Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.


Our Republican Leader in the Senate, as he was coming in, after having tried to block every single thing that we have done to strengthen the economy, starts looking at the job numbers and says, you know, it’s getting better because we just got elected — and people are feeling more optimistic. Which — okay. I didn’t know that’s how the economy worked. But maybe? We’ll call some economists.

— President Barack Obama, making fun of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at the Democratic National Committee meeting in the District of Columbia. McConnell hilariously tried to claim credit for the improving jobs picture back in January, just hours after becoming the Senate Majority Leader.

Recommended Link

The great SIM heist: How spies stole the keys to the encryption castle

Using documents provided by Edward Snowden, The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley explain how the National Security Agency and its British counterpart hacked into the computers of the world’s largest Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card manufacturer in the world to steal the encryption keys used to secure mobile to mobile communications.


I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,… He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.

— Failed Republican presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, speaking at a dinner in Manhattan on Wednesday night.

At least Guiliani  – who deserves no place in American politics – is being honest about his contempt for President Barack Obama.

Recommended Link

New education initiative replaces K-12 curriculum with single standardized test

The Onion takes aim at the corporate-backed standardized testing lobby with a fake news story about the replacement of all K-12 curriculum with a single one-size-fits-all test.

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Kate Brown shows Capitol camaraderie as she assumes Oregon governor’s office

The Oregonian‘s Jeff Mapes reports on Kate Brown’s first few hours as the newly-sworn in Governor of Oregon.

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Surprise! The rich benefit the most from tax breaks intend to help people build wealth

Bloomberg reports that most of the public money spent to encourage savings went to the highest-earning Americans. It’s just another reminder that trickle-down doesn’t.

Recommended Link

How progressive Democrats survived a landslide

Bob Moser explains how Democrats who ran against Wall Street carried the votes of working men and women in the 2014 midterms, while Democrats who shunned populism got pummelled.


With only four legislative days left until the Republican Homeland Security Shutdown, Speaker Boehner made it clear that he has no plan to avoid a government shutdown that would threaten the safety of the American people. The Speaker’s reliance on talking points and finger-pointing was a sad reflection of the fact that Tea Party continues to hold the gavel as they insist on their futile anti-immigrant grandstanding.

— Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Nancy Pelosi, condemning John Boehner after the Ohio Republican said Homeland Security could go unfunded.

Chat Transcript

Re/Code’s Kara Swisher talks with Barack Obama about encryption becoming a default

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Where there is a situation in which we’re trying to get a specific case of a possible national security threat — is there a way of accessing it? If it turns out it’s not, then we’re really gonna have to have a public debate. And, you know, I think some in Silicon Valley would make the argument — which is a fair argument, and I get — that the harms done by having any kind of compromised encryption are far greater …

KARA SWISHER: That’s an argument you used to make.


KARA SWISHER: You would have made. Has something changed with…

BARACK OBAMA: No, I still make it. It’s just that I am sympathetic to law enforcement.

KARA SWISHER: Because years [ago], you were much stronger on civil liberty.

BARACK OBAMA: I’m as strong as I have been. I think the only concern is our law enforcement is expected to stop every plot. Every attack. Any bomb on a plane. The first time that attack takes place in which it turns out that we had a lead and we couldn’t follow up on it, the public’s going to demand answers.

— Re/Code’s Kara Swisher talks with Barack Obama about encryption becoming a default (Dialogue from the full transcript of their conversation).

Recommended Link

Meet the real inventor of the Monopoly board game: Progressive activist Elizabeth Magie

Before there was Monopoly, there was the Landlord’s Game, invented by progressive activist Elizabeth Magie in 1903. The New York Times’ Mary Pilon, who has written a book about the origins of Monopoly, explains that she “created two sets of rules for her game: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents.” The aim was to show people that broad prosperity resulted from an economy of inclusion, rather than an economy of exclusion.

Recommended Link

Surprise! Even with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans still consumed by internal strife

As the first few weeks of the 114th Congress have reminded us, Republicans are simply bad at governing. Daily Kos’ Michael Lazzaro (Hunter) took time this morning to respond to a couple of anonymous House Republicans quoted in The National Journal’s article, “So far, a Congress About Nothing.”


Recommended Link

History made as Pope Francis appoints twenty new cardinals

For the first time in its two-thousand year history, the Catholic Church has more prelates from outside of Europe than inside Europe in the College of Cardinals, after Pope Francis appointed twenty new cardinals from fourteen different countries. Fifteen of them are under eighty and thus eligible to vote for his successor until they age out.


The popular myth that the border between America and Planet Maple Leaf runs along the 49th parallel from sea to roiling sea — and by extension, that all of our Canadian friends ice skate to work and school every day on frozen rivers, dodging caribou at every turn — is bunk. Pure geographic mythology.

— Seattle Times weekend columnist Ron Judd: Canada, Seattle’s neighbor to the north? Nope, better check your map


Recommended Link

Sun News Network, Canada’s own Fox Noise Channel, is dead

An attempt to build an equivalent to the Fox Noise Channel in Canada has failed after four years, Media Matters reports. The right wing “Sun News” went off-air at 5 AM this morning and will not return with any programming. The executive of the channel’s parent corporation said in a press release, “Sadly, the numerous obstacles to carriage that we encountered spelled the end of this venture.”



There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe you, David Carr. A brilliant journalist, memoirist, humorist, foodie. Devoted husband, father and friend. My admiration for your work is only rivaled by my gratitude for your fierce friendship. Champion of underdogs and wild ones, an advocate for justice in all forms, an adventurous spirit, the best person you could ever hope to share a meal with.

Lena Dunham, memorializing David Carr on Instagram.


David Carr: 1956-2015

A little earlier this evening, The New York Times reported that its most excellent media columnist David Carr had collapsed while at work in the paper’s newsroom and was taken to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

He was fifty-eight years old.

This is absolutely terrible news, and our deepest sympathies are with David’s family and his colleagues at The New York Times, as well as his greater circle of friends. We were readers of David’s columns and regarded him as one of the newspaper’s finest writers. We are grieved by his sudden death, but we are and always will be appreciative of his contributions to journalism.

Only a few hours ago, Carr moderated a TimesTalks discussion with Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and Laura Poitras at The New School’s John Tishman Auditorium. That discussion is available for viewing on Livestream:

Also worth watching is this Bloomberg discussion, where Carr talks about the future of journalism. Whenever he wrote or spoke, he always had important things to say. His 2008 memoir The Night of the Gun frankly explored his struggles with addiction, garnering widespread praise and acclaim.

Mother Jones has a collection of tributes to David.

It’s tough to believe he’s gone… and in the same week as CBS’ legendary Bob Simon. This truly has been an awful week for journalism.

Rest in peace, David. We’ll miss you.

Recommended Link

How Jon Stewart earned his Moment of Zen

The Hollywood Reporter’s chief television critic Tim Goodman mourns Jon Stewart’s pending departure from The Daily Show.


It’s been an absolute privilege. The home of my professional life. And I thank you for watching it, or hate-watching it – whatever reason you were tuning in for. You get into this business with the idea that you might have a point of view or have something to express. And to receive feedback for that is the greatest thing you can ask for. And I thank you for that. Here it is… your moment of Zen.

— Jon Stewart’s goodbye: Host of The Daily Show says the program doesn’t deserve ‘even slightly restless host’.

Warm light, cold ice, strange objects...

Blavand Ice Age: Warm light, cold ice, strange objects… (Photo: Christian/BlavandMaster; reproduced under a Creative Commons license)


Bruce Rauner’s scheme to strip the rights of state workers and weaken their unions by executive order is a blatantly illegal abuse of power… Perhaps as a private equity CEO, Rauner was accustomed to ignoring legal and ethical standards, but Illinois is still a democracy and its laws have meaning.

— Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, blasting Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner for issuing an executive order intended to bring about the destruction of the state’s public sector unions.

Recommended Link

The great Internet swindle: ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Jon Henley reviews Andrew Keen’s provocative book The Internet is Not the Answer for The Guardian.