The Ledes

Sunday, April 19, 2015.

New York Times: "The Islamic State released a video on Sunday that appears to show fighters from affiliates in southern and eastern Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting."

Guardian: "A major rescue operation is under way in the Mediterranean after as many as 700 migrants are feared to have drowned just outside Libyan waters, in what could prove to be the worst disaster yet involving migrants being smuggled to Europe."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President described the historic understanding the United States – with our allies and partners – reached with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and will make our country, our allies, and our world safer":

The Ledes

Saturday, April 18, 2015.

Washington Post: Thousands of families fleeing Iraq’s western city of Ramadi choked checkpoints leading to Baghdad on Friday, after an Islamic State advance spread panic and left security forces clinging to control."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
April 17

11:50 am ET: President Obama & Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy hold a press conference

1:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the Democratic Coalition PAC retreat (audio only)

3:50 pm ET: President & Mrs. Obama host a poetry reading by U.S. Poet Laureate Elizabeth Alexander

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

Wild Things Interrupt President Obama's reading of "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House's Easter Egg Roll:

... Don't Worry, Bee Happy. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The pint-sized guests Monday might not have listened to him, but the president’s National Pollinator Initiative will forge ahead. Last June Obama launched an inter-agency task force charged with developing a federal strategy to protect pollinators, which help sustain crops ranging from almonds to blueberries and broccoli, and it should be unveiling a detailed plan in a matter of months."

The Coolest First Lady in the History of the Nation:


Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "For her forthcoming book, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,” Kate Andersen Brower managed to elicit stories from domestic staff who witnessed up close the loneliness of President Nixon as he faced impeachment, the weariness of Hillary Clinton as her husband’s sex scandal exploded and other surprisingly intimate moments involving the first families. Most of these stories — from Nancy Reagan’s tirade over three broken tchotchkes to the tearful hug Jackie and Bobby Kennedy shared with a favorite doorman in an elevator — are attributed to staffers by name, not wrapped in the cloud of anonymous sourcing that usually cloaks reporting about the inner workings of the White House." ...

Here's What $75mm Buys:

... Orange County Register: "President Richard Nixon's Western White House, an oceanfront San Clemente estate owned by retired Allergan CEO Gavin S. Herbert, is for sale at $75 million. Herbert, 83, is selling the 5.45-acre estate after owning the property for 35 years." Includes slideshow.

New York: "Here's a spoiler for people who haven't finished House of Cards season three yet: Frank Underwood doesn't die, because Netflix [April 2] announced that it had renewed Cards for a fourth season."

Los Angeles Times: "On Tuesday afternoon, just about lunch time, a 'flying saucer' was undergoing a spin test in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The saucer is technically a 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound aerodynamic test vehicle. It is designed to help engineers try out new technologies for landing spacecraft, and someday people, on Mars."

Guardian: "Comedy Central is standing by its new Daily Show host Trevor Noah, after the 31-year-old South African comedian set to replace Jon Stewart was criticized for a series of controversial jokes he tweeted before his appointment." ...

... Jessica Winter of Salon: "Not since John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate have the vetting capacities of a powerful political force been cast into such doubt." Besides being a misogynist pig & an anti-Semite, Noah isn't even funny."

Andrew Sullivan says he quit his blog because blogging is difficult, time-consuming & dehumanizing. CW a/k/a the Blog Nazi: No kidding.

David Graham of the Atlantic: "Trevor Noah's ascent on The Daily Show has been steep — hired on as senior international correspondent four months ago, he'll take over the anchor's desk from Jon Stewart after just three appearances on the show, Comedy Central announced Monday."

If you thought a meerkat was something like a mongoose ... Global News: "Meet Meerkat, the live streaming video service that allows users to host a live broadcast from their smartphones. If you haven’t heard of this new app don’t feel too bad – it’s only been around for about two weeks. But that hasn’t stopped it from garnering an estimated 300,000 active users, US$12 million in funding and even a few controversies."

In Case You Were Wondering... Megan Garber of the Atlantic examines multiple theories on why "men’s dress shirts have their buttons on the right, while women’s have them on the left (to the wearer)."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "Inside the elaborate, surprisingly unglamorous world of presidential hotel stays." Or Why President Trump Would Resign Shortly after His Inauguration.

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

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Friday
Jan252013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 26, 2013

AP: "Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says he will not seek re-election in 2014. The 73-year-old Harkin tells The Associated Press in an interview, 'It's just time to step aside,' because by the time he would finish a sixth term, he would be 81. Harkin said it would also allow a new generation of Democrats to seek higher office. The announcement comes as a surprise, considering he had $2.7 million in his campaign war chest and was planning a fundraiser next month."

Obama 2.0
Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the U.S.S. Mammon

"President Obama discusses his nomination of Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and Richard Cordray to continue as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau." Transcript here:

** BUT Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "If Barack Obama wanted to send a signal that he's getting tougher on Wall Street, he sure picked a funny way to do it, nominating [Mary Jo White,] the woman who helped [a future Morgan Stanley CEO] John Mack get off on the slam-dunkiest insider trading case ever to cross an SEC investigator's desk.... Irrespective of the Mack incident, which incidentally really was about as bad as it gets in terms of 'regulatory capture,' America's top financial cop should be someone who doesn't owe his or her nest egg to the world's biggest banks." Thanks to contributor MAG for the link. ...

... AND here's Eliot Spitzer on Mary Jo White. He's agnostic:

... Wal-Mart in the White House. Mike Allen & David Rogers of Politico: "Sylvia Mathews Burwell, a respected veteran of the Clinton White House budget and Treasury operations, is expected to be tapped by President Barack Obama as the next director of the Office of Management and Budget, administration sources said. Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation, was chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and came over to OMB as deputy director when Jack Lew moved up to head the budget office in the last years of the Clinton administration."

White House photo.... BTW, the President does have plenty of female advisors. Above is a photo from January 10. The caption: "President Barack Obama talks with Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Director for Immigration, left, and Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, at the end of a meeting with advisors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. Pictured in the background are: Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Nancy-Ann DeParle; Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jeffrey Zients; National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; and Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President." These women do not get the coffee.


Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "The National Labor Relations Board has been thrown into a strange legal limbo -- with the possibility that more than 300 of its decisions over the last year could be nullified -- as a result of a federal appeals court ruling on Friday that President Obama's recess appointments to the board were invalid." ...

... CW: I agree with comments Ken Winkes made in yesterday's thread. The D.C. Court's ruling is a disaster. Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money, in a post titled "Neoconfederate Judges Rule NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional": "The opinion is an atrocity, classic 'hack originalism for dummies,' relying heavily on the fact that recess appointments during nominal sessions of the Senate are a relatively recent phenomenon (although there's precedent going back to 1867, and '[t]he last five Presidents have all made appointments during intrasession recesses of fourteen days or fewer'), without considering that the Senate systematically refusing to consider presidential nominees is also a contemporary phenomenon." Read the whole post, especially the part about Obama's "strange inattention to federal judicial appointments," making him "the first president in at least 50 years not to get a single nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... the federal appeals court of the District Of Columbia ... today laid down the most singular piece of partisan hackery to come out of a court since Antonin Scalia picked the previous president.... This, children, is what you get when you operate politically under the theory that They're All The Same. You get 20 or 30 years of primarily Republican judges ... drawn from the legal chop-shops in the conservative movement bubble, and doing their partisan duty like performing seals.... David Sentelle, [who wrote the opinion]..., is [a] career Tenther who believes the Constitution [w]as written on a napkin at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Small wonder he went batty on people appointed to the NLRB. This is a guy who thinks the NLRB itself is constitutionally illegitimate.... He doesn't think the agencies should exist." ...

Donovan Slack of Politico: "White House press secretary Jay Carney, who blasted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruling as 'novel and unprecedented,' said that he did not expect any broader application. 'It's one court, one case, one company,' Carney said. Carney said ... the ruling Friday 'contradicts 150 year of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations.... So we respectfully but strongly disagree with the ruling.' Carney declined to say if the administration planned to appeal, referring questions about next steps to the Department of Justice. Justice Department officials did not outline their plans, saying only,'We disagree with the court's ruling and believe that the President's recess appointments are constitutionally sound.'" ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The court's position would invalidate the vast majority of recess appointments made by Republican and Democratic presidents over the course of the last century.... If the decision holds, then Senate Republicans just acquired even more power to block presidential appointments than they already had. Good thing the Democrats decided to cave almost entirely on filibuster reform just a day earlier." ...

... Take That, Harry Reid. New York Times Editors: "Democrats could have ... curb[ed] filibuster abuses this week, particularly on high-level presidential appointments, but they squandered the opportunity. The court's decision demonstrates how their timidity is being used against them. With no sign that Republicans are willing to let up on their machinations, Mr. Obama was entirely justified in using his executive power to keep federal agencies operating." ...

... The reliable Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog has a sober assessment. ...

... The McConnell Camp Dances the Filibuster Fandango. Alexandra Jaffe of The Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) campaign is touting what it characterizes as the senator's work to stop filibuster reform in a new fundraising pitch that proclaims, "We beat the liberals. A group of the Senate's most liberal senators, fueled by left-wing groups like MoveOn, have been pushing a dangerous scheme to change the rules of the United States Senate...," the email, written by campaign manager Jesse Benton, reads. He goes on to declare that McConnell 'stopped that scheme dead in its tracks.'"

** Bob Lewis of the AP: "The prospects appear doomed in Virginia this year for Republican-backed legislation that would replace the state's winner-take-all method of apportioning presidential electoral votes with one that awards one vote to the winner of each congressional district.... The Virginia legislation survived a state Senate subcommittee on a 3-3 vote this week, but two Republicans on the full committee said Friday they would oppose the bill when it comes up for a committee vote next week, effectively killing it. And should it clear the legislature, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Friday he opposes it." CW: did Gov. Transvaginal, now that he wants to be POTUS, have a Transfusion, or what??? Maybe he figures he can carry Virginia, & he wants those Northeastern Virginia Electoral College votes. I dunno. ...

... Humorist Paul Bibeau: "Last election, Barack Obama won 51.16% of the vote. Under the new bill he would have won four of the states [sic] electoral votes. And do you know how much it counts an Obama voter as? (It's 4/13 divided by 51.16%. I'll wait. Do it. Get a calculator. You'll crap yourself.) IT IS ALMOST EXACTLY THREE FIFTHS. This bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person. I don't know if that fraction rights a bell with you." Thanks to contributor Lisa for the link. ...

... CW: I don't think the two Virginia Republican senators' opposition to the bill offers serious relief to Democrats. Here's why, from the AP story: "Republican [State] Sen. Jill Vogel..., a former Republican National Committee election lawyer, said she saw no problem with the bill's legality, but objected to the image it creates for her party so soon after Obama's victory last fall. 'It's the timing of it,' she said. 'It's just an awful impression it makes.'" I do believe Virginia Republicans will find a better time to re-introduce & pass the bill -- closer to the 2016 election, when it's too late for Democrats to, say, get a suit through the courts challenging the gerrymandered districts, which effectively make every Virginia Democratic voter 3/5ths of a person. If that suits Gov. McConnell, as well it might, he'll sign the bill.

Rosalind Helderman & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "A working group of senators from both parties is nearing agreement on broad principles for overhauling the nation's immigration laws, representing the most substantive bipartisan effort toward major legislation in years. The three Democrats and three Republicans, who have been meeting quietly in recent months, plan to announce a final agreement as early as next Friday." The group members are Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) & Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "Two others, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), have also been involved in some of the discussions."

Ryan Lizza & Rick Hertzberg discuss the President's inaugural speech & how it may predict his second term with host Dorothy Wickenden of the New Yorker:

Bad Lip-Reading the Inauguration:

CW: Gail Collins goes limericky on the fiscal cliff. Apparently she does read Akhilleus & me.

David Gonzalez of the New York Times: "The planned closing of Blessed Sacrament School in the Bronx -- a haven amid the housing projects in the Soundview neighborhood -- has left many parents and graduates upset. That includes the valedictorian of the class of 1968 ... Sonia Sotomayor.... The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced this week that it would close 24 schools, including 7 elementary schools in the Bronx." Gonzalez interviews Justice Sotomayor about the closing. Includes cute anecdote.

Romney, a few days after the 2012 election.The Last Ha-Ha. "I'm Not Going Away." Anna Palmer of Politico: Mitt "Romney told top Washington bundlers, donors and senior campaign leadership in a meeting Friday morning that he would help out GOP candidates for governor in 2013, during the upcoming midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race, according to two people who attended the meeting. Romney also made clear his ambition for elected office has ended, according to another source present.... Romney will also attend Alfalfa Club's annual dinner Saturday night."

So Long to Another Dirtbag. Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), one of the Republicans most vulnerable to a conservative primary challenge, will retire in 2014 rather than seek a third term." CW: bear in mind that Georgia will probably elect a senator who is worse than Chambliss. Maybe former Rep. Joe Walsh (RTP-Ill.) should move to Georgia & run for Chambliss's seat. Like Chambliss, Walsh is good at mocking the sacrifice of war veteran amputees. ...

... Jeff Zeleny & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times go soul-searching with leaders of the Stupid Party (hey, that's Stupid Bobby Jindal's label, not mine). ...

... ** Jamelle Bouie in the Washington Post: "... there are no real reformers among the leadership class of the Republican Party.... At most, these leaders offer a whitewash: Underneath all the new rhetoric of change and inclusiveness lurk the same unpopular policies and priorities skewed in favor of the rich and against the middle class and poor." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "The backlash from Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to cut hospice care from the state's Medicaid program as of Feb. 1 has been loud and sustained. Loud and strong enough to force Jindal to reverse that decision."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Obama administration is debating how much more aid it can give the French military forces who are battling Islamic militants in Mali, weighing the benefit of striking a major blow to Qaeda-linked fighters in Africa against concern about being drawn into a lengthy conflict there."

AP: "The hacker-activist group Anonymous says it hijacked the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide. The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, was taken over early Saturday and replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago 'a line was crossed.' The hackers say they've infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information that they now threaten to make public."

AP: "Residents from Newtown, Conn., are joining a march on Washington for gun control on Saturday with parents, pastors, survivors of gun violence and Education Secretary Arne Duncan."

AP: "An Egyptian court sentenced 21 people to death Saturday on charges related to one of the world's deadliest incidents of soccer violence, touching off an attempted jailbreak and a riot that killed 16 in the Mediterranean port city that is home to most of the defendants."

AP: "Algeria's foreign minister acknowledged that security forces made mistakes in a hostage crisis at a Saharan gas plant in which many foreign workers were killed by Algerian military strikes.Mourad Medelci, in an Associated Press interview, also conceded that Algeria will need international help to better fight terrorism. Algeria's decision to refuse foreign offers of aid in handling the crisis, and to send the military to fire on vehicles full of hostages, drew widespread international criticism."

Al Jazeera: "At least six garment workers have been killed and 10 others injured in a factory fire in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, according to fire fighters and witnesses. The blaze on Saturday comes just two months after the country's worst factory fire that killed 112 workers."

Thursday
Jan242013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 25, 2013

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' "The Great Migration." Thanks for your comments today on the same. I had a hard time writing this one; there was so much wrong with Brooks' arguments I just couldn't hit 'em all.

Nedra Picker of the AP: "President Barack Obama has chosen longtime trusted adviser and national security expert Denis McDonough as his fifth chief of staff. A White House official said Obama will announce McDonough's appointment Friday in the East Room. McDonough, 43, will take over the key West Wing role from Jack Lew, Obama's nominee for Treasury secretary." ...

     ... New York Times Update by Peter Baker: "President Obama shook up his White House staff on Friday, installing a new team largely made up of familiar faces moved to different positions as he gears up for an intense push on sweeping legislation early in his second term. Mr. Obama named Denis R. McDonough, a longtime aide and currently the principal deputy national security adviser, as his new White House chief of staff, and shuffled around a series of other officials in the West Wing." ...

"Deficit Hawks Down." Paul Krugman hails the end of the era of deficit hawks. CW: I hope he's right -- that the President at long last gets it -- but I'm not as confident as Krugman. Krugman bases his optimistic assessment on the fact that Obama "barely mentioned the budget deficit" in his inaugural address. But Obama did say this: "We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit." Deficit reduction is not exactly an inspirational theme for a speech destined to go down in the history books, so it is hardly surprising that the President "barely mentioned" it. But the State of the Union Address, which Obama will deliver on February 12, is just the right place to repeat his "belt-tightening" meme. ...

... Meanwhile, here's an excellent example of how "well" austerity works. David Milliken & Olesya Dmitracova of Reuters: "Britain's economy shrank more than expected at the end of 2012..., pushing it perilously close to a 'triple-dip' recession.... The news is a blow for Britain's Conservative-led government, which a day earlier defended its austerity program against criticism from the International Monetary Fund." The Guardian story is here.

Stupid Senate Tricks. Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have largely accepted the recommendations from a bipartisan team of senior senators that the chamber needs to streamline its operations but not throw out rules that give the minority more rights than in any legislative body in the world. Reid and McConnell are presenting the draft proposal to their caucuses Thursday afternoon, and if they get a positive response, the changes could come to a vote by the end of the day." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... UPDATE: "The Senate approved a deal Thursday that will keep the chamber’s long-standing 60-vote threshold for halting a filibuster but streamline some of the chamber’s more cumbersome procedures."

... Ezra Klein: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed.... What will be reformed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees — except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations — are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report.... But even those reforms don’t go as far as they might." ...

There should not be 60 votes in the Senate. -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 2010

I'm not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold.... With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn't and shouldn't be like the House. -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 2013

... Steve Benen: "Reid says he's concerned about 'the history of the Senate,' but the Senate functioned quite well for 200 years while remaining a majority-rule institution....That's no longer true, and today's modest reforms won't even try to fix that problem.... The Founding Fathers considered making the Senate a supermajority chamber, but they decided against it." ...

... Greg Sargent: "Today’s reforms do nothing to discourage, or extract any price whatsoever for, precisely the type of unprecedented and destructive party-wide obstructionism that launched the push for reform in the first place." ...

... Dave Dayen: "... there's a very direct and determined hatred of democracy [in the Senate]. Tom Harkin is pretty much the only Senator who dares to say this, but if the nation decides to elect a particular majority, that majority should have the ability to enact an agenda, and if the public doesn't like it afterward they can vote them out. That's basically how it works, or rather how it should work.... (my top 5 Senate reforms are actually 1) abolition, 2) turning it into the House of Lords and making it irrelevant, 3) majority rule, 4) the "talking filibuster" or 5) shifting the burden on the minority)...." ...

... David Waldman of Daily Kos sees a couple of upsides. CW: I see them, too; I think the fact that people organized & mobilized around something as arcane as Senate rules is a thing of beauty.

"A Crisis of Arithmetic." Paul Krugman: "The government really is an insurance company with an army; if you demand rapid deficit reduction without raising taxes or cutting military spending, you have to cut deeply into programs that the public values. Republicans have, for the most part, managed until recently to skate over this reality, simultaneously calling for lower spending in the abstract while posing as the defenders of seniors against Obama’s Medicare cuts. They’ve been aided in this by pundits and reporters unwilling to seem 'unbalanced' by pointing out the realities."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Democratic lawmakers formally reintroduced a bill Thursday that would ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, the most ambitious — and politically risky — element of proposals unveiled by President Obama to limit gun violence. The 'Assault Weapons Ban of 2013' is a much more far-reaching proposal than the federal ban that expired in 2004." ...

... Brad Plumer of the Washington Post on how the new bill is different from the old law: "The new ban would cover more firearm models than the 1994 ban did.... The new bill broadens the definition of 'assault weapon' slightly.... The new ban would tighten regulations on existing assault-weapons and high-capacity magazines.... The bill would also require current assault-weapons owners to 'safely store their firearms.' ... States and localities could conduct 'voluntary buy-back programs.' ... The new ban wouldn’t sunset after 10 years."

President Obama nominates Richard Cordray to continue as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Mary Jo White as Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission:

Rick Rothacker & Jonathan Spicer of Reuters: "As U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner prepares to step down on Friday, former colleagues are posing awkward questions about an allegation he leaked information on a planned interest rate cut when he led the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Several former officials said the allegation, if true, suggests a likely violation of agency rules since interest rate discussions are confidential, and one said the central bank should have investigated the matter. Whether it did is unclear." CW: don't worry about Timmy, folks. This will only help him get a better job on the Street.

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "The Affordable Care Act ... allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1. For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums." ...

Evidently Steve Rattner is hoping to ride Geithner's coattails. Rattner, in the New York Times: "... it was [Geithner's] superb judgment, deep well of experience and extraordinary work ethic that ultimately extinguished the conflagration of 2007-9." Do not read on a full stomach.

Tim Egan: The country is not "necessarily ... more 'liberal.' But..., at the least..., the center has moved, and Republicans have not.... Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, spoke more political truth in one sentence than Boehner and McConnell have in four years of speeches. 'The public is not behind us,' he said, 'and that’s a real problem for our party.'"

Jonathan Bernstein makes a very good argument against E. J. Dionne's idea -- column linked yesterday -- that Obama is striving to be "the liberal Reagan," a transformative president. Bernstein reminds us Reagan was no transformative president. CW: That's one of the many right-wing myths Obama buys. Contra Bernstein, however, it's a good idea to bear in mind that mythologizing always takes a while; being assassinated in office speeds it up, of course. ...

... Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller, one of a handful of conservative pundits who occasionally engage their brains, asks, "Obama’s collectivist ideology might trump an 'every man for himself' philosophy — but can Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton beat a young conservative selling a mainstream, family-friendly message?" My answer to that is, "no." I love Joe, & Hillary has been a tireless secretary of state, but my generation is too old to be president. Obama won twice partly because he was Not the Rich Old Out-of-Touch Fart. Democrats need a vibrant young candidate in 2016, like the vibrant young candidate we had in 2008 & 2012. ...

... ** BUT it may not matter who the Democratic presidential candidate is. Nia-Malika Henderson & Errin Haines of the Washington Post: "Republicans in Virginia and a handful of other battleground states are pushing for far-reaching changes to the electoral college in an attempt to counter recent success by Democrats." Under the election-rigging scheme, "President Obama would have claimed four of [Virginia's] 13 electoral votes in the 2012 election, rather than all of them.... No state is moving quicker than Virginia, where state senators are likely to vote on the [election-rigging] plan as soon as next week." ...

... ** Think Progress has a "Grand Theft Election" overview.

You Can't Make Up this Stuff. Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post: "A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial. House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), would charge a rape victim who ended her pregnancy with a third-degree felony for 'tampering with evidence.'" CW: Cathrynn, dear, your crazy ploy is unconstitooshunal.

A commenter to today's thread thought Boehner looked drunk here. You be the judge:

Wednesday
Jan232013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 24, 2013

My column in the New York Times eXaminer calls out New York Times business columnist Eduardo Porter for writing a column founded on phony facts. ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "Given our current trajectory, it's safe to say that even by 2016 the biggest increase in [federal] spending, by far, will have come during the Bush years." With a chart to prove it.

Daily Kos has a petition urging Harry Reid to pass powerful filibuster reform with only Democratic votes. They will email the signatures to Reid's office Thursday morning.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Democratic lawmakers plan to formally reintroduce a bill Thursday that would ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, the most ambitious -- and politically risky -- element of proposals unveiled by President Obama to limit gun violence. The 'Assault Weapons Ban of 2013' is similar to one passed in 1994 that expired with little protest in 2004. The measure will be unveiled Thursday morning by a slate of Democratic co-sponsors, led by longtime gun control advocates Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.), who have pushed for the ban before in part because of their personal histories with gun violence." ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "If there is a path to new gun laws, it has to come through West Virginia and a dozen other states with Democratic senators like [Sen. Joe] Manchin [ConservaD-W.Va.] who are confronting galvanized constituencies that view any effort to tighten gun laws as an infringement."

Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Reelected and unconcerned about ever having to face voters again, [President] Obama seems determined to push a far-reaching agenda -- on guns, climate change and gay rights, among other topics -- that looks toward his presidential legacy. [Harry] Reid (D-Nev.), significantly more encumbered, must worry about how to protect 20 Democratic-held Senate seats that will be up for grabs in 2014, while Republicans are defending only 14 spots. For some Democrats up for reelection next year, supporting the president will be politically treacherous terrain, and no issue may capture that disconnect better than gun control."

House Republicans Surrender, Declare Victory. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos has the details.

Gail Collins writes a moving column on military women serving in combat positions. ...

... "Misconceptions." Linda Greenhouse on the history of abortion rights. Her commentary on the "real reason" the Justices ruled for Roe is eye-opening.

** Jesse Eisenger of ProPublica, in the New York Times: "We are never going to have a full understanding of what bad behavior bankers engaged in in the years leading up to the financial crisis. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have failed to hold big wrongdoers to account." But a few private lawsuits, like one brought against Morgan Stanley, "are explosive. Hundreds of pages of internal Morgan Stanley documents, released publicly last week, shed much new light on what bankers knew at the height of the housing bubble and what they did with that secret knowledge.... The documents suggest a pattern of behavior larger than this one deal: people across the bank understood that the American housing market was in trouble. They took advantage of that knowledge to create and then bet against securities and then also to unload garbage investments on unsuspecting buyers."

Jill Lawrence of the National Journal: "President Obama says he's very concerned about income inequality. If he wants to elevate that issue in his second term, he should consider naming Jennifer Granholm as his next Labor secretary. The Current TV host and former two-term Michigan governor would be a highly symbolic choice, given that her Republican successor recently signed a law making Michigan -- birthplace of the organized labor movement -- a right-to-work state."

There Is Plenty the Matter with Kansas. John Eligon of the New York Times: "This month, the largest tax cut in Kansas history took effect, and most of its Medicaid system was handed over to private insurers. [A] bill introduced this week would pare taxes further, with the goal of eventually eliminating the state's individual income tax. [Gov. Sam] Brownback [RTP] has already slashed the state's welfare roll and its work force. He has merged government agencies and is proposing further consolidation. He is pushing for pension changes, to change the way judges are selected and for altering education financing formulas." State taxes on the poor are rising as services decline; taxes on the rich have gone down.

Thomas Edsell in the New York Times: "... much of the Republican electorate, as presently constructed, is profoundly committed -- morally and ideologically -- to 'traditional values.' You're asking groups of people to change who were brought together by their resistance to change. Their opposition to change is why they are Republicans." AND here are maddening facts Edsell includes,

In North Carolina, Bloomberg news found that Democrats won 2.22 million votes to 2.14 million cast for Republican candidates, but Republicans won 9 of the state's 13 House seats. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Democrats won 2.7 million votes to the Republicans' 2.6 million, but Democrats ended up with only 5 of the state's 18 districts.

Ryu Spaeth, writing in The Week on the President's inaugural address. "Throughout his speech, Obama subtly argued that the Constitution and other founding documents do not have all the answers; that wisdom and foresight is not exclusive to a group of men from the 18th century; and that it is up to a new generation, confident in its own hard-won knowledge and abilities, to chart a path forward." CW: Spaeth is right. The philosophical chasm between Obama & Sir Nino Scalia could not be wider. It is not for nothing the Supreme Martyr looked as furious as funny. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Obama chose to embrace an old but often-forgotten tradition of closely associating liberalism with the 'positive freedoms' necessary to make 'negative freedoms' meaningful.... In particular, Obama made the long-lost liberal case that collective action is necessary to the achievement of individual freedom, instead of implicitly conceding that social goals and individual interests are inherently at war." ...

... Kenneth Baer, a former member of the Obama administration, in a Washington Post op-ed: the concepts Obama expressed were "firmly mainstream." And Newt Gingrich didn't think it was very liberal. ...

... E. J. Dionne: Obama's role model is Ronald Reagan. "Like Reagan, Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment -- in Obama's case toward the moderate left, thereby reversing the 40th president's political legacy. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama's inaugural address, built ... on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history."

Jamelle Bouie: the Republican plan to rig the presidential election "would take the existing malapportionment of our political system -- rural states have more representation relative to their populations -- and amplify it by an incredible extent.... If implemented on a large scale, this scheme would result in mass disenfranchisement, and rival Jim Crow in the number of people it (effectively) removed from the electoral process.... A large number of those disenfranchised would be African Americans." ...

... Ari Berman of The Nation: "Election reform should be a top priority of the new Congress." CW: yes, it should. And good luck with that.

The Cowardly, Lyin'. Paul Krugman has a takedown of Paul Ryan that is not to be missed. ...

... BUT Krugman's arch-rival, Jon Stewart, does him one better. Pretty much everything you need to know about Lyin' Ryan:

Secretary Clinton in one of the finer moments during her testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee answering the intelligence-challenged Ron Johnson (RTP-Wisconsin):

... Dana Milbank seems to have a lot more respect for Clinton today than he did back in the day he reserved a bottle of Mad Bitch beer for her. ...

... Steve Benen wrote a great post on Sen. Johnson back in November when Johnson said Americans were too damned dumb to appreciate the conservative message. In the same news conference, he announced he would tutor his new Senate colleague Tammy Baldwin (Big D-Wis.) on fiscal matters because of his superior knowledge of the federal budget. Johnson was elected to public office for the first time in 2010. Baldwin, a mathematician, "has been in public office for two decades" and in the House since 1999. Benen noted,

For the record, Ron Johnson believes affordable contraception is easily distributed over the Internet, thinks 'sunspot activity' is responsible for global warming, believes the Great Recession ended before President Obama took office; and sees public investment in alternative energy as roughly the same thing as 'the Soviet Union.'

CW: wouldn't it be fun to go to a meeting of the GOP Ignoramus Club? Here you have Louisiana State Sen. Mike Walsworth auditioning for club membership in remarks that leave the witness flabbergasted. Thanks to Phil Platt Plait of Slate, Zack Kopplin of Louisiana & Akhilleus for bringing us documentary evidence of a genuine specimen proving the existence of evolutionary throwbacks. Science Is Awesome:

Nicholas Kristof's column sort of irritated me. I'd like to know what you thought of it.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: Benjamin "Netanyahu's weakened position could set the stage for ... an improvement in his ties with [President Obama]."

Local News

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "Rhode Island, the only state in New England that has not legalized gay marriage, began taking up the matter this week. The State House is expected to pass a bill Thursday that would allow anyone to marry 'any eligible person regardless of gender.'"

Grammar Lesson*

Merriam-Webster sez: "Farther and further have been used more or less interchangeably throughout most of their history, but currently they are showing signs of diverging. As adverbs they continue to be used interchangeably whenever spatial, temporal, or metaphorical distance is involved. But where there is no notion of distance, further is used 'our techniques can be further refined'. Further is also used as a sentence modifier 'further, the workshop participants were scarcely optimistic -- L. B. Mayhew', but farther is not. A polarizing process appears to be taking place in their adjective use. Farther is taking over the meaning of distance 'the farther shore' and further the meaning of addition 'needed no further invitation.'"

* See Comments.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Rhode Island House of Representatives on Thursday handily passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, paving the way for a showdown in the State Senate in the only New England state where it is not allowed."

Christian Science Monitor: "A federal judge in Chicago sentenced an American citizen to 35 years in prison on Thursday for his role in providing surveillance information and videos laying the groundwork for the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, that left more than 160 dead and hundreds wounded. David Coleman Headley, a US citizen of Pakistani heritage, was arrested in October 2009. He agreed shortly afterward to cooperate with US investigators and intelligence officials, and he testified against one of his fellow co-conspirators."

New York Times: "As French forces fight Islamist rebels in Mali, the country has ramped up police and army presence at home and is sending special forces to help protect uranium production sites in Niger."

Reuters: "The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to its lowest since the early days of the 2007-09 recession, a hopeful sign for the sluggish labor market. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, the lowest level since January 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday."

AP: "President Barack Obama will nominate Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, tapping an attorney with broad experience in prosecuting white-collar crimes to lead an agency that has a central role in implementing Wall Street reform. A White House official said the president would announce White's nomination during a ceremony in the State Dining Room Thursday afternoon. At the same event, Obama will renominate Richard Cordray to serve as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.... The president used a recess appointment last year to ... install Cordray as head of the bureau." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "In its choice of Ms. White and Mr. Cordray, the White House is sending a signal about the importance of holding Wall Street accountable for wrongdoing. Both picks are former prosecutors."

AP: "Democratic Sen. John Kerry, on a smooth path to confirmation as secretary of state, is likely to face friendly questioning when he testifies before the committee that he's served on for 28 years and led for the past four. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman will sit at the witness table Thursday when he appears before the panel.... The five-term Massachusetts senator is widely expected to win overwhelming bipartisan support...." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "Sen. John F. Kerry, testifying before a Senate committee on his nomination to become secretary of state, said U.S. foreign policy is defined by much more than military intervention abroad and the fight against terrorism, and he called for consensus on promoting American leadership on matters ranging from food security to climate change."

Washington Post: "North Korea threatened Thursday to carry out a nuclear test as part of an 'all-out action' against the U.S., which it called the 'main player' behind recently adopted international sanctions."

Tuesday
Jan222013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 23, 2013

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on a column -- that irked me -- by NYT business columnist Eduardo Porter.

** Read Harold Meyerson on "The Obama Majority." If you helped make it happen in one way or another, be proud of yourself.

Dwight David Obama. Rich Miller of Bloomberg News: "Federal outlays over the past three years grew at their slowest pace since 1953-56, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Expenditures as a share of the economy sank last year to 22.8 percent, their lowest level since 2008, according to Congressional Budget Office data." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the idea that we've had some kind of spending surge, and that current deficits reflect that surge, is just wrong, and distorts public discussion." ...

... CW: this is terrible news for the deficit hawks a/k/a "entitlement" slashers, who tout the deficit as a dandy excuse to cut little old ladies' benefits AND get themselves speaking engagements.

Todd Ruger of the BLT: "Senate Democrats announced on Tuesday that they are still pushing filibuster reform, but are opting to negotiate with Republicans rather than act alone." ...

... Git 'er Done, Mitch. Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is giving Republican colleagues 36 hours to agree to a deal on filibuster reform or he will move forward with the nuclear option. 'I hope in the next 24, 36 hours we can get something we agree on. If not, we're going to move forward on what I think needs to be done,' Reid told reporters."

Thomas Ferraro of Reuters: "U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, signaled on Tuesday that despite earlier indications to the contrary, he may allow a vote on a possible ban on assault weapons. Reid, a longtime gun-rights advocate from Nevada, recently indicated he would not permit a vote because the Republican-led House of Representatives was unlikely to go along with such a prohibition. But after a weekly meeting with fellow Senate Democrats, Reid told reporters he expects 'to have a free amendment process' on gun legislation." ...

... Paranoia as Marketing Tool, Ctd. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the National Rifle Association, angrily accused President Obama on Tuesday of demonizing law-abiding gun owners and of wanting to put 'every private personal firearms transaction right under the thumb of the federal government.' ... Speaking on the same day that a gunfight on a Texas college campus left four people hospitalized, Mr. LaPierre ... said there were only two reasons government would want to expand the background check system..: 'Either to tax them, or to take them.'"

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "The House plans to vote Wednesday on a measure that would leave the $16.4 trillion borrowing limit [i.e., the debt ceiling] intact but suspend it from the time the bill passes until mid-May. The declaration that the debt ceiling 'shall not apply' means that the government could continue borrowing to cover its obligations to creditors until May 18. This approach -- novel in modern times -- would let Republicans avoid a potentially disastrous fight over the debt limit without actually voting to let the Treasury borrow more money.... White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that ... President Obama 'wouldn't stand in the way' if the bill passes the House." ...

     ... ** UPDATE. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Avoiding an economic showdown with President Obama, the House on Wednesday passed legislation to suspend the nation's statutory borrowing limit for three months, without including the dollar-for-dollar spending cuts that Republicans once insisted would have to be part of any debt limit bill."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "From the stimulus to the health care law to showdowns over taxes and spending, Republicans have often found that their uncompromising stands simply left them on the sidelines, unable to have an impact on legislation and unable to alter it much once it passed.... Now, some in the party say, it is time to take a different tack." ...

... Really? Jonathan Chait of New York: "... as part of his concessions to the looniest wing of the Republican party, [Speaker Boehner] has also committed himself to passing a budget that would reach full balance within a decade.... "The inescapable fact is that Boehner has committed now to voting on something that would require even more draconian cuts to social spending than the Ryan budget [of 2011]." ...

... Steve Benen: "Ryan intends to unveil a plan to balance the budget in one decade instead of three.... Ryan will either present a budget plan so absurd that it will be literally laughable, filled with outrageous magic asterisks, or it will be the most brutal and regressive plan ever seriously considered by a major American political party."

Mark Murray of NBC News: "... what is being mostly overlooked [about President Obama's "liberal" inaugural speech] is how many of the policies and viewpoints Obama articulated in his inaugural address are supported by majorities of Americans."

Sarah Stillman, in the New Yorker, on how she -- as a young woman -- learned from an older woman why abortion rights matter. Stillman doesn't exactly say it, but I will: fuck Paul Ryan. (See Comments re: fucking Paul Ryan.) ...

... AND, speaking of fucking Paul Ryan, Tuesday he tried to weasel around his "makers & takers" rhetoric. Ed Kilgore is not letting Ryan get away with it. ...

... PLUS, Charles Pierce thinks Ryan, admittedly the First-Runner-Up in the Vice Presidential Pageant, is a phony.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative, will step down in late February, his office said Tuesday."

Isabel Kershner of the New York Times: "Yair Lapid, "a prominent [Israeli] journalist and the host of a popular television show," was a surprise winner in the Israeli elections. "His party placed second, when polls said it would come in fourth." ...

... Amy Teibel of the AP: "A badly weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scrambled Wednesday to keep his job by extending his hand to a new centrist party that advocates a more earnest push on peacemaking with the Palestinians after Israel's parliamentary election produced a stunning deadlock.... A surprising strong showing by a political newcomer, the centrist Yesh Atid, or There is a Future, party, [which Lapid leads,] in Tuesday's vote turned pre-election forecasts on their heads and dealt a setback to Netanyahu."

Here's Juan Cole's depressing assessment of Obama's policy plans vis-a-vis the Middle East & Iran in particular. Cole is right about the drones being a tad unpopular with the locals, but with that exception, he doesn't mention a better plan for dealing with Iran. Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link.

Tom Shanker of the New York Times: "A Defense Department inquiry into potentially inappropriate e-mails between Gen. John R. Allen, the American commander in Afghanistan, and a socialite in Tampa, Fla., has cleared him of wrongdoing, senior Pentagon officials disclosed Tuesday." ...

     ... UPDATE. Jim Kuhnhenn & Darlene Superville of the AP: "The White House said Wednesday it will go ahead with Gen. John Allen's nomination to become commander of NATO forces in Europe, following his exoneration in a Pentagon investigation of questionable email exchanges with a Florida woman linked to the sex scandal that led David Petraeus to resign as CIA director." ...

... Jill Kelley & Scott Kelley write an op-ed in the Washington Post, which I didn't read. Actually, Dee Dee Myers is whoring employed as their PR person, so I suppose Myers or her staff wrote the op-ed. Howie Kurtz of Newsweek also interviewed Jill Kelley; I did read that to see if there was one iota worth linking; there wasn't, but you can find the interview on the Daily Beast site if you can't get enough of Kelley whining about how unfair the press is.

"It Is the Dignity." Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books on what ails the South. I was struck that Wills' Southern grandmother was probably very much like Barack Obama's white grandmother. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Wills & Obama each had to hold two opposing ideas of one significant person in their mind at the same time. It ain't easy -- although we all have to do it to one degree or another. Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

Right Wing World

Whenever I talk about religious liberty, you know they turn it around. All they talk about -- they don't talk about denying religious liberty. They talk about contraception. And I'm not talking about contraception. Government doesn't have a role in contraception. Government does have a role in protecting your civil rights especially today on MLK Day. The man who really came up with the American non-violent protest theory of civil disobedience. It's pretty egregious that they can't get any higher than contraception when we're talking about protecting people’s religious liberty. -- Kenny Cuccinelli, Virginia Attorney General & former ward of Kate Madison, talking about "them" ...

... Sorry, Kenny, I'm going to have to leave this one to Larry Wilmore:

Catherine Candisky of the Columbus Dispatch: "State Board of Education President Debe Terhar said she was not comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler when she posted a photograph of the Nazi leader on her Facebook page with a message critical of the administration's new gun-control efforts."

Local News

Bobby Jindal Determined to Make Louisiana Worst State to Live & Die In. Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect. Fresh from turning a slightly progressive state tax system into a highly regressive one, Louisiana Gov. & presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal (R) "has authorized elimination of the state's hospice program for Medicaid recipients.... "When coupled with existing cuts to education and a large tax increase on the bottom 80 percent of Louisiana residents, it's a catastrophe. Indeed, Jindal seems devoted to engineering a Louisiana that works little for its most vulnerable citizens, and does as much as possible to satisfy the wants of wealthy, entrenched interests." ...

... CW: about 45 percent of Louisianans who are eligible for Medicaid are people of color. Jindal is no doubt counting on his constituents figuring that percentage is even higher. Pardon me for practicing political psychology without a license, but Jindal is trying to prove his neck is as red as the typical Republican primary voter's. If people have to die alone & in pain to advance his presidential ambitions, so be it.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is lifting the military's ban on women in combat, which will open up hundreds of thousands of additional front-line jobs to them, senior defense officials said on Wednesday."

... New York Times: "In long-awaited testimony, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday asserted that she had moved quickly to improve the security of American diplomats after the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans and prompted a scathing review of State Department procedures." ...

... Washington Post: "In one of her last duties as America's top diplomat, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will appear before both houses of Congress on Wednesday to answer questions about a terror attack that killed four Americans in Libya and exposed lapses in judgment and security at the State Department."

AP: "The Upper Midwest remains locked in the deep freeze, with bitter temperatures stretching into a fourth day across several states. The cold snap arrived Saturday night as waves of Arctic air swept south from Canada, pushing temperatures to dangerous lows...."

Gunfight at Lone Star College. AP: "A volley of gunshots about noon Tuesday at Lone Star College prompted a lockdown and eventual evacuation of the campus in north Houston. In the end, three people were hospitalized, including a maintenance worker caught in the crossfire and two others who authorities believe were involved in the gunfire. Late Tuesday, Harris County sheriff's officials said Carlton Berry, 22, had been charged with aggravated assault in the shooting. Berry remained hospitalized, the officials said."

New York Times: "Prime Minister David Cameron promised Britons a far-reaching referendum within five years on membership in the European Union -- provided he wins the next election -- in a long-awaited speech on Wednesday whose implications have alarmed the Obama administration and are likely to set the markers for a divisive debate within Britain and across Europe." ...

... Reuters: "Leading British business figures warned Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday that his plan for an in-out referendum on the European Union membership was a risky gamble that could damage the economy and throttle foreign investment."