The Ledes

Sunday, May 2, 2016.

Guardian: "A freight train derailed close to Washington DC early Sunday and is leaking hazardous material and causing disruption in the area of the capital. More than 10 cars are understood to have left the tracks, a small portion of the long, 175-car southbound train. No injuries have been reported." -- CW

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President repeated his call for Republicans in the United States Senate to give Chief Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing and a vote":

Public Service Announcement

New York Times: "Taking a stance sharply at odds with most American public health officials, a major British medical organization urged smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, saying they are the best hope in generations for people addicted to tobacco cigarettes to quit. The recommendation, laid out in a report published Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the growing body of science on e-cigarettes and finds that their benefits far outweigh the potential harms." -- CW

Washington Post: "More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study."

Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek: "If you are eating fast food, you're probably also eating phthalates,... a class of chemicals that have been linked to everything from ADHD to breast cancer, ...[which] are common in food packaging, drink containers, the tubing used to transport dairy and the equipment used to process fast food." --LT


Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

New York Times: "James Levine, who transformed the Metropolitan Opera during four decades as its music director but has suffered from poor health in recent years, will step down from his post after this season to become music director emeritus, the company announced Thursday."

Politico: "Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief of The New Republic for the past 17 months, is leaving the magazine in the wake of its sale to Win McCormack.... The masthead change marks the first big move since McCormack, a publisher, Democratic booster and editor in chief of a literary journal called Tin House, bought TNR from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in February after Hughes was unsuccessful at turning around the money-losing magazine’s business during his four years of stewardship."

The Great Octopus Escape. Guardian: "An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea. In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar. Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium."

... Charles Pierce: "One of the best biographies I've ever read was Scott Berg's brilliant, National Book Award-winning account of the life of Maxwell Perkins, the editor at Scribner's who was responsible for bringing out the best work in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.... I'm going to be first in line to see [the film "Genius."] OK, so there won't be a line, but I'll be there nonetheless."

Michael Cavna of the Washington Post on the artistry in the film "All the President's Men."The real Woodward & Bernstein weigh in.

"You think old people are weirdos but then you understand that they don't see you and they can't hear you." Reuters: "The Genworth Aging Experience is a traveling show created by Genworth Financial Inc., an insurance company, in partnership with Applied Minds, a design and engineering company, that allows museum visitors to feel first-hand the effects of aging...[with the goal of building] empathy and awareness of the challenges elderly people face in everyday situations." -- LT note: this world could always use a little more empathy.

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The Commentariat -- Feb. 2, 2014

AP: "With yet another obstacle removed for the Keystone XL pipeline, opponents of the project are pressing forward with a lawsuit, public protests and an effort to inject the issue into the November midterm elections."

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), in a Washington Post op-ed, on why he is retiring from Congress.

Steve Mufson & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "Labor leaders who have spent months lobbying unsuccessfully for special protections under the Affordable Care Act warned this week that the White House's continued refusal to help is dampening union support for Democratic candidates in this year's midterm elections. Leaders of two major unions, including the first to endorse Obama in 2008, said they have been betrayed by an administration that wooed their support for the 2009 legislation with promises to later address the peculiar needs of union-negotiated insurance plans that cover millions of workers." ...

... The New York Times Editors note that the Republican health insurance "reform" plan sucks. They explain the many reasons why.

Dear John Roberts, et al.: Be careful what you wish for. Matea Gold & Dan Keating of the Washington Post: "An unexpected legacy of Citizens United: more money to finance the GOP's intraparty war.... Republicans are now far more likely than Democrats to field attacks by independent groups in their primaries. In 2012, super PACs and nonprofit groups reported spending nearly $36 million in GOP congressional primaries, compared with less than $10 million in congressional Democratic primaries, according to a Washington Post analysis.... The attacks by the GOP's tea party flank are spurring a financial arms race, as major center-right groups and business organizations step forward to bolster incumbents.... Many of the conservative groups active in elections this cycle predated Citizens United, but they relied largely on traditional political action committees, which can only accept donations of up to $5,000. In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court said that corporations could spend unlimited sums on political activity." ...

... Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Insurgent conservatives seeking to pull the Republican Party to the right raised more money last year than the groups controlled by the party establishment, whose bulging bank accounts and ties to major donors have been their most potent advantage in the running struggle over the party's future, according to new campaign disclosures and interviews with officials."

Returning to the Scene of the Crime. Again. Maureen Dowd uses Rand Paul's comments about the Clintons to write about -- the Clintons.

Eric Lipton & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Federal ethics rules are intended to limit lobbying by former senior officials within one year after they leave the government. Yet even after the ethics rules were revised in 2007 following a lobbying scandal, more than 1,650 congressional aides have registered to lobby within a year of leaving Capitol Hill, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data from LegiStorm, an online database that tracks congressional staff members and lobbying. At least half of those departing aides, the analysis shows, faced no restrictions at all."

Many thanks to contributor Janice for this!

... Tom Paxton remembers (link fixed) Pete Seeger, in a Washington Post op-ed. CW: I think this is the "Rainbow Quest" session to which Paxton refers:

Jaweed Kaleem in the Huffington Post: "'As Americans tune in to the Super Bowl this year, fully half of fans -- as many as 70 million Americans -- believe there may be a twelfth man on the field influencing the outcome,' Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert Jones said in a statement. 'Significant numbers of American sports fans believe in invoking assistance from God on behalf of their favorite team, or believe the divine may be playing out its own purpose in the game.'" Via Steve Benen. CW: Yup. If you believe in a god who is paying attention to you -- he's gonna find out if you're naughty or nice (oh, that's Santa Claus) -- it's perfectly reasonable to suspect that nosy parker cares about football results, too.

Local News

Mike Allen & Maggie Haberman of the Politico: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after a low-key initial response to Friday's explosive allegations about his involvement in a bridge-closing scandal, mounted an aggressive defense late Saturday afternoon, attacking The New York Times and a former political ally in an email to friends and allies...." The e-mail is here. CW: It's sort of hilarious; it reads like the "and you're one, too" stuff of junior high kids. Oh, wait, that's what it is. One bit of "evidence" Christie cites: one of Wildstein's high school teachers said Wildstein was "deceptive." ...

... The New York Times story, by Kate Zernicke, is here. Here's a fun bit: "The governor was booed at a Super Bowl event in Times Square on Saturday, where he sat on stage with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York. While the other three beamed and waved, Mr. Christie looked down.... At ceremony's end, reporters pushed toward the stage and Mr. Christie stepped to the back. When coaxed to the front by Ms. Brewer to pose for a photo, reporters asked Mr. Christie a barrage of questions." ...

... CW: As we now know, thanks to Christie, he was a big athletic star & class president in high school, while Wildstein (even his social studies teacher despised him!) was one of those kids you can't remember at the reunion. Now that schmuck Wildstein has ruined the former champ's big Superbowl moment.

It is true that I met David in 1977 in high school. He's a year older than me. David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school. I knew who David Wildstein was.... We didn't travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time. -- Chris Christie, during his January marathon press conference

If you can't translate that, you didn't go to high school. Or grade school. -- Constant Weader

     ... Some interesting context from Prof. Brian Murphy, writing in TPM.

If evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today. -- Rita Rourke, Sabine Parish, Louisiana, teacher ...

"Education" in Bobby Jindal Country. Nicole Flatow of Think Progress: "A Louisiana teacher who taught her sixth grade class that evolution is 'impossible' and that the bible is '100 percent true' ridiculed a Buddhist student during class and announced that those who don't believe in god are 'stupid,' according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. When the child's parents reported the incidents, the Sabine Parish superintendent allegedly told them 'this is the Bible Belt,' and asked whether the child ... could either change his faith or transfer to a school where 'there are more Asians.'" Read the whole story; it isn't only one teacher who's teaching Bible study classes in this public school district. Via Steve Benen.

News Ledes

New York Post: New York City "Mayor [Bill] de Blasio received an ominous letter last week that threatened a 'nuclear attack against New York City,' the same day five hotels near the Super Bowl site received similar mail, police sources said Sunday."

New York Times: "Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation, who gave three-dimensional nuance to a wide range of sidekicks, villains and leading men on screen and embraced some of the theater's most burdensome roles on Broadway, died Sunday at an apartment in Greenwich Village. He was 46. The death, apparently from a drug overdose, was confirmed by the police."

AP: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's warning against a growing boycott movement against the Jewish state should peace talks with the Palestinians fail, saying the stance undermined Israel's legitimacy and the chances of reaching a peace agreement. The latest brush-up with the United States comes as Israel is negotiating with the Palestinians against a backdrop of increasing international pressure to reach a deal, coupled with a growing call for boycotting Israel over its settlements in areas it captured in the 1967 Middle East war." ...

... AFP: "The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories criticised Israel's demolition of 36 homes in the Jordan Valley and urged a halt to such actions in the West Bank."

Los Angeles Times: "Austrian actor Maximilian Schell, 83, whose portrayal of a defense attorney in the 1961 drama Judgment at Nuremberg' earned him an Academy Award, died Friday in a hospital in Innsbruck...."

Washington Post: "At 7:25 a.m. Sunday, a raw, cloudy and damp morning, Groundhog Phil saw his shadow in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pa. The appearance of Phil's shadow means winter will extend well into March, according to folklore." CW: Also, the Easter Bunny will leave you chocolate candy icons of himself. And climate change is fake.


The Commentariat -- Feb. 1, 2014

White House: "In this week’s address, the President discusses the goals he laid out in the State of the Union address to expand opportunity":

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The State Department released a report on Friday that could pave the way toward President Obama's approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The long-awaited environmental impact statement on the project concludes that approval or denial of the pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, is unlikely to prompt oil companies to change the rate of their extraction of carbon-heavy tar sands oil, a State Department official said." The report is here. ...

... Joshua Green of Bloomberg News: "The State Department concluded that the project would create 42,100 temporary jobs during the two-year construction period. But the report says once the pipeline enters service, it will support only 50 U.S. jobs -- 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors." CW: It probably already has created 42K temporary jobs -- for lobbyists.

Jake Sherman of Politico: "House Republicans are again considering tying a debt limit increase to the cancellation of a piece of Obamacare. During a closed meeting at their retreat here Friday morning, rank and file Republicans seemed to be gravitating toward trying a lift in the borrowing limit to the cancellation of the the so-called risk corridors and reinsurance fund in Obamacare." ...

... Jonathan Weisman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The House Republican leadership's call on Thursday to provide legal status for 11 million undocumented workers, and possible citizenship for those brought to this country as children, caused sharp division within the party even as it provided a starting point for negotiations with Democrats on overhauling the nation's immigration system."...

... Best Explanation Anywhere of GOP Strategy. Charles Pierce: "The Republican party's congressional delegations went on 'retreat' this year in order to produce plan-like products that allegedly will address the nation's problems. Now that the crayons all have been put away, and nap time is over, the party has produced a plan-like product with 'Immigration' written in big red letters across the top of the first page, one that has absolutely no chance of passage and also will get many people in the party throwing rocks at each other.... And it's going to work," thanks to the "courtier press." ...

... Steve M. elaborates: "In other words, let's make a show of support for immigration reform, but let's not try to pass an actual law that will achieve it. Oh, and let's say that our unwillingness to pass a law is the fault of President Obama and the rest of the evil Democrats.... Even Republicans who favor the reforms don't really care about immigration except as it relates to vote-getting. They're asking themselves, is it worse to risk tea party primary challenges by floating an immigration proposal, or risk alienating Hispanics by sticking to a hard line? -- and they're trying to thread the needle, by at least seeming to care. But this is the sort of thing Republicans are doing on several fronts.... Republicans care about winning. They don't care about governing or legislating, except if as a way to transfer more money from ordinary people to the rich.... Don't take it seriously, because Republicans don't." ...

... Weisman & Parker (linked above): "On the Affordable Care Act, conservatives [at the GOP retreat] pushed the party to coalesce around a single alternative to the law that would come to a House vote this year. Moderates resisted that position over concern that it would open a line of Democratic attack that would deflect from what they see as the failings of the president's health care law." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Yeah, it's those Republican 'moderates' who understand the GOP must embrace public-sector activism and stand for 'something' rather than 'No' who are the ones afraid to embrace an Obamacare replacement proposal. Perhaps they understand a side-by-side comparison of whatever Republicans can agree upon with Obamacare might not go all that well. In any event, it seems the GOP is moving crabwise towards an agenda based on the default position of 'saying no' on everything." ...

... Brian Beutler of Salon: "A lot of people have made a lot of relevant points about 'Bette' -- whose Obamacare 'horror story' figured prominently in the official GOP response to the State of the Union address delivered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash: Greg Sargent notes that Bette's story reflects the GOP's reluctance to help constituents navigate the law, even if it means making their lives worse; Steve Benen adds that it's a sad comment on the GOP's Obamacare 'train wreck' narrative that they have such a hard time finding horror stories that stand up to scrutiny.... I think I’d take each of them one step further....

Take Bette: The reason she didn't visit the Washington state health exchange was basically #OBUMMER. 'I wouldn't go on that Obama website at all,' she said.... This started years ago. Republicans told Bette and others ... that they'd face death panels and rationing boards. That their options would be unaffordable, and irredeemable. That the exchange sites would make their personal information vulnerable to hackers and that creepy Uncle Sam would sexually violate them. They said all this in the hope that people like Bette wouldn't give the law a fair shake, then turned around and feigned outrage on their behalf when the plan worked.

** Charles Blow: "If one of the overt Democratic lines of attack against Republicans is that Republicans are conducting a war on women, one of the low-simmering, implicit lines of attack from Republicans is that Democrats are conducting a war on men, or at least traditional views of masculinity.... They are selling the right wing as the last refuge of real men.... Portraying Republican men as manly and Democratic ones as effete has been a consistent line of attack against post-Bill Clinton Democratic presidential candidates. The problem with having your message powered by machismo is that it reveals what undergirds such a stance: misogyny and chauvinism. The masculinity for which they yearn draws its meaning and its value from juxtaposition with a lesser, vulnerable, narrowly drawn femininity." ...

... (CW: Yes, there is a connection.) Dan Friedman of the New York Daily News: "U.S. Capitol Police closed a brief probe into Rep. Michael Grimm's threat Tuesday night against NY1 reporter Michael Scotto after Scotto declined to press charges against Grimm.... Fox News on Thursday quoted an unnamed congressional source who said the U.S. Attorney for the District Columbia had looked into the incident and in theory could pursue a case against Grimm even if Scotto declined to press charges. But there is no indication such action is in the cards."

Jon Stewart's interview with Nancy Pelosi (Thursday) is pretty interesting. It's a three-parter, which you can view here.

Jake Tapper of CNN interviewed President Obama Thursday, with the interview to air Friday. The full transcript is here. There are a buncha clips here. ...

... Ron Brownstein of the National Journal explains "how Obama can go it alone." Most interesting -- to me, the Constant Weader! -- observation: "The problem is that implementation of big initiatives hasn't been exactly a strong suit for Obama, only the third sitting senator ever elected president. 'He has the policymaking instincts of a senator more than the administrative instincts of an executive,' says Donald F. Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland public-policy school.Exhibit A in Kettl's case is the disastrous rollout of the health care website...." ...

... CW: During a primary debate on January 15, 2008, the moderator asked candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards & Obama what their greatest weakness was. Both Clinton & Edwards delivered hilariously self-serving phony answers, but Obama said "that he loses papers and has asked his staff not to give him things until a few minutes before he needs them." Maybe we should have paid more attention to that. At the time, I saw that as a sign Obama could delegate, but maybe what it meant was that he couldn't manage a big operation. ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "President Barack Obama has said his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, ought to have been 'more careful' in Senate testimony about surveillance that Clapper later acknowledged was untruthful following disclosures by Edward Snowden. But Obama signaled continued confidence in Clapper...."

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: "On Friday, supporters of the president launched the Barack H. Obama Foundation, an administration-blessed organization to find the money and address for an eventual Obama library. As expected, the foundation is led by Marty Nesbitt, a Chicago investor and Obama friend, along with J. Kevin Poorman, a businessman, and Julianna Smoot, the president's go-to fund-raiser."

David Morgan of Reuters: "At least two U.S. states [-- Kentucky & Rhode Island --] running their own Obamacare health insurance exchanges expect new insurers to enter their marketplaces and bolster competition in 2015, officials said on Friday."

Stupid Spy Moves. Luke Harding of the Guardian: "New video footage has been released for the first time of the moment Guardian editors destroyed computers used to store top-secret documents leaked by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Under the watchful gaze of two technicians from the British government spy agency GCHQ, the journalists took angle-grinders and drills to the internal components, rendering them useless and the information on them obliterated":

... The Guardian publishes an excerpt of Harding's book on Ed Snowden.

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: Friday was Ben Bernanke's last day on the job.

Krugman v. Brooks, Ctd. Jonathan Chait on the Bowles-Simpson Catfood Commission: "In his

... Paul Krugman: "But it's actually much worse than that.... BoSimps completely failed to solve the problem they were supposedly addressing, but were quite effective at worsening the policy response to the real problems they chose to ignore." ...

... CW: Notably, Krugman never mentions Brooks. He uses Chait for the one-punch, & he follows on with the two-punch. Brooks himself, I suspect, went to the basement of wherever he lives now & stuck another pin in his Krugman voodoo doll.

Local News

Kate Zernicke of the New York Times: "In a letter released by his lawyer, the former [Port Authority] official David Wildstein ... described the order to close the lanes as 'the Christie administration's order' and said 'evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference' three weeks ago." The letter from Wildstein's lawyer is here. ...

     ... Brett Logiurato of Business Insider: In a statement issued late Friday, Christie denied Wildstein's allegations. ...

... Star-Ledger Editors: "Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor.... [David] Wildstein claims there is documentary proof that the governor has been lying. If this proves to be true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because it will show that everything he said at his famous two-hour press conference was a lie." ...

... Chris Gentilviso of the Huffington Post: "A few weeks after publicly defending New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's role in the George Washington Bridge scandal, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani added a fresh thread to his thoughts on the controversy. In an interview with WABC radio's Geraldo Rivera..., Giuliani said it's 'fifty-fifty' that Christie was aware of fired aide Bridget Kelly's discussions that led to the lane closures." CW: Giuliani is still defending Christie. His "50-50" odds are a step in a version of the "your cat is on the roof" joke. ...

     ... OR, Maybe Not. Later Giuliani "clarified" his remarks, claiming "he '100% believes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is telling the truth and knew nothing about 'Bridgegate' until after the fact." CW: Sorry, Rudy. The cat's still dead. ...

     ... Update. Jose DelReal of Politico: AND Rudy weighs in again. CW: On this, he could be right. Guess he's still hoping for a Christie-Giuliani ticket.

... Matt Katz of WNYC: "The release of subpoenaed documents that exposed the Christie Administration's involvement in Bridgegate show how the Governor's Office has been keeping its decisions and expenditures quiet despite laws that require official business to be made public. Here's 18 ways Christie and his officials have blocked access to information." ...

... Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger: Christie "withholds public information he is legally required to reveal. He keeps secrets when the law says he must let the sunshine in. No New Jersey governor has ever been so secretive, and so disdainful of the need for open discussion in a democracy.... The arrogance is breathtaking." ...

... Update: Shawn Boburg of the Bergen Record: "Governor Christie's office has agreed to pay a high-powered attorney $650 per hour to represent it in a series of investigations into the George Washington Bridge lane closures. That's more than a 40 percent discount off attorney Randy Mastro's normal rate, he wrote in a letter to state officials, and 20 percent less than the average amount charged by attorneys at the New York office of his firm, Gibson Dunn. The terms of Mastro's agreement were laid out in documents released by the governor's office late Thursday in response to a public records request." ...

... Gail Collins on the escalating Christie scandal: "One thing's for sure -- this comes at a really good time for those of us who know nothing about football." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Six reasons Chris Christie is probably guilty."

Presidential Election 2012

Your Loss, America! Lady Ann Romney Still Bitter. Tom Kludt of TPM: But she's decided to be "polite and nice" & not say nasty things about President Obama:

News Lede

AP: "Amid severe drought conditions, California officials announced Friday they won't send any water from the state's vast reservoir system to local agencies beginning this spring, an unprecedented move that affects drinking water supplies for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland."


The Commentariat -- Jan. 31, 2014

David Sanger & Thom Shanker of the New York Times: "The Obama administration announced Thursday that it would nominate Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers to become the new director of the National Security Agency and the commander of the new Pentagon unit that directs the country's offensive cyberoperations, according to senior administration officials. Admiral Rogers, a cryptologist by training who has quietly risen to the top of naval intelligence operations, would become the public face of the N.S.A. at a moment that it is caught in the cross hairs of the roiling debate about whether its collection of information about American citizens and foreign leaders has exceeded legal constraints and common sense."

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The House Republican leadership's call on Thursday to provide legal status for 11 million undocumented workers, and possible citizenship for those brought to this country as children, caused sharp division within the party even as it provided a starting point for negotiations with Democrats on overhauling the nation's immigration system. Many Republicans rejected the one-page 'standards for immigration reform' outright, and others said now was not the time for a legislative push on a number of contentious issues in an election year with trends going their way." ...

... Seung Min Kim & Jake Sherman of Politico: "The House Republican leadership is trying to sell their colleagues on a series of broad immigration principles, including a path to legal status for those here illegally. Speaker John Boehner's leadership team introduced the principles at their annual policy retreat here. Top Republicans circulated a tightly held one-page memo titled 'standards for immigration reform' toward the tail-end of a day that include strategy conversations about Obamacare, the economy and the national debt." ...

... Rebecca Leber of Think Progress: "House Republicans have used a variety of excuses -- citing Obamacare, sequestration, Syria, or the drug war -- to explain their reasons for not passing a comprehensive immigration bill. But a Republican congressman cited one reason for the stalemate the GOP won't admit publicly. The Southern congressman told BuzzFeed it is a matter of race. 'Part of it, I think -- and I hate to say this, because these are my people -- but I hate to say it, but it's racial,' said the lawmaker, who remained anonymous. 'If you go to town halls people say things like, "These people have different cultural customs than we do." And that's code for race.' Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted that race and demagoguery has always been a factor when it's come to U.S. immigration policy, and it certainly is one now. 'There's nothing new going on today that's gone on before,' Graham said. 'This isn't the first time that there's been some ugliness around the issue of immigration.'"

** Tim Egan on Cathy McMorris Rodgers: "Her district, poorer than the west side of the state, with much of the broken-family, broken-promise poverty of white rural America, is in real trouble. But the policy prescriptions of McMorris Rodgers have nothing to offer these people. Through her, you can see what happens when biography trumps substance in politics.... McMorris Rodgers voted to drastically cut food aid last year, and joined her party in resisting emergency benefits to the unemployed. She has been a leading strategist in the unrelenting Republican attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act.And yet, in her district, people are flocking to Obamacare -- well beyond the national average." ...

... Hannah Rosin in Slate: "... she is in fact, day to day, the kind of woman who not all that long ago would have made Republicans distinctly uncomfortable. That is she's a woman who works nonstop and has limitless ambitions, all while tending to three children under the age of 7.... The social values and the workaholic lifestyle sometimes make for a confusing message. McMorris Rodgers says she supports the 'traditional family,' but in front of women's groups she sometimes sounds like an overeager feminist.... But in public policy terms, the swaggering-woman rhetoric translates into 'don't ask for handouts.' McMorris Rodgers has voted like a standard conservative, for cuts to nearly every social service. She voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and in favor of cutting funding for birth control. Last year, she supported a version of the Violence Against Women Act that excluded gay, immigrant, and Native American women." ...

... Ann Friedman in New York: "The supermom archetype is perfect for a party whose policies send the message that if you're not getting ahead, it's because you aren't working hard enough." ...

... The GOP Response to the SOTU Was a Sham. David Wasson of the Spokane Spokesman-Review: "The woman described only as 'Bette in Spokane' during a nationally televised address by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said Wednesday she had no idea her frustrations ... would become part of the Republican attack on health care reform.... But the 'nearly $700 per month' increase in her premium that McMorris Rodgers cited ... was based on one of the pricier options.... The carrier also offered a less expensive ... option.... And, [Bette] acknowledged the couple probably could have shaved another $100 a month off the replacement policy costs by purchasing them from the state's online portal..., but they chose to avoid the government health exchanges.... McMorris Rodgers' office provided no explanation Wednesday on what steps were taken to verify the figures." CW: No kidding. ...

... Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "According to [Cathy McMorris] Rodgers, Bette ... had 'hoped the president's healthcare law would save her money -- but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month.' The lesson, according to Rodgers: 'This law is not working.' ... Unsurprisingly, her story is much different from the sketchy description provided by Rodgers.... A ... plan ... actually is available from Washington's insurance exchange for much less -- and with a deductible far lower than the $10,000 [Bette] was paying under the old plan and broader coverage, though lacking a provision for four free doctor visits a year provided by her old plan.... Her plight has nothing to do with Obamacare. It's a product of her own apparently flawed decision to refuse even to look into [the ACA plans]. And it's another sign of how threadbare the GOP criticism of the Affordable Care Act has become." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "Yes, on the very same day that the Republican House voted on yet another anti-abortion bill, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers actually said: 'Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, and not the government's.' Unless, obviously, the you she is talking to has a uterus falling somewhere in the age range of 10 to 55.... [The bill] would prohibit the government of the District of Columbia from spending any local, public funds to provide abortion care for low-income women. It would not allow insurance companies participating in the exchanges to offer any abortion coverage. (By the way, 80 percent of private insurance plans cover abortion now.) It would take tax credits away from small businesses offering health insurance to their employees, if that insurance covered abortion." ...

... Amanda Marcotte in Slate: "After Tuesday, it became clear that the Republican strategy is now to send positive messages of support for working women while doubling down on the attacks on reproductive rights."

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "The Air Force said Thursday that it had now suspended 92 officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base -- nearly half of the nuclear launch crew there -- in a cheating scandal, and it acknowledged a 'systemic problem' in the culture of the team that is entrusted to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Air Force secretary, Deborah Lee James, said a 'climate of fear' that was pervasive in the ballistic missile force might have encouraged launch officers to share answers to monthly proficiency tests. She said the nation's nuclear arsenal remained safe." ...

... Which Brings to Mind ... Matt Ballinger of the Los Angeles Times: "'Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb' was released 50 years ago this week." ...

... Eric Schlosser in the New Yorker: "Half a century after Kubrick's mad general, Jack D. Ripper, launched a nuclear strike on the Soviets to defend the purity of 'our precious bodily fluids' from Communist subversion, we now know that American officers did indeed have the ability to start a Third World War on their own. And despite the introduction of rigorous safeguards in the years since then, the risk of an accidental or unauthorized nuclear detonation hasn't been completely eliminated."

Richard Simon of the Los Angeles Times: "Rep. Henry A. Waxman, whose legislative record has made him one of the country's most influential liberal lawmakers for four decades, announced Thursday that he will retire from his Westside seat, the latest in a wave of departures that is remaking the state's long-stable congressional delegation."

Goldman Sachs Just Wrecked Another Country. Danny Hakim of the New York Times: "When Denmark gave the global financial giant Goldman Sachs the go-ahead on Thursday to buy a stake in its state utility..., [it] so divided ... the Socialist People’s Party that it withdrew its ministers from the country's governing coalition. Some party members said the deal ceded too much power to Goldman. Annette Vilhelmsen, the party's leader, who supported the deal, stepped down from her leadership role since she could not reach agreement within her party. The party's withdrawal from the coalition left the government of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the prime minister, with a tenuous grip on power. That so many Danes have been aghast at the idea of giving Goldman Sachs a prominent role in the country's energy future reflects how far the damage to the investment bank's reputation has spread since the financial crisis."

Paul Krugman explains "secular stagnation," by way of Turkey. CW: Like "quantitative easing," "secular stagnation," IMHO, is a stupid term. If you asked me what "secular stagnation" meant, I'd say, "Religious fundamentalism is surging, & the non-theists are giving up!" That would not be what Krugman & Larry Summers mean, however. As for "quantitative easing," I think that's when I have to let out my waistbands a few inches. Check that with Bernanke or Yellen, will you? Maybe one reason economics is so hard for laymen to grasp is that economists don't really understand English, so their jargon, besides being jargon, is nonsensical.

Thanks to James S. for reminding us that today is the anniversary of the day "Ida May Fuller, a resident of rural Vermont...., became the first beneficiary of a recurring Social Security payment.... After working for decades as a teacher and legal secretary, and contributing to Social Security for almost three years, she filed her retirement claim in November 1939. The check she received two months later for $22.54 (roughly $350 in today's dollars) bears the historic number 00-000-001. Fuller lived to be 100 and died on the 35th anniversary of receiving her first check, on Jan. 31, 1975. In her three years of contributing to the program, the accumulated taxes on her salary were $24.75. She collected $22,888.92 in benefits." -- Kristin Aguilera in Bloomberg News

Local News

Lisa Schencker of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts -- a move that shocked and angered parents."

News Ledes

Inside Job. Reuters: "Target Corp said on Wednesday that the theft of a vendor's credentials helped cyber criminals pull off a massive theft of customer data during the holiday shopping season in late 2013. It was the first indication of how networks at the No. 3 U.S. retailer were breached, resulting in the theft of about 40 million credit and debit card records and 70 million other records with customer information such as addresses and telephone numbers."

AP: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hinted Thursday at growing U.S. impatience with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for his refusal to sign an accord permitting American troops to remain in his country after the U.S. combat mission ends in December."

AFP: "The United States on Thursday rebuked China over its treatment of foreign media following the departure of a New York Times reporter after authorities did not renew his visa. A White House statement said the United States was 'very disappointed' that reporter Austin Ramzy was obliged to leave China and that Beijing's actions 'stand in stark contrast with US treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists.'"

AFP: " Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych scrapped controversial anti-protest laws Friday but faced calls from the military to take 'urgent steps' to ease the ex-Soviet nation's worst crisis since independence."


The Commentariat -- Jan, 30, 2014

Nielsen: 33.3 million people watched the State of the Union address. CW: As far as I can tell, that's only U.S. teevee viewers. It doesn't count people like me who watched it on the Internets. ...

Jon Stewart reports on the SOTU & the GOP responses.

     ... CW Update: Sorry, I had to remove these videos as they began playing automatically. You can view them here.

E. J. Dionne: The conservatism built into our Congressional structure "means that initiatives such as an increase in the minimum wage, background checks for gun purchases, expanded pre-kindergarten programs and the extension of unemployment insurance can be foiled even when they enjoy broad national support.... It's natural to contrast Obama's soaring legislative ambitions of a year ago with this week's less adventurous 'I'll do it myself' speech. But he has to deal with the Congress he has, not the Congress he wishes he had. The path forward is a lot more crooked than Obama once imagined it would be, and realism in pursuit of a degree of social justice is no vice."

Tara Bernard of the New York Times: "Making good on a State of the Union address promise, President Obama on Wednesday ordered the creation of new employer-sponsored savings accounts intended to help more people get started saving for retirement.... In a stop in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Mr. Obama signed a presidential memorandum and handed it to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. It instructed him to create the new 'starter' retirement savings program called 'myRA,' a name intended to mimic the I.R.A.'s, or individual retirement accounts, that were first made available to workers in the mid-1970s":

We make fun of the executive orders and that is in fact something that, you know, you never really heard Lincoln and FDR say, 'I'm going to rebuild America on an executive order. You know, it's not something that resonates off the tongue. -- Pultizer Prize-winning fake historian & professional hand-wringing WASP Jon Meacham, on "Morning Joe"

** Meacham ... appears to be badly mistaken. Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued more executive orders than any president in American history -- both in raw numbers and in annual averages -- and relied extensively on the presidential tool to implement New Deal reforms during the Great Depression. As for Lincoln's reluctance to 'rebuild America on an executive order,- let's not forget that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation -- which was an executive order. -- Steve Benen (Thanks to Diane for the link.)

Of course, the Parson's observation was easily shredded, and that's not even to mention that he is a guy who has produced a book on Thomas Jefferson, who bought Louisiana pretty much on his own and who sent the Navy after Mediterranean pirates and didn't tell Congress until it was halfway there, and another book on that noted advocate for limited executive power, Andrew Jackson. -- Charles Pierce

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "As President Obama traveled the country Wednesday promoting a new and more populist economic agenda, Republicans were racing to prove that they, too, have a plan to alleviate middle-class anxiety.... The challenge for Republicans is convincing voters that their newfound concern is sincere. After three years of budget cuts and fiscal crises that badly damaged the GOP brand, voters not only rejected presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 but also have told pollsters that they view Republicans generally as indifferent to middle-class interests."

Peter Kasperowicz & Erik Wasson of the Hill: "The House on Wednesday approved a mammoth $956 billion farm bill in a bipartisan vote. Members approved the House-Senate agreement on farm policy in a 251-166 vote. A majority of Republicans backed the bill, with only 63 voting 'no.' But a majority of Democrats opposed it, with 103 voting against. Democrats opposed to the bill complained about cuts to federal food stamps, while Republicans focused their ire on the bill's cost and the way GOP leaders rushed it through the chamber.... The Senate is expected to approve the package, and White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday that if the bill 'as it is currently designed' reached President Obama's desk, 'he would sign it.'" ...

... Washington Post Editors: "... what the [farm] bill takes from the ag lobby with one hand, it largely gives back with the other." President Obama should veto it. ...

... New York Times Editors: "On balance, the bill is clearly worthy of support, particularly because it will prevent austerity fanatics in future Congresses from gutting food stamps for the next five years.... As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues, rejecting the farm bill means rolling the dice that the next Congress will do a better job. In today's environment, that's a tough bet." ...

... Dana Milbank on "a series of losses on key issues for the party's conservative fan base. First, GOP lawmakers ignored complaints from conservative groups when they passed a 2014 appropriations bill this month that raised spending above previously set levels. Then, before leaving town Wednesday morning for their retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore, they passed a compromise farm bill that abandoned conservatives' effort to make deep cuts in food stamps. Now come reports that the Republicans will abandon plans to fight over the next debt-limit increase. In addition, House GOP leaders will reportedly outline immigration legislation at the retreat that includes a path to legal status for illegal immigrants.... The problem for Republicans is that the people who brought them to power didn't ask for consensus and smooth processes."

Alexander Bolton & Vickie Needham of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday suggested he will not bring legislation to the floor that would grant President Obama greater trade powers. Reid said he is 'against' trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation -- often called 'fast track' -- that, if passed, would make it easier for Obama to negotiate trade deals by preventing Congress from amending them."

Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "A few of the senators co-sponsoring an Iran sanctions bill now warn the measure could have serious consequences, a day after President Obama repeated his threat to veto the measure."

Ben Goad of the Hill: "A dozen House Republicans on Tuesday pressed their leadership to move ahead with a federal lawsuit challenging President Obama's use of executive power. Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), who first introduced the Stop This Overreaching Presidency (STOP) Resolution last month, said a formal legal challenge is needed to counter Obama's aggressive use of administrative authority. 'The president doesn't have the power to waive the law,' Rice said Wednesday."

Sarah Wheaton & Marc Santora of the New York Times: "Representative Michael G. Grimm of Staten Island, once considered a rising star in the Republican Party, touched off a political firestorm after delivering unusually vitriolic threats against a reporter inside the United States Capitol building on Tuesday night, just moments after the State of the Union speech.... Initially, Mr. Grimm sought to justify his behavior and did not apologize.... [New York City] Mayor Bill de Blasio, joining a chorus of critics..., called on the House to sanction him. Citing a House rule requiring all members to conduct themselves 'at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House,' the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ... filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against the lawmaker.... He is an avid weight lifter who earned the nickname Mikey Suits for his often flashy style." ...

     ... Update. This New York Times story, by N. R. Kleinfield, contains much of the same info, but begins with the lede, "Representative Michael G. Grimm is a hothead," & develops that theme late in the piece. And this: "Had [Michael] Scotto[, the NY1 reporter] made the same threat against Mr. Grimm, Mr. Scotto could have been charged with a federal crime." CW: Somehow I don't think its lawful under the First Amendment to threaten to murder a reporter for politely asking a Member of Congress a valid question.

     ... CW: I hope you people know this never would have happened had Grimm -- a former Marine & FBI agent -- not been forced to sit thru an hour-and-a-half speech by a black Muslim Kenyan imperial communist. (I don't know how someone can be both a commie & a monarchist, as the wingnuts claim, but I'm sure they've worked it out.) ...

... Hadas Gold & Dylan Byers of Politico have more on Grimm's sordid history. The New Yorker story Gold & Byers cite is really chilling. If the story is to be believed, and it seems credible, the guy is a violent nut job who uses his positions of authority to intimidate people to the extent of threatening to kill them while demonstrating he has the means to do so. ...

... The New Yorker story, by Evan Ratliff & published in May 2011, is here. ...

... In a New Yorker blogpost, Ratliff comments on Grimm's latest blow-up.

Sharon Bernstein of Reuters: There is a "disconnect between Washington politics -- particularly the Republican Party's push to kill Obama's Affordable Care Act ... -- and the experiences of at least some rank-and-file party members who are finding practical reasons to sign up. The discrepancy may complicate GOP efforts to use voter dissatisfaction over Obamacare's troubled launch to win control of the Senate in November."

Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: "Ted Cruz would appreciate it very much if you would kindly stop discussing his role in the government shutdown. The Texas senator who burst onto the public scene when he convinced congressional Republicans to adopt a scheme to withhold federal funding unless President Obama's health care law was repealed, defunded or delayed, said Tuesday that talk of the shutdown in 2014 amounts to nothing more than a distraction."

Kate Sheppard & Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: "The National Security Agency monitored the communications of other governments ahead of and during the 2009 United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the latest document from whistleblower Edward Snowden." ...

... A portion of the interview Edward Snowden gave to German television network ARD:

... Robert Mackey of the New York Times: "In another part of the interview, which was broadcast Sunday night..., Mr. Snowden told the documentary filmmaker Hubert Seipel that President Obama's proposed reforms to the N.S.A.'s vast surveillance programs constituted just 'minor changes to preserve authorities that we don't need.' ... According to the transcript of the interview, Mr. Snowden cited previous testimony from Mr. Clapper, in March of last year, as a prime factor in his decision to leak information to the public about the agency's work. 'I would say sort of the breaking point was seeing the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress,' Mr. Snowden said." CW: You can read the full transcript of the interview beginning here; there's a video, too, but I couldn't get it to load. ...

... CW: Snowden's claim that Clapper's March 2013 false testimony was "the breaking point" that caused him to become a principled, patriotic whistleblower is pure bullshit. As Janet Reitman reported in Rolling Stone last month, "In April 2012, while working for Dell, Snowden reportedly began to download documents, many pertaining to the eavesdropping programs run by the NSA and its British equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Eleven months later, he quit his job and accepted another, with Booz Allen, which he said he'd sought specifically for the broader access he'd have to the wealth of information pertaining to U.S. cyberspying." According to Glenn Greenwald, Snowden first contacted him December 1, 2012. So months Snowden began implementing his elaborate plan nearly a year before Clapper testified, & he contacted Greenwald three months before his supposed "breaking point." ...

... Mark Mazzetti & David Sanger of the New York Times: "The nation's top intelligence official on Wednesday delivered a scorching attack on Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, and called on him and his 'accomplices' to return the trove of classified documents he took from the N.S.A. James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told lawmakers that Mr. Snowden's disclosures had done grave damage to the country's security and had led terrorist groups to change their behavior to elude American surveillance. Mr. Clapper did not give specific examples to bolster his assessment about the damage Mr. Snowden had done. He also did not say whom he believed Mr. Snowden's accomplices to be.... For the second year in a row, Mr. Clapper listed cyberattacks as the most significant threat facing the United States." ...

... Brian Fung of the Washington Post: "... a pair of Norwegian politicians have nominated [Edward Snowden] for a Nobel Peace Prize. In their nomination letter, Baard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen, who hail from the Socialist Left party, said Snowden's revelations 'contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order.'"

Gail Collins: "How much of the new enthusiasm for early childhood education is real, and how much is just an attempt to dodge the whole inequality debate? Maybe we could agree that no politician is allowed to mention pre-k without showing us the money."

** Jamelle Bouie of the Daily Beast: "The Rich Really are as Selfish as You Think. According to a new study, the wealthiest Americans have no interest in policies that boost the incomes of ordinary people.... What the rich do support, however, are policies that would shift burdens to individuals, or introduce some nebulous 'competition' into public goods. That includes charter schools (90 percent support), vouchers (55 percent), Social Security privatization (55 percent), and merit pay for teachers (93 percent). If this agenda looks familiar, it's because it's basically identical to the one pushed by 'centrist' deficit hawks in Washington, who have devoted themselves to the consensus positions of business and other economic elites." ...

... Ben White of Politico: "The co-founder of one the nation's oldest venture capital firms fears a possible genocide against the wealthy. Residents of Manhattan's tony Upper East Side say the progressive mayor didn't plow their streets as a form of frosty revenge. And the co-founder of Home Depot recently warned the Pope to pipe down about economic inequality. The nation's wealthiest, denizens of the loftiest slice of the 1 percent, appear to be having a collective meltdown. Economists, advisers to the wealthy and the wealthy themselves describe a deep-seated anxiety that the national -- and even global -- mood is turning against the super-rich in ways that ultimately could prove dangerous and hard to control." ...

... Jason Sanchez of CNN Money: "Tom Perkins boasted that his Richard Mille watch was worth 'a six-pack of Rolexes', but a comparable model is actually worth 69 Rolex Air-King watches." Thanks to contributor Patrick for the link. See also Patrick's comment below.

... "Perkinsnacht." The Wall Street Journal Editors are incensed that liberals -- and Perkins' own corporation, in an "ungallant rebuke" -- are picking on Tom Perkins: "The liberals aren't encouraging violence, but they are promoting personal vilification and the abuse of government power to punish political opponents." Paul Krugman wrote the other day that he suspected the Journal's editors thought Perkins "was making a useful point." Krugman was right. ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "... the simple act of observing that inequality is staggeringly high and is endangering our economy, or that a few billionaires exert enormous power over our political process is simply too much for these crybaby defenders of plutocracy."

Corruption, Inc.

Patrick McGeehan & Charles Bagli of the New York Times: "... whatever the outcome of the inquiries [into Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's charges that the Christie administration held back federal Sandy relief funds], the emails and interviews [obtained by the Times] make clear that the development-wary mayor was coming under increasing and repeated pressure from politically connected lawyers working for Rockefeller Group and from the Christie administration." CW: The New York Times is on the story. If you missed it, see also this longish Times piece on the Christie political operation linked in yesterday's Commentariat. ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "The New York Times is pretty clearly expending a lot of resources on the various Chris Christie scandals. So far they haven't produced any smoking guns, but they're sure digging up some stuff that doesn't look good for Team Christie.... It's pretty obvious that stories like these are going to keep dripping out. The Times has several reporters assigned to bird dog this story, and once the New Jersey legislature starts subpoenaing people, there's going to be continuing grist for an endless succession of lurid headlines."

CW: It's hardly surprising that relatives and cronies of political bosses use their connections to gain favors. But this Bergen Record story by Shawn Boburg & Jean Rimbach demonstrates how brazenly Gov. Christie's brother Todd Christie plans to profit from a PATH project funded by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. AND this Record story by Boburg demonstrates that "Port Authority Chairman David Samson voted for a $256 million reconstruction of the rundown PATH station in Harrison three months after a builder represented by his law firm proposed converting a nearby warehouse into hundreds of luxury apartments, according to records and interviews." Samson is a Christie appointee. ...

... AND this from Matt Friedman of the Star-Ledger: " Gov. Chris Christie helped channel $6 million in federal Hurricane Sandy recovery dollars to a project conceived years before the storm struck, in an Essex County town that was not particularly hard hit, records show. The funding, pushed for personally by the Republican governor, was announced less than two weeks before the town's Democratic mayor formally endorsed him for reelection.... Statements from the governor and officials from Essex County and Belleville at the project's unveiling barely mentioned storm recovery, focusing almost exclusively on how the 137-unit housing project would help keep Belleville's seniors in town."

Aliyah Fruman of NBC News: "Meanwhile, Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell Jr. –both of New Jersey – are calling for a federal probe into the state's dealing with a New Orleans-based firm that was hired to oversee the divvying up of approximately $600 million in federal homeowner relief following Hurricane Sandy. The $68 million deal, made in May with Hammerman & Gainer Inc., was 'suddenly' cancelled Dec. 6 without any reason, the two congressman said in a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. The two congressmen also want an independent monitor to look into the state's usage of disaster recovery fund, concerned it was being 'recklessly mismanaged.'"

Gubernatorial Race

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator and Democratic candidate for governor under attack for blurring and misstating details of her experience as a single mother, accused critics late Tuesday of distorting her past and vowed in a tough-talking speech not to let anyone 'take my family's truth away from me.' But it was clear that her long-shot campaign had already taken a turn deep into the thicket of gender politics ... and culturally charged questions about women's balancing work, ambition and parenthood."

Senate Race

Georgia GOP U.S. Senate candidates on extending unemployment benefits. Via Daniel Strauss of TPM:

... Maybe that helps explain this. Public Policy Polling: "PPP's first look at the Georgia Senate race since Michelle Nunn (D) jumped in shows a potentially competitive general and primary. Nunn is tied with or leads all of her potential opponents, but a lot of voters are undecided, and they lean Republican. Phil Gingrey could be her stiffest competition, and also leads a stocked primary field."

Presidential Race 2016

Tom Kludt of TPM: Mike "Huckabee Is Now The GOP's Top Choice For 2016.... Uncle Sugar has apparently provided Mike Huckabee with a polling bounce. The latest survey from Democratic PPP released Wednesday showed the former Arkansas governor surging among Republican voters nationwide in the wake of his head-scratching comment about the female libido."

CBS Miami: "Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been rumored to be a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016 and Wednesday he did nothing to end the speculation when asked about a possible run. 'I'm going to think about it later (a run for president),' Bush said during a school tour Wednesday. 'I don't wake up each day saying, "what am I going to do today to make this decision?"' ... There is one person who Bush would have to convince who recently threw cold water on another Bush presidency. Former first lady Barbara Bush, Jeb's mom, said she hopes he won't run, even though 'Jeb is the best qualified person to run.'" ...

It is a big job to do, to run for president. It would take traveling around the country, it would mean I'd be home less time, get to see my kids [for] less time. And the people in the media, they get meaner and meaner when you run for president because they pick you apart and say your clothes don't look good, your hair looks bad, you need a haircut. You get all that kind of grief from the media when you run for president. -- Sen. Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.), explaining to a 4th-grade reporter what a sacrifice he will make if he runs for president. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

News Ledes

Boston Globe: "US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has authorized federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the young man accused in the Boston Marathon terror bombings in April that killed three people, injured more than 260 others, and sent a wave of shock and fear through the region."

New York Times: "The United States informed its NATO allies this month that Russia had tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, raising concerns about Moscow's compliance with a landmark arms control accord."