The Ledes

Monday, May 30, 2016.

USA Today: "Six people died and at least two others were missing Sunday after heavy rains in Texas and Kansas caused severe flooding. In one case near Austin, which received nine inches of rain this week, a vehicle with two people was swept off a flooded roadway. Threats of floods prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of prisoners near Houston, and inmates in another prison on Saturday fought with correctional officers after flooding caused a power outage." -- CW 

AP: "Mexican police have rescued kidnapped soccer player Alan Pulido, who appeared with a bandaged hand at a brief press conference Monday to declare that he was fine. Police and other officials said Pulido, a 25-year-old forward with Greek soccer club Olympiakos, was freed in a security operation Sunday shortly before midnight in the northeast border state of Tamaulipas. Pulido had been seized by gunmen as he left a party Saturday night." -- CW 

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, May 29, 2016.

New York Times: "Jane Fawcett, who was a reluctant London debutante when she went to work at Bletchley Park, the home of British code-breaking during World War II, and was credited with identifying a message that led to a great Allied naval success, the sinking of the battleship Bismarck, died on May 21 at her home in Oxford, England. She was 95." -- CW 

New York Times: Hedy "Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who spoke widely about the persecution of the Jews in Germany, and who spent most of her adult life working for a broad range of social justice movements, died on Thursday at her home in St. Louis. She was 91.” Epstein made international headlines when she was arrested in St. Louis in 2014 for protesting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's actions in the aftermath of the Michael Brown police killing case. -- CW 

Washington Post: "Cassandra Q. Butts, who was President Obama’s classmate at Harvard Law School and a longtime member of the president’s inner circle who advised him throughout his political career and served as a deputy White House counsel, died May 25 at her home in Washington. She was 50." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (May 22): "An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." -- CW

Washington Post: "After an epic duel of word masters, an 11-year-old Texan and a 13-year-old New Yorker tied Thursday night [May 26] in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the third year in a row two victors shared the championship trophy."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

... Washington Post: The White House goes Scandinavian for a state dinner for the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

New York Times: "Morley Safer, the longest-serving correspondent on '60 Minutes' who was known as much for his hard-hitting reporting as the quirky stories he covered, will formally retire this week after a career in broadcast news that lasted more than 50 years, CBS said on Wednesday. Mr. Safer, 84, served on '60 Minutes' for all but two of its 48 seasons. He started scaling back his appearances on the show after he turned 80; his last segment, a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, aired in March.... An hourlong program on Sunday, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” will, among other highlights, recall an investigation by Mr. Safer that resulted in the freedom of Lenell Geter, a black man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Texas. In an appearance on the special, Mr. Geter credited Mr. Safer with saving his life."

U.K. Telegraph: "A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth....In hundreds of years of scholarship, no other scientist had ever found such a correlation.... Studying 22 different constellations, [William Gadoury] found that they matched the location of 117 Mayan cities scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. When he applied his theory to a 23rd constellation, he found that two of the stars already had cities linked to them but that the third star was unmatched. William took to Google Maps and projected that there must be another city hidden deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Canadian Space Agency agreed to train its satellite telescopes on the spot and returned with striking pictures: what appears to be an ancient Mayan pyramid and dozens of smaller structures around it."

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

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-- Constant Weader

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Friday
Nov222013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 23, 2013

The President's Weekly Address:

Lena Sun & Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "... several states running their own online exchanges are reporting a rapid increase in the number of people signing up for coverage, a trend officials say is encouraging for President Obama's health-care law. By mid-November, the 14 state-based marketplaces reported data showing enrollment has nearly doubled from last month, jumping to about 150,000 from 79,000, according to state and federal statistics. The nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, which has been tracking the data, called the most recent numbers 'a November enrollment surge.'" ...

... Robert Pear & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The Obama administration said Friday that it would give people eight more days, until Dec. 23, to sign up for health insurance coverage that takes effect on Jan. 1 under the new health care law." ...

... Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama's healthcare law ... now depends more than ever on insurance companies, doctor groups and hospitals -- major forces in the industry that are committed to the law's success despite persistent tensions with the White House.... Since 2010, they have invested billions of dollars to overhaul their businesses, design new insurance plans and physician practices and develop better ways to monitor quality and control costs.... Healthcare industry officials generally view several GOP proposals, such as limiting coverage for the poor and scuttling new insurance marketplaces created by the law, as more damaging than helpful to the nation's healthcare system." (Emphasis added.) ...

... Dorothy Wickenden of the New Yorker speaks with John Cassidy, Rick Herzberg & Ryan Lizza discuss the state of ObamaCare:

... The Making of a Clusterfuck. Eric Lipton, et al., of the New York Times: "Interviews with current and former Obama administration officials and specialists involved in the project, as well as a review of hundreds of pages of government and contractor documents, offer new details into how tensions between the government and its contractors, questionable decisions and weak leadership within the Medicare agency turned the rollout of the president's signature program into a major humiliation. The online exchange was crippled, people involved with building it said in recent interviews, because of a huge gap between the administration's grand hopes and the practicalities of building a website that could function on opening day. Vital components were never secured, including sufficient access to a data center to prevent the website from crashing. A backup system that could go live if it did crash was not created, a weakness the administration has never disclosed. And the architecture of the system that interacts with the data center where information is stored is so poorly configured that it must be redesigned, a process that experts said typically takes months. An initial assessment identified more than 600 hardware and software defects -- 'the longest list anybody had ever seen,' one person involved with the project said." ...

... CruzCare, the Ted Cruz Healthcare Reform Plan:

... Viva Vermont! Salvatore Aversa of Occupy Democrats: "The ACA provided states with federal funds to institute a Medicaid expansion.... Vermont decided to take it a step further by setting up their very own single payer system.... The program will be fully operational by 2017, and will be funded through Medicare, Medicaid, federal money for the ACA given to Vermont, and a slight increase in taxes. In exchange, there will be no more premiums, deductibles, copay's, hospital bills or anything else aimed at making insurance companies a profit. Further, all hospitals and healthcare providers will now be nonprofit." Thanks to contributor Julie L. for the link. ...

... CW: Also, thanks to all the contributors who helped me understand the way hospitals and insurance carriers, including Medicare, "calculate" the costs of the medical care.

Bullies, Left and Right, Are Kicking Sand in the Face of the Turtle:

     ... Matthew Boyle of Breitbart: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on a conference call organized by Karl Rove's Crossroads organization for large donors and their advisers on Oct. 30 that the Tea Party movement, in his view, is a 'nothing but a bunch of bullies' that he plans to 'punch ... in the nose.'" ...

I think what we really need is an anti-bullying ordinance in the Senate. Now we've got a big bully. Harry Reid says he's just going to break the rules and make new rules. It's never been done this way before. -- Sen. Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.)

We thought he said if you like the Senate rules, you can keep them. But instead ... they just broke the Senate rules in order to exercise the power grab. -- Mitch McConnell

James Risen of the New York Times & Laura Poitras: "Officials at the National Security Agency ... pledged last year to push to expand its surveillance powers, according to a top secret strategy document. In a February 2012 paper laying out the four-year strategy for the N.S.A.'s signals intelligence operations, which include the agency's eavesdropping and communications data collection around the world, agency officials set an objective to 'aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age.' Written as an agency mission statement with broad goals, the five-page document said that existing American laws were not adequate to meet the needs of the N.S.A. to conduct broad surveillance.... The strategy document [was] provided by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden...."

For the editors at the Wall Street Journal, the Founders wrote the Constitution to cater to Republicans. Hamilton Nolan of Gawker checks the record.

Gubernatorial Race

What I don't understand is how Gov. [Rick] Scott [RTP-Fla.] said for about 30 seconds that he was for more health care for the poor, for about the 1 million people that aren't getting it right now. And then, the Medicaid expansion, he didn't lift a finger to get it done. And as a result of that, those million Floridians that can't afford coverage, they're getting sicker or they're going to die. It is unconscionable to me how you can turn your back on people like that. -- Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist ...

... George Bennett of the Palm Beach (Florida) Post:Charlie "Crist, the former Republican governor who's now seeking his old job as a Democrat, will attend a Palm Beach fundraiser hosted by actor George Hamilton [Friday] night. He met with reporters [Friday] afternoon at the train station near downtown [West Palm Beach], using the venue to criticize Republican Gov. Rick Scott for refusing federal money for high-speed rail in 2011. Crist, who called Scott 'a tea party governor,' also slammed the incumbent for failing to push for an expansion of Medicaid in the state this year after declaring his support for it."

The Assassination of President Kennedy

The Dallas Morning News covers the city's events memorializing the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.

The New York Times reprises its coverage of the assassination.

John Cassidy of the New Yorker can't quite let go of conspiracy theories. CW: Like any good journalist, Cassidy is not content with the who, what, when & where. He also wants to know the why. And we don't know know why Lee Oswald killed President Kennedy or why Jack Ruby killed Oswald.

Local News

The Texas Board of Bible Studies. Motoko Rich of the New York Times: "The Texas Board of Education on Friday delayed final approval of a widely used biology textbook because of concerns raised by one reviewer that it presents evolution as fact rather than theory. The monthslong textbook review process in Texas has been controversial because a number of people selected this year to evaluate publishers' submissions do not accept evolution or climate change as scientific truth. On Friday, the state board, which includes several members who hold creationist views, voted to recommend 14 textbooks in biology and environmental science. But its approval of 'Biology,' a highly regarded textbook by Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, and Joseph S. Levine, a science journalist, and published by Pearson Education, was contingent upon an expert panel determining whether any corrections are warranted. Until the panel rules on the alleged errors, Pearson will not be able to market its book as approved by the board to school districts in Texas."

News Lede

New York Times: "As Secretary of State John Kerry and top diplomats from five other world powers swept into Geneva this weekend for the second time in two weeks, they struggled to complete a groundbreaking agreement with Iran that would temporarily freeze Tehran's nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more comprehensive accord."

Thursday
Nov212013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 22, 2013

Nuked!

Paul Kane & William Branigin of the Washington Post: "The partisan battles that have paralyzed Washington in recent years took a historic turn Thursday, as Senate Democrats eliminated filibusters for most presidential nominations, severely curtailing the political leverage of the Republican minority in the Senate and assuring an escalation of partisan warfare. Saying that 'enough is enough,' President Obama welcomed the end of what he called the abuse of the Senate's advise and consent function, which he said had turned into 'a reckless and relentless tool' to grind the gears of government to a halt.... The vote to change the rule passed 52 to 48. Three Democrats -- Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.), Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) -- joined 45 Republicans in opposing the measure." ...

     ... The New York Times story, by Jeremy Peters, is here. ...

... Following the Senate vote, President Obama spoke to the press:

... Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "The Senate vote Thursday to lower the barriers for presidential nominations should make it easier for President Obama to accomplish key second-term priorities, including tougher measures on climate change and financial regulation, that have faced intense opposition from Republicans in Congress. The move to allow a simple majority vote on most executive and judicial nominees also sets the stage for Obama to appoint new top officials to the Federal Reserve and other key agencies -- likely leading to more aggressive action to stimulate the economy and housing market. And it frees Obama to make changes to his Cabinet without the threat of long delays in the Senate before the confirmation of nominees." ...

... Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "The decision by Senate Democrats on Thursday to change the rules for confirming judicial nominees could dramatically reshape an obscure federal appeals court that renders some of the most influential legal decisions in the country. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ... was at the center of the Senate fight after Republicans had blocked three of President Obama's nominees to the panel. Those three are now likely to be approved by a simple majority in the Senate."

... Sarah Binder in the Washington Post on what this particular "nuclear option" does & how it may play out. ...

... Ezra Klein on why the Democrats' filibuster change "is a huge deal." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "The main reason for this odd, partial clawback of the filibuster is that President Obama has no real legislative agenda that can pass Congress.... That ... means ... President Obama's second-term agenda runs not through Congress but through his own administrative agencies..... [The Republicans'] next line of defense is the D.C. Circuit, the federal court that handles regulatory cases." ...

By filibustering 10 qualified judicial nominees in only 16 months, our ... colleagues [on the other side of the aisle] have broken this unwritten rule. This is not the first time a minority of senators has upset a Senate tradition or practice and the current Senate majority intends to do what the majority in the Senate has often done: use it's constitutional authority under Article 1, section 5 to reform Senate procedure by a simple majority vote. -- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.), 2005

... Gene Robinson: "This isn't about partisan politics. It's about making what has been called 'the world's greatest deliberative body' function the way the Framers of the Constitution intended.... The Senate was designed by the Founders to move slowly, not to be paralyzed. Republican obstruction of presidential appointments makes the government less able to do the people's work -- and less reflective of the people's will. Elections are supposed to have consequences." ...

... Greg Sargent: "This is great news for many reasons, but a big one has to do with financial regulation. With Democrats on the D.C. Circuit Court, the rules in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill (both existing and ones yet to be finalized) will have a much greater chance of surviving frivolous court challenges." ...

... Steve M. with a reminder to Munch Prize hopefuls: "The template for the modern GOP is what happened in Wisconsin after the 2010 elections: a blitzkrieg of punitive, revanchist legislation using every parliamentary tool at the new GOP majority's disposal. In the U.S. Senate, that would have included the gutting of the filibuster. It's always been likely if they get total control. [The Senate Democrats move Thursday] doesn't make it any more likely." ...

... Ruthless People. Paul Waldman of the American Prospect: "Let's say that it's 2017 or 2021, and they've won the presidency and the Senate. Can anyone believe that if on this day in 2013 the Democrats decided to keep the filibuster for judicial nominations, Republicans would then do the same out of a sense of fair play? This is the party that over the last five years has filibustered literally every bill of greater consequence than renaming a post office. This is the party that got conservatives on the Supreme Court to upend the Voting Rights Act, then literally within days began passing one law after another to make it as hard as possible for minorities, students, and anyone else likely to vote Democratic to cast their ballots. This is the party that shut down the government in its endless quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is the party that sincerely believes that its opponents are attempting to destroy America, and therefore any tactics are justified in order to stop them." ...

For whatever reason, the Republicans decided to go nuclear first, with this utterly unnecessary violation of their own agreement and open decision to block the president from filling vacancies for his entire term, no matter how well qualified the nominees. It was a set of actions begging for a return nuclear response.... McConnell's threat, it seems to me, makes clear the strategy: let Dems take the first step, and we will then bear no blame when we entirely blow up the Senate's rules after we take all the reins of power. That other Republicans like Corker, McCain, Alexander, Murkowski and so on, went along, shows how much the radicals and anti-institutionalists now dominate the Republican Party. Which is sad indeed. -- Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute

... James Downie of the Washington Post: "Reid never would have used the 'nuclear option' without the lemming-like behavior of Senate Republicans. Less ideological GOP members could have voted more frequently to break cloture and force an up-or-down vote, as members of both parties have done, even as filibuster use has increased. They could have stopped the unprecedented number of filibusters of presidential nominations, given that the president has a clearly defined constitutional responsibility to appoint people. They could have stopped blocking duly passed laws. But they didn't. So Republicans decrying filibuster reform as 'dictatorial' or 'a day to be sad' or other hyperbolic claims should look in the mirror. No one forced them to turn filibusters from a rarity to an oft-used tool for nullification and unprecedented obstruction. They have only themselves to blame." ...

... John Dickerson of Slate: "The old Senate was already dead. Passing filibuster reform just made it official.... In the old Senate, the rules and customs created a culture of comity and bipartisanship. Little can be done in the Senate without unanimous consent of its members. That is one of its bedrock principles, which means each senator has tremendous power, but also has a certain amount of responsibility to keep the place humming. In return for such power, senators are supposed to follow the established norms of regular order, give extra weight to the views of veteran members, and shave off their partisan edges." ...

... Let the Confirmations Begin! OR Why Republicans Have Blocked Obama's Judicial Nominees, in one chart. Via Bill Scher of Campaign for America's Future. Thanks to James S. for the link:

... Wherein Charles Pierce predicts, "They may need the Jaws of Life to pry Ruth Marcus off the fainting couch." ...

     ... AND but hours later, our heroine swoons. CW: Who will bring the Jaws of Life? Will it be billionaire Daddy Pete Peterson? Tune in next week to see if Marcus returns to urging a balanced approach to deficit reduction & praising dotty Susan Collins. Or might Ruth's hero be newly-single swain David Brooks, the two "reasonable moderates" riding off atop Rocinante, chattering amiably & incoherently about their scatterbrained economic prescriptions? ...

     ... Update. Oh, my stahs. I believe that fellow on the fainting couch with Ruth is none other than Dana Milbank: "If Congress wasn't broken before, it certainly is now. What Reid (Nev.) and his fellow Democrats effectively did was take the chamber of Congress that still functioned at a modest level and turn it into a clone of the other chamber, which functions not at all. They turned the Senate into the House."


** CW
: If you want to know why ObamaCare isn't working very well, I heartily recommend you read this piece by Richard Kim in the Nation. Largely, it's the fault of Republican sabotage. Kim addresses, among many other things, why "navigators" in some states are either impotent or nonexistent, an issue raised in yesterday's Comments. ...

... Look Away, Dixie Land. Tim Egan: "By refusing to expand health care for the working poor through Medicaid, which is paid for by the federal government under Obamacare, most of the old Confederacy is committed to keeping millions of its own fellow citizens in poverty and poor health. They are dooming themselves, further, as the Left-Behind States. And they are doing it out of spite.... What we could see, 10 years from now, is a Mason-Dixon line of health care." P.S. Abraham Lincoln told a really, really big lie.

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "About 15 million people currently purchase health insurance on their own, using the individual market. And about 70 percent of them -- about 10.8 million people -- will qualify for the financial help buying coverage under the health-care law, according to a new study out Thursday from Families USA." ...

... Alex Wayne & Alex Nussbaum of Bloomberg News: "The Obama administration plans to push back by a month the second-year start of enrollment in its health program to give insurers more time to adjust to growing pains in the U.S. law, a move that may stave off higher premiums before the 2014 congressional elections. The enrollment period, previously scheduled to begin Oct. 15, 2014, will now start Nov. 15...." ...

... Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "At the annual meeting here of the nation's Republican governors, the ones who are eyeing presidential runs in 2016 say they oppose the health care law. But there is sharp disagreement among those who have helped carry out the law and those who remain entrenched in their opposition." CW: When Rick Perry looks at himself in the mirror each morning, he sees the face of the next POTUS. That vision/delusion is costing poor Texans their health & their lives. ...

... Zeke Miller of Time: "Contemplating a run for higher office, Ohio Gov. John Kasich rebranded President Obama's signature health care reform law as 'HillaryCare' on Wednesday at the Republican Governors Association in Scottsdale in an attempt to link the former Secretary of State to the poor roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. But the key components of the law are not dissimilar from Kasich's own 1994 healthcare proposal. The pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC American Bridge is circulating a research document listing the ways Kasich's own healthcare reform proposal is like the Affordable Care Act, branding it 'KasichCare.'" ...

... Christopher Weaver & Melinda Beck of the Wall Street Journal: "Insurers are slashing payments to medical practices in many of the plans they sell through the new health-law marketplaces -- sparking worries that Americans signing up for coverage will have fewer doctors to choose from if low fees spark an exodus from the plans." CW: If the link doesn't work, copy part of the text & paste it into the Google search box. ...

... "Doctors Fire Up the Obamacare Waambulance." Matt Yglesias of Slate: "... American doctors get paid more than doctors in any other country. Given how much of health care is financed either directly (Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, public-sector workers) or indirectly (tax subsidy for employer-provided insurance) by the federal government, it's natural to make restraining doctors' income part of any program for making health care more affordable. So when you read stories about doctors whining that Affordable Care Act exchange plans don't pay them enough, please throw up a little in your mouth and proceed to ignore the doctors' complaints." ...

... Without specifically mentioning doctors, Paul Krugman puts his finger on what the waambulance drivers are complaining about: "Real Entitlement Reform" -- in the form of ACA-mandated cost controls. ...

... Crocodile Outrage. David Firestone of the New York Times: "Nearly one in 10 people on Medicare -- 4 million people -- are dissatisfied with that program..., but you don't hear their complaints broadcast at hearings or at Republican news conferences. In 2010, long before the health reform law took effect, 20 percent of people on employer-based insurance expressed dissatisfaction with their plans, as did a third of people on the individual market. They complained about high deductibles and constrained networks of doctors and hospitals, just as many of them will under the new system. And they complained about cancelled policies. Republicans never cared about those concerns before the Affordable Care Act came around, and they don't really care now, even though they're doing a great job of feigning outrage." ...

... After encountering glitches on the Washington, D.C. exchange Website, Speaker John Boehner signs up for ObamaCare. Boehner's post is here. ...

... Of course he got help. John Tozzi of Bloomberg News: "Among the perks: face-to-face help enrolling in the District of Columbia's health exchange and customer service lines from insurers dedicated to congressional staff." ...

... Jonathan Allen & Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they'll pay under Obamacare, and they're scrambling to find a cure.... Under the Affordable Care Act, and federal regulations, many congressional staffers -- designated as 'official' aides -- were forced to move out of the old heavily subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits program and into the District of Columbia's health insurance marketplace exchange.... Age is one of the few factors insurers can use to adjust prices under Obamacare -- and older people will often pay much more than younger people." ...

     ... CW: Although it would be reasonable to assume that some of these older staffers are among the highest-paid aides, staffers' salaries are pretty low, and some staffers may have to maintain residences in both D.C. (where housing prices are high) & their home states.

From the "House Republican Playbook." Genuine facsimile. See also yesterday's Commentariat.... Humor Break for Football Fans. Jonathan Chait: "The diagram [above], meant to instill confidence in the House GOP's tactical acumen, actually implies that it is run by idiots.... A number of serious problems present themselves." Chait elaborates. Eric Cantor spokesman concedes.

Expand Social Security. Paul Krugman: "... we're looking at a looming retirement crisis, with tens of millions of Americans facing a sharp decline in living standards at the end of their working lives. For many, the only thing protecting them from abject penury will be Social Security.... So there's a strong case for expanding, not contracting, Social Security. Yes, this would ... require additional taxes -- a suggestion that will horrify the fiscal scolds, who have been insisting that if we raise taxes at all, the proceeds must go to deficit reduction, not to making our lives better. But the fiscal scolds have been wrong about everything, and it's time to start thinking outside their box."

Dylan Byers of Politico: "President Obama held an off-the-record meeting with MSNBC hosts and liberal pundits on Thursday.... The participants agreed to an off-the-record classification for the meeting, though sources familiar with President Obama's remarks said that [Juan] Williams later appeared on Fox News and cited some of the president's remarks, which he attributed to administration officials." CW News Flash: Juan Williams is not a liberal, even if he has written some pro-ACA opinion pieces recently. ...

... CW: Ron Fournier of the National Journal is a dick, but I think some of the points he makes about the White House's control of the President's image are well-taken. I don't have any problem with the White House limiting access to other members of the First Family, although when Mrs. Obama is out policking, she should be fair game. (Snaps of her walking the dog on the White House lawn, before breakfast, are paparazzi-tacky.)

Robert Dallek in the New York Times: "Compared with other recent presidents whose stumbles and failures have assaulted the national self-esteem, memories of Kennedy continue to give the country faith that its better days are ahead. That's been reason enough to discount his limitations and remain enamored of his presidential performance."

GOP Criminals* in the News

Robert Gehrke of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Proclaiming his innocence and taking shots at a House investigation, Utah Attorney General John Swallow [R] announced Thursday that he would resign as the state's top cop effective Dec. 3 at 12:01 a.m. Swallow said he made the decision to step down with his wife, Suzanne, this past weekend, believing they could not weather the financial and personal toll of multiple investigations, including one from the Utah House.... Swallow's departure allows him to avoid any effort by the lieutenant governor's special counsel to seek his removal for multiple violations of election laws. It also could bring to a close a months-long fact-finding investigation by the Utah House that could be laying the groundwork for his potential impeachment. The lieutenant governor is expected to issue a report -- originally expected for release Thursday, but now likely to be postponed -- that will find that Swallow failed to report numerous business interests and income on his candidate-financial-disclosure forms.... Criminal penalties remain a possibility. Two county prosecutors -- with help from the FBI -- are continuing to investigate Swallow, his Republican predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, and others." ...

... Eric Lach of TPM has more on the allegations against Swallow.

Fort Myers, Florida, News-Press: "WINK News (Fort Myers) is reporting that [Rep.] Trey Radel [RTP-Fla.] has arrived at Hazelden in Naples, an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center." Radel pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to misdemeanor charges of cocaine possession. CW: Ah, but there's good news for Radel. He has government-sponsored health insurance, so he can afford excellent mental-health treatment! ...

* Alleged & admitted.

Local News

Exorcizo te, omnis spiritus immunde, in nomine Dei Patris omnipotentis, et in noimine Jesu Christi Filii ejus, Domini et Judicis nostri, et in virtute Spiritus Sancti, ut descedas ab hoc plasmate Dei, quod Dominus noster ad templum sanctum suum vocare dignatus est, ut fiat templum Dei vivi, et Spiritus Sanctus habitet in eo. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum, qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos, et saeculum per ignem. -- Bishop Thomas Paprocki, "exorcising" whomever for "the sin of same-sex marriage" ...

... Lauren Leone-Cross of the Springfield, Illinois State Journal-Register: "The head of Springfield's Catholic Diocese presided in front of several hundred people Wednesday night at the city's largest Catholic church to perform what he described as an 'exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage.' Bishop Thomas Paprocki's ritual at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception began about half an hour after Gov. Pat Quinn in Chicago signed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act into law, making Illinois the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage." Paprocki said god made him do it. Via Driftglass.

News Lede

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry planned to fly to Geneva on Friday to join the talks on imposing a temporary freeze on Iran's nuclear program, a sign that the negotiations are edging close to an agreement."

Wednesday
Nov202013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 21, 2013

CW: I will be away most of the day, & will update when I can.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Janet L. Yellen took a giant step on Thursday toward becoming the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve Board when the Senate Banking Committee sent her nomination to the full Senate with a 14-8 vote.... Three Republican senators -- Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma -- voting in favor of her nomination. One Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, voted against her. "

White House: "President Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors":

Jonathan Capehart: "The GOP is out to destroy the country." CW: Capehart admits his headline is over the top, but I'd say it is also on the mark.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, is poised to move forward on Thursday with a vote on what is known on Capitol Hill as the 'nuclear option,' several Democrats said. Mr. Reid and the senators who have been the most vocal on stopping the Republican blockade of White House nominees are now confident they have the votes to make the change." ...

     ... ** UPDATE: "Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, set in motion on Thursday a series of procedural steps that, if followed through, would eliminate the use of the filibuster against nominees to cabinet posts and the federal judiciary, a change that would mark the most fundamental shift in the way the Senate functions in more than a generation.... Senate Democrats moved toward a vote late Thursday morning." The Washington Post story, by Paul Kane, is here. ...

... Jamelle Bouie in the Daily Beast on the Senate filibuster: "Yes, there's value in being able to block right-wing nominees and legislation. At the same time, a GOP president also has the right to staff government as he sees fit, to say nothing of the fact that the filibuster has been a historic burden for liberals, not an advantage. And honestly, if Republicans win the Senate, I have a hard time believing they won't end the filibuster as a matter of course, regardless of what Democrats do. Better for Reid to do this now, while there's still something to gain, than to wait for the other side." ...

... Gail Collins on the Senate filibuster: "Change the rules."

Kelly Kennedy of USA Today: "Buoyed by a report showing that health care spending has risen by the lowest rate ever recorded, White House officials said Wednesday a continuation of the trend could lead to more jobs and lower-than-expected costs. Reduced health care costs for employers could lead to 200,000 to 400,000 new jobs per year by the second half of the decade, said Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.... The Affordable Care Act is, in part, responsible for the lower costs, Furman and other health experts agree, while Republicans say the declining rate of increases comes purely because of the slowed economy An economy hobbled by the recession and the economic crisis in 2008 played a role in some of the reduced spending growth, Furman said, but the report cited 'structural change' caused, in part, by the law." ...

     ... Steve Benen: "It looks like the law's many detractors will have to cross another complaint off their list.... It's the sort of thing Republicans should be pretty happy about -- which generally means they'll ignore the news and/or issue a press release declaring the opposite, assuming no one will know the difference." ...

... Sandhya Somashekhar & Ariana Cha of the Washington Post: "As Americans have begun shopping for health plans on the insurance exchanges, they are discovering that insurers are restricting their choice of doctors and hospitals in order to keep costs low, and that many of the plans exclude top-rated hospitals.... A number of the nation's top hospitals -- including the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and children's hospitals in Seattle, Houston and St. Louis -- are cut out of most plans sold on the exchange.... A number of the nation's top hospitals -- including the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and children's hospitals in Seattle, Houston and St. Louis -- are cut out of most plans sold on the exchange." ...

... Sarah Bosely of the Guardian: "Secret conversations are taking place in Florida between healthcare stakeholders and the legislature that will most likely lead to the Republican-controlled state accepting Medicaid expansion money, according to senior figures in the health industry."

... Jonathan Kaminsky of Reuters: "Oregon, a state that fully embraced the Affordable Care Act, is enduring one of the rockiest rollouts of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, with an inoperative online exchange that has yet to enroll a single subscriber, requiring thousands to apply on paper instead.... Nearly 25,000 individuals and families have so far submitted hard-copy applications..., with nearly two-thirds of those applicants eligible for Medicaid.... But none of those applicants has actually been enrolled, with manual processing of the paperwork slowing the process dramatically." CW: That makes Healthcare.gov look pretty slick! ...

... But Not Slick Enough. Amy Goodnough of the New York Times: "Despite weeks of work by a small army of software experts to salvage HealthCare.gov, navigators in states that depend on the federal insurance exchange say they still cannot get most of their clients through the online enrollment process. Those navigators said they had seen improvements in the system since its disastrous rollout on Oct. 1, particularly in the initial steps of the application process. But the closer people come to signing up for a plan, the more the system seems to freeze or fail, many navigators said." CW: See Victoria D.'s remarks in today's Comments. ...

... Paul Krugman: "... at this point there's enough information coming in to make semi-educated guesses — and it looks to me as if this thing is probably going to stumble through to the finish line. State-run enrollments are mostly going pretty well; Medicaid expansion is going very well (and it's expanding even in states that have rejected the expansion, because more people are learning they're eligible.) And healthcare.gov, while still pretty bad, is starting to look as if it will be good enough in a few weeks for large numbers of people to sign up, either through the exchanges or directly with insurers.... Obama personally may never recover his reputation; Democratic hopes of a wave election in 2014 are probably gone, although you never know." ...

... Today's Munch Prize goes to Tom Edsall of the New York Times, who is nearly beside himself with doom and gloom. Here's but one of many bad tidings of discomfort & misery: "The increasingly complex and technical character of the health care system ... is what has turned the disastrous rollout of the HealthCare.gov portal into an ever escalating political crisis. This crisis has in turn generated a pervasive fear that the services provided under the Affordable Care Act, once they are finally in place, will themselves be subject to fatal technical glitches." One of Edsall's major points is that the ACA redistributes benefits from middle-class white people to poorer "those" people, which neither Medicare nor Social Security does.

"Cruz Care." Greg Sargent: "... the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is set to launch a new campaign designed to refocus the debate on the Republican position on health care, which Dems will widely label as 'Cruz Care.' With Ted Cruz set to roll out his own health plan -- one that will probably look like the usual grab bag of GOP reform ideas, which just aren't a reform alternative to Obamacare -- Dems plan to tar GOP Senate candidates across the country with it...." ...

... Jonathan Weisman & Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: lacking any policy agenda of their own, the GOP strategy has been to develop & hammer a series of attacks on the ACA: "The effort has its roots in a strategy developed last spring, when House Republican leaders -- plagued by party divisions that were thwarting legislative accomplishments -- refocused the House's committees on oversight rather than on the development of new policies." ...

... Woe Is Mitch. Jon Terbush of the Week: Kentucky's "exchange marketplace has been one of ObamaCare's early bright spots. And continued success, coupled with a turnaround for the law at the federal level, could make ObamaCare relatively popular there over the coming months. That would put [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.], facing challengers on both his right and left, in a tricky bind." Via Greg Sargent.

** David Dayen of Salon: The big $13 billion JPMorgan settlement is a scam!

Christopher Drew & Danielle Ivory of the New York Times: "Emails obtained by criminal investigators show that from 2009 to early 2011, several ship crews and contracting officials filed complaints about [Leonard Glenn Francis's] 'gold-plated' fees for fuel, port security and other services. In 2010, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service opened investigations into questionable charges in Thailand and Japan by his company, documents show. Despite those red flags, in June 2011, the Navy awarded Mr. Francis $200 million in contracts, giving him control over providing supplies and dockside services for its fleet across the Pacific."

NEW. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The Obama administration has ordered a government-wide reassessment of how almost 5 million Americans have been granted classified information security clearances and whether each person currently approved to see sensitive national security secrets truly has a need for such access." ...

... NEW. James Glanz of the New York Times: "The National Security Agency is authorized to spy on the citizens of America's closest allies, including Britain, even though those English-speaking countries have long had an official non-spying pact, according to a newly disclosed memorandum.... The memo, provided by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden, is labeled secret and 'NOFORN,' indicating that it may not be shared with any foreign country."

Ari Shavit of Haaretz, in the New York Times: "The Bush administration's decision to go after Iraq rather than Iran was a fatal one, and the long-term consequences are only now becoming clear, namely a devastating American failure in the battle to prevent a nuclear Iran, reflected in Washington’s willingness to sign a deeply flawed agreement."

Marisa Kendall of the Fort Myers, Florida, News-Press: "U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, will take a leave of absence after pleading guilty to a possession of cocaine charge, he said during a packed news conference Wednesday night." With video of Radel's Wednesday night news conference. CW: But really, folks, it's all about me, Trey Radel. ...

He would talk about his life, of being a traveler. He would talk about hiking, taking his backpack and hiking in Colombia. And, you know, it always led to, because of who Colombia is, it always led to drugs. We'd go to break and I'd say 'Man, I bet the coke was crazy' and he’d say, 'Oh my God, you have no idea.' -- Mike Adams, radio producer, on Rep. Trey Radel (RTP-Fla.)

... David Fahrenthold, et al., of the Washington Post: "Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday morning, admitting he had purchased the drug from an undercover officer in Dupont Circle last month.... If Radel completes probation, he won’t have a conviction on his record, according to the U.S. attorney's office.... Charging documents say he purchased cocaine in the nation's capital on several occasions." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: Although he was caught by DEA agents last month, "Radel first informed House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) of the situation Tuesday afternoon, according to a senior GOP aide familiar with the conversation. Radel had requested the meeting earlier in the day before reports of his arrest first surfaced, and the meeting occurred in Boehner's office at the U.S. Capitol shortly after the news broke, the aide said." ...

... After pleading guilty Wednesday to concaine charges in Washington, D.C., Rep. Trey Radel (RTP-Fla.) will hold a news conference in his Cape Coral office at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. Indications are that he will not resign his Congressional seat. The Fort Myers News-Press is liveblogging developments. ...

... Fort Myers, Florida, News-Press Editors: "U.S. Congressman Trey Radel, who ran on family values, must resign immediately." ...

... Dana Milbank: Radel "acted Wednesday as though the most important thing was his job, not his recovery. He plans to 'continue serving this country.' Rather than checking himself into inpatient rehab, as then-Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) did after crashing into a Capitol Police barricade in 2006, Radel opted for outpatient treatment, and his attorney made only a vague reference to his plans to undergo inpatient treatment later."

Local News

Monique Garcia of the Chicago Tribune: Illinois "Gov. Pat Quinn today signed a historic measure into law making Illinois the 16th state in the nation to allow gay marriage. The Democratic governor put pens to paper at a desk brought up from Springfield that his administration says President Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address. That speech, delivered on March 4, 1861 as the Civil War was unfolding, called on Americans to heed 'the better angels of our nature.'" CW: Maybe Quinn should have hunted down the desk of Lincoln's predecessor James Buchanan, who was gay and might have married his long-time lover had they had the benefit of today's state laws.

News Ledes

$$$. New York Times: "After spending more than a decade behind bars for the murder of a teenage girl in Greenwich, Conn., Michael C. Skakel, a cousin of the Kennedys, was ordered free from prison on Thursday to await a possible retrial."

Los Angeles Times: "The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 16,000 for the first time, a testament to investors' hope that the plodding economy can gain momentum in the coming year."

Business as Usual on the Afghan Front. Washington Post: "President Hamid Karzai told a national assembly Thursday that he supports a newly forged agreement to allow U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but then he raised new uncertainties by saying he won't sign the deal until next spring. Karzai spoke a day after U.S. officials said the accord's language had been finalized, and as an assembly of 2,500 Afghan officials began considering it."

Tuesday
Nov192013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 20, 2013

** Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is prepared to move forward with a vote that could severely limit the minority party's ability to filibuster presidential nominees, possibly as early as this week, Democratic officials said Tuesday. Exasperated with a Republican blockade of three of President Obama's nominees to an influential appeals court, Mr. Reid has been speaking individually with Democratic members to gauge the level of support for a change in filibuster rules. If he determines there is enough support, he could schedule a vote this week, an aide who has spoken with him directly said Tuesday." CW: I've already written to my Senator, Bill Nelson, who could be a fence-sitter, urging him to support filibuster reform. ...

... Greg Sargent: "Reid has concluded Senate Republicans have no plausible way of retreating from the position they've adopted in this latest Senate rules standoff, [a senior Democratic leadership] aide says. Republicans have argued that in pushing nominations, Obama is 'packing' the court, and have insisted that Obama is trying to tilt the court's ideological balance in a Democratic direction -- which is to say that the Republican objection isn't to the nominees Obama has chosen, but to the fact that he's trying to nominate anyone at all." ...

... Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "Senate Democrats who were previously opposed to changing filibuster rules via the 'nuclear option' are so fed up with GOP obstruction of the president's nominees that they now say they want to go nuclear." ...

... David Atkins of Hullabaloo: "The nation, quite frankly, doesn't have time to wait out the next two years watching Republicans obstruct absolutely everything, then sit tight as a Republican president himself gets obstructed by Democrats until 2020. The cost of inaction is far, far too high." ...

... Charles Pierce: "It's time, Harry. Really, it is.... This business with the judges has long passed over the International Fk You Line.... This is mucking around with two of the three branches of the federal government in order to work your will in the third.... It is a blatant defiance of popular sovereignty, and the Republicans have grown so comfortable with it that they're not even trying very hard these days to concoct decent lies about why they're doing it."

Clusterfuck. Robert Pear of the New York Times: Henry Chao, "the chief digital architect for the federal health insurance marketplace, said Tuesday [in a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing] that 30 percent to 40 percent of the [ACA software] project was still being built.... [HHS Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius said last month that the security of the federal website had been tested by the Mitre Corporation and that the company 'did not raise flags about going ahead' on Oct. 1. But Jason Providakes, a senior vice president at Mitre, said at the hearing on Tuesday: 'Mitre is not in charge of security for HealthCare.gov. We were not asked, nor did we perform end-to-end security testing.'" ...

... Philip Rucker & Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Tuesday sought to redirect some of the political blame for the botched rollout of the federal health insurance exchange to Republicans, characterizing GOP lawmakers as rooting for the law's failure. Addressing a gathering of business executives, Obama acknowledged that the health-care rollout 'has been rough, to say the least,' and he lamented the government's archaic information-technology procurement system." Video of the full session is here. The Wall Street Journal has a transcript here. ...

One of the problems we've had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure and -- and that makes, I think, the -- the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and fine-tuning the law more challenging. -- President Obama, at yesterday's Wall Street Journal forum

... Katie Thomas, et al., of the New York Times: "Of the 13 states that have so far said they will allow consumers to renew canceled plans, all but four are led by Republican governors and have generally been opposed to the new health care law. Of the eight that have said they will not carry out the policy, six are in Democratic-led states, many of which have actively worked to put the law into effect and have argued that allowing such an extension could undermine its success. They include New York, which announced its decision on Tuesday, and Massachusetts. Many other states, including California and New Jersey, are still weighing their options." ...

... Lena Sun of the Washington Post: "Maryland is wrestling with stubborn technological problems with its online insurance exchange, posting weak enrollment even as other states have signed up tens of thousands of consumers for plans under President Obama's new health-care law." ...

... Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald: In a "heavily-orchestrated" visit to Miami, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "'Here in Florida, there are 3.5 million uninsured and eligible Floridians who stand to benefit from full implementation of the law.' ... By not expanding Medicaid, Sebelius said, about 1.9 million Floridians will go without some form of health coverage, including '318,000 of whom are right here in the Miami area.'" ...

... The Washington Post has a state-by-state breakdown of ACA enrollees for the period October 1 to November 2. ...

... Some Are More Equal than Others. "A Gold-Plated Insurance Exchange." Robert Pear of the New York Times: "While millions of Americans have been left to fend for themselves and go through the frustrating experience of trying to navigate the federal exchange, members of Congress and their aides have all sorts of assistance to help them sort through their options and enroll." ...

... Dana Milbank: "It was all I could do to keep my knees from knocking as I stood in an alcove in the Capitol basement, listening to Republican leaders describe all the terrible things that Obamacare has produced.... The Republicans’ scary-movie strategy ... is sabotage, plain and simple -- much like the refusal by red-state governors to participate in setting up the exchanges in the first place. But those sabotaging the new law should be careful what they wish for: Instead of killing the law, they are likely to make it more expensive to taxpayers." CW: I hate to tell you, Dana, but that's what they want to do. The more costly it is, the more easily they can justify repeal. ...

... Jonathan Capehart: One reason a majority of Americans say they oppose ObamaCare -- they don't understand it, & they don't understand the insurance market. And of course Republicans have done all they can to confuse people. CW: I'd add, and so have the media. ...

     ... Thanks, Brian Williams. Excellent reporting! What? Is David Gregory writing your copy?

Today's Munch Prize goes to Sarah Dutton, et al., of CBS "News": "President Obama's job approval rating has plunged to the lowest of his presidency, according to a new CBS News poll released Wednesday, and Americans' approval of the Affordable Care Act has dropped it's lowest since CBS News started polling on the law. Thirty-seven percent now approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president, down from 46 percent in October -- a nine point drop in just a month. Mr. Obama's disapproval rating is 57 percent -- the highest level for this president in CBS News Polls." ...

... "The Party of Zilch." Ron Fournier, longstanding reliable Democrat-basher, now of the National Journal: "The Republican Party stands for nothing. As Barack Obama threatens to fumble away his presidency along with the Democratic Party's reasons for existence -- championing an active, efficient government -- the GOP lurches into the leadership breach with ... zilch."

How to Nullify Roe v. Wade. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: " The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away an emergency application asking it to block a Texas law that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The decision was effectively 5 to 4 and split along ideological lines, though only seven justices noted their votes. The effect of the ruling, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the four dissenters, was to leave 24 counties in the Rio Grande Valley without abortion clinics. 'It may,' he added, 'substantially reduce access to safe abortions elsewhere in Texas.'"

Dave Jamieson of the Huffington Post: "According to officials at the National Labor Relations Board, the agency's general counsel investigated and 'found merit' in workers' claims that Walmart 'unlawfully threatened' employees for taking part in walkouts surrounding last year's Black Friday shopping season. The agency said that Walmart intimidated, surveilled or punished workers in 14 different states, violating U.S. labor law. The agency also said that Walmart illegally threatened workers in statements made in two news broadcasts.... The general counsel's charge amounts to an allegation by a prosecutor -- not a ruling by the board. Such cases are often resolved before the board actually moves to prosecute a company." ...

... McScrooge. Adam Peck of Think Progress: "McDonald's McResource Line, a dedicated website run by the world's largest fast-food chain to provide its 1.8 million employees with financial and health-related tips, offers a full page of advice for 'Digging Out From Holiday Debt.' Among their helpful holiday tips: 'Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.' Elsewhere on the site, McDonald's encourages its employees to break apart food when they eat meals, as 'breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.' And if they are struggling to stock their shelves with food in the first place, the company offers assistance for workers applying for food stamps." ...

... Wait, Wait, Nancy. Paul Ryan is fighting for you.

... Oh, Shucks. Maybe Not. Kevin Drum on Paul Ryan's alleged anti-poverty initiative (WashPo story linked in yesterday's Commentariat) "... everything he's ever done -- everything -- boils down to a single sentence: reduce taxes on the rich and reduce spending on the poor. That's it. There's literally nothing else he's ever seriously proposed.... How is it that so many people seem so willing to pretend otherwise?" ...

Okay. Definitely Not. You cure poverty eye to eye, soul to soul. Spiritual redemption: That's what saves people. -- Paul Ryan

... Jonathan Chait: "Paul Ryan: Poor people need Jesus, not food stamps." Sorry, Nancy. Get back to your fry station. And pray.

Blow. Aaron Blake, et al., of the Washington Post: "Freshman Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) has been charged with possession of a controlled substance. According to court charging documents, on Oct. 29, Radel 'unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally possessed' a quantity of cocaine. The charges are as a result of a D.C. Superior Court Grand Jury indictment. Radel was charged Tuesday and will be arraigned Wednesday. In a statement, he said problems with alcohol led to an 'extremely irresponsible choice' and said he will seek treatment. CW: Ah, yes, the Rob Ford defense. That should work. Radel is my Congressman & a flaming winger who used to have a local Limbaugh-type radio show. I just got a letter from him today, which I promptly tossed in the recycling, without reading it. It was printed on card stock of the type Rydel might use to cut lines. ...

... Trey Has a Habit. Catalina Camia & Donna Leger of USA Today: A DEA official "said several federal agencies working as part of a task force arrested a dealer who told them one of his cocaine customers was a congressman. The dealer, working with federal agents, set up a buy on Oct. 29, and Radel ... purchased the cocaine...." ...

... John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman of Politico: "Radel has missed all four votes in the House this week." ...

... Also, one of Family Guy Trey's entrepreneurial efforts was to register sexually-charged Spanish-language Web addresses. "I, as a business guy, as an entrepreneur, have bought all sorts of domain names," Radel said. Yes, all sorts. Like "www.mamadita.com," slang for "little blow job."

Ben Protess & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "JPMorgan Chase and the Justice Department finalized a $13 billion settlement on Tuesday, punctuating a long legal battle over the risky mortgage practices that became synonymous with the financial crisis." CW: This story has been updated since I linked it Tuesday evening. ...

... ** Joe Coscarelli of New York: "It's like Rob Ford meets Florida Man meets Rep. Peter Russo from House of Cards.... This, from an interview with Roll Coll, you couldn't make up if you tried: Q: What's your favorite vacation spot outside Florida? A: Cartagena, Colombia."

President Obama's handwritten tribute to President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Senate Race

Emily Schultheis of Politico: The National Republican Senatorial Committee came under fire Tuesday for tweeting a photo that superimposed Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes's head on the body of 'Obama Girl,' the model who starred in a series of 2007 music videos about her crush on President Obama.... NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen called the tweet a mistake. 'We agree, it's extremely offensive. It was a mistake made by a junior staffer and disciplinary action has been taken,' she said." CW: Yeah, junior staffers do the darndest things. Sadly, the NRSC has absolutely no control over their sexist, tasteless antics.

Local News

Rene Stutzman & Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel: Admitted killer & acclaimed right-wing folk hero "George Zimmerman left the Seminole County jail this afternoon, the day after he was accused of pointing a gun at his girlfriend during a domestic dispute and arrested on domestic violence charges. Zimmerman's bail was set at $9,000 during today's hearing. News crews later spotted him as he walked out of the jail about 4:30 p.m.... The judge said he was setting the bond higher than normal because of the reported strangulation attempt. He also ordered Zimmerman to wear a satellite monitor, to give up and stay away from guns and ammunition and to stay away from his girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe."

Canadian News

Another typical day at the office for Toronto Mayor & prime minister hopeful Rob Ford:

News Ledes

Caroline Kennedy arrives at the Japanese Imperial Palace. AFP/Getty Image.

Bloomberg News: "Caroline Kennedy was greeted by thousands of cheering Japanese as she passed through the streets of Tokyo to present her credentials to Emperor Akihito as the U.S.'s first female ambassador to Japan. Spectators, many of them elderly, lined the streets snapping photos of Kennedy, 55, as she passed in a century-old horse-drawn carriage."

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the United States and Afghanistan had completed a bilateral security agreement that will be submitted to a grand council of elders in Kabul the next day, but he stated emphatically that there had been no discussion of an American apology to President Hamid Karzai or to his nation as part of the deal."

Washington Post: "The [Virginia] state inspector general's office has opened an investigation into why the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds was released from custody the day before he apparently stabbed his father and then shot himself to death." Three nearby hospitals said they had open beds available for Austin Deeds.

Washington Post: "Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), a freshman lawmaker from the New York City area, was attacked and robbed Tuesday evening in the Eastern Market area" of Washington, D.C.