Lazy Caturday Reads


The Favourite Chair, by Leon Charles Huber

Happy Caturday!!

Yesterday I told Dakinikat that I wished I had a feel good story for today’s post. I was asleep when she called last night and left a message about a New York Times article that was discussed on Stephanie Ruhl’s MSNBC show. It was about Ukrainian mothers who traveled thousands of miles to recover their children who had been kidnapped and taken to Russian-controlled territory. Of course it’s a heartbreaking story, but it’s also a heartwarming story of the power of a mother’s love. It also includes powerful photos of the women and their children. I hope you’ll go read it. Here’s just a bit of it.

The Russians Took Their Children. These Mothers Went and Got Them Back, bCarlotta Gall and 

For weeks after Russian troops forcibly removed Natalya Zhornyk’s teenage son from his school last fall, she had no idea where he was or what had happened to him.

Then came a phone call.

“Mom, come and get me,” said her son, Artem, 15. He had remembered his mother’s phone number and borrowed the school director’s cellphone.

Ms. Zhornyk made him a promise: “When the fighting calms down, I will come.”

Artem and a dozen schoolmates had been loaded up by Russian troops and transferred to a school farther inside Russian-occupied Ukraine.

While Ms. Zhornyk was relieved to know where he was being held, reaching him would not be easy. They were now on different sides of the front line of a full-blown war, and border crossings from Ukraine into Russian-occupied territory were closed.

But months later, when a neighbor brought back one of her son’s schoolmates, she learned about a charity that was helping mothers bring their children home.

Since it is illegal for men of military age to leave Ukraine now, in March Ms. Zhornyk and a group of women assisted by Save Ukraine completed a nerve-wracking, 3,000-mile journey through Poland, Belarus and Russia to gain entry to Russian-occupied territory in eastern Ukraine and Crimea to retrieve Artem and 15 other children.

Then they had to take another circuitous journey back. “Come on, come on,” urged Ms. Zhornyk, as a cluster of children, laden with bags and suitcases, emerged hesitantly through the barriers at a border crossing from Belarus into Ukraine. She had crossed with her son just hours earlier and pushed forward impatiently to embrace the next group.

“There are no words for all the emotions,” Ms. Zhornyk, 31, said, describing her reunion with Artem. “I was full of emotion, and nervous, nervous.”


Cat on a chair, by Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

There are more details about what happened to the children in the article. Some background:

In the 13 months since the invasion, thousands of Ukrainian children have been displaced, moved or forcibly transferred to camps or institutions in Russia or Russian-controlled territory, in what Ukraine and rights advocates have condemned as war crimes.

The fate of those children has become a desperate tug of war between Ukraine and Russia, and formed the basis of an arrest warrant issued last month by the International Criminal Court accusing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Maria Lvova-Belova, his commissioner for children’s rights, of illegally transferring them.

Once under Russian control, the children are subject to re-education, fostering and adoption by Russian families — practices that have touched a particular nerve even amid the carnage that has killed and displaced so many Ukrainians….

No one knows the full number of Ukrainian children who have been transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has identified more than 19,000 children that it says have been forcibly transferred or deported, but those working on the issue say the real number is closer to 150,000.

Again, there is much more at the NYT link.

I hope you’ll forgive me for highlighting a local Boston story today. This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The marathon will take place on Monday. Although only three people were killed in the explosions, there were hundreds of horrific injuries–limbs blown off, terrible burns, traumatic brain injuries.

From Mark the 10-year anniversary of the Marathon bombings in Boston One Boston Day is Saturday, April 15.

It has been 10 years since the Boston Marathon bombings killed three people and injured hundreds more during the 2013 Boston Marathon, and the city is hosting several events in remembrance of the day.

The city of Boston and the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) will host remembrance events on Saturday, April 15 — One Boston Day. The events will honor the victims, survivors, and first responders of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

The city will host an early-morning private gathering and wreath laying at the memorial sites for the families who lost loved ones. Honor guards — including the Boston Fire Department, Boston Police Department, Boston Emergency Medical Services, and Suffolk County Sheriff Department — will be present at the memorial sites throughout the day.

At 8 a.m.,the BAA 5K, featuring 10,000 participants, will begin and end in Boston Common. After the B.A.A. 5K race, the city will open Boylston Street between Dartmouth and Fairfield streets so that members of the public can visit the sites.

At 2:30 p.m., the public is invited to a dedication of a new commemorative Boston Marathon finish line, the ringing of bells, and the unveiling of a One Boston Day marker on Boylston Street along with Gov. Maura Healey, Mayor Michelle Wu, B.A.A. leadership, members of the One Fund community, members of the 2013 Red Sox team, first responders, hospital leaders, and local running groups.

“Every year we come together on One Boston Day to remember the courage, strength, and resilience shown by our city’s people in 2013,” Wu said in a statement. “As we mark 10 years, we will gather together in community on April 15 to remember the lives that were lost, the many injured, and the spirit of humanity displayed that day. As we honor those forever impacted, people in all corners of our City will be giving back in a number of ways, and I encourage everyone to get involved.”

There will also be many local and neighborhood events; and of course, the Red Sox will mark the day at their traditional Marathon Day game and will be wearing their bright yellow home uniforms.

The Red Sox will mark the 10 year milestone by partnering with JetBlue to distribute more than 40,000 blue and yellow Red Sox City Connect hats to students and staff at Boston Public Schools on Friday, April 14. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez will assist with the distribution. The team will then wear blue and yellow City Connect jerseys during Friday night’s game in Fenway Park agains the Angels.

Chen Pei Yi

Painting by Chen Pei Yi

As previously mentioned, the 2013 Red Sox team will join city and state officials and first responders on Saturday, April 15 for the ringing of the bells and the unveiling of the One Boston Day marker. At Saturday’s game, there will be a pre-game ceremony commemorating One Boston Day and the 76th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Fans should be in their seats by 3:30 p.m.

On Sunday, April 16, a reunion of members of the 2013 Red Sox World Series Championship team will take place during pregame ceremonies. Fans should be in their seats by 1 p.m.

On Patriots Day, Monday, April 17, Hall of Famer David Ortiz will serve as the Grand Marshal for the 127th Boston Marathon. Players will wear home jerseys that say “Boston” on the front, as they did for the first time during the Marathon tribute at Fenway Park on April 20, 2013. Fans are asked to be in their seats by 10:45 a.m. for the ceremony. All fans will receive a Boston Strong t-shirt.

The FBI is also marking the anniversary. From FBI News: Marathon Bombing Anniversary. FBI Boston marks 10-year-anniversary by honoring victims, recalling responders’ heroic efforts.

Leading up to the 10-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon—and the ensuing manhunt and investigation that was the FBI’s largest terrorism case since 9/11—the special agent in charge of FBI Boston asked his entire office to pause and reflect on the crucible of that massive investigation as they prepared for this year’s 127th running.

Leading up to the 10-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon—and the ensuing manhunt and investigation that was the FBI’s largest terrorism case since 9/11—the special agent in charge of FBI Boston asked his entire office to pause and reflect on the crucible of that massive investigation as they prepared for this year’s 127th running.

Three people were killed on April 15, 2013, when two pressure-cooker bombs detonated 11 seconds apart on Boylston Street near the finish line of the iconic 26-mile race. More than 500 people were physically injured, including 17 who suffered amputations. The bombers also took the life of Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police officer who was executed while on patrol.

Large images of the victims were arrayed in a conference room last month at the Boston Field Office, along with a whiteboard agents used to sketch out their plans and the wanted posters that helped identify the suspects, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. A moment of silence preceded the remembrance ceremony….

…[H]e also wanted to enlighten the office’s large cadre of young agents, analysts, and professionals—many not around 10 years ago—who may not fully appreciate the all-hands-on-deck response required in major cases like this.

“Internally, I wanted to give my personnel a real good idea, with some granularity, about what it means when a critical incident occurs,” he said, “what is expected of all of us to step up, and how we work toward a common goal.”

The article reviews the positive steps that made the investigation a model for the future.

Two survivors stories:

CBS News: Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott reflects on 10 year anniversary, with focus on foundation’s future.

Ten years after the explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line that forced doctors to amputate part of Heather Abbott’s leg, she says the biggest change in her life is her work with the foundation she built to help other amputees. “If someone had told me that I would be doing this ten years ago, I never would have believed them,” Abbott said. “But it’s been an unexpected blessing, I think, for me.”


Cat sleeping on a chair, by George Atsametakis

The creation of the Heather Abbott Foundation is also a blessing for its beneficiaries. The foundation helps amputees pay for prosthetics that insurance won’t cover-which includes almost anything beyond the most basic option. Running blades, swim legs, high heels-these are all vital to helping people live full lives. But insurance companies don’t consider them “medically necessary.” (Prosthetics typically have to be replaced every three to five years.)

Heather delights in sharing the news with beneficiaries that they have been chosen to receive a special prosthesis. “Not only is it incredibly rewarding to hear somebody on the other end of the phone when you tell them that you’re going to give them this prosthetic device,” Abbott said. “But then to hear about the things they’re able to do with it and how it’s changed their life provides me a huge sense of joy.”

People Magazine: Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor Will Race on the 10th Anniversary: ‘I’m Ready to Move On’ (Exclusive).

Marc Fucarile was supporting a friend at the 2013 Boston Marathon when the second bomb went off and instantly amputated his right leg. Now, ten years later, he’ll return to the marathon to thank the city and the people who have supported him.

“You never want to be on the receiving end of generosity because that means something bad happened, but it’s emotional knowing that complete strangers care about you,” Fucarile tells PEOPLE.

Before the 2013 tragedy, Fucarile was an athlete. “I played football, track, and hockey, and it was my first time at a marathon in 35 years,” he says. “The second bomb was right next to me.”

The bomb blew out Fucarile’s ear drums, burned the majority of his lower body, and forced him to undergo years of surgeries. “I did the remainder of 2013 in and out of hospitals with smaller, different surgeries, monitoring scrap metal that lodged in my heart, that took a ride up to the artery and lodged in my right atrium area.”

Fucarile has “skin grafts all over” the lower half of his body and in his hands from “taking off my belt when I was still on fire,” he explains.

Because he sustained a traumatic brain injury, Fucarile says his tolerance for noise and stimulating environments is low, which has affected his relationship with his 15-year-old son….

On the tenth anniversary, he’ll be riding in honor of the community that supported him through the 2013 tragedy. “I’m riding to show my thanks for all the support we received as survivors of such a horrific event,” he says. “The community outpour of support was amazing.”

When he participates in the marathon on Monday, Fucarile says he’ll be representing more than just his own resilience. “I’m riding in the hand cycle to show people, and to show my son, that you can really accomplish anything you put your mind to,” he explains.

A handcyle is a kind of tricycle that is powered by hands rather than your feet.


In politics news, Clarence Thomas has finally been caught breaking an actual law–as opposed to ethics rules, which he has completely ignored–when he sold property to Harlan Crow and failed to report the transaction. He needs to be called to account and forced off the Supreme Court.

Citizens for CREW files civil and criminal co,mplaint against Clarence Thomas.

The Department of Justice and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from and property sales to billionaire donor Harlan Crow, according to a complaint sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the Department of Justice and Chief Justice John Roberts.

According to reporting by ProPublica, Thomas and his wife have accepted luxury travel and vacations for 20 years from “real estate magnate and Republican megadonor” Crow, who befriended Thomas after he joined the Supreme Court, without disclosing them as gifts or travel reimbursements on his financial disclosures filed under the Ethics in Government Act. Thomas also reportedly sold his and other family members’ properties to Crow in 2014 for more than $100,000 without reporting the sales on his financial disclosure reports.

“Justice Thomas’s acceptance of and failure to disclose these repeated, lavish gifts and shocking real estate sales not only undermines public trust in his ability to serve impartially on the Court, it undermines confidence in the Supreme Court as an institution,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said.

Under the Ethics in Government Act, Thomas is required to disclose travel and other gifts, with the source and a brief description, including the value. The Guide to Judiciary Policy for Financial Disclosure in effect at the time the trips were taken makes it clear that these trips were covered by the reporting requirements. While Thomas claims a hospitality exemption, that exemption would not apply to a private plane or yacht. Under the EIGA and Guide to Judiciary Policy for Financial Transaction, Thomas was required to report the sale of the properties to Crow and could not claim a personal residence exemption on disclosing them, as they were always referred to as rental properties on his disclosures and never lost their investment nature even when the houses on two of the properties were later torn down.

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern: Quid Pro Crow. Clarence Thomas’ position toward disclosure is actually clarified by his jurisprudence.

When news broke last week, by way of dogged reporting in ProPublica, that Justice Clarence Thomas had accepted decades’ worth of hospitality from billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow, that this same donor had funded his wife’s legal and political activities and in fact helped pay her salary, and that Thomas had disclosed none of this, our suggestion that the justice had clearly broken the law was dismissed as left-wing “smear.” ProPublica’s new reporting, dropped on Thursday, showed that the same billionaire donor, Harlan Crow, spent $133,363 purchasing several properties co-owned by Thomas, and that these sales were never disclosed. As our colleagues at Slate confirmed this week, Thomas’ mother actually still lives in the property owned by Crow, to which he has made valuable improvements (in addition to buying the house next door and dispensing with previously troublesome neighbors). Unlike the rules around the undisclosed luxury travel reported last week, ProPublica could not find a single ethics expert willing to squint and hop on one foot in a way that would make the failure to report the real estate transaction seem arguably lawful. The court has not responded in any way to the latest revelations. Defenders of Justice Thomas somehow continue to urge that this is a smear campaign by liberals.

Suzanne Valadon

Painting by Suzanne Valadon

In a way, the fact that money went from Harlan Crow’s pocket to Thomas’ mom’s house seems less horrifying than last week’s superyachts and half-million-dollar luxury air travel. Who among us wouldn’t want a billionaire to evict the noisy neighbors who were keeping our mothers up late? But it helps to parse out what mattered about both Thomas stories and what is mostly a distraction. That Thomas is a “hypocrite” for claiming to like parking outside Walmarts to commune with real people while secretly indulging his taste for luxe global travel? Doesn’t really matter. Harlan Crow’s penchant for cunningly little embroidered Nazi table linens? Weird, surely, but materially inconsequential….

What mattered last week and what still matters this week is whether the Crow/Thomas dealings can be seen as classic quid pro quo (or perhaps quid pro Crow)corruption. We too often think this can only happen in a scene in which cartoon ducks with big sacks of cash pay politicians to do their bidding, which is never how this actually happens. And the longstanding defense to those claims is that Justice Thomas is too independent a thinker and jurist to be influenced by gifts of bibles and vacations and rent-free housing. But what this new reporting shows—and what actually matters—is that Crow and those like him, who have poured billions of dollars into funding cases before the court, campaigns to seat certain justices on the court, and crusades to keep other justices off the court, turn out to just own the whole building. In tandem with the Leonard Leos and Mark Paolettas who have been rendered in art for all eternity, the Harlan Crows are the actual landlords of the houses where the six conservative justices seemingly get to live rent-free.

f you’re defending Thomas’ unlawful refusal to disclose these transactions by saying he’s too famous/powerful/important/busy/put-upon to disclose these transactions, you are missing the point. Disclosure laws aren’t tawdry “gotcha” traps that form the basis of smear campaigns. Disclosure rules are the only means of transparency in a world of increasingly broken democratic systems. Citizens United and its dismantling of campaign finance reform? Justified on the grounds that disclosure rules suffice to ferret out corruption. We don’t demand that public figures deal honestly with the public because we are mean; we do it because law and democracy rise and fall on knowing who paid who for what.

At The New Republic, Michael Tomasky wrote this piece after the first revelations and before we learned about the real estate transactions: The Democrats Need to Destroy Clarence Thomas’s Reputation.

ProPublica’s report last week is jaw-dropping. In the end it shows this: Thomas used to report his gifts from right-wing billionaire Harlan Crow. Then they became a little controversial. So what did Thomas do? Stop accepting the gifts? That’s what you or I would do, or at least make them far less frequent and ostentatious. But Thomas doesn’t think like you or I do. He thinks: How I can twist the dagger into the liberal establishment’s flesh even further? So rather than stop accepting the gifts, he just decided to stop reporting them. Which ProPublica says is against the law.

Can he be impeached? Not now, with the GOP in control of the House. If that changes, sure, they can try, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others have suggested. Of course, he would be acquitted in the Senate, where two-thirds are required to convict (indeed, Samuel Chase survived).

But that’s no reason for Democrats not to do it. In fact, as I suspect AOC understands, the way partisanship works today in this country, that’s precisely an excellent reason to do it: Have a long hearing that lays bare every instance of his and his wife’s corrupt activities in a high-profile venue that Americans will watch; make the case to swing-voting Americans that he is dishonoring the court’s name and reputation; drive his approval ratings into the toilet (in a 2022 YouGov poll, Thomas already had the highest “very unfavorable” rating of the nine justices, at 32 percent); and force the Republican senators to vote to keep this clearly undeserving, mediocre, arrogant, unscrupulous hornswoggler on the court.

Make him a political issue (not in time for 2024, alas, but in general). Destroy his reputation. If nothing else, ensure that he goes down in history the way he deserves, as one of the most unqualified Supreme Court justices ever, who has gone on to leave as light an intellectual footprint as someone serving three-plus decades could leave. Make him—and his wife, Ginni, who is also completely without scruples in the way she, as the spouse of a Supreme Court justice, entangles herself in our public life—a metaphor for every insidious thing the far-right wing has done to this country.

Vanessa Stockard

Painting by Vanessa Stockard

It’s really up to the Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin to start the process of investigating Thomas, but does Durbin have the guts to do what needs to be done? I don’t think so. He needs to be forced into it by public outrage. I got a newsletter about this from Tomasky in my email today. I can’t find it online, but here’s some of it:

Earlier this week, I wrote in response to ProPublica’s first report that the Democrats need to destroy Thomas’s reputation by holding hearings on his dealings, which of course is something they’ve never done. “Have a long hearing that lays bare every instance of his and his wife’s corrupt activities in a high-profile venue that Americans will watch,” I wrote. “Make the case to swing-voting Americans that he is dishonoring the court’s name and reputation; drive his approval ratings into the toilet (in a 2022 YouGov poll, Thomas already had the highest ‘very unfavorable’ rating of the nine justices, at 32 percent); and force the Republican senators to vote to keep this clearly undeserving, mediocre, arrogant, unscrupulous hornswoggler on the court.”

Now the case for action is even clearer. But action by whom? There’s only one serious contender: the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s controlled by the Democrats, and they can do whatever they are prepared to do. But what exactly is that?

Last Monday, after the first ProPublica report, committee Chairman Dick Durbin vowed that the committee “will act.” He did not elaborate on that. Later, he urged Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate Thomas. Then I saw on cable news Thursday night (I can’t find anything online Friday morning) that he called on Merrick Garland to do something.

Mr. Chairman: Stop tossing the football around. You have a gavel, and you have subpoena power. Subpoena Clarence Thomas. Next week.

What? Horrors! Subpoena a Supreme Court justice? Can that even be done?

Yes it can, but only if the Democrats have the guts to do it.

The other big story today is about 21-year-old leaker of top secret documents, Jack Teixeira. Here are the latest stories:

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Teixeira’s case is unusual even in the small world of leak cases.

It is hard to predict how the case against Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified documents to friends on a gaming server, will play out — both because the matter is still very preliminary and because the facts are so unusual that there is limited value in comparing it to the general pattern of leak cases.

Steve Hanks

By Steve Hanks

Based on the charging documents in his case, Airman Teixeira does not appear to have been acting as a foreign agent, differentiating him from classic spying cases. He also does not appear to have been acting as a whistle-blower or otherwise trying to educate the general public by sharing secrets with the news media for publication, making his case different from another sort that has become more common in the 21st century.

He also does not fit a third category of past cases of mishandling classified information: the hoarder. Prosecutors have charged people who are neither spying nor trying to enlighten the public for taking files home and keeping them. But because Airman Teixeira is accused of transmitting large numbers of files to other people who were not authorized to see them, his case is more serious.

These differences show how past cases may be poor guides for how this will play out.

Defendants also have an incentive to make a deal so they can ensure a shorter sentence than the threat they are facing under the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the unauthorized retention and disclosure of national-security secrets. It carries a sentence of up to 10 years per count, and each leaked document could be its own count. Plea deals in leak-related cases have typically resulted in a few years of prison.

But prosecutors may be less willing to offer a relatively attractive prison sentence in a case as serious as Airman Teixeira’s, which involved hundreds of classified documents that revealed sensitive matters, like how extensively the United States has penetrated Russian military communications.

Read more at the NYT and in these articles:

The Washington Post: Leak raises fresh questions about Pentagon’s internal security.

BBC News: Jack Teixeira’s charges in full: ‘Top secret’ access, leak searches and the Espionage Act.

The Wall Street Journal: Airman, Arrested for Leaks, Chatted in Groups Fascinated by Weapons and War.

That’s it for me. I hope you find something here to interest you. Have a great weekend!!

Thursday Reads

Good Morning! It has been dark and dreary here for weeks it seems. I know the sun has come out a few times, but most of the time it has been either raining or about to rain. I think I’m beginning to suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Or maybe it’s just watching the 2012 presidential campaign. Either way, we’re talking dark and depressing.

On Tuesday Newt Gingrich told Larry Kudlow (yeah, I know) of CNBC that Obama is the “food stamp president,” and he (Gingrich) will be running against him as the “candidate of paychecks.”

“We are going to have the candidate of food stamps, the finest food stamp president in the American history in Barack Obama and we are going to have a candidate of paychecks.”

The former House Speaker went on to say Obama represents a hard-left radicalism. He, on the other hand, wants big tax cuts and big cuts in the federal government.

LOL! Obama is the furthest thing from a radical, and I doubt if he gives a damn about food stamps. I don’t know how Gingrich gets away with this stuff. Oh yeah, the media sucks. He spewed more lies too:

Gingrich also reiterated his claim that he is not a lobbyist. While he’s been steadily rising in the polls, he’s also been under scrutiny for his consulting work with mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

“I do no lobbying; I’ve never done any lobbying. It’s written in our contracts that we do not do any lobbying of any kind. I offer strategic advice,” he said. “The advice I offered Freddie Mac was, in fact, aimed at how do you help people get into housing.”

Gingrich also referred to himself in the third person in talking about the sad ending of his career as Speaker of the House.

“The job of the Democrats was to get Newt Gingrich. They couldn’t beat any of our ideas so they decided to try to beat the messenger,” he said. “I think it actually will help people understand what happened in that period and how much of it was partisan.”

Poor Newt. He’s filthy rich, but he can’t stop obsessing about the paltry help poor and unemployed people get from food stamps. Last week he claimed that food stamp use has increased dramatically under Obama and that recipients use their food stamp money to take vacations in Hawaii. According to Politifact as reported in USA Today:

PolitiFact, a fact-checking project of the Tampa Bay Times, noted in May that Bush made “more aggressive efforts to get eligible Americans to apply for benefits,” and new rules took effect to broaden eligibility for the assistance. At the time, PolitiFact said:

Gingrich oversimplifies when he suggests that Obama should be considered “the most successful food stamp president in American history,” because much — though probably not all — of the reason for the increase was a combination of the economic problems Obama inherited and a longstanding upward trend from policy changes. On balance, we rate Gingrich’s statement Half True.

As for Gingrich’s claim that food stamps can be used to go to Hawaii, the federal government has clear rules about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP). Basically, you can buy groceries or the seeds and plants from which you can grow your own food.

Right now Gingrich is the clear front runner for the Republican nomination. According to a new CNN poll, he has double-digit leads in three of the first four primaries, Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. And he is catching up with Romney in New Hampshire. According to the poll, much of Gingrich’s support is coming from tea party types.

I wonder if these folks realize that when back in the day, when Newt was one of the most powerful people in DC, his fellow Conservatives worked hard to get rid of him? And some of them still don’t want him back in power.

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trumpets his leadership skills in his quest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, a different picture of his stewardship emerges from some GOP lawmakers who served with him during a failed 1997 coup attempt against the controversial speaker.

Twenty disgruntled Republicans in the House of Representatives squeezed into then-Rep. Lindsey Graham’s office in July 1997 and rebelliously vented about Gingrich. They were tired of his chaotic management style, worried that he was caving in to then-President Bill Clinton, and sick of constantly having to defend him publicly on questions about his ethics or his latest bombastic statement.

“Newt Gingrich was a disaster as speaker,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

As Gingrich seeks to gain the world’s most powerful office, it’s worth recalling that when he once held great power in Washington, his own conservative Republican lieutenants rebelled against his rule less than four years after he led them to House majority status for the first time in 40 years. And their disaffection evidently helped persuade him to step down as speaker the next year and leave office.

King, for one, still believes that Gingrich’s widely disparaged egotistical complaining about the poor treatment he perceived from then-President Clinton on an Air Force One flight in 1995 is why Republicans suffered blame for federal government shutdowns later that year.

“Everything was self-centered. There was a lack of intellectual discipline,” King said

Karl Rove has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal in which he blasts Gingrich’s pathetic campaign organization.

In the short run, Mr. Gingrich must temper runaway expectations. For example, his lead in the RealClearPolitics average in Iowa is 12 points. But what happens on Jan. 3 if he doesn’t win Iowa, or comes in first with a smaller margin than people expect?

That could happen in part because Mr. Gingrich has little or no campaign organization in Iowa and most other states. He didn’t file a complete slate of New Hampshire delegates and alternates. He is the only candidate who didn’t qualify for the Missouri primary, and on Wednesday he failed to present enough signatures to get on the ballot in Ohio. Redistricting squabbles may lead the legislature to move the primary to a later date and re-open filing, but it’s still embarrassing to be so poorly organized.

That’s because Gingrich had no expectation of doing this well. He just entered the race so he could sell his books and his wife’s films. But it turns out Gingrich will be on the ballot in Ohio after all. As for Missouri, Gingrich claims he didn’t want to be on the ballot there because the primary is non-binding.

In a press conference in New York City today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared that he never intended to qualify for the ballot in Missouri and that failing to meet the deadline was “a conscious decision, not an oversight.”

The primary is non-binding; it is followed a month later by caucuses where Missourians pick their convention delegates. But every other major candidate is participating in the primary, which gives the public an idea of where Show Me State voters stand.

“We have never participated in beauty contests,” Gingrich said when asked about his failure to qualify for the ballot. “We didnt participate in Ames [the Iowa straw poll], we didnt participate in P5 [a Florida straw poll].” ….

But failing to qualify for the ballot was widely seen as a sign of Gingrich’s lack of campaign organization.

Another sign is the papers he filed in New Hampshire. His papers were sloppily written in pen and he fell 13 short of the required 40 delegates.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think Romney should still win New Hampshire, but the question is how many Southern states he can carry. Of course I’d be enjoying watching the Republican primary mess a lot more if there were a liberal Democratic candidate to vote for.

Oh, Romney did come in first in one poll: the one that counted the number of jokes told about the Republican candidates on late night TV.

OK, I’ll let go of my obsession with Republican nomination campaign for now and give you some other things to read.

Last Friday, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters may have been the intended victim of a right wing James O’Keefe-type scam designed to make him look like hypocrite for writing in support of the Occupy movement.

It was the middle of the day on Friday, and Eric Boehlert heard a knock on the door. A senior fellow at Media Matters, a nonprofit watchdog that challenges conservative news outlets, Boehlert works from his Montclair, N.J., home.

A short, bearded man stood outside, holding a clipboard and wearing a Verizon uniform. He asked Boehlert if he’d be willing to take a customer survey. Verizon had, perhaps coincidentally, been at the house a week earlier to handle a downed wire. Boehlert quickly agreed and noted that a Verizon worker had actually failed to show up when he said he would.

But the interview questions got weird and then weirder. The man kept talking about Boehlert being rich and being able to work at home, Boehlert began to smell a ratf*ck.

“After he mentioned my salary and that I work from home, all the bells went off, and this is not who this guy says he is. Therefore, I kind of lost track of the exact wording of the question, but it definitely was like very accusatory of me and I’m a hypocrite and how do I have this supposedly cushy job while I’m writing about real workers and the people of the 99 percent,” said Boehlert.

“So there was this pause, and I said, ‘You work for Verizon?’ And he just sort of looks back at me and [says], ‘Will you answer the question? Will you answer the question?’ And I said, ‘Can I see your Verizon ID?’ And he wouldn’t produce any Verizon ID, and I think he asked me another time to answer the question. And basically I just said, ‘I’m done so you can leave now.'” ….

By now he [Boehlert] had realized that the man was likely pulling a political stunt, and James O’Keefe’s notorious “To Catch a Journalist” project came to mind as a possibility.

“The only sort of comical part was he forget which way he was supposed to run in case I started following. He ended up sort of in the road, and he sort of turned left and then right,” said Boehlert. “The last I saw him he was in a full sprint down my street running away from my house.”

In the Massachusetts Senate race, Elizabeth Warren is ahead of Scott Brown 49% to 42%, her biggest lead so far. But some people are *very concerned* because at a recent candidate’s event Warren was asked if she knew in which recent years the Red Sox had won the World Series, and she answered 2004 and 2008 instead of 2004 and 2007. Horrors! Paul Waldman has a very funny piece about it in The American Prospect.

In today’s election news, a candidate for the World’s Most Deliberative Body is facing an earth-shattering scandal because she said “2008” when she should have said “2007,” demonstrating to all that she is utterly incapable of representing the interests of ordinary people. As the normally even-tempered Taegan Goddard indignantly described it, “Elizabeth Warren (D) and the rest of the Democratic field for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts couldn’t answer a simple question about the Boston Red Sox at a forum yesterday. Apparently, they learned nothing from Martha Coakley’s (D) defeat two years ago…”

Here’s what Waldman had to say about this nonsense:

I don’t think anyone in Massachusetts could in good conscience vote for someone who is unable to identify both the state’s fourth-largest city and its third most commonly spoken language. I mean, what are we supposed to do, send someone to the Senate who doesn’t have a command of all master of state-related trivia? The answer is clearly to amend the Constitution so 12-year-old winners of the state geography bee can become senators.

Reporters, I beg you: If you’re going to discuss this “gaffe” and others like it, do your audience a service and explain why this is supposed to matter. And I don’t mean just by saying, “This reminds people of when Martha Coakley called Curt Schilling a Yankee fan, damaging her candidacy.” I mean explain specifically what exactly misremembering the Sox series victories as 2004 and 2008 instead of 2004 and 2007 tells us about the kind of senator Elizabeth Warren would be. Does it mean that despite all the other evidence to the contrary, she really doesn’t care about ordinary people and will upon taking office immediately introduce legislation to make the purchase of brandy snifters and riding crops tax-deductible? Then what?

Yesterday a got an e-mail from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) about an attempted Republican takeover of the Detroit city government. Bloomberg had a piece about it yesterday.

Detroit has the highest concentration of blacks among U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. It will exhaust its cash by April and may run up a deficit topping $200 million by June.

Last week, Governor Rick Snyder, a white Republican, ordered a review that may lead to appointment of an emergency manager, rekindling rancor in a city scarred by race riots in 1967. Detroit lost one-quarter of its population since 2000 — much of it to largely white suburbs.

Four Michigan cities are controlled by emergency managers. All have populations that are mostly black. If Detroit joins them, 49.7 percent of the state’s black residents would live under city governments in which they have little say.

Michigan’s emergency managers have sweeping authority to nullify union contracts, sell assets and fire workers. Snyder has said he doesn’t want one for Detroit, though he called the city’s financial condition severe enough to warrant help.

Michigan citizens are currently collecting signatures to put repeal of the law on the ballot in 2012.

A maintenance man Ryan Brunn, 20,has been charged with the brutal sexual assault and murder of 7-year-old Jorleys Rivera, who disappeared on Friday in Canton, GA.

Keenan said Brunn, who has no known criminal record, had keys to both the empty apartment and the trash compactor bin where Rivera’s body was placed.

“We are confident that Brunn is the killer and that is why he is in custody,” Keenan said, declining to detail what evidence investigators have against him….

Keenan said investigators focused on Brunn after receiving information from the public. Brunn had been under police surveillance since Tuesday night. Keenan said the investigation will continue for several months.

“This is a mammoth case,” Keenan told reporters at a news conference in Canton. “We believe that this horrendous crime was planned and calculated, and we’ve recovered a lot of evidence.”

At least he was caught quickly. But another innocent young child is gone.

Yesterday the Obama administration overruled the decision of the FDA to make Plan B available without a prescription to women of all ages.

Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services upheld their decision to dispense Plan B One-Step—a one-pill emergency contraceptive—to young women only with a doctor’s prescription, overruling an FDA request to make the drug available over the counter to women of all ages. The restriction only applies to women under the age of 17. In a statement on the HHS website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the administration’s reasoning: The FDA’s conclusion that the drug is safe, she says, did not contain sufficient data to show that people of all ages “can understand the label and use the product appropriately.” The outliers, she says, are the 10 percent of girls who are physically capable of child-bearing at 11.1 years old, and “have significant cognitive and behavioral differences.” HHS makes no mention of women older than 11 and younger than 17—statistically, those far more likely to be having sex, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services upheld their decision to dispense Plan B One-Step—a one-pill emergency contraceptive—to young women only with a doctor’s prescription, overruling an FDA request to make the drug available over the counter to women of all ages. The restriction only applies to women under the age of 17. In a statement on the HHS website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the administration’s reasoning: The FDA’s conclusion that the drug is safe, she says, did not contain sufficient data to show that people of all ages “can understand the label and use the product appropriately.” The outliers, she says, are the 10 percent of girls who are physically capable of child-bearing at 11.1 years old, and “have significant cognitive and behavioral differences.” HHS makes no mention of women older than 11 and younger than 17—statistically, those far more likely to be having sex, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

So if you’re under 17 and you’re raped, you’re going to have to figure out how to see a doctor and get a prescription. Isn’t that just ducky?

I’ll end with some better news for women. The FBI has decided to expand the definition of rape.

An October vote by the Advisory Policy Board’s UCR subcommittee recommended the board at-large change the definition of “rape” to “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Activists said the new definition was needed because the current one does not recognize that men can be raped, women can rape women, inanimate objects can be used to commit rape or that rapes can occur while the victim is unconscious.

Many local law enforcement agencies use a much broader definition of “rape” than the FBI, causing thousands of sex crimes to go unreported in federal statistics.

The FBI had been under pressure by the Feminist Majority Foundation, which launched an email drive urging the agency to update the definition.

Now let’s start doing more to protect women and children from rapists.

That’s all I’ve got. What are you reading and blogging about today?

Thursday Reads

Good Morning! So President Obama has set off another big battle in Washington by asking to give his highly touted jobs speech before a joint session of Congress next Wednesday–at the same time as the next Republican debate. For a guy who keeps harping on “bipartisanship,” you have to wonder why he did that. Maybe he’s trying to distract everyone from the fact that he has no new ideas about jobs? From Politico:

A presidential address to a joint session of Congress is usually one of Washington’s more dignified and predictable events — but President Barack Obama’s request to deliver a Sept. 7 speech quickly devolved into just another partisan pie fight.

Oval Office requests for a prime-time slot in the well of the House — whatever the motivation, topic or tenor of the times — are traditionally approved on a more or less pro forma basis. In fact, the official historian for the House of Representatives told reporters Wednesday that no such request has ever been publicly rejected.

But this is 2012 Washington, where the comforting little courtesies and old-shoe rituals that once kept bickering Democrats and Republicans from immobilizing the republic have been chucked in the constant quest for news-cycle leverage.

So Speaker Boehner told the President to move his speech to Thursday, and even on this, Obama caved. The speech will now be on Thursday. But why does the speech need to be given before a joint session of Congress anyway? Why does there even need to be a speech? Just DO something for Pete’s sake! All I can say is the White House gang had better come up with some startling ideas, or Obama is going to look incredibly lame. More talk about free trade agreements, patent reform, and extending the payroll tax holiday simply won’t cut it.

Chris Cilizza at the WaPo, discusses the likelihood that the WH scheduling was just a coincidence, as press secretary Jay Carney initially claimed.

when the White House announced today that President Obama would deliver his much-anticipated jobs speech on Sept. 7 at 8 pm— the exact same day and time that the 2012 Republican candidates are scheduled to debate in California — the idea that the timing was purely coincidental was, well, far-fetched.

Opinions varied on whether this was a good idea or not.

Some applauded the move as a sign of much-needed aggression from the White House “Whether intentional or not it sends a signal that the president and White House are coming out of their corner between rounds fists up, on their toes and ready to fight,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane.

But there were others within the party who worried that the White House’s scheduling gambit might backfire.

“It’s a bad idea [and] seems a little small,” said one Democratic consultant granted anonymity to speak candidly. “And it suggests perhaps his jobs plan wont be that appealing because now the coverage will be about the strategy and not the substance.”

Another senior Democratic operative suggested that scheduling the speech simultaneously with the GOP debate actually would muddy rather than clarify the contrast the White House is hoping for heading into 2012.

But none of this really matters now that Obama has caved to the Republicans, as usual; and now he has to compete with the opening of the NFL season.

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has released his economic plan, and it’s a doozy. He want to reduce the marginal tax rate to 23 percent, giving the richest Americans the lowest tax rate since the Hoover administration. And how does he propose to pay for this? Here’s how.

Huntsman says he will pay for this supply-side bonanza by eliminating all so-called “tax expenditures.”…. Huntsman either hasn’t thought through — or doesn’t want people to know — what eliminating all tax expenditures would actually mean. So let’s take a look at the official tax expenditure list and see what would happen if we got rid of all of them:

– All Social Security benefits would become taxable. Senior citizens that currently receive the average Social Security benefit as their primary income source (as is the case for most seniors) currently pay no income taxes on those benefits, but would under Huntsman’s plan.

– Many middle-class parents would lose child tax credits and tax benefits for education and child care that are more valuable to them than a tax rate cut.

– Huntsman’s tax plan would also eliminate the employer health insurance exclusion, which helps enable some 160 million Americans get coverage through their jobs.

– One of the most successful pro-work, anti-poverty initiatives, the Earned Income Tax Credit, would be abolished.

– Veterans pensions and disability benefits would become subject to tax, as would all military combat pay, military housing allowances and meals, workers compensation payments, public assistance benefits, and state foster care payments.

This is just a partial list of the harsh and/or bizarre consequences that would occur if all tax expenditures were eliminated to fund a huge giveaway to the very rich.

In line with this latest Republican proposal to screw the poor and the elderly, on Tuesday, the New York Times editorial page took note of “the new resentment of the poor.”

In a decade of frenzied tax-cutting for the rich, the Republican Party just happened to lower tax rates for the poor, as well. Now several of the party’s most prominent presidential candidates and lawmakers want to correct that oversight and raise taxes on the poor and the working class, while protecting the rich, of course.

These Republican leaders, who think nothing of widening tax loopholes for corporations and multimillion-dollar estates, are offended by the idea that people making less than $40,000 might benefit from the progressive tax code. They are infuriated by the earned income tax credit (the pride of Ronald Reagan), which has become the biggest and most effective antipoverty program by giving working families thousands of dollars a year in tax refunds. They scoff at continuing President Obama’s payroll tax cut, which is tilted toward low- and middle-income workers and expires in December.

Until fairly recently, Republicans, at least, have been fairly consistent in their position that tax cuts should benefit everyone. Though the Bush tax cuts were primarily for the rich, they did lower rates for almost all taxpayers, providing a veneer of egalitarianism. Then the recession pushed down incomes severely, many below the minimum income tax level, and the stimulus act lowered that level further with new tax cuts. The number of families not paying income tax has risen from about 30 percent before the recession to about half, and, suddenly, Republicans have a new tool to stoke class resentment.

Speaking of cold-hearted Republicans, you’ve probably heard about Eric Cantor’s demand that any Federal help given to those hit by Hurricane Irene must be offset by cuts in other areas. Unfortunately for Cantor, he was singing another tune in 2004 when his state, Virginia, needed help.

Not only that but suddenly one of the new Republican stars is in need of help and doesn’t want to worry about debt and deficits and cutting government. He wants help for his state right now.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reacted angrily to a fight brewing in Washington over whether Hurricane Irene disaster aid may need to be offset by federal spending cuts.

“Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they [Congress] can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later,” the Republican governor told a crowd in the flood-ravaged North Jersey town of Lincoln Park.

Christie said no such discussion was held when help went to Joplin, Mo., where a deadly May tornado damaged 7,500 homes.

“We need the support now here in New Jersey, and that’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Christie said, according to

Another hurricane could be on the way. Tropical Storm Katia may be a Hurricane soon. It looks like this one may hit the Gulf coast, and quite a few oil workers are already being evacuated.

The Miami-based center said Katia was forecast to become a “major” hurricane with winds over 111 mph (178 kph) on Sunday, but it was still too early to tell whether it would threaten land.

At 5 p.m. (2100 GMT), Katia was about 1,285 miles (2.070 km) east of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. It was moving rapidly west-northwest and was forecast to turn northwest in a couple of days on a course that would keep it away from the Caribbean islands.

Of course it’s too soon to know for sure what will happen, but maybe Mayor Bloomberg should get busy preparing another evacuation plan.

Meanwhile, things are still really bad in Vermont.

Federal and state environmental teams on Wednesday investigated the extent of health risks related to damaged sewage and water treatment plants in more than a dozen Vermont towns where flash flooding has left thousands of people without electricity or potable water since Sunday.

Engineers from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation visited several areas that had been cut off to assess the hazards, officials said. The teams were trying to determine the extent of damage to sewage and water plants in at least 13 towns, including chemical and other hazardous material spills and leaks, said Justin Johnson, deputy commissioner of the environmental department….

The Vermont National Guard continued to airlift supplies to residents in 13 towns stranded by washed out roadways, damaged bridges, fallen trees and mud. A helicopter from the Illinois National Guard joined the relief effort on Wednesday, helping distribute supplies, said Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management.

By Wednesday night, crews had completed makeshift roads into all of the isolated towns, state officials said. They reached the last, Wardsboro, population 850, in south central Vermont, just before 6 p.m.

In a bit of good news, the Red Sox beat the Yankees last night, 9-5, and the Sox are now in first place by 1-1/2 games.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?