My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on the Myth of the Grand Bargain. I posted it myself as my editor is away, & couldn't figure out how to get it on the front page, so only YOU will know it's there.

... "Doonesbury" appears in Slate here.

Peterr of Firedoglake: "The Obama administration continues its caving to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, and seeks input on ways in which to continue its spelunking in the future.... HHS did not announce final rules, but put forward a 32 page proposal for comment [pdf] on religious organizations and their obligation (or lack thereof) to provide coverage for 'certain preventive services.' [allowing exemptions for religious organizations that self-insure & possibly changing the definition of "religious employers"] That 'self insurance' loophole is a huge exemption. Look for any Roman Catholic institutions that aren’t self-insured already to set themselves up that way in short order. If you wish to take HHS up on their offer to listen to comments on this proposal, page 3 of the pdf has four ways to submit your thoughts." ...

   ... CW: Peterr claims in his post that Georgetown U., which Sandra Fluke attends, will be exempted from providing students with contraceptive coverage. However, according to a Washington Post story I linked yesterday, because the Georgetown "policy is not a self-insured plan, the birth control mandate will soon apply." The New York Times report agrees, in essence, with the Post report; that is, Georgetown students will be covered. Peterr is right about this much, tho: if a religiously-affiliated institution is not self-insuring now, it is likely to do so to get out of having to provide contraceptive coverage.

New York Times Editors: "... homeowners are still bearing the brunt of the mortgage debacle. Taxpayers are still supporting too-big-to-fail banks. And banks are still not being held accountable."

Former Reagan budget director David Stockman & New York Times financial reporter Gretchen Morgenson talk to Bill Moyers about the crony capitalism that controls Washington. Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link:

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times reports on some of the blog entries of Karilyn Bales, wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers last week. "Though much of the family’s online presence appears to have been removed in recent days, the fragments that remain capture the daily travails typical of any family with a loved one stationed abroad." ...

... Jennifer Preston of the Times has more. ...

... Elisabeth Bumiller of the Times looks at the issue of high stress for troops deployed numerous times.

CW: Here's something I knew absolutely zero about. Nicholas Kristof writes that Backpage.com, "the premier Web site for human trafficking in the United States, according to the National Association of Attorneys General..., is owned by Village Voice Media, which also owns the estimable Village Voice newspaper. the Village Voice.... The Brooklyn district attorney’s office says that the great majority of the sex trafficking cases it prosecutes involve girls marketed on Backpage."

How Not to Attract Tourists. Pilot Mark Vanhoenacker  in a New York Times op-ed: "... a 2006 survey by the U.S. Travel Association ... found that foreign travelers were more afraid of United States immigration officials than of terrorism or crime. They rated America’s borders by far the least welcoming in the world. Two-thirds feared being detained for 'minor mistakes or misstatements.'”

Right Wing World

** Rick Perlstein in Rolling Stone: conservatives have always been crazy.

Charles Babington of the AP: "The millions of dollars spent by Mitt Romney's allies on TV ads attacking his two main rivals have helped Romney pull ahead in the GOP presidential race.... Republican insiders say Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are fuming over the hard-hitting 30-second spots that sent them tumbling after they gained early leads in Iowa, Florida, Michigan and other states.... Campaign veterans say Santorum and Gingrich feel the commercials were pointedly unfair, and that's a big reason they keep fighting...."

Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times: Mitt "Romney's beginning to look a bit like a Republican version of Dukakis: a Massachusetts governor who might win the nomination by outlasting weak opponents but who may never quite win his party's heart — or the nation's. That's partly because, as Dukakis did, Romney is selling himself as a better manager for the federal government, not as the leader of a grand crusade." ...

... If Governor Romney thinks that he is the CEO of America and can run and manage the economy, he doesn’t understand what conservatives believe in. We don’t want someone in Washington, D.C. to manage the economy. We want someone who can get Washington out of our lives. -- Rick Santorum, on CNN's "State of the Nation" today

CW: Kasie Hunt & Rachel Zoll of the AP are "puzzled" that Roman Catholic Republicans are not lining up behind Rick Santorum. Maybe it's because of this: "Less than one-quarter of Catholics attend Mass weekly. Most use artificial contraception, support gay civil unions or marriage, and hold other views contrary to church teaching." Not to mention this: "Less than half of the Catholic Republicans surveyed knew Santorum's faith, the survey showed, while 11 percent of Catholic Republicans and 35 percent of white evangelical Republicans thought Santorum was an evangelical."

Fore! Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "In an article that would appear to be a poorly-executed parody of Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz’s (R) right-wing beliefs it Cruz had not posted it on his own website, the Tea Party stalwart touts a truly ridiculous conspiracy theory about George Soros secretly partnering with the United Nations to come into our cities and eliminate our right to play golf." Apparently Cruz is a viable candidate & could soon become the Honorable Senator Cruz.

News Ledes

ABC News: "President Obama opened up a 30-minute documentary on childhood bullying for Cartoon Network this evening, continuing awareness initiatives he set into motion last year."

New York Times: "Mitt Romney was the winner of the Republican presidential primary Sunday in Puerto Rico.... Mr. Romney was defeating Mr. Santorum by a wide margin in the United States territory, which has 20 delegates, with The Associated Press saying Mr. Romney was likely to take all of them."

New York Times: "Scores of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested on Saturday night as police officers swept Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan and closed it. Dozens of demonstrators sat down and locked arms as officers moved in about 11:30 p.m. The protesters chanted 'we are not afraid' as the police began pulling people from the crowd, one by one, and leading them out of the park in handcuffs." Reuters story here.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Crowds and chaos rattled Missouri's GOP caucuses on Saturday, threatening to put further scrutiny on a process that was already a national anomaly.... Participants in Saturday's caucuses weren't actually selecting their choice for presidential nominee. They were selecting delegates who will appear at two larger meetings in April and June, who will in turn select delegates to the national convention in Tampa."

AP: "Puerto Rico's residents cannot vote in general elections, but are set to award 20 delegates in their Sunday Republican primary."

Reuters: "Motorcycle-riding gunmen linked to al Qaeda shot and killed an American teacher in the Yemeni city of Taiz on Sunday, and Yemeni officials said government forces killed up to 14 militants in clashes and artillery attacks on their strongholds. The attacks underscore the challenges facing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who took office last month after a year of massive protests against his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh."

Reuters: "A car bomb hit Syria's second city Aleppo on Sunday, a day after blasts killed 27 in Damascus, and security forces arrested and beat activists at a rare anti-government protest in the centre of the capital."

Reuters: "Germans resoundingly elected Joachim Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor and human rights activist from communist East Germany, as president of the European Union's largest country on Sunday, posing a potential political headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel."

Reuters: "A group of 22 Chinese authors have filed a claim against U.S. technology group Apple (APPL.O), alleging its App Store sells unlicenced copies of their books, Chinese state media reported on Sunday. The group, the Writers Rights Alliance, petitioned Apple last year to stop electronic distribution of the writers' books and had earlier persuaded Baidu (BIDU.O), China's largest search engine, to stop publishing their material on its Baidu Library product."

Blah Blah. Chicago Tribune: Romney & Santorum diss each other & the President ahead of the Illinois primary.