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
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.
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."