Sharon LaFraniere, et al., of the New York Times: "As the Obama administration's weekend deadline for a smoothly functioning online marketplace for health insurance arrives, more than a month of frantic repair work is paying off with fewer crashes and error messages and speedier loading of pages, according to government officials, groups that help people enroll and experts involved in the project. But specialists said weeks of additional work lie ahead, including a major reconfiguration of the computer hardware, if the $630 million site, Healthcare.gov, is to accommodate the expected flood of people seeking to buy health insurance." ...
... Juliet Eilperin & Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "Administration officials are preparing to announce Sunday that they have met their Saturday deadline for improving HealthCare.gov, according to government officials, in part by expanding the site's capacity so that it can handle 50,000 users at once. But they have yet to meet all their internal goals for repairing the federal health-care site, and it will not become clear how many consumers it can accommodate until more people try to use it."
Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: A November 1 ruling by the D.C. circuit, comparing "contraception to 'a grave moral wrong' and sid[ing] with businesses that refused to provide it in health care coverage" was the straw that broke the donkey's back & caused Senate Democrats to revise the filibuster. "All the more glaring, Democrats believed, was that they had allowed confirmation of the conservative judges now ruling in the abortion cases. Republicans were blocking any more appointments to the court of appeals in Washington, which issued the contraception decision."
The final tipping point was this month, when the minority launched a campaign to block President Obama from appointing anyone, regardless of experience and character, to three vacancies on the D.C. circuit court, This constituted an attack on the balance and integrity of our courts. -- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)
Herein lies the reason you vote for Democrats, even when they aren't the best candidates. -- Constant Weader
CW: AND some Democrats do have a heart. Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "On Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days on the year, a group of seven Democratic lawmakers came out in support of Wal-Mart employees who are protesting the company to improve labor standards. 'Across the country, there are countless Wal-Mart workers who are paid poverty wages, cannot get enough hours, and have erratic work schedules that make it difficult to survive,' said the statement, issued by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.)." ...
... Allison Kilkenny of the Nation: "Walmart employees and supporters protested in cities all across the country on Black Friday in opposition to Walmart's low wages and poor treatment of workers. In some cases, protesters volunteered to engage in acts of civil disobedience and were arrested by police." ...
... Walton Abbey. Sadhbh Walshe in the Guardian: "Whatever it is that we find so charming about ["Downton Abbey"]..., we should try to keep in mind that the rampant inequality it celebrates is not something we should be hankering after. America has its own real-life upstairs/downstairs thing going on at the moment, best embodied by the Walton clan, who own the lion's share of Walmart Stores, Inc." CW: Actually, I think the series makes pretty clear that no matter how stuffy Lord Grantham & Lady Mary are, the "rampant inequality" is coming to an end & a number of the characters, even among the swells, celebrate that. More on WalMart below.
Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "Key senior administration officials have advocated splitting the leadership of the nation's largest spy agency from that of the military's cyberwarfare command.... At a White House meeting of senior national security officials last week, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said he was in favor of ending the current policy of having one official in charge of both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.... Also, officials appear inclined to install a civilian as director of the NSA for the first time in the agency's 61-year history."
Unfriendly Skies. Peter Baker & Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "On the same day that China scrambled fighter jets to enforce its newly declared air defense zone, the Obama administration decided to advise American commercial airlines to comply with China's demands to be notified in advance of flights through the area."
Christopher Drew & Danielle Ivory of the New York Times: "A scandal involving the Navy's ship supply network, until now focused on the Pacific Fleet, has spread to another contractor working for Navy ships in the waters off the Middle East, Africa and South America. The Justice Department is looking into allegations that the company, Inchcape Shipping Services, with the help of subcontractors, overcharged the Navy by millions of dollars.... Inchcape, which is owned by the government of Dubai, was suspended this week from winning new federal contracts...."
Kevin Liptak of CNN: "President Obama paid a visit Friday to a group of activists who have been fasting for weeks in the hopes of pressuring Congress to pass new immigration laws. The President and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, visited the group on the National Mall to lend support for the cause." With video.
MEANWHILE, Josh Romney, a son of the First Runner-up in the 2012 Presidential Beauty Content makes sure everybody knows he's a hero. There could be a President Romney yet, people. Lucy McCalmont reports.
Abby Phillip of ABC News: "The first family might choose to stay in Washington, D.C., after President Obama leaves office in 2016, the president and first lady Michelle Obama told ABC News' Barbara Walters in an interview. By then, their eldest daughter Malia will be in college, and their youngest daughter Sasha will still be in high school as a sophomore. 'So we've gotta -- you know we gotta make sure that she's doing well ... until she goes off to college,' the president said. 'Sasha will have a big say in where we are.'"
Jonathan Zimmerman argues in the Washington Post against the presidential term limit.
Michelle, Malia & Sasha Obama accept the White House Christimas tree:
... Americans Go to WalMart to Honor the Baby Jesus
Jay Hart of Yahoo! News: "By midnight [Friday morning], #WalmartFights was trending on Twitter. Attached were pictures and videos and Vines of all sorts of violence and chaos and other nonsense. None of this is a surprise. It was expected, which is why police were at the ready at your local Walmart." ...
... Lacy Donohue of Gawker: "According to a Walmart press release, Thanksgiving was a day of record-breaking sales, sales that were 'bigger, better, faster, cheaper and safer than ever.'." Safer, huh? Let's examine the video evidence":
... A WalMart Theologian. CW: No doubt the woman who calls fellow-shoppers "motherfuckers" was thinking of the Virgin Mary & the Trinity. The Gawker piece has more videos of Thanksgiving Day fights. ...
... Sometimes deadly weapons are involved. In a Virginia WalMart parking lot, one man brandishes a rifle & his adversary cuts him to the bone with a knife. The men were fighting over a parking space. Police arrested them both, who of course also missed their chance to battle it out inside the store over big-ass teevees. This is why Christians believe in heaven, where there are no WalMarts & no parking lots so no assholes threatening to kill you over a parking space. Because Jesus gives everybody a big-ass teevee. Or so I hear. ...
... The gun-knife incident reminded contributor James S. of this:
Right Wing World *
Jeb Bush Joins the VaticanGate Truthers. Lucy McCalmont (apparently the only Politico reporter working this weekend): Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush claims President Obama closed the U.S.'s embassy to the Vatican. Bush is "hopeful" the move -- which didn't occur -- isn't "retaliation for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare." The embassy didn't close; it just moved to another site for security & cost-savings reasons. CW: Even rumors of Obama administration actions are evidence of sinister motives. Besides, I'm pretty sure the reason Obama shut down the U.S. embassy to the Vatican is that he's a Muslim. ...
... Daily Caller: Leading Roman Catholic wingnuts are furious:
It's not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it's also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See. -- former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, Bill Clinton's ambassador to the Vatican & an alleged Democrat (Flynn endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2000 & Republican Scott Brown for Senator in 2010)
"Revisionaries." Mariah Blake of the Washington Monthly: Crusading right-wing Christian fundamentalists continue to exert undue influence over the nation's textbooks. Besides the usual creationist, anti-climate change nonsense, their agenda includes aggrandizing Ronald Reagan, "rehabilitat[ing] Joseph McCarthy, bring[ing] global-warming denial into science class, and downplay[ing] the contributions of the civil rights movement," airbrushing out George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the New Deal, & of course Martin Luther King, Jr., & Thurgood Marshall.
Travis Gettys of the Raw Story: "A birther preacher is pushing the conspiracy theory that Miriam Carey, who was shot to death Oct. 3 after police said she tried to ram her car into a barrier outside the White House, was the mother of President Barack Obama's illegitimate child. Rev. James David Manning, pastor of Atlah World Missionary Church who believes the president was born in Kenya, claims that Carey's family has called for a paternity test to determine whether the woman's 15-month-old daughter was fathered by the president." CW: As I have said before, there is a rational explanation for even events that on their face seem irrational. Thanks to the Rev. Manning for making sense of Carey's seemingly bizarre actions. I predict Donald Trump will launch an all-out effort to prove Manning's thesis, an effort that will end only when President Obama says, "I did not have sex with that woman."
* Where even the "moderates" are crazy, Reagan was a deity & Obama is responsible for everything bad.
Guardian: "The United States has moved to end the tense standoff with Afghan president Hamid Karzai over his refusal to sign a security pact between the two countries by formally apologising for a US drone strike in Helmand province that killed a toddler and injured two women. The apology was delivered in a phone call to Karzai late on Thursday by marine General Joseph Dunford, the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan." ...
... Washington Post Update: "After its longest war in history, the United States is suddenly contemplating having to dismantle the bulk of its counterterrorism infrastructure in the region [of Afghanistan] and abandon Afghanistan's fledgling security forces. A wholesale withdrawal would also shut down the foreign-aid pipeline that keeps the Afghan state afloat and sharply limit any enduring U.S. diplomatic presence."
New York Times: "North Korea accused an elderly American veteran of war crimes, and released a video Saturday of him confessing to 'hostile acts' during the Korean War and while he was a tourist there last month. The veteran, Merrill Newman, 85, of Palo Alto, Calif., who has been held since Oct. 26, appeared on the video dressed in a blue American-style shirt and wearing rimless spectacles as he read excerpts from the apology from several sheets of white paper."
AFP: "EU leaders slammed Russia on Friday for meddling in its affairs after Ukraine rejected a landmark accord with the European Union designed to draw the ex-Soviet state into the Western fold. The snub by Ukraine highlighted a worsening EU-Russia tug-of-war over former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe."
Reuters: "Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Friday he would call a new confidence vote in parliament to confirm his government's majority after the withdrawal of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party from the ruling coalition."
AFP: "China and India are among countries that have dodged US sanctions by cutting back on Iranian crude, Washington said Friday as it pledged to 'aggressively' enforce such punitive measures despite a recent nuclear deal with Tehran."