely didn't buy ObamaCare & needs eye surgery: "Hey Jeb, got any apps on that watch that can reattach a retina and do a significant amount of follow-up care?"

Jesse Berney of Blue Nation Review: "It's good and OK for people who can afford them to purchase luxury consumer goods.... But it's another thing for those people to run for president and suggest we repeal a law that gave millions affordable health care coverage and tell people to buy Apple Watches instead." ...

... Kate Knibbs of Gizmodo: "No word on whether Bush realizes that suggesting someone replace health insurance with an overpriced, overhyped fitness band is the dumbest fucking idea anyone's ever had." ...

Sara Murray & Maeve Reston of CNN: "Jeb Bush again changes his Iraq answer.... In his clearest declaration yet on his feelings about his brother's invasion of Iraq, the former Florida governor said Thursday that 'knowing what we know now, ...I would not have engaged.' 'I would not have gone into Iraq,' he said. The comments marked the fifth time this week that Bush sought to explain his position on Iraq." ...

... CW: It's worth repeating yesterday's comment by Barbarossa, a veteran: "I already can't stand Jeb, but that crack about those killed in action makes me want to throw up. An obvious question: Why were they killed in action? Could it be because of a war started under false pretense? This guy is fucking dangerous." (Bush said any question about "hypotheticals ... does a disservice" to service members killed in action.) ...

... "Reign of Error." Paul Krugman takes up where Barbarossa left off: "Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that's not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders -- especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief -- is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors' mistakes. That's sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate's character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews. Wait, there's more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that 'mistakes were made.' Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who's-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles.... My best explanation is that we're witnessing the effects of extreme tribalism. On the modern right, everything is a political litmus test.... It's kind of a fraternity of failure: men and women united by a shared history of getting everything wrong, and refusing to admit it." ...

... Charles Pierce: "It has been quite a week for The Sunshine Boys, Marco Rubio and Jeb (!), the two Florida Men contesting for the Republican presidential nomination. Rubio is still riding high, playing the entire neocon chorus so impeccably at the Council on Foreign Relations that Jen Rubin went into full swoon.... What the foreign policy debate in the Republican primaries is likely to be is an ongoing attempt to salvage the neocon foreign policy ideas from the incredible shitshow that occurred when they were put into practice in 2002." ...

Gene Robinson: In the GOP race, we are left with "a top tier of Bush, who can't get out of his own way; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who seems to be fading; and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the flavor of the month, who hopes to win by propounding a robust, interventionist, Bush-like foreign policy, but without the whole Iraq part. GOP to Hillary Clinton: Have a nice summer." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "If Republicans running as hawks say [the Iraq War] was a mistake, then the debate is really over. And it won't end there. Because with a consensus in place that the Iraq War was a bad idea, the whys and hows of just how we made this decision are up for discussion in a very new way."

Where in the World Is Scott Walker? Ben Schreckinger of Politico (May 12): "The Wisconsin governor, the current Republican front-runner in some early voting state polls, is in Israel until Thursday, but he isn't taking questions. Stung by his own past gaffes and those of other Republican presidential hopefuls abroad, Walker has locked the media out of his Israel trip, moving to burnish his foreign policy credentials without actually talking about foreign policy.... Ahead of the trip, Walker described it as a 'listening tour' and told reporters, 'It's an educational trip. It's not a photo op.' But there Walker was on Monday, greeting people at the Western Wall in a photo posted to his Twitter account." ...

... CW: Walker is probably over there giving Pope Francis high-fives for the Vatican's recognition of Palestine. Oh, or maybe not. Maybe just glad he didn't have to answer the Iraq War question. Also, I'll chip in $5 if Wisconsin taxpayers will treat Walker to an extended "educational trip" to Siberia.

Matea Gold & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton told a group of her top fundraisers Thursday that if she is elected president, her nominees to the Supreme Court will have to share her belief that the court's 2010 Citizens United decision must be overturned, according to people who heard her remarks.... She avoided taking a position on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord, saying she first wants to see what comes out of Congress."

Beyond the Beltway

Brendan Farrington of the AP: Florida "Gov. Rick Scott told agency heads to prepare for the worst Thursday, asking them to list only the state's most critical needs in the event the Legislature can't reach an agreement on a budget that doesn't expand health care to the poor.... In writing the letter, Scott is further digging in his heels in his refusal to expand health care coverage to 800,000 Floridians, a move that could cost the state more than $1 billion in federal money to help hospitals treat the poor, which is called the low-income pool." CW: It's great that Farrington fingered Scott for his motives. At least some reporters are now bold enough to tell the truth.

Al Jazeera & Reuters: "Duke Energy Corporation pleaded guilty Thursday to environmental crimes over a North Carolina power plant's coal ash spill into a river and management of coal ash basins in the state, U.S. prosecutors said. Duke, the country's largest energy company, pleaded guilty to nine violations of the Clean Water Act and agreed to pay $102 million in fines, including $68 million in criminal fines and $34 million that will go toward environmental projects and land conservation. The plea entered in federal court in Greenville, North Carolina was expected as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice announced in February."

Colin Campbell of the Baltimore Sun: "Two Baltimore correctional officers were charged Wednesday with looting a downtown convenience store during unrest last month over the death of Freddie Gray, officials said. Tamika Cobb and Kendra Richard were caught on video taking merchandise from the 7-Eleven on the corner of W. Baltimore and Howard streets on April 25, the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said."

Way Beyond

William Booth of the Washington Post: "As Europe struggles to stem a spring flood of migrants from Africa and the Middle East trying to cross a deadly Mediterranean Sea, Israel has begun to toughen its stance toward refugees, telling unwanted Africans here they must leave now or face an indefinite stay in prison.... Israeli leaders have proclaimed that their tough approach -- building a fence along its border, denying work permits for illegal migrants, forcing them into a detention center in the desert -- may ultimately save lives by dissuading migrants from attempting a perilous journey. Critics of the Israeli policy counter that a country built by refugees should be more accepting of those fleeing war, poverty and oppression."

News Ledes

New York Times: "In a major setback for the Iraqi government's efforts to defend its hold on Ramadi, a critical regional capital, Islamic State militants conquered the city's government sector on Friday, raising their black flag over the main compound before setting fire to it, local officials said."

New York Times: "B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 89." ...

Wednesday
May132015

The Commentariat -- May 14, 2015

NEW. Missed this, but Charles Pierce brought me up to speed:

     ... Paul Lewis & Adam Federman of the Guardian: "The FBI breached its own internal rules when it spied on campaigners against the Keystone XL pipeline, failing to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened files on individuals protesting against the construction of the pipeline in Texas, documents reveal." CW: The Guardian's report is shocking. As Pierce writes, "... an FBI office acting as a private security force for a foreign energy giant ... seems to me to be a waste of taxpayer's money...to say nothing of a couple of amendments to the Constitution. I guess this is what cooperation within a dynamic global economy looks like."

NEW. Yes! Scott Bauer of the AP: "Russ Feingold announced Thursday he will run to reclaim the U.S. Senate seat he lost five years ago to Republican Ron Johnson, fulfilling the hopes of Democrats who have been pushing for the liberal to return to political office." ...

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to end the federal government's bulk collection of phone records, exerting enormous pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, who insists that dragnet sweeps continue in defiance of many of those in his Republican Party. Under the bipartisan bill, which passed 338 to 88, the Patriot Act would be changed to prohibit bulk collection by the National Security Agency of metadata charting telephone calls made by Americans. However, while the House version of the bill would take the government out of the collection business, it would not deny it access to the information. It would be in the hands of the private sector -- almost certainly the telecommunications firms like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint -- that already keep the records for billing purposes and hold on to them from 18 months to five years." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Mike DeBonis & Ellen Nakashima, is here. The Guardian story, by Dan Roberts, et al., is here.

A Short-Lived Victory. Mike DeBonis & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Senate leaders announced Wednesday that they reached an agreement to consider and likely approve fast-track authority for President Obama to reach trade deals, a day after an unusual filibuster by Democrats of their party's presidential agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced a plan that allows for a controversial provision that Democrats have been demanding -- legislation targeting China's alleged manipulation of its currency to make its exports cheaper -- a separate vote Thursday afternoon. Not a part of the broader trade package, the China currency legislation has been opposed by the Obama administration but favored by many senators from Midwest states hit hard by manufacturing job losses in the last two decades. This legislation, which also contains other measures for enforcing trade deals, is likely to pass the Senate but its ultimate fate remains in doubt in the House, with a potential presidential veto awaiting it." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "In other words, [Sen. Ron] Wyden's [D-Ore.] tactics worked, and [Mitch] McConnell blinked. Even if fast-track fails -- which may happen in the House even if it doesn't happen in the Senate -- Democrats may wind up with a broader non-TPP trade agenda with greater unity."

The New York Times Editors react to the DOJ's prosecution of & sentencing recommendation for Jeffrey Sterling, who was convicted to leaking classified information to James Risen of the paper (whom the feds threatened for years with jail time for his refusal to reveal his sources): "The government enjoys great flexibility from courts and the American public in deciding how best to protect national security. When it abuses that flexibility -- by going after journalists and their sources with a century-old law intended for Communist spies, or by to failing to hold torturers accountable -- the nation is made less safe." CW: I hope you listened to Marcy Wheeler's commentary, embedded in yesterday's Commentariat.

Murder on the Amtrak Express. Jon Hurdle, et al., of the New York Times: "The Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least seven, was barreling into a sharp turn at 106 miles an hour — more than twice the speed limit on that stretch -- when the engineer slammed on the emergency brakes, seconds before the train jumped the tracks, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.... Experts said the derailment might have been averted by a safety system called positive train control, that can, among other features, automatically reduce the speed of a train that is going too fast. To do that, the system must be installed on both the train and the route. The Amtrak train had it, but that stretch of track did not." ...

... The Incredible Callousness of the GOP. Heather Caygle of Politico: "House Republicans voted Wednesday to chop about a fifth of Amtrak's budget, less than a day after a deadly train crash that Democrats pointed to as a prime example of the dangers of shortchanging the nation's transportation needs. They also rebuffed Democrats' attempts to provide money for an advanced speed-control technology that federal investigators later said would have prevented the crash.... But the House proposal may face tougher sledding in the Senate, where transportation appropriations Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she hopes to set aside extra money for rail safety in her version of the funding bill. 'We have had a lot of derailments,' she said. 'We've had a lot of accidents.... So there are a lot of reasons for us to take a look at this.'" ...

... Trains Are for Democrats. Philip Bump of the Washington Post explains the callousness: "Trains are more cost effective in more densely populated areas, and more densely populated areas in the United States tend to vote Democratic. There's another level of politics at play, of course; many conservatives consider the idea of a federally funded transportation program to be anathema. And since so few of their constituents actually use the system, there's little incentive to want to offer political support." CW: Apparently it's okay if Democrats die. To be fair, Republican peoples do use roads & bridges out there in the Heartland, & Republicans are no more anxious to fund those than they are to fund public transportation. ...

... It seems Sen. Bob Corker noticed this, too. Jordain Carney of the Hill: “'I will be stunned if the Republicans deal with the Highway Trust Fund responsibly. It's not going to happen,' he told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.... The Tennessee Republican slammed Republicans... 'The first step to showing that we [Republicans] can responsibly deal with, you know, the fiscal issues that matter is the highway bill, and yet it very much appears to me that there will be a kick the can down the road,' he [said,] adding that it's 'incredibly irresponsible, total failure, [and a] abdication of leadership.'" ...

... Susan Svrluga, et al., of the Washington Post: "At least seven people were killed in Tuesday's Amtrak train derailment, including Justin Zemser, a 20-year-old midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy; Rachel Jacobs, 39, chief executive officer of Philadelphia-based ApprenNet; Jim Gaines, a 48-year-old video software architect for the Associated Press; and Abid Gilani, 55, a Wells Fargo executive. Among those missing is Bob Gildersleeve, a vice president the St. Paul, Minnesota, based company Ecolab. The names of the others killed in the violent crash -- which demolished one train car and toppled others on their sides -- remain unknown...." ...

... Paul Nussbaum of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "The train's engineer, who has not been identified, declined to give a statement to police investigators and left the East Detectives Division with an attorney, police commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said Wednesday." ...

     ... ABC News UPDATE: "The engineer of the Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia 'has absolutely no recollection of the incident or anything unusual' and 'no explanation' for what caused the crash, his attorney told ABC News. The engineer, Brandon Bostian, 32, of Queens, New York, was 'very distraught' to learn that the crash killed at least seven people, the attorney, Robert Goggin, told ABC News. He added that Bostian voluntarily turned over a blood sample and his cell phone and is cooperating with authorities."

Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: "The House on Wednesday voted to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, approving a revised version of a bill that Republican leaders had abruptly pulled in January amid objections from some of their own members. The measure passed in a 242-to-184 vote, with one member voting present. The bill dropped a provision in the original version that would have required women who became pregnant through rape to report their assault to law enforcement authorities to be eligible for an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.... The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has expressed support for the legislation, but with pressing issues like trade and surveillance on the docket, it was not expected to get immediate consideration in the Senate.... But it is a near certainty that Senate Democrats would block an abortion ban...." ...

... Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "The Obama administration on Wednesday said it was 'disgraceful' for House Republicans to push a late-term abortion ban bill that also puts up barriers for rape and sexual assault victims.... [Press Secretary Josh] Earnest said the White House's previous veto threat still stands despite 'some rather cursory changes' made to appease Republicans."

Ben Protess & Michael Corkery of the New York Times: "The Justice Department is preparing to announce that Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and the Royal Bank of Scotland will collectively pay several billion dollars and plead guilty to criminal antitrust violations for rigging the price of foreign currencies, according to people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Most if not all of the pleas are expected to come from the banks' holding companies, the people said -- a first for Wall Street giants that until now have had only subsidiaries or their biggest banking units plead guilty. The Justice Department is also preparing to resolve accusations of foreign currency misconduct at UBS.... In reality, [the government's] accommodations [to the banks] render the plea deals, at least in part, an exercise in stagecraft." CW: Yup. And absolutely Too Big to Jail.

Scott Higham, et al., of the Washington Post: "The state-owned oil company of Azerbaijan secretly funded an all-expenses-paid trip to a conference in Baku, on the Caspian Sea, in 2013 for 10 members of Congress and 32 staff members, according to a confidential ethics report.... Three former top aides to President Obama [-- Robert Gibbs, Jim Messina & David Plouffe --] appeared as speakers at the event. Lawmakers and their staff members received hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of travel expenses ... [and gift] valued at $2,500 to $10,000, according to the ethics report.... The State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, known as SOCAR, allegedly funneled $750,000 through nonprofit corporations based in the United States to conceal the source of the funding.... The lawmakers who took the trip were Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Rubén Hinojosa (D-Tex.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Ted Poe (R-Tex.) and then-Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.)."

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "A top member of President Obama's Secret Service detail under investigation for his conduct during a White House bomb threat probe notified the agency this week that he plans to retire, according to officials familiar with his decision. The decision by Marc Connolly comes ahead of the public release of a report concluding that he and a colleague were likely impaired by alcohol on the night of March 4 as they drove into a temporary barricade and into an active crime scene, according to government officials briefed on the matter. The findings of the report, scheduled to be released Thursday, prompted Secret Service Director Joseph P. Clancy to place both men on administrative leave pending further punishments, the officials said."

Wherein Mitch McConnell Puts to Rest (One Would Hope) a Pervasive Village Meme

Steve Benen: A wide variety of Beltway media types have ... argued repeatedly that Obama's reluctance to schmooze is an impediment to policymaking progress.

John Harwood of CNBC to Mitch McConnell: President Obama's gotten some grief for not being more sociable with members of Congress. Had he had a bourbon with you once or 10 times, would that make any difference to how you guys actually relate?

McConnell: No. I think it's all good stuff for you all to write. But it has no effect on policy. The reason we haven't done more things together is 'cause we don't agree on much. It's nice to have social occasions, but we don't all hate each other anyway. It wouldn't make any difference. Look, it's a business.

More on the Extraordinary Effort to Cure ObamaCare Cooties. Peter Sullivan of the Hill: After Florida Gov. Rick Scott went to Washington Tuesday to complain to members of Congress that the Obama administration was trying to "coerce" Florida into accepting the Medicaid expansion, "the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it will hold a hearing into the alleged coercion this summer." CW: As we know, this is all about Scott & his allies wanting gobs of federal heathcare aid that is not part of ObamaCare.

Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times: "U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the outspoken, populist Democrat who thunders against Wall Street fat cats, and used to to joke about Mitt Romney's low tax bill, incorporated a couple hedge funds in the Cayman Islands so investors could avoid taxes. Grayson Fund Ltd. and Grayson Master Fund were incorporated in 2011 in the Cayman Islands, a well known tax Haven that Romney used as well, records show. That was the same year he wrote in the Huffington Post that the IRS should audit every Fortune 500 company because so many appear to be 'evading taxes through transfer pricing and offshore tax havens.'... 'When I set up my investment funds I set it up like everyone else,' Grayson said, complaining about the Tampa Bay Times looking for 'some stupid, bull---- story. ... You want to write sh-- about it, and you can't because not a single dollar of taxes has been avoided,' he snapped."

The Breasts of Human Kindness. Jessica Roy of New York: "The House GOP's Twitter account became the victim of an embarrassing Twitter photo-cropping issue on Wednesday when it accompanied a quote by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers with a photo of the Congresswoman's boobs.... The tweet has since been deleted."

Presidential Race

Reagan Lives! Jonathan Chait: "Yesterday, Chris Moody [of CNN] asked several Republican presidential candidates one of the most revealing questions of the presidential campaign so far: Who is the greatest president alive today? Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump all named Ronald Reagan, notwithstanding the fact that Reagan, at least according to the liberal media, is no longer alive.... The Reagan answer was not a mistake -- it was the reflection of a party lacking a usable past.... Republicans today embrace George W. Bush's ideas but not the man himself. This leaves them with no living model of a successful presidency they can publicly identify. The question of which president they would choose is not a trick but a reflection of a stark reality: They have no evidence the demands of conservative ideology and practical governing success can be reconciled." ...

... Another Accidental Candidate. Emily Stephenson & Emily Flitter of Reuters: "Republican Jeb Bush appears to have unintentionally announced his candidacy for president in 2016 in a conversation with reporters on Wednesday that was caught on video. Speaking in Nevada..., [Bush said,] 'I'm running for president in 2016....'" ...

... Ed O'Keefe & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Asked repeatedly in recent days whether he would have supported an Iraq invasion based on what is known now, [Jeb Bush] has replied 'Yes' or 'I don't know,' or has refused to answer, depending on the venue. The stumbles mark the toughest period yet for Bush's still-undeclared campaign and have lit a fire under his likely GOP opponents, many of whom have happily proclaimed that they would not have authorized the Iraq invasion under those conditions. Many conservative leaders and pundits are also lacerating Bush as appearing unprepared to address an obvious topic and are casting him as a tone-deaf relic of the GOP elite.... In addition to [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie, at least five other potential Bush rivals have said in recent days that they would not have backed the invasion if they knew in 2003 that the intelligence on Iraqi weapons was inaccurate: Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), plus Ohio Gov. John Kasich." And John Bolton! ...

... O'Keefe recounts Jeb's extensive comments -- in response to hostile audience questions -- on Iraq. ...

... Paul Waldman summarizes: "George W. did the right thing, and everything that went wrong was somebody else's fault." ...

... Marc Caputo of Politico Magazine: "Jeb Bush has never publicly resolved the conflict between the Bush family code of loyalty and the imperative he now faces -- as a possible GOP front-runner -- of making the case that he's his own man.... Jeb's lack of clarity on a life-or-death topic like war has spooked longtime supporters and some otherwise-loyal donors. 'It's true we want to raise $100 million by the end of the month,' one Bush donor told Politico Magazine, refusing to speak on record for fear of appearing disloyal. 'But if he doesn't give a clear answer about something so simple and figure out how to deal with the issue of his brother, we're going to have to spend every penny of that cleaning up his mess.'" ...

... Latest Jeb Feint. Michael Bender of Bloomberg: "... Jeb Bush said Wednesday that questioning about how he would have handled Iraq War authorization 'does a disservice' to military service members killed in action." CW: It's hard to be more craven than hiding behind the bodies of soldiers. ...

... Not Necessarily His Own Man. Maggie Haberman & Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "As he strains to win over Republican activists, particularly in crucial early-voting states like Iowa and South Carolina, [Jeb] Bush is being confronted with a distressing realization: He may now need to lean on his brother to survive the Republican primary, despite the damage that could do to Mr. Bush in a general election. In private conversations, Mr. Bush's allies have often taken note that his brother's approval ratings among likely primary and caucus voters are sky high." ...

... Gail Collins: "If the version of Jeb Bush we've been seeing lately is the one we're going to be stuck with, then one of the other Republican contenders is going to win. Maybe the guy who thinks Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery. Or the guy who once linked vaccines to children with mental disorders. The guy who used to peddle a 'Diabetes Solution Kit.' The guy with the bridge traffic jam! Right now, you know, it's all hypothetical." ...

... Or this little snot. ... Marco Flip-Flops on Iraq. Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that he would not have authorized the invasion of Iraq given what he knows today, becoming the latest candidate to weigh in on a question that has tripped up likely GOP rival Jeb Bush.... But Rubio ... in an interview with Fox News in March..., said he didn't think it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq. 'I don't believe it was. The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn't run Iraq,' said Rubio." CW: Pretty hasty reversal for someone who sells himself as a "foreign policy savant" & a mighty ambitious stab in the back to his longtime mentor.

Carly Fiorina, Deadbeat Millionaire. Sam Brodey of Mother Jones: "Carly Fiorina, the Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, is marketing herself as a pragmatic, fiscally responsible businesswoman -- the only GOP candidate who knows, as she says, 'how the economy actually works.'... Until late last year, Fiorina was close to $500,000 in debt from her 2010 run, nearly all of it in unpaid compensation to campaign staffers and outside consultants, according to Federal Election Commission filings.... In January, Fiorina -- whose own wealth is estimated up to $120 million -- personally donated $487,000 to her Senate campaign, and then she made good on the back pay...."

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who has been ramping up for a potential White House bid, plans to make an announcement about his political future on May 30 in Baltimore, aides said Wednesday."

Annie Karni of Politico: Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer has made seven or eight "significant" corrections to his book; the corrections will appear in the Kindle version, Amazon has announced. A HarperCollins spokesperson says the changes are "minor," not "significant."

Beyond the Beltway

Oliver Laughland & Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "The Baltimore police lieutenant charged with the manslaughter of Freddie Gray was accused of threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend.... Brian Rice ... [also was] accused of threatening to kill the husband of another ex-girlfriend, having that man wrongfully arrested, and warning that he was preparing to kill himself, as part of an intense dispute that saw him twice disciplined by chiefs and stripped of his guns. Experts on policing have expressed dismay that Rice was permitted to stay in his job after his supervisors were repeatedly informed of his actions, which extended to trying once again to have the man arrested on 29 March this year. Two weeks later he initiated the arrest of Gray...."

Spencer Hsu & Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Wednesday granted an absolute pardon to a convicted sex offender, ending a decades-long campaign by an imprisoned man whose claims of innocence were eventually joined by prosecutors and police. Final proof that Michael Kenneth McAlister, 58, was wrongfully convicted came when another man -- a serial rapist who bore an uncanny resemblance to McAlister -- recently confessed to the 1986 attempted rape and kidnapping in Richmond, the governor said."

Jason Hancock of the Kansas City Star: "Text messages obtained by The Star reveal a sexually charged relationship between House Speaker John Diehl [R] and a college freshman in a Missouri Capitol internship program that shut down abruptly last month. The conversations unveil a flirty rapport and suggest an intimacy between arguably the state's most influential lawmaker and a young woman.... Diehl lives with his wife and three sons in Town and Country, Mo." CW: The Star publishes the context of the text messages, which are predictably banal; e.g., "God I want you right now." Via Daily Kos. ...

... Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "Earlier this year, Diehl and the president pro-tempore of the state Senate filed an amicus brief in defense of the state's anti-gay-marriage amendment, leading the Missouri Family Policy Council, the state affiliate of the Family Research Council, to praise the speaker 'for demonstrating moral leadership and true integrity in standing up for the sacred institution of marriage and the family values of the people of Missouri.' The state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention thanked him for 'fighting to defend biblical marriage.'"

Way Beyond

Letters from a Prince. Robert Booth & Matthew Taylor of the Guardian: "A cache of secret memos between Prince Charles and senior government ministers has been released after a 10-year legal battle, offering the clearest picture yet of the breadth and depth of the heir to the throne's lobbying at the highest level of politics. The 27 memos, sent in 2004 and 2005 and released only after the Guardian won its long freedom of information fight with the government, show the Prince of Wales making direct and persistent policy demands to the then prime minister Tony Blair and several key figures in his Labour government. From Blair, Charles demanded everything from urgent action to improve equipment for troops fighting in Iraq to the availability of alternative herbal medicines in the UK, a pet cause of the prince.... The letters revealed not only that ministers often responded actively to his suggestions but they appeared to hold his interventions in high regard.... Since the beginning of 2010, the prince held 87 meetings with ministers, opposition party leaders and top government officials.... The letters emerged amid growing signs that Prince Charles is planning to rule in a far more outspoken way than the taciturn Queen."

News Ledes

Palmyra's Roman theater.AFP: "Islamic State group fighters have advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra on Thursday, raising fears the Syrian world heritage site could face destruction of the kind the jihadis have already wreaked in Iraq. Isis fighters were battling Syrian troops less than two kilometres (barely a mile) from the remains of one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world, Syria's director of antiquities said.... The jihadi advance on the well-preserved remains came as an international conference was under way in Cairo to address the destruction already wreaked by Isis on the ancient sites of Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq.

ABC News: "Irish police have arrested four individuals on terror charges after bomb components were found in an unspecified location near the border with Northern Ireland, only five days before an official visit by Prince Charles and Camilla."