The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

New York Times: "Cynthia Lennon, the first wife of the BeatlesJohn Lennon, who chronicled their troubled marriage in two memoirs, died on Wednesday at her home in Mallorca, Spain. She was 75. The cause was cancer, according to a memorial on the website of her son, Julian."

Los Angeles Times: California "Gov. Jerry Brown, standing on a patch of brown grass in the Sierra Nevada that is usually covered with several feet of snow at this time of year, on Wednesday announced the first mandatory water restrictions in California history. 'It's a different world,' he said. 'We have to act differently.'"

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “'Guilty,' Judge Jerry Baxter read the jury’s verdicts for conspiracy for 11 of the 12 defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial. The conspiracy charge was the most serious and could bring sentences up to 20 years. Only one defendant, Dessa Curb, walked away with no conviction on any charge.... "

Los Angeles Times: "Authorities investigating the death of Andrew Getty, an heir to the Getty oil fortune, said a preliminary investigation suggests foul play was not involved.The death appeared to be natural or an accident, said Ed Winter, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office."

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 1

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

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:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

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Thursday
Nov152012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 16, 2012

Paul Krugman: "... the most dangerous zombie [idea] is probably the claim that rising life expectancy justifies a rise in both the Social Security retirement age and the age of eligibility for Medicare. Even some Democrats -- including, according to reports, the president -- have seemed susceptible to this argument. But it's a cruel, foolish idea -- cruel in the case of Social Security, foolish in the case of Medicare -- and we shouldn't let it eat our brains." Krugman explains why, then writes, "This should be a red line in any budget negotiations, and we can only hope that Mr. Obama doesn't betray his supporters by crossing it." ...

... ** E. J. Dionne takes a clear-eyed view of what the election means for both parties. CW: Read the whole column, but one point I hope President Obama reads: "A longing for balanced budgets is not what drove [Democratic] voters to the polls."

CBS News: "CBS News has obtained the CIA talking points given to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Sept. 15 regarding the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, four days earlier. CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan says the talking points, which were also given to members of the House intelligence committee, make no reference to terrorism being a likely factor in the assault, which left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead." CW: as if we ever doubted it, the whole GOP Benghazi hyperventilation factory has been a sham & a scam. ...

... Apparently there are CIA talking points & CIA talking points. CNN: "A source told CNN that Petraeus knew almost immediately that it was the work of a loosely formed militia with members sympathetic to al Qaeda.... The former CIA director also is expected to tell the congressional committees that he did develop unclassified talking points in the days after the attack but had had no direct involvement in developing the ones used by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations."

Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy: "Republicans skip Benghazi hearing; complain about lack of information on Benghazi. This week, a number of Republican senators have strongly criticized the administration for failing to properly explain the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Some of those senators failed to show up for a briefing on the attack Wednesday.... Although [Sen. John] McCain [R-Az.] had time to speak on the Senate floor and on television about the lack of information provided to Congress about the attack, he didn't attend the classified briefing for senators Wednesday given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which he is a member.... Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another Homeland Security committee member who was on television complaining about the lack of Benghazi information, also did not show up for the Wednesday hearing. Paul did a CNN interview from the Capitol building Wednesday in which said he had questions about the anti-Islam video, the lack of Marines in Libya, and diplomatic security. At one point he says, 'I don't know enough of the details.'" ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "McCain's response to a reporter asking him why he missed the meeting in order to demand a meeting was to have a considerably impressive meltdown."

... Dan Amira of New York: "Five of eight Republicans on the committee failed to show up, including John McCain.... We guess even McCain is embarrassed by how that turned out, because he was even more crotchety than usual when a CNN reporter asked him about it today.... Yes, being called out on your own bullshit can be quite upsetting":

CW: don't know what all the fuss is about. There are no cameras in secret hearings. Who could possibly expect media hogs McCain & Paul to go to dark in favor of, you know, doing their jobs? ...

... Here's a good post from Alex Pareene of Salon, slugged, "John McCain and his sidekick, Lindsey Graham, are determined to get to the bottom of an entirely made-up scandal."

... Dave Weigel of Slate: "The current round of Benghazi hearings are closed, and senators are not allowed to talk about what occurred inside them. 'You'll have to read the New York Times to find out,' joked Marco Rubio this week. McCain wants public, select committee hearings, which have been accurately described as 'Watergate-style.'" ...

... Paul Waldman of American Prospect: "So what's going on here? I can sum it up in two words: scandal envy. Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal.... Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it's all they have handy."

Nobody died in Iran-Contra. -- John McCain ...

... Dennis G. of Balloon Juice: "We all know that McCain is a bitter, angry old man and perhaps the sorest loser in the history of American politics, but that does not obscure the fact that at his center he is an ignorant, lying asshole. At least 30,000 folks died as a result a direct result of the Contras and their war in Nicaragua. The Iran-Contra funded covert project spilled over into El Salvador where another 75,000 people lost their lives and to Guatemala where CIA funded death squads helped helped to push the body count to over 200,000. The Iraq-Iran war that Team Reagan was funding with the scandal added another 450,000 to the count." ...

     ... CW: McCain was a Member of Congress during Iran-Contra & actively supported the Contras, including belonging to an organization that "was part of an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America" & that illegally supplied the Nicaraquan Contras. Nobody died? McCain busied himself making sure people did die.

CarrollAnn Mears of NBC News: "A House Foreign Affairs hearing on 'Benghazi and Beyond' quickly turned into a shouting and accusations forum." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Jillian Rayfield of Salon: "The entire GOP leadership has signed a pledge to 'oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.' The Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the Koch brothers, sent out a press release Thursday marking the election of House GOP leadership with a reminder that they had all signed." CW: President Obama should ram the Koch pledge down the throats of the GOP leadership. There is little downside to batting at billionaires -- or their toadies.

Philip Elliott of the AP: "Less than two weeks after Republican nominee Mitt Romney came up short in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama, the next class of GOP presidential hopefuls is laying the groundwork for bids of their own."

James Hohmann of Politico: Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico (R) "expressed disdain for Romney's claim this week on a conference call that Obama won reelection because he offered 'gifts' to minorities and younger voters. 'That unfortunately is what sets us back as a party -- our comments that are not thought through carefully,' she said."

Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money explains politics -- and human nature -- to Glenn Greenwald: "Ineffectual opposition tends to be ineffectual." Via Jonathan Bernstein.

Hamed Aleaziz: Fox "News," still swiftboating John Kerry. "The Swift Boat claims are no more true now than they were in 2004, when Republicans like like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) immediately came to Kerry's defense and slammed Swift Boat’s ad." With video. CW: let's see if Grumpy McCain comes to Kerry's defense now that McCain has become the Crotchitiest Man in the Senate. It's been a great couple of days for failed GOP presidential nominees, hasn't it? What an outstanding couple of citizens. ...

... Ah, Steve Kornacki of Salon noticed the Co-Chairs of the Sore Losers Club, too. "McCain's various self-reinventions as a politician are best understood as acts of sore loser-dom.... His reputation took a hit in '08, but he had an opportunity to restore it in defeat. Instead, he's behaved like an embittered partisan warrior. And so far, it's an example that Romney and Ryan are following." Read the whole post.

... Meanwhile, Fox "News"'s resident fake Democratic feminist Kirsten Powers calls President Obama a "sexist" for defending Susan Rice, Ed Kilgore reports. CW: why Powers failed to mention that black people stick together, I don't know. It's very important to reinforce the idea that the whole administration is "foreign" to Real America. John McCain can't do everything, you know.

Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon has launched a sweeping review into misconduct by senior officers, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced Thursday, a rare undertaking at the nation's largest bureaucracy, beset by recent high-profile scandals involving the brass.... The effort could shed light on whether the multiple deployments in a decade of war, which have exacted a well-documented toll on an all-volunteer force, also are afflicting those in command." ...

... Jonathan Landay of McClatchy News: "The CIA said Thursday that it had opened an 'exploratory' investigation into the conduct of former director David Petraeus, who resigned after admitting to adultery, on the same day that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the military services to review ways to strengthen ethics standards 'that keep the military well led and well disciplined.'" ...

... Mark Hosenball & Andy Sullivan of Reuters: "Classified material kept by the woman who conducted an affair with former CIA Director David Petraeus predates their liaison and does not come from the spy agency, sources briefed on the investigation told Reuters on Thursday." ...

... Kathy Finn of Reuters: "Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday defended the Justice Department's decision to hold off informing President Barack Obama of an investigation that eventually caused CIA Director David Petraeus to resign." ...

... Eric Schmitt of the New York Times writes an overview of the most recent developments in the Petraeus Affair & Congressional "investigations" of the Benghazi attack.

Greg Jaffe & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post write a compelling profile of Paula Broadwell, the little engine who couldn't quite. This interview of the reporters in good, too:


Jill Kelley, Sleazier than She Looks. (Who thought that was possible? Meow.) Brian Ross of ABC News: "A New York businessman who discussed a multi-billion-dollar Korean business deal with Jill Kelley said the Tampa woman at the center of the Petraeus scandal told him Gen. Petraeus had arranged for her to become an honorary consul for South Korea and promote free trade, and then asked him for $80 million to complete the deal.... Another source told ABC News that Petraeus had asked Kelley to stop throwing his name around." Thanks to contributor Diane for the link. CW: sorry, Jill. Looks like there will be no big payoff for all your generous "charity" work. Kaching kaput.

... AND the Petraeus Affair brings to mind this explanation of the Theory of American War by the late, great Freudian military analyst George Carlin. Thanks to contributor Jack Mahoney for the link:

     ... And that brings to mind the story of Ali Abbas, a then-12-year-old Iraqi, who, as Joan Walsh of Salon wrote, "lost 15 relatives, including his parents and three siblings, as well as both of his arms, in an errant missile strike on a Baghdad suburb.... He's got burns all over his body, some of them are infected, he's in constant pain, and he's had to be moved from hospital to hospital thanks to looters.... When [CNN] anchor Kyra Phillips interviewed Ali's doctor in Kuwait..., [he] explained that ... Ali told reporters he ... he hopes no other 'children in the war will suffer like what he suffered.' Phillips seemed shocked by Ali's apparent inability to understand we were only trying to help him. 'Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning?'" It's easy to forget or ignore the warmongering media. Luckily, we get constant reminders, like Andrea Mitchell last week, hyperventilating over the fall from grace of the god Petraeus. (In fairness, I have to admit, I'm not entirely into Carlin's explanation. It doesn't for instance, explain Phillips' & Mitchell's cheerleading.)

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "After two years of political battles and a Supreme Court case, many if not most states are expected to tell the federal government Friday if they're willing carry out a key part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. [Since Republican governors sat on their hands in hopes of an Obama defeat,] Thursday evening, the Obama administration responded to a request for more time from Republican governors by granting states a month's extension, until Dec. 14." The article includes a map to let you know where your state stands.

Local News

Jillian Rayfield of Salon has the story of a pink-colored man named Charlie Webster, who is "the outgoing Chairman of the Maine Republican Party." Webster is sleuthing for "possible instances of voter fraud on Election Day, because 'dozens' of black people voted in some precincts, but 'nobody in (these) towns knows anyone who's black.'" Webster went on to say, "I'm not talking about 15 or 20. I'm talking hundreds. I'm not politically correct and maybe I shouldn't have said these voters were black, but anyone who suggests I have a bias toward any race or group, frankly, that's sleazy."...

... CW: it's not clear to me how Webster determined these mystery voters were black because I don't think you have to put your race on voter registration forms. Well, maybe in Maine. BTW, President Obama won the state of Maine 387,794 to 290,437, give or take a few, so by 97,000-odd votes. I'm just thinking those alleged "hundreds" of blacks "nobody knows" couldn't have tilted the election either way. In fairness, math is not a GOP thing.

News Ledes

Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (Actually, President Obama is wishing Speaker Boehner a happy birthday.)Washington Post: "In a display of bipartisanship unseen since the GOP captured the House in 2010, Republican and Democratic leaders met for more than an hour with President Obama at the White House. They emerged unified, with a message of reassurance for nervous taxpayers and investors -- though intense haggling over the shape of a deal is yet to come."

Politico: "Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified Friday morning that the CIA knew that the Benghazi attacks were a terrorist attack and not a spontaneous demonstration, and he denied that his sensational extramarital affair had any impact on his testimony." The Washington Post story, which relies largely on an interview of Peter King (R-N.Y.), is substantially different from the Politico report. According to King's interpretation, Petraeus testified he gave Susan Rice different information than what she told the American people. ...

... The AP found a staffer more reliable than King: "Ex-CIA Director David Petraeus has told Congress that references to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb were removed from the agency's draft talking points of what sparked the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. A congressional staffer says Petraeus testified in a closed-door hearing Friday that the CIA's talking points did name those groups. Petraeus told lawmakers he wasn't sure which agency replaced the groups' names with the word 'extremist; in the final draft. But he said he allowed other agencies to alter the talking points as they saw fit without asking for final review, to get them out quickly." ...

... Finally, the New York Times report, published several hours after the other reports, reads to me as most accurate (though the Politico report, published earliest, is fairly consistent with the Times report).

New York Times: "President Obama opens a new round of deficit-reduction negotiations with Congressional leaders of both parties Friday morning at the White House, his bargaining hand strengthened by re-election but with time running out for a deal to avoid economy-rattling tax increases and spending cuts at the turn of the year."

New York Times: "Egypt launched a remarkable diplomatic initiative on Friday after a night of ferocious Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and militant rocket fire toward Israel, sending its prime minister to show support for Palestinians in the beleaguered enclave. The move prompted Israel to agree to a temporary, though flawed, cease-fire even as it sent armored vehicles toward Gaza and called up reservists for a possible invasion." ...

... Reuters: "Egypt opened a tiny window to emergency peace diplomacy in Gaza on Friday, but hopes for even a brief ceasefire while its prime minister was inside the bombarded enclave to talk to leaders of the Islamist Hamas movement were immediately dashed." ...

... Washington Post: "A temporary truce between Israel and Gaza militants during a Friday morning visit by Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil quickly crumbled as Palestinians continued to lob rockets across the border and Israeli aircraft responded with renewed airstrikes." Update. New lede: "... lobbed rockets as far north as Jerusalem...."

Wednesday
Nov142012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 15, 2012

Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama said in his victory speech last week that 'elections matter.' On Wednesday, he made clear how much the election matters to him -- and to the way he intends to govern in his second term. Appearing in his first post-victory news conference, the customarily cautious Obama spoke like a politician with nothing to lose after winning the last race of his life. Over the course of an hour, he struck an unabashedly populist tone in characterizing his second-term 'mandate' to help the poor and the middle class, and he warned his partisan rivals that voters had sided with his approach to the economy during the long campaign."

Ezra Klein: "The White House is saying, clearly, that they won't permit the top tax rates to remains where they are. They're taking House Speaker John A. Boehner's proposed deal and rejecting it."

President Obama responds to a question from Jonathan Karl of ABC News re: Senators John McCain & Lindsey Graham's criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice:

     ... I'm happy to say NBC News made this their lede story for awhile: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday spiritedly defended U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over her response to the September attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, assailing Republican criticism of her as 'outrageous.'" ...

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "McCain mischaracterizes [Susan] Rice's words and then assumes she should have all the information that is known now about the Benghazi attack. Her claim that there was a protest is clearly wrong, but within the context of that week, it was not off base, since it appeared in news reports quoting witnesses and even in the president's daily briefing.... Susan Rice's remarks five days after the attack appear to be a sideshow, especially because she had virtually no role in the key issues surrounding the Libyan mission.... Given that McCain was so quick to excuse [former Secretary of State] Condi Rice for making remarks of much greater import, it seems rather unsporting to quickly rush to judgment and mischaracterization in the case of Susan Rice."

Here's the President's full news conference:

John Parkinson of ABC News: "... the House Republican Conference voted [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] in to another two-year term as speaker. Boehner rejected the president's call earlier Wednesday for Republicans to quickly pass Senate legislation that would extend middle class tax cuts, and he alternatively called on the Senate to take up House-passed legislation to extend all of the current tax rates for one year." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "In order to overcome Republican obstructionism, Obama must indeed be willing to go over the [fiscal] cliff, allowing the tax cuts to expire and the automatic spending cuts, which were agreed upon during the last go-around with the Republicans, in the summer of 2011, to go into effect."

... "What we don't need to do is cut benefits." -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

GOP Excuse 127: Professors. Blowhard William Bennett, Bush Pere Secretary of Education & Drug Czar, in a CNN opinion piece: Obama won because Marxist professors are teaching our young people to be socialists. ...

... GOP Excuse 128: Blackmail/Cover-up. "Betty Cracker" of Balloon Juice: Obama blackmailed Petraeus into going along with his phony explanation of the response to the Benghazi attack. Betty details how this excuse, posited by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post & Fox "News," works. Here's a sample of the "logic" behind this excuse: "The only way Obama could cover his ass in the Benghazi affair was to orchestrate a scandal to compromise the country's most prominent general, and he fiendishly used a wingnut

... GOP Excuse 129: Obama Gifts. Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times: "Mitt Romney told his top donors Wednesday that his loss to President Obama was a disappointing result that neither he nor his top aides had expected, but said he believed his team ran a 'superb' campaign with 'no drama,' and attributed his rival's victory to 'the gifts' the administration had given to blacks, Hispanics and young voters during Obama's first term." CW: if this is the GOP's idea of "outreach" to minorities & young Americans, I don't think it will work out too well. Romney's unremitting disdain of "the 47 percent" is pathological. ...

     ... Ashley Parker of the New York Times has more of Romney's remarks about all the "gifts" Obama gave to the moocher classes. ...

     ... Oh, look. #ObamaGifts is already a Twitter meme. ...

     ... ** Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Now we know that Mitt Romney did not 'misspeak' when he whined to a big-money crowd that 47 percent of Americans mooch off government and 'believe they are victims.' He meant precisely what he said.... I guess Mr. Romney would not consider oil subsidies a gift. Or a tax system that allows him to pay a 14 percent tax rate. Or his proposal to build warships and warplanes and other fancy hardware that the military doesn't want or need.... It seems like no one in his party has figured out that it wasn't 'gifts' or bad luck that caused him to lose. It was his ideas." CW: Bobby Jindel seems to get it. ...

     ... ** Paul Waldman of American Prospect: Mitt Romney takes one last opportunity to be a jerk.... Romney seems appalled that Obama would be so diabolical as to pursue policies that were beneficial to people who then went to the polls to vote for him." ...

     ... Markos Moulitsas: "Romney rides off into the sunset, as big a dick as always." ...

... GOP Excuse 130: Obama Attacked Romney. President Obama's "whole campaign was a fear-and-smear attack to make Romney unacceptable and to blame George Bush for anything that happened while Obama was president. This was all personal: that Romney is a vulture capitalist who doesn't care about people like you, ships jobs overseas, is a quintessential plutocrat and is married to a known equestrian. An attack unanswered is an attack admitted to. -- Haley Barbour ...

... Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "A week after Mitt Romney fell short in his bid for the White House, Republican leaders offered tepid praise of his candidacy. But they quickly moved on and called for a new approach to the party's rebuilding efforts." Haley Barbour took an up-the-ass tack, suggesting the party needed to undergo "a proctological exam." Bobby Jindal rejected Romney's Obama Gifts excuse: "'I absolutely reject that notion. I don't think that represents where we are as a party,' Mr. Jindal said. He added, 'We have got to stop dividing the American voters.'" ...

... Philip Elliott of the AP: "Top Republicans meeting for the first time since Election Day say the party lost its bid to unseat President Barack Obama because nominee Mitt Romney did not respond to criticism strongly enough or outline a specific agenda with a broad appeal. In conversations at the Republican Governors Association confab in Las Vegas, a half dozen party leaders predicted the GOP will lose again if it keeps running the same playbook based on platitudes in place of detailed policies. Instead, they asserted, the party needs to learn the lessons from its loss, respect voters' savvy and put forward an agenda that appeals beyond the while [sic., white], male voters who are its base." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "Opting for a bold 'big tent' strategy to rebuild the party, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, told reporters today, 'We need to welcome people who believe in different things than we do, like math and science.'"

** Linda Greenhouse: "... the vote in four states in support of same-sex marriage, and the run-up to Election Day that saw both Democrats and federal judges pushing back against Republican strategies devised to selectively minimize voter turnout ... are directly relevant to cases on the Supreme Court's current docket...." ...

... BUT law professor Nathaniel Persily, also writing in the New York Times, suggests that "a perverse outcome of the 2012 campaign may be that President Obama's victory spells doom for the civil rights law most responsible for African-American enfranchisement" even though "a campaign marred by charges of voter suppression and Election Day mishaps also makes the need for federal protection of voting rights clearer than ever.... Congress needs to enact national rules governing voter registration, provisional and absentee ballots, and voter verification and access in a new Voting Rights Act tailored to the problems confronting American democracy today."

Here's Nancy Pelosi responding to a question yesterday from NBC News legacy Luke Russert:

Barton Gellman of Time has the cover story on the Petraeus Affair that puts all the principals -- especially Petraeus -- in a bad light.

... Greg Miller & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The FBI’s handling of the investigation that forced CIA Director David H. Petraeus to resign came under new scrutiny Wednesday as FBI Director Robert S. Mueller faced questions on Capitol Hill and President Obama alluded to lingering questions about the course of the inquiry...." ...

... Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "A computer used by Paula Broadwell ... contained substantial classified information that should have been stored under more secure conditions, law enforcement and national security officials said on Wednesday. The contents and amount of the classified material -- and questions about how Broadwell got it -- are significant enough to warrant a continuing investigation, the officials said." ...

... Robert Burns of the AP: "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday he knows of no other senior U.S. military officers being linked to the David Petraeus investigation that has ensnared the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen. Speaking at a Bangkok news conference, Panetta said he retains 'tremendous confidence' in Allen." ...

... Michael Schmidt, et al., of the New York Times: "The F.B.I. agent who helped start the investigation that led to the resignation of David H. Petraeus as C.I.A. director is a 'hard-charging' veteran counterterrorism investigator.... The agent, Frederick W. Humphries II, 47, took the initial complaint from Jill Kelley.... Mr. Humphries passed on Ms. Kelley's complaint to the cybersquad in the Tampa field office but was not assigned to the case. He was later admonished by supervisors who thought he was trying to insert himself improperly into the investigation.... Mr. Humphries in late October contacted Representative Dave Reichert, a Republican from Washington State.... [A Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association lawyer] took issue with news media reports that have said his client sent shirtless pictures of himself to Ms. Kelley.... The photo was sent as a 'joke' and was ... not sexual in nature." ...

... Lolita Baldor of the AP: "A U.S. official says the Army has suspended the security clearance of ... Paula Broadwell [who] ... held a high security clearance. Because her clearance was issued through the Army, it was the service's move to suspend it." ...

... Luis Martinez of ABC News: "Jill Kelley ... has lost the privilege of visiting MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa< without an escort.... Kelley ... had been granted unescorted access to the base under a program initiated by the Air Force unit that runs operations at the base.... [A] Defense official said Kelley's privileges ... have been taken away 'as she is involved in an ongoing investigation.'"

Douglas Dalby of the New York Times: "The death of a woman who was reportedly denied a potentially lifesaving abortion even while she was having a miscarriage has revived debate over Ireland's almost total ban on abortions." CW: this needless, unconscionable death -- multiplied thousands of times over -- would have been/still could be in our future if the anti-abortion lobby gets its way.

Right Wing World

Over and above Excuses such as Nos. 127-129-130 above, et al., here's why the GOP will never, ever get right. Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as 'Delphi' to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be forcibly relocated to cities. That's according to a four-hour briefing delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last month." CW: the Republican party is a party whose candidates not only have to be "severely conservative," they have to be severely unhinged.

To Form a More Perfect Union. Dana Milbank: "... a large number of patriotic Americans, mostly from states won by Mitt Romney last week, have petitioned the White House to let them secede.... It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish 'to withdraw from the United States and create [their] own NEW government' (the petitions emphasize 'new' by capitalizing it). Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union." ...

... Looks like students at UNC are putting their Marxist educations to good use. This map, which shows the density of signatories to the secession petitions, was plotted (and I use that term in its narrowest sense, my conspiracy theorist friends) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Current as of noon Wednesday, Nov. 14. Via John Sides of the Monkey Cage:

Local News

America's Worst Governor Sees the Light. Maybe. AP: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most vocal critics of the federal health care overhaul, is dropping his staunch opposition to the law. Scott said in an interview Tuesday with the Associated Press that he now wants to negotiate with the federal government. He said it's time for Republicans to offer solutions to help families after they lost their bid to defeat President Barack Obama." Thanks to James S. for the link.

News Ledes

AP: "In the midst of a political tempest that has engulfed his former CIA director and his top military commander in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama is traveling to New York City to view recovery efforts from the massive East Coast storm Sandy.While there Thursday, Obama will meet with affected families, local officials and first responders who have been dealing with the deadly storm...." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama got a look on Thursday at the muddy wreckage that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake, flying over ravaged neighborhoods in Queens, consoling devastated homeowners under tents and in the streets on Staten Island, and promising a strong and continuing federal role in the recovery."

Reuters: "BP Plc is expected to pay a record U.S. criminal penalty and plead guilty to criminal misconduct in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster through a plea deal reached with the Department of Justice (DoJ) that may be announced as soon as Thursday, according to sources familiar with discussions." ...

     ... Politico Update: "BP will pay a record $4.5 billion in fines and plead guilty to a dozen felony counts under a deal with the U.S. government to settle criminal charges stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident that killed 11 workers and spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Federal prosecutors also announced new indictments against two BP supervisors for manslaughter and a former BP executive for hiding information from Congress and lying to law-enforcement officials."

New York Times: "Israeli warplanes struck dozens of militant sites in Gaza< early on Thursday, the second day of Israel's deadly offensive against Hamas and other militant groups, and rockets fired from the enclave reached far into Israel, killing three civilians when one struck an apartment block in this small southern town."

New York Times: "Completing only its second orderly hand-over of power in more than six decades of rule, the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday unveiled a new leadership slate headed by Xi Jinping, the son of a revered revolutionary leader and economic reformer, who will face the task of guiding China to a more sustainable model of growth and managing the country's rise as a global power."

AP: "The 17-country eurozone has bowed to the inevitable and fallen back into recession for the first time in three years as a sprawling debt crisis took its toll on the region's stronger economies. And with surveys pointing to increasingly depressed conditions across the eurozone at a time of high unemployment in many countries, there are fears that the recession will deepen, and make the debt crisis even more difficult to handle."

Washington Post: "An investigation into misconduct by Air Force trainers at a Texas base found that at least 48 female students were victims of sexual assault or other transgressions by their instructors, according to a report released Wednesday that dissected the culture that enabled the worst military sex-abuse scandal in recent history."

ABC News: Rita Crundwell, "a former comptroller for a small town in Illinois, pleaded guilty to embezzling $53 million from city accounts to feed a lavish lifestyle that included a nationally known horse-breeding operation. All of Crundwell's items are up for auction by the U.S. Marshals, including 400 horses. Only $7 million has been recovered so far."

Wednesday
Nov142012

A Difference of Opinion

I'm posting this exchange -- which took place late yesterday -- between contributor James Singer & me largely because I think Singer speaks for thousands of Reality Chex readers. I don't think Singer is wrong & I am right. I not only respect his point-of-view, I find it a perfectly valid one. Still, it is one that I am constitutionally disinclined to share.

Singer: Okay, since it's not going to become a reality show, I'll borrow a line from an episode of "Prime Suspect": They're "both adults; that's what adults do." Now, can we move on? Please?

CW: @James Singer. While I'm sympathetic to your view -- no, we cannot move on. And here's why: I have a penchant for knowing the whole story, & we certainly don't know the whole story here. I think we'll find out more in the coming weeks; already the thrust of the story has moved from Petraeus (who looks more & more like a standard-issue adulterer here & not the central character) to John Allen.

I've always been more interested in what makes people tick than in politics; in fact, for me, politics is sort of human interaction writ large. Whenever I'm inclined to say, "I can't believe you did that," I realize that I can't believe it because there's something about that person -- who is likely a person close to me -- that I don't know. Either I've ignored it or s/he's hid it.

Decades ago, a man I was in love with rejected me. I didn't understand why because there was little doubt he was in love with me, too. In fact, he rejected me numerous times, and we both kept coming back till I quit. I figured out the answer in 2008 -- after I read his obituary. I was terribly sad, really heartbroken, that he had died fairly young. But later I realized there was a clue hidden in his obituary that explained his treatment of me, a clue that cleared up a decades-old mystery for me. Maybe that's what "closure" is. At any rate, it helped me understand a dynamic that I completely missed when I was in love with him. It turns out I wasn't in love with the whole person, but with the part of the person who presented himself to me. I feel a certain bittersweet gratitude to him for revealing to me in death what he could not tell me when he was alive.

We can pretty much guess the whole story on Petraeus & Broadwell at this point, although our conventional wisdom may want tweaking. But we have more to learn about the motivations of other characters in this widening farce. And I really do want to find out how it ends. I hope nobody has to die for the revelation.

Singer: @Marie. Many of us have had affairs that didn't exactly end the way we wanted them to. Shit happens. But some of us--many most of us--have had affairs that ended exactly like we wanted them to. So of our failures, we got over them; of our successes we have pleasant memories. I refer you to the Onion: http://www.theonion.com/articles/widening-petraeus-scandal-reveals-human-race-has-b,30368/

CW: @James Singer. Obviously, I didn't make myself clear. This isn't about the affair(s) & whether or not they worked out. Gen. Allen says he did not have sex with that woman Jill Kelley, & there is no reason to assume that his having written 15,000 (or however many) e-mails to a would-be socialite in a backwater Florida city is evidence of a sexual liaison. But it is evidence of a dangerous liaison, & I'd like to see if the media can figure out for us -- or help us figure out -- how these general officers operate & why they're getting into these entanglements with women of questionable characters & motives. I don't know the answer to that.

I find the Petraeus-Broadwell [affair] understandable & I'm rather sympathetic to it. But why Petraeus & Allen would get mixed up with the Khawam twins is another matter, and how the administration handles it will be interesting to see.

I understand that a lot of people -- probably more men than women, but I'm not sure -- are not interested in the nuances of relationships. I am. The fact that what I do here on Reality Chex happens to intersect with something that fascinates me is a bonus. Naturally, you need not check in here, & I won't be giving a take-home quiz on stories I link, so you need not pay them any attention. But I hope you won't feel in the future a need to ask me to STUF as you did in an earlier comment. For one thing, it won't do any good.


CW Update
: BTW, I find this Onion "story" as compelling as the one Singer suggested: "Nation Horrified To Learn About War In Afghanistan While Reading Up On Petraeus Sex Scandal."

Tuesday
Nov132012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 14, 2012

CW: re: a discussion contributor Diane & I had yesterday, Byron Tau of Politico reports today, "Massachusetts leaders say there are no discussions about a change the state's Senate succession laws in the event that President Obama nominates Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) to his cabinet."

Jon Stewart on the inevitable fallout from the election results:

... AND he has some advice for Greedy Bastards:

Sam Stein & Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "President Barack Obama will enter high-stakes budget negotiations firmly committed to seeing the tax rates for high-income earners rise to pre-George W. Bush levels, he assured a gathering of progressive and labor leaders on Tuesday.... 'It was a very, very positive meeting,' said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka." ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "Progressive activists are now preparing to turn the firepower they marshaled to reelect the president against him if he looks like he’s backing down on his mandate, as they see it, to preserve the social safety net and raise taxes on the wealthy."

Actor-comedian Rob Delaney proves a person need not be an expert to have good ideas. In a Salon opinion piece, he writes, "President Obama should junk the Race to the Top plan immediately. It is a deeply flawed reworking of George W. Bush's test-based, pro-charter school No Child Left Behind Act. Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should change course dramatically and publicly admit Race to the Top doesn't and can't work and then craft a new plan that doesn't treat education like an industry and coerce teachers to 'teach to the test,' while marching toward education privatization."

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "The Kaiser Family Foundation polled Americans last week, right after the election, asking what they want to see happen next with the health-care law. Most notably, they saw support for repeal plummet to an all-time low.... This isn't exactly Americans gravitating toward the health-care law: Support for expanding the law or keeping it as is held steady at 49 percent. Those who no longer support repeal seem to have drifted into the 'don't know' category, about what should happen next."

The surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race. -- Paul Ryan, explaining GOP election losses

We did everything we could to discourage the blah people from voting. We never thought those lazy takers would stand up against us makers. -- CW translation ...

Too many black people voted. -- Neetzan Zimmerman (of Gawker) translation

... Michael Shear & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times write that it isn't just urban (read minority) voters who rejected the Republican ticket. ...

... ** Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "... this habit of thinking of 'the urban vote' as being a policy-indifferent mob that is simply turned out to neutralize the 'big choices' being made by civic-minded folk, making the election results meaningless in terms of the direction of the country, certainly bears the pungent whisky-and-brimstone aroma of Old Dixie politics. Ryan would be well advised not to use this sort of terminology to support the no-mandate-election spin of his party." ...

... Paul Krugman: "Asians and Jewish households are much more Democratic than you might expect given their relatively high incomes, presumably because they see the GOP as believing fundamentally in a white Christian nation from which they will forever be outsiders." Krugman wonders if "over time Southern whites will finally become culturally assimilated, and start voting like the rest of their fellow citizens." ...

... Ryan Takes a Stand: Ideology before Party. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The House's Republican leaders would dearly like to elevate Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington to lead the House Republican Conference, putting a female face into the pantheon of the white male Republican leaders. But standing in their way is Representative Tom Price of Georgia, one of the most conservative members of the House, who has lined up some big guns in his quest for the fourth-ranking post in the House Republican conference. The most important of those guns, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin..., showed no sign of retreat Tuesday in a letter sent to colleagues endorsing Mr. Price." ...

... The People Have Spoken. So We'll Do It My Way. John Parkinson of ABC News: "Despite a devastating loss last week, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan rejected Democratic claims of a mandate to raise tax rates on the wealthy. Asked whether President Obama has a mandate on taxes, Ryan told ABC News' senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl that the House Republican majority is proof that the president does not." CW: see my remarks in today's Comments section. ...

... NEW. Dan Amira of New York explains Ryan's Rules of Mandates: "If Ryan wins, it's a mandate. If Obama wins, his party also needs to control the House of Representatives -- otherwise, no mandate. What if Ryan and Romney won, but the Democrats still gained two seats in the Senate? Unclear, but we're guessing it's a mandate." CW: I'd file Ryan's Rules of Mandates as a subcategory under Sociopaths' Rules for Living.

NEW. Patrick Keefe in the New Yorker: "the Electronic Communications Privacy Act..., originally passed in 1986..., considers any e-mail that is over a hundred and eighty days old to be 'abandoned,' meaning that the author of the e-mail no longer has any reasonable expectation that it would remain private. So to obtain access to this e-mail, the F.B.I. doesn't need a court order; it just needs to ask your e-mail provider."

... Sari Horwitz, et al., of the Washington Post: "The FBI is making a new push to determine how ... Paula Broadwell obtained classified files, part of an expanding series of investigations in a scandal that also threatens the career of the United States' top military commander in Afghanistan. Senior law enforcement officials said that a late-night seizure on Monday of boxes of material from the North Carolina home of Paula Broadwell ... marks a renewed focus by investigators on sensitive material found in her possession.... The surprise move by the FBI follows assertions by U.S. officials that the investigation had turned up no evidence of a security breach -- a factor that was cited as a reason the Justice Department did not notify the White House before last week that the CIA director had been ensnared in an e-mail inquiry."

... Maureen Dowd: David Petraeus's "fall started as Sophocles and turned sophomoric.... It features toned arms, slinky outfits, a cat fight, titillating e-mails, a military more consumed with sex than violence, a plot with more inconceivable twists than 'Homeland,' and a Twitter's-delight lexicon: an 'embedded' mistress named Broadwell, a biography called 'All In,' an other-other woman of Middle East ancestry who was a 'social liaison' to the military, a shirtless F.B.I. agent crushing on the losing-her-shirt-to-debt Tampa socialite, a pair of generals helping the socialite's twin sister with a custody case, and lawyers and crisis-management experts linked to Monica Lewinsky, John Edwards and the ABC show 'Scandal.'” Dowd blames Petraeus for "So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians ... killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That's the real scandal." ...

... Vernon Loeb, who covers the Defense Department for the Washington Post & wrote All In with Paula Broadwell, writes in the Post that he had no clue about her affair with David Petraeus. ...

... Massimo Calabresi of Time argues that the Justice Department had a duty to tell the President or the investigation into Gen. Petraeus' affair with Broadwell. CW: I would argue that Gen. Petraeus himself had a duty to tell the President when he found out about the investigation. He didn't. Or so we are led to believe. ...

... The Family Khawam. Christina Ng, et al., of ABC News: "Jill Kelley, 37, is a Tampa socialite who ... forged tight friendships with top brass. Her sister, Natalie Khawam, also became friendly with major players, including both Gen. Petraeus and Gen. John Allen.... A U.S. official described Kelley as a 'nice, bored, rich socialite' who drops 'honorary' from her title and tells people she is an ambassador. ... Kelley and her husband Scott ... have been sued at least nine times. Court records indicate that the Kelleys owe more than $2 million on an office building and face foreclosure.... Natalie Khawam, who now lives with her sister and brother-in-law in Tampa, is deeply in debt and filed for bankruptcy in Florida in April 2012.... Khawam has also been embroiled in a child custody battle.... In November 2011, the D.C. Superior Court ruled that Khawam's husband would get sole legal and primary custody of the child. The judge wrote that Khawam 'has exhibited an utter disregard for the child's interest' in maintaining a meaningful relationship with his father, that she 'has extreme personal deficits in the areas of honesty and integrity,' and that she has exhibited a 'willingness to say anything, even under oath, to advance her own personal interests at the expense' of her husband, the child, and others.'" ...

... Jason Cherkis & Christina Wilkie of the Huffington Post: "... Jill Kelley ... founded a questionable charity for cancer patients with her surgeon husband, Scott Kelley.... While the origins of the seed money used to start the charity in 2007 are unclear, financial records reviewed by The Huffington Post reveal that the group spent all of its money not on research, but on parties, entertainment, travel and attorney fees. By the end of 2007, the charity had gone bankrupt, having conveniently spent exactly the same amount of money, $157,284, as it started with...." ...

... Adam Estes of The Atlantic: "Frustrated by the media attention, Jill Kelley's taken to calling 911 multiple times a day. On one of these calls a couple of days ago, the socialite told the dispatcher..., 'You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property,' she said. 'I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well.' ... Jill Kelley is an honorary consul of South Korea. (Who knew?) A diplomatic official confirmed her status to Foreign Policy.... He went on to clarify, however, that it's nothing more than a symbolic title and comes with no special treatment or protection. 'She does not work as a real consul,' the official said." ...

... Here's a screengrab from an ABC News Denver affiliates story on the Petraeus Affair, via John Aravosis of AmericaBlog:

     ... The station later ran an apology, which read, in part, "... when the 7NEWS reporter went on the Internet to get an image of the book cover, the reporter mistakenly grabbed a Photoshopped image that said, 'All Up In My Snatch.' 'It was a mistake,' said KMGH-TV News Director Jeff Harris." Via Crooks & Liars. ...

... CW: the other day I mentioned in the Comments section a mindblowing flow chart created for Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Gen. Petraeus's predecessor in Afghanistan, whose career was also brought low by a little too much public exposure. Now it seems certain media outlets are creating "Pentagon of Love" flowcharts to try to get a handle on the complicated interrelationships in the Petraeus Affair. Joe Coscarelli of New York magazine has one here. Here's another from Max Read of Gawker:

Local News

Kate Zernike of the New York Times: "Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who has pushed aggressively for cutting and capping taxes in New Jersey during his three years in office, said Tuesday that people who lived in towns destroyed by Hurricane Sandy were likely to pay higher taxes to help rebuild.... Mr. Christie said he expected the federal government to do as much as it had done for victims of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast to help rebuild New Jersey. And he said that municipalities would be allowed to raise property taxes more than the 2 percent limit that he signed into law in 2010 to cover costs brought on by the storm."

Right Wing World

Dominique Mosbergen of the Huffington Post: "A petition for Texas secession has qualified to receive a White House response. As of Tuesday evening, the petition -- which asks for the peaceful withdrawal of the state of Texas from the union -- had racked up more than 81,000 signatures. (Only 25,000 are needed to elicit an official response from the Obama administration.) ... Residents in more than 40 states have filed secession petitions to the Obama administration's 'We the People' program, which is featured on the White House website, in the last few days." ...

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "

Gov. Rick Perry, who famously mused about secession in 2009, doesn't support an effort by some Texas residents who are petitioning to leave the United States. 'Gov. Perry believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it,' Perry spokesman Catherine Frazier told the Dallas Morning News. 'But he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government.'" ...

... The Houston Chronicle rebuts a popular misconception about Texas's "right" to secede (thanks to historian/genius Rick Perry for popularizing that one) -- and related facts/fictions. ...

NEW. You know your party is in trouble when -- Erick Erickson is the voice of reason: "We here at RedState are American citizens. We have no plans to secede from the union.... Too many people have spent the past four years obsessed with birth certificates. Now they are obsessed with voter fraud conspiracies, talk of secession, and supposed election changing news stories if only we had known."

News Ledes

New York Times: New York state "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office has issued subpoenas to the Long Island Power Authority and Consolidated Edison as part of an investigation into whether the utilities violated state laws in their response to Hurricane Sandy.... [New York] Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he had named a commission with subpoena power to investigate the handling of the disaster by utility companies."

New York Times: "Congressional investigators took aim on Wednesday at a former colleague, Jon S. Corzine, blaming the onetime senator's risk-taking at MF Global for accelerating the brokerage firm's demise."

Washington Post: "Surprising virtually no one, Sen.-elect Angus King (I-Maine) said Wednesday that he plans to caucus with Senate Democrats, because 'affiliating with the majority makes the most sense.' King won a decisive election last week to succeed retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and throughout his year-long campaign refused to say with which party he would caucus once he arrived in Washington."

Guardian: "Hamas's military commander has been killed in an Israeli air strike in a move likely to herald a dramatic rise in violence in Gaza. Ahmed al-Jaabari, the head of the Islamist organisation's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, died when his car was struck in Gaza City by a missile after Israel warned it may step up targeted assassinations, having endured almost a week of intense rocket fire from Gaza. Reports suggested three other Palestinians were also killed."

The Hill: "Former CIA Director David Petraeus will voluntarily testify before congressional panels investigating the September terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said.... The precise timing of Petraeus's visit to Capitol Hill hasn't been finalized, Feinstein said, though his appearance could be as early as Friday."

New York Times: "Syrian authorities ordered airstrikes for a third consecutive day close to the tense Turkish border on Wednesday, and said a French decision to recognize and consider arming a newly formed Syrian rebel coalition was an 'immoral' act 'encouraging the destruction of Syria.'"

Politico: "The president is scheduled to do his first press conference in months on Wednesday, at 1:30 p.m. EST in the East Room." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama on Wednesday declared that he would not extend tax cuts at upper income levels but that Congress should quickly do so for the middle class, and he praised David H. Petraeus's record while saying that national security had not been compromised during the intelligence official's affair with his biographer." The transcript is here.

Politico: "At a 10 a.m. news conference, [House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi] will answer ... whether she'll remain minority leader through 2014 -- or release her 10-year, ironclad grip on the Democratic Caucus." C-SPAN will no doubt carry the presser live, but I'm not sure exactly where.

     ... Update: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will remain in charge of the Democratic Caucus for the 113th Congress, the California Democrat announced on Wednesday morning. Pelosi revealed her decision before a room full of cheering Democrats, many of whom had privately lobbied her in recent days to stay put." CW: um, I thought the caucus had to vote on their leadership. I didn't realize they could crown themselves, a la Napoleon.

AP: "Pakistan freed several Taliban prisoners at the request of the Afghan government Wednesday, a move meant to facilitate the process of striking a peace deal with the militant group in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said. The release of the prisoners -- described as mid- and low-level fighters -- is the most encouraging sign yet that Pakistan may be willing to help jumpstart peace talks that have mostly gone nowhere, hobbled by distrust among the major players involved, including the United States."

Reuters: "The United States announced an extra $30 million in aid to those affected by the war in Syria on Wednesday and called the formation of a new opposition coalition an important step that would help Washington better target its help. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement after talks in Perth..., [Australia]."

AP: "President Hu Jintao stepped aside as ruling party leader Wednesday to clear the way for Vice President Xi Jinping to take China's helm as part of only the second orderly transfer of power in 63 years of Communist rule.In a possible break from tradition, Hu may also be giving up his post as head of the commission that oversees the military, which would give Xi greater leeway to consolidate his authority when he takes over."

AP: "With rampant unemployment spreading misery in southern Europe and companies shutting factories across the continent, workers around the European Union sought to unite in a string of strikes and demonstrations on Wednesday."

AP: "The chief operating officer of a utility company heavily criticized for its response to Superstorm Sandy is stepping down. The Long Island Power Authority announced Tuesday that Michael Hervey had tendered his resignation, effective at the end of the year.... LIPA has come under withering criticism since Sandy knocked out power to more than a million of its customers on Oct. 29, both for how long it was taking to get power restored and for poor communication with customers."