The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, April 26, 2015.

New York Times: "A powerful earthquake shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu, killing more than 1,900 people, flattening sections of the city’s historic center, and trapping dozens of sightseers in a 200-foot watchtower that came crashing down into a pile of bricks." ...

     ... Update: "By Monday afternoon, Nepalese authorities had sharply raised the death toll to more than 3,400, but the full extent of the devastation and death was still unclear."

New York Times: "A largely peaceful protest over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a spinal cord injury in police custody, gave way to scattered scenes of chaos [in Baltimore] on Saturday night, as demonstrators smashed a downtown storefront window, threw rocks and bottles and damaged police cruisers, while officers in riot gear broke up skirmishes and made 12 arrests near Camden Yards. Shortly before 10 p.m., Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake convened a news conference at City Hall, where she appeared with several others — including Mr. Gray’s twin sister, Fredericka; a prominent pastor, Jamal Bryant; and City Councilman Brandon Scott — to appeal for calm. By that time the disturbances had largely settled.

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
April 24

Sorry. This is yesterday's livefeed. Since the White House doesn't date their schedule (despite my repeated requests) I just can't tell. I probably won't have time to republish today's schedule, should the White House ever get around to publishing it.

10:00 am ET: President Obama makes a statement

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana campus (audio only)

2:15 pm ET: President Obama honors the Super Bowl champs

4:55 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Organizing for Action summit

7:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at an Israel Independence Day ceremony (audio only)

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

Wild Things Interrupt President Obama's reading of "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House's Easter Egg Roll:

... Don't Worry, Bee Happy. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The pint-sized guests Monday might not have listened to him, but the president’s National Pollinator Initiative will forge ahead. Last June Obama launched an inter-agency task force charged with developing a federal strategy to protect pollinators, which help sustain crops ranging from almonds to blueberries and broccoli, and it should be unveiling a detailed plan in a matter of months."

The Coolest First Lady in the History of the Nation:


Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "For her forthcoming book, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,” Kate Andersen Brower managed to elicit stories from domestic staff who witnessed up close the loneliness of President Nixon as he faced impeachment, the weariness of Hillary Clinton as her husband’s sex scandal exploded and other surprisingly intimate moments involving the first families. Most of these stories — from Nancy Reagan’s tirade over three broken tchotchkes to the tearful hug Jackie and Bobby Kennedy shared with a favorite doorman in an elevator — are attributed to staffers by name, not wrapped in the cloud of anonymous sourcing that usually cloaks reporting about the inner workings of the White House." ...

Here's What $75MM Buys:

... Orange County Register: "President Richard Nixon's Western White House, an oceanfront San Clemente estate owned by retired Allergan CEO Gavin S. Herbert, is for sale at $75 million. Herbert, 83, is selling the 5.45-acre estate after owning the property for 35 years." Includes slideshow.

New York: "Here's a spoiler for people who haven't finished House of Cards season three yet: Frank Underwood doesn't die, because Netflix [April 2] announced that it had renewed Cards for a fourth season."

Los Angeles Times: "On Tuesday afternoon, just about lunch time, a 'flying saucer' was undergoing a spin test in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The saucer is technically a 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound aerodynamic test vehicle. It is designed to help engineers try out new technologies for landing spacecraft, and someday people, on Mars."

Guardian: "Comedy Central is standing by its new Daily Show host Trevor Noah, after the 31-year-old South African comedian set to replace Jon Stewart was criticized for a series of controversial jokes he tweeted before his appointment." ...

... Jessica Winter of Salon: "Not since John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate have the vetting capacities of a powerful political force been cast into such doubt." Besides being a misogynist pig & an anti-Semite, Noah isn't even funny."

Andrew Sullivan says he quit his blog because blogging is difficult, time-consuming & dehumanizing. CW a/k/a the Blog Nazi: No kidding.

David Graham of the Atlantic: "Trevor Noah's ascent on The Daily Show has been steep — hired on as senior international correspondent four months ago, he'll take over the anchor's desk from Jon Stewart after just three appearances on the show, Comedy Central announced Monday."

If you thought a meerkat was something like a mongoose ... Global News: "Meet Meerkat, the live streaming video service that allows users to host a live broadcast from their smartphones. If you haven’t heard of this new app don’t feel too bad – it’s only been around for about two weeks. But that hasn’t stopped it from garnering an estimated 300,000 active users, US$12 million in funding and even a few controversies."

In Case You Were Wondering... Megan Garber of the Atlantic examines multiple theories on why "men’s dress shirts have their buttons on the right, while women’s have them on the left (to the wearer)."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "Inside the elaborate, surprisingly unglamorous world of presidential hotel stays." Or Why President Trump Would Resign Shortly after His Inauguration.

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

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Friday
Mar082013

The Commentariat -- March 9, 2013

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. ...

... Harry Enten of the Guardian: "... how does President Obama get the public back on his side? He needs to make this debate about specifics. When Pew tested different policies on reducing the deficit, people only agreed on cuts to foreign aid. Americans wanted to increase or keep funding the same for all other specific policy programs or proposals." (Emphasis added.)

Josh Barro (a Republican!) of Bloomberg News: "Despite its problems, Social Security is the best-functioning component of the U.S.'s retirement-saving system. Instead of cutting, the federal government should be expanding its role in retirement saving. I'm always struck when people talk about Social Security as 'just' an insurance program, when it's in fact the most important retirement-saving vehicle." ...

... Please sign the White House petition "Save Social Security." If you think means-testing is a good idea, see my argument as to why it is not -- it's the 12th comment in the Comments section.

Jacob Goldstein of NPR: "The scariest jobs chart isn't scary enough.... If this had been a typical recession and recovery, the U.S. economy would now have roughly 10 million more jobs than it did at the previous peak. In fact, there are now three million fewer jobs."

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "Global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years, scientists reported Thursday, and over the coming decades are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last ice age." CW: More proof to Jim Inhofe that scientists are liars, conspirators, etc.

Gail Collins runs down a few of the excuses gun-toting Senators have come up with for voting against innocuous gun safety legislation.

Jeremy Herb of The Hill: "The Obama administration will release its 2014 budget more than two months late on April 8, according to congressional sources."

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Of all things for Republicans to be going nuts about, losing the White House tours is the last one. Sequestration is causing real harm to real people, whether it's unemployed workers, children and mothers who need Head Start, or soldiers looking to enroll in the Army's tuition assistance program. They could make all these problems go away -- including the loss of their precious tours -- with the blink of an eye. All they have to do is repeal sequestration. If they just repealed the damn thing, they wouldn't even have to raise taxes."

Obama 2.0. Constitution, 1.0. Marcy Wheeler: "According to the White House, John Brennan was sworn in as CIA Director on a 'first draft' of the Constitution including notations from George Washington, dating to 1787.... That means, when Brennan vowed to protect and defend the Constitution, he was swearing on one that did not include the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments -- or any of the other Amendments now included in our Constitution. The Bill of Rights did not become part of our Constitution until 1791, 4 years after the Constitution that Brennan took his oath on.... The moment at which Brennan took over the CIA happened to exclude (in symbolic form, though presumably not legally) the key limits on governmental power that protect American citizens." CW: Cue up Rand Paul (who filibustered Brennan's nomination). ...

... Oh no! Daniel Halper of the right-wing Weekly Standard: "He does not appear to have placed his hand on a Bible, a Torah, a Koran, or other sacred religious text as he said the oath." ...

... Fili-fundraiser. David Corn of Mother Jones: "Take away all [Sen. Rand] Paul's hyped-up hysteria -- watch out, Jane Fonda! -- and he didn't truly disagree with the administration's position that in an extraordinary circumstance, such as an ongoing terrorist attack, the US government can deploy lethal force against evildoers who happen to be American citizens. So why did Paul go ballistic? Here's a clue: The day after he ended one of the longest filibusters in US history, he tried to cash in on his stunt by zapping out a fundamentally inaccurate fundraising email for his 2016 reelection campaign.... This senator as a crass operator untethered from the truth who's eager to exploit his own grandstanding." ...

... Heather of Crooks & Liars: "Paul received his answer on the drone strikes and as many have noted, he actually had his answer well before he started his filibuster, but as [Thom] Hartmann noted [video included in post], the question that he should have been asking and to which he did not get an answer is, 'What does "engaged in combat" mean?' when we haven't had a declaration of war since 1941." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... conservatives followed Paul the Younger onto the quicksand of his broader ideology, which for the most part is in the mainstream of the John Birch Society. This is not what the GOP needs right now." ...

... "President Paul"? Ha Ha Ha. Tim Noah of The New Republic remembers way back when nearly every Republican (Paul was a "yea" vote) opposed former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary: "... much of [the GOP's resistance to Hagel] was based on Hagel's having taken positions on national security issues that his fellow Republicans judged unacceptably dovish -- and Hagel isn't nearly as dovish as Paul is. If Hagel proved unacceptable to the GOP, it's inconceivable that Paul -- who less than one month before the 2012 election published an op-ed condemning Mitt Romney for being too hawkish in the Middle East and too willing to increase Pentagon spending -- will ever pass muster. And by 'the GOP' I don't just mean GOP politicians. I mean voters, too." ...

... Kevin Liptak of CNN: "Responding to Sen. John McCain's condemnation of his thirteen hour filibuster, Paul said Friday that while 'I treat Sen. McCain with respect, I don't know if I always get the same in return.' ... Earlier in the day, McCain told The Huffington Post that Paul, along with Sen. Ted Cruz - who assisted in Wednesday's filibuster - was a 'wacko bird' that could taint American's impressions of the GOP." ...

... ** Jonathan Chait of New York: "What's interesting is that not only the official but the unofficial organs of the party -- Matt Drudge, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh -- have all sided with Paul. The whacko birds suddenly find themselves on the inside, while the party's 2008 standard-bearer presses his nose against the glass and gawks." ...

... Carl Hulse of the New York Times sticking with the story on the GOP filibuster of Caitlan Halligan, one of President Obama's nominees to the D.C. Appellate Court: "Democrats say they want to see how Republicans respond to future appeals court nominees, including another one to the District of Columbia circuit, Srikanth Srinivasan, Mr. Obama's deputy solicitor general. But a series of filibusters against what they view as acceptable nominees could again bring to a head the push for a change in Senate rules."

Paul Waldman on Juan Williams' "Double Plagiarism": "... plagiarism is taking someone else's words and passing them off as your own without attribution. Williams does that whenever his assistant writes something for him that then appears verbatim in his column, which from his explanation sounds like something he does regularly. [Emphasis added.] It's just that this time, his assistant passed off CAP's words as his own to Williams, and Williams then passed off CAP's words as his own to his readers, when he thought he was only passing off his assistant's words as his own, which otherwise nobody would know about.... There is something wrong with having an assistant who doesn't just do research for you but actually writes prose that you then present as your own, even if it's only a paragraph here and there." ...

... CW: I am almost certain that this is how Maureen Dowd got caught plagiarizing several years ago. After someone noticed she had lifted a short graf from Josh Marshall of TPM, MoDo "explained" that she got the information in a phone conversation with a "friend" and assumed these were the friend's own thoughts. Her editor, Andy Rosenthal, let her get away with that bullshit. (You try remembering word-for-word what a friend tells you on the phone.) Her "friend" was almost certainly Ashley Parker, then her assistant. Parker kept her mouth shut & has since been rewarded with a regular gig at the Times. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "With all the resources he has, Williams ought to be able to write his own stuff, and if he has to let a 'research assistant' ghost for him now and then, he should be able to do the minimal Google searching to ensure there is no plagiarism. Failing that, he could at least take responsibility for the plagiarism in his own named column...." ...

... Digby: "I think many of these folks crossed over long ago from being writers to TV celebrities. It's a different line of work for most of them much more lucrative and satisfying. Of course they're going to outsource the shit work. That's what wealthy TV celebrities do." ...

... And since we're on the topic of media pimps masquerading as journalists -- Brad Friedman: "Former San Diego ACORN worker, Juan Carlos Vera will receive $100,000 in a settlement from federal criminal and professional liar James O'Keefe, after being secretly video-taped in violation of California law by the Rightwing propagandist. The tape was just one in a series of similar videos, all deceptively edited as part of his 2009 ACORN 'pimp' hoax series. The story of the settlement was originally broken by Wonkette, which published the 3-page settlement document [PDF], yesterday." ,,,

... AND there's this great post by Stefan BC of Wonkette: "Yesterday, as first reported by your Wonkette (<–COPY LINK HERE, LA TIMES), the world rejoiced upon news that the insufferable date-rapey Dennis the Menace clone known as James O’Keefe III had settled his lawsuit with a former ACORN employee to the tune of $100,000 plus one weak ass nonpology.... A few former recipients of ACORN assistance ... were able to take an ounce of solace in justice being served against the person who unfairly brought down a truly beneficial organization."

News Ledes

AP: "Venezuelans will vote April 14 to choose a successor to Hugo Chavez, the elections commission announced Saturday as increasingly strident political rhetoric begins to roil this polarized country. The constitution mandated the election be held within 30 days of Chavez's March 5 death, but the date picked falls outside that period. Critics of the socialist government already complained that officials violated the constitution by swearing in Vice President Nicolas Maduro as acting leader Friday night."

AP: "Syrian rebels freed 21 U.N. peacekeepers on Saturday after holding them hostage for four days, ending a sudden entanglement with the world body that earned fighters trying to oust President Bashar Assad a flood of negative publicity."

Christian Science Monitor: "Militants staged two deadly suicide attacks Saturday to mark the first full day of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to Afghanistan, a fresh reminder that insurgents continue to fight and challenges remain as the US-led NATO force hands over the country's security to the Afghans."

Washington Post: "A former spokesman for al-Qaeda and son-in-law of Osama bin Laden pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge that he conspired to kill Americans. The plea in federal court in Manhattan was accompanied by new indications that the former spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has cooperated with U.S. authorities while being secretly held in U.S. custody since his Feb. 28 arrest in Jordan."

Washington Post: "Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces charges of committing crimes against humanity, won Kenya's presidential election by the narrowest of margins, winning 50.03 percent of the vote and avoiding a runoff, according to preliminary results posted early Saturday. The tight finish is almost certain to spark controversy and will probably result in a legal challenge from Kenyatta's main rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whose party has already publicly charged that votes were doctored."

Thursday
Mar072013

The Commentariat -- March 8, 2013

I published a "We the People" petition on the White House site. It has one signature. Please sign it unless you vehemently disagree, of course.

CLICKING ON THE IMAGE WILL GET YOU TO THE WHITE HOUSE PAGE.

Hey, Peggy Noonan Is Still Ignorant! Dan Amira of New York has fun bashing the latest Noonsense. CW: I'll say this for Noonan -- her uncanny ability to make sweeping generalizations based on fleeting observations made during brief visits to Wal-Mart or a hotel or a neighborhood with Romney yard signs must be a great inspiration/challenge to Tom Friedman. ...

Also, sometimes a busy writer just has to plagiarize, then blame his "researcher" for "betraying" him like that. Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon on Juan Williams' inattention to "attribution." CW: you know Peggy Noonan doesn't plagiarize, because nobody else -- except Friedman -- would write that crap.

Peter Finn & Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "John O. Brennan was confirmed as CIA director on Thursday afternoon, after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) expressed satisfaction with the response he had received to his questions about the Obama administration's drone program.... In the final vote, Brennan was confirmed 63-34." The roll call results are here. ...

... Washington Post Editors: "The fact that [Sen. Rand Paul's] paranoid fantasies gained some traction is testimony to the administration's real failures in managing its counterterrorism campaigns. Mr. Obama has chosen to carry out hundreds of drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, including one against a U.S. citizen, without any public accounting. Justice Department memos authorizing the attacks have not been disclosed; only this week were senators on the intelligence committee allowed to read them. The White House has devised a process for adding names to a target list for drone strikes but has never revealed even its outlines." ...

... Jeremy Herd & Justin Sink of The Hill: "The same day [Sen. Rand] Paul went to the Senate floor to press President Obama on whether drones could be used to kill American citizens within U.S. borders, Attorney General Eric Holder said Obama would soon speak to the public about the U.S. drone policy. The public address by Obama highlights the administration's understanding that it needs to give a fuller account of a program that is a hallmark of Obama's counter-terrorism policy -- but that was a covert policy not publicly acknowledged by the government just months ago." ...

... New York Times Editors: The Senate's report [on detention & interrogation techniques] may be the last hope for Americans to know the truth about what Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney authorized in the name of protecting our country -- decisions that caused enormous damage to its reputation worldwide. But it remains classified, and Mr. Brennan has not said whether he would support releasing a redacted version to the public. That is the only acceptable course. The cover-up of the Bush-era lawbreaking has to stop."

... Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "John McCain and Lindsey Graham assailed Senator Rand Paul's filibuster of an Obama administration nominee over drone policy a day earlier, suggesting an emerging split in the Republican Party over antiterrorism tactics.... Mr. Paul had said that he would try to hold up the nomination of John O. Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency unless the administration answered unequivocally that President Obama did not have that power. The full Senate confirmed Mr. Brennan's nomination Thursday afternoon. Mr. McCain ... noted that Mr. Paul had raised the idea that the antiwar activist Jane Fonda could have been singled out for a strike during her criticism of that war.... 'To allege that the United States, our government, would drop a drone Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda, that brings the conversation from a serious discussion about U.S. policy into the realm of the ridiculous,' Mr. McCain said. Mr. Graham said he did not remember Republican critics attacking President George W. Bush for employing drone strikes, and he said the question for Republicans was, 'What are we up to here?'" ...

... Yoo Too. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration legal memos justifying the use of torture, thinks President Obama is really getting too much grief over targeted killing. And he wants Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- who filibustered Obama's nominee to head the CIA for 13 hours on Wednesday -- to lay off." CW: when the guys on your side are McCain, Graham & Yoo, you really may want to rethink your position. ...

     ... Update. Daniel Strauss of The Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted fellow GOP Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday, saying the two 'think the whole world is a battlefield.'"

... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "The right wing blogosphere is absolutely delighted with Rand Paul, of course, but it has nothing to do with his theatrical opposition to drones; it's because any Republican who acts out in public and bashes President Obama gets their uncritical support. They're already talking about having him run for President. Note that Sen. Paul is a frequent guest on the conspiracy-peddling Alex Jones show, where he co-signs every deranged fantasy. This is the new hero of the right."

... Hulse also has a blogpost on the GOP filibuster of Caitlin J. Halligan , whom President Obama nominated to a seat on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia. The filibuster of Halligan "could renew a feud over rules governing filibusters and how the Senate handles high-level judicial nominations -- an issue that has torn the chamber for years. Democrats are already in discussions on how to respond to the Halligan filibuster. They believe Republicans are dead set against confirming qualified Obama administration nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. They accuse Republicans of exaggerating their objections to Ms. Halligan to justify a filibuster under a 2005 agreement that short-circuited the last partisan showdown over filling judicial vacancies." ...

Law Prof. Adam Winkler, in The New Republic: "A number of legal scholars have argued that the filibuster is unconstitutional.... The first Senate filibuster occurred in 1841, a full half a century after the Founding... The constitutional challenge to the rule thus appears to be very much like Paul's anti-drone filibuster: a symbolic gesture whose value comes only from the expression of disagreement rather than a substantive measure that will change the outcome. So the filibuster will remain the law of the land, whether it's constitutional or not."

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a measure that would make the practice of illegally buying a gun for someone else a felony, and increase penalties for the crime. The measure, which addresses a practice known as straw purchasing, passed the committee by 11 to 7; the only Republican to vote in favor was Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa. Mr. Grassley's nod on the measure, which already had two Republican co-sponsors, was significant because he is the most senior member of the committee."

Philip Rucker & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: President "Obama wants to cement his legacy with a long-term deal to rein in the federal deficit and new immigration and gun laws, his advisers said. But his reelection victory, which brought a humiliating GOP defeat, has done little to break the logjam on taxes and entitlements. Now, advisers said, the president has concluded that the key might be to bypass talks with Republican leaders ... and instead find common ground with rank-and-file Republican lawmakers. So the president is in the midst of a charm offensive. Wednesday, he treated a dozen GOP senators to a dinner.... Thursday, he invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) ... to his private White House dining room for lunch. Next week, Obama will take a rare drive to Capitol Hill to meet with all lawmakers.... House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that he welcomed Obama's outreach, even though it means the president is sidestepping him and other party leaders." ...

... Charm Offensive, Ctd. Michael Scherer of Time: "... the spirit of the city is shifting, and the commonalities between the two parties, for the first time in several years, are taking center stage. This is how Washington once worked. The nation now waits to find out if it can work this way again." CW: isn't "charm offensive" something of an oxymoron? ...

... Alexander Bolton of The Hill: President "Obama told a small group of Republican senators who had dinner with him Wednesday evening that a deficit-reduction deal needs to happen in the next four to five months, according to three sources familiar with the meeting."

Former President Bill Clinton, in a Washington Post op-ed, urges the Supreme Court to overturnthe Defense of Marriage Act, which he signed into law.

Julie Pace of the AP: "President Barack Obama is playing down expectations for a Mideast peace breakthrough during his upcoming trip to Israel, telling American Jewish leaders that he won't be carrying a 'grand peace plan' when he arrives in the region later this month. Obama, in an hourlong private meeting at the White House on Thursday, acknowledged that near-term prospects for peace are bleak, according to a person who attended the discussion. But the president said a deal with the Palestinians remains the only way for Israel to achieve long-term security."

Paul Krugman: "Stocks are high, in part, because bond yields are so low, and investors have to put their money somewhere. It's also true, however, that while the economy remains deeply depressed, corporate profits have staged a strong recovery. And that's a bad thing! Not only are workers failing to share in the fruits of their own rising productivity, hundreds of billions of dollars are piling up in the treasuries of corporations that, facing weak consumer demand, see no reason to put those dollars to work.... What the markets are clearly saying, however, is that the fears and prejudices that have dominated Washington discussion for years are entirely misguided. And they're also telling us that the people who have been feeding those fears and peddling those prejudices don't have a clue about how the economy actually works." ...

... MEANWHILE, MSNBC's Imitation of Bill O'Reilly has teamed up with Village Economist Jeffrey Sachs (who is not a macro-economist) to pen a Washington Post op-ed titled on the front page of the Post's online edition, "Why Paul Krugman Is Wrong." The column title is "Deficits do Matter." CW: Scarborough just can't quit. I only glanced at what these guys wrote for -- literally -- ten seconds, tops, and in that time, I saw two straw men they'd erected. This is Conservo-Debate Tactic No. 1: (a) claim the liberal guy said something ridiculous, (2) show that whatever crap you made up is ridiculous, (3) claim victory. I'm assuming their whole essay is a sham.

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Standing with survivors of domestic abuse and sex trafficking, President Obama on Thursday signed into law a renewal and expansion of the 19-year-old Violence Against Woman Act, a long-sought victory made possible last month when House Republicans quit blocking the measure's passage." ...

... I hope readers will take the time to listen to Diane Millich (sp??), who introduced Vice President Biden. Many House Republicans (and some Senate Republicans) opposed protecting her. It is mighty hard to keep on laughing at the misogynists running our country:


... AND Evidently the Misogynists Know It. Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "When Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill late last month, more than 130 House Republicans voted against it. But some of those same lawmakers are putting out misleading statements that make it look like they voted for the bill instead. [For example,] Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), for one, issued a statement with the headline, 'King Votes in Support of Violence Against Women Act.' But King didn't vote for the VAWA bill. Instead, he voted for a GOP alternative bill that failed to advance." Bendery goes on to list a number of other members of the House Old Boys Liars Club. Not all of the Old Boys are men, BTW. ...

... To wit, Lindsey Wise of McClatchy News, catches House Republicans Vicki Hartzler & Ann Wagner (both R-Missouri) pretending they voted for the VAWA even though they voted against it; they voted for the watered-down House bill, which didn't pass & later voted against the bill that did pass). The statement by Hartzler's spokesperson that she has "sympathy for women who've been abused on attacked" is really heartwarming. Apparently Hartzler does not have any sympathy for Millich, because Millich would have been specifically excluded in the bill Hartzler voted for, but is included in the bill Hartzler voted against. ...

... Steve Benen: "What happened to far-right conservatives having the courage of their convictions? If they opposed the Violence Against Women Act and felt the need to vote against it, then why pretend otherwise? ... Extremism is disconcerting, but by some measures, cowardice is worse."

Question: When Is Moving an Ounce of Blow Worse than Moving Millions of Dollars Worth?

     ... Answer: When You're Not a Bank. Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link. ..

... It's Not a Crime if It's Profitable. Linette Lopez of Business Insider: on March 6, "Attorney General Eric Holder spoke [to the same Senate committee] on the Justice Department's part. The agency did not prosecute any individual criminally for this matter in part, he said, because the size of large banks 'has an inhibiting influence -- impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate', Mr Holder told lawmakers. 'And I think that is something that we -- you all -- need to consider.'" CW: Holder's argument, then, is that "Corporations are people, my friend." If an individual works for a big bank & commits a crime that hurts the bank -- embezzlement, say, then some law enforcement agency will prosecute her. But Holder is arguing that an individual who commits crimes that are money-makers for the banks cannot be prosecuted because to do so would upset the industry. Make sense of that, please.

Tim Egan: "The people who grow grain for breakfast cereal and raise pigs for prosciutto are also among the biggest deniers of the consensus scientific view that humans have altered the earth's climate.... At first glance, this makes no sense, because farmers have the most to lose in a world of weather havoc.... Why the denial? Cost. Any fix in the sticks is likely to hit farmers hard, because they use a disproportionate amount of the fertilizers, chemicals and fossil fuels that power the American agricultural machine, and are likely to come under increased regulation.... [A farmer] should be put in charge of the daunting task of convincing food producers that nothing imperils their future more than climate change."

Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times: "The Santa Monica post office, with its distinctive PWA Moderne style, is one of about 200 post offices around the country, dozens of them architecturally distinctive buildings, that the Postal Service has indicated it may choose to sell in coming years because of its financial problems. Eleven historic post offices are already on the market in places like Yankton, S.D.; Gulfport, Miss.; Norwich, Conn.; and Washington.... So as the Postal Service tries to shrink, it is often finding itself in battle with groups trying to prevent what the National Trust for Historic Preservation last year labeled one of the most significant threats to the country's architectural heritage."

Root for China the Chinese Economy. Zachary Karabell in the Atlantic: "The consequences of a Chinese collapse ... would be severe for the United States and for the world. There could be no major Chinese contraction without a concomitant contraction in the United States. That would mean sharply curtailed Chinese purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds, far less revenue for companies like General Motors, Nike, KFC and Apple..., and far fewer Chinese imports of high-end goods from American and Asian companies. It would also mean a collapse of Chinese imports of materials such as copper, which would in turn harm economic growth in emerging countries that continue to be a prime market for American, Asian and European goods."

Congressional Race

Rachel Weiner & Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) will not seek reelection in 2014, he announced Thursday afternoon, saying he wanted to focus on the nation's challenges rather than politics." CW: Levin was one of the principal Senators who opposed serious filibuster reform. Thanks, Carl.

Right Wing World

One Crazy Thing You Have to Do to Win a GOP Presidential Nomination. Luke Johnson of the Huffington Post: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Thursday that he would not support a stopgap bill to fund the government unless it defunded President Barack Obama's health care law, allying him with tea party darling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).... Rubio's position puts him to the right of House Republicans, who passed a continuing resolution Wednesday that does not defund the health care law upheld by the Supreme Court. The move caused ire in the conservative blogosphere, with RedState's Erick Erickson accusing the GOP of 'capitulation' and threatening primary challenges for House members who voted for it."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Employers stepped up hiring in February, pushing the unemployment rate to a four year-low, suggesting the economy is gaining traction despite the blow from higher taxes and deep government spending cuts. Nonfarm payrolls surged 236,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, handily beating economists' expectations for a gain of 160,000. The jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008, from 7.9 percent in January. The decline reflected gains in employment as well as people leaving the labor force."

New York Times: "Angrily responding to the United Nations Security Council's unanimous decision to impose tightened sanctions, North Korea said on Friday that it was nullifying all nonaggression agreements with South Korea, with one of its top generals claiming that his country had nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles ready to blast off. Matching the harsh warning with a toughened stance, South Korea said on Friday that if Pyongyang attacks the South with a nuclear weapon, the regime of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, 'will be erased from the earth.'"

Reuters: "Kenya's presidential race tightened on Friday with frontrunner Uhuru Kenyatta gaining just under half of the ballots counted four days after the vote, raising the prospect of a tense run-off against his main rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga." ...

... New York Times: "... when the ballot counting began [in Kenya] this week, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president, surged ahead in the race for president and stayed out front as the margin narrowed early on Friday. Soon, the Obama administration and its allies could face a tough choice, made even more complicated by the appearance of taking sides against a candidate who may very well win.... He has been charged with heinous crimes, accused of using a vast fortune to bankroll death squads that slaughtered women and children. His running mate also faces charges of crimes against humanity, and as Kenya's election drew closer, the Obama administration's top official for Africa issued a thinly veiled warning during a conference call about the vote, saying that Kenyans are, of course, free to pick their own leaders but that 'choices have consequences.'"

AP: "Flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals and even insurance companies are part of a growing backlash to the Transportation Security Administration's new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment like souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs onto planes. The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants, said it is coordinating a nationwide legislative and public education campaign to reverse the policy announced by TSA Administrator John Pistole this week. A petition posted by the flight attendants on the White House's 'We the People' website had more than 9,300 signatures early Friday urging the administration to tell the TSA to keep knives off planes."

AP: "More than 30 heads of government, including Cuban President Raul Castro and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were scheduled to attend [the funeral of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela]. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, and former Rep. William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, represented the United States, which Chavez often portrayed as a great global evil even as he sent the country billions of dollars in oil each year."

Wednesday
Mar062013

The Commentariat -- March 7, 2013

David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times: "The president personally picked up the tab for [a] private dinner at the Jefferson Hotel, and the guests were all Republican senators, including John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). Coming out of the hotel after the two-hour meal, the senators had nothing but nice things to say about the gathering," although the meal got off to a rocky start when Toomey & Johnson proposed filibustering the appetizer course (clause after the end-quote may be inaccurate). ...

... Julie Pace of the AP: "A White House official says President Barack Obama has invited Rep. Paul Ryan for lunch at the White House Thursday.... The official requested anonymity in order to" avoid answering questions about why the President could not stomach sitting down to a full dinner with the former vice presidential candidate & ideological granny-starver, as he did with Republican Senators (part after the end-quote may be fanciful). ...

... Charles Pierce: "... there is simply nothing that the zombie-eyed granny-starver could propose that should be treated by any Democratic president any differently than a free introductory case of the mange.... He wants to demolish the social-welfare component of the government because he considers it philosophically illegitimate. He wants to establish an oligarchical system, not because it will profit him personally, although it will, but because he considers it the natural order of democracy. In every sense of the word, he is an extremist, the Louie Gohmert of economic policy. The president slapped him down to his face in an episode aboyt which Republicans have not yet stopped whining. Inviting him back into the discussion can do nothing but make you wonder how securely the fix already is in." ...

... Rosalind Helderman & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The House took its first step to avert a government shutdown on Wednesday as President Obama began a series of rare meetings with Republican lawmakers, reviving chances for a long-term deal to reduce the federal deficit.... The House approved a six-month spending bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The measure passed 267 to 151, with most Republicans supporting it and most Democrats voting against it. The stopgap measure would provide $982 billion.... But it would lock in the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester for the rest of the fiscal year. The bill will now head to the Senate, where Democrats are likely to seek amendments that would help blunt the effects of domestic spending cuts that began last week. But there is bipartisan optimism that a final version of the measure will clear Congress by the end of the month." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "House Republicans will preserve Medicare cuts that their presidential nominee loudly denounced last year and accept tax increases they sternly opposed just months ago in a new tax-and-spending blueprint that would bring the federal budget into balance by 2023, senior Republicans said Wednesday. But the politically charged proposal, which emerged as the House easily passed legislation to keep the government financed through Sept. 30, is not expected to include workers currently 55 and over in major changes recommended for Medicare, after more moderate Republicans objected." ...

... E. J. Dionne: a "significant number of Republicans in the Senate -- possibly as many 20 -- who think what's going [re: the federal budget] on is foolish and counterproductive. The White House is betting that enough GOP senators are prepared to make a deal along lines that President Obama has already put forward."

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "Senate Republicans on Tuesday filibustered the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, blocking a nominee tapped last year by President Obama to serve on one of the country's most powerful courts. Tuesday's final roll call vote on cutting off debate was 54 to 45. One Republican -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- joined all 53 members of the Democratic caucus in voting to move ahead with Halligan's nomination, leaving the former New York state solicitor general six votes short of the 60 votes necessary for ending debate." ...

I am deeply disappointed that despite support from a majority of the United States Senate, a minority of Senators continues to block the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Nearly two and a half years after being nominated, Ms. Halligan continues to wait for a simple up-or-down vote. In the past, filibusters of judicial nominations required 'extraordinary circumstances,' and a Republican Senator who was part of this agreement articulated that only an ethics or qualification issue -- not ideology -- would qualify. -- President Obama (read the whole statement)

Duh. I hate to suggest this, but if this is an indication of where we’re headed, we need to revisit the rules again. We need to go back to it again. I'm sorry to say it because I was hopeful that a bipartisan approach to dealing with these issues would work. -- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Majority Whip ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "On Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) engaged in a marathon filibuster of John Brennan, Obama's nominee to head the CIA, protesting the administration's policy on the use of drones in lethal operations. Paul began speaking at noon and was still filibustering six hours later." CW: I checked at 9:15 pm ET Wednesday, & earlier. Other Senators are helping Paul. John Barrasso (RTP-Wy.) was speaking. ...

     ... Update. Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "A small group of Republicans, led by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, stalled the Senate on Wednesday by waging a nearly 13-hour old-school, speak-until-you-can-speak-no-more filibuster over the government's use of lethal drone strikes -- forcing the Senate to delay the expected confirmation of John O. Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.... Mr. Paul finally wound down shortly before 1 a.m. on Thursday, surrounded by a group of Republican senators and House members who had joined him on the Senate floor in a show of solidarity.

... ** Steve Benen has a rundown of how Senate Republicans have responded to the "filibuster reform" Harry Reid & Mitch McConnell agreed on a few months ago. It's shocking, if not surprising. ...

... ** Gail Collins has some excellent commentary, contrasting Rand Paul's filibuster with Mitch McConnell's paper filibuster. ...

... Greg Sargent: "The very fact that Paul's filibuster (one built on genuine convictions surrounding real issues that were fully aired in public) was treated as so extraordinary is a reminder of the degree to which we've accepted nonstop secret filibustering (which has become nothing more than a tool for partisan across-the-board obstructionism) as entirely ordinary."

Obama 2.0. Another Fox. Same Hen House. Peter Lattman & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Andrew J. Ceresney, who served as [S.E.C. nominee Mary Jo] White's lieutenant as both a defense lawyer and as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, is a leading candidate to ultimately become her enforcement chief at the Securities and Exchange Commission.... A Washington outsider and relative unknown beyond legal circles, Mr. Ceresney would help set the tone for policing financial fraud, effectively making him a top cop on Wall Street.... At the S.E.C., Mr. Ceresney, 41, would have to police some of the same firms he spent a decade defending."

Ed O'Keefe & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Continued disagreements over whether to keep records of private gun sales prompted Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to move ahead Wednesday without the support of the Democrats and Republicans he's been meeting with for weeks in hopes of striking a deal to expand the national background check system, with limited exceptions. Schumer said he will reintroduce a proposal mandating background checks on all gun sales, private or commercial, on Thursday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing." ...

Silence of the Lambs. Reid Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama’s gun control agenda is looking more doomed by the day, but gun control advocates still haven't said a word to complain. That's no accident. The White House knew its post-Newtown effort would require bringing key gun control groups into the fold. So the White House offered a simple arrangement: the groups could have access and involvement, but they'd have to offer silence and support in exchange. The implied rules, according to conversations with many of those involved: No infighting. No second-guessing in the press. Support whatever the president and Vice President Joe Biden propose. And most of all, don't make waves or get ahead of the White House." ...

... ** Dave Gilson of Mother Jones answers the NRA's Crazy Arguments for Guns. Or, how to answer your gun-happy buddies when they spout "proofs" that guns make us all safer.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones on dumb reporting about the federal budget, etc.

Jeb (Not His Real Name)
Is Supposed to Be the Smart Bush

... as I understand it, three or four years from now, the deal is that the fed match [for Medicaid] goes from 95 back to what it is now, which is about 55 in Florida. -- Jeb (Not His Real Name) Bush, on CNN

... as everybody else understands it, "the federal government covers 100% of the cost of the expansion during the first three years and gradually reduces its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.... In his new book, Bush offered up a different reason to oppose the expansion, calling it "welfare" for the children of illegal immigrants. -- Pema Levy of TPM

Jeb Bush was a two-term governor of a large state with a large Medicaid population. Medicaid represented the second-largest item in the state budget..., and far and away the largest federal program directly affecting Florida's budget.... I don't think Jeb Bush deserves to be cut any slack for so fundamentally misunderstanding the financial terms of the Medicaid expansion. It's like a Nepalese mountain-climber missing Mount Everest. -- Ed Kilgore

Jonathan Chait: "If you have never seen Fox News before, here is a four-minute clip that captures the essence of the network so perfectly that you need never watch anything on it again. It's all here. At the center, you have an old conservative white guy who is enraged about a fact that exists only in his addled brain. At his side, there's a blonde sidekick who nods along with him but doesn't get in the way. And ready to absorb his anger is the network's Emmanuel Goldstein figure, feebly attempting a rebuttal that quickly devolves into a sniveling plea for civility:"

"Upgrade of Die." George Packer of the New Yorker tells a tale of two countries.

Contrary to what she told Terry Gross, Sandra Day O'Connor admits to Jon Stewart that she did have a few regrets about some of her Court decisions:

Local News

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Arkansas adopted what is by far the country's most restrictive ban on abortion on Wednesday -- at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound. The law, the sharpest challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, was passed by the newly Republican-controlled legislature over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who called it 'blatantly unconstitutional.' The State Senate voted Tuesday to override his veto and the House followed suit on Wednesday, with several Democrats joining the Republican majority. The law contradicts the limit established by Supreme Court decisions, which give women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and abortion rights groups promised a quick lawsuit to block it."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The U.N. Security Council took direct aim at North Korea's leadership Thursday with new sanctions targeting cash transfers and luxury items, punishing the reclusive regime for its latest nuclear test while evoking a fresh torrent of threats from the North Korean capital. The sanctions, drafted by the United States and China and approved unanimously, were adopted against a backdrop of apocalyptic rhetoric from Pyongyang, including a threat to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against foreign 'aggressors,' a term traditionally interpreted to include the United States."

Washington Post: "A former spokesman for al-Qaeda and son-in-law of its founder, Osama bin Laden, was captured overseas and secretly brought to New York this month to face a criminal trial for allegedly conspiring to kill Americans, U.S. officials said Thursday. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was initially detained in Turkey last month but was taken into U.S. custody in Jordan while he was being deported to Kuwait, U.S. officials said. He is expected to appear in federal court Friday in the Southern District of New York."

Bloomberg News: "... the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell to a six- week low, showing further improvement in the labor market."

Reuters: "An Italian court sentenced ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday to one year in jail over the publication by his family's newspaper of a transcript of a leaked wiretap connected to a banking scandal in 2006. Italian justice system rules mean that the 76-year-old media billionaire would not have to serve any jail time until the appeals process has been exhausted, and a higher court may still overturn the ruling."

AP: "North Korea vowed on Thursday to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, amplifying its threatening rhetoric hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test."

Reuters: "Safety regulators are poised to approve within days a plan to allow Boeing Co to begin flight tests of the 787 Dreamliner with a fix for its volatile batteries, a critical step towards returning the grounded aircraft to service, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday."

Tuesday
Mar052013

The Commentariat -- March 6, 2013

Obama 2.0 Richard Lardner of the AP: "The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday to approve [John Brennan,] President Barack Obama's pick to lead the CIA, after winning a behind-the-scenes battle with the White House over access to a series of top-secret legal opinions that justify the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects, including American citizens." ...

... Greg Miller has the story for the Washington Post. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Yes, the president does have the authority to use military force against American citizens on US soil — but only in 'an extraordinary circumstance,' Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday. 'The US Attorney General's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening,' Paul said Tuesday. 'It is an affront the constitutional due process rights of all Americans.'" ...

... Digby: "This case is something a 5th grader could answer: anyone on American soil is subject to the US Constitution which guarantees them due process." ...

... "The Most Powerful Federal Agency You've Never Heard of." Ben Goad of The Hill: "Time is running out for President Obama to make one of his most influential appointments: a regulatory chief who will serve as the gatekeeper for an avalanche of new rules from federal agencies. With Congress mired in partisanship, Obama is expected to lean heavily on the use of executive power to enact his agenda. At the same time, scores of new rules are now under consideration at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House's clearinghouse for federal mandates."

Matt Spetalnick of the AP: "While the death of Venezuela's stridently anti-American President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday raised hopes in Washington for better U.S.-Venezuela relations, the Obama administration reacted cautiously as it weighed the prospects for a diplomatic thaw. President Barack Obama quickly reached out to Venezuelans, expressing an interest in a 'constructive relationship' in the post-Chavez era."

Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "With Republican leaders in Congress forswearing budget negotiations over new revenues, President Obama has begun reaching around them to Republican lawmakers with a history of willingness to cut bipartisan deals. Mr. Obama has invited about a dozen Republican senators out to dinner on Wednesday night, after speaking with several of them by phone in recent days.... And next week, according to those people and others who did not want to be identified, he will make a rare foray to Capitol Hill to meet separately with the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House."

Debbie Wilgoren & Ashley Halsey of the Washington Post: "Schools and many government offices in the Washington area closed for the day on Wednesday as snow began to blanket the region, the first wave of a storm that forecasters said could dump five to 10 inches inside the Capital Beltway and significantly more to the north and west." ...

... Which Is Why This Is So Brilliant.... Ed O'Keefe & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Bowing to Mother Nature, the House will vote on a plan to continue funding the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on Wednesday -- one day earlier than initially scheduled.... Senior Senate aides noted that the worst portion of the storm is likely to come Wednesday morning and afternoon, making it plausible that the safer decision would be to postpone Wednesday's planned vote on a controversial judicial nomination until Thursday." Who do you think is smarter? -- John Boehner or Harry Reid?

David Espo of the AP: "The Obama administration and congressional Republicans are quietly working in tandem to blunt the impact of short-term spending cuts that kicked in with dire White House warnings a few days ago, with both sides eager to pocket the full savings for deficit reduction as they pivot to a new clash over Medicare." ...

... Meanwhile, the White House Website is prominently featuring President Obama's "Balanced Plan to Avert the Sequester and Reduce the Deficit."

Reuters: "Less than two months into his second term, President Barack Obama's approval rating has dropped and Americans blame him and his fellow Democrats almost as much as his Republican opponents for a fiscal mess." CW: thank you, news media, with special kudos to Bob Woodward & Bill Keller. ...

... AND the public now is in the GOP camp: 61 percent support the sequester, & 60 percent oppose cuts to the military, according to a new ABC News/WashPo poll. CW: The lesson here, IMHO, is that the public goes with the winner; when it looked as if Obama had the high ground, his numbers were up; when Republicans won the sequester battle, their agenda got the nod. It pays to win. ...

... Au Contraire, Greg Sargent argues, "Things suddenly change when you bring up specific government programs. Also, the poll doesn't offer respondents the option of choosing a mix between new revenues and cuts -- a position that has majority support in other polls -- which means it doesn't test the basic dispute at the center of the crisis." ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: "... we're probably stuck with the sequester for the rest of this fiscal year -- and maybe well beyond that. It's an outcome almost no one saw coming a year ago, and one made all the more remarkable by the fact that the most recent election seemed to represent a rebuke of the GOP and its embrace of Tea Party fiscal values."

Jake Sherman & Jonathan Allen of Politico: "Rep. Paul Ryan's budget is now expected to exempt seniors 55 years old and above from his Medicare overhaul -- despite his personal preference to raise that age to 56 -- according to several GOP sources familiar with his plans." CW: I love the way these Politico boys frame this story as one in which Ryan is looking for ways to "save Medicare." CW: Are they that stupid or are they on the take? Ryan had a change of heart (okay, inappropriate metaphor; that lying weasel has no heart) ...

... BECAUSE... Molly Hooper of The Hill: "House Republican centrists [were] furious that GOP leaders [were] considering abandoning their pledge not to change Medicare retirement benefits for people 55 years and older. According to several sources, a handful of centrist GOP lawmakers attending a recent Tuesday Group luncheon erupted when Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) broke the news." ...

... Bernie Becker of The Hill: "The new House GOP spending bill directs the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail six days a week, against the wishes of the nation's postmaster general.... Congress has used the appropriations process to force USPS, which has lost billions of dollars in recent years, to continue Saturday delivery for roughly three decades."

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "... misleading GOP claims about Obama's behavior is only half the story. The Republicans are also mischaracterizing their own behavior. With this new budget, Ryan doesn't appear to be offering new concessions. On the contrary, it looks like he's making new demands."

** "Lipstick on an Elephant." Frank Rich on the GOP resuscitation plan, which of course involves stealing elections. "... real Republican leaders don't want any reinvention that ventures much beyond forced smiles; retooled, focus-­group-tested language (in English and Spanish); and blather about 'the kids.'"

Alex Pareene of Salon: "According to a working paper from two political scientists who interviewed 2,000 state legislative candidates last year, politicians all think Americans are more conservative than they actually are. Unsurprisingly, Republicans think voters are way more right-wing than they actually are.... Elected Republicans are more conservative than their constituents, but they think their constituents are basically all psycho Freepers."

Noam Scheiber of The New Republic on "The Boehnerian Way." Insightful, funny, maddening. Bear in mind, Boehner has to deal with this guy (and a lot more like him) ...

... Congrats to Louie Gohmert (RTP-Texas) for winning the title Sequester Jester of the Week. In response to a White House announcement "that it would halt public tours due to the sequester cuts," Gohmert proposed the following Amendment to the Continuing Resolution:

At the end of division C (before the short title), insert the following: SEC. ll. None of the funds made available by a division of this Act may be used to transport the President to or from a golf course until public tours of the White House resume. ...

... George Condon of the National Journal: Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who's been out of jail for awhile, has written a book "packed with insider criticisms of some of Washington's biggest names of the past two decades. The targets for the longtime GOP officeholder are almost all fellow Republicans, including current House Speaker John Boehner; former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; the assistant attorney general who prosecuted him; Republican strategist Karl Rove; former President George W. Bush; former Vice President Dick Cheney; former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; and Sen. John McCain." He accuses Boehner of doublecrossing him bigtime, & calls him "a chain-smoking, relentless wine drinker who was more interested in the high life -- golf, women, cigarettes, fun, and alcohol."

Lara Jakes of the AP: "Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost. In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen's conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results. The reconstruction effort 'grew to a size much larger than was ever anticipated,' Bowen told The Associated Press in a preview of his last audit of U.S. funds spent in Iraq, to be released Wednesday." ...

... Charles Pierce, commenting on the report: "George W. Bush should spend the rest of his days dogged by regiments of wounded veterans. Richard Cheney should be afflicted at all hours by the howls of widows and of mothers who have lost sons and daughters. Colin Powell -- and his pal, MSNBC star Lawrence Wilkerson -- should shut the hell up about how sorry they are and go off to a monastery somewhere to do penance for what they didn't have the balls to try and stop." ...

... Maureen Dowd gets a preview of a Showtime feature, "The World According to Dick Cheney." "The guy makes Al Haig look like a shrinking violet."

Tom Hamburger & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Some of the gun lobby's strongest allies are breaking with the National Rifle Association to support proposals that would expand background checks for private firearm sales.... The trade group for the nation's leading firearm manufacturers said it will not actively oppose the expansion of background checks, which are designed to prevent guns from reaching criminals or the seriously mentally ill."

Peter Wallsten & David Nakamura of the Washington Post notice Jeb (Not His Real Name) Bush is running for president.

What's the Matter with Sandra Day O'Connor? Here's the link to Terry Gross's interview of Justice O'Connor said. CW: I haven't listened to it, but the commenters to the NPR page here all agree with Reality Chex contributor Haley S. -- O'Connor was one "cranky old lady ... a painful performance." You might say she was Out of Order, the title of the book she's not-so-successfully pushing.

As contributor MAG wrote, Bill Keller's "response" to criticisms of his column is totally lame.

Roger Ailes, in his new book, excerpted in Vanity Fair: "Newt's a prick," & Obama is a lazy, B-ball-playin' Nee-gro. "He said so himself." Via Jillian Rayfield of Salon.

Rhonda Schwarz & Brian Ross of ABC News explain why they didn't carry the Bob Menendez-and-underaged-prostitutes story when it was presented to them & the Daily Caller in the week before the November election. ...

... As Erik Wemple of the Washington Post writes, "The ABC News story [linked above] isn't a game changer; it's a game ender." Case closed.

This Day in History. Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center: "On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Dred Scott case, which had a direct impact on the coming of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln's presidency four years later."

Local News

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times portrays America's Worst Governor Rick Scott (RTP-Fla.) as a changed man with whom only the Tea Party is unhappy. CW: I would portray him as a con man.

Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa: "Seven Republicans in the Iowa House are pushing a bill to prohibit parents of minor children from getting a 'no fault' divorce and the proposal could be debated in a House committee this week.... Rachel Scott of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence told lawmakers the changes proposed often make homes a more dangerous place.... All 50 states now have 'no-fault' laws allowing couples to divorce without citing evidence of wrong-doing from either spouse." Apparently one of the bill's sponsors, Tedd Gasbag Gassman, sees it as a way to embarrass his recently-divorced daughter & son-in-law, leaving the couple's 16-year-old daughter no choice but to become a slut. ...

... Oops! I see Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos already picked up on the slut thing. ...

... Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog: "I guess this is coming from that remade GOP I've heard so much about."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Insurgent fighters from Syria seized a group of United Nations troops on patrol in the disputed Golan Heights region between Syria and Israel on Wednesday and threatened to treat them as prisoners of war, an abrupt escalation in the Syrian conflict that entangled international peacekeepers for the first time."

Politico: "The number of anti-government groups in the United States is at an all-time high and has increased 800 percent since President Barack Obama took office, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report. The SPLC identified 1,360 so-called patriot groups on the 'radical right' in 2012, compared with only 149 in 2008."

AP: "Airline passengers will be able to carry small knives, souvenir baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes beginning next month under a policy change announced Tuesday by the head of the Transportation Security Administration. The new policy conforms U.S. security standards to international standards, and allows TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said in a statement."

ABC News: "George Zimmerman's attorneys stunned court observers today by deciding to skip a 'Stand Your Ground' hearing slated for April that might have led to a dismissal of the charges in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin."

AP: "A senior U.S. envoy says Iran is committed to 'deception, defiance and delay' in how it deals with international concerns about its nuclear program. The hard-hitting comments by Joseph Macmanus to the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency reflect U.S. frustration over Iran's expanding uranium enrichment program and stalled attempts by the U.N.'s nuclear agency to probe suspicions that Tehran might have tried to develop nuclear weapons in secret."