The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

AP: "Mark Lippert, the US ambassador to South Korea, has been slashed on the face and wrist by a man armed with a razor and screaming that the two Koreas should be unified. Pictures showed a stunned-looking Lippert staring at his blood-covered left hand and holding his right hand over a cut on the right side of his face, his pink tie splattered with blood."

Boston Globe: "The trial of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev" begins today.

Public Service Announcement

The Hill: "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden on Sunday [Feb. 1] warned that the U.S. could see a 'large outbreak' of measles.... There are at least 102 reported cases in 14 states, according to the CDC. Frieden said that the U.S. is 'likely to see more cases.'... The said the best way to prevent the spread of measles was vaccination.Frieden said despite the U.S.'s 92 percent vaccination rate, there is growing evidence more parents are not vaccinating their children."

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

White House Live Video
March 4

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Way Cheaper Wi-Fi? Will Oremus of Slate: "Google isn’t talking details yet, but ...what it has in mind, according to industry rumors and sources, is something like what FreedomPop and Republic Wireless are already offering: a 'Wi-Fi first' service that could deliver adequate, if slightly spotty, coverage at a fraction of the prevailing cost. And that coverage is likely to get much better over time."

Woodwording Plagiarism?? Washington Post: "There’s no doubt that the first season finale of Ellen DeGeneres’s reality competition show was bizarre. But the questions it raises are even stranger, along with the weird and frustrating way the network chose to handle a controversial situation."

Adam Goodheart of the Atlantic reviews a book by historian Eric Foner that sheds new light on the Underground Railway that helped Southern black Americans escapes slavery, even though the participants were violating federal law -- openly, too: "It is a little-known historical irony that right up until the eve of Southern secession in 1860, states’ rights were invoked as often by Northern abolitionists as by Southern slaveholders."

CW: How I'll Spend My Weekend. Season 3 of "House of Cards" is up on Netflix now:

Deadline: ESPN suspends Keith Olbermann for engaging in an "inappropriate" "Twitter War" with some Penn State students. ...

... CW: Hard to believe something like this hasn't happened sooner.

Buzz Aldrin during a spacewalk, November 1966. Last year Aldrin described the photo as the "BEST SELFIE EVER." CW: I'd say he's right.

New York Times: "Hundreds of photographs from the early years of the space age are for sale. That includes the first image taken from space — from an altitude of 65 miles by a camera on a V-2 rocket launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Oct. 24, 1946. (The boundary to outer space is generally placed at 100 kilometers, or 62.1 miles.) The prints are vintage — dating from that era, not modern reproductions — and come from the collection of a single European collector, said Sarah Wheeler, head of photographs at Bloomsbury Auctions in London."

** Charles Pierce comments on wingers' Twitter reactions to the Oscars.

Actor Patricia Arquette accepts her Academy Award & calls for women's wage equality:

... Which sparked outrage on the right. And dismay on the left.

#OscarsSoWhite. Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Sunday was a study in contradictions; there was overwhelming emphasis on the visibility of black people in Hollywood, yet their peers hadn’t deemed their work fit for nomination in any of the major individual categories."

Common & John Legend accept the award for the song "Glory" from the film "Selma":

The Los Angeles Times' Academy Awards page is here. The main story is here. The list of winners is here.

Los Angeles Times: "A Palm Springs home built using Joseph Eichler’s original blueprints is under contract to sell for $1.29 million. The newly built Modernist design, considered the first true Eichler home developed in 40 years, came to market on Tuesday. According to real estate brokers and developers Troy Kudlac and Ross Stout of KUD Properties Inc., which handled the listing side, it sold that day for the asking price." With slideshow.

If you just can't get enough of the Academy Awards, the L. A. Times has a guide to Oscar-related TV shows. If you want to watch the Oscars online, here's where & how.

D. R. Tucker in the Washington Monthly: "... give [Jon] Stewart his props for the positive things he has done over the years. He has inspired a new generation of commentators who will continue to call out political perversity and media mendacity. However, the man was not without his flaws — and the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a gigantic one. As Olbermann, Maher and Maddow have long argued, sanity has to defeat fear, not figure out some way to get along with it."

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The Commentariat -- Dec. 26, 2012

Once again the commentary here has put me in a Bah! Humbug! mood. I'll do what I do when I do it, and if you don't like it, try the Anodyne News or the He Said/She Said Times-Express. -- Constant Weader

Cliff Notes

Obama Determined to Scrooge Seniors. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "President Obama is planning to cut his Christmas vacation short and return to Washington to make a last-ditch push for a compromise on a tax and spending dispute that remains stubbornly unresolved. The White House said Tuesday that the president would leave Wednesday night. His family, however, will stay behind in Hawaii. Meanwhile, both chambers of Congress will come back from their holiday hiatus on Thursday...."

Jamelle Bouie in the Washington Post: Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy not so much for the revenue the additional taxes would raise but to ever-so-slightly reduce income inequality.

Psychiatrist Paul Steinberg in a New York Times op-ed: "In our concern for the rights of people with mental illness, we have come to neglect the rights of ordinary Americans to be safe from the fear of being shot." ...

... CNN: "On Christmas Day, thanks to a grassroots effort by their fellow law enforcement brethren in nearby communities, Newtown's police officers [were] the recipients of a rare gift in their profession -- a holiday off, for the entire force." Adam Estes of the Atlantic has more.

** Mark Bittman of the New York Times: "Seven times as many poor children are obese as those who are underweight, an indication that government aid in the form of food stamps, now officially called SNAP, does a good job of addressing hunger but encourages the consumption of unhealthy calories." Bittman suggests "remov[ing] the subsidy for sugar-sweetened beverages," and "mak[ing] it easier to buy real food; several cities, including New York, have programs that double the value of food stamps when used for purchases at farmers markets."

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "New taxes are coming Jan. 1 to help finance President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Most people may not notice. But they will pay attention if Congress decides to start taxing employer-sponsored health insurance, one option in play if lawmakers can ever agree on a budget deal to reduce federal deficits."

Erica Goode & Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been without a permanent director for six years, as President Obama recently noted. But even if someone were to be confirmed for the job, the agency's ability to thwart gun violence is hamstrung by legislative restrictions and by loopholes in federal gun laws, many law enforcement officials and advocates of tighter gun regulations say. For example, under current laws the bureau is prohibited from creating a federal registry of gun transactions.... Congress ... [has] sided with the National Rifle Association, which argues that such a database poses a threat to the Second Amendment." ...

... So Much for Show and Tell. Katie Glueck of Politico: "The Washington Metropolitan Police Department is investigating whether any city laws were violated when NBC's David Gregory displayed what appeared to be a 30-round gun magazine on NBC's 'Meet the Press' on Sunday." CW: Glueck doesn't say so, but I noticed some of the leaders of Right Wing World were shrieking on Sunday that Gregory had violated the law. So I guess it's safe to say the D.C. cops read the Right Wing News. ...

... Update: I see the denizens of Right Wing World are still on the story. And a White House petition to lock up Gregory or something! It might be fair to prosecute Gregory for past instances of impersonating a journalist, but not for waving a gun magazine in Wayne LaPierre's face, which was, contra Gregory's usual Sunday morning banter & blather, an actual act of journalism. ...

... Attaturk of Firedoglake feels the same way about the right's attack on CNN's Piers Morgan. CNN: somehow the wingers think their so-called Second Amendment rights trump everybody else's First Amendment rights.

AP: actor "Ben Affleck is taking his name off the list of possible candidates for U.S. Sen. John Kerry's seat, which would be open if the Democratic senator from Massachusetts is confirmed as secretary of state. Affleck says in a Monday posting on his Facebook page that while he loves the political process, he will not be running for public office. Speculation about the Cambridge, Mass., native rose slightly when he did not completely rule out a Senate bid during an appearance on CBS' Face The Nation on Sunday." CW: Rats! No Hunk v. Hunk. ...

... Dan Amira of New York magazine: "Whenever a Senate seat becomes available in Massachusetts, at least one Kennedy -- any Kennedy, doesn't really matter who -- must, by law, at least consider running for it. With John Kerry's seat opening up soon, Ted Kennedy Jr. has fulfilled this sacred duty, but [Monday] the Globe report[ed] that he won't run, partially because he lives in Connecticut, which is not the same state as Massachusetts." ...

Nancy Cordes of CBS news: "Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, will announce Wednesday who he is appointing to late Sen. Daniel Inouye's vacant seat.... A few days ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged Abercrombie to appoint a successor 'with due haste,' because Democrats want to have a full roster for critical fiscal cliff votes coming up as soon as Friday. When Inouye's successor is sworn in, Democrats will hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate through the end of the year."

Joshua Green, in the Washington Post: actor Jack Klugman, who died December 24, "... played an instrumental role in passing critical health-care legislation, the Orphan Drug Act, through Congress in the early 1980s, using 'Quincy' and his own celebrity to roll Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), who was blocking the bill."

Right Wing World

** Guns & Money. Amy Gardner of the Washington Post has a fascinating piece on the shake-ups at the Tea Party astroturf organization FreedomWorks. A gun was involved in one coup; big money paid for the second. ...

... Let's Round that out to Lawyers, Guns & Money. David Corn of Mother Jones on how Dick Armey's allies at FreedomWorks sicced lawyers on the Mike Kibbe wing before the gun incident -- and Kibbe's response.

News Ledes

AP: "Former President George H.W. Bush has been admitted to the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital 'following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever,' but he is alert and talking to medical staff, his spokesman said Wednesday. Jim McGrath, Bush's spokesman in Houston, said.... He said doctors are cautiously optimistic about his treatment and that the former president 'remains in guarded condition.'"

AP: "Former South African President Nelson Mandela was released Wednesday from the hospital after being treated for a lung infection and having gallstones removed, a government spokesman said."

New York Times: "Toyota Motor said on Wednesday that it would spend $1.1 billion to settle a sweeping class-action lawsuit by owners of millions of vehicles that were recalled for problems with unintended acceleration. The agreement, filed in federal court in California, was called one of the largest product-liability settlements in history."

AP: "An enormous storm system that dumped snow and sleet on the nation's midsection and unleashed damaging tornadoes around the Deep South has begun punching its way toward the Northeast, slowing holiday travel. Post-Christmas travelers braced for a second day of flight delays and cancellations, a day after rare winter twisters damaged numerous homes in Louisiana and Alabama."

AP: "A vehicle driven by a suicide bomber exploded at the gate of a US military base in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing the attacker and three Afghans, Afghan police said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack."

AP: "U.S. shoppers spent cautiously this holiday season, a disappointment for retailers who slashed prices to lure people into stores.... Sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent compared with last year.... That was below the healthy 3 to 4 percent growth that analysts had expected -- and it was the worst year-over-year performance since 2008...."

Reuters: General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, "the head of Syria's military police, has defected from the army and declared allegiance to the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to a video and a Syrian security source. The high-level defection, while not a strategically significant development in the 21-month-old conflict, will be a blow to morale for Assad's forces, which are hitting back at a string of rebel advances across the country."

New York Times: the Japanese "Parliament formally elected Shinzo Abe as prime minister on Wednesday, ending a three-year break from decades of near-constant rule by his conservative Liberal Democratic Party."

AP: "The ex-con turned sniper who killed two firefighters wanted to make sure his goodbye note was legible, typing out his desire to 'do what I like doing best, killing people' before setting the house where he lived with his sister ablaze, police said. Police Chief Gerald Pickering said Tuesday that the 62-year-old loner, William Spengler, brought plenty of ammunition with him for three weapons including a military-style assault rifle as he set out on a quest to burn down his neighborhood just before sunrise on Christmas Eve."

AP: "The upper chamber of Russia's parliament has voted unanimously in favour of a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children. It now goes to the president, Vladimir Putin, to sign or turn down.... Some senior government officials, including the foreign minister, have spoken against the bill, arguing that it would be in violation of Russia's constitution and international obligations."

New York Times: "Charles Durning, who overcame poverty, battlefield trauma and nagging self-doubt to become an acclaimed character actor, whether on stage as Big Daddy in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' or in film as the lonely widower smitten with a cross-dressing Dustin Hoffman in 'Tootsie,' died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 89."


The Constant Weader Takes a Break

... To Do Some Serious Seasonal Research ...

In Her Annual Survey of

The Worst Christmas Songs Ever

She Keeps Finding Worse Ones

Nice outfits, Twisted Sister, but a little less percussion would have been more evocative of the carols we children used to sing in school back in the day schools had Christmas pageants:

This maudlin entry is Newsweek's nomination. The group is NewSong, a Christian "rock" group. One of the singers, Eddie Carswell, wrote the song all by hisself, based on a chain letter. Kevin Fallon of Newsweek has the story for anyone writing a paper on the history of shlock. I could not listen to the song all the way through:

BUT Patton Oswalt listened for me and explains the logic of the song's narrative. He includes this theological exegis: "I died for your sins, but those pumps are unforgivable":

... Sorry, John Denver, "Christmas Shoes" beat out your perennial favorite "Please, Daddy, Don't Get Drunk This Christmas."

Apparently Lady Gaga is an acquired taste. It's difficult to imagine a more salacious "Christmas carol":

Mariah Carey gives it the old college try, but doesn't come even close. The implied pedophilia is a nice touch, though:

Speaking of kids, in case you thought you were missing something by not knowing squat about boy groups -- this video should reassure you you're way better off. I keep forgetting how totally talentless these kids are. And they told us the lip-syncing Monkeys were bad:

Really, Madonna, how could you? (It's an awful song, but Eartha Kitt at least knew what to do with it):

Somehow I don't think Clarence Carter was really into the spirit of the season (out of an abundance of kindness, I'm not embedding Jon bon Jovi's version of "Back Door Santa":

Bob Dylan's "It Must Be Santa" is so bad I run it every year, & now I've come to enjoy it, albeit in a perverse way:

AND to make up for all that, the best bank commercial in history -- produced by the Banc Sabadell & performed in Plaça de Sant Roc in Sabadell, a town north of Barcelona. Thank you once again, Ludwig:

... Contributor James S. recommends ...

     ... That's Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters.


The Commentariat -- Dec. 24, 2012

NEW. Andy Borowitz forwards "A Holiday Letter from John Boehner."

The Deficit Cult. Paul Krugman equates deficit hawks with doomsday cult members: "... the prophets of fiscal disaster, no matter how respectable they may seem, are at this point effectively members of a doomsday cult. They are emotionally and professionally committed to the belief that fiscal crisis lurks just around the corner, and they will hold to their belief no matter how many corners we turn without encountering that crisis.... They've been hugely, absurdly wrong for years on end, and it's time to stop taking them seriously." ...

... Right on cue, Annie Lowrey of the New York Times profiles Maya MacGuineas, the "face of the Campaign to Fix the Debt." Lowrey reports, without so much as a "he said" for all the "she said"s, on MacGuineas & her "all-star cast" of debt & deficit hawks. Lowrey, who was a liberal writer just months ago, is married to Ezra Klein.

Economic Policy Institute: 250 Ph.D. economists & 50 Ph.D. social insurance experts write in a November 20, 2012 statement, "... we oppose proposals to reduce the Social Security COLA by tying it to a chained consumer price index that does not directly measure the actual expenditures of beneficiaries. Such a move would lower the COLA by an estimated 0.3 percentage points per year, translating into a 3 percent benefit cut after 10 years and a 6 percent cut after 20 years. The oldest beneficiaries, who are often the poorest beneficiaries, and persons receiving disability benefits for more than 20 years would see even larger cuts over time." (pdf) ...

... BUT, hey, everybody has to "compromise." Nancy Altman & Eric Kingston in the Huffington Post provide a "how-to" manual for politicians, etc., on the best ways to betray seniors & people with disabilities. The writes note that "Most [politicians], including President Obama and Speaker Boehner, have acknowledged that Social Security has not and cannot contribute a penny to the federal debt. Nearly all are on record as promising that they will never, ever cut the benefits of today's seniors and people with disabilities." CW: Altman & Kingston aren't so smart: I'm pretty sure they copied their "ideas" from actual politicians. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. A lump of coal, you faithless jerks.

E. J. Dionne: "... we know something important: The current Republican majority in the House cannot govern. Only a coalition across party lines can get the public's business done."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on why Republicans are attacking former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), whom Obama may nominate for Secretary of Defense: "... what's becoming clearest in this fight isn't anything about Hagel, but the derangement of the Republican Party, to use what may soon be an obsolete term for a movement in a state of sour disorder."

NEW. Robert Parry in Consortium News on the Second Amendment, an attempt to preserve "domestic tranquility" while saving the cost of maintaining a standing army against insurrectionists.

... "Where Have You Been, Mr. President?" Philip Rucker & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "It took the massacre of 20 children and six adults in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school this month to spur Obama to action. He vowed last week to push for immediate and concrete gun-safety proposals to prevent such carnage." ...

... David Gregory thinks of a few apt questions of ask the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, then actually follows up when LaPierre, unsurprisingly, says stupid stuff. CW: Bad news, Wayne. If you've lost Gregory, you've lost the country. ...

... Cory Booker on the "false debate" on gun control. The ads rotate on YouTube videos, but when I saw this particular video on the YouTube site, it was preceded by a 3-minute-plus ad of a guy showing you how to legally make your very own assault rifle (one that is illegal to purchase or sell) from parts you can buy -- legally again -- on the Intertoobz or elsewhere. He says of one component: "it's just a paperweight." (The same ad came up both times I clicked on the video -- if you run the video here, then click on the YouTube icon in the lower right-hand corner, you too may learn how to become a Ninja):

** Bill Keller: South Africa is way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to institutionalizing gay rights. In the U.S., the Supreme Court "apportions basic rights by putting its finger in the wind." So does the President: "As best I can tell, President Obama's position on same-sex marriage is that it should not be imposed on unwilling states." Eusabeius McKaiser, a gay South African writer asks, "What are the chances of Obama saying, 'Black people should be allowed to vote, ideally, but I'd let the states decide when they are ready.'"

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: Democrats and Republicans gathered in Honolulu "to pay tribute on Sunday to Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, a Democrat, who died last Monday at 88 after serving in the Senate for five decades." President & Mrs. Obama attended the ceremony; the President did not speak. ...

... Sen. Harry Reid delivers a moving tribute to Sen. Inouye:

Ann Telnaes of the Washington Post with a holiday greeting from the Obamas:

Taylor Berman of Gawker: "Crapo, [a Mormon,] has said in past interviews that he doesn't drink." (See today's Ledes.)

Presidential Race

Why Mitt Lost: He wanted to be president less than anyone I've met in my life. He had no desire to ... run.... If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn't love the attention. -- Tagg Romney, claiming it was he & Ann Romney who convinced Mitt to run

Congressional Race

Hunk v. Hunk? Anjali Sareen of Mediate: in a Sunday show interview, actor Ben Affleck tells Bob Schieffer he hasn't closed the door on a Senate run for the Massachusetts seat John Kerry will almost surely vacate. This could pit him against current Sen. Scott Brown, who -- you might have heard -- lost his bid for re-election. CW: and they said Washington was Hollywood for ugly people. Ha!

News Ledes

AP: "Pope Benedict XVI marked Christmas Eve with Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and a pressing question: Will people find room in their hectic, technology-driven lives for children, the poor and God? The pontiff also prayed that Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and freedom, and asked the faithful to pray for strife-torn Syria as well as Lebanon and Iraq."

AP: "Thousands of Christians from the world over packed Manger Square in Bethlehem Monday to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the ancient West Bank town.... For their Palestinian hosts, this holiday season was an especially joyous one, with the hardships of the Israeli occupation that so often clouded previous Christmas Eve celebrations eased by the United Nations' recent recognition of an independent state of Palestine."

Reuters: "The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Monday to restart negotiations on a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global trade in conventional arms, a pact the powerful U.S. National Rifle Association has been lobbying hard against. U.N. delegates and gun control activists have complained that talks collapsed in July largely because U.S. President Barack Obama feared attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney before the November 6 election..., a charge U.S. officials have denied."

New York Times: "Jack Klugman, the rubber-mugged character actor who leapt to television stardom in the 1970s as the slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison on 'The Odd Couple' and as the crusading forensic pathologist of 'Quincy, M.E.,' died on Monday at his home in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles. He was 90."

New York Times: In Webster, New York, a town on Lake Ontario north of Rochester, a gunman shot a volley of bullets that hit four firefighters whom he had apparently called to the scene after setting fire to a car. Two firemen died in the ambush, and "an off-duty police officer from nearby Greece, N.Y., who was on his way to work, was wounded when he and his car were hit by shrapnel." The gunman, William Spengler, 62, later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had "a lengthy criminal record.... In 1981, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for bludgeoning his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer. He was imprisoned until 1998." CW: if only the policeman had been armed, this would never have happened.

Reuters: "More than 48,000 people have signed a petition that they posted on the White House website demanding that British CNN talk show host Piers Morgan be deported over comments he made on air about gun control. Morgan last week lambasted pro-gun guests on his show, after the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman shot dead 26 people, including 20 children." CW: never thought I'd say, "I stand with Piers Morgan."

New York Times: "More than 250 religious leaders in Illinois have signed an open letter in support of same-sex marriage, which the legislature is likely to take up in January."

Miami Herald: "PortMiami administrators are on edge as the nation's 14,650 longshoremen threaten to shut down the giant gantry cranes used to ship containers at 15 major East Coast ports at midnight Saturday. The job action portends a potential blow of tens of millions of dollars a day to Miami-Dade County's economy.... Late Friday, Gov. Rick Scott got involved, sending a three-page letter to President Barack Obama asking that he invoke the Taft-Hartley Act if a strike occurs, which would mandate an 80-day cooling off period, and force mediation."

CBS News: "Sen. Michael Crapo, R.-Idaho, was arrested in Virginia early Sunday morning and charged with driving under the influence, Alexandria police say."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 23, 2012

An early holiday gift:

Paul Krugman: a citation in a Wall Street Journal story makes it appear "the president still believe[s] that failure to reach a Grand Bargain will cause an attack by the invisible bond vigilantes, and that this is the reason we should fear the fiscal cliff." Oh, dear. CW: it has been obvious for a long time that Obama listens to the Very Serious People. He is not good at choosing advisors. Tim Geithner. ...

... Brad DeLong: "If it is indeed the case that Obama does not understand the basics of the economic situation he is trying to manage, how likely is it that he can make good decisions? If, as Bob Woodward claims, Tim Geithner really is in there analogizing the U.S. to Greece, things are not good at all…" ...

When You Have a Bad Hand, Play It Badly. Ezra Klein: "... if Boehner had taken the White House's deal in 2011, he could've stopped the tax increase at $800 billion. If he took their most recent deal, he could stop it at $1.2 trillion. But if he insists on adding another round to the negotiations -- one that will likely come after the White House pockets $700 billion in tax increases -- then any deal in which gets the entitlement cuts he wants is going to mean a deal in which he accepts even more tax increases than the White House is currently demanding. Today, Boehner wishes he'd taken the deal the president offered him in 2011. A year from now, he might wish he'd taken the deal the president offered him in 2012." CW: poor people, seniors & anyone else who may rely on government safety-net programs should be mighty glad Boehner is such a poor poker player.

Sometimes Tom Friedman Is Right: "But if Republicans continue to be led around by, and live in fear of, a base that denies global warming after Hurricane Sandy and refuses to ban assault weapons after Sandy Hook -- a base that would rather see every American's taxes rise rather than increase taxes on millionaires -- the party has no future. It can't win with a base that is at war with math, physics, human biology, economics and common-sense gun laws all at the same time." (Italics original.) But Usually He Is Wrong: "... we could have had a grand bargain that would put the country on a sounder fiscal trajectory and signal to the markets, the world and ourselves that we can still do big hard things together."

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "How [the] Party of Budget Restraint Shifted to 'No New Taxes,' Ever."

CW:contributor James S. recommends this excellent 20/20 segment which demonstrates how & why armed citizens are ineffective lines of defense against armed intruders.

Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Thousands of criminal cases at the state and local level may have relied on exaggerated testimony or false forensic evidence to convict defendants of murder, rape and other felonies. The forensic experts in these cases were trained by the same elite FBI team whose members gave misleading court testimony about hair matches and later taught the local examiners to follow the same suspect practices, according to interviews and documents." CW: another reason the death penalty is morally criminal.

Molly Worthen, in a New York Times essay on the history of religious practice: "Rates of church attendance have never been as sterling as the Christian Right's fable of national decline suggests. Before the Civil War, regular attendance probably never exceeded 30 percent, rising to a high of 40 percent around 1965 and declining to under 30 percent in recent years -- even as 77 percent still identify as Christians and 69 percent say they are 'very' or 'moderately' religious, according to a 2012 Gallup survey."

News Lede

Al Jazeera: "Italy's president has dissolved parliament following Prime Minister Mario Monti's resignation. President Giorgio Napolitano signed the decree on Saturday after consulting with political leaders. The move formally sets the stage for general elections, now confirmed for February 24-25, in which Monti's participation remains unclear. The date of the election, widely expected to be February 24, will be decided by Monti's cabinet, which remains in office in a caretaker capacity."