The Ledes

Friday, April 18, 2014.

Washington Post: "An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest early Friday morning, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three others missing, officials said, in what is now said to be the single deadliest disaster to hit the world’s highest peak.”

The New York Times outlines some of the shocking errors made after the Korean ferry began to list. ...

     ... UPDATE: "Prosecutors in South Korea on Friday sought to arrest the captain, third mate and another crew member of a ferry on charges of deserting their vessel and passengers after it capsized and leaving more than 270 people missing, many of them high school students on a trip to a resort island. Prosecutors asked the court to issue arrest warrants for Captain Lee Jun-seok, 69, and the 26-year-old third mate, who they said was steering the ship at the time of accident.... The vice principal, Kang Min-kyu, 52, of Danwon High School, who survived the ferry accident on Wednesday, was found hanging from a tree on a hill near a gymnasium where families of the missing had gathered. The police suspected Mr. Kang had hanged himself."


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/10/3772409/fbi-rescues-kidnapped-wake-forest.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, April 17, 2014.

New York Times: "Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emphasized on Thursday that the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament had authorized him to use military force if necessary in eastern Ukraine, and also stressed Russia’s historical claim to the territory, repeatedly referring to it as 'new Russia' and saying that only 'God knows' why it became part of Ukraine....Mr. Putin’s remarks on eastern Ukraine came as officials from Russia, the United States, Europe and the new government in Kiev were meeting in Geneva for four-way negotiations aimed at resolving the political crisis." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Russia may invade southeast Ukraine to protect the local population, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday." ...

... Washington Post: "President Vladimir Putin, who repeatedly denied Russian troops had entered Crimea before the March referendum there, changed his version of those events Thursday, telling the nation that they had indeed been there all along. But the green-uniformed men observed in eastern Ukraine right now, storming buildings and raising the Russian flag, are not Russian, he said. 'Those are local residents,' he said." ...

... AP: "Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. The carrot-stick strategy emerged as diplomats from Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and Russia prepared to meet Thursday for the first time over the burgeoning crisis that threatens to roil the new government in Kiev." ...

... Guardian: "Asked if he was expecting any progress, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, simply shrugged." ...

... Reuters is liveblogging of the Ukraine crisis.

... New York Times: "Ukrainian security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in a firefight overnight in the eastern city of Mariupol, the interim Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday. The clash was the most lethal so far in the east of the country." ...

... AP: "NATO is strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border immediately in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the alliance's chief said Wednesday."

Washington Post: "A Canadian cyber crime unit has arrested and charged a 19-year-old Ontario man for allegedly hacking into the country's tax agency using the Heartbleed Internet security bug."

Washington Post: "About 24 hours after [a South Korean] passenger ferry with more than 450 aboard began to slowly sink off South Korea’s southwestern coast, at least nine are dead and 287 others, many of them teenagers, are unaccounted for. South Korean news media put the number rescued at between 164 and 179, most of whom were brought ashore to the island of Jindo, where they were wrapped in warm towels or treated for minor injuries." ...

... Guardian: "The parents of hundreds of children missing after Wednesday's ferry accident off the coast of South Korea have accused the captain of the vessel of abandoning passengers after it emerged that he and six other crew members were among the first to leave the ship after it started to sink." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Angry relatives of passengers aboard a sunken South Korean ferry criticized the government’s response Thursday as the ship’s captain made an emotional apology for fleeing the vessel before hundreds of others had a chance to get out." ...

White House Live Video
April 18

1:00 pm ET: Jay Carney 's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: President Obama presents the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the US Naval Academy football team

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

 

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

Washington Post: "Stephen Colbert and his writing staff were in fighting form Monday night, after a controversy stemming from an out-of-context tweet had hashtag activists calling for his head." ...

... This is kinda must-see TV:

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Thursday
Apr102014

The Commentariat -- April 11, 2014

Tom Hamburger & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is stepping down, according to an Obama administration official, ending about a five-year-long run in her job. President Obama intends to nominate Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as her replacement, the official said Thursday." The New York Times story, by Michael Shear, is here. ...

... Shear profiles Burwell here. ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast: "Burwell's nomination signals a shift in the position of HHS Secretary in the Obama administration to more of a bureaucratic, managerial one. The current OMB head is a Robert Rubin protégée who is firmly ensconced in the economic policy establishment of the Democratic Party. After working in the Clinton administration, she worked in nonprofits, first for the Gates Foundation and then running the Walmart Foundation before being nominated to lead OMB in March 2013." ...

... Edward-Isaac Dovere & Carrie Brown of Politico: Senate Republicans are looking forward to attacking ObamaCare during Burrell's upcoming confirmation hearings. "The good news for the White House is that they'll be rid of a Cabinet secretary who was disappointing internally and externally, who managed to make the already extremely difficult job of revamping the nation's health care system much, much harder. The not-so-good news, White House aides know, is that the confirmation could open the administration to a new inquisition, records requests -- maybe even subpoenas. House Republicans, though they don't get a vote on confirmations, may try to get in on the action too." ...

... Jonathan Cohn: "Sebelius brought two main assets to her job. She had experience regulating insurers and, as a successful Democrat in Kansas, she knew how to work with Republicans. But what Obamacare needed more was a deft, aggressive manager. Case in point: By all accounts, Sebelius did not grasp the severity of tech problems at healthcare.gov until the day it went live and crashed.... The memories of Obamacare's difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I'm not sure that really matters." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... Jonathan Gruber, one of the principal architects of health reform -- and normally a very mild-mannered guy — recently summed it up: The Medicaid-rejection states 'are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.' Indeed. And while supposed Obamacare horror stories keep on turning out to be false, it's already quite easy to find examples of people who died because their states refused to expand Medicaid. According to one recent study, the death toll from Medicaid rejection is likely to run between 7,000 and 17,000 Americans each year.... There's an extraordinary ugliness of spirit abroad in today's America, which health reform has brought out into the open. And that revelation, not reform itself -- which is going pretty well -- is the real Obamacare nightmare."

Darius Tahir in the New Republic: "Even if transparency about physician billing may not cure the disease of rising health care costs, it can be part of the treatment."

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama on Thursday paid tribute to the Civil Rights Act a half century after its passage transformed American society and ultimately paved the way for the day when the United States might have an African-American man serve in the Oval Office":

... Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "On Friday, [President] Obama was to address Al Sharpton's National Action Network conference in New York where, the White House says, the president will take issue with Republican measures in some states that make it more difficult for Americans to vote."

** Elizabeth Dias of Time interviews Jimmy Carter.

Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "The Treasury Department said on Thursday that the federal budget deficit for the first half of the 2014 fiscal year totaled $413 billion, down $187 billion from where it stood at this point last year, as tax revenue surged and spending sank." CW: Somewhere Pete Peterson is sobbing uncontrollably. Erskine Bowles & Alan Simpson have torn out their hair. See illustration.

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Despite all the 'we already paid for it' rhetoric popular among seniors, seniors did not pre-pay for their entitlements. If anything, they paid for their parents' entitlements, which were more modest than the benefits today's retirees receive. So who's making up the difference between what seniors paid yesterday and what they receive today? Millennials..., as well as Gen-Xers and both groups' children. And absent a major influx of working-age immigrants, the burden per worker stands to grow enormously in the coming years." Rampell argues that these payments should be reduced because "Money for other worthy, traditionally liberal causes -- education, infrastructure, children, the deeply poor — is being gobbled up by increasingly expensive and unfunded promises to the old." ...

... CW: Rampell's analysis, while it may be accurate, misses the larger point: if the majority of Americans received adequate pay, their contributions to senior (and other) social safety net programs would be significantly larger. The problem isn't that seniors are, as that kindly old gentleman Alan Simpson put it, moochers sucking "a milk cow with 310 million tits." Rather, the problem is that average Americans don't earn enough to pay for their own retirement benefits. The aggreived Very Serious People are never very serious about what actually ails our economy.

Monica Potts of the American Prospect: "Added up over a year, the 23-cent pay-gap [between men & women's hourly wages] means women lose $11,000. They never make it up, and it just accumulates over their lives."

David Nir of Daily Kos: "Well, well, well. After a surprisingly quiet 15 months, Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine has decided to make a stink.... Now King is saying, much as he did throughout 2012 when he was running for the Senate, that he might caucus with the GOP come 2015.... Principled Angus King is not. But he also doesn't seem to understand how far to the left of the Republican Party he is.... King would be extremely out of place among the Republicans, and for that reason, he's probably full of bluster about this whole caucus switching nonsense."

Lucy McCalmont of Politico: Pretend Democrat "Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday strongly defended the Koch brothers from attacks by fellow Democrats, saying the wealthy and politically active businessmen are taxpaying Americans who are creating jobs." CW: I keep getting Manchin mixed up with Texas genius Rick Perry.

Tim Alberta of the National Journal: "Several dozen frustrated House conservatives are scheming to infiltrate the GOP leadership next year -- possibly by forcing Speaker John Boehner to step aside immediately after November's midterm elections.... Boehner isn't the only target. The conservatives find fault with the entire leadership team.... [Majority Leader Eric] Cantor, next in line for speaker and once considered a shoo-in to succeed Boehner, has found himself in conservatives' crosshairs in recent weeks."

Ken Ritter of the AP: "Hillary Clinton ducked a thrown shoe, expressed surprise, cracked a couple of jokes that drew applause and continued her keynote speech on stage in front of a Las Vegas convention audience. Moments later, still in the stage spotlight, the former secretary of state reflected calmly on what she called 'an atmosphere and attitude in politics' that she said rewards inflexibility and extremism.... Meanwhile, a woman was taken into federal custody after admitting she threw the shoe. She didn't say why she did it."

... CW: Here's the part of Ritter's story that gets me: "Brian Spellacy, U.S. Secret Service supervisory special agent in Las Vegas..., and Mark Carpenter, spokesman for the recycling institute, said the woman wasn't a credentialed convention member and wasn't supposed to have been in the ballroom."As a former first lady, Hillary Clinton is entitled to Secret Service protection. So how the hell does the Secret Service allow a non-credential convention member into the room? The number of fuckups we've seen from the Secret Service really concerns me. ...

... Frank Rich on Clinton sex scandals. Rich claims, credibly, that they'll help Hillary. The serious sleeze is the Clinton fundraising machine.

When it comes to American women over all, what we've seen over the past five and a half years is less income and more poverty. That's the story Senate Democrats don't want to talk about. -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

What does McConnell think the [Paycheck Fairness A]ct was for, if not to improve the economic lives of women? -- Monica Potts

Apparently Republicans no longer feel any need whatsoever to make sense. -- Constant Weader

... Politics Is Evah So Distasteful. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post is very upset that Democrats are "demagoguing" Republicans' blocking of the Paycheck Fairness Act. She's all for the act, she says & for equal pay & all, but she doesn't think Democrats should use it as a political tool. Right.

Tim Egan: The Heartland is dying. There are ways to fix it but little political will to do so.

Building on a Northwestern study (the overview linked here yesterday), Jamelle Bouie observes that the U.S. could become Mississippi. "The racial polarization of the 2012 election -- where the large majority of whites voted for Republicans, while the overwhelming majority of minorities voted for Democrats -- could continue for decades.... To accomplish anything -- to the meet the challenges of our present and future -- we'll need a measure of civic solidarity, a common belief that we're all Americans, with legitimate claims on the bounty of the country."

** Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) & Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in a Washington Post op-ed: "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted 11 to 3 last Thursday to declassify and make public the executive summary and the findings and conclusions of its report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. Those documents have been sent to the president for declassification.... We have confidence that [the public] will conclude, as we have, that this program was a mistake that must never be repeated."

Adam Goldman & Julie Tate of the Washington Post: "The FBI's transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been well documented. Less widely known has been the bureau's role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world. With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan."

... Brett Grubb of the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald: "The German software developer who introduced a security flaw into an encryption protocol used by millions of websites globally says he did not insert it deliberately as some have suggested. In what appears to be his first comments to the media since the bug was uncovered, Robin Seggelmann said how the bug made its way into live code could 'be explained pretty easily'." ...

... Nicole Perlroth & Quentin Hardy of the New York Times: "When the Heartbleed bug was disclosed on Monday, the attention focused on the fallout for major Internet companies.... But security experts said the potential for harm could extend much further, to the guts of the Internet and the many devices that connect to it. By Thursday, some of the companies that make those devices began revealing whether they had been affected." ...

... Contributor MAG recommends KrebsonSecurity to keep up-to-date with the Heartbleed bug. Krebs' latest post, as of 7 am ET today, "Heartbleed Bug: What can you do?"

Senate Race

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "... On Thursday night, after a yearlong buildup made even longer by a few minutes of amiable chitchat, in which he noted that both of his daughters are getting married this summer, [Scott] Brown, once a Republican senator from Massachusetts, formally declared his candidacy for his old job, just from a different state. 'Starting today, I am a candidate for the United States Senate for the state of New Hampshire,' he told a crowd of 200 people at a hotel ballroom [in Portsmouth, New Hampshire]."

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Brown will embark Friday on what his campaign has dubbed the 'Obamacare Isn't Working' tour a day after he officially launched his campaign with an address emphasizing his opposition to the law and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's support for it." ...

... CW: BUT What About This? Judge Jonathan Baird in the Concord Monitor (April 6): "The passage of legislation expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income citizens in New Hampshire is a historic accomplishment. Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the bill on March 27, and the program becomes available for most people on July 1. Medicaid expansion will cover 50,000 poor residents who previously had no health insurance coverage.... Since the New Hampshire Senate is controlled by Republicans, getting the majority in the Senate to support the Medicaid expansion was no easy task.... The Medicaid expansion will inject hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds into New Hampshire's economy. It will allow low wage workers to spend money on other critical needs like housing, food and utilities. This should be a direct benefit for local businesses."

News Ledes

Washington Post: " The Obama administration said Friday that it would block Iran's nominee as ambassador to the United Nations from entering the United States, setting up a new confrontation with Tehran just as relations with the Islamic republic appeared to be improving."

Guardian: "Australia is confident that search teams have located the missing Malaysian plane's black box to 'within some kilometres', the prime minister, Tony Abbott, said on Friday. But the head of the Australian team co-ordinating efforts to find MH370 stressed that there had been 'no major breakthrough' in a statement released minutes later."

Wednesday
Apr092014

The Commentariat -- April 10, 2014

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s long-awaited revisions to the Justice Department's racial profiling rules would allow the F.B.I. to continue many, if not all, of the tactics opposed by civil rights groups, such as mapping ethnic populations and using that data to recruit informants and open investigations. The new rules, which are in draft form, expand the definition of prohibited profiling to include not just race, but religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation. And they increase the standards that agents must meet before considering those factors."

Tal Kopan of Politico: "Attorney General Eric Holder strayed from prepared remarks to slam the way he was 'treated' by a House committee the day before, calling it evidence of 'ugly and divisive' civil rights challenges facing him and President Barack Obama. Speaking to the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network at its annual convention in New York on Wednesday, Holder talked about the state of civil rights today and brought up a House committee hearing Tuesday that grew contentious...."

     ... Holder's prepared remarks are here.

Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "A major flaw revealed this week in widely used encryption software has highlighted one of the enduring -- and terrifying — realities of the Internet: It is inherently chaotic, built by multitudes and continuously tweaked, with nobody in charge of it all. The Heartbleed bug, which security experts first publicly revealed on Monday, was a product of the online world's makeshift nature. While users see the logos of big, multibillion-dollar companies when they shop, bank and communicate over the Internet, nearly all of those companies rely on free software -- often built and maintained by volunteers -- to help make those services secure." ...

... Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times: "Like other similar bugs found recently..., the Heartbleed flaw had gone unnoticed for years. As far as researchers can tell, the problem was introduced by a programmer making a routine coding change on New Year's Eve in 2011. OpenSSL, the system in which the error was found, is an open-source program, which means that its code resides online and can be amended by anyone.... Many huge Internet companies depend on free technologies like OpenSSL to run their systems, but they don't always return resources to the small teams that create the code."

Ramsey Cox & Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill crafted by Democrats to appeal to women voters in the midterm election. Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the legislation but fell short in a 53-44 vote. Not a single Republican voted to end the dilatory debate, and Independent Angus King (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, voted with Republicans.... In a statement, President Obama blasted Republicans for blocking a 'simple yes-or-no vote' on the legislation." ...

... Fair-Weather Friend. Alexander Bolton: "Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats, will decide after the midterm elections whether to switch sides and join the Republicans. He is leaving open the possibility of aligning himself with the GOP if control of the upper chamber changes hands." ...

... New York Times Editors: "... wage injustice matters to all Americans, regardless of party, and those who stand in the way of fairness do so at their political peril." ...

... Fox "News": Low Pay = Job Stability. Olivia Marshall of Media Matters: "Fox Business host Melissa Francis attempted to justify the gender wage gap by claiming that women fared better than men during the recession because they make less money, allowing them to hold onto their jobs.... Contrary to Francis' claim..., experts noted that men tended to suffer more unemployment because the recession disproportionately affected professions with large numbers of male workers.... And industries employing mostly women grew more than those employing mostly men, according to the AP." ...

Men Hunt. Women Pee. Guys like to go fishing with other men. They like to go hunting with other men. Women like to go to the restroom with other women. -- Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor (R), Fox "News" host & sometime presidential candidate

John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "Republicans are beginning to nudge GOP Rep. Vance McAllister out of Congress. Just two days after video footage of him in a romantic encounter with a staffer became public, the state Republican chairman has tried unsuccessfully to reach McAllister by telephone to encourage him to resign, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. Meanwhile, in Washington, several top House Republican leadership officials do not believe the first-term Republican can survive this scandal." ...

... Eric Lach of TPM: "Backing off his office's earlier statements, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) has decided against asking for an FBI investigation into the leak of a video showing him kissing a female member of his staff."

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Michigan): "[Wednesday], House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) announced that the Committee, acting under its authority granted in Sec. 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, voted out a criminal referral letter to Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Eric Holder regarding actions taken by IRS employee Lois Lerner. Chairman Camp, in sending the letter on behalf of the Committee, urged Holder to take a serious review of the evidence uncovered through the Committee's investigation to determine whether Lerner violated criminal statutes." ...

... Rachel Bade of Politico: "House Republicans on Wednesday accused former IRS official Lois Lerner of breaking agency rules by aggressively urging denial of tax-exempt status to Crossroads GPS, the giant political nonprofit founded by Karl Rove. The House Ways and Means Committee released emails showing the former chief of the tax-exempt unit took a special interest in Crossroads GPS in early 2013 -- inquiring with IRS officials why they hadn't been audited. Around the same time an email suggested she might be applying for a job with a pro-President Barack Obama group, Organizing For Action, though it is unclear if she was joking."

Hilary Stout & Rachel Abrams of the New York Times: "The rising debate over whether the [recalled GM] cars pose a continuing danger reflects not only scattered episodes ... but also a growing uncertainty and impatience about the timetable for repairs and the simple fact that for all the publicity -- thousands of news reports, two federal investigations and a couple of high-profile congressional hearings -- most of the unrepaired cars are on the road." ...

... Jennifer Rankin of the Guardian: "Toyota is recalling more than 6.5m cars worldwide to fix a variety of problems, including faulty steering wheels and seats. The company said there had been no reported accidents or injuries relating to the problems identified. Some 27 Toyota models are affected, including the Corolla, RAV4, Hilux, Yaris, Tacoma, Urban Cruiser and Scion xD." ...

... CW: Great. Yesterday I traded in my Chevy van for a Toyota van. Really.

Amy Harder of the Wall Street Journal: "Nearly a dozen [that would be 11] Senate Democrats, including five up for re-election this year, are pressing President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and they say they want a decision by the end of next month."

Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "The House on Wednesday handily rejected a GOP budget alternative based on President Obama's 2015 spending blueprint. It was defeated 2-413, following a pattern seen in recent years in House votes to overwhelmingly reject Obama's budget proposals.... Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) offered a budget alternative based on Obama's budget plan as a substitute amendment to the House GOP budget. Mulvaney made this move as a way to force Democrats to go on the record about the president's spending plans."

Jonathan Easley & Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Doctors who have been charged with Medicare fraud over the last 16 months were paid $17 million of taxpayer money in 2012, according to an analysis by The Hill. A majority of the Medicare reimbursements went to Detroit-area Dr. Farid Fata, who took home more than $10 million from Medicare in 2012. Fata is accused of submitting false claims and giving chemotherapy and other cancer treatments to patients who did not need them. He is currently in jail and has pleaded not guilty to charges against him, according to reports." ...

... Frances Robles & Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "Two Florida doctors who received the nation's highest Medicare reimbursements in 2012 are both major contributors to Democratic Party causes, and they have turned to the political system in recent years to defend themselves against suspicions that they may have submitted fraudulent or excessive charges to the federal government.... Topping the list is Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, 59, an ophthalmologist from North Palm Beach, Fla., who received $21 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2012 alone.... Dr. Melgen's firm donated more than $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. The super PAC then spent $600,000 to help re-elect Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who is a close friend of Dr. Melgen's. Last year, Mr. Menendez himself became a target of investigation...."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused dangerous after-effects to more than a dozen different animals from dolphins to oysters, a report from an environmental campaign group said on Tuesday. Four years after the oil disaster, some 14 species showed symptoms of oil exposure, the report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said.... BP released a statement dismissing NWF's findings."

Michael Schmidt & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "The Russian government declined to provide the F.B.I. with information about one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects two years before the attack that would most likely have prompted more extensive scrutiny of the suspect, according to an inspector general's review of how American intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombing."

The Worst Is Yet to Come. Science Daily: "Facing the prospect of racial minority groups becoming the overall majority in the United States leads White Americans to lean more toward the conservative end of the political spectrum, according to research. The findings suggest that increased diversity in the United States could actually lead to a wider partisan divide, with more White Americans expressing support for conservative policies." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Dan Merica of CNN: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the Supreme Court's view of campaign finance at a Tuesday event, telling an audience in Portland, Oregon, that the judicial body's ruling will limit the number of people involved in the political process."

Beyond the Beltway

Christopher Baxter of the Star-Ledger: "Two figures central to the state Legislature's investigation of the George Washington Bridge lane closings do not have to turn over records related to the scandal, a state judge ruled today, handing Democrats leading the inquiry a major defeat. In a thorough dissection of the arguments made by the committee leading the investigation, state Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson found no basis to force Bridget Anne Kelly, Gov. Chris Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Stepien, his two-time campaign manager, to comply with its subpoenas.... A co-chairman of the legislative panel, John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), said in a statement it would consult with its attorney, Reid Schar, on how to proceed." CW: Jacobson is a Republican appointee.

Right Wing World

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: Apparently unaware of that big government program known in some parts as the American Civil War or that the Declaration of Independence is not the same thing as the U.S. Constitution, "Heritage Foundation head Jim DeMint ... insisted that 'no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves.' DeMint, a former US senator from South Carolina, told Newcombe that 'the conscience of the American people' and not the federal government was responsible for the end of slavery."

Fox "News" Sports

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "This would just be a typical day in the ongoing horror that is Fox & Friends..., if it weren't for the unfortunate coincidence of Saturday Night Live lampooning Fox & Friends just last weekend with a sketch that included, yes, the fake hosts confusing those exact two groups. So now we have to ask, once again, whether or not Fox News is just putting us on with this whole Fox & Friends show. Is it, in fact, an elaborate, carefully constructed satire of what news delivered by morons might look like?" Thanks to Safari for the link."

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Bill O'Reilly explains why students at UConn & Kentucky rioted after the big game: "The main driver of the destructive mind-set is grievance and entitlement. The USA is now being portrayed by powerful people as an unfair country that oppresses minorities, women, the poor and so on. That message is sinking in. Thus, disrespect is rising." O'Reilly says Democrats exploit this "grievance industry. Also at fault: Stephen Colbert: "The primary grievance right now is alleged inequality. Progressives selling the myth that folks cannot get a fair shake in America because the system is rigged against most citizens. The left-wing media legitimizes that nonsense, and one of the biggest mouthpieces for the progressive movement is Stephen Colbert." With video.

Senate Race

For some reason this Iowan independent candidate for U.S. Senate was unable to get enough signatures to run as a Democrat:

News Ledes

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The alleged kidnappers of a North Carolina man rescued late Wednesday from a southeast Atlanta apartment complex sent the victim's wife a photo of him tied up and threatened to torture and dismember him, then return him to her in six boxes, federal authorities said Thursday. An elite FBI team rescued 63-year-old Frank Arthur Janssen from the Forest Cove Apartments ... in southeast Atlanta just before midnight Wednesday, FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said in a statement. He was kidnapped from his home in Wake Forest, N.C., on Saturday." ...

... Raleigh News & Observer: "Five people have been charged with kidnapping Frank Janssen, 63, in a plot involving a North Carolina prison inmate who was prosecuted by Janssen's daughter, the investigators said."

Tuesday
Apr082014

The Commentariat -- April 9, 2014

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday signed two executive measures intended to help close longstanding pay disparities between men and women as Democrats seek to capitalize on their gender-gap advantage at the ballot box in a midterm election year":

The GOP Celebrates Equal Pay Day in Its Special Way

Greg Hilburn of the Monroe, Louisiana, News Star: "U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister’s top aide said the congressman will send a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday morning requesting an FBI investigation concerning the leak of a video from a security camera in McAllister's Monroe District Office. The video, which was publicly posted Monday, showed the married congressman sharing a passionate embrace and kiss with former staffer Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock, who also is married. Peacock has since resigned." CW: Gee, Vance, maybe the leaker isn't the person with the problem here. But, please, feel free to waste taxpayers' money finding out who caught you kissing Mrs. Santa Claus. It's the Christian thing to do, I guess. ...

... Resigned? See this follow-up piece by Hilburn: "Adam Terry, McAllister's chief of staff, said Peacock was taken off of the payroll during the past 24 hours." Oh. Fired. ...

... Chris Frates & Curt Devine of CNN: "The husband of the woman caught making out with Rep. Vance McAllister said the Louisiana Republican destroyed his life and marriage." ...

... Adam Weinstein of Gawker: "Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock, and her husband Heath were longtime family friends of McAllister's and had backed his campaign with sizable donations." ...

... ** Dana Milbank: "On the eve of ... [Equal Pay Day,] a small newspaper in Louisiana ... reported that its congressman, Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, had been videotaped making out with a low-paid staffer.... The woman, a part-timer paid less than $22,000 a year who also received $300 from McAllister to clean out his campaign office? She was terminated as the story broke.... It takes chutzpah to observe Equal Pay Day by sacking the low-wage employee you've been snogging." ...

Consider Paul Ryan's budget, which the House is debating this week. Among those functions of government the Republican congressman from Wisconsin would cut, many disproportionately benefit women, according to the National Women's Law Center.... By contrast, government payments that go disproportionately to men -- active-duty military and veterans -- are relatively untouched. The highest earners, who are disproportionately male, benefit most under Ryan's tax proposal, while those receiving low-income tax credits, often families headed by women, would fare poorly. -- Dana Milbank

... See also stories on Breitbart's depiction of Nancy Pelosi, linked below. ,,,

,,, Wait, Wait, There's More. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Most Senate Republicans are expected to unite on Wednesday to block the [Paycheck Fairness Act], which would allow workers to compare salaries without the threat of retaliation, force companies to explain pay disparities between men and women and allow those discriminated against to seek punitive damages.... The GOP seems perfectly comfortable killing the bill, risking legions of negative headlines and coordinated Democratic attacks on the GOP as a party out of touch with women."


Katie Thomas
of the New York Times: "People who signed up early for insurance through the new marketplaces were more likely to be prescribed drugs to treat pain, depression and H.I.V. and were less likely to need contraceptives, according to a new study that provides a much-anticipated look at the population that signed up for coverage under the new health care law." ...

... Reed Abelson & Sarah Cohen of the New York Times: "A tiny fraction of the 880,000 doctors and other health care providers who take Medicare accounted for nearly a quarter of the roughly $77 billion paid out to them under the federal program, receiving millions of dollars each in some cases in a single year, according to the most detailed data ever released in Medicare's nearly 50-year history." ...

... Peter Whoriskey, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Medicare program is the source of a small fortune for many U.S. doctors, according to a trove of government records that reveal unprecedented details about physician billing practices nationwide. The government insurance program for older people paid nearly 4,000 physicians in excess of $1 million each in 2012, according to the new data. Those figures do not include what the doctors billed private insurance firms." ...

     ... The Post has some interesting charts here including a facility to "find your doctor" to see if s/he is a high Medicare biller. My primary care doctor got $362K from Medicare in 2012; $122K of it went into her pocket.

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "For all the challenges still facing Obamacare and its supporters, conservative health wonks are increasingly cautioning Republicans that the politics of the issue have changed in the wake of the 7 million initial sign-ups. Simply repealing the law is no longer an option, they warn, even if Republicans gain the power to do so." ...

... Brian Beutler, now of the New Republic: The Wall Street Journal editors Tuesday attacked " GOP members who are furious about party leaders doing anything at all to facilitate implementation of the law.... The conservative position is slowly shifting from repeal and replace, to replace and repeal." ...

... Digby: "At some point [conservatives] are going to start taking some of the credit for [the ACA]. After all, it's a program that tracks closely with certain policies pushed by conservative health care wonks in the not too distant past and it was passed though an arduous negotiation between representatives of the health care industry and conservative members of congress. The conservative Supreme Court then came along and made it possible to partially gut the one major expansion of the government's commitment to serve the poor.... And, as with most heavy government lifts, the conservatives let the Democratic Party to do all their dirty work after which they came along and reaped the electoral rewards from the public's nervousness about big change. They do the same thing with 'deficit reduction.'"

Krissy Clark, in Slate, with another reminder of how you're subsidizing big business: "Walmart is likely the biggest single corporate beneficiary of SNAP, but it's not just Walmart. A growing number of stores have baked food stamp funding into their business models.... The tally of stores authorized to accept food stamps has more than doubled since the year 2000, from big-box stories like Target and Costco to 7-Elevens and dollar stores. It's a paradox that the more people are struggling to get by, the more valuable food stamps become for business." ...

     ... CW: Not a paradox maybe, but a disturbing irony. WalMart pays its employees so little they must rely on food stamps, which they use to buy food at WalMart. So, the Waltons double-dip; they make money by (a) underpaying their employees, and (b) collecting gummit money -- your money -- in food-stamp profits they "earn" directly from the underpaid employees. That's the rich robbing from the poor AND from the middle class. Neat. Thanks to Dave S. for the link.

Chief Justice Roberts continually shows a desire to downplay the significance of his rulings, and ostensible political naivete is now part of the path to get there. -- Political Scientist Richard Hasan ...

... Tom Edsall: "After the so called Sheldon primary, when four potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination went to Las Vegas over the last weekend in March to court the casino owner Sheldon Adelson, it took a heavy dose of audacity on the part of Chief Justice John Roberts to claim on April 2 that 'ingratiation and access . . . are not corruption.' Read the whole post. Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

"You Don't Want to Go There, Buddy." Eric Holder blows up at Louie Gohmert. Via Igor Bobic of TPM:

Catherine Thompson of TPM: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, "the chair of the Democratic National Committee, on Monday called a Breitbart News ad portraying House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 'disgusting' and urged Republican leaders to condemn the conservative outlet. Breitbart News launched a new vertical focused on California politics with an ad campaign that included a Miley Cyrus-referencing image of Pelosi in a nude bikini with her tongue lolling out.... 'It is a disgusting new low and would be reprehensible against any woman -- regardless of party. It's no wonder the Republicans are having problems appealing to women,'" Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sided on Monday with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over Breitbart News, requesting that his column be pulled from the news outlet's new California website."

Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "A flaw has been discovered in one of the Internet's key security methods, potentially forcing a wide swath of websites to make changes to protect the security of consumers. The problem was first discovered by a team of Finnish security experts and researchers at Google last week and disclosed on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, a number of large websites, including Yahoo, Facebook, Google, and Amazon Web Services, said they were fixing the problem or had already fixed it."

"I'm a Cat." James Barron of the New York Times on the "nine lives" of Al Sharpton.

Presidential Election

Maureen Dowd considers Jeb (not his real name) for President. "Jeb thinks Republicans have lost their way. He may soon learn that a lot of conservatives think they have found their way -- and it's not the joyful, loving, government-can-be-a-force-for-good way. It's the mean, cruel, gut-the-government way. When this crowd thinks of A Thousand Points of Light, they're thinking of torches as they march toward the Capitol."

News Ledes

Washington Post: " The pro-Russian militants who have put [Ukraine] on the brink by seizing buildings and declaring independent republics in the east appeared to be ready to soften their tactics Wednesday, and politicians saw an opportunity to promote a deal. A new regional poll showed very limited support for the building occupations, and even pro-Russian party leaders began to suggest that the agitators should call it a day."

AP: "A doctor says some victims of a multiple stabbing at a high school near Pittsburgh have suffered injuries classified as life-threatening, though all are expected to survive. Dr. Chris Kaufman says two victims were in the operating room and one was awaiting surgery at Forbes Regional Medical Center, a few miles from Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville.... The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and being questioned." ...

     ... Los Angeles Times Update: "A 16-year-old Pennsylvania student has been charged as an adult in the early morning knife attack on at least 21 people at Franklin Regional Senior High School near Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The suspect, Alex Hribal, was charged with four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and one count of bringing a weapon on school property, said his attorney, Patrick Thomassey. Hribal was being held without bail at Westmoreland County Juvenile Detention Center."

Monday
Apr072014

The Commentariat -- April 8, 2014

Ramsey Cox, et al., of the Hill: "The Senate approved a five-month extension of federal unemployment benefits on Monday in a 59-38 vote that saw six Republicans break ranks and vote in favor of the legislation. The bill now goes to the House, where Senior House Republicans have felt little pressure to act on jobless benefits. Although they won't say so directly, they are likely to ignore the Senate bill." ...

... ** Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Since the early 1990s, politicians have deliberately shifted funds away from those perceived to be the most needy and toward those perceived to be the most deserving.... Since the mid-1990s, the biggest increases in spending have gone to those who were middle class or hovering around the poverty line. Meanwhile, Americans in deep poverty ... saw no change in their benefits in the decade leading up to the housing bubble. In fact, if you strip out Medicare and Medicaid, federal social spending on those in extreme poverty fell between 1993 and 2004."

Michael Shear & Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday will call attention to what he has said is an 'embarrassment' in America: the fact that women make, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns. But ... a study released in January showed that female White House staff members make on average 88 cents for every dollar a male staff member earns.... [Press Secretary Jay Carney] said that the 88-cent statistic was misleading because it aggregates the salaries of White House staff members at all levels, including the lowest levels, where women outnumber men. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said the 77-cent statistic that Mr. Obama has often cited was misleading for the same reason, because it aggregates salaries for the American workforce." ...

     ... CW: Guess what? Boehner's guy is right. Wouldn't it be fabulous if the Times writers would tell us this rather than present an easily-verifiable statistic in their traditional he-said/he-said format?

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "The White House has defended a four-fold increase in the deportation of undocumented immigrants for minor crimes such as driving offences, insisting it is simply complying with 'administration priorities' by removing foreign law-breakers from the country." CW: Think about the logic there: We're just following our own policy, so it's okay.

Aamer Madhani of USA Today: "President Obama on Monday announced the winners of his Youth CareerConnect program, part of his long-touted goal of reshaping high schools to make sure students are properly prepared for the rigors of college and a rapidly evolving job market.

Adam Serwer of NBC News: "The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony because of her religious beliefs, which the state supreme court found violated New Mexico's anti-discrimination law. If the Supreme Court had taken the case, 'all of public accommodations anti-discrimination laws would have been up for grabs,' said Joshua Block of the American Civil Liberties Union. 'Drawing the line here is a huge victory.'"

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "The Supreme Court on Monday declined an initial challenge to the National Security Agency's (NSA) bulk collection of information about the public's telephone calls. The high court passed on a chance to review a lower court ruling that found the controversial program 'almost Orwellian,' which means the case will go through the normal appeals process as lawmakers battle over reform proposals."

I am not a crook. -- Richard Nixon

Jerry Ford pardoned Nixon, and now John Roberts has absolved him. History is written by the winners, but for a while anyway, the losers know better. -- Constant Weader ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "... according to an opinion Chief Justice John Roberts handed down last week, most of the Nixon Administration's shadiest efforts to raise campaign funds do not qualify as 'corruption.'" ...

     ... Charles Pierce: "Richard Nixon didn't hand Gordon Liddy a bag of hundreds and tell him to bug Larry O'Brien's phone so, according to the Chief Justice, there was no corruption there at all." ...

... As the Worm Turns. Constant Weader: Under his "new rules," Chief Justice Roberts also has effectively granted pardons to all of the Keating Five (Charles Keating just died), since a quid pro quo was never specified between Keating & any of the five U.S. senators. Ironically, John McCain, one of the five, was so humiliated by his complicity in the Keating scandal that he began actively supporting campaign finance reform; ergo, McCain-Feingold -- the very law that the Roberts court further eviscerated in the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling.

New York Times Editors: "... the pro-Russian secessionists who seized the local administration building in Donetsk, the center of the industrial Donets Basin, are following the script laid down in Crimea to the letter. They have declared the region's independence from Ukraine and called for a referendum by May 11 on joining Russia.... The United States and Europe have said time and again that further Russian aggression would prompt a stern and painful response. Now is the time to prepare it." ...

... Ignorance Breeds Belligerence. Kyle Dropp, et al., in the Washington Post: "We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine's actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force." CW: Maybe if somebody had given Dick Cheney a map, all would be right with the world.

The accusations are not true. Some people called it torture. It wasn't torture. If I would have to do it all over again, I would. The results speak for themselves. -- Dick Cheney, last week, defending the CIA's use of waterboarding against a Senate report's "accusations" that waterboarding is torture

I was stunned to hear that quote from Vice President Cheney. If he doesn't think that was torture, I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through, one of them a hundred and plus-odd times.... This was torture by anybody's definition. -- Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Intelligence Committee, which wrote the report

David Corn of Mother Jones: "Last week..., former Vice President Dick Cheney took a shot at Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). But Paul is not likely to be fazed by criticism from Cheney, for several years ago the Kentucky senator was pushing the conspiratorial notion that the former VP exploited the horrific 9/11 attacks to lead the nation into war in Iraq in order to benefit Halliburton, the enormous military contractor where Cheney had once been CEO."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Democrats ripped former CIA Director Michael Hayden on Monday for describing Sen. Dianne Feinstein as 'emotional,' calling Hayden's remarks both a 'baseless smear' and condescending.... Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Hayden's comments are emblematic of 'Republicans' disregard for women as displayed here in Washington.'"

Juan Cole: "Right wing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday blamed the Palestinians for the collapse of peace negotiations that began last August under the auspices of Secretary of State John Kerry." Cole lists "the top ten things Israel did to cause the negotiations to falter."

Bush conservative Michael Gerson slams ObamaCare, not necessarily for the wrong reasons, but of course he goes awry by claiming "conservatives have serious alternatives to Obamacare." He never acknowledges the elephant in the room: single-payer would solve almost all of ObamaCare's problems. One point he does make though is crucial: Americans have a right to health care, & conservatives must come to recognize that.

Steve Ohlemacher of the AP: "Rep. Dave Camp set a [Way & Means] committee vote for Wednesday on whether to refer Lois Lerner, who used to head the agency's tax-exempt division, to the Justice Department 'for possible criminal prosecution.'"

Joan Walsh of Salon takes issue with Jonathan Chait's piece on racism, linked in yesterday's Commentariat.

At the Minnesota DFL Humphrey-Mondale fundraiser, Elizabeth Warren takes on Paul Ryan & Ted Cruz:

Gosh, Another Conservative Christian/Family Values Politician Is Caught on Tape. John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman of Politico: "Freshman GOP Rep. Vance McAllister (La.) - who ran as conservative Christian - has been caught on video in a romantic encounter with a woman believed to be on his congressional staff just before Christmas. The Ouachita Citizen, a newspaper based in West Monroe, La., posted a Dec. 23 surveillance video purportedly from inside McAllister's district office in Monroe.... McAllister won the special election on Nov. 16 to replace Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.). McAllister won in the heavily Republican district by playing up his conservative credentials, including his Christian faith and his 16-year marriage. McAllister's Washington office door was locked on Monday. He issued a statement in the afternoon apologizing for the incident and asking for forgiveness." The video is here.

Beyond the Beltway

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Maryland embraced President Obama's call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour on Monday, the second state to do since Connecticut acted last month. The Maryland General Assembly voted for the pay raise on the last day of its 2014 regular session, giving Gov. Martin O'Malley a victory on his top priority this year. The governor, in his last year in office, has staked out a consistently liberal record as he weighs running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.... The governor also said he would sign a bill passed Monday that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana."

     ... CW: President Obama mentions Maryland's minimum wage effort in his speech, embedded above.

Scott Raab of Esquire: "Esquire has learned from sources close to the investigation that David Wildstein, the former Port Authority operative who helped plan and execute the Great Fort Lee Clusterfk, is now cooperating with Paul Fishman, the federal prosecutor investigating the soon-to-be-ex-governor and his minions for criminal conduct. Fishman has also increased the number of investigators at work on the case, and has begun presenting evidence and witnesses to a grand jury in Newark."

AP: "Charlotte, N.C.'s council has chosen a state senator to be the city's new mayor to replace Patrick Cannon [D], who resigned last month in a public corruption scandal. Members on Monday picked Dan Clodfelter [D] to finish the two-year term Cannon only started in December."

Jim Efstathiou Jr. of Bloomberg News: "There have been more earthquakes strong enough to be felt in Oklahoma this year than in all of 2013, overwhelming state officials who are trying to determine if the temblors are linked to oil and natural gas production.... As fracking expanded to more fields, reports have become more frequent from Texas to Ohio of earthquakes linked to wells that drillers use to pump wastewater underground." But, hey, "The number of earthquakes with suspected connections to injection wells is a small fraction of the number of wells, according to America's Natural Gas Alliance, an industry group in Washington."

... CW: Okay then. Or as Hamilton Nolan of Gawker writes, "Could blasting water into cracks in the earth with incredibly high pressure be related to an explosion of earthquakes? Who's to say? In the meantime, strap yourself in -- for energy savings!" A commenter to Nolan's post has an explanation: "Those aren't earthquakes at all. It is simply Mother Earth quivering with pleasure from getting fucked so hard by humans." ...

... Griff Witte & Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "Ever since Russian forces took hold of Crimea last month, the British prime minister [David Cameron] has been leading a chorus of conservative politicians and energy executives in a refrain they believe will spark a shale gas revolution in Europe: Frack, baby, frack." ...

... CW: Wonder how much enthusiasm for fracking there is in L'Aquila, Italy:

L'Aquila's government offices after a 2009 earthquake that destroyed the town & killed almost 300 people in the region.Smoking Gun: Al Sharpton was once an informant for the FBI & NYPD. "Beginning in the mid-1980s and spanning several years, Sharpton's cooperation was fraught with danger since the FBI's principal targets were leaders of the Genovese crime family, the country's largest and most feared Mafia outfit. In addition to aiding the FBI/NYPD task force, which was known as the 'Genovese squad,' Sharpton's cooperation extended to several other investigative agencies. TSG's account of Sharpton's secret life as 'CI-7' is based on hundreds of pages of confidential FBI affidavits"

CW: As a UW-Madison alum, I am super-proud of my old college for offering a women's studies course that included this informative handout, ca. 1988: "When You Meet a Lesbian: Hints for the Heterosexual Woman." Much of it concerns girl-on-girl etiquette (though not exactly like the advice we got from our housemother at Elizabeth Waters Hall, who was coincidentally a lesbian). For instance, Rule 1: "Do not run from the room. This is rude." I'm going to try to remember that for next time.

Congressional Races

Earmarker-in-Chief. Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "In the post-earmark era, using the party's control of the federal bureaucracy to deliver local projects or delay new regulations that might stifle jobs has become a critical part of Democratic efforts to maintain control of the Senate. In close races, particularly in less populated states such as Alaska and Montana, incumbents are hoping that a few favorable agency decisions might secure the backing of key constituencies."

Presidential Election

Presidential aspirant Ted Cruz responds to presidential heir Jeb Bush on immigration reform:

Digby, in Salon: In the "Tea Party's great dunce-off...,Ted Cruz is quietly kicking Rand Paul's butt."

Stuart Carlson.John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Whatever else you do this week, carve out half an hour to read my colleague Ryan Lizza's piece about Chris Christie and New Jersey politics. It's Robert Penn Warren meets Carl Hiaasen on the west bank of the Hudson. By the time you get to the end of it, I bet you'll find yourself asking the same question I did: How could we ever have taken this bully seriously as a Presidential candidate?"

News Ledes

New York Times: "Arthur Smith, a country musician known for the hit 'Guitar Boogie' and for 'Feuding Banjos,' a bluegrass tune that became 'Dueling Banjos' in the film 'Deliverance,' died on Thursday at his home in Charlotte, N.C. He was 93."

AFP: "US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday blamed approval of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem for derailing peace talks with Palestinians, a charge that pricked Israeli officials and sent aides into damage control." CW: Which is what Juan Cole said yesterday. See today's Commentariat.

AP: "The defense chiefs of China and the U.S. faced off Tuesday over Beijing's escalating territorial disputes in the region, with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and telling his Chinese counterparts they do not have the right to unilaterally establish an air defense zone over disputed islands, with no consultation."

Reuters: "Deputies in the Ukrainian parliament brawled in the chamber on Tuesday after a communist leader accused nationalists of playing into the hands of Russia by adopting extreme tactics early in the Ukrainian crisis." With video.