The Ledes

Thursday, February 11, 2016.

AP: "Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole Wednesday for fatally shooting Robert F. Kennedy after a confidante of the slain senator who was shot in the head forgave him and repeatedly apologized for not doing more to win his release. Paul Schrade's voice cracked with emotion during an hour of testimony on his efforts to untangle mysteries about the events of June 5, 1968. The 91-year-old former labor leader said he believed Sirhan shot him but that a second unidentified shooter felled Kennedy."

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 11

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."

New York Times: "... 21-year-old [Arthur Ashe] toppled the tournament’s top-seeded tennis player in a stunning upset on July 30, 1964. We published two photographs of Dennis Ralston, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, who walked off the court in defeat. But we didn’t run a single photograph of the winner.... On that day in 1964, he was ranked sixth in the nation and had yet to win a national title. ...

... The 1964 Times story is here. The page has blown up the above photo, worth viewing just to feast your eyes on that gorgeous young man. ...

... The Times is publishing previously unpublished photos of black historical figures & events every day this month. You can see those published to date here.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

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Thursday
Nov072013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 8, 2013

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Senate on Thursday approved a ban on discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity, voting 64 to 32 in a bipartisan show of support that is rare for any social issue. It was the first time in the institution's history that it had voted to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the country's nondiscrimination law. Despite initial wariness among many Republicans about the bill, 10 of them voted with 54 members of the Democratic majority to approve the measure.... Speaker John A. Boehner has repeatedly said he opposes the bill...."

One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do. Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it. -- President Obama, in a written statement

... Kate Nocera of BuzzFeed: "As the Senate passed the Employee Non-Discrimination Act on Thursday, just one Republican senator -- Indiana's Dan Coats -- took to the floor to oppose it. The silence from the Senate Republican caucus stunned social conservatives, who have been arguing that the legislation, which provides workplace protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees, will undermine religious liberty." CW: As far as I can tell, they're arguing that discrimination & gay-bashing in the workplace is protected by the First Amendment's establishment clause. ...

... Daniel Horowitz of Red State calls the Republican senators who voted for the bill "undocumented Democrats.... With leadership that refuses to fight on anything, leaves the carcass of the fractured conference to Democrat scavenging, and completely surrenders on even the most bedrock social/liberty issues, what is left of the GOP in the Senate?"

** Jackie Calmes & Robert Pear of the New York Times: " The Obama administration on Friday will complete a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment.... In the White House, the regulations are also seen as critical to President Obama's program for curbing gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders. In issuing the regulations, senior officials said, the administration will have acted on all 23 executive actions that the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced early this year to reduce gun crimes after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre.... The parity law does not apply to Medicare, according to Irvin L. Muszynski, a lawyer at the American Psychiatric Association." ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama bowed Thursday night to mounting criticism that he misled the American people about the health care law, apologizing to people who were forced off their health insurance plans by the Affordable Care Act despite 'assurances from me':

We, in good faith, have been trying to take on a health care system that has been broken for a very long time. And what we've been trying to do is to change it in the least disruptive way possible ... everybody is acting as if the existing market was working ... the average increase on premiums in this individual market for somebody who kept their health care for awhile, the average increase was double digits. If they actually got sick and used the insurance, they might find the next year their premiums had gone up. Or the insurer might have dropped them altogether, because now they had a preexisting condition. -- President Obama, in the Todd interview (via Greg Sargent)

     ... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "What Obama isn't offering is an apology for the cancellation notices themselves. Eliminating certain health plans from the market -- ones that the White House thinks are too skimpy -- is a feature, not a bug, of the Affordable Care Act." ...

     ... Zeke Miller of Time: "For the second time in as many months, President Barack Obama has dramatically changed his communications strategy for coping with the troubled rollout of his signature legislation." ...

... Brett Norman of Politico: "The Obama administration again called out states that have refused to expand Medicaid on Thursday, calling it a 'reckless' play to undercut Obamacare at the expense of their constituents' health. The White House held a conference call featuring officials in Florida and Louisiana who made the case for expanding the program and attacked those holding it up. President Barack Obama is traveling to the two states tomorrow on unrelated business, but the messaging is part of a larger drive to draw attention to the states that have refused to cover low-income people...." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: Yes, some people -- it's impossible to say how many -- will have to pay more for equivalent insurance under the ACA than they did in the good ole days. "The truth is that, until now, people in this situation have been among the few, fortunate souls for whom American health insurance is a bargain. They've been relatively healthy, and they've had relatively good incomes, making it possible to buy comprehensive policies at prices they could afford. But the practices that made insurance cheap for them made it expensive -- and in many cases unavailable -- for others. Their good fortune was the by-product of bad fortune for many others. As one ends, so must the other." ...

... Eugene Kiely of FactCheck.org: "Sen. Rand Paul says the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion may 'bankrupt' rural hospitals in Kentucky. But state health care leaders say its hospitals stand to benefit, since the expansion would provide insurance to those who otherwise wouldn't be able to pay their hospital bills." CW: This demonstrates why plagiarism is such a useful tool for Li'l Randy. He's more apt to get things right if he copies somebody else's work word-for-word. ...

It annoys the hell out of me. I feel like if I could just go to detention after school for a couple days, then everything would be okay. But do I have to be in detention for the rest of my career? ... I'm being criticized for not having proper attribution, and yet they are able to write stuff that if I were their journalism teacher in college, I would fail them.-- Sen. Rand Paul, reacting to press reports of his serial plagiarism (via Bob Costa of National Review; read the whole post)

... The Plagiarist, Ctd. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Several more sections of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's 2012 book Government Bullies appear to be plagiarized from articles by think tank scholars, BuzzFeed has found. As BuzzFeed previously reported, more than three pages of the book were plagiarized from The Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, and another section of the Kentucky senator's book was plagiarized from a Forbes article. As was the case with the other cut-and-pasted jobs, Paul included links to the works in his book's footnotes but made no effort to indicate that the words themselves had been taken from other sources." ...

... Dave Weigel of Slate: Twenty-four hours after the Washington Examiner fired suspended Li'l Randy for plagiarizing one of his weekly Examiner columns, that bastion of journalistic integrity "Breitbart.com announced it would pick up the column. Its official announcement made no mention of the copied-text scandal...." Perfect. ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: Paul's move to Breitbart "further demonstrates how little the actual sitting senator Paul knows or cares about journalistic or editorial ethics or anything we other inhabitants of the planet might recognize as shame.... He's just moving his regular output of writing from the racist-coddling, conspiracy-mongering Washington Times to an ideological burrow that has even fewer ethical restrictions on his work. And that is freaking hilarious."

... James Carroll of the Louisville Courier-Journal in USA Today: "Sen. Rand Paul's handling of recent plagiarism charges adds doubts about his readiness for a presidential campaign, some observers said Wednesday." ...

... Count Mike Huckabee Out of the Doubters Club. Huckabee is "appalled" that "liberals who have nothing better to do" are picking on Rand about "this nutty thing." ...

... Humor Break. Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "The campaign website of a Republican candidate for the United States Senate in North Carolina, Greg Brannon, who[m Rand] Paul supports, includes descriptions of various policy positions that match those of Mr. Paul's 2010 campaign website word for word.... A spokesman for Mr. Brannon did not respond to a emails about the similarities between the two sites Thursday, and Mr. Paul's office had no comment." CW: So, honor among thieves. Thanks to P.D. Pepe for the link.

Charles Pierce: Coming up on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Ted Cruz warns President Obama he shouldn't have come to Dallas.

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Thursday introduced legislation that would ban abortions nationwide for women more than 20 weeks pregnant, the senator's office announced." CW: If you can think of any senator who knows less about women's health issues than Graham, do tell.

Donna Cassata of the AP: "The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is pressuring the House to act on immigration legislation before the end of the year, calling the issue 'a matter of great moral urgency' that cannot wait. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said in a letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Thursday that he was troubled by reports that immigration reform is delayed in the House since lawmakers have a responsibility to resolve the issue. Writing on behalf of the 450-plus U.S. cardinals and bishops, Dolan said they respectfully request that the House address the immigration issue as soon as possible."

Kim Severson & Winnie Hu of the New York Times: "...for millions of poor Americans who rely on food stamps, reductions that began this month present awful choices.... And for many, it will mean turning to a food pantry or a soup kitchen by the middle of the month.... The reduction in benefits has affected more than 47 million people.... It is the largest wholesale cut in the program since Congress passed the first Food Stamps Act in 1964 and touches about one in every seven Americans.... The cuts are also hurting stores in poor neighborhoods. The average food stamps household receives $272 a month, which then passes into the local economy." ...

     ... CW: I don't know why it is so seldom mentioned, but programs like SNAP & Medicaid are so costly because these programs effectively subsidize employers who pay their workers less than a living wage. As Media Matters reported last year, "41% [of SNAP recipients] lived in a household with earnings from a job -- the so-called 'working poor.'" (Almost half of SNAP beneficiaries are children & eight percent are 60 years old or more.) Case in point: Wal-Mart: "Walmart's employees receive $2.66 billion in government help every year.... They are also the top recipients of Medicaid in numerous states." Now, get this: "One of the major beneficiaries of the nation's food-stamp program is actually a hugely profitable company: Walmart. Americans spend about 18 percent of all food stamp dollars at Walmart...." ...

... Catherine Rampell & Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "The White House has thrown its weight behind a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.... The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Tom Harkin of Iowa and in the House by George Miller of California, both Democrats."

... Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "Lost work: 6.6 million days. Back-pay costs: $2 billion. Private-sector jobs lost: 120,000. Those are just some of the costs of the 16-day partial government shutdown that ended last month, the Obama administration said in a detailed report released Thursday." ...

... Paul Krugman: The weak economy is costing the U.S. $1 trillion a year -- for years. Krugman aptly blames deficit scolds. "It's really a terrible story: a tale of self-inflicted harm, made all the worse because it was done in the name of responsibility. And the damage continues as we speak."

Mark Hosenball & Warren Strobel of Reuters: Edward "Snowden may have persuaded between 20 and 25 fellow workers at the NSA regional operations center in Hawaii to give him their logins and passwords by telling them they were needed for him to do his job as a computer systems administrator, a second source said. The revelation is the latest to indicate that inadequate security measures at the NSA played a significant role in the worst breach of classified data in the super-secret eavesdropping agency's 61-year history."

Second Amendment, Sí. First Amendment, No. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite. "Guns and Ammo Magazine, the 'world's most widely read firearms magazine,' has fired contributing editor Dick Metcalf after the publication received immense backlash for its December 2013 issue featuring his editorial advocating for gun control." After apologizing for running Metcalf's column, Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette "announced his own resignation earlier than anticipated." ...

... Hamilton Nolan of Gawker: "In Metcalf's column, which is extremely basic and mild by 'sane person' standards, he gently notes that it is not true that any regulation of guns is automatically an infringement of the Second Amendment.... Ad Age characterizes the backlash as 'stiff.' I might characterize it as 'indicative of the scary insanity present in the minds of many of those Americans who also, unfortunately, own guns." Nolan cites a few examples of said backlash, with commentary on each. "Thank god everyone involved in this is heavily armed."

Oh, My God! Sarah Posner in Mother Jones: "Next week, former President George W. Bush is scheduled to keynote a fundraiser in Irving, Texas, for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that trains people in the United States, Israel, and around the world to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The organization's goal: to 'restore' Israel and the Jews and bring about about the second coming of Christ.... Last year, Glenn Beck was the star of the group's fundraiser.... Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles' Sinai Temple, whom Newsweek has called the most influential rabbi in the country, tweeted, 'This is infuriating.'" ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... it sure appears W. is going back to the hard-core well of support from those who thought the invasion of Iraq was a divinely blessed first-step towards Armageddon."

New York Times Editors: "The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit erred badly last week when it stayed the remedies ordered by Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court to correct the civil rights violations associated with New York City's stop-and-frisk policy, including an independent monitor to review police practices. It also unjustly damaged Judge Scheindlin's reputation when it removed her from the case. A motion filed on Wednesday by Judge Scheindlin's lawyers seeks to have her removal vacated. The motion offers a strong argument that the three-judge panel moved with unseemly haste, acted on a skewed reading of the evidence and violated a court rule that gives judges accused of misconduct the opportunity to defend themselves."

Local News

Rosalind Helderman & Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the wealthy benefactor who is at the heart of a federal investigation into Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, is stepping down as chief executive of Star Scientific Inc., the dietary supplement maker announced Thursday.... A criminal probe [of the McDonnell-Williams transactions] is ongoing." ...

... More Bad News for Bob. Helderman & Leonnig: "Home renovations and landscaping were performed at Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's Richmond area home last year by the brother of [Jonnie R. Williams, Sr.].... Two people familiar with the criminal probe said Donnie O. Williams, 56, was interviewed about the work by federal prosecutors in recent weeks.... Donnie Williams, a former sheriff's deputy, told prosecutors that he believed he was doing the work at the McDonnells' home for free last year, at the request of his brother, the two people said. Williams eventually was paid for the work." ...

... Emily Schultheis of Politico: "As the possibility of a federal indictment swirled around scandal-plagued Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell this summer, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli was planning a 'dramatic' break from the sitting governor in which he would use the Virginia state Constitution to try to remove McDonnell from office, a prominent state political analyst reported Thursday. According to Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, Cuccinelli planned to employ a never-before-used section of the state Constitution to deem McDonnell unfit to govern." The Sabato (et al.) report is here. ...

... John Harris & Anna Palmer of Politico: "The old saying about victory having a thousand fathers while defeat is an orphan turns out not to be quite right. The paternity suit over Cuccinelli's narrow loss is vigorously under way."

AP: "Betsy Hodges, a Democratic member of the Minneapolis City Council, emerged as the winner of the race for mayor of Minnesota's largest city Thursday night. Hodges received the most votes of the 35 candidates but fell shy of an outright majority. Minneapolis uses a ranked-choice system, which allowed voters on Tuesday to make up to three choices of candidates on their ballots. Ballots were reassigned as candidates were deemed out of contention." The Minneapolis Star Tribune story is here.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Two U.S. admirals -- including the director of naval intelligence -- are under investigation as part of a major bribery scandal involving a foreign defense contractor, Navy officials announced Friday night. Vice Adm. Ted Branch, the service's top intelligence officer, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, the Navy's director of intelligence operations, were placed on leave Friday and their access to classified material was suspended, the Navy said in a statement."

Bloomberg News: "Payrolls in the U.S. increased more than forecast in October, a sign that employers were optimistic the world's biggest economy would weather the effects of the federal government shutdown. The addition of 204,000 workers followed a revised 163,000 gain in September that was larger than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today.... The median forecast of 91 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 120,000 advance. The jobless rate rose to 7.3 percent from an almost five-year low."

Reuters: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow big power foreign ministers headed to Geneva on Friday to help clinch an interim nuclear deal with Iran and ease a decade-old standoff, with Israel warning they were making an epic mistake." ...

     ... The New York Times has an updated story here. ...

... New York Times: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly opposes the interim Iranian nuclear program deal being negotiated in Geneva.

AP: "Syria's main Western-backed opposition group has refused to participate in talks in Moscow with Syrian government organizations on resolving the country's humanitarian crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry and opposition figures said Friday."

New York Times: "Standard & Poor's on Friday cut its credit rating on France by one notch, saying the government's current policy initiatives did not appear capable of addressing impediments to economic growth."

Washington Post: Federal prosecutors have obtained evidence that with the help of high-ranking U.S. Naval officers, Glenn Defense Marine has been bilking the U.S. government for years. "The case is shaping up as the biggest corruption scandal to hit the Navy in years. Two Navy commanders have been arrested ... and charged with feeding inside information to Francis, as has a senior agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In addition, a Navy captain who has not been charged but is under investigation was relieved of his ship's command last month. Court papers suggest that still more officers could be implicated."

Reuters: "Egypt will hold parliamentary elections 'between February and March', to be followed by a presidential vote in early summer, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said on Friday."

AP: "The strongest typhoon this year slammed into the central Philippines on Friday, setting off landslides and knocking out power and communication lines in several provinces. At least four people died."

Wednesday
Nov062013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 7, 2013

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: In Dallas, President Obama ... sought to pressure Gov. Rick Perry to expand Medicaid in Texas, the largest of the Republican-led states that have refused to participate in his Affordable Care Act.... 'There's no state that actually needs this more than Texas,' Mr. Obama said [to a group of ACA volunteers]. 'Here in just the Dallas area, 133,000 people who don't currently have health insurance would immediate get health insurance without even having to go through the website' if Texas would just expand Medicaid. He noted that neighboring states have taken action because 'this is a no-brainer.' Arkansas, he said, cut the number of uninsured by 14 percent in the last month by expanding Medicaid." ...

... Nedra Pickler of the AP: President "Obama invited Senate Democrats facing re-election next year to the White House to discuss the problem-plagued health care rollout that could affect their races. The White House confirmed Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with 16 senators to describe fixes that are being made to the website for Americans to sign up for insurance under his signature health care law." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "In a meeting at the White House, Obama's chief of staff Denis McDonough asked insurance executives to explain to customers who are losing their plans what new options are available under ObamaCare and what new subsidies they might qualify for." ...

... Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Wednesday that the government needed to fix hundreds of problems with the website for the federal health insurance marketplace, but she categorically rejected bipartisan calls to delay parts of the new health care law. She made her comments at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee hours after the Obama administration disclosed that the chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [Tony Trenkle] would retire. His office supervised the creation of the troubled website." ...

... Sam Hananel of the AP: "The Obama administration appears ready to give some labor unions a break from costly fees under the new health care law, a move that drew criticism from Republicans who say it unfairly favors a key White House ally. In regulations published last week, the administration said it intends to propose rules that would exempt 'certain self-insured, self-administered plans' from the requirement to pay the fees in 2015 and 2016." ...

... Don't give up on Stewart. Watch the whole segment:

... Brian Beutler of Salon: In the Virginia gubernatorial election, Ken "Cuccinelli's anti-women positions were far more disqualifying than [Terry] McAuliffe's pro-healthcare stance," but Republicans have a need to blame ObamaCare for everything. "It was fun ... witnessing the various ways Republicans across the spectrum are contorting themselves to argue that Obamacare was the one thing preventing Terry McAuliffe -- World's Most Likable Democrat™ -- from winning an off-year landslide in a statewide race in Virginia." ...

... A Reality Chek from Paul Waldman: "Things could hardly have gone worse [for the ACA] in this stage of the rollout, and guess what: Americans' opinions about the law are, by all indications, exactly what they were before.... I think Republicans haven't been able to translate the problems of the last month into a change in opinion because their warnings were so apocalyptic that even what has gone wrong hasn't lived up to their hype. They used to say, 'This law will destroy every last shred of our freedom!' and now they're saying, 'The website should be working better!'" ...

... Matt Miller in the Washington Post: "Politicians and pundits who bash Obamacare should have displayed under their talking head or byline the source of their own coverage. Let's caption Ted Cruz in flashing neon that reads, 'Enjoys Gold-Plated Health Coverage from Goldman Sachs Spousal Plan.' Let's have the subtitles for John Boehner and Eric Cantor read, 'Has Never Worried About Going Broke From Illness A Day in His Life Thanks To Federal Government Insurance.' And let Obamacare supporters begin their response to absurd claims that 'Obamacare is the enemy' with this simple line: 'Spoken like a Very Well-Insured Person.'" ...

... Dana Milbank: Senators demonstrate how to govern by anecdote. "Using props to make policy may be unreliable, but it's apparently irresistible."

Cash & Slash. Billionaires v. Hungry Kids. Billionaires Win. Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "The federal government paid $11.3 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies from 1995 to 2012 to 50 billionaires or businesses in which they have some form of ownership, according to a report released Thursday by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research organization.... The Working Group said its findings were likely to underestimate the total farm subsidies that went to the billionaires on the Forbes 400 list because many of them also received crop insurance subsidies. Federal law prohibits the disclosure of the names of individuals who get crop insurance subsidies, the group said. The report is being issued as members of the House and Senate are meeting to come up with a new five-year farm bill." (CW: Why are crop subsidies doled out in secret? Taxpayers have a right to know which millionaires & billionaires they're subsidizing.) ...

... David Dayen of the American Prospect writes that Democrats are as much to blame for the food stamp crisis as are Republicans. They've been treating the program like an open cookie jar since President Obama took office. ...

... Susan Heavey of Reuters: "The number of poor people in the United States held steady at nearly 50 million last year, but government programs appear to have lessened the impact, especially on children and the elderly, federal data released on Wednesday showed. The Census Bureau, using an alternative measure to the government's main poverty gauge, said the figure was virtually unchanged from a year earlier with the overall poverty rate stuck at 16 percent."

... Here's the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial that Maddow cites. The editors do concede their U.S. Senator is "not a thief in the sense of Clyde Barrow or Willie Sutton...." ...

... The Plagiarist Is Holier than Christ(ie). Arlette Saenz of ABC News: "During a Senate committee hearing on post-Sandy recovery efforts, [Sen. Rand] Paul asked Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan whether it was appropriate to use federal relief funds for television ads, a clear jab at the New Jersey Republican [Gov. Chris Christie ]who starred in ads touting the Jersey Shore":

Some of these ads, people running for office put their their mug all over these ads while they're in the middle of a political campaign. In New Jersey, $25 million was spent on ads that included somebody running for political office. Do ya think there might be a conflict of interest there? That's a real problem. And that's why when people who are trying to do good and trying to use taxpayers' money wisely, they're offended to see our money spent on political ads.

Joan Biskupic of Reuters: "When the U.S. Supreme Court talks about religion, all hell breaks loose. A dispute over an upstate New York town's prayer before council meetings produced an unusually testy oral-argument session on Wednesday that recalled the decades of difficulty Supreme Court justices have had drawing the line between church and state.... Overall, the justices' remarks were more pessimistic than positive regarding a possible consensus. They voiced frustration with the lawyers who appeared before them and with each other as well." ...

... Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog has an excellent recap of the arguments in the case.

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The C.I.A. is paying AT&T more than $10 million a year to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations by exploiting the company's vast database of phone records, which includes Americans' international calls, according to government officials. The cooperation is conducted under a voluntary contract.... AT&T has a history of working with the government."

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "National Security Council officials are scheduled to meet soon to discuss the issue of separating the leadership of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, a shift that some officials say would help avoid an undue concentration of power in one individual and separate entities with two fundamentally different missions: spying and conducting military attacks. The administration is also discussing whether the NSA should be led by a civilian."

AFP: "A group of lawyers, journalists and privacy advocates in the Netherlands is taking the government to court to prevent Dutch intelligence using phone data illegally acquired by the US National Security Agency. Five individuals, among them a prominent investigative journalist and a well-known hacker, and four organisations filed the case before The Hague district court on Wednesday, according to their lawyer...."

Brian Fung of the Washington Post: commercial cable companies spend big bucks & use a variety of techniques to prevent municipalities from installing public fiberoptics communications systems.

As contributor Diane pointed out yesterday, I plumb forgot MoDo & the Bobbleheaded Twins. In this episode, MoDo & the Boys remark on the Obama clan's mistreatment of Loyal Uncle Joe. Stay tuned. There is sure to be another chapter. ...

... MEANWHILE, Charles Pierce (again, thanks to Diane) plots to confiscate MoDo's remote. AND he is sure he'll enjoy the well-wrought urn that is Double Down. (I'd recommend he down a double first.)

Election Returns 2013

Jeremy Peters & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Leaders of the Republican establishment, alarmed by the emergence of far-right and often unpredictable Tea Party candidates, are pushing their party to rethink how it chooses nominees and advocating changes they say would result in the selection of less extreme contenders. The party leaders pushing for changes want to replace state caucuses and conventions, like the one that nominated [Ken] Cuccinelli, with a more open primary system that they believe will draw a broader cross-section of Republicans and produce more moderate candidates. Similar pushes are already underway in other states, including Montana and Utah, and last week Mitt Romney said Republicans should consider how to overhaul their presidential nominating process to attract a wider range of voters." ...

     ... CW: No use being "alarmed" by the quality of your candidates while John Boehner & Mitch McConnell cater to the every whim of the winners, at the expense of the nation and of the party.

... Marc Fisher & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "If lessons emerged from Tuesday's vote, they were almost instantly lost in the volley of finger-pointing that began even before the polls closed. Republican Ken Cuccinelli II's narrow loss, despite what opinion surveys had consistently called a comfortable lead for [Terry] McAuliffe, left the candidate's camp accusing national party organizations of abandoning their man in the closest major race in the nation this year. Party officials said it was Cuccinelli who had failed to raise money from mainstream Republican sources skeptical of his hard-line rhetoric and uncompromising conservatism."

Julie Davis & John McCormick of Bloomberg News: "Republicans cite their 2.5-point defeat in the Virginia governor's race as proof that Ken Cuccinelli would have reversed his fortunes if he'd hammered earlier and longer on Obamacare.... Democrats argue Terry McAuliffe's narrow Nov. 5 victory amid a glitch-plagued rollout of the insurance program shows they can navigate politically around public opposition to the law.... Geoff Garin, McAuliffe's lead polling expert, said in the closing days of the race that Cuccinelli's focus on the health-care measure had 'actually been counterproductive,' even with voters who disapproved of the law. It solidified their view that he was an ideological candidate with a national agenda that had nothing to do with Virginia, said Garin."

Frank Rich on "the National Circus": "... if you tune in to the unofficial headquarters of the Christie '16 campaign, Morning Joe at MSNBC, [Chris] Christie is not only the front-runner, he's his party's savior, and is within a step of two of measuring the drapes for the White House." Unless the GOP bosses scrap all the primaries, which they won't, the real race, Rich says, is between Tailgunner Ted & Li'l "Genuine Hair" Randy.

Maya Rhodan of Time: "Who won this election cycle? Union leaders say they did. Across the country, candidates backed by unions triumphed over their counterparts, while ballot measures broke in favor of the unions that had campaigned for them as well."

Rick Lyman of the New York Times: election watchers on both sides of the Texas voter ID controversy say the law had little effect at the polls Tuesday. CW: But halfway through the story, Lyman lets the Texas League of Women Voters make the obvious point: "... voters who do not have the proper documentation at all ... might stay away from the polls altogether as a result." If you know you don't have proper ID to vote & can't afford or don't have time to obtain it, you're going to stay home. There is no way to guess how many Texans made that "choice."

Gail Collins discusses Tuesday's results, with only 790 days to go till the Iowa caucuses.

Driftglass: "... Chris Christie is 'centristy' when compared to the rest of the Teabagger Legion of Doom only in the same sense that a cinderblock is 'edible' when compared to a stick of dynamite, so why pretend otherwise?"

Senate Race

Blue Texas Pipe Dreams. Steve M. of NMMNB: "Public Policy Polling conducts a survey on the 2014 Texas Senate race and finds that if GOP incumbent John Cornyn loses a primary, Republicans could hold the seat even if Cornyn's replacement on the ticket is ... Louie Gohmert.... Julian Castro, rising star and potential Democratic VP candidate, loses by 9 points in his home state to Louie freaking Gohmert.... If Louie freaking Gohmert runs that well statewide, do yourself a favor and don't bet the rent money on Wendy Davis winning the governorship. Or on a Democrat winning any statewide race in Texas in the next twenty years."

Gubernatorial Race

Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter will challenge Gov. Nathan Deal next year in a move that catapults the gubernatorial contest into the national spotlight and tests whether Georgia's changing demographics can loosen the Republican Party's 12-year grip on the state's highest office. Carter's decision, which he announced Wednesday in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is another step along the trail forged by his famous grandfather Jimmy Carter, who was elected to the state Senate and then the Governor's Mansion before winning the presidency."

Local News

Amel Ahmed of Al Jazeera: "Following Al Jazeera America's exclusive report on Oct. 30 revealing that California state Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) is the subject of a federal investigation for having solicited bribes, California's Democratic majority leader asked the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday to strip Calderon of all his committee assignments pending the outcome of the investigation."

News Ledes

AFP: "In a landmark move, US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Geneva Friday to join nuclear talks with US arch-foe Iran, fuelling hopes a historic deal may be in sight."

New York Times: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed measures that would all but eliminate artificial trans fats, the artery clogging substance that is a major contributor to heart disease in the United States, from the food supply."

New York Times: "On its inaugural day of trading, Twitter managed to avoid the missteps that marred Facebook's initial public offering last year, even as Twitter's lofty stock market valuation added pressure on the company to turn a profit soon."

New York Times: "In a surprise choice that bodes poorly for proposed peace talks, the Pakistani Taliban on Thursday appointed as their new leader the hard-line commander [Mullah Fazlullah, who is] responsible for last year's attack on Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani education activist."

Being an Ex-King Is a Bummer. AFP: "Belgium's government ruled out any increase Thursday in the 923,000-euro allowance paid to King Albert II since his July abdication, despite reports he sees it as too little to live on." Also, he has to pay taxes. Also, a natural daughter filed suit to be officially recognized. Just rough all around.

Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors arrested a third senior Navy official in a widening bribery scandal Wednesday, charging that he delivered classified and other sensitive information to a major defense contractor in exchange for prostitutes, luxury travel and more than $100,000 in cash. Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, was arrested in Tampa on charges that he gave classified information about ship movements to Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Singapore-based contractor that has resupplied and serviced Navy ships and submarines in the Pacific for a quarter-century."

AP: "Pakistan has freed former President Pervez Musharraf from his months-long house arrest, days after he received bail in a case related to the death of a radical cleric...."

Tuesday
Nov052013

Election Results November 2013

Yes to Secession. Denver Post: "... in six of the 11 [Colorado] counties where the secession [from Colorado] question appeared on the ballot, the measure passed by strong margins.... Proponents say they have become alienated from the more urbanized Front Range and are unhappy with laws passed during this year's legislative session, including stricter gun laws and new renewable-energy standards. 'The heart of the 51st State Initiative is simple: We just want to be left alone to live our lives without heavy-handed restrictions from the state Capitol,' said 51st state advocate Jeffrey Hare."...

... Time: "Colorado voters approved a 25 percent tax on newly legalized marijuana on Tuesday, paving the way for retail sales to begin next year."

Iowa City Press-Citizen: Three Coralville, Iowa council members beat the Koch brothers' big money machine, & vice President Joe Biden called to congratulate the winners. Here's the related New York Times story, which citizen625 linked last week.

Detroit Free Press: "For the first time in 40 years, predominantly black Detroit elected a white person as mayor. Community leaders, political observers and voters ... said Mike Duggan beat Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in the city whose population is 82% African American because of a more organized, better-financed campaign. Others sensed desperation among voters -- a thirst for change in a broken city that led to a measuring of the whole candidate against the other."

New Jersey Star-Ledger: " Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly withstood Republican Gov. Chris Christie's decisive victory over Barbara Buono on Tuesday, retaining majorities in both houses of the Legislature and ensuring at least four more years of divided government in Trenton. With most of the votes counted Tuesday night, Democrats said they would hold onto their 24-16 majority in the state Senate. They also appeared to hold a majority in the Assembly -- currently 48 to 32 -- though they lost at least one seat."

Washington Post: "The Virginia attorney general's race was a virtual dead heat and headed for a recount early Wednesday morning, with Democratic State Sen. Mark Herring clinging to a 541-vote lead over Republican State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain with 2.2 million ballots cast, according to unofficial results posted by the state board of elections. With 99.92 percent of the vote tallied, the margin between the two candidates was a scant .03 percent. State election law provides for the trailing candidate to request a recount if the margin is less than 1 percent of the total vote."

Houston Chronicle: "A $217 million bond measure to fund a massive Astrodome renovation failed by several percentage points, a decision expected to doom it to the wrecking ball.... [Harris] County commissioners have said they would recommend the wrecking ball if the bond failed."

10:58 pm ET: Al.com: "Bradley Byrne is the winner in the Republican runoff for Alabama's First Congressional District with 52.48 percent of the vote over Dean Young's 47.51 percent." Byrne is the "establishment" candidate, endorsed by his predecessor; Young was the Tea Party candidate. Philip Bump of the Atlantic has a good piece on their differences, which Byrne sees as most differences of "tone."

9:50 pm ET: The AP has called the Boston mayoral race for Martin Walsh, a Democrat. His opponent was also a Democrat. Boston Globe: "Martin J. Walsh, a legislator and long-time labor leader, ground out a narrow victory over City Councilor John R. Connolly today to become Boston's 48th mayor propelled by a diverse coalition that transcended geography, race, and ideology."

9:50 pm ET: New Jersey voters approved raising the state's minimum wage to $8.25 an hour. The Democratic-controlled state legislature had voted for the measure, which Gov. Christie vetoed. Update: Washington Post story here.

9:39 pm ET: NBC News projects that Terry McAuliffe will "narrowly" win the Virginia governor's race. Fox "News" also projects McAuliffe as the winner. Washington Post: "Terry McAuliffe..., captured the Virginia governor's seat Tuesday, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli II...."

9:10 pm ET: NBC News projects Democrat Bill De Blasio has won the New York City mayoral race. New York Times story here.

9:00 pm ET: Virginia governor's race is still too close to call.

8:25 pm ET: NBC News & the Washington Post project Ralph Northam (D) winner of the Virginia lieutenant governor's Race.

8:00 pm ET: NBC News & the New York Times have called the New Jersey governor's race for Gov. Chris Christie.

Tuesday
Nov052013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 6, 2013

** George Packer of the New Yorker: "Our democracy's unnecessary stupidities."

Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News: "President Obama will use his time in Dallas on Wednesday to ramp up pressure on Gov. Rick Perry to expand Medicaid, aides said -- a step that could lop 1.4 million Texans off the rolls of the uninsured. The president will call on Perry to join 'reasonable Republican governors in states like Ohio and Michigan and Arizona' who already have agreed to such an expansion...." CW: Yup. Jan Brewer (Az.) is reasonable. ...

... MEANWHILE. Robert Garrett of the Dallas Morning News: Texas "Attorney General Greg Abbott hinted strongly Tuesday that Texas may impose additional training and background checks on 'navigators' hired under federal grants to help people sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act." CW: Sabotage by any other name still stinks. ...

... Robert Pear of the New York Times: Inexplicably, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rules that the ACA is not subject to a "law that ban rebates, kickbacks, bribes and certain other financial arrangements in federal health programs, stripping law enforcement of a powerful tool used to fight fraud in other health care programs, like Medicare." Let the circus begin!

** Juan Williams of Fox "News": "Taking crocodile tears to a new level, ObamaCare opponents are now rushing to their defense and calling the president a liar. These critics include Republican politicians who did not vote for ObamaCare; these are Republican governors who refuse to set up exchanges to reach their own citizens; these are people oppose expanding Medicaid to help poor people getting better health care; these are people who have never put any proposal on the table as an alternative fix for the nation's costly health care system that leaves tens of millions with inadequate medical coverage and tens of millions more totally uninsured.... If you are one of the estimated 2 million Americans whose health insurance plans may have been cancelled this month, you should not be blaming President Obama or the Affordable Care Act. You should be blaming your insurance company because they have not been providing you with coverage that meets the minimum basic standards for health care." CW: Read the whole post. This is an amazing piece coming from a conservative commentator on Fox "News." A-Mazing! ...

... Dana Milbank: "No, the Obamacare pratfall is not Obama's Iraq: The magnitude is entirely different, and the problems -- Web site malfunctions and a wave of policy cancellations -- are fixable. But the decision-making is disturbingly similar: In both cases, insular administrations, staffed by loyalists and obsessed with secrecy, participated in group-think and let the president hear only what they thought he wanted to hear." ...

... Brian Beutler of Salon on the arc of health insurance "rate shock" stories: "... it's really striking how long it's taking reporters to realize that these stories are incomplete, and probably inaccurate, unless and until they and their subjects have a handle on all of the relevant information.... The truth is the Affordable Care Act isn't blameless -- not, as its critics suggest, because it imposes too much regulation on the individual insurance market, but because it doesn't impose enough." ...

... CW: Beutler faults the insurers for much of the brouhaha: "The transition period between the old individual market and the new, better one, provides them one last chance to use the power of inertia and fear of the unknown to feed their consumers into expensive plans and shunt the blame for the price hike onto Obamacare." This brings to mind a comment in yesterday's thread: citizen625 noted that the president of UnitedHealth Group received nearly $49 million in compensation last year according to Forbes. "Next time some someone says whats wrong with the healthcare system and blames Barry O and the Democrats, trot that number out as a representative drain on non-medical costs of healthcare," citzen625 writes. ...

     ... Worth Noting: United HealthCare had to rebate premiums to many policyholders because the company failed to meet "the ACA's 80/20 rule that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on medical care or quality improvements and no more than 20 percent on administrative costs and overhead." (Sen. Al Franken put the rule in the bill.) In North Carolina, for instance, this UHC "accounts for ... nearly two-thirds, of all rebates" due that state's policyholders." United HealthGroup companies also accounted for the most rebates in Florida. In 2012, insurers had to pay out about $1.1 billion for failing to meet the ACA requirement. In 2013, that figure was down to about $500 million. More importantly, the Obama administration estimated that "the 80/20 standard contributed to $3.4 billion in lower premiums for 77.8 million consumers because health insurance companies charged less up front." Obviously, United HealthGroup was one of the companies that missed that boat. Surely overcompensating their CEO contributed to their being one of the minority of health insurers who couldn't meet the 80/20 standard. (There's an 85/15 standard for group insurance.)

     ... It isn't just the insurers. From-the-Heartland adds: the highest paid U.S. CEO on the Forbes list "is John Hammergren of McKesson at $131,190,000.00 for the year (McKesson delivers medicines, pharmaceutical supplies, information and care management products and services) and #6 is George Paz of Express Scripts at $51,520,000.00 for one year (Express Scripts is a pharmacy benefit management company). These are all obscene salaries that we are paying for through our insurance premiums or cost of care if uninsured." F-t-H recommends single-payer insurance, which would largely cut private health insurers out of the picture. Beutler agrees. Jonathan Chait, below, explains why single-payer didn't happen. ...

... ** Jonathan Chait: "The point is that [the ACA] represents the least-disruptive, least-painful way to clear the minimal threshold of any humane reform. The preferred alternatives of both right and left would impose an order of magnitude more dislocation -- creating not a few million 'victims,' but tens of millions. What's on display at the moment is a way of looking at the world that sanctifies defenders of the horrendous status quo and places all the burden upon those trying to change it."

Donna Cassata of the AP: "Invoking the Declaration of Independence, proponents of a bill that would outlaw discrimination against gays in the workplace argued on Tuesday that the measure is rooted in fundamental fairness for all Americans. Republican opponents of the measure were largely silent, neither addressing the issue on the second day of Senate debate nor commenting unless asked. Written statements from some rendered their judgment that the bill would result in costly, frivolous lawsuits and mandate federal law based on sexuality.... Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a final vote in the Senate is possible by week's end."

Ed Kilgore: "Unions and progressive activists are uniting around Tom Harkin's bill to boost benefits by $70 a month for all Social Security recipients (and more for those heavily dependent on benefits for retirement security), increase (rather than decrease, as the 'chained CPI' tentatively accepted by the White House...) the cost-of-living adjustment formula, and pay for it all by eliminating the regressive payroll tax cap for the program.... The ... 'expand Social Security' message may be less about ... changing the playing field than the simple fact that voters, and particularly the older voters on which the Republican Party so heavily relies, are likely to support higher benefits however they feel about 'entitlements' as an abstraction.... The broader subject of rapidly eroding retirement security is long-overdue for serious public debate."

Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he plans to have two more test votes on nominations to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals by the end of the week. The move is intended to determine whether Republicans will follow through on their threat to filibuster judicial picks Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins. If they do, as seems likely, the Nevada Democrat has said he may revive his own threat to end the minority's ability to filibuster nominations through the so-called nuclear option."

John Boehner -- Democrats' Secret Weapon. Steve Benen: "The Democratic coalition is stable, but not unbreakable. By refusing to govern, Boehner and House Republicans are strengthening that coalition, boosting Democratic fundraising, helping Democratic recruiting efforts, and motivating the Democratic base."

But you know, I think that the president should take ownership not just of what he's said and what he's promised the American people on Obamacare. But I think he should take ownership over this divisive culture that he has created, this KKK analogy you saw Trey (sic) Grayson roll out. And no Democrat is out there in any sort of organized fashion denouncing this. Now you got Harry Belafonte making the same allegation. -- Reince Priebus, RNC Chair

Priebus's high dudgeon is awfully precious considering his party is littered with folks who have done nothing but coarsen this nation's political discourse with nary a peep of condemnation from him or anyone of any stature in the GOP.... There are sitting Republican members of Congress who have openly talked about impeaching the president because they continue to believe he was not born in the United States.... And there were winks and nods on this issue from Speaker John Boehner and other so-called leaders of the party. No wonder a protester felt comfortable unfurling a Confederate flag in front of the White House last month. If anyone 'should take ownership over this divisive culture' it's Priebus. -- Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post

Charles Pierce: With respect to Chris Christie, Democrats are following "the same ghastly strategy that aided and abetted the rise of C-Plus Augustus in Texas."

The Plagiarist, Ctd. Jim Rutenberg & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "While maintaining the defiance he has shown since the claims of plagiarism were first made last week, [Sen. Rand] Paul ... said he was putting in place a more diligent system within his office to footnote and attribute material, part of what he called a restructuring on his staff. He said there would be no firings. But, in an interview at his Senate office complex, Mr. Paul said he resented implications from those he termed 'haters' that he had sought to dishonestly take other people's work as his own." ...

What we are going to do from here forward, if it will make people leave me the hell alone, is we're going to do them like college papers. We're going to try to put out footnotes.... We have made mistakes..., but [they have] never been intentional. This is coming from haters to begin with, because they want the implication to be out there that you're dishonest. -- Rand Paul ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "While Sen. Rand Paul is off challenging people to fisticuffs or worse, one of his senior advisers has finally admitted the obvious: Yes, there's been a bucketload of copying going on in the Paul camp.... Now the word has come down; it's the fault of unnamed staffers, and it's more the fault of you, the reader, for not being able to magically discern when Rand Paul and his staff are speaking their own words and when they're lifting entire pages of content from somewhere else...." ...

... How Not to Regard Having Your Work Stolen. Dan Stewart of the Week, who was one of the writers Paul plagiarized, doesn't care: "In fact, I'm rather flattered." CW: Nice, libertarian notions here about the "anachronism" of "the concept of intellectual property." But I don't think Stewart would be so nonchalant if his employer decided not to pay him but published his stuff anyway because his right to be paid for an "intellectual product" was an "anachronistic concept." ...

... Right-Wing Paper Fires the Plagiarist. Jim McElhatton of the Washington Times: "The Washington Times said Tuesday that it had independently reviewed Mr. Paul's columns and op-eds and published a correction to his Sept. 20 column in which the senator had failed to attribute a passage that first appeared in Forbes. The newspaper and the senator mutually agreed to end his weekly column, which has appeared each Friday since the summer." ...

... The Nut Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree: Crazy Coot & Cooch. James Hohmann of Politico: "Headlining the final rally of Ken Cuccinelli's underdog campaign for Virginia governor, Ron Paul suggested the 'nullification' of Obamacare on Monday night." If that wasn't enough of a reprisal of the Civil War, Paul flirted with talk of open rebellion: 'The Second Amendment was not there so you could shoot rabbits,' he said. 'Right now today, we have a great threat to our liberties internally.'" CW: Not sure if Ron Paul -- unlike his son -- writes his own stuff or if he copies it from John C. Calhoun & Jefferson Davis speeches. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... can you imagine a statewide Democratic candidate anywhere, much less in a 'purple state,' associating himself or herself so conspicuously with such ravings? No, you can't. If you want a fresh example of what 'asymmetric polarization' is all about, just consider that this is how the Republican Party of Virginia chose to conclude a statewide campaign."

Cruzing YouTube, Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch finds another anti-gay, anti-choice rant by Ted Cruz's father & political surrogate Rafael Cruz.

Apartheid, U.S.A. Thomas Edsall of the New York Times: "The Republicans who now control the legislatures and governorships in the deep South are using the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 to create a system of political apartheid. No state demonstrates this better than Alabama.... Once Alabama Republicans gained control of the levers of power, they wasted no time using the results of the 2010 Census to reinforce their position of dominance. Newly drawn lines further corralled black voters into legislative districts with large African-American majorities, a tactic political professionals call 'packing and stacking.' ... In that famously vicious political blood sport, redistricting, they will exploit their ability to deploy the cloak of civil rights to maintain and strengthen a politically advantageous segregation of the races."

Spy Rules Kaput? Steve Holland & Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "The United States is working to improve intelligence cooperation with Germany but a sweeping 'no-spy' agreement between the two countries is unlikely, a senior Obama administration official said on Tuesday."

Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: "Senior U.S. senators revived a push on Tuesday to ratify a treaty to protect people with disabilities from discrimination, almost a year after Republican lawmakers blocked approval of the international pact. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called a hearing to address concerns about the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, during which some Republican lawmakers made strong appeals for more support from members of their party.... A Senate attempt to approve ratification in December 2012 failed by a vote of 61-38, five votes short of the 66 needed for ratification."

Digby: It appears that "anal rape by instrumentality" is now part of "our basic moral fabric."

Local News

Monique Garcia & Ray Long of the Chicago Tribune: "The [Illinois] General Assembly today narrowly approved a gay marriage bill, clearing the way for Illinois to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex unions. The bill got 61 votes in the House, one more than the bare minimum needed to send the measure back to the Senate, which quickly signed off. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign the bill into law should it reach his desk."

Presidential Election 2016

Isaac Chotiner of the New Republic: "If [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie can somehow be considered the front-runner for the 2016 nomination, however, it is only because of a dearth of strong Republican candidates. His political shortcomings are much more acute than people realize.... The big problem for Christie is that ... two ostensibly separate concerns -- his temperament and his problems with the base -- are likely to merge in unpleasant ways."

News Ledes

New York Times: "On the eve of a new round of talks between world powers and Iran, a senior Obama administration official said Wednesday that the United States was prepared to offer Iran limited relief from economic sanctions if Tehran agreed to halt its nuclear program temporarily and reversed part of it."

AFP: "Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed US opposition to Israeli settlements on Wednesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of creating 'artificial crises' over the issue. Kerry spent all day shuttling between the Israelis and Palestinians and after a late dinner with Netanyahu the two dismissed their teams and again huddled alone for private talks."

New York Times: "On Wednesday, Twitter set the price of its initial public offering at $26 a share, valuing the company at $18.1 billion. Twitter shares are set to begin trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange."

AP: "City councilors called on Toronto's deputy mayor to 'orchestrate a dignified' departure for Mayor Rob Ford, who was greeted by angry protesters on his first day of work after acknowledging he smoked crack. Deepening the crisis, Ford's long-time policy adviser Brooks Barnett resigned, continuing an exodus from his office that started in May when news reports emerged of a video showing the mayor smoking what appears to be crack. Police announced last week they had a copy of the video, which has not been released publicly." CW: Maybe somebody should explain to Ford what "dignified" means.

AP: "A court in Egypt upheld Wednesday an earlier ruling that banned the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its assets confiscated, the state news agency reported. The decision moves forward the complicated process of the government taking control of the Islamist group's far-reaching social network and its finances."

AP: "Swiss scientists have found evidence suggesting Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned with a radioactive substance, a TV station reported Wednesday, prompting new allegations by his widow that the Palestinian leader was the victim of a 'shocking' crime. Palestinian officials have long accused Israel of poisoning Arafat, a claim Israel has denied. Arafat died under mysterious circumstances at a French military hospital in 2004, a month after falling ill at his Israeli-besieged West Bank compound."

Reuters: "A former U.S. militant who hijacked a plane to Cuba almost 30 years ago flew home to the United States to face air piracy charges on Wednesday and was taken into FBI custody in Miami, an FBI spokesman said. William Potts was scheduled to appear before a U.S. judge in Miami on Thursday, FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock said."