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Bible lesson

The classic West Wing segment:

Your librul media

Puzzling? No, not really. Washington “journalists” are more interested in maintaining their own commercial viability, and that requires the ability to maintain cognitive dissonance. I can’t believe they’re so shocked! Greg Sargent:

Last month, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein published an Op edand a book making the extremely controversial argument that both parties aren’t equally to blame for what ails Washington. They argued that the GOP — by allowing extremists to roam free and by wielding the filibuster to achieve government dysfunction as a political end in itself — were demonstrably more culpable for creating what is approaching a crisis of governance.

It turns out neither man has been invited on to the Sunday shows even once to discuss this thesis. As Bob Somerby and Kevin Drum note, these are among the most quoted people in Washington — yet suddenly this latest topic is too hot for the talkers, or not deemed relevant at all.

I ran this thesis by Ornstein himself, and he confirmed that the book’s publicity people had tried to get the authors booked on the Sunday shows, with no success.

“Not a single one of the Sunday shows has indicated an interest, and I do find it curious,” Ornstein told me, adding that the Op ed had well over 200,000 Facebook recommends and has been viral for weeks. “This is a level of attention for a book that we haven’t received before. You would think it would attract some attention from the Sunday shows.’

Ornstein also noted another interesting point. Their thesis takes on the media for falling into a false equivalence mindset and maintaining the pretense that both sides are equally to blame. Yet despite the frequent self-obsession of the media, even that angle has failed to generate any interest. What’s more, some reporters have privately indicated their frustration with their editorial overlords’ apparent deafness to this idea.

“The piece focused on press culpability — it would be hard to find a more sensitive issue for the media than the question of whether they’re doing their job,” Ornstein said. “We got tons of emails from some of the biggest reporters in the business, saying, `We’ve raised this in the newsroom, and editors just brush it aside.’”


Rich Eskow interviews Krugman about his new book, and more:

Of course

Boehner wants another debt-ceiling showdown. Ezra:

So of course Boehner will try and use the debt ceiling as leverage again. And again. And again. It’s pretty clear that, at this point, there’s no going back to the time when debt-ceiling increases came smoothly. If I were the market, I’d take the fact that the leader of one of the two parties has publicly said that he “welcomes” debt-ceiling showdowns as evidence that the United States is almost certain to default on its debt — if only temporarily — within the next decade or so.

The question is what, aside from complain, Democrats and the business community will do to stop him. Somehow, the debt ceiling needs to be taken off the table once and for all, either because Republicans forced a default in a way that they were blamed for the consequences and scared into never doing it again or because the president successfully pulled off one of the more creative maneuvers suggested during last year’s showdown (Bill Clinton, for instance, argued that Obama should invoke the Fourteenth Amendment — which says “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned” — to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally).

Random acts of kindness

Internet, sometimes I really love you:

Scott Widak and his family recently received the greatest gift anyone in their situation could receive — a viral act of encouragement and kindness from complete strangers.

Widak, 47, has Down syndrome and is terminally ill with liver disease. After frequently checking in and out of the hospital, Widak is now at home with his 85-year-old mother, who’s helping with his in-home hospice care.

To cope with such a challenging situation, Widak’s nephew, Sean O’Connor, turned to the Reddit community to see if anyone would be interested in sending a letter to his uncle.

“One of my uncle’s favorite things to do is open mail, and I thought that if he got a lot of mail it would cheer him up,” says O’Connor.

Within three hours, the post received more than 1,300 comments, most of which expressed interest in sending mail. O’Connor then included a link to a news article about Widak and his art, along with two photos of him and his mother, a P.O. box address and a few things he’s interested in, like Johnny Cash.

Due to the amount of personal information, Reddit removed the post four hours later — which was apparently enough time for most of the commenters to copy the address.

Following the post, Widak received hundreds of letters from all over the world, including the United States, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and Mexico. According to O’Connor, there is still mail coming in.

In addition to beautifully written letters, Reddit users have sent custom artwork, art supplies, DVDs and personal keepsakes that they wanted to pass on to Widak.

Sony Music Entertainment sent him 15 CDs/DVDs, which were mostly by Johnny Cash.

“The mail that’s arrived has all been extremely positive and thoughtful,” says O’Connor. “My family and I are amazed at how so many strangers could come together for a random act of kindness.”

Blaming you

A bunch of rich white guys held a fiscal summit and guess who they blamed? Rich Eskow:

Today a bunch of rich white guys held a “Fiscal Summit” and agreed that:

1. Despite the fact that unemployment is causing untold suffering for millions of people, it’s not very important.

2. Despite the fact that wage stagnation is destroying the middle class, that’s not important either.

3. Despite the fact that we need the social safety net more than ever after what they’ve done to the economy, it’s expendable.

4. Despite the fact that our government can borrow money at record low rates and use it to put people to work, thereby ending the recession and jumpstarting the economy, that option’s not even worth discussing.

5. Despite the fact that these men all possess great power, wealth, and/or influence, everything that’s wrong with the economy is your fault.

6. Since it’s all your fault, you better get ready to pay up.
Oh, and one other thing:

7. They’re all very smart and very brave. It’s too bad the rest of you people are such jerks.

Any questions? Let’s hope not, because they’re all busy men and it’s great golfing weather this week in DC.
(Sure it’s hot, but the weather calls for refreshing bouts of rain.Those are the perfect moments for cooling off under a rain-soaked cabana or golf cart umbrella. Precious moments, meant for breathing in the smell of wet grass as waiters marinated in Maryland raindrops refresh your gin and tonic. Mr. President? Mr. Speaker? Last one to the clubhouse is a rotten egg!)

The Summiteers convened in a nation wracked by unemployment and filled with crumbling schools and bridges. There they concluded that our most urgent problem is … government deficits. That’s like preaching about water conservation when your house in on fire.


Now this is one of the most interesting strategies I’ve seen in a long time, and it makes perfect sense. After all, the filibuster is nothing but an informal arrangement, not something codified into law. This would make for a more representative body – and no, I don’t care that it would still apply if the Republicans take control of the Senate:

The nonpartisan nonprofit Common Cause sued the U.S. Senate on Monday, challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rules that require routine 60-vote thresholds for bills and nominations that often have majority support.

Several House Democrats and three undocumented students who would be aided by the so-called DREAM Act also joined the suit.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes at a time of increased partisan gridlock in the Senate and amid complaints the filibuster is being abused by minority Republicans.

From 1981 to 2006, both parties used the filibuster when they were in the minority. During that period, the majority party in each Congress filed fewer than 90 cloture motions to overcome a filibuster by the minority.

But since Democrats seized power in fall 2006, Republicans have turned to the filibuster far more frequently. The majority has averaged about 140 cloture motions in both the 110th and 111th Congress. And Democrats are on
pace to repeat that feat again this Congress.

In early 2011, an effort by junior Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to water down the filibuster failed in the face of opposition from more senior lawmakers. Part of the reason it’s been so difficult to overhaul the filibuster is because it requires two-thirds of senators – or 67 votes – to make any changes to Senate rules.

“They are putting the Senate in a straitjacket,” said Stephen Spaulding, staff counsel for Common Cause. “They cannot adopt their own rules, and that’s an issue we think the courts should settle.”


Or reelection Kabuki?

The Justice Department has initiated a criminal probe into the $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase, a law enforcement representative familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

The inquiry is at a very early stage, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is private.

Many details about the loss at JPMorgan are murky, so it is unclear what laws, if any, may have been violated. But the attention from federal officials indicates that regulatory pressure is rising on JPMorgan, and its chief executive Jamie Dimon, to explain what exactly led to the bank’s multi-billion dollar misstep. That, in turn, has rekindled questions about whether government regulators are equipped to monitor banks making risky, complex trades.

While the Republican Congressional caucus seems to have figured out that being perceived as anti-gay is a loser for them, the extremists with which the Republicans have filled the ranks of their state houses continue to act like the anti-gay bigots they are. Consider this vote against an openly-gay prosecutor in the wacky state of Virginia:

Virginia’s Republican-controlled House rejected the judicial nomination of a gay Richmond prosecutor early Tuesday morning, plunging the critical swing state into the middle of the national debate about the civil rights of gay Americans.

The prosecutor, Tracy Thorne-Begland, a former fighter pilot and Navy officer, failed to garner the majority of the 100-member House of Delegates that was required to secure the judgeship. Lawmakers in the House of Delegates voted 33 to 31 to support him, with 10 abstentions.

The vote, which took place after 1 a.m., after a number of delegates had already gone home, took lawmakers by surprise. Mr. Thorne-Begland’s candidacy had broad bipartisan support from the Courts of Justice Committee, which is charged with vetting judicial appointments, and many lawmakers assumed his appointment would be approved. Indeed, seven Republicans voted in favor of his candidacy.

But Mr. Thorne-Begland, 45, ultimately failed to draw the votes after lobbying from both the Family Foundation, a powerful conservative group that opposed his candidacy, and conservative lawmakers, who argued that his past indicated that he would press an activist agenda from the bench.

The rejection comes as the country is in the midst of a roiling debate over same-sex marriage that has placed the civil rights of gays and lesbians in the national spotlight. Last week, President Obama said he supported same-sex couples’ right to marry, a position that set off a frenzy of political soul-searching as Republicans and Democrats staked out their own positions. States, meanwhile, have been passing legislation banning same-sex marriage, most recently North Carolina last week. Others, including New York and Maryland, have passed laws legalizing it.

Mr. Thorne-Begland disclosed his sexual orientation as a naval officer nearly 20 years ago during an appearance on ABC’s “Nightline,” in a challenge to the military’s ban on service by homosexuals. He was discharged honorably from the Navy after the disclosure, reinstated by a federal court, and then discharged again under the subsequent “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He also served on the board of Equality Virginia, a gay rights nonprofit group.

“The only conclusions I can come to is that he was not supported because he was gay,” said Delegate Charniele Herring, a Democrat who voted for him.

But conservatives, including Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican from Prince William County, argued that those aspects of his biography meant that he would not be able to be impartial, and might even engage in activism, if he became a judge. Mr. Marshall, together with several fellow Republicans from his county, a number of them former military men, led the charge against Mr. Thorne-Begland on Tuesday morning.

Would not be able to be “impartial,” and might even engage in “activism.” If only he were active in the Federalist Society, or his partner was a lobbyist for the Tea Party, no one would say a peep. (You know, like Tony Scalia, Clarence Thomas or Sam Alito?) I just can’t remember any prominent Republicans expressing any concern about impartiality, or judicial activism from this gang but since we’re now in Bizarro World, it’s very possible that I blinked, and missed it.

What becomes of the brokenhearted

Jimmy Ruffin:

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