The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 26, 2016.

New York Times: "Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to [the] startling hypothesis ... that Alzheimer’s disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain’s attempt to fight off infection..., which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. It is still early days, but Alzheimer’s experts not associated with the work are captivated by the idea that infections, including ones that are too mild to elicit symptoms, may produce a fierce reaction that leaves debris in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (May 22): "An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." -- CW

Washington Post: "After an epic duel of word masters, an 11-year-old Texan and a 13-year-old New Yorker tied Thursday night [May 26] in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the third year in a row two victors shared the championship trophy."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

... Washington Post: The White House goes Scandinavian for a state dinner for the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

New York Times: "Morley Safer, the longest-serving correspondent on '60 Minutes' who was known as much for his hard-hitting reporting as the quirky stories he covered, will formally retire this week after a career in broadcast news that lasted more than 50 years, CBS said on Wednesday. Mr. Safer, 84, served on '60 Minutes' for all but two of its 48 seasons. He started scaling back his appearances on the show after he turned 80; his last segment, a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, aired in March.... An hourlong program on Sunday, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” will, among other highlights, recall an investigation by Mr. Safer that resulted in the freedom of Lenell Geter, a black man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Texas. In an appearance on the special, Mr. Geter credited Mr. Safer with saving his life."

U.K. Telegraph: "A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth....In hundreds of years of scholarship, no other scientist had ever found such a correlation.... Studying 22 different constellations, [William Gadoury] found that they matched the location of 117 Mayan cities scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. When he applied his theory to a 23rd constellation, he found that two of the stars already had cities linked to them but that the third star was unmatched. William took to Google Maps and projected that there must be another city hidden deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Canadian Space Agency agreed to train its satellite telescopes on the spot and returned with striking pictures: what appears to be an ancient Mayan pyramid and dozens of smaller structures around it."

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

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."

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:

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The Commentariat -- Feb. 22, 2014

The President's Weekly Address:

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama welcomed the Dalai Lama to the White House on Friday morning, provoking a sharp rebuke from the Chinese government, which warned that the meeting would severely damage relations between Washington and Beijing But this time, in contrast to previous meetings, the White House seemed unruffled by the diplomatic repercussions of the visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader, which comes as the United States is taking a firmer line with China on a range of territorial disputes with its neighbors."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who drew fire last spring over the Justice Department's aggressive tactics for secretly obtaining reporters' phone logs and emails as part of leak investigations, on Friday signed new guidelines narrowing the circumstances in which law enforcement officials may obtain journalists' records.The rules, which will be published in the Federal Register next week, carry out a set of changes that Mr. Holder announced last July and described in a six-page report at the time."

Jad Mouawad & Ian Austen of the New York Times: "Responding to concerns about the safety of trains carrying oil around the country, federal regulators on Friday outlined steps to reduce the risk of rail shipments and bolster confidence in the fast-growing industry The Department of Transportation said the major railroads had agreed to eight voluntary measures one month after the secretary of transportation, Anthony R. Foxx, met with railroad executives in response to a series of derailments and explosions involving trains carrying crude oil."

Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama will correct a historical act of discrimination next month when he awards the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest commendation for combat valor, to a group of Hispanic, Jewish and African-American veterans who were passed over because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds. The unusual presentation will culminate a 12-year Pentagon review ordered by Congress into past discrimination in the ranks and will hold a particular poignancy when conducted by the nation's first African-American president." ...

... "Here is the complete list of the latest Medal of Honor recipients, including 19 Hispanic, Jewish and African American veterans who were overlooked due to their racial or ethnic backgrounds. Biographical information in this [photo] gallery provided by the White House."

Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times: " The secretary of defense announced Friday that he would not reconsider the Medal of Honor nomination of a Marine from San Diego who was killed in Iraq. Secretary Chuck Hagel agreed with his two predecessors that the nomination of Sgt. Rafael Peralta does not meet the 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt' standard required for the nation's highest award for combat bravery. Peralta, an immigrant from Mexico who enlisted the day he received his green card, was killed in November 2004 while Marines were clearing houses in Fallouja of barricaded insurgents." ...

... Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "... new accounts from comrades who fought alongside Peralta that day suggest it may not be true. In interviews, two former Marines who were with Peralta in the house when he was shot said the story was concocted spontaneously in the minutes after he was mortally wounded -- likely because several of the men in the unit feared they might have been the ones who shot him."

Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press: "Citing public statements by Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and other Tennessee politicians, the UAW asked the National Labor Relations Board to set aside the results [of the unionization vote in VW's Chattanooga plant] and conduct a new election. Workers at the 3-year-old factory in Chattanooga voted 712-626 against UAW representation at the plant. 'Senator Corker's conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen Chattanooga,' the union said in a 58-page document filed Friday. 'It is a more than adequate basis for sustaining these objections.' However, Gary Kotz, a partner with the Detroit firm of Butzel Long that often represents companies, said this appeal faces an uphill battle" since the union is not alleging Volkswagen did anything wrong.

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "The nation was nearly a year into the Great Recession before then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke accepted the magnitude of the country's economic distress. The financial system was rapidly unraveling in September 2008. Investment bank Lehman Brothers had collapsed, and the Fed was rescuing insurance giant AIG from the brink of insolvency with an $85 billion bailout. Wall Street was panicking, with stock markets falling more than 4 percent in a day. More than a million workers had lost their jobs. Even so, Bernanke thought the Fed had probably done enough, according to newly released transcripts. ...

... Nathaniel Popper of the New York Times: "As the world's financial system stood on the verge of collapse in October 2008, Janet L. Yellen was not even a full voting member of the Federal Reserve's policy-making committee, but she was not shy about admonishing her colleagues for not acting faster.... After months in which some members of the Fed committee resisted taking steps to prop up the economy, Ms. Yellen lectured her colleagues: 'Frankly, it is time for all hands on deck when it comes to our policy tools.' New transcripts of the Fed's meeting in 2008, based on recordings made at the time, provide one of the most revealing views to date of Ms. Yellen, who was sworn in earlier this month as chairwoman of the central bank."

AP: "A federal appeals court on Friday ruled against the University of Notre Dame in a case over parts of the federal health care law that forces it to provide health insurance for students and employees that covers contraceptives. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a federal judge's earlier ruling that denied the Roman Catholic school's request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent it from having to comply with the birth control requirement as the university's lawsuit moves forward."

Matthew Perrone of the AP: "The Food and Drug Administration is seeking to revamp its system for regulating hundreds of over-the-counter drugs, saying the decades-old process is not flexible enough to keep pace with modern medical developments."

Tim Egan writes a superb column on the California drought & GOP climate-change deniers. CW: I'm beginning to think those deniers are more insane than stupid, ignorant or just plain mendacious.

Dana Milbank: Arthur Brooks, the head of the right-wing think tank American Enterprise Institute, invites the Dalai Lama to a confab & says he's all for "brotherhood & compassion."

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Seeing an opportunity to distinguish himself from potential 2016 rivals and/or behave like a decent human being, on Thursday evening Senator Rand Paul tweeted that Ted Nugent should apologize for the 'offensive' remarks he made about President Obama. Declaring that you're not cool with people calling the president a 'subhuman mongrel' and 'chimpanzee' shouldn't really count as a bold move, but other Republicans couldn't bring themselves to offer such a strong defense of President Obama." ...

... AND Nugent Himself Is Way Sorry. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "After a little more than 24 hours of controversy, Ted Nugent has apologized to President Obama for his comment that the president is a 'subhuman mongrel.' ... In his apology, Nugent appeared to regret more the fact that his language has been tied to Republican politicians from his state, such as [Texas Attorney General Greg] Abbott, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz.... 'I do apologize ... not necessarily to the President -- but on behalf of much better men than myself,' he said in an interview with conservative radio host Ben Ferguson, who's also a CNN political commentator.... Later on in the interview -- after some people on Twitter argued Nugent's comments weren't a real apology -- Ferguson asked Nugent if he was directly apologizing to the President for the comments. 'Yes,' the subhuman asshole Nugent replied."

Charles Pierce checks out some recent thought bubbles of Pretend-Dems Joe Manchin & Heidi Heitkamp.

Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker: "As of this Saturday, February 22nd, eight years will have passed since Clarence Thomas last asked a question during a Supreme Court oral argument. His behavior on the bench has gone from curious to bizarre to downright embarrassing, for himself and for the institution he represents."

Frank Rich on the oppressive government of Russia & the oppressive governments of U.S. states that are attempting to pass "religious rights" laws to discriminate against gays.

Beyond the Beltway

Adam Serwer of NBC News: "The Arizona legislature sent a bill to the Gov. Jan Brewer's desk Thursday that would carve a massive hole into state law allowing business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers, employers to deny equal pay to women, or individuals to renege on contract obligations -- as long as they claim to be doing so in the name of religion. Brewer, a Republican who vetoed similar legislation last year, has not said whether she will sign the bill.... The Arizona bill is one of several bills across the country aimed at providing legal protection to those who wish to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. As of Friday, however, it's the only one to actually pass, with similar bills in Idaho, Tennessee, and South Dakota being defeated and a bill in Kansas being held up in the state Senate." ...

... Arizona Republic Editors: "We urge the governor to veto this bill as part of her continuing message that Arizona is open for business."

James Kelleher of Reuters: "Same-sex couples in Illinois' Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, can wed immediately and do not have to wait to tie the knot until a new state law legalizing gay marriage takes effect in June, a federal judge ruled on Friday."

Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post: "Detroit officials Friday laid out a plan for exiting the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history that calls for slashing pensions for non-uniformed retirees by nearly one-third and repaying bondholders just $1 of every $5 owed to them by the city. The proposed plan of adjustment, filed in federal bankruptcy court in Detroit, puts dollar figures on the potential cuts facing parties owed money by Detroit for the first time since the city filed its $18 billion bankruptcy case in July. The plan would also cut pensions for police and firefighters, many of whom do not receive Social Security benefits, by 10 percent. City union leaders and retirees reacted to the plan with alarm...." ...

... Detroit Free Press Editors: "... the ultimate responsibility for making Detroit pensioners whole still rests with [Michigan Gov. Rick] Snyder [R]. Snyder has committed to pushing for $350 million from state coffers. But based on Friday's legal filings, it's not enough."

Gail Collins: "Election season in Texas! They're voting right now in the primaries. And I know you are interested because whatever happens in Texas has a way of coming back and biting the rest of the nation.... And on the positive front, experts in Texas say there's absolutely no chance that the guy who legally changed his name to SECEDE is going to win a nomination for governor.

Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times: "State Sen. Ron Calderon has been indicted in a sweeping corruption case, accused of taking about $100,000 in bribes. Federal authorities allege that Calderon (D-Montebello) took the bribes from a Long Beach hospital official as well as people connected to what he believed was a Hollywood studio. In fact, the studio was an FBI front and the business associates were FBI agents. Authorities claim Calderon received cash bribes, trips and dinners in exchange for 'official acts.' Calderon, 56, faces 24 counts of fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.... Calderon's brother, Thomas, faces changes for fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns. Thomas Calderon is a former assemblyman who most recently served as a consultant for the Central Basin Water District."

Gubernatorial Race

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's newest Kansas poll finds that Sam Brownback has continued to become even more unpopular in the last year, and that he slightly trails his Democratic opponent [Paul Davis] for reelection. Only 33% of voters in the state approve of the job Brownback is doing, compared to 51% who disapprove."

Presidential Election 2016

Whatever Happened to President Rubio? Jonathan Chait answers: "Everything Rubio touches has turned to shit."

News Ledes

** New York Times: " An opposition unit took control of the presidential palace outside Kiev on Saturday, as leaders in Parliament said Ukraine's president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, had fled the capital a day after a deal was reached aimed at ending the country's spiral of violence. Members of an opposition group from Lviv called the 31st Hundred -- carrying clubs and some of them wearing masks -- were in control of the entryways to the palace Saturday morning. And Vitali Klitschko, one of three opposition leaders who signed the deal to end the violence, said that Mr. Yanukovych had 'left the capital' but his whereabouts were unknown, with members of the opposition speculating that he had gone to Kharkiv, in the northeast part of Ukraine." ...

     ... Update: "Abandoned by his own guards and reviled across the Ukrainian capital but still determined to recover his shredded authority, President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled Kiev on Saturday to denounce what he called a violent coup, as his official residence, his vast, colonnaded office complex and other once impregnable centers of power fell without a fight to throngs of joyous citizens stunned by their triumph.... It was far from clear that the day's lightning-quick events would be the last act in a struggle that has not just convulsed Ukraine but expanded into an East-West confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War." ...

     ... Los Angeles Times Update: "Ukraine's ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, a bitter foe of the embattled president, was freed from jail Saturday by parliament and rushed to the capital where she addressed more than 30,000 supporters in Independence Square chanting: 'Yulia, Yulia, Yulia!' The charismatic Tymoshenko heaped praise on anti-government protesters who have witnessed Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich leave the capital city in the past day after the parliament voted to remove him for office and call a new presidential election in April. She urged protesters to remain in the square until a new president is elected." ...

     ... New York Times: Opposition forces storm the presidential palace gates and find inside -- "about a half-dozen large residences of various styles, a private zoo with rare breeds of goats, a coop for pheasants from Asia, a golf course, a garage filled with classic cars and a private restaurant in the form of a pirate ship, with the name 'Galleon' on the stern.... There was no sacking.... Members of the Lviv-based 'hundred,' who had repeatedly confronted Mr. Yanukovych's security forces on the streets, posted guards around his residential compound and prevented looting even as swarms of gawking Kiev residents strolled through its grounds."

Washington Post: "Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán, the man who supplied more illegal drugs to the United States than anyone else on Earth, was captured by Mexican Navy commandos without a shot early Saturday morning in the Pacific coast resort town of Mazatlan, according to U.S. and Mexican authorities." ...

     ... The Los Angeles Times provides the backstory.

New York Times: "A top United States military commander said Saturday that the U.S. Army is working on starting a formal dialogue and exchange program with the Chinese People's Liberation Army before the end of the year. The commander, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, told reporters at a news conference in Beijing that the program was aimed at expanding cooperation and 'managing differences constructively.'"


The Commentariat -- Feb. 21, 2014

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "President Obama;s forthcoming budget request will seek tens of billions of dollars in fresh spending for domestic priorities while abandoning a compromise proposal to tame the national debt in part by trimming Social Security benefits. With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans. Instead, the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early-childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, providing Democrats with a policy blueprint heading into the midterm elections." ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama's forthcoming budget plan will not include a proposal to trim cost-of-living increases in Social Security checks, the gesture of bipartisanship he made to Republicans last year in a failed strategy to reach a 'grand compromise' on reducing projected federal debt. White House officials said on Thursday that since Republicans in Congress have shown no willingness to meet the president's offer on social programs by closing loopholes for corporations and wealthy Americans, the proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year will not assume a path to an agreement that no longer appears to exist." CW: The Republican response, BTW, seems to be in disarray. Democrats, including this one, are relieved. ...

     ... CW: An end of the era of austerity? Too bad it has taken President Obama five years to get Krugman's message. It isn't as if Krugman, et al., have been shy about what was needed to boost the economy. ...

... Josh Terbush of the Week: "Obama is done even pretending to work with Republicans. If you can't beat 'em, ignore 'em."

... Brian Beutler of Salon: "Liberals are celebrating, with good reason, but I think the strongest emotional response should come from reasonable conservatives who have let an inflexible anti-tax orthodoxy destroy the right's longer-standing goal of slashing and devolving entitlements. The only way they'll get there with Democrats in power is to pony up some tax revenue. Failing that, they'll need to recapture the entire government and do the slashing and devolving all on their own. But there's every reason in the world to doubt they have the chutzpah to do that. So the dream is dead. Driving that point home to the right is just as valuable as granting a reprieve to the left."

One of the White House's most poorly kept secrets is that many of Obama's economic advisers support Chained CPI on the merits, or believe it to be the least-bad benefit cut Obama could offer Republicans. -- Brian Beutler

Who are these idiots, anyway? ... Fire them immediately. -- Charles Pierce

... Digby: "Now, how about proposing [to] raise benefits? If we want to kill this zombie once and for all, that should be the Democratic Party baseline going forward." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the overall narrative of the stimulus is tragic. A policy initiative that was good but not good enough ended up being seen as a failure, and set the stage for an immensely destructive wrong turn." ...

... Margaret Chadbourn of Reuters: "Fannie Mae said on Friday it would soon send the U.S. Treasury $7.2 billion, a profit-related dividend that makes taxpayers whole for the 2008 bailout of the mortgage-financing giant and its sibling company Freddie Mac. Unlike other companies rescued by taxpayers during the financial crisis, however, the firms will remain under government control until Congress winds them down or replaces them. The bailout terms for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac force them to turn over their profits to the Treasury in the form of dividends on the controlling stake the government took when it bailed them out. They cannot repurchase the government's share." CW: Let's see how Republicans spin this one.

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "Between 1947 and 1973 -- roughly the one period of union strength in U.S. history -- productivity increased by 97 percent and workers' compensation (that's wages plus benefits) by 95 percent. Since 1973, however, as unions have weakened, productivity has increased by 80 percent and compensation by just 11 percent.... According to economists Robert Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker, [the gains from productivity] have gone entirely to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans -- increasingly in the form of capital gains and dividends." ...

... William Galston in the Wall Street Journal: "The Great Decoupling of wages and benefits from productivity, the biggest economic story of the past 40 years, shows no signs of ending.... As the gap widened, U.S. households responded by sending more women into the paid workforce, expanding the numbers of hours worked and taking on a greater burden of debt.... Unless total compensation rises more rapidly, stagnant domestic demand will depress economic growth as far as the eye can see.... We should link the tax rates individual firms pay to the compensation strategies they adopt. The point is simple: Firms can either share productivity gains with their workers -- or contribute to the public programs made necessary by their failure to do so.... Our problem isn't a shortage of capital; it's the weakness of demand. We'd all be better off in the long run if workers' compensation grew along with productivity. And so would our country." CW: Firewalled. Cut & paste a clause or so into a Google search box.

Adam Serwer of NBC News: "A revolt against President Barack Obama's nominees to the federal bench in Georgia has spread from the civil rights icons who paved the way for Obama's presidency to the abortion rights movement.... With NARAL joining the fray, other liberal groups may follow suit, and Democrats in the Senate may no longer be able to stay silent on the matter." ...

... Digby: "It's just inexplicable that [President Obama] would agree to 'deals' in which Republicans get to put more far right ideologues on the court after the previous president already packed it with them to the fullest extent he possibly could. If there is one area in which ideology, temperament and political philosophy simply must be taken seriously, it's this one. If he can't do any better than this, he should leave the seats unfilled and hope his successor is a Democrat who has better negotiating skills."

Gene Robinson: "Sometimes, when I'm in my car, I crank up the music pretty loud. All you Michael Dunns out there, please don't shoot me. Please don't shoot my sons, either, or my brothers-in-law, nephews, nephews-in-law or other male relatives. I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who also happen to be black men, and I'd appreciate your not shooting them as well, even if the value you place on their lives is approximately zero."

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: A new, "hard-hitting," anti-ObamaCare ad produced by Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, "doesn't add up."...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "AFP is being purposefully misleading using Boostra's story, and doesn't think that their ad should be subject to this kind of scrutiny, attempting to shame Kessler and any other fact checkers with this: 'The reality of what she's dealing with is much more involved and can't be swept aside by saying, "you have an OOP maximum so quit complaining about your cancer.'" No one is sweeping aside her illness, or telling her to stop complaining about her cancer. They're pointing out that she's saving enough in premiums to cover her out of pocket costs. She can complain all she wants, but it's not callous and it's not out of bounds to say that she's not telling the entire truth." ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "I'm beginning to think there's not actually a single person in America who's been harmed by Obamacare.... Julie Boonstra[, the leukemia patient who stars in the AFP ad,] kept her doctor. Her new plan is, on net, less expensive than her old plan. And presumably she's no longer required to compromise on the type of chemotherapy she receives. In other words, it appears to be superior on virtually every metric.... This ad implies that Boonstra flatly can't afford coverage anymore. It implies that she could no longer see her old doctor. It implies that Obamacare is killing her. None of this is true.... Why is it that every single hard luck story like this falls apart under the barest scrutiny?"

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "The enduring ban on transgender individuals serving in the US military has earned America a low ranking in the first global league table of LGBT inclusion in the armed forces. The US is placed at number 40 in the table of 103 countries' armed forces as measured by their inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members. That puts it behind the militaries of countries such as Chile, Georgia and even America's bête noire, Cuba."

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: Rep. Darrell Issa (RTP-Calif.) said at a GOP fundraiser in New Hampshire earlier this week that he suspected then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and/or President Obama had ordered the military to stand down immediately after the Benghazi attack. "It is correct that Issa poses a series of questions, but his repeated use of the phrase 'stand down' and his personalizing of the alleged actions ('Secretary Clinton;' 'Leon' [Panetta]) leave a distinct impression that either Clinton or Obama delivered some sort of instruction to Panetta to not act as forcefully as possible. He even incorrectly asserts that not a single order was given to use any DOD asset. One could argue the response was slow, bungled or poorly handled. But Issa is crossing a line when he suggests there was no response -- or a deliberate effort to hinder it."

CW: Can Hardly Wait to Meet My New Neighbor. Jake Miller of CBS News: "In a move sure to provoke speculation about his future in Congress - and a fresh round of jokes about his superhuman suntan - House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, purchased a condo in Florida.... The condo, located in the posh coastal enclave of Marco Island in southwest Florida, was purchased this month at a cost of $835,000, according to Collier County public records. Boehner and his wife put $185,000 down and mortgaged the remainder." ...

... David Drucker of Winger News the Washington Examiner: "House Republicans have begun jockeying for leadership positions in the next Congress, anticipating the possibility that Speaker John Boehner could step down after the November elections."

New Jersey News

Larry McShane of the New York Daily News: "Meet the world's first inaction figure. A Florida artist, using a 3-D printer, created a tiny figurine of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie bringing traffic to a grinding halt at the George Washington Bridge.... The 4 1/2-inch tall figure hardly does justice to the gargantuan governor -- but [the artist, Fernando] Sosa, has an explanation for that. 'This was modeled to scale just like the shutdown of the bridge was a "traffic study,'" he said.... The individually produced figures ... are available for $37.87 each through

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: For Chris Christie, "Thursday was supposed to represent a defiant, maybe even triumphant, return to the town-hall-style meeting, an intimate and comfortable setting in which he could bathe in the adulation of his fans and unleash harsh denunciations of anyone foolhardy enough to challenge him.... But the two-hour forum [in Port Monmouth] near the Jersey Shore on Thursday, his first since controversy enveloped his administration, demonstrated just how difficult it will be for Mr. Christie to quickly recreate the political magic that once seemed certain to put him in contention for the White House."

Matt Friedman of the Star-Ledger: "A controversial housing complex for the elderly planned for Belleville, an Essex County town that was largely spared from Hurricane Sandy, was approved for a second round of federal recovery funds as its projected costs ballooned. The project, which was pushed by Gov. Chris Christie, had been approved for $6 million in May from a federally financed, state-administered program intended to replenish affordable housing damaged or destroyed in the storm. But according to figures provided by the Department of Community Affairs last week, that figure has increased, to $10.2 million.... Construction has not yet begun on the complex...."

New York Times: "A judge in New Jersey has ordered two former aides to Gov. Chris Christie [-- Bill Stepien & Bridget Kelly --] to appear in court to explain their refusal to turn over potential evidence to a legislative committee investigating the politically charged closing of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in September.

Star-Ledger Editors: Port Authority Chair David "Samson needs to go. Certainly, he's not the source of all that ails the Port Authority, but he is the guy in charge. Beyond Bridgegate, his tenure as the Port Authority's chair has been a failure. Despite promises of transparency and reform, the agency remains a dysfunctional patronage pit. Samson's conflicts of interest are well-documented, and his resignation would be a fitting first step toward fixing a troubled agency."

Elsewhere in the Hinterlands

Steve Schultze & Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "As crises at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex unfolded, Scott Walker managed the response from the background while his staff focused on political damage caused by the botched care of what one key staffer called 'crazy people.' Walker was in his final year as county executive and running for governor as issues at the complex demanded much of his attention.... Walker's county and campaign staffs collaborated in determining how to respond to one issue after another -- sexual assaults of patients at the complex, security lapses, controversial remarks by Milwaukee County's mental health administrator. At one point, Walker's campaign manager complained that a county lawyer needed to 'think political for a change.' Walker played an active role in how to respond, even when he insisted on staying at a distance publicly.... Walker has repeatedly said he kept campaign and county business separate." ...

... So let's see: Repeated racist remarks, efforts to fire a staffer who was a former thong model, worse-than-Dickensian treatment of patients in the county's care (to which one staffer response was, "Nobody cares about crazy people"), using county employees as campaign workers on county time, and Scott Walker's personal involvement in much of it. ...

... CW: Naturally, Politico characterizes all this as "a snooze."

** Katie McDonough of Salon: After gutting women's healthcare programs, "the Texas Health and Human Services committee ... [will] hold a hearing on the 'progress' the state has made in women's healthcare seems like a particularly cruel joke. The committee intends to 'build on previous legislative achievements in women's healthcare,' according to a statement on the hearing."

Oops! I Left My Loaded Gun in a Capitol Committee Room Where Irresponsible Democrats Could Find It. Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post: "In the moments after lawmakers and visitors cleared a committee room Feb. 6 following a debate on concealed handgun permits, Rep. Jonathan Singer [D] found a black canvas bag under the table.... Inside, Singer discovered a loaded handgun that belonged to Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, who sits next to him on the House Local Government committee.... Wright said he was contacted by Gov. John Hickenlooper's office about the incident and after speaking with Colorado State Patrol and Roxane White, Hickenlooper's chief of staff, he agreed to no longer carry it inside the building."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Garrick Utley, a former anchor for NBC News who for many years was one of a rare breed in television news reporting, a full-time foreign correspondent, died Thursday night at his home in Manhattan. He was 74."

CNN: "Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told a CNN reporting team Friday that it could continue reporting in the South American country, a day after the government revoked or denied press credentials for CNN journalists. Earlier, Maduro had said he would expel CNN if it did not 'rectify' its coverage of anti-government protests. During a news conference aired live on state-run TV, Maduro reversed his early position, saying CNN could stay."

New York Times: "The government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych announced a tentative resolution on Friday to a crisis that has brought days of bloodshed to Ukraine. The agreement, which has yet to be signed, was announced after all-night talks with opposition leaders, Russian representatives and the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France. In a statement later on his website, Mr. Yanukovych said he would call early presidential elections, form a coalition and reduce presidential powers through constitutional reforms." ...

     ... The Guardian is liveblogging events in Ukraine.

Guardian: "Rebekah Brooks has told the Old Bailey she did not have a six-year relationship with Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former spin doctor, as she described how her personal life had been a 'bit of a car crash for many years'. Brooks, in the witness box at the phone-hacking trial for a second day on Friday, told the jury she was "incredibly close" to Coulson and described him as her 'best friend' but said it was wrong of the prosecution to characterise their relationship as a six-year affair. Brooks told the court that she had several periods of 'physical intimacy' with Coulson, but the police and prosecution had misinterpreted a letter she had written to him declaring her love for him back in February 2004." ...

     ... Here's an UPDATE with more detail of Brooks' testimony.


The Commentariat -- Feb. 20, 2014

It's Li'l Randy's Fault. Devlin Barrett & Siobhan Gorham of the Wall Street Journal: "The government is considering enlarging the National Security Agency's controversial collection of Americans' phone records -- an unintended consequence of lawsuits seeking to stop the surveillance program, according to officials. A number of government lawyers involved in lawsuits over the NSA phone-records program believe federal-court rules on preserving evidence related to lawsuits require the agency to stop routinely destroying older phone records, according to people familiar with the discussions. As a result, the government would expand the database beyond its original intent, at least while the lawsuits are active." CW: Story is firewalled. If you can't get it via the link, cut & paste a phrase or two into a Google search box.

That Was Quick. Ellen Nakashima & Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of a plan by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to develop a national license plate tracking system after privacy advocates raised concern about the initiative. The order came just days after ICE solicited proposals from companies to compile a database of license plate information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers." CW: It seems some "rogue operators" solicited the bids; senior officials claimed they knew nothing about it. Sounds as if the ICE-capades are taking their cues from Chris Christie -- which might not be the best plan. "The fact that the solicitation was posted without knowledge of ICE leadership 'highlights a serious management problem within this DHS component that currently does not have a director nominated by the president,' Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.), the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. He added that he hoped officials would consult with the department's privacy and civil liberties officers in the future."

Charles Blow has a very good column on violence in & against the black community.

** The South Will Not Rise Again Any Time Soon. Andreas Cremer of Reuters: "Volkswagen's top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.... Undeterred by last Friday's vote, VW's works council has said it will press on with efforts to set up labor representation at Chattanooga which builds the Passat sedan. CW: So not only was Bob Corker wrong about the impact of unionizing the VW plant, his propaganda was upside-down & backwards. Thanks, lamebrained Corkerbots, you not only hurt yourselves; you hurt a good part of the country. ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos notes that "The mayor of Lansing, Michigan, has invited Volkswagen to consider locating a plant there." ...

... Charles Pierce on the VW vote: "Ultimately, it is always our fault." ...

... Aveva Shen of Think Progress: "Clothing retailer Gap, Inc. announced Wednesday that it will raise its hourly minimum wage to $10, a change that will affect 65,000 U.S. employees. GAP employees who are now earning the minimum wage will make $9.00 in June of 2014 and $10 in June of 2015. GAP, which also owns Banana Republic, Old Navy, Priperlime, Athleta, and Intermix, operates in more than 50 countries and employees 135,000 people around the world.... In a release, the company argues that increasing the minimum wage will help retain 'attract and retain great talent' and improve customers' experience." ...

... Renee Dudley of Bloomberg News: "Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the largest private employer in the U.S., said it's looking at supporting an increase in the federal minimum wage, breaking with business and industry groups that oppose such a measure. Wal-Mart is weighing the impact of additional payroll costs against possibly attracting more consumer dollars to its stores, David Tovar, a company spokesman, said today in a telephone interview." ...

     ... Never Mind. We Still Want Taxpayers to Help Feed & House Our Underpaid Employees. Emily Peck & Emily Cohn of the Huffington Post: "Walmart is denying a Bloomberg report that said the nation's largest private employer is considering supporting an increase in the minimum wage. 'We are not at all considering this,' Walmart spokesman David Tovar told The Huffington Post Wednesday afternoon, just after Bloomberg published the story.... According to Tovar, the retail giant has decided to stay neutral in the current debate over whether to raise the national minimum wage...." ...

... Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post explains why it would be good business for WalMart to back the minimum wage hike. ...

... Bryce Covert of Think Progress on "what really happens when you raise the minimum wage."

CW: If you need any more evidence that Bob Corker is a jerk, Gail Collins obliges. Although Corker says he wants to approve the U.N. treaty to protect the disabled -- which is, um, based on U.S. law -- he keeps thinking of Rick Santorum-type excuses to vote against its ratification.

Alexander Burns & Ken Vogel of Politico: "A group of major GOP donors, led by New York billionaire Paul Singer, is quietly expanding its political footprint ahead of the midterm elections in an increasingly assertive effort to shape the direction of the Republican Party."

Edward Wyatt of the New York Times: "The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will propose new rules to encourage equal access to the web, by pushing Internet providers to keep their pipelines free and open. The proposal on so-called net neutrality, to be introduced by Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the commission, will prohibit broadband companies from blocking any sites or services from consumers. It will also aim to prevent Internet service providers from charging content companies for access to a faster, express lane on the web." ...

... Steve Benen has more.

Dana Milbank: "The federal court hasn't yet acted on the NSA lawsuit filed last week by Sen. Rand Paul and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, but lawyers who should be on the same side in this case have been squabbling outside the courtroom." ...

... CW: I am pretty sure now that Li'l Randy's "real father" is Larry. The proof is in the coifs.

Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court as a political institution.

Deena Winter of Nebraska Watchdog: "A Nebraska judge has declared unconstitutional a 2012 law that gave the governor and state environmental regulators the authority to approve oil pipeline routes, throwing yet another obstacle in the path of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline."

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "... a federal lawsuit filed by seven former employees against Harris and its parent company, Premier Education Group, which owns more than two dozen trade schools and community colleges operating under several names in 10 states..., contends that while charging more than $10,000 for programs lasting less than a year, school officials routinely misled students about their career prospects, and falsified records to enroll them and keep them enrolled, so that government grant and loan dollars would keep flowing."

Beyond the Beltway

Patrick Marley, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Included in more than 27,000 pages of emails and other documents unsealed Wednesday are the closest links yet between Gov. Scott Walker and a secret email system used in his office when he was Milwaukee County executive." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... by the time Scott Walker became county executive and was looking for higher office, the pitfalls involved in letting your publicly paid staff do campaign work were extremely well known. Whether they show criminal activity by Walker or not, those thousands of emails are embarrassing, and a living warning to potential supporters of a Walker presidential run that he may not run the tightest ship." ...

     ... CW: Seems illegal to me. Walker's aides went to jail for campaigning on the job; the smoking gun in the e-mails is that Walker was aware county workers were campaigning for him on the county's dime. If it's unlawful for them to do it, it's unlawful for him to aid & abet them, especially when the effort was made to directly benefit him. ...

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed: "The deputy chief of staff to then-County Executive Scott Walker praised a racist email forwarded to her in 2010 that joked welfare recipients are 'mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who the r [sic] daddies are.' Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker's then-deputy chief of staff in 2010, wrote that the email was 'hilarious' and 'so true.' The email was sent to Rindfleisch from someone outside Walker's staff. Another email sent to Rindfleisch from Walker’s then chief of staff, Thomas Nardelli, detailed a 'nightmare,' in which a person wakes up black, gay, Jewish, and handicapped." ...

... Cameron Joseph of the Hill: "The release Wednesday of 27,000 emails from a convicted former aide and hundreds of other legal documents related to that criminal probe are raising new questions for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Democrats are seeking to use the documents to tarnish Walker's reputation, pointing to evidence they say shows Walker encouraged coordination between campaign and official staff, which could violate campaign finance laws. The goal is to damage Walker's reputation and ability to help the national party, and to tie Walker to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." CW: You don't have to be a genius to make the connection all by yourself. ...

... Melissa Hayes of the Bergen Record: "A former top official appointed to the Port Authority by Governor Christie withheld the name of a Republican state senator and ally to the governor when he first turned over materials to a legislative investigative committee. David Wildstein, who resigned from his position as director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority, blacked out a text message mentioning state Sen. Kevin O'Toole, R-Cedar Grove." ...

... Linh Tat of the Record: "The borough [of Fort Lee] has provided more than 2,200 pages of public records related to the George Washington Bridge lane closures to Governor Christie's attorney.... The borough denied three of [the attorney]'s four requests in his OPRA letter because they were too broad.... However, the borough complied with a fourth request for all documents that Fort Lee has supplied to the media since Sept. 1 regarding the same matters, according to Grant."

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "New York State has agreed to sweeping changes that will curtail the widespread use of solitary confinement to punish prison infractions...."

American Civil War, Ctd. Craig Schneider of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The state of Georgia has released a new specialty license tag that features the Confederate battle flag, inflaming civil rights advocates and renewing a debate on what images should appear on state-issued materials."

Congressional Race

"Vote for the Crook. It's Important." Lauren McGaughy of the Times-Picayune: "Former Gov. Edwin Edwards has not yet decided whether he will make a run for Louisiana's 6th District seat, contrary to a report in Bloomberg on Wednesday (Feb. 19) confirming the 86-year-old's run for Congress." Edwards, a 4-term governor of Louisiana, served 8 years of a 10-year federal sentence for corruption. He says he's the only hope for Democrats in the 6th District. Probably true, which is pretty pathetic. ...

... Ed Kilgore agrees that Edwards is the Democrats' "only hope." He notes that the district has a Cook rating of R+19.

News Ledes

New York Times: David Ranta, "who was framed by a rogue detective [Louis Scarcella] and served 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit will receive $6.4 million from the City of New York in a settlement that came before a civil rights lawsuit was even filed...."

New York Times: "Ukraine's descent into a spiral of violence accelerated on Thursday as protesters and riot police officers used firearms in a clash apparently intended to reclaim areas of Independence Square, the symbolic central plaza in the capital that had been retaken by police two days before.The fighting shattered a truce declared just hours earlier." ...

     ... Update: "Security forces fired on masses of antigovernment demonstrators in Kiev on Thursday in a drastic escalation of the three-month-old crisis that left dozens dead and Ukraine reeling from the most lethal day of violence since Soviet times."

CNN: " An 84-year-old nun was sentenced to 35 months in prison Tuesday for breaking into a nuclear facility, her lawyer said. In May, a federal jury in Knoxville, Tennessee, found Sister Megan Rice; Greg Boertje-Obed, 57; and Michael Walli, 63, guilty of destroying U.S. government property and causing more than $1,000 in damage to federal property."


The Commentariat -- Feb. 19, 2014

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would increase earnings for 16.5 million low-wage Americans but cost the nation about 500,000 jobs, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday.... The CBO warned that raising the minimum wage could also cause employers to lay off low-wage workers or hire fewer of them.... The CBO acknowledged that its calculation is an estimate and said actual job losses could range from 'very slight' to as many as 1 million positions.... In a conference call with reporters,White House chief economist Jason Furman pushed back hard against the CBO's conclusions, saying its 'estimates do not reflect the overall consensus view of economists, who have said the minimum wage would have little or no impact on employment.' ... 'Whether it's Obamacare, a minimum-wage hike or a trillion-dollar stimulus bill charged to the nation's credit card, the bottom line is the president's big-government experiment kills jobs,' said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.)." ...

... Here's an overview of the CBO report & a link to the report. ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "The Republican response to this CBO report ... relies on ignoring the many positive effects it predicts for a minimum wage increase while highlighting the major point on which it departs from economic consensus. As Council of Economic Advisers Chair Jason Furman pointed out on a White House media call, this is not, like budget estimates, a case where the CBO is the main authority in the field. We know stuff about this, because it's been widely studied, and there are other authoritative voices.... Republicans are ignoring -- or denying -- the fact that the CBO's 0.3 percent employment decrease estimate contradicts decades of economic research finding -- not predicting, but looking at cases where the minimum wage is actually raised and finding -- that employment doesn't decline in any meaningful way as a result of minimum wage increases. "

Peter Baker & Carol Davenport of the New York Times: "President Obama took another step to curb greenhouse gas pollution on Tuesday without waiting for Congress as he directed his administration to develop new regulations to reduce carbon emissions from the heavy-duty trucks that transport the nation's goods. Appearing in a grocery chain truck bay in this Washington suburb, the president said the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would draft new fuel economy standards for trucks by March 2015 so that they could be completed a year after that...":

Peter Baker & Elisabeth Malkin of the New York Times: "President Obama travels to Mexico on Wednesday for a brief but politically fraught visit aimed at forging closer trade ties with America's two closest neighbors even as his party's leaders back home have vowed to undercut his efforts.... The whirlwind visit -- he will return to Washington on Wednesday evening without staying the night -- will offer Mr. Obama a chance to reassure his counterparts about his capacity to deliver at a time when he faces significant hurdles at home. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leaders in Congress, oppose legislation giving him authority similar to that of his predecessors to negotiate trade deals." ...

... Dana Milbank: "There's probably nothing that Obama could do in these midterm elections to match the [Koch brothers]' advantage. But at least giving it a try might prove more productive than his combination of foreign jaunts and unremarkable domestic speeches...." ...

... New York Times Editors: "The best thing the I.R.S. can do is to ignore both [conservative & liberal groups] and proceed swiftly ahead [with its modest plan to crack down on tax code abuse], making its proposed rules even stronger to squeeze the influence of money out of politics.... Secret money has become the scourge of the political system and needs to be eliminated regardless of the inconvenience to nonprofit groups, whatever their ideology. Republicans have blocked Congress from dealing with the problem, so now it is up to the I.R.S. to do its job." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "Those who are worried about man-made climate change might be tempted to welcome the news that Tom Steyer, a Democratic billionaire, will spend $100 million this year to fight it.... But ... Mr. Steyer's donation ... will make plutocracy politics even worse. Big money pollutes politics whether it comes from the Koch brothers, with a hard-edged agenda against environmental or financial regulation, or from Mr. Steyer and his liberal friends. The cacophony of attack ads, with their dire warnings and scary music, prompt many people to just hit the mute button or tune out entirely. You can't fight pollution with more pollution."

Ellen Nakashima & Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.... But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "A group of Senate Republicans is meeting quietly to plot an unusual strategy: passing a top Democratic priority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to press the GOP on unemployment benefits -- forcing them to keep taking votes on a bill to extend aid to the long-term unemployed. But Republicans have rejected it twice since the program expired on Dec. 28. Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana, Rob Portman of Ohio, Dean Heller of Nevada and Susan Collins of Maine want a deal that could bring the Democratic drumbeat to an end. They gathered last week to plan how to revisit the cause when the Senate returns next week, hoping they can get Democrats to agree to their policy changes and finally move the red-hot issue off the Senate's plate."

$10.10 Is Not Enough. Teresa Tritch of the New York Times: "A higher minimum wage is needed and would help -- and for those reasons, a lift to $10.10 by 2016 is worthy of support. But the recommended amount is more a political calculation than an economic one. It is enough to embarrass Republicans for not going along, but not enough to risk alienating business constituents (with the notable exception of the notoriously low-paying restaurant industry.)"

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Although the [Obama] administration expects many [ACA] enrollees to make their own way to the government's health care website or the state exchanges, [a] door-to-door effort [based on the model of Obama's voter-turnout machines] is aimed at people without computers, email addresses or the wherewithal to show up at health fairs and other enrollment events at Kmarts or grocery stores. Officials say the labor-intensive targeting program, while frustrating, could eventually add thousands of people to the rolls of the insured."

Twists of Anti-ObamaCare Obsession. Steve Benen: Republicans are now arguing that "job-lock" -- stuck in your job because to leave or change jobs would be financially devastating -- is a good thing.

New Tricks Just Like the Old Tricks. Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Michael Corkery of the New York Times: "A growing number of homeowners trying to avert foreclosure are confronting problems on a new front as the mortgage industry undergoes a seismic shift. Shoddy paperwork, erroneous fees and wrongful evictions -- the same abuses that dogged the nation's largest banks and led to a $26 billion settlement with federal authorities in 2012 -- are now cropping up among the specialty firms that collect mortgage payments, according to dozens of foreclosure lawsuits and interviews with borrowers, federal and state regulators and housing lawyers."

Chuck Schumer, Paragon of Probity. Especially When He Gets Caught. Rachel Abrams of the New York Times: "Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, has recused himself from reviewing Comcast's agreement to buy Time Warner Cable after the revelation that his brother, the lawyer Robert Schumer, worked on the deal. Mr. Schumer, who sits on the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, praised the merger of the country's two largest cable giants in a statement on his website on Thursday. On Friday, the magazine American Lawyer named Robert Schumer of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison its 'dealmaker of the week' for his work on the transaction."

An Historian & a Newspaper Columnist Walk into a Bar.... And Maureen Dowd comes out of it with a decent column: "... just as L.B.J. will always be yoked to Vietnam and McNamara, 43 will always be yoked to his careless misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and to Cheney. W. should know: Some landscapes cannot be painted over."

Alex Seitz-Wald of the National Journal reminds us how the Tea Party & Chicken-in-Chief John Boehner saved the Democratic Party from a split as wide as the Republicans' is now.

Igor Bobic of TPM: "President Barack Obama offered a mea culpa to an art professor last week after he said that 'folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.' Speaking at a January event on manufacturing and the economy in Wisconsin, Obama quickly qualified his remark by noting that 'there's nothing wrong with history. I love art history.' Professor Ann Collins Johns at the University of Texas at Austin took the opportunity to remind the President of art history's virtues via the White House website." ...

     ... CW: I guess my presidential apology -- which would have been a response to my complaint that Obama unfairly dissed bloggers (in October 2013) -- got lost in the mail:

Survival of the Dumbest. A Lowly Newt Positively Disproves Darwinian Theory. Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "Newt Gingrich tweeted on Monday calling for Secretary of State John Kerry to resign because of Kerry's recent comments on climate change.... On Sunday, Kerry warned in a speech in Indonesia that climate change is a 'weapon of mass destruction' and is just as much of a threat as terrorism and poverty.... When Gingrich ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, he said global warming 'hasn't been totally proven.' Last month, on CNN's 'Crossfire,' which he co-hosts, Gingrich said the planet was warmer during the age of dinosaurs."

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: Ted Cruz sez marriage equality is "inconsistent with the Constitution" and "heartbreaking." Also, "they" (being judges of both parties & the Obama administration) are using "brute power" to "subvert our democratic system":

Rebecca Traister of the New Republic: "It's felt like an awfully retro week in American politics. In Texas, gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis hashed out 20-year-old details of her former marriage in a lengthy New York Times Magazine profile, while in Washington, wannabe presidential candidate Rand Paul diligently stirred a pot of about the same vintage, with comments about the 1990s marital troubles of his imagined future rival, Hillary Clinton.... [The] resurgence [of these stories] speaks not to some weird nostalgia for the '90s, but rather to a story without beginning or end: the way that women's lives are always -- have always been -- measured, weighed and judged via metrics of personal-public trade-off."

CW: See the update to my post on Joe the Plumber. To add irony to hypocrisy, it seems Joe would not if gotten his job at Chrysler but for the 2008 auto bailout, opposed by most Republicans.

Here is something I love about Paul Krugman. It is an argument I've been making for decades & one I often lost to my husband, whose writing was, well, abstruse.

Congressional Races

Matt Friedman of the Star-Ledger: "U.S. Rep. Rush Holt [D] -- a physicist who championed liberal causes but perhaps earned his greatest measure of fame by vanquishing a supercomputer in a round of 'Jeopardy!' -- said [Tuesday] he would not seek another term in November. In his surprise announcement, the 65-year-old Holt said he was leaving Congress for a 'variety of reasons, personal and professional, all of them positive and optimistic.'" CW: Too bad. Holt is one of the good ones.

Abby Livingston of Roll Call: "Former Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., apologized Tuesday for calling retiring Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod a 'bimbo' earlier in the day. Reacting to the fellow California Democrat's retirement announcement to The Hill newspaper, Baca described her as a 'bimbo' and said outside interests were again spending money in a race he is running. But in a phone call to CQ Roll Call late Tuesday afternoon, Baca, who is running for the open 31st District and struggling to raise money, backtracked." CW: Would it be all right if I called Baca a "butthead"? Yeah, I think so.

Beyond the Beltway ...

... Or, Meet Your Honorable GOP Presidential Hopefuls

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "About 27,000 emails from the computers of one of Gov. Scott Walker's former top aides will be unsealed at 9 a.m. Wednesday, opening a view into a secret investigation that resulted in six convictions. Also being unsealed are 434 pages of other documents related to the 2012 conviction of Kelly Rindfleisch, who served as Walker's deputy chief of staff when Walker was Milwaukee County executive.... Rindfleisch was charged as part of a wide-ranging John Doe investigation led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.... Chisholm closed that probe in March 2013. But seven months earlier, he opened a second John Doe investigation, looking into campaign spending and fundraising in recall elections. That second investigation is ongoing, and Rindfleisch is also caught up in that one." ...

... Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has been eyeing a 2016 presidential run since his battles with labor unions made him a Republican star, is in the midst of dealing with the fallout of two criminal investigations at home that could complicate his move to the national stage.... Even if Walker escapes the e-mail release unscathed, he faces an additional inquiry from state prosecutors, who are believed to be looking into whether his successful 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with independent conservative groups."

Melissa Hayes of the Bergen Record: Governor Christie's former campaign manager and deputy chief of staff will not provide documents to a state legislative panel investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures. Attorneys for both Bill Stepien, Christie's two-time campaign manager, and Bridget Anne Kelly, one of the governor's top aides, have told the New Jersey Select Committee on Investigation that their clients will not be turning over any documents. Tuesday was the new deadline set by the committee after it met last week and voted down party lines to compel both Stepien and Kelly to produce documents finding their constitutional arguments 'invalid' and the documents they hold 'necessary' and 'relevant' to the investigation. Both had invoked their constitutional rights against self-incrimination in declining to produce documents by Feb. 3."

All Shook Up. Bryan Walsh of Time: Something is causing a high increase in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Some say it's fracking; others say it's the method of high-pressure wastewater disposal which oil & gas drilling companies use. (The state's seismologist, not surprisingly, thinks the cause might be natural. Uh-huh.) ...

... Charles Pierce: "Once again, as it is on so many other issues, it is out in the states where environmental issues are most directly being either ignored, or actively exacerbated, largely because state governments are cheaper and easier to buy. (Here's a nice story about the lagoons of pig shit currently afflicting Iowa.) There's a straight line to be drawn from unregulated exploding fertilizer plants in Texas to the decision by West Virginia's government to turn their already poisoned state into a repository for the toxic byproduct of an entirely new form of dirty energy extraction."

Beyond the Borders

Alan Travis of the Guardian: "Three high court judges have dismissed a challenge that David Miranda, the partner of the former Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, was unlawfully detained under counter-terrorism powers for nine hours at Heathrow airport last August. The judges accepted that Miranda's detention and the seizure of computer material was 'an indirect interference with press freedom' but said this was justified by legitimate and 'very pressing' interests of national security."

Senate Race 2014

Natalie Villacorta of Politico: "Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has parted ways with Fox News, fueling further suggestion that he is seriously considering a Senate run in New Hampshire."

Presidential Race 2016

Katie Glueck of Politico: Rand Paul pulls on some cowboy boots & steps into Ted Cruz territory.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Tony Blair is the latest high-profile person to surface in the British phone-hacking trial, a high-stakes criminal prosecution of shadowy practices at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid. Mr. Blair, the former prime minister..., offered to act as an 'unofficial adviser' to Mr. Murdoch and to Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Mr. Murdoch's British newspaper empire, who is one of eight defendants in the case and is expected to give evidence for the first time on Thursday."

Washington Post: "Members of the performance-art group Pussy Riot were attacked on a public plaza Wednesday by Cossacks brandishing whips and discharging pepper spray, a day after police picked them up and held them for nearly four hours without charges."

New York Times: "Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday that 25 people had been killed after hundreds of riot police officers advanced on antigovernment demonstrators mounting a desperate act of defiance in what remained of their all-but-conquered encampment on Independence Square in Kiev.... The [U.S.] State Department issued an urgent warning late Tuesday telling American citizens in Ukraine to avoid all protests, keep a low profile and remain indoors at night while the clashes continue." ...

     ... Update: "The security authorities in Ukraine offered the first indication on Wednesday that the deadly political violence afflicting Kiev had spread far beyond the capital, announcing a crackdown on what the Interior Ministry called 'extremist groups' that had burned down buildings and seized weapons nationwide." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: " With signs of turmoil evident within his government, President Viktor Yanukovych met with opposition political leaders Wednesday evening and announced that they had reached an agreement on a truce to end the fighting that broke out Tuesday and has left 26 dead. The two sides also said they agreed to resume negotiations toward a settlement."

Contributor Julie recommends this video, published Feb. 14, on the situation in Venezuela:

Reuters: "Venezuelan security forces arrested opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on Tuesday on charges of fomenting unrest that has killed at least four people, bringing tens of thousands of angry supporters onto the streets of Caracas. Crowds of white-clad protesters stood in the way of the vehicle carrying the 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist after he made a defiant speech, said an emotional farewell to his family, and gave himself up to soldiers."

Guardian: "More than 500 Indian migrant workers have died in Qatar since January 2012, revealing for the first time the shocking scale of death toll among those building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup."