The Ledes

Monday, November 24, 2014.

Washington Post: "A grand jury has reached a decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson, Mo., police officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager sparked days of turbulent protests, sources close to the process said. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and the county prosecutor’s office are expected to hold news conferences later Monday, and prosecutors have notified the family of Michael Brown — the teen who Wilson killed — that the grand jury’s decision will be announced Monday night, family attorney Benjamin Crump said."

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

The Ledes

Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Washington Post: "Marion Barry Jr., the Mississippi sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who served three terms as mayor of the District of Columbia, survived a drug arrest and jail sentence, and then came back to win a fourth term as the city’s chief executive, died early on Nov. 23 at United Medical Center in Washington. He was 78." Barry's New York Times: obituary is here.

Washington Post: "Negotiators working to slow Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions pressed forward with talks Saturday amid indications that they are at an impasse with two days left before a deadline for an accord." ...

... Reuters: "Iran says it will not be possible by a 24 November deadline to reach a comprehensive deal with world powers aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE: "With a deadline for an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program just a day away, American officials finally acknowledged Sunday that the two sides would not reach a deal by Monday’s deadline but would probably extend the talks a second time to explore a series of possible solutions."

Guardian: "The Obama administration announced the release of another Guantánamo Bay detainee on Saturday, rebuking recent calls from congressional Republicans to stop the transfers entirely. A Saudi man who has spent 12 years at the wartime detention facility, Muhammed Murdi Issa al-Zahrani, will return to Saudi Arabia and enter the kingdom’s rehabilitation program. The transfer brings the detainee population of a prison Barack Obama has vowed for six years to close down to 142 men, 72 of whom the Pentagon considers pose little enough threat as to be eligible for transfer."

White House Live Video
November 25

11:10 am ET: President Obama makes a personnel announcement

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:15 pm ET (maybe): President Obama honors recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:

Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.


Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

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The Commentariat -- May 27, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer just went up. It's titled "A Column about Nothing," which is to say it is commentary on Tom Friedman's column. The NYTX front page is here.

"The New Political Correctness." Paul Krugman: "... right-wing political correctness -- unlike the liberal version -- has lots of power and money behind it. And the goal is very much the kind of thing Orwell tried to convey with his notion of Newspeak: to make it impossible to talk, and possibly even think, about ideas that challenge the established order. Thus, even talking about 'the wealthy' brings angry denunciations; we're supposed to call them 'job creators'. Even talking about inequality is 'class warfare'."

"If Obama is a socialist, he's a lousy one":

New York Times Editors: "It is absurd ... for Republicans to attack Mr. Obama for carrying out an unprecedented 'regulatory jihad' when, in fact, the administration has a mediocre record when it comes to curbing dangerous practices by industry.

Prof. Tim Jackson in the New York Times: increasing productivity is not necessarily a great idea. For instance, "there are sectors of the economy where chasing productivity growth doesn't make sense at all. Certain kinds of tasks rely inherently on the allocation of people's time and attention." Jackson specifically cites the healthcare industry. If you recall, David Brooks wrote this week that Mitt Romney would bring efficiency improvements to those sluggish doctors and nurses.

Lincoln Caplan, in a New York Times op-ed, outlines the briefs in support of the Montana Supreme Court's decision to uphold its election laws; the Supreme Court is expected to respond next month.

The Butler Did It. Adele Stan in the Washington Monthly: The Vatican confirmed that it had arrested Paolo Gabriele for leaking documents to journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. "At issue are confidential letters to and from Pope Benedict XVI regarding the Vatican’s financial dealings.... So, in arresting Gabriele, the Vatican is doing what it does best with those who would challenge its sources and methods: putting the screws to them. You'd think that the pope and his men might be so consumed with straightening out the Holy See's financial mess, and penitentially finding the institution's way back to the straight and narrow that they'd have little time to do much else. But, no, instead the pope has seen fit to focus his institution's resources on a mission designed to bring U.S. nuns into line."

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: 'With nothing more than ledgers of stolen identity information -- Social Security numbers and their corresponding names and birth dates -- criminals have electronically filed thousands of false tax returns with made-up incomes and withholding information and have received hundreds of millions of dollars in wrongful refunds, law enforcement officials say. The criminals, some of them former drug dealers, outwit the Internal Revenue Service by filing a return before the legitimate taxpayer files. Then the criminals receive the refund, sometimes by check but more often though a convenient but hard-to-trace prepaid debit card."

Maureen Dowd: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is on the Secret Service's case; unfortunately, Mark Sullivan -- the Secret Service director -- is not.

Nathaniel Frank in Slate: Colin Powell poses as a leader, but he's "always following others."

The Trial of Casanova. CW: I've avoided linking to reports on this story, but what the hell. Here's one iteration from Libby Copeland of Slate: John Edwards, on trial in a case related to his having an extramarital affair & fathering a child with his lover while running for POTUS, has been observed flirting with one of the alternate jurors.

Presidential Race

Photo via New York magazine.

Jonathan Chait: "The real news in Mitt Romney’s interview with Mark Halperin ... is that Romney openly repudiated the central argument his party has been making against President Obama for the last three years: that he spent too much money and therefore deepened the economic crisis. Indeed Romney himself had been making this very case as recently as a week ago. But in his Halperin interview, Romney frankly admits that reducing the budget deficit in the midst of an economic crisis would be a horrible idea.... We're all Keynesians during Republican administrations."

Charles Pierce: "... didn't Romney, in saying that, pretty much blow up the entire rationale for over 30 years of Republican economics right there? Cutting government spending will throw us into a recession or depression? No Christmas cards from the Ryan household this year, Willard. That this remarkable moment sailed over Halperin's head and lodged in the wall behind him goes without saying."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The National Labor Relations Board announced on Sunday that one of its five members, Terence F. Flynn, had resigned after the board's inspector general found that Mr. Flynn, a Republican, leaked documents to G.O.P. allies."

New York Times: "The United Nations Security Council on Sunday unanimously condemned the Syrian government for its role in the massacre of at least 108 villagers, with new details emerging from international observers that appeared to prompt rare Russian cooperation in criticizing its ally in Damascus."


The Commentariat -- May 26, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Scores of federal regulators are stationed inside JPMorgan Chase's Manhattan headquarters, but none of them were [sic.] assigned to the powerful unit that recently disclosed a multibillion trading loss.... The lapses have raised questions about who, if anyone, was policing the chief investment office and whether regulators were sufficiently independent.... The bank pushback also suggests that JPMorgan had sway over its regulators, an influence that several said was enhanced by the bank's charismatic chief executive, Jamie Dimon.... Ssme former Fed officials are asking whether the investigation should be spearheaded by the New York Fed, where Mr. Dimon has a seat on the board. Some lawmakers and former regulators also have reservations about the comptroller's office, which is investigating the trade and was the primary regulator for JPMorgan's chief investment unit."

Larry Elliott & Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian: "The International Monetary Fund has ratcheted up the pressure on crisis-hit Greece after its managing director, Christine Lagarde, said she has more sympathy for children deprived of decent schooling in sub-Saharan Africa than for many of those facing poverty in Athens. In an uncompromising interview with the Guardian, Lagarde insists it is payback time for Greece and makes it clear that the IMF has no intention of softening the term s of the country's austerity package." CW: very helpful.

Ezra Klein on "the reality behind Obama & Bush's 'spending binge.'" ...

... Welcome to the White House, You Incompetent Jerk. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama will host former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, at the White House next week for the unveiling of their official portraits, bringing the two presidents together at a time when Mr. Obama has been castigating Mr. Bush's record on the campaign trail." CW: I might add it's also at a time when Obama's DOJ is still working overtime getting Bush & Co. off the hook for crimes against humanity (see yesterday's Commentariat), so Dubya should be damned grateful to Obama that he's not in Guantanamo.

The Guardian has an excerpt of David Maraniss's biography of Barack Obama, which covers some of the same period as the excerpt in the WashPo I linked a few weeks ago, but the Guardian's bit is more extensive.

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "... an increasing number of GOP candidates for Congress are declining to sign the promise to oppose any tax increase, a small sign that could signal a big shift in Republican politics on taxes."

Dana Milbank: Before Republicans clone Ronald Reagan, "they ... may wish to consider some genetic flaws that party scientists should repair in the cloning process."

Presidential Race

New York Times Editors: "The Obama campaign ... is right to make an issue of Mr. Romney's tenure at Bain. Mr. Romney argues that his experience in the private sector makes him the best choice to revive the economy, and voters need to understand the precise nature of that experience.... At Bain Capital, Mr. Romney made businesses more efficient, but often at a high human cost.... His embrace of Republican budgets that would benefit the wealthy while hurting the poor and the middle class shows his priorities haven't changed." ...

... Steve Benen: "Romney's single most important claim as a candidate for the presidency is that he, during his private-sector career, was a 'job creator.' If this isn't true, his rationale for national office crumbles. And when a person making a bold claim can't keep his story straight, it's generally a strong hint that the claim is dubious." ...

... AND Benen reports on Willard's Whoppers of the Week. ...

... PLUS More Birtherisms from the Donald. Benen writes, Donald "Trump is an official surrogate and fundraiser for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. During the Republican primaries, Romney even had Trump record robocalls for his campaign, and next week, the two will appear together in Las Vegas. As Greg Sargent noted today, when Hilary Rosen noted Ann Romney may not be qualified to serve as her husband's economic advisor, it was national news for weeks, despite the fact that Rosen (a) was correct, (b) had no formal role whatsoever in President Obama's campaign; and (c) was immediately denounced by high-profile members of the Obama team. And yet, here's Trump, spewing obvious garbage, which won't diminish his role on Team Romney and won't stop the Republican candidate from fundraising with Trump. The playing field isn't even."

Gail Collins takes potshots at Willard's big education speech. CW: as far as I can tell, if your kid can't read & his teacher is lousy, it's Barack's fault.

Local News

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Gov. Scott Walker on Friday brought the sharp tone of the last year in Wisconsin politics to the first of two debates in the state's historic recall election." Here's the debate, which begins about 3 min. in:

War on Women -- Georgia Campaign. Kristina Torres of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday approved new restrictions on late-term abortions in Georgia.... Deal's signature makes Georgia the latest state to generally ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, cutting by about six weeks the time women in Georgia may have an elective abortion. Commonly referred to as a 'fetal pain' bill, House Bill 954 will tighten medical exemptions for terminating pregnancies and require any abortion performed after 20 weeks be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive. The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, makes no exception for rape or incest." ...

... ** Doctors (who dare not reveal their names because of threats against them) in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "House Bill 954 hinges its basis for a challenge to the U.S. Constitution on the notion that a growing baby inside the womb feels pain at 20 weeks.... All recent research from the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists refutes this rationale.... HB 954 still mandates that physicians provide care that may be medically inappropriate." Via the Maddow Blog.

Fort Myers, Florida, News-Press: "Florida is violating federal law with procedural barriers and depriving thousands of jobless workers from receiving unemployment compensation, two legal organizations say in a complaint to the U.S. Labor Department.... The groups contend a 2011 law passed by the Republican-led Florida Legislature made a variety of changes in the state's unemployment compensation system that unfairly prevent otherwise qualified workers from getting benefits.... The 2011 law was sought by business interests to help curtail skyrocketing unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers. Even before it went into effect Aug. 1, only 17 percent of the state's unemployed workers received benefits, the lowest rate in the country, the groups said."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Syrian opposition organizations accused government forces on Saturday of carrying out a massacre in a village near Homs, leaving some 100 people dead, many of them children."

Reuters: "Iran has significantly stepped up its output of low-enriched uranium and total production in the last five years would be enough for at least five nuclear weapons if refined much further, a U.S. security institute said."

Reuters: "The brother of blind activist Chen Guangcheng has gone missing, a lawyer said on Saturday, days after he fled his village in northeastern China to seek help for his son who has been detained in a case that has become a rallying point among rights activists."


The Commentariat -- May 25, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Krugman's response(s) to Brooks. It's titled "'The Conversation' -- 'A Fairy Tale"' The NYTX front page is here.

** Jim Fallows of The Atlantic on Barack Obama & John Roberts, ca. 2005, each predicting what kind of chief justice Roberts would be: "We have two men who now sit atop two of the three branches of the government. They both laid down markers seven years ago on how one of those men was likely to perform once in office. One of the predictions seems a lot more prescient than the other."

New York Times Editors: "The Obama administration has added to its string of victories in a tawdry pursuit -- making overly expansive claims of secrecy and executive power to deny full disclosure of torture and other abuses of prisoners committed during the George W. Bush administration. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York has upheld the administration's claim that cables describing the Central Intelligence Agency's use of waterboarding and a photograph of a 'high value' detainee, Abu Zubaydah, taken during the time he was subjected to repeated waterboarding, are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.... The judges should have given the government's overwrought claims of national security and secrecy special scrutiny, not extreme deference."

Our Educational Racket. Floyd Norris of the New York Times: "The volume of federally guaranteed student loans to students at so-called proprietary colleges — the ones that intend to operate at a profit and get nearly all their revenue from the government -- continues to grow. At the same time, state and local governments across the country are slashing spending on higher education, and community colleges -- the ones most likely to offer alternatives to the students recruited by the far more expensive proprietary schools -- are suffering some of the largest reductions."

Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "Though the Chinese economy continues to expand, construction workers are losing jobs in droves and retail sales grew last month at the slowest pace in more than three years. Investments in fixed assets have increased more slowly this year than in any year since 2001."

** Paul Krugman: "In the wake of a devastating financial crisis, President Obama has enacted some modest and obviously needed regulation; he has proposed closing a few outrageous tax loopholes; and he has suggested that Mitt Romney's history of buying and selling companies, often firing workers and gutting their pensions along the way, doesn't make him the right man to run America's economy. Wall Street has responded -- predictably, I suppose -- by whining and throwing temper tantrums." Krugman then takes a delightful detour to whack David Brooks' phony paean to vulture capitalists (published Tuesday)! He hits Cory Booker, too. ...

... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "The Facebook affair provides one more bit of confirmation -- not that any should be needed -- that our economic system, when left to its own devices and when regulated by rules that powerful interests have shaped, tilts grotesquely toward the rich and their institutions.... The dysfunction of American capitalism has become the backdrop before which this year's elections are playing out." Read the whole column. ...

... Gene Robinson: "Suppose a company is failing and appears beyond rescue. Suppose a private-equity firm buys the company with borrowed money, burdens it with more debt, and then spends the next few years firing workers, selling assets, eliminating pension plans — all while collecting handsome 'management fees.' Then the company fails anyway, as it was fated to do. What higher economic purpose has been served? Why is this not what [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry memorably called 'vulture capitalism'?

Presidential Race

I heard Governor Romney here called me an economic lightweight because I wasn't a Wall Street financier like he was. Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as the president of the United States? Do you think that's the kind of experience we need? Someone who';s going to take and look after, as he did, his friends on Wall Street and bail them out at the expense of Main Street America? -- Rick Santorum, March 2012

Peter Baker of the New York Times: In Iowa yesterday, "the president attacked Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat whose prescriptions for the economy would reverse the fragile gains of the last couple of years. 'There may be value in that kind of experience, but it's not in the White House,' Mr. Obama told supporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Thursday night. He used the setting to needle Mr. Romney about a controversial comment he made here during the primaries. 'The world view that Governor Romney gained' in private finance, he said, 'explains why the last time he visited these very same fairgrounds he famously declared that corporations are people.' Encouraged by the partisan audience, Mr. Obama then mimicked Mr. Romney. '"Human beings, my friend" -- that's what he called them.' Then, he called Mr. Romney's speech here last week warning of a 'prairie fire of debt' more like 'a cow pie of distortion.' He added, 'I don't know whose record he twisted the most, mine or his.'" ABC News story by Devin Dwyer here. Des Moines Register story by Jennifer Jacobs here.

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "When Mitt Romney came to an inner-city charter school [in West Philadelphia, Penn.,] Thursday to promote his new education agenda, he received something of a history lecture about the persecution of blacks in America and the struggles of African American children to meet the academic achievements of their white counterparts.... Romney was venturing for his first time in this campaign into an impoverished black neighborhood to hear the concerns of local educators and community leaders. But here in the streets of West Philadelphia, the emotion surrounding his contest with the nation's first black president was raw, as dozens of neighborhood residents shouted, 'Get out, Romney, get out!'"

The Haunting of Williard Romney. Emily Friedman of ABC News: "It's not just the media that won't forget Mitt Romney saying in New Hampshire earlier this year that he likes 'being able to fire people.' The candidate revealed in a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan that the remark ... is one that has stuck with him -- and haunted him -- ever since. CW: The Noonan opinion piece, which -- in my never-ending search for the truth I have declined to read -- is here.

Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo! News: "Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker ... has been under fire since a Sunday appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" during which he said Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital were 'nauseating,' Having endured days of excoriating criticism, and having tried to explain his comments on multiple talk shows and via a self-produced web video, Booker took to [Twitter].... Booker lashed out at his critics Thursday night: 'Sorry I make u sick. And sorry I made a mistake. I'm sorry that 15 seconds on MTP erodes my 20 yrs of work in inner cities around our nation.' That was almost immediately followed up by another tweet to his more than 1,150,000 followers, reading, in part: 'In the end we are all imperfect. Best we can do is learn from our mistakes, not let them stop u but make u stronger.'" The New York Times' David Brooks criticized Booker for "collapsing under a bit of pressure."

Eric Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota: Forget the Wisconsin recall; "looking at the state's 2012 U.S. Senate race to replace the retiring Herb Kohl may just give an indication of where the presidential race will ultimately end up in Wisconsin."

Local News

Dan Kaufman, writing in the New York Times Magazine, on the political divisiveness in Wisconsin.

Tim Egan: "There’s no mystery what a nation run by the Tea Party and talk-radio zealots who’ve taken over the G.O.P. would look like. It would be Arizona."

Political Hack. Tim Mak of Politico: "A New Jersey mayor and his son were arrested Thursday by the FBI for allegedly hacking into an email account and website tied to a recall effort -- and then intimidating those associated with the site. Felix Roque, 55, the Democratic mayor of West New York, N.J., and his son Joseph, 22, allegedly accessed and cancelled the domain registration for, a website that was critical of the mayor and associated with a movement to recall him in early February."

Gross News

Denise Lavoie of the AP: "Harvard University alumni attending their 50th class reunion this week are getting updates on classmates -- including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski graduated in 1962 and is locked up in the federal Supermax prison in Colorado for killing three people and injuring 23 during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995. In an alumni directory, he lists his occupation as 'prisoner' and says his awards are 'Eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998.' Harvard's alumni association said ... it regrets including his references to his convictions."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Senate Ethics Committee has smacked the hand of Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, for his minor role in the sordid scandal that ended the career of John Ensign, the former Republican senator from Nevada. The committee on Friday issued a public letter of qualified admonition that mildly rebuked Mr. Coburn for arranging a meeting about potential lobbying work for a former aide to Mr. Ensign -- Doug Hampton, the husband of Mr. Ensign’s paramour. Mr. Hampton was precluded from lobbying at that time under federal law."

AP: "The private company SpaceX made history Friday with the docking of its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, the most impressive feat yet in turning routine spaceflight over to the commercial sector. It marked the first time a business enterprise delivered a supply ship to the space station."

New York Times: "Spain's banking crisis worsened Friday as the board of Bankia, the country's biggest mortgage lender, warned that it would need an additional 19 billion euros ($23.88 billion), far beyond what the government estimated when it seized the bank and its portfolio of delinquent real estate loans earlier this month."

The Butler Did It. New York Times: "An on-again-off-again scandal that the Italian press has called VatiLeaks burst into the open on Friday with the arrest by Vatican gendarmes of a man, identified in news reports as Paolo Gabriele, the pope's butler, who the Vatican said was in possession of confidential documents and was suspected of leaking private letters, some of which were addressed to Pope Benedict XVI."

New York Times: 'International atomic inspectors in Iran have detected traces of uranium enriched to levels of purity higher than the Iranians have previously disclosed, according to a new report on Tehran’s nuclear program made public on Friday."

Washington Post: "Vice President Biden, speaking Friday to families and friends of military personnel killed in action, gave a powerful retelling of the death of his wife and daughter 40 years ago -- saying he'd realized then how grief might push a person to suicide."

Reuters: "Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill aimed at keeping state courts and agencies from using Islamic or other non-U.S. laws when making decisions, his office said on Friday, drawing criticism from a national Muslim group."

Washington Post: "The controversial auction of a vial that contained President Ronald Reagan's blood has been halted, and the valuable glass tube is being donated to the former president's foundation."

Yahoo! News: "A new Amnesty International report paints a gruesome picture of summary executions, torture and ill-treatment in North Korea as Kim Jong Un succeeded his late father, Kim Jong Il, as the country's ruler last December. The country used firing squads or staged traffic accidents to execute 30 officials involved in talks to unite North and South Korea, according to the 2012 Amnesty International report released Thursday."

Ah, Democracy! New York Times: "The Islamist candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood will face former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister in a runoff to become Egypt's first freely elected president, several independent vote counts concluded Friday morning. Out of a broad field of more than a dozen candidates, the runoff will pit the two most polarizing figures against each other in a reversion to the decades-old power struggle between Egypt's secular-minded military elite and its longstanding Islamist opposition." Al Jazeera's liveblog is here.

Washington Post: "President Obama on Thursday nominated Allison M. Macfarlane, a professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University, to be the next chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Macfarlane, a geologist by training, served as a member of the White House Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, which examined nuclear waste disposal."

Al Jazeera: "US senators outraged by Pakistan's jailing of a doctor for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden have voted to cut aid to Islamabad by $33mn -- one million for each year in the doctor's sentence. 'It's arbitrary, but the hope is that Pakistan will realise we are serious,' said Senator Richard Durbin after the unanimous 30-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday."

New York Times: "French President François Hollande made a surprise visit to French troops in Kapisa Province, [Afghanistan,] on Friday, assuring them that their mission in Afghanistan would be over this year."

New York Times: "The investigations editor [of the Albany, New York, Times Union], J. Robert Port, said he believed that the city's mayor and local law enforcement agencies targeted his wife's business in retaliation for critical coverage in his newspaper, including a series of articles questioning the practices of an undercover unit of the sheriff's office that investigated drug cases, prostitution and gambling.


The Commentariat -- May 24, 2012

White House photo.CW: I loved this photo when the White House first published it, & I reproduced it here. Now Jackie Calmes of the New York Times writes about it.

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Jay Carney's lecture to the White House press corps on their "slothful, lazy" reporting. the NYTX front page is here.

Harry Reid Gets Tough. David Rogers of Politico: "In an interview with Politico, [Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry] Reid said he was open to a compromise that would salvage about four-fifths of the Bush-era tax cuts. But absent some concession on revenues, the $110 billion in spending cuts ordered by the debt agreement last August would go into effect."

Peter Orszag, who couldn't wait to publicly contradict Obama administration policies he felt failed to deal with "an unsustainable budget deficit" the minute he left his job as Obama's director of the Office of Management & Budget, now writes a column in Bloomberg News urging -- get ready -- more stimulus spending. (To be fair, Orszag is not being entirely inconsistent; he always embraced the Domenici-Rivlin deficit-reduction plan, which called for more stimulus.)

Irin Carmon of Salon on the Roman Catholic lawsuits re: contraceptive coverage: "Because the words 'abortifacient' or 'abortion inducing' sound so scary, the Notre Dame lawsuit makes sure to claim over and over again that, despite a political compromise and executive order specifically exempting abortion coverage from Affordable Care Act provisions, they are being forced to pay for abortion. It claims that 'many contraceptives approved by the FDA that qualify under these guidelines cause abortions,' which is false on multiple levels.... This struggle is part of a larger crackdown by the conservative hierarchy against liberal elements within it -- chiefly, women, including nuns." ...

... Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect: "Given the way the [Obama] program is structured, the religious freedom arguments being advanced by the lawsuits is not just wrong but Orwellian. As a federal judge recently pointed out with respect to a similar claim, the petitioners are asking for 'the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).' ... I wouldn't rule out the possibility that what should be considered frivolous arguments will be accepted by a bare majority of the Supreme Court." ...

... Angela Bonavoglia of The Nation: the reason the Vatican is cracking down on American nuns is that they really are liberal feminists who are challenging the patriarchy. CW: if I were a believing Roman Catholic, I would fast become a believing Episcopalian. The masses & belief systems are nearly identical, & Anglicans have religious orders, too. ...

... E. J. Dionne: "It turns out that many bishops, notably the church leadership in California, saw the litigation as premature. They are upset that the lawsuits were brought without a broader discussion among the entire membership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and wanted to delay action until the conference's June meeting.... Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., ... expressed concern that some groups 'very far to the right' are turning the controversy over the contraception rules into 'an anti-Obama campaign.'"

"The Secret Circus." Dana Milbank: "... Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan sees no cause for alarm. On Wednesday, he went before a Senate committee looking into the scandal and announced unequivocally that what happened in Cartagena was a one-of-a-kind event.... Not a single member of the panel, Democrat or Republican, accepted Sullivan's blithe and categorical dismissals. Yet no amount of bipartisan incredulity, and no piece of evidence the senators presented, would budge the ringmaster from his breezy insistence that the Cartagena Dozen were the only clowns in his circus.

Frances Robles of the Miami Herald: "A year before George Zimmerman killed a Miami Gardens teenager, he stood before a City Hall community forum with a grievance: Sanford cops are lazy, he told the then-mayor elect. The community college criminal justice major said he knew, because he went on ride-alongs with the Sanford police."

David Catanese of Politico: "Elizabeth Warren is largely unscathed by the weeks-long controversy surrounding her ancestry, according to a new Suffolk University poll released Wednesday evening. The survey shows the Massachusetts Democrat trailing GOP Sen. Scott Brown by a single percentage point, with Brown netting 48 percent to Warren's 47 percent. The result marks a measurable shift toward Warren since the last Suffolk poll in February, which had Brown up 9 points, 49 percent to 40 percent."

Read more here:

Democratic Primaries Can Be as Weird as GOP Primaries. These two candidates -- running in the Texas Congressional District that includes El Paso -- are apparently neck-in-neck:

     ... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones writes, "I'm fairly certain this is the first-ever attack ad to feature the phrase 'he was recently videoed publicly intoxicated being spanked.'"

Eli Lake in the Daily Beast: the Obama administration gave "Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the Oscar-winning pair who wrote and directed The Hurt Locker," extraordinary access to top-level individuals & to documents "for their forthcoming film about the SEAL Team Six raid that killed Osama bin Laden," a film originally scheduled to come out right before the November election. Reporters & journalists organizations, who say "trained reporters" don't get the same level of access, are livid. AND the controversy is one more great vehicle for Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) to "investigate."

Contributor P. D. Pepe wonders why people with different views don't sit down & talk civilly about their differences. Well, here's Al Sharpton trying to chat politely with Joe the Plumber, who is running for Congress based on the idea that "regular people like him" should be running the country:

    ... I think this answers her question.

Presidential Race

Mitt Romney Promises Not to Reduce Unemployment. Steve Benen: although Romney earlier criticized President Obama for not being able to bring the unemployment level down to 4 percent, in an interview yesterday, Romney promised that his policies would bring the unemployment rate down to about 6 percent by the end of his first term if he is elected president. But the CBO already predicts that unemployment will average 6.3 percent in 2016 & the OMB puts the figure at below 6 percent by the end of 2016. "In other words, Romney is promising to deliver results we're likely to get anyway. The myth of this guy's competence has been greatly exaggerated."

Right Wing World *

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic explains racism to white people. He's right. ...

... Dave Weigel of Slate: "Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake spend around 1100 words teasing out the uncomfortable questions about Barack Obama's piss-poor Kentucky/Arkansas primary results." Yes, Obama's blackness is probably something that causes a few white voters to shudder.... 'No poll or election result can divine voters' motivations,' [Cillizza & Blake write]. Really? No poll? How about the exit polls from Appalachian states that were conducted at the end of the 2008 Democratic primary? ... Long before they knew anything about how Obama would govern..., a sizable number of Appalachian whites ... confirmed that they would vote against the guy because they didn't like his skin color." ...

... On an unrelated note, Jonathan Chait reports on a new conservative attempt to rewrite history to -- preposterously -- credit modern Republicans with championing the civil rights movement. This incredible fantasy is not the product of a crazy guy in his basement, either; the revisionist "history" is the cover story of the National Review. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein on the same subject. ...

... AND Ed Kilgore on the same subject; especially read his last graf, which helps explains why conservatives can get their heads around absolutely crazy notions. ...

... CW: I would add there's a tribal thing that facilitates this kind of nuttiness. It goes like this: (1) A prominent conservative writes something totally untrue but the lie makes conservatives look good; (2) Everybody -- left, right & center -- knows it's a lie; (3) Liberals ridicule the liar and the lie; (4) Conservatives react by defending the liar; (5) Then they defend the lie; (6) They are all invested in the lie, so they cannot ever admit it is a lie; (6) The lie becomes a Right Wing World "fact." ...

... Finally, here's Al Sharpton on the topic:

     ... CW: The one good thing about the National Review story -- we need to be reminded again & again how acceptable it was among conservative white "intellectuals" & other elites to openly express the same repugnant racist views that shock us today when we hear them mimicked by backwoods buffoons. 

* Where fantasies pass for facts, so no wonder everyone is INSANE.

News Ledes

In Iowa, President Obama urged Congress to invest in clean energy:

New York Times: "The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a criminal defendant may be retried even though the jury in his first trial had unanimously rejected the most serious charges against him. The vote was 6 to 3, with the justices split over whether the constitutional protection against double jeopardy barred such reprosecutions."

New York Times: "The Senate passed a major bipartisan bill on Thursday to prevent drug shortages and to speed federal approval of lifesaving medicines, including lower-cost generic versions of biotechnology products. A similar bill is on a fast track to approval in the House, perhaps as early as next week. President Obama, consumer groups and pharmaceutical companies strongly support the legislation."

Washington Post: "The Senate held two votes Thursday on measures to ensure that student loan rates for millions of college students do not double in July -- and at the conclusion of the legislative action, the issue remained exactly where it began: stuck. The measures, one offered by Democrats and the other by Republicans, each failed to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to move forward, as the parties remain at loggerheads over how to pay for the $6 billion loan subsidy."

Washington Post: "Jeffrey E. Neely, the embattled General Services Administration regional commissioner who planned a lavish Las Vegas employee conference that cost more than $800,000, has left the agency, a GSA spokesman said."

Washington Post: "As Egyptians turned out to vote on the second day of a landmark presidential election Thursday, early indicators showed the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate taking the lead among the presumed front-runners. The Brotherhood is the most organized and efficient political force in Egypt, and Mohammed Morsi's campaign team went so far as to predict a possible outright victory...."

Think Progress: "Senate Democrats are advancing legislation to beef up equal pay protections for women, the latest salvo in the election-year battle for women voters. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is set to file cloture Thursday on the Paycheck Protection Act, which would strengthen protections for women who sue for pay discrimination. The move puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position...."

New York Times: "At a summit meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, regional leaders failed to signal any significant new steps to stimulate the sputtering regional economy or resolve the competing agendas of President François Hollande of France, who favors stronger action to spur growth, and his German counterpart, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has opposed aggressive moves to ease the pressure on Europe's weakest economies." The Guardian is liveblogging the summit. Their latest headline: new data show the current (2nd dip) U.K. recession is worse than predicted.

New York Times: "A brother of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng ... has himself slipped through the security cordon around his village and made his way to the capital.... The brother, Chen Guangfu, said he came to Beijing to advocate on behalf of his son, who has been in police custody since fighting off a group of plainclothes officers who broke into the family home last month in their search for the escaped dissident."

AFP: "Egyptians swarmed polling stations< on the second day Thursday of a gripping presidential election in which candidates are pitting stability against the ideals of the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's rule."

ABC News: "During her keynote speech at the Special Operations Command gala dinner in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that State Department specialists attacked sites tied to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that were trying to recruit new members by 'bragging about killing Americans.'"

AFP: "Iran's navy said Thursday it saved an American-flagged cargo ship that was being attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Oman. An Iranian warship responded to a distress signal from the US-flagged Maersk Texas, a cargo ship of 150 metres (500 feet) and 14,000 tonnes, which was besieged by 'several pirate boats,' the navy said in a statement reported by the official IRNA news agency.... It was the first time the Iranian navy protected a US ship from pirates."