Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A Democratic push to extend unemployment benefits that have expired moved forward in the Senate on Tuesday morning, barely avoiding a Republican filibuster. The 60-to-37 vote to take up a three-month extension of benefits passed with no room to spare, which will set off negotiations to try to pass the bill later this week. Even some of the Republicans who voted yes want the cost of the extension set off by cuts elsewhere in the budget." CW: The six Repubicans who voted for the bill were Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Dan Coats (Indiana), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nevada), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) & Rob Portman (Ohio).
Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The Senate confirmed Janet L. Yellen as the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve on Monday, marking the first time that a woman has led the country's central bank in its 100-year history.... Ms. Yellen was confirmed 56 to 26, with many senators kept away from the Capitol due to inclement weather. Nearly one dozen Republicans -- including Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma -- crossed the aisle in support of Ms. Yellen. Ms. Yellen will be the first Democratic nominee to run the Fed since President Jimmy Carter named Paul Volcker as chairman in 1979. Still, it is the thinnest margin of Senate approval for a Fed chairman in the central bank's history." ...
... The President's statement is here.
David Espo of the AP: "The Senate plunged into an election-year session Monday that promises to be long on political maneuvering and less so on accomplishment, beginning with a slow-motion struggle over legislation to renew lapsed jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. 'I'm optimistic, cautiously optimistic, that the new year will bring a renewed spirit of cooperation to this chamber,' said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the first remarks of the year on the Senate floor. Within moments, he pivoted, accusing Republicans of 'never ending obstruction' to President Barack Obama's proposals over the past five years." ...
... Burgess Everett of Politico: "The chances of the Senate moving forward with legislation that would restore expired unemployment benefits dimmed Monday. The bill's fate hung in the balance all day as Democrats desperately sought Republican votes to advance the bill. In a sign of how seriously the White House is taking the issue, President Barack Obama personally worked the phone lines." ...
... "Where Have All the Democrats Gone?" Dana Milbank: "It's hard to imagine a better gift falling into their laps: Republicans have just thrown 1.3 million unemployed Americans out into the cold and are prepared to cut off 3.6 million others who are out of work.... But in the two hours the Senate spent debating unemployment insurance Monday afternoon, only three Democrats showed up to talk: Harry Reid (Nev.), the soft-spoken majority leader, read a brief yet somniferous speech. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) offered a few words -- on immigration. Jack Reed (R.I.) delivered a professorial 20-minute lecture in support of extending jobless benefits. And then the chamber went silent for the next hour and 20 minutes -- in a quorum call because nobody else wanted to talk."
Charles Pierce has some thoughts on the "two freaking unaccountable guys" -- a/k/a David & Charles Koch -- who, with the help of the Supreme Court, have created a labyrinth of organized money that "has bought virtual plutocracy in state governments from Wisconsin to North Carolina. It has bought itself the single worst Congress in the history of the Republic. And it is growing in strength, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, because Citizens United was decided in such a way as to choke off any regulatory solutions, and then Shelby County came along as the hook off the jab and what electoral remedies could not be buried under the floodtide of money could be washed away by the state legislatures in those virtual plutocracies."
Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson filed a lawsuit Monday in an attempt to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and their staffs. Johnson's filing further stirred a rift within his own party over how Republicans should attack the health care law. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a fellow Wisconsin Republican and ardent Obamacare critic, said Monday he personally appealed to Johnson on Friday to not file the lawsuit.... Sensenbrenner, who even before Johnson filed his suit called the litigation 'an unfortunate political stunt' that 'focuses on trivial issues,' amplified his criticism Monday." And there's this: Johnson "plans to raise money through his campaign account to fund the lawsuit. Johnson, who put nearly $9 million of his own money into his 2010 run for the Senate, said he may also use personal funds for the litigation." ...
... CW: When Jim Sensenbrenner, best know for impeaching Clinton & remarking on Michelle Obama's "big butt," is the voice of reason in your party, your party sucks. Also worth emphasizing: Johnson is a multi-multimillionaire. Many Congressional staffers earn in the $50K/year range. These are the people he wants to prevent from receiving assistance in paying for their health insurance. The suit is not just a political stunt; it's a nasty political stunt. ...
... Ryan Cooper of the Washington Post notes that Johnson's lawsuit is part of the "Benghazi-fication of ObamaCare."
Dan Williams of Reuters: "Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has more secrets to reveal that relate to Israel..., [Glenn Greenwald] said on Monday ... in an Israeli television interview."
Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "... on a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars ... broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside. They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups." The statute of limitations has long expired, and the burglars are now going public; Betty Medsger, who first reported on the contents of the files for the WashPo, has written a book about the break-in & discoveries.
Joe Nocera writes a worthwhile column on the digital economy -- how digital networking has helped to gut the middle class & how it could be revolutionized to enhance it. "'If Google and Facebook were smart,' [Jaron Lanier, the author of Who Owns the Future,] said, 'they would want to enrich their own customers.' So far, he adds, Silicon Valley has made 'the stupid choice' -- to grow their businesses at the expense of their own customers."
National Review Editors: "Launching 17 million 'Rocky Mountain High' jokes, Colorado has become the first state to make the prudent choice of legalizing the consumption and sale of marijuana, thus dispensing with the charade of medical restrictions and recognizing the fact that, while some people smoke marijuana to counter the effects of chemotherapy, most people smoke marijuana to get high -- and that is not the worst thing in the world." CW: David Brooks, whose first job was with the National Review, must be devastated.
It's a Cold Day in America. Which means it's time for Jim Inhofe (RStupid-Okla.) to take to the Senate Floor to scoff at the crazy notion of climate change. Besides not understanding that climate change helps explain the extremely cold weather we're having (and, yes, Jimbo, there is a difference between climate & weather), Sen. Science there doesn't seem to know the difference between the North & South Poles. This is entirely appropriate because in Right Wing World down is up and up is down. ...
... Andy Borowitz: "The so-called polar vortex caused hundreds of injuries across the Midwest today, as people who said 'so much for global warming' and similar comments were punched in the face."
** Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic: "When not attempting to shame their enemies on trumped-up charges of racism, the conservative movement busies itself appealing to actual racists." CW: Coates' post is part of our continuing effort to try to distinguish the behavior norms of left versus right. Coates get it just right in regard to racism. His regard for Harris-Perry, however, is somewhat overblown. I don't think, as does Coates, that Harris-Perry is "America's foremost public intellectual." ...
... Nor is David Brooks (see link below re: boutique hotels), whom actual intellectuals mistake for a public intellectual, suggesting that actual intellectuals hold the "public" ones in low regard. (In this interview, Brooks essentially describes himself as better than America's foremost public intellectuals. He talks to presidents! while the lowly intellectuals haven't the access he has.)
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) explains in a Politico essay how the House GOP's use of "closed rules" "has excluded most House members from full participation in the legislative process [and] ... has also empowered the most extreme members of the House to pursue narrow policy goals at all costs, triggering a government shutdown, debt-limit brinksmanship and partisan stalemates that are seemingly the new norm."
GOP to Go All Out for Anti-Woman Vote. Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "The Republican National Committee (RNC) will make accommodations to its official schedule this month to allow members to participate in the March for Life, a national anti-abortion protest held on each anniversary of Roe v. Wade.... In addition to modifying the RNC's schedule, [RNC Chairman Reince] Priebus is also arranging for buses to transport members to and from the March for Life activities." ...
... Hunter of Daily Kos: " Rescheduling your annual political meeting so that your party members can be seen parading around demanding that abortion be banned is a dramatic statement, but perhaps not as dramatic as choosing to first shop the story to the Washington Times. Good gawd, Reince, did you have to deliver it in crayon?"
Ken Belson & Alan Schwarz of the New York Times: "The N.F.L. and lawyers for the more than 4,000 former players who said the league hid from them the dangers of repeated head hits have agreed on the details of a $760 million settlement that could determine how retirees with head trauma are compensated."
Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "An eruption of violence in Iraq is threatening to undo much of what U.S. troops appeared to have accomplished before they withdrew, putting the country's stability on the line and raising the specter of a new civil war in a region already buckling under the strain of the conflict in Syria."
Completely ignoring the mass-bashing of his last column on the Evils of Weed, David Brooks has turned to an important op-ed topic: boutique hotels. Honest-to-god. Boutique hotels. "A basic rule of happiness," Brooks writes, "is don't buy things; buy experiences." CW: No doubt the subtext here is a not-too-subtle message to his (ex)wife: "I am getting laid, Sarah or Jane or whatever your name is now, and this is happening in edgy, boutique hotels where my 'cultural discernment' shines." I do not think I can get through the Brooks divorce.
Congressional Races 2014
Larry Sabato in Politico Magazine: "Republicans Really Could Win It All This Year."
Todd Purdum in Politico: Liz "Cheney's campaign -- notable for its vocal (and seemingly newfound) opposition to gay marriage, which soured her relations with her own openly gay sister, Mary -- was as ham-fisted as it was polarizing. A University of Chicago-trained lawyer and political appointee in the George W. Bush-era State Department, Cheney had virtually no experience in the policy areas that matter most in Wyoming: public lands and grazing rights; minerals and mining; oil and gas extraction. She made one unforced error after another, from claiming 10-year residency on her application for a state fishing license (she only moved to the state from Virginia in 2012), to opposing taxes on Internet retailers just as local Wyoming merchants were gearing up for the recent Christmas sales season." ...
... Evan Osnos of the New Yorker with more on the Cheney debacle.
Presidential Election 2016
Dave Weigel of Slate interviews "former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the Democrat most likely to challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016." CW: Just a hoot.
Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog has an excellent post explaining the Supreme Court's decision to temporarily block gay marriages in Utah.
Jason Meisner of the Chicago Tribune: U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang "today declared Chicago's ordinance banning the sale of firearms in the city unconstitutional. The ruling is the latest legal blow to the city, which has lost a series of court challenges by the National Rifle Association since the Supreme Court forced the city to rewrite its blanket ban on handguns three years ago.... Chang delayed his ruling from taking effect to allow the city time to appeal." CW: Chang is an Obama appointee.
New York Times: "Two ships immobilized by ice floes near Antarctica broke free on Tuesday, news agencies reported."
AFP: "The United States said Tuesday it would send another 800 troops to South Korea as the allies warned North Korea against any provocation, amid deepening worries over the regime's stability. Amid concern after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un executed his uncle, Secretary of State John Kerry met in Washington with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se and said there was 'not a sliver of daylight' between the two countries."
Guardian: "At least four people have been killed after a US military helicopter crashed during a training exercise near a Royal Air Force base close to the north Norfolk coast."
Guardian: "South Sudanese rebels and a government delegation started peace talks on Tuesday to try to end fighting that has left the world's newest state on the brink of civil war."
CNN: "The historic freeze that proved too cold for polar bears in the Midwest is spreading, dropping temperatures in the eastern third of the country about 20 degrees below normal for Tuesday, forecasters said. Meanwhile, much of the Deep South is frozen solid, with hard freeze warnings in effect Tuesday from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle."
Washington Post: 'The Justice Department announced Tuesday a $1.7 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase to resolve allegations that the behemoth bank did not warn the government of Bernard L. Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Federal prosecutors say JPMorgan, which served as Madoff's bank for two decades, failed to comply with a federal law that requires banks to file a 'suspicious activity' report when a transaction raises alarm. The nation's biggest bank reported its suspicions of Madoff's business to British authorities in 2008 but did not alert anyone in the United States."
Reuters: "Iran on Monday appeared to rule out participation in Syrian peace talks later this month, dismissing a U.S. suggestion that it could be involved 'from the sidelines' as not respecting its dignity."
AP: "The U.N.'s human rights office has stopped updating the death toll from Syria's civil war, confirming Tuesday that it can no longer verify the sources of information that led to its last count of at least 100,000 in late July."