The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, May 27, 2015.

Hill: "The Defense Department accidentally sent live anthrax to labs in nine states and is working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contain it, the Pentagon said Wednesday. 'The Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their investigation of the inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis, also known as anthrax, from a DoD lab in Dugway, Utah, to labs in nine states,' said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman."

AP: "A second submariner has pleaded guilty to sharing videos of female officers undressing for a shower, continuing a case that a prosecutor calls a 'black eye' for the Navy's integration of women into the nation's sub fleet.... Electronics technician Joseph Bradley entered pleas Wednesday in a court-martial trial. He was sentenced to 30 days' confinement and a reduction in rank.... On Tuesday, missile technician Charles Greaves received two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for making the videos. Five more male sailors face charges in the case."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 27

12:15 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks about the Russian-Ukraine conflict (audio only)

Go to


New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

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.

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The Commentariat -- Dec. 31, 2012

Cliff Notes

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times @ 2:06 pm ET: "Republicans responded to the president’s statement angrily, accusing him of 'moving the goal posts' just when a deal was in reach."

President Obama spoke about the fiscal cliff at about 1:35 pm ET today, saying an agreement was "within sight," but "not done":


Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were close to a deal Monday to cancel historic tax hikes for most Americans. But they were still hung up on spending, with Democrats resisting a Republican proposal to delay automatic spending cuts for just three months."

John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden engaged in furious overnight negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff and made major progress toward a year-end tax deal, giving sudden hope to high-stakes talks that had been on the brink of collapse, according to sources familiar with the discussion." ...

... New York Times story, by Jonathan Weisman, here.

Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Vice President Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell were locked in urgent talks late Sunday over the 'fiscal cliff' after Democrats offered several significant concessions on taxes, including a proposal to raise rates only on earnings over $450,000 a year.... Democrats abandoned their earlier demand to raise tax rates on household income over $250,000 a year...." ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York: "The erosion [of Obama's 'bright line' on tax cuts] signals not only a major substantive problem in its own right, but it also raises disturbing questions about Obama's ability to handle his entire second term agenda.... Obama may think his conciliatory approach has helped avoid economic chaos. Instead, he is courting it." CW: I thought Biden was the negotiator. Whose bright idea was it to concede for no good reason?

Jonathan Weisman & John Broder of the New York Times: "Negotiations over a last-ditch agreement to head off large tax increases and sweeping spending cuts in the new year appeared to resume on Sunday afternoon after Republican senators withdrew a demand that any deal must include a new way of calculating inflation that would lower payments to beneficiary programs like Social Security and slow their growth." CW: that is some good news. ...

     ... Update. New lede: "Senate leaders on Sunday failed to produce a fiscal deal with just hours to go before large tax increases and spending cuts were to begin taking effect on New Year's Day, despite a round of volatile negotiations over the weekend and an attempt by Vice President Joseph R. Biden to intervene.

Lori Montgomery, et al., of the Washington Post: "Still no deal. There were signs of renewed effort in the talks to resolve the 'fiscal cliff' crisis late Sunday afternoon. For one thing, direct talks had begun between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Biden. Republicans exiting a mid-afternoon caucus meeting said that McConnell had excused himself to take a call from the vice president."

The Post is liveblogging negotiation "news."

Zachary Goldfarb & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "For all the posturing of the last few weeks, both sides see a measure of political upside in going over the 'fiscal cliff' -- or, at the least, an advantage in waiting until the last minute, since they want to avoid drawing the ire of their most loyal supporters by appearing to cave too quickly.... Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Sunday reiterated a view she has pressed repeatedly with her Democratic colleagues: Going over the cliff is better than agreeing to a bad bargain."

Dion Nissenbaum & Damian Paletta of the Wall Street Journal report that "The Pentagon is preparing to notify its entire civilian workforce to prepare for furloughs if Congress and President Barack Obama are unable to reach a deal before Jan. 2 to avert automatic spending cuts. A senior defense official said Sunday that the Pentagon would notify 800,000 civilian workers to brace for furloughs in the new year, meaning the workers would be ordered to take mandatory leave without pay for a certain period." CW: The story is subscriber-firewalled, so I can't link it for you, but if you Google "pentagon rolling layoffs" & click on the Journal story, you can read it. (This is a method that often -- tho not always -- works for stories trapped behind a paywall. I think Google will allow you to do this a limited number of times over some prescribed period, but I've never hit my limit.)

Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times writes a level-headed piece on the consequences of the tax-&-spending battle: For one thing, "In the event no compromise is found..., the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year.... The economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013.... 'If we have a recession, it's unforgivable,' said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. 'For the first time in modern history, we will have a self-inflicted recession in the U.S.'" ...

... The Times also has a helpful chart about what will happen if an agreement isn't reached. One feature of the sequestration that has received little attention: payments to Medicare providers will drop by 27 percent. CW: I think this could matter not just to doctors, but to the public, if many doctors decide not to take new Medicare patients.

Paul Krugman whacks Fix the Debt: "What's happening now is that all the [Pete] Peterson-funded groups are trying to exploit the fiscal cliff to push a benefit-cutting agenda that has nothing to do with the current crisis, using artfully deceptive language ... letter -- to hide the bait and switch. [Starbucks CEO Howard] Schultz apparently fell for the con. But the rest of us shouldn't."

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "In clearest sign yet that President Obama has abandoned hope of averting the so-called fiscal cliff in the next 48 hours, he used a rare-Sunday show appearance to come out swinging at Republicans, something he's so far avoided doing so as to not poison relations with his negotiating partners." CW: see yesterday's Commentariat for the full interview.

Tim Noah of The New Republic: "As usual, the party that's having a hard time grasping how much power it holds is the Democrats, specifically the White House. President Obama previously (and stupidly) suggested he might be willing to go up to a $400,000 threshold for higher tax rates. So if a deal is struck before midnight, it may well include that higher threshold."

** Rick Ungar of Forbes on"Why Congress Cannot Operate without the Bribing Power of Earmarks." Thanks to reader Madeleine B. for the link.

Donovan Slack of Politico: "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack ... said that unless Congress can pass a farm bill, the agricultural sector of the economy will be devastated, and that will have ripple effects felt by almost every American. 'Consumers, when they go in the grocery store, are going to be a bit shocked when instead of seeing $3.60 a gallon for milk, they see $7 a gallon for milk,' he said during an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's 'State of the Union.'"

Sen. Lugubrious Graham (R-S.C.) plans to default on the national debt (link fixed)-- a debt incurred by the Congress of which he happens to be a member -- if elderly Americans don't give up enough benefits to suit him. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress has the story.

Pocket Change for the Little People. Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Banking regulators are close to a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks that would end the government's efforts to hold lenders responsible for foreclosure abuses like faulty paperwork and excessive fees that may have led to evictions, according to people with knowledge of the discussions."

New York Times Editors: "Sexual assaults at the three military academies are at a record high, according to a December Defense Department report.... Meanwhile, an unpublished report by the Veterans Affairs Department shines a troubling light on the experience of veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.... Advocates for military women say that as long as women are barred from official combat roles and underrepresented in the academies, the imbalance helps a toxic culture of disrespect -- and criminality -- flourish."

David Barboza of the New York Times: "Relatives of a top Chinese regulator profited enormously from the purchase of shares in a once-struggling insurance company that is now one of China's biggest financial powerhouses, according to interviews and a review of regulatory filings. The regulator, Dai Xianglong, was the head of China's central bank and also had oversight of the insurance industry in 2002, when a company his relatives helped control bought a big stake in Ping An Insurance that years later came to be worth billions of dollars."

CW: Eliot Spitzer thinks the Justice Department will get off the dime in 2013 & start prosecuting Wall Street's bad actors. I wish:

Dave Barry's Year in Review 2012. "It was a cruel, cruel year -- a year that kept raising our hopes, only to squash them flatter than a dead possum on the interstate."

"The Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated." AP: "Germany's respected news weekly Der Spiegel mistakenly published an obituary Sunday for former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, hours after a family spokesman said the 88-year-old was recovering from illness."

NEW. Katie Glueck of Politico: "Twitter erupted after Hillary Clinton was hospitalized Sunday night because of a blood clot, as users blasted those who had earlier claimed that the secretary of state was faking illness." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed has a rundown of prominent conspiracy theorists who asserted that Hillary Clinton was faking her illness. I'm sure they've all sent her flowers, apologies & get-well wishes by now.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Carl Woese, a biophysicist and evolutionary microbiologist whose discovery 35 years ago of a 'third domain' of life in the vast realm of micro-organisms altered scientific understanding of evolution, died on Sunday at his home in Urbana, Ill. He was 84."

New York Times: "Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, a Nobel Prize-winning neurologist who discovered critical chemical tools that the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerve networks, opening the way for the study of how those processes can go wrong in diseases like dementia and cancer, died on Sunday at her home in Rome. She was 103."

NBC News: "The body of the gunman who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the nation's deadliest mass shootings was claimed last week by his father for burial, according to a family spokesman."

Washington Post: "The blood clot that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suffered is inside her skull but did not result in a stroke or neurological damage, her spokesman said late Monday. The clot was discovered during a routine MRI on Sunday as Clinton was recuperating from a fall and concussion...."

New York Times: "Seven [National Football League] coaches and five general managers were fired by lunchtime in a day unequaled for its turmoil in recent memory."

Reuters: "The U.S. Senate on Sunday approved prominent antitrust attorney William Baer to head the Justice Department's Antitrust Division 10 months after he was tapped by President Barack Obama. The Senate voted 64-26 to approve Baer's nomination, which ran into problems with some Republicans because of secret information in an FBI background report." CW: it's ridiculous to require Senate approval for appointees at the undersecretary level.

New York Times: "President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela is facing 'new complications' arising from a respiratory infection following cancer surgery in Cuba, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said in a televised statement on Sunday night."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 30, 2012

President Obama appears on today's "Press the Meat." The interview took place Saturday afternoon. Watch for presidential double-speak on Social Security:

Cliff Notes

Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Senate negotiators labored late into Saturday over a last-ditch plan to avert the 'fiscal cliff,' struggling to resolve key differences over how many wealthy households should face higher income taxes in the new year and how to tax inherited estates."

Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider: "The deficit has been driven by unemployment, which means ... Closing the deficit is painless. It's not about belt-tightening, it's about putting more people to work, which is something that everyone loves.... Pain is entirely the wrong way to think about closing the deficit. If it's important to make it go away, we need to find a way of doing the exact opposite, putting people to work and making the economy grow." ...

... "The Great Scam." Paul Krugman: "... the Bush experience tells us something important about fiscal policy: namely, that when Democrats get obsessed with deficit reduction, all they do is provide a pot of money that Republicans will squander on more tax breaks for the wealthy as soon as they get a chance.... We're looking not so much at a Grand Bargain as at a Great Scam."

Josh Barro of Bloomberg News: "For Republicans, losing the political fight isn't a downside of the strategy. It is the strategy.... If they drag their feet and get smacked around enough on the way to the deal, they will be able to sell the idea that they had no choice but to cave.... A good fight -- or at least the show of one -- placates the conservative base and helps Republicans avoid primary challenges."

David Fahrenthold & Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: House Speaker John Boehner "has been a central character in the unhappy tale of this Congress.... It turned out that the very trait that brought Boehner to power -- an amiable, hands-off style -- became a flaw once that power was his. At key moments, rebellious conservatives simply deserted a speaker they liked, but did not fear. Now, Boehner will probably face another test on the way to a resolution of the 'fiscal cliff.' If leaders in the Senate strike a deal to end the current crisis, the speaker would then be required to get it through the House dominated by his skeptical caucus. That drama would play out in just the next few days, but its outcome could shape Washington politics for the next two years."

All in the Family. David Fallis & Dan Keating
of the Washington Post: "In 2007, in the wake of the biggest lobbying scandal in decades, Congress limited the ability of family members to lobby their relatives in the House or Senate. But it declined to ban the practice entirely. Since then, 56 relatives of lawmakers have been paid to influence Congress. More than 500 firms have spent more than $400 million on lobbying teams that include the relatives of members.... In the past six years..., 36 congressional relatives -- including spouses, children, siblings, parents and in-laws -- have been paid to influence 250 bills passing through their family members' congressional committees or sponsored by the members. All of this is legal under the rules Congress has written for itself."

Pamela Constable of the Washington Post: "... a growing number of binational gay couples ... are caught between state laws that allow them to marry and federal laws that bar the U.S. citizen spouse from sponsoring the immigrant spouse for legal residency. Advocates estimate that more than 36,000 such couples are in the same situation. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, defines marriage as the legal union between and man and a woman. It denies gay spouses a long list of federal benefits, including access to pension and inheritance funds after their partner dies, as well as blocking their right to immigrate through marriage."

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times: "President Barack Obama is urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in his home state as lawmakers are poised to take up the measure as early as this week in Springfield."

Dan Freedman of the Danbury, Connecticut News-Times: "The National Rifle Association and the firearms industry are locked and loaded in a mutually beneficial financial relationship that funnels millions into the NRA's coffers, yielding legislative triumphs on Capitol Hill that boost gun sales." ...

... David McCumber of Hearst Newspapers: "Opponents of gun control are placing their hope in the overall dysfunction of the American political system; scared politicians; distortion of reality; and our inability to focus on a problem until it is solved." ...

... Andrew Reinbach in the Huffington Post on the history of the Second Amendment and militias. No, the Second Amendment is not about allowing individuals to rise up against a tyrannical government; it's about conscripting citizens to defend the nation against insurrection. Second Amendment screamers have it ass-backwards. ...

... Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic: "For all of the hyperbole about the Supreme Court's Heller and McDonald opinions, it turns out that they may have played a constructive role in the framing the current gun control debate -- prohibiting complete bans on the right to keep and bear arms but allowing sensible regulations. It's too bad that a few overzealous judges have extended the decisions further than the Second Amendment or the Supreme Court requires." CW: it occurs to me that Judge Posner may have written his opinion on the Illinois gun law in the expectation the Supremes would overturn him. If so, that is a perverse & dangerous way to apply the law; innocent people may die while Posner's Snit remains law. ...

... "Nouveau Bat Shit." What Will The NRA Think of Next? Alexander Zaitchik of Salon: "Silencers could give the next Adam Lanza even more time to kill -- but to the NRA, they protect kids' hearing."

Pat Garofalo of Think Progress on "what you need to know about the impending East Coast port strike."

Declan Walsh of the New York Times: "Al Qaeda and the Taliban have few defenses against the American drones that endlessly prowl the skies over the bustling militant hubs of North and South Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan, along the Afghan border. C.I.A. missiles killed at least 246 people in 2012, most of them Islamist militants, according to watchdog groups that monitor the strikes.... The militants do possess one powerful countermeasure. For several years now, militant enforcers have scoured the tribal belt in search of informers who help the C.I.A.... The militants' technique -- often more witch hunt than investigation -- follows a well-established pattern. Accused tribesmen are abducted ... at gunpoint and tortured. A sham religious court hears their case, usually declaring them guilty. Then they are forced to speak into a video camera.... Their endings are the same: execution by hanging, beheading or firing squad."

William Dobson in Slate: Russian President Vladimir "Putin's decision on Friday to deny his country's most helpless citizens a better future is the most craven example of his desperate search for a cure to his own sagging popularity.... His xenophobic, anti-American displays no longer work on a population that increasingly views him as illegitimate.... His approval ratings in the past several months are his lowest yet."

CW: This "Key Facts on Keystone XL" by Tar Sands Action, & linked in the Comments by safari, looks like a pretty good summary & is in line with other responsible critiques I've read.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was hospitalized on Sunday with a blood clot stemming from a concussion she suffered earlier this month, a State Department spokesman said." CW: Thanks to contributor Calyban for the heads-up. I hope all those sorry-assed Republicans who accused her of malingering are feeling ashamed of themselves.

Washington Post: "Opposition groups that monitor the [Syrian revolt] death toll said as many as 400 people -- more than double the typical daily death toll -- were killed Saturday. About half of them were civilians slain in an alleged mass killing carried out by government troops at a petrochemical university in central Syria, opposition groups reported."

NBC News: "Pakistani militants, who have escalated attacks in recent weeks, killed at least 40 people in two separate incidents, officials said on Sunday, challenging assertions that military offensives have broken the back of hardline Islamist groups. A car bomb exploded near a convoy of buses taking Shiite pilgrims to Iran, killing at least 19 people and wounding 30, officials told NBC News, the latest attack on the minority sect."

Earlier Sunday, 21 tribal policemen believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban were found shot dead in Pakistan's troubled northwest tribal region, government officials said.

Reuters: "Israeli far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman was charged on Sunday with fraud and breach of trust, allegations that prompted his resignation as foreign minister two weeks ago, justice officials said. Lieberman, who has denied the accusations, remains head of the Yisrael Beitenu party that has formed a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party ahead of a January 22 parliamentary election. Israeli justice officials said Lieberman was indicted on charges relating to the promotion of an Israeli diplomat who had illegally given him information about a police investigation against him."

Al Jazeera: "The US has sent 50 troops to Chad to help evacuate US citizens and embassy staff in neighbouring Central African Republic where rebels have seized several cities and are advancing on the capital Bangui. Barack Obama, the US president, informed congressional leaders of Thursday's deployment in a letter on Saturday citing a 'deteriorating security situation' in the deeply impoverished nation."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 29, 2012

Cliff Notes

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Jonathan Weisman & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "At the urging of President Obama, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate set to work Friday night to assemble a last-minute tax deal that could pass both chambers of Congress and avert large tax increases and budget cuts next year, or at least stop the worst of the economic punch from landing beginning Jan. 1.... Speaker John A. Boehner..., once seen as the linchpin for any agreement, essentially ceded final control to the Senate and said the House would act on whatever the Senate could produce." CW: ... in case anyone wondered if the Tea Party had weakened the power of the House. CW P.S. Two cheers to Weisman & Steinhauer for using the term "fiscal cliff" only once, & then placing it half-way through the article.

President Obama made a statement at about 5:50 pm ET Friday, saying that he was "modestly optimistic" that Senate leaders could work out a bill that at the very least would prevent middle-class taxes from rising January 1 & that would extend unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans. He said "ordinary folks" don't understand why Congress can never get its act together & does everything at the last minute, if it does anything at all:

... Michael O'Brien of NBC News: "President Barack Obama tasked the United States Senate with trying to resolve the 'fiscal cliff' in the waning hours before the New Year following a meeting between congressional leaders and the president. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will lead the last-minute effort to avert the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect on Jan. 1 unless Congress acts. And Obama said he is 'optimistic' they can reach an accord before midnight on New Year's Eve...."

Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "A person familiar with the details says President Barack Obama is not making a new 'fiscal cliff' offer at his high-stakes meeting with congressional leaders at the White House."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) repeatedly pops Fox "News" anchor Greg Jarrett's claim that the President wasn't doing his job on the budget negotiations; Van Hollen again & again points the finger at Speaker John Boehner who "walked away" from the negotiations, then sent the House home. And who knew Fox had a "brain room"? Maybe it's like a cloakroom, where they store their brains while they're at work. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link:

Digby: "I see no reason [for Democrats] to capitulate on spending at this point. If that's what it takes, go over the cliff. Why should Democrats become the tax collectors for the austerity state?"

Andy Borowitz: "The international terror group known as Al Qaeda announced its dissolution today, saying that 'our mission of destroying the American economy is now in the capable hands of the U.S. Congress.' In an official statement published on the group's website, the current leader of Al Qaeda said that Congress's conduct during the so-called 'fiscal-cliff' showdown convinced the terrorists that they had been outdone."

Paul Krugman: "... the business leaders intervening in our economic debate are, for the most part, either predatory or hopelessly confused (or, I guess, both).... Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, exemplifies the hopeless confusion factor." Krugman counts the ways Schultz is wrong. "Republican extremism isn't the only source of our dysfunctional response to economic crisis, that the awesome inability of Very Serious People to come to grips with either political or economic reality is another huge source of our failure." ...

... Ezra Klein: "... at the elite level -- which encompasses everyone from CEOs to media professionals -- there's a desire to keep up good relations on both sides of the aisle. And so it's safer ... to offer an anodyne criticism that offends nobody -- 'both sides should come together!' ... That breaks the system. It hurts the basic mechanism of accountability, which is the public's ability to apportion blame.... If you want Washington to come together, you need to make it painful for those who are breaking it apart. Telling both sides to come together when it's predominantly one side breaking the negotiations apart actually makes it easier on those who're refusing to compromise."

Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News: apparently there's some progress on the "dairy cliff," too. "Without action by Congress, dairy prices would begin to soar to an estimated $8 dollars per gallon beginning in January. The pricing would revert to 1940s farm policy, when milk costs were tied to a more labor intensive production."

AND Plenty of Progress of Surveillance. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Congress gave final approval on Friday to a bill extending the government's power to intercept electronic communications of spy and terrorism suspects, after the Senate voted down proposals from several Democrats and Republicans to increase protections of civil liberties and privacy." ...

... ** Glenn Greenwald: "Obama successfully relied on Senate Republicans (the ones his supporters depict as the Root of All Evil) along with a dozen of the most militaristic Democrats to ensure that he can continue to eavesdrop on Americans without any warrants, transparency or real oversight. That's the standard coalition that has spent the last four years extending Bush/Cheney theories, eroding core liberties and entrenching endless militarism: Obama + the GOP caucus + Feinstein-type Democrats. As Michelle Richardson, the ACLU's legislative counsel, put it to the Huffington Post: 'I bet [Bush] is laughing his ass off.' ... It's hard to put into words just how extreme was [Dianne] Feinstein's day-long fear-mongering tirade.... Here we find yet again a defining attribute of the Obama legacy: the transformation of what was until recently a symbol of right-wing radicalism -- warrantless eavesdropping -- into meekly accepted bipartisan consensus.... Anyone who stands in the way of the US Government's demands for unaccountable, secret power is helping the Terrorists." Read the whole post. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones effectively rebuts Feinstein's fearmongering & aspersion-casting. ...

... CW: it's pretty obvious why the media have barely covered extension of warrantless wiretapping: very few of their readers feel even vaguely threatened by a law that could potentially ensnare -- theoretically, at least -- only Americans who talk to friends who are in foreign countries. Ironically, "telephoning foreigners" has a much higher incidence among the press -- percentage-wise -- than in the general population.

Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times: "The Senate approved $60.4 billion in emergency spending on Friday to pay for recovery efforts in states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, at one point fending off a Republican bid to reduce the aid package by more than half. But it is unclear that the House will act on the measure before Congress adjourns for the year."

Ezra Klein again: "Sens. John McCain and Carl Levin -- backed up by a handful of senior senators from both parties -- have been prepping a filibuster proposal meant to undercut more significant reform of the Senate rules.... This is filibuster reform for people who don't want to reform the filibuster.... If you think the Senate is pretty much working well as is, and the biggest threat are the folks who want to change the rules, then this is the proposal for you." CW: what's the matter with Carl Levin? ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM) promptly said the alternate proposal put forth by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) is too weak and does nothing to prevent senators from filibustering quietly and escaping public accountability for their obstruction -- the centerpiece of the Merkley-Udall 'talking filibuster' plan.... Udall and Merkley insisted that Democrats have the 51 votes necessary to pass their more robust plan and called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to take it up." ...

... Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a leading proponent of filibuster reform, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) has the 51 votes he needs to change Senate rules with the 'nuclear option.' The maneuver would be controversial, however.... Republicans say using 51 votes to change Senate procedures -- and to prevent the minority party in the Senate from blocking a majority-vote -- amounts to breaking the rules to change them."

Ruby Cramer of BuzzFeed: "President Obama's chief environmental official departed in part over her opposition to a controversial plan to pipe oil from Canadian tar sands to Texas refineries, two sources familiar with the situation told BuzzFeed Thursday.... [Lisa] Jackson 'left as a matter of conscience,' said Jeff Tittel, the director of New Jersey's Sierra Club chapter and a longtime friend of Jackson's.... President Obama initially delayed Keystone's progress, but this March authorized the construction of its Southern portion over howls from his former allies in the movement to stop carbon emissions."

Michael Duss of the American Prospect: in a broad sense, neocons' "... attacks on [former Senator Chuck] Hagel represent an attempt by the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party to avoid a conversation over America's changing role in the world. Over the past years, and especially during the recent presidential election, this faction has seen their expansive (and expensive) view of American hegemony increasingly marginalized as U.S. leaders grapple with constrained budgets, an electorate that has soured on costly foreign adventurism, and an international environment that has proven to be far less malleable to American whims and preferences than neocons have theorized."

Emily Schultheis of Politico: "Democrats both nationally and in Massachusetts are throwing their support behind Rep. Ed Markey to replace Sen. John Kerry in Massachusetts, hoping to clear the field for him in what could become a crowded Democratic primary."

Oops! Missed This. Charles Babington of the AP: "Brian Schatz symbolized a generational change in Hawaii's Senate delegation, taking the hand of his new colleague, 88-year-old Sen. Daniel Akaka, moments before being sworn in Thursday as the successor to the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye. Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office in a chamber peopled by a dozen Democratic senators and a handful of Republicans. As he walked up the center aisle to meet Biden, Schatz, 40, took Akaka's hand and helped the frail Democratic senator, who is retiring, stay at his side. Schatz had flown to Washington hours earlier on Air Force One with President Barack Obama." ...

...Seung Min Kim of Politico on why Hawaii's Gov. Neil Abercrombie chose Schatz over Sen. Inouye's preferred choice to succeed him -- Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Joseph Pisani of the AP: "Demand for firearms, ammunition and bulletproof gear has surged since the Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown, Conn.... The shooting sparked calls for tighter gun control measures, especially for military-style assault weapons like the ones used in Newtown and in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting earlier this year. The prospect of a possible weapons ban has sent gun enthusiasts into a panic and sparked a frenzy of buying at stores and gun dealers nationwide. Assault rifles are sold out across the country. Rounds of .223 bullets, like those used in the AR-15 type Bushmaster rifle used in Newtown, are scarce. Stores are struggling to restock their shelves. Gun and ammunition makers are telling retailers they will have to wait months to get more." CW: I'm sure Wayne LaPierre's owners are delighted with his work. ...

... The Bushmaster "Man Card." New York Times Editors: "Gun owners once talked about the need for personal protection and sport hunting, but out-of-control ad campaigns like Bushmaster's have replaced revolvers and shotguns with highly lethal paramilitary fantasies.... The effect of these marketing campaigns on fragile minds is all too obvious, allowing deadly power in the wrong hands. But given their financial success, gun makers have apparently decided that the risk of an occasional massacre is part of the cost of doing business."

... CW: Several weeks ago a commenter said he belonged to the NRA and favored gun control. I asked him why he maintained his membership. He never did respond. If you belong to the NRA & don't think every man needs a Bushmaster, please do tell us why you continue to support an organization controlled by gun manufacturers & other commercial interests.

Greg Noth in Think Progress: "... histories of substance abuse and other socio-demographic and economic factors are stronger determinants of violent behavior than psychiatric disorders. The contribution of the mentally ill to overall crime rates is an extremely low 3 to 5 percent, a number much lower than that of substance abuse."

** Steven Greenhouse & Jim Yardley of the New York Times: "... even as the deadly Nov. 24 fire at the Tazreen factory has stirred soul-searching inside and outside the apparel industry about the effectiveness of its global factory monitoring system, some nonprofit groups say Walmart has been an important obstacle to efforts to upgrade fire safety. That is partly because it has shown little interest in changing the existing practice of demanding that the factories, often operating at razor-thin margins, meet fire safety standards at their own cost." ...

... Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress: "Craft store chain Hobby Lobby announced on Friday that it will ignore the ruling of U.S. courts and refuse to provide copay-free birth control access to its employees. It will do so despite whatever costs it may incur, even if they are higher than the cost of birth control itself." CW: if corporations are people, my friend, I guess it's safe to say that many corporations are evil, my friend.

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post picks the Top 10 Political Quotes of 2012. With videos.

Local News

Miranda Leitsinger of NBC News: "Arizona sheriffs and the state's attorney general are pushing controversial programs to allow school officials and volunteers to carry guns in the wake of the shootings at a Connecticut school that left 20 children dead. The latest proposal comes from Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-described toughest sheriff in America, who wants to station his 'posse' of volunteers outside of about 50 schools in Maricopa County within a week, according to KPNX, a local NBC station." CW: I suppose if the "posses" catch any suspected miscreants, then can hang 'em from the old oak tree. Yee-haw!

News Ledes

AP: "Former President George H.W. Bush's condition continued to improve Saturday, prompting doctors to move him out of intensive care, a spokesman said."

AP: "Three al-Qaida militants were killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike in southern Yemen, Yemeni security officials said, the fourth such attack this week and a sign attacks from unmanned aircraft are on the upswing in the country."

AP: "The United Nations envoy for Syria warned Saturday that the country's civil war could plunge the entire region in chaos by sending an unbearable stream of refugees into neighboring countries, but his talks in Moscow brought no sign of progress toward settling the crisis. Lakhdar Brahimi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov both said after their meeting that the 21-month Syrian crisis can only be settled through talks, while admitting that the parties to the conflict have shown no desire for compromise."

AP: "Indian police charged six men with murder on Saturday, adding to accusations that they beat and gang-raped a woman on a New Delhi bus nearly two weeks ago in a case that shocked the country. The murder charges were laid after the woman died earlier Saturday in a Singapore hospital where she has been flown for treatment."

AP: "After waiting years and seeing marriage rights nearly awarded and then retracted, gay couples in Maine's largest city didn't have to wait a moment longer than necessary to wed, with licenses issued at the stroke of midnight as the law went into effect." ...

     ... The Bangor Daily News currently has quite a few related stories on its front page.

AP: "Embattled French President Francois Hollandethrew out a plan to tax the ultrawealthy at a 75 percent rate, saying it was unfair. In a stinging rebuke to one of Socialist Hollande's flagship campaign promises, the constitutional council ruled Saturday that the way the highly contentious tax was designed was unconstitutional." ...

     ... Reuters Update: "The French government will redraft a proposal for a 75 percent upper income tax band and resubmit it, the prime minister's office said on Saturday, after the Constitutional Council rejected the measure included in the 2013 budget."

Reuters: "A suburban New York newspaper that sparked an uproar among gun enthusiasts by publishing names and addresses of residents holding pistol permits is now planning to publish even more identities of permit-toting locals. Further names and addresses will be added as they become available to a map originally published on December 24 in the White Plains, New York-based Journal News, the newspaper said."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 28, 2012

Cliff Notes

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: President "Obama is expected to invite all four [Congressional leaders] to meet on Friday. In a related development, House Republicans were told to return to Washington on Sunday. Republican senators were planning to convene at the Capitol -- normally somnolent during Christmas week -- to strategize."

The Incoherent President. William Black asks President Obama, "given your warning that the fiscal cliff's austerity would cause a recession, why are you demanding a Grand Bargain (sic, actually the Grand Betrayal) that would inflict austerity for a decade and likely cause multiple recessions and larger deficits?" ...

... Let Them Eat Cake. Charles Pierce writes, not particularly well this time, on essentially the same subject. I'm linking the post for two reasons -- his coining (as far as I know)* of the term "courtier press," and the implied Marie Antoinettesque character of the "chained CPI," which relies on the assumption that if the masses can't afford beef, they'll buy chicken.

     * Actually, the coiner may have been Robert Parry, in this 2006 piece "Colbert and the Courtier Press," on Stephen Colbert's performance at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. The courtiers were not amused when Colbert lampooned them:

The President makes decisions; he's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know --- fiction.

... And, yeah, I know Marie Antoinette did not actually say "Let them eat cake" or anything like it.


Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is really ticked off at Republicans, especially at Speaker John Boehner, whom Reid describes as running a "dictatorship." Here's Reid, on the Senate floor:

     ... Update: Reid is right. Boehner will not allow a vote on a middle-class tax-cut measure because he knows it will pass with Democrats & some Republicans voting for it. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) repeated Reid's charge this morning. ...

... MEANWHILE. Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is MIA. "In the Senate, any deal on taxes and spending would be impossible without at least tacit approval from McConnell, given the power afforded the minority under the chamber's complex rules. But an aide said Wednesday that McConnell had not been in contact with any top Democrats...." ...

... CW: so, a complete GOP abdication. Adios, MoFo, It's time that we lay low. As long as Republicans hold power in Congress -- whether by majority control in the House or minority control (filibuster) in the Senate, Congress will be 100 percent dysfunctional, unable to vote, even on bills that the majority of each house favors. (P.S. Seems to me Democrats have pulled this, too.)

Steve Benen notices how thought & "logic" work in Right Wing World.

Jonathan Bernstein accidentally explains why there won't be a budget deal: "... not only are Republicans unwilling to offer specific spending cuts, but they have spent the past two election cycles running against the cuts that Democrats have proposed. Democrats already know that they will be attacked in 2014 for supporting a large tax increase. They simply cannot also be the ones who proposed spending cuts to popular programs, knowing that they'll be attacked for that, too. And, for good measure, they'll surely be attacked for allowing large deficits, too, regardless of what happens now." In short, Republicans are conniving AND irresponsible, & Democrats are sick of playing Charlie Brown to the GOP's Lucy.

Winger Philip Klein of the Examiner has some news for his fellow wingnuts: "If the nation goes over the cliff, the most likely outcome is the worst of both worlds for Republicans. Once some sort of legislation eventually gets passed, taxes will still go up on higher income earners. But additionally, Democrats will appropriate much of Bush's tax policy and Obama will become the great middle class tax cutter." Via Jonathan Bernstein.

"Grande Confusion." In the wake of Mitt Romney's bid for the presidency it is a good idea to remind ourselves that business leaders don't understand government. At all. Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, may know how to turn java into gold, but he does not understand the first thing about the "fiscal cliff," -- which he has ass-backwards -- as Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post lays out. Khimm notes, "That's why Secretary Tim Geithner explained that going over the fiscal cliff would actually buy us more time before we hit the debt ceiling." Geithner's explanation, and every other accurate one, went right over Schultz's aerated grande noggin. But then Schultz gets his information from Washington's inflated boob jobs Bowles & Simpson. ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Washington doesn't need two parties that can 'come together.' It needs one party to 'get it together.' Maybe Schultz should put that on a coffee cup." ...

... ** If Schultz wants to know why Congress won't "come together" -- he should quit forcing his baristas to inscribe his nonsensical political messages on coffee cups & read Nate Silver: "In 1992, there were 103 members of the House of Representatives elected from what might be called swing districts: those in which the margin in the presidential race was within five percentage points of the national result. But ... I estimate that there are only 35 such Congressional districts remaining, barely a third of the total 20 years ago. Instead, the number of landslide districts -- those in which the presidential vote margin deviated by at least 20 percentage points from the national result -- has roughly doubled.... Most members of the House now come from hyperpartisan districts where they face essentially no threat of losing their seat to the other party. Instead, primary challenges, especially for Republicans, may be the more serious risk."

AND Joe Lieberman is still is smarmy, lying SOB. Steve Benen: Lieberman is again blaming "both sides" for Congressional dysfunction. "... consider recent events: the fiscal talks have broken down because Republicans won't compromise and accept meaningful concessions; the farm bill and the Violence Against Women Act are stuck because Republicans won't vote on them; efforts to reduce gun violence face extremely long odds because Republicans are beholden to the NRA; a U.N. treaty on disabilities was killed because Republicans believed extremist conspiracy theories; the process of filling President Obama's second term cabinet is stalled because of Republican smear campaigns; and another debt-ceiling crisis is underway because Republicans are threatening to hurt Americans on purpose unless Democrats pay a steep ransom."

E. J. Dionne: "... given the conservatives' habit of walking away even from their own ideas (the [health insurance] exchanges, for example) and of rejecting progressive efforts to save money, is it any wonder that liberals suspect them of greater interest in dismantling programs than in making them more efficient? We won't find genuine common ground on deficits until we resolve this dilemma."

New York Times Editors: "New legislation proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein in response to the Newtown, Conn., murders would provide a far more effective ban on military-style assault weapons than the loophole-riddled law that lapsed in 2004."

Alex Pareene of Salon: "Congressional dysfunction and extremism may yet plunge the nation into an entirely avoidable recession, but at least Americans will likely be able to sleep at night secure in the knowledge that our lawmakers at least sprang into action, at the last possible minute, to preserve the government's right to constantly spy on everyone without telling anyone about it. In all likelihood, the Senate will vote today to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act for a few years, just before it was scheduled to expire. The House reauthorized it all the way back in September, but the world's most deliberative body likes to take its time (plus Ron Wyden placed a hold on the bill until Senate leaders agreed to at least have a debate on proposed amendments to the Amendments)."

Steven Rosenfeld of AlterNet, in Salon: "Days after California's liberal Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer gave an impassioned floor speech saying that big steps must be taken to stop gun violence that is killing 87 people a day across America, she proposed a bill to give governors power to deploy National Guard troops in public schools -- or assign them to local police departments, freeing them to put police in schools." CW: thanks, Sen. Boxer, for lending credibility to the NRA. ...

... Free David Gregory. For those of you who are deeply concerned that Greggers will wind up behind bars, Josh Voorhees of Slate has the latest on David Gregory's troubles over waving a gun magazine prop in front of the NRA's Wayne LaPierre. CW: Note how the conversation has shifted from LaPierre's crazy ideas to Gregory's run-in with the law & Barbara Boxer's crazy ideas. Don't say the right doesn't still know how to drive the conversation into the ditch. ...

... CW: we should be talking instead about posts like this one from Matt Gertz of Media Matters: "During that interview, LaPierre said that a major flaw in the background check system is that states have failed to input mental health records, allowing people who have mental health issues that would prohibit them from buying a firearm to nonetheless pass a background check. But moments later, he expressed opposition to extending the background check system to all gun sales, maintaining a loophole that would allow the mentally ill to continue to obtain firearms."

James Broder of the New York Times: "Lisa P. Jackson is stepping down as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency after a four-year tenure that began with high hopes of sweeping action to address climate change and other environmental ills but ended with a series of rear-guard actions to defend the agency against challenges from industry, Republicans in Congress and, at times, the Obama White House.... Ms. Jackson's departure comes as many in the environmental movement are questioning Mr. Obama's commitment to dealing with climate change and other environmental problems." ...

... Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post reviews Jackson's tenure at EPA.

Garrett Epps of the Atlantic: "... Common Cause v. Biden, was a constitutional challenge to Senate rules allowing a minority of senators to prevent a vote, or even a debate, on any measure they disagree with. Only a 'cloture' vote of 60 senators can move a filibustered measure forward.... U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ... slapped [it] down.... [The] lawsuit ... would have offered the Senate's majority an easy way out of its agonizing dilemma." ...

... AND Jonathan Bernstein really wants you to know that "Cloture votes do not equal filibusters."

Paul Krugman looks at the long-term prospects for economic growth & says -- stay tuned. He's thinking about it. Krugman's column -- titled "Is Growth Over?" conforms to my headline thesis: if the headline is written in the form of a question, don't expect a meaningful answer.

Mark Arsenault of the Boston Globe: "US Representative Edward Markey, dean of the state's Washington delegation, will run in 2013 for the US Senate seat expected to open with the nomination of US Senator John Kerry to head the State Department. Markey, 66, a Malden Democrat elected to the House in 1976, is the first prominent candidate to declare a run for Kerry's seat, which will be filled through a special election early next summer, probably in June." ...

... David Bernstein, writing before Markey's announcement, prognosticated on how the Senate election will go down. So far, so good.

LeAnne Gendreau of NBC Connecticut: "The FBI has arrested a woman, [Nouel Alba of the Bronx,] who was the subject of a Today Show story about alleged scams exploiting the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Last week, NBC's Jeff Rossen reported that Alba posted a solicitation on Facebook within hours of the shooting, identifying herself as an aunt of Noah Pozner, a 6-year-old victim. Later ... she asked for funds to pay for the funeral, Rossen reported."

Local News

Ignore the Voters. Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press: "Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a new emergency manager law that will take effect in the spring for financially troubled local governments and school districts, his spokeswoman said today.Approval by the Legislature of the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act during the recent lame duck session was controversial because voters on Nov. 6 repealed the former emergency manager law, Public Act 4 of 2011. The new law continues one of the most controversial provisions of PA 4 -- the ability for emergency managers appointed by the state to amend or scrap collective bargaining agreements." ...

... "An Affront to Michigan Women." New York Times Editors: "Despite clear public support for women's reproductive rights, Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature used the just-ended lame-duck session to ram through harmful measures eliminating insurance coverage of abortions and imposing medically unnecessary regulations on providers of safe and legal abortion care." The editors urge Gov. Rick Snyder to veto the anti-women bills. Good luck with that.

News Ledes

AP: Dawn Nguyen, "a 24-year-old woman, was arrested Friday and charged in connection with the Christmas Eve ambush slaying of two volunteer firefighters responding to a house fire in upstate New York.... The state charge is connected to the purchase of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun that William Spengler had with him Monday when firefighters Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were gunned down."

New York Times: "Jean S. Harris, the private-school headmistress whose 1981 trial for the murder of a prominent Scarsdale, N.Y., physician galvanized a nation mulling feminist perspectives with its story of vengeance by an aging woman scorned, died on Sunday at an assisted-living facility in New Haven. She was 89."

AP: "As a the muted ends of a powerful winter storm that has killed more than a dozen people plodded through the Northeast, many in Arkansas were seeking warmth and shelter against the cold prospect of life without electricity into the new year."

AP: Russian "President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children, part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators. Although some top Russian officials including the foreign minister openly opposed the bill and Putin himself had been noncommittal about it last week, he signed it less than 24 hours after receiving it from Parliament, where both houses passed it overwhelmingly."

Reuters: "Russia urged the Syrian government on Friday to act on its stated readiness for dialogue with its opponents, throwing its weight behind a diplomatic push to end a 21-month-old conflict in Syria."

AP: "North Korea has repaired flood damage at its nuclear test facility and could conduct a quick atomic explosion if it chose, though water streaming out of a test tunnel may cause problems, analysis of recent satellite photos indicates. Washington and others are bracing for the possibility that if punished for a successful long-range rocket launch on Dec. 12 that the U.N. considers a cover for a banned ballistic missile test, North Korea's next step might be its third nuclear test."

New York Times: "The Chinese government issued new rules on Friday requiring Internet users to provide their real names to service providers, while assigning Internet companies greater responsibility for deleting forbidden postings and reporting them to the authorities."

Worse than Bibi. Reuters: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is set to win a parliamentary election on January 22 although the popularity of a far-right party opposed to Palestinian statehood is growing, polls showed on Friday. Two out of three surveys showed the right-wing Likud losing voters to political newcomer Naftali Bennett's religious party Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home)and to a fractured center-left bloc."