NEW. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The number of people selecting health insurance plans in the federal and state marketplaces increased in November at a brisk pace, bringing the total to date to nearly 365,000, or more than triple the number who signed up in October, the Obama administration said on Wednesday.... The new data became available as Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, prepared for another confrontation with Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who called a hearing Wednesday to investigate the rollout of President Obama’s health care law."
Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "House and Senate budget negotiators reached agreement Tuesday on a budget deal that would raise military and domestic spending over the next two years, shifting the pain of across-the-board cuts to other programs over the coming decade and raising fees on airline tickets to pay for airport security.... Democrats gave up their demand that the deal extend unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the month...." ...
It's a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done. -- President Barack Obama, shortly after the agreement was announced
... Ezra Klein runs down the major provisions of the deal. ...
... Sarah Binder of the Monkey Cage in the Washington Post: "Breaking the cycle of budgetary brinkmanship does not yet seem to have resolved bicameral differences elsewhere on the Hill…. More likely, the mini-deal is emblematic of legislative battles in polarized times: Parties come to the table only when the costs of blocking an agreement are too great to shoulder. And even then, parties will give up as little as necessary to avoid the sometimes painful consequences of stalemate."
Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: " The Senate slowly began working its way through a backlog of presidential nominees on Tuesday now that Republicans are virtually powerless to block confirmations, approving a once-stalled judge to a powerful appeals court and a new director for the agency that oversees federal home lending. But Republicans, still seething over a power play last month by Democrats to curtail the filibuster significantly, have settled on a strategy for retribution: Make the confirmation process as time-consuming and painful as possible for Democrats." ...
... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "The Senate voted 56-38 Tuesday to confirm Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court, making her the first nominee of President Obama’s to clear the Senate since Democrats unilaterally changed the rules in a vote last month. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) voted with Democrats." ...
... Ed O'Keefe & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Later, senators confirmed Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) 57 to 41 to serve as the next head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency,which regulates mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and federal home loan banks."
Ben Protess & Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Five federal agencies approved the final [Volcker] rule, bolstering some provisions but leaving others open to loopholes...." President Obama & Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pressed the agencies to finalize the regulatory framework.
Dana Milbank finds signs Republicans & other conservatives are the rejecting the Tea Party. Leading conservatives back Texas Sen. John Cornyn over Tea Party loon Steve Stockman who announced his challenge to Cornyn Monday night. Paul Ryan negotiated a budget deal which would permit increased spending. "Senate Republicans are stepping up their efforts to help each other beat back primary challenges." And John Boehner may bring an immigration bill to the floor after filing deadlines for primary challenges. ...
... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post runs down Steve Stockman's "qualifications." This would be much funnier if Stockman weren't an elected official. ...
... Josh Barro of Business Insider on Stockman's derpitude. "I am guessing that Texas Republicans are not about to nominate a candidate whose sole 2011 and 2012 income came from a shady nonprofit and who has been refusing to make legally-required financial disclosures. Cornyn is safe, for now." ...
... Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "More than half of Senate Republicans facing reelection next year face potentially viable tea party challenges — a historically large threat to the GOP establishment that could, once again, kill the party’s chances of taking back control of the chamber."
Jeff Mason & Roberta Rampton of Reuters: "Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a new push to increase access to mental health services with $100 million in new government funding nearly a year after a school shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut. Biden, who spearheaded a failed Obama administration campaign for stronger gun control measures following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, met with families of the victims and mental health advocates." ...
... New York Times: "In the 12 months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law. Nearly two-thirds of the new laws ease restrictions and expand the rights of gun owners. Most of those bills were approved in states controlled by Republicans. Those who support stricter regulations won some victories — mostly in states where the legislature and governorship are controlled by Democrats — to increase restrictions on gun use and ownership." Report consists of interactive graphs charting state legislation.
Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "A new congressional report criticizes the federal government for awarding tens of billions of dollars in contracts to companies even though they were found to have violated safety and wage laws and paid millions in penalties. Issued on behalf of the Democratic senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, the report cited examples over the past six years." CW: Report includes one reason I don't buy mass-produced chicken.
Independent researcher Ashkan Soltani, with Washington Post reporters Andrea Peterson & Barton Gelman: "The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using 'cookies' and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.... The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations." CW: So if the gummit is looking for terrorists seeking out silverplated turkey domes, I am high on their watch list.
Mark Landler & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "With Iran threatening that any new sanctions would scuttle its interim nuclear deal with the West, the Obama administration is fighting a fierce battle to convince skeptical Senate Democrats not to pass any new measures against Tehran." ...
... Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "Secretary of State John Kerry managed to convince the Senate. But he didn’t have much success in pressing the case against new Iran sanctions in the House, where Republicans and Democrats alike made clear how deep the resistance to the Iran deal runs in Congress."
Neville Chamberlain shook hands with Hitler. -- Sen. John McCain, expressing his disapproval of President Obama's shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro
Questions for Sen. McCain: Did you know that Obama & Castro met at Nelson Mandela's memorial service? Do you have any idea what Mandela stood for & why he is so beloved around the world? What did Obama mean when he said during his eulogy, "It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well. While I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man"? Can you be a "better man" & apologize for your asinine Chamberlain-Hitler analogy?
Rule Sen. McCain Forgot: If you must invoke Hitler, you've already lost the argument.
Right Wing Rule No. 1. If Obama does it, it's wrong.
Corollary to RW Rule No. 1. If conservative Republicans do it, they're heroes spreading American democracy around the world. Media Meteor Blades of Daily Kos posts pix of Republican presidents & other GOP leaders shaking hands with ruthless dictators.
CW: I'd add this grainy snap to Media Meteor Blades' gallery:
The RW parental units were probably too busy advising their litters on the fine points of spitting angrily while talking, keeping the race pure and most importantly lying as second nature. -- Contributor Diane, explaining why wingers don't understand international diplomacy & ordinary polite behavior
One more thing. While the U.S. backed the apartheid regime, Fidel Castro helped Mandela fight for racial equality. When you've come to a service to honor a man, you don't spit on his benefactors. -- Constant Weader
In Time's "Person of the Year" contest, Sen. Ted Cruz (RMegalomaniac-Texas) is Fourth Runner-Up. In his brief post, David Von Drehle suggests Cruz is insane, though of course he doesn't use that word & merely points out that Cruz is out of touch with reality. CW: Contragulations, Ted. You deserve it. ...
... Time's Person of the Year -- Pope Francis.
CW: Maureen Dowd fancies herself a dime-novel writer. With a cast of character ripped from Capitol Hill! Awful stuff. There are just so many times I can write, "Her worst column yet," & maintain any credibility.
Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Democratic state Sen. Katherine Clark won Tuesday’s special election for a Massachusetts congressional seat, easily defeating Republican attorney Frank Addivinola. She will succeed Democrat Ed Markey, who vacated the suburban Boston-area 5th District seat earlier this year after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Markey had held the seat since 1976."
November 2013 Election
Markus Scmidt of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "The lawyer representing Republican Mark D. Obenshain in the pending statewide recount in the attorney general race on Monday for the first time openly raised the issue of contesting the election in the General Assembly if the tally does not sway the result in the Republican’s favor." CW: That is, Obenshain could ask the Republic-led General Assembly to decide the election. Wonder how that would work out. Oh. Bush v. Gore.) ...
... As Charles Pierce wrote yesterday, "This could be one roaring, screaming debacle.... World's greatest democracy strikes again."
President Kennedy Assassination
Castro once told an Associated Press correspondent at the Brazilian Embassy in Havana that if you U.S. leaders didn't stop their attempts to kill Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe -- a threat of retaliation. Having followed the assassination of President Kennedy since 1963, I have come to a conclusion. Lee Harvey Oswald may have read the AP interview. And when he shot Kennedy, he may have done it as a self-appointed avenger of his hero, Fidel Castro. -- Daniel Schorr, on NPR, 2008