The Wires

The Ledes

"For safety's sake, don't humiliate him."

Just this past week, Akhilleus linked (now I can't find his link) to this clip from "Young Frankenstein":

... and I found myself missing Wilder. I wondered what had happened to him. Now I know. As Gilda would say, one time in the same fatal context, "It's always something."

Monday, August 29, 2016.

New York Times: "Gene Wilder, who established himself as one of America’s foremost comic actors with his delightfully neurotic performances in three films directed by Mel Brooks; his eccentric star turn in the family classic 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'; and his winning chemistry with Richard Pryor in the box-office smash 'Stir Crazy,' died early Monday morning at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 83."

New York Times: "An Australian aid worker who was kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for four months has been released and is doing well, Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said on Monday. The aid worker, Kerry Jane Wilson, who is in her 60s and is also known as Katherine Jane, had been working in Afghanistan for about 20 years and had most recently run Zardozi, an organization that promoted the work of Afghan artisans, particularly women.... Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, said in a brief statement that its special forces had carried out a raid to free Ms. Wilson." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, unsuccessful in his bid to become Donald Trump's running mate, has reimagined himself as a celebrity, instead. He'll appear this season on "Dancing with the 'Stars,'" competing against other fabulous celebrities like Ryan Lochte, unless Lochte is unavoidably detained in a Brazilian jail. (Here's a link to Perry's veepstakes proffer. Of course Trump ultimately rejected Perry, but promised to make him head of some agency or department Perry probably can't remember.) CW: As always, we concentrate on the serious, important news because politics ain't funny.

...Washington Post: Charles Osgood, who is 83 years old, announced Sunday, August 28, that he was retiring as host of the long-running CBS show "Sunday Morning." "He will stay on through Sept. 25. Osgood has been the face of the weekly program since 1994, when he took it over from its first host, Charles Kuralt." -- CW 

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

"Giovanni della Robbia’s 'Resurrection of Christ,' made for an entrance gate to the villa of the Antinori family outside Florence." Brooklyn Museum photo. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "One of the most innovative art-as-advertising firms in late-15th- and early-16th-century Florence was the della Robbia workshop, a family concern that prospered for three long-lived generations. Its specialty was a brand of glazed terra-cotta sculpture that was physically durable, graphically strong and technologically inimitable. (The exact methods for producing it remain a mystery to this day.)... The Museum of Fine Arts [in Boston is mounting] “Della Robbia: Sculpting With Color in Renaissance Florence”..., a show of ideal size and scholarly weight that includes among 46 pieces one of the tenderest Renaissance sculptures in existence — 'The Visitation' by Luca della Robbia — on first-time American loan from its Tuscan church."

Michelle & Barack -- The Movie. Richard Brody of the New Yorker reviews “Southside with You,” "a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date." Brody calls the film "a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Requiring longer passwords, known as passphrases, usually 16 to 64 characters long, is increasingly seen as a potential escape route from our painful push toward logins that only a cryptographer could love."

The New York Times features photos of the exteriors of Bill & Hillary Clinton's residences over the years.

Brian Hickey of the Philly Voice: When Leroy Black died at age 55, he got two obituaries in the Press of Atlantic City: " In the first obit, his 'loving wife, Bearetta Harrison Black' gets top survivor billing. In the second, however, Bearetta is nowhere to be found, but 'his long-tome (sic) girlfriend, Princess Hall' appears in her place. A man answering the phone at Greenidge Funeral Homes told PhillyVoice that the obituaries were placed separately because 'the wife wanted it one way, and the girlfriend wanted it another way.'" ...

... CW: Kinda reminds me of the headstone a widow placed on her husband's grave in the Key West cemetery: "Harry, I Know Where You're Sleeping Tonight."

New York Times: "A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth. This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old."

Ian Crouch of the New Yorker: "For a few days, at least, [Stephen] Colbert abandoned the political equanimity that he’d adopted when he started his 'Late Night' job." BTW, here's Laura Benanti's segment:

Washington Post: "Benny" (for Ben Franklin), the mystery philanthropist of Salem, Oregon, has given away more than $55,000 in $100 bills, which s/he hides in odd places like "pockets of clothing, in diapers, in baby wipes and in candy." -- CW 

Jumping Jupiter! New York Times: "Ducking through intense belts of violent radiation as it skimmed over the clouds of Jupiter at 130,000 miles per hour, NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally clinched its spot on Monday in the orbit of the solar system’s largest planet. It took five years for Juno to travel this far on its $1.1 billion mission, and the moment was one that NASA scientists and space enthusiasts had eagerly — and anxiously — anticipated. At 11:53 p.m., Eastern time, a signal from the spacecraft announced the end of a 35-minute engine burn that left it in the grip of its desired orbit around Jupiter." -- CW ...

... Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post has more on the importance of the mission. CW: This, BTW, is another fine example of your government actually at work.

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The Commentariat -- Feb. 20, 2014

It's Li'l Randy's Fault. Devlin Barrett & Siobhan Gorham of the Wall Street Journal: "The government is considering enlarging the National Security Agency's controversial collection of Americans' phone records -- an unintended consequence of lawsuits seeking to stop the surveillance program, according to officials. A number of government lawyers involved in lawsuits over the NSA phone-records program believe federal-court rules on preserving evidence related to lawsuits require the agency to stop routinely destroying older phone records, according to people familiar with the discussions. As a result, the government would expand the database beyond its original intent, at least while the lawsuits are active." CW: Story is firewalled. If you can't get it via the link, cut & paste a phrase or two into a Google search box.

That Was Quick. Ellen Nakashima & Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of a plan by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to develop a national license plate tracking system after privacy advocates raised concern about the initiative. The order came just days after ICE solicited proposals from companies to compile a database of license plate information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers." CW: It seems some "rogue operators" solicited the bids; senior officials claimed they knew nothing about it. Sounds as if the ICE-capades are taking their cues from Chris Christie -- which might not be the best plan. "The fact that the solicitation was posted without knowledge of ICE leadership 'highlights a serious management problem within this DHS component that currently does not have a director nominated by the president,' Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.), the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. He added that he hoped officials would consult with the department's privacy and civil liberties officers in the future."

Charles Blow has a very good column on violence in & against the black community.

** The South Will Not Rise Again Any Time Soon. Andreas Cremer of Reuters: "Volkswagen's top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.... Undeterred by last Friday's vote, VW's works council has said it will press on with efforts to set up labor representation at Chattanooga which builds the Passat sedan. CW: So not only was Bob Corker wrong about the impact of unionizing the VW plant, his propaganda was upside-down & backwards. Thanks, lamebrained Corkerbots, you not only hurt yourselves; you hurt a good part of the country. ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos notes that "The mayor of Lansing, Michigan, has invited Volkswagen to consider locating a plant there." ...

... Charles Pierce on the VW vote: "Ultimately, it is always our fault." ...

... Aveva Shen of Think Progress: "Clothing retailer Gap, Inc. announced Wednesday that it will raise its hourly minimum wage to $10, a change that will affect 65,000 U.S. employees. GAP employees who are now earning the minimum wage will make $9.00 in June of 2014 and $10 in June of 2015. GAP, which also owns Banana Republic, Old Navy, Priperlime, Athleta, and Intermix, operates in more than 50 countries and employees 135,000 people around the world.... In a release, the company argues that increasing the minimum wage will help retain 'attract and retain great talent' and improve customers' experience." ...

... Renee Dudley of Bloomberg News: "Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the largest private employer in the U.S., said it's looking at supporting an increase in the federal minimum wage, breaking with business and industry groups that oppose such a measure. Wal-Mart is weighing the impact of additional payroll costs against possibly attracting more consumer dollars to its stores, David Tovar, a company spokesman, said today in a telephone interview." ...

     ... Never Mind. We Still Want Taxpayers to Help Feed & House Our Underpaid Employees. Emily Peck & Emily Cohn of the Huffington Post: "Walmart is denying a Bloomberg report that said the nation's largest private employer is considering supporting an increase in the minimum wage. 'We are not at all considering this,' Walmart spokesman David Tovar told The Huffington Post Wednesday afternoon, just after Bloomberg published the story.... According to Tovar, the retail giant has decided to stay neutral in the current debate over whether to raise the national minimum wage...." ...

... Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post explains why it would be good business for WalMart to back the minimum wage hike. ...

... Bryce Covert of Think Progress on "what really happens when you raise the minimum wage."

CW: If you need any more evidence that Bob Corker is a jerk, Gail Collins obliges. Although Corker says he wants to approve the U.N. treaty to protect the disabled -- which is, um, based on U.S. law -- he keeps thinking of Rick Santorum-type excuses to vote against its ratification.

Alexander Burns & Ken Vogel of Politico: "A group of major GOP donors, led by New York billionaire Paul Singer, is quietly expanding its political footprint ahead of the midterm elections in an increasingly assertive effort to shape the direction of the Republican Party."

Edward Wyatt of the New York Times: "The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will propose new rules to encourage equal access to the web, by pushing Internet providers to keep their pipelines free and open. The proposal on so-called net neutrality, to be introduced by Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the commission, will prohibit broadband companies from blocking any sites or services from consumers. It will also aim to prevent Internet service providers from charging content companies for access to a faster, express lane on the web." ...

... Steve Benen has more.

Dana Milbank: "The federal court hasn't yet acted on the NSA lawsuit filed last week by Sen. Rand Paul and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, but lawyers who should be on the same side in this case have been squabbling outside the courtroom." ...

... CW: I am pretty sure now that Li'l Randy's "real father" is Larry. The proof is in the coifs.

Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court as a political institution.

Deena Winter of Nebraska Watchdog: "A Nebraska judge has declared unconstitutional a 2012 law that gave the governor and state environmental regulators the authority to approve oil pipeline routes, throwing yet another obstacle in the path of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline."

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "... a federal lawsuit filed by seven former employees against Harris and its parent company, Premier Education Group, which owns more than two dozen trade schools and community colleges operating under several names in 10 states..., contends that while charging more than $10,000 for programs lasting less than a year, school officials routinely misled students about their career prospects, and falsified records to enroll them and keep them enrolled, so that government grant and loan dollars would keep flowing."

Beyond the Beltway

Patrick Marley, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Included in more than 27,000 pages of emails and other documents unsealed Wednesday are the closest links yet between Gov. Scott Walker and a secret email system used in his office when he was Milwaukee County executive." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... by the time Scott Walker became county executive and was looking for higher office, the pitfalls involved in letting your publicly paid staff do campaign work were extremely well known. Whether they show criminal activity by Walker or not, those thousands of emails are embarrassing, and a living warning to potential supporters of a Walker presidential run that he may not run the tightest ship." ...

     ... CW: Seems illegal to me. Walker's aides went to jail for campaigning on the job; the smoking gun in the e-mails is that Walker was aware county workers were campaigning for him on the county's dime. If it's unlawful for them to do it, it's unlawful for him to aid & abet them, especially when the effort was made to directly benefit him. ...

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed: "The deputy chief of staff to then-County Executive Scott Walker praised a racist email forwarded to her in 2010 that joked welfare recipients are 'mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who the r [sic] daddies are.' Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker's then-deputy chief of staff in 2010, wrote that the email was 'hilarious' and 'so true.' The email was sent to Rindfleisch from someone outside Walker's staff. Another email sent to Rindfleisch from Walker’s then chief of staff, Thomas Nardelli, detailed a 'nightmare,' in which a person wakes up black, gay, Jewish, and handicapped." ...

... Cameron Joseph of the Hill: "The release Wednesday of 27,000 emails from a convicted former aide and hundreds of other legal documents related to that criminal probe are raising new questions for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Democrats are seeking to use the documents to tarnish Walker's reputation, pointing to evidence they say shows Walker encouraged coordination between campaign and official staff, which could violate campaign finance laws. The goal is to damage Walker's reputation and ability to help the national party, and to tie Walker to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." CW: You don't have to be a genius to make the connection all by yourself. ...

... Melissa Hayes of the Bergen Record: "A former top official appointed to the Port Authority by Governor Christie withheld the name of a Republican state senator and ally to the governor when he first turned over materials to a legislative investigative committee. David Wildstein, who resigned from his position as director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority, blacked out a text message mentioning state Sen. Kevin O'Toole, R-Cedar Grove." ...

... Linh Tat of the Record: "The borough [of Fort Lee] has provided more than 2,200 pages of public records related to the George Washington Bridge lane closures to Governor Christie's attorney.... The borough denied three of [the attorney]'s four requests in his OPRA letter because they were too broad.... However, the borough complied with a fourth request for all documents that Fort Lee has supplied to the media since Sept. 1 regarding the same matters, according to Grant."

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "New York State has agreed to sweeping changes that will curtail the widespread use of solitary confinement to punish prison infractions...."

American Civil War, Ctd. Craig Schneider of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The state of Georgia has released a new specialty license tag that features the Confederate battle flag, inflaming civil rights advocates and renewing a debate on what images should appear on state-issued materials."

Congressional Race

"Vote for the Crook. It's Important." Lauren McGaughy of the Times-Picayune: "Former Gov. Edwin Edwards has not yet decided whether he will make a run for Louisiana's 6th District seat, contrary to a report in Bloomberg on Wednesday (Feb. 19) confirming the 86-year-old's run for Congress." Edwards, a 4-term governor of Louisiana, served 8 years of a 10-year federal sentence for corruption. He says he's the only hope for Democrats in the 6th District. Probably true, which is pretty pathetic. ...

... Ed Kilgore agrees that Edwards is the Democrats' "only hope." He notes that the district has a Cook rating of R+19.

News Ledes

New York Times: David Ranta, "who was framed by a rogue detective [Louis Scarcella] and served 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit will receive $6.4 million from the City of New York in a settlement that came before a civil rights lawsuit was even filed...."

New York Times: "Ukraine's descent into a spiral of violence accelerated on Thursday as protesters and riot police officers used firearms in a clash apparently intended to reclaim areas of Independence Square, the symbolic central plaza in the capital that had been retaken by police two days before.The fighting shattered a truce declared just hours earlier." ...

     ... Update: "Security forces fired on masses of antigovernment demonstrators in Kiev on Thursday in a drastic escalation of the three-month-old crisis that left dozens dead and Ukraine reeling from the most lethal day of violence since Soviet times."

CNN: " An 84-year-old nun was sentenced to 35 months in prison Tuesday for breaking into a nuclear facility, her lawyer said. In May, a federal jury in Knoxville, Tennessee, found Sister Megan Rice; Greg Boertje-Obed, 57; and Michael Walli, 63, guilty of destroying U.S. government property and causing more than $1,000 in damage to federal property."


The Commentariat -- Feb. 19, 2014

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would increase earnings for 16.5 million low-wage Americans but cost the nation about 500,000 jobs, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday.... The CBO warned that raising the minimum wage could also cause employers to lay off low-wage workers or hire fewer of them.... The CBO acknowledged that its calculation is an estimate and said actual job losses could range from 'very slight' to as many as 1 million positions.... In a conference call with reporters,White House chief economist Jason Furman pushed back hard against the CBO's conclusions, saying its 'estimates do not reflect the overall consensus view of economists, who have said the minimum wage would have little or no impact on employment.' ... 'Whether it's Obamacare, a minimum-wage hike or a trillion-dollar stimulus bill charged to the nation's credit card, the bottom line is the president's big-government experiment kills jobs,' said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.)." ...

... Here's an overview of the CBO report & a link to the report. ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "The Republican response to this CBO report ... relies on ignoring the many positive effects it predicts for a minimum wage increase while highlighting the major point on which it departs from economic consensus. As Council of Economic Advisers Chair Jason Furman pointed out on a White House media call, this is not, like budget estimates, a case where the CBO is the main authority in the field. We know stuff about this, because it's been widely studied, and there are other authoritative voices.... Republicans are ignoring -- or denying -- the fact that the CBO's 0.3 percent employment decrease estimate contradicts decades of economic research finding -- not predicting, but looking at cases where the minimum wage is actually raised and finding -- that employment doesn't decline in any meaningful way as a result of minimum wage increases. "

Peter Baker & Carol Davenport of the New York Times: "President Obama took another step to curb greenhouse gas pollution on Tuesday without waiting for Congress as he directed his administration to develop new regulations to reduce carbon emissions from the heavy-duty trucks that transport the nation's goods. Appearing in a grocery chain truck bay in this Washington suburb, the president said the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would draft new fuel economy standards for trucks by March 2015 so that they could be completed a year after that...":

Peter Baker & Elisabeth Malkin of the New York Times: "President Obama travels to Mexico on Wednesday for a brief but politically fraught visit aimed at forging closer trade ties with America's two closest neighbors even as his party's leaders back home have vowed to undercut his efforts.... The whirlwind visit -- he will return to Washington on Wednesday evening without staying the night -- will offer Mr. Obama a chance to reassure his counterparts about his capacity to deliver at a time when he faces significant hurdles at home. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leaders in Congress, oppose legislation giving him authority similar to that of his predecessors to negotiate trade deals." ...

... Dana Milbank: "There's probably nothing that Obama could do in these midterm elections to match the [Koch brothers]' advantage. But at least giving it a try might prove more productive than his combination of foreign jaunts and unremarkable domestic speeches...." ...

... New York Times Editors: "The best thing the I.R.S. can do is to ignore both [conservative & liberal groups] and proceed swiftly ahead [with its modest plan to crack down on tax code abuse], making its proposed rules even stronger to squeeze the influence of money out of politics.... Secret money has become the scourge of the political system and needs to be eliminated regardless of the inconvenience to nonprofit groups, whatever their ideology. Republicans have blocked Congress from dealing with the problem, so now it is up to the I.R.S. to do its job." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "Those who are worried about man-made climate change might be tempted to welcome the news that Tom Steyer, a Democratic billionaire, will spend $100 million this year to fight it.... But ... Mr. Steyer's donation ... will make plutocracy politics even worse. Big money pollutes politics whether it comes from the Koch brothers, with a hard-edged agenda against environmental or financial regulation, or from Mr. Steyer and his liberal friends. The cacophony of attack ads, with their dire warnings and scary music, prompt many people to just hit the mute button or tune out entirely. You can't fight pollution with more pollution."

Ellen Nakashima & Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.... But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "A group of Senate Republicans is meeting quietly to plot an unusual strategy: passing a top Democratic priority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to press the GOP on unemployment benefits -- forcing them to keep taking votes on a bill to extend aid to the long-term unemployed. But Republicans have rejected it twice since the program expired on Dec. 28. Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana, Rob Portman of Ohio, Dean Heller of Nevada and Susan Collins of Maine want a deal that could bring the Democratic drumbeat to an end. They gathered last week to plan how to revisit the cause when the Senate returns next week, hoping they can get Democrats to agree to their policy changes and finally move the red-hot issue off the Senate's plate."

$10.10 Is Not Enough. Teresa Tritch of the New York Times: "A higher minimum wage is needed and would help -- and for those reasons, a lift to $10.10 by 2016 is worthy of support. But the recommended amount is more a political calculation than an economic one. It is enough to embarrass Republicans for not going along, but not enough to risk alienating business constituents (with the notable exception of the notoriously low-paying restaurant industry.)"

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Although the [Obama] administration expects many [ACA] enrollees to make their own way to the government's health care website or the state exchanges, [a] door-to-door effort [based on the model of Obama's voter-turnout machines] is aimed at people without computers, email addresses or the wherewithal to show up at health fairs and other enrollment events at Kmarts or grocery stores. Officials say the labor-intensive targeting program, while frustrating, could eventually add thousands of people to the rolls of the insured."

Twists of Anti-ObamaCare Obsession. Steve Benen: Republicans are now arguing that "job-lock" -- stuck in your job because to leave or change jobs would be financially devastating -- is a good thing.

New Tricks Just Like the Old Tricks. Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Michael Corkery of the New York Times: "A growing number of homeowners trying to avert foreclosure are confronting problems on a new front as the mortgage industry undergoes a seismic shift. Shoddy paperwork, erroneous fees and wrongful evictions -- the same abuses that dogged the nation's largest banks and led to a $26 billion settlement with federal authorities in 2012 -- are now cropping up among the specialty firms that collect mortgage payments, according to dozens of foreclosure lawsuits and interviews with borrowers, federal and state regulators and housing lawyers."

Chuck Schumer, Paragon of Probity. Especially When He Gets Caught. Rachel Abrams of the New York Times: "Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, has recused himself from reviewing Comcast's agreement to buy Time Warner Cable after the revelation that his brother, the lawyer Robert Schumer, worked on the deal. Mr. Schumer, who sits on the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, praised the merger of the country's two largest cable giants in a statement on his website on Thursday. On Friday, the magazine American Lawyer named Robert Schumer of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison its 'dealmaker of the week' for his work on the transaction."

An Historian & a Newspaper Columnist Walk into a Bar.... And Maureen Dowd comes out of it with a decent column: "... just as L.B.J. will always be yoked to Vietnam and McNamara, 43 will always be yoked to his careless misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and to Cheney. W. should know: Some landscapes cannot be painted over."

Alex Seitz-Wald of the National Journal reminds us how the Tea Party & Chicken-in-Chief John Boehner saved the Democratic Party from a split as wide as the Republicans' is now.

Igor Bobic of TPM: "President Barack Obama offered a mea culpa to an art professor last week after he said that 'folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.' Speaking at a January event on manufacturing and the economy in Wisconsin, Obama quickly qualified his remark by noting that 'there's nothing wrong with history. I love art history.' Professor Ann Collins Johns at the University of Texas at Austin took the opportunity to remind the President of art history's virtues via the White House website." ...

     ... CW: I guess my presidential apology -- which would have been a response to my complaint that Obama unfairly dissed bloggers (in October 2013) -- got lost in the mail:

Survival of the Dumbest. A Lowly Newt Positively Disproves Darwinian Theory. Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "Newt Gingrich tweeted on Monday calling for Secretary of State John Kerry to resign because of Kerry's recent comments on climate change.... On Sunday, Kerry warned in a speech in Indonesia that climate change is a 'weapon of mass destruction' and is just as much of a threat as terrorism and poverty.... When Gingrich ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, he said global warming 'hasn't been totally proven.' Last month, on CNN's 'Crossfire,' which he co-hosts, Gingrich said the planet was warmer during the age of dinosaurs."

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: Ted Cruz sez marriage equality is "inconsistent with the Constitution" and "heartbreaking." Also, "they" (being judges of both parties & the Obama administration) are using "brute power" to "subvert our democratic system":

Rebecca Traister of the New Republic: "It's felt like an awfully retro week in American politics. In Texas, gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis hashed out 20-year-old details of her former marriage in a lengthy New York Times Magazine profile, while in Washington, wannabe presidential candidate Rand Paul diligently stirred a pot of about the same vintage, with comments about the 1990s marital troubles of his imagined future rival, Hillary Clinton.... [The] resurgence [of these stories] speaks not to some weird nostalgia for the '90s, but rather to a story without beginning or end: the way that women's lives are always -- have always been -- measured, weighed and judged via metrics of personal-public trade-off."

CW: See the update to my post on Joe the Plumber. To add irony to hypocrisy, it seems Joe would not if gotten his job at Chrysler but for the 2008 auto bailout, opposed by most Republicans.

Here is something I love about Paul Krugman. It is an argument I've been making for decades & one I often lost to my husband, whose writing was, well, abstruse.

Congressional Races

Matt Friedman of the Star-Ledger: "U.S. Rep. Rush Holt [D] -- a physicist who championed liberal causes but perhaps earned his greatest measure of fame by vanquishing a supercomputer in a round of 'Jeopardy!' -- said [Tuesday] he would not seek another term in November. In his surprise announcement, the 65-year-old Holt said he was leaving Congress for a 'variety of reasons, personal and professional, all of them positive and optimistic.'" CW: Too bad. Holt is one of the good ones.

Abby Livingston of Roll Call: "Former Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., apologized Tuesday for calling retiring Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod a 'bimbo' earlier in the day. Reacting to the fellow California Democrat's retirement announcement to The Hill newspaper, Baca described her as a 'bimbo' and said outside interests were again spending money in a race he is running. But in a phone call to CQ Roll Call late Tuesday afternoon, Baca, who is running for the open 31st District and struggling to raise money, backtracked." CW: Would it be all right if I called Baca a "butthead"? Yeah, I think so.

Beyond the Beltway ...

... Or, Meet Your Honorable GOP Presidential Hopefuls

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "About 27,000 emails from the computers of one of Gov. Scott Walker's former top aides will be unsealed at 9 a.m. Wednesday, opening a view into a secret investigation that resulted in six convictions. Also being unsealed are 434 pages of other documents related to the 2012 conviction of Kelly Rindfleisch, who served as Walker's deputy chief of staff when Walker was Milwaukee County executive.... Rindfleisch was charged as part of a wide-ranging John Doe investigation led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.... Chisholm closed that probe in March 2013. But seven months earlier, he opened a second John Doe investigation, looking into campaign spending and fundraising in recall elections. That second investigation is ongoing, and Rindfleisch is also caught up in that one." ...

... Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has been eyeing a 2016 presidential run since his battles with labor unions made him a Republican star, is in the midst of dealing with the fallout of two criminal investigations at home that could complicate his move to the national stage.... Even if Walker escapes the e-mail release unscathed, he faces an additional inquiry from state prosecutors, who are believed to be looking into whether his successful 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with independent conservative groups."

Melissa Hayes of the Bergen Record: Governor Christie's former campaign manager and deputy chief of staff will not provide documents to a state legislative panel investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures. Attorneys for both Bill Stepien, Christie's two-time campaign manager, and Bridget Anne Kelly, one of the governor's top aides, have told the New Jersey Select Committee on Investigation that their clients will not be turning over any documents. Tuesday was the new deadline set by the committee after it met last week and voted down party lines to compel both Stepien and Kelly to produce documents finding their constitutional arguments 'invalid' and the documents they hold 'necessary' and 'relevant' to the investigation. Both had invoked their constitutional rights against self-incrimination in declining to produce documents by Feb. 3."

All Shook Up. Bryan Walsh of Time: Something is causing a high increase in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Some say it's fracking; others say it's the method of high-pressure wastewater disposal which oil & gas drilling companies use. (The state's seismologist, not surprisingly, thinks the cause might be natural. Uh-huh.) ...

... Charles Pierce: "Once again, as it is on so many other issues, it is out in the states where environmental issues are most directly being either ignored, or actively exacerbated, largely because state governments are cheaper and easier to buy. (Here's a nice story about the lagoons of pig shit currently afflicting Iowa.) There's a straight line to be drawn from unregulated exploding fertilizer plants in Texas to the decision by West Virginia's government to turn their already poisoned state into a repository for the toxic byproduct of an entirely new form of dirty energy extraction."

Beyond the Borders

Alan Travis of the Guardian: "Three high court judges have dismissed a challenge that David Miranda, the partner of the former Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, was unlawfully detained under counter-terrorism powers for nine hours at Heathrow airport last August. The judges accepted that Miranda's detention and the seizure of computer material was 'an indirect interference with press freedom' but said this was justified by legitimate and 'very pressing' interests of national security."

Senate Race 2014

Natalie Villacorta of Politico: "Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has parted ways with Fox News, fueling further suggestion that he is seriously considering a Senate run in New Hampshire."

Presidential Race 2016

Katie Glueck of Politico: Rand Paul pulls on some cowboy boots & steps into Ted Cruz territory.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Tony Blair is the latest high-profile person to surface in the British phone-hacking trial, a high-stakes criminal prosecution of shadowy practices at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid. Mr. Blair, the former prime minister..., offered to act as an 'unofficial adviser' to Mr. Murdoch and to Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Mr. Murdoch's British newspaper empire, who is one of eight defendants in the case and is expected to give evidence for the first time on Thursday."

Washington Post: "Members of the performance-art group Pussy Riot were attacked on a public plaza Wednesday by Cossacks brandishing whips and discharging pepper spray, a day after police picked them up and held them for nearly four hours without charges."

New York Times: "Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday that 25 people had been killed after hundreds of riot police officers advanced on antigovernment demonstrators mounting a desperate act of defiance in what remained of their all-but-conquered encampment on Independence Square in Kiev.... The [U.S.] State Department issued an urgent warning late Tuesday telling American citizens in Ukraine to avoid all protests, keep a low profile and remain indoors at night while the clashes continue." ...

     ... Update: "The security authorities in Ukraine offered the first indication on Wednesday that the deadly political violence afflicting Kiev had spread far beyond the capital, announcing a crackdown on what the Interior Ministry called 'extremist groups' that had burned down buildings and seized weapons nationwide." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: " With signs of turmoil evident within his government, President Viktor Yanukovych met with opposition political leaders Wednesday evening and announced that they had reached an agreement on a truce to end the fighting that broke out Tuesday and has left 26 dead. The two sides also said they agreed to resume negotiations toward a settlement."

Contributor Julie recommends this video, published Feb. 14, on the situation in Venezuela:

Reuters: "Venezuelan security forces arrested opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on Tuesday on charges of fomenting unrest that has killed at least four people, bringing tens of thousands of angry supporters onto the streets of Caracas. Crowds of white-clad protesters stood in the way of the vehicle carrying the 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist after he made a defiant speech, said an emotional farewell to his family, and gave himself up to soldiers."

Guardian: "More than 500 Indian migrant workers have died in Qatar since January 2012, revealing for the first time the shocking scale of death toll among those building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup."


Joe the Union Guy

Updated below.

This story, by Tom Troy of the Toledo Blade, is getting some Internet buzz:

Samuel 'Joe' Wurzelbacher - a.k.a., 'Joe the Plumber' - announced today on Facebook and earlier on his Web site that he has landed a union job with Chrysler Group LLC.

Mr. Wurzelbacher, 40, of Springfield Township, who once was vilified as an 'unlicensed plumber,' said he was on his fourth day today and taking a smoke break at the time, when he was accosted by a co-worker as a 'teabagger,' a derogatory term used for Tea Party members.

In [a] long message, Mr. Wurzelbacher said, 'I was just recently hired on at Chrysler,' and explained that while he's known as a conservative, he's not an enemy of private unions. 'In order to work for Chrysler, you are required to join the Union, in this case UAW. There's no choice -- it's a union shop -- the employees voted to have it that way and in America that's the way it is,' he wrote.

Some stories, like this one by Tom Kludt of TPM, concentrate on Joe's understanding of the term "teabagger."

Others, including Joe himself, are more interested in discussing how Joe the Anti-Union Guy can justify joining a union. One of Joe's odd jobs, after all, was making speeches against "the Employee Free Choice Act, the 'card check' bill supported by labor unions and fiercely opposed by the GOP." Joe's employer for that gig: the Koch-brothers-founded astroturf group Americans for Prosperity.

Joe tries to get around his apparent hypocrisy by arguing that "'there's a big difference between private unions and pubic (sic) unions," the latter of which he still opposes," Kludt writes. (Like most conservatives, Joe appears to be obsessed with sexuality, even in his typos.) But of course, the card-check bill concerned "private" as well as public employees unions.

Nonetheless, I would not fault Joe or other like-minded people for joining unions if that's what they had to do to get work. Most of us are willing to make compromises to put food on the table.

No, what I found most curious about the Blade story was this: "Mr. Wurzelbacher has said that he learned plumbing in the Air Force."

As Troy of the Blade reminds us, Joe "became famous in 2008 because of a chance encounter on his street with then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, and has become a popular figure on the Tea Party right. Mr. Wurzelbacher and Mr. Obama engaged in a spirited debate about Mr. Obama's plans to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000, prompting Mr. Obama to say that his plan would help everyone because it would 'spread the wealth around.'

Joe hasn't forgotten this either. In his Facebook post, he writes, "Yes, I'm a Republican who was cast into the limelight for having the temerity to confront Barack Obama on the question of redistributing wealth." (Emphasis added.)

Here's the problem. Joe owes his entire career, save any gigs he got from winger organizations following his brush with Obama, to a major redistributive program -- the U.S. military. You and I paid for Joe's Air Force training, the training that led to his many years of work as an unlicensed plumber. In fact, Joe was so enamored of government jobs that he applied for one in 2012: he ran for a seat in Congress.

That's the real hypocrisy here: Joe thinks it is find and dandy for the government to teach him a trade and to employ him full-time, but he objects to government programs and policies that principally benefit others. The argument he had with Obama, of course, was silly and against Joe's own best interests: Obama planned to "redistribute the wealth" to people like Joe. But Joe, who planned to become a plumbing entrepreneur, obviously saw himself rising above his middle-class status. He was objecting to what Obama's proposals would do to him should he realize the American dream & become a well-to-do plumbing magnate. Meanwhile, you can bet Joe would have been happy to receive a Small Business Association loan & to benefit from any other small business programs federal and local governments might offer him. He would certainly have been glad, had he been able to realize his entrepreneurial dream, to accept government contracts.

Whether he is Joe the Unlicensed Plumber or Joe the Union Guy, Joe is still what is wrong with the Republican Party. It is a party of, by and for selfish people, people incapable of seeing the hypocrisy of their core political philosophies.

Update. Greg Sargent:

It appears plausible that Joe the Plumber may not have gotten this auto job if it weren't for the hated bailout of the auto industry, which was first championed by George W. Bush and then became a leading symbol for years of Obama's penchant for big-footed government intervention in the private market.

Sean McAlinden, who has studied the auto-bailout as the chief economist for the non-profit Center for Automotive Research, tells me it's likely Joe's new job is at one of two Chrysler plants currently operating in Toledo, Ohio, Joe's home town. (I've emailed Joe asking for more info.) 'He wouldn't have gotten a job in Toledo if Chrysler hadn't been bailed out,' McAlinden tells me. 'The unemployment rate in Toledo would have been at 15 percent.' ...

... As John Cole of Balloon Juice notes, in his 2012 race, Joe said he thought "the auto bailouts were an example of government overreach."


The Commentariat -- Feb. 18, 2014

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: " The White House launched a fresh effort Monday to defend the economic stimulus passed at the beginning of President Obama's tenure as Republicans sought to pillory the law enacted five years ago.... According to a report released Monday by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the stimulus saved or created an average of 1.6 million jobs a year from 2009 through 2010.... Most independent economists agree that the law, combined with the aggressive efforts of the Federal Reserve, brought the economic contraction to an end in June 2009. The most common critique of the legislation from professional economists is that it was too small to offset the dramatic economic shortfall in early 2009."

     ... The report is here (pdf). ...

... Mike Grunwald of Time: "The White House, of course, is not an objective source ... but its estimates are in line with work by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and a variety of private-sector analysts. The real long-term danger is that the Recovery Act became so unpopular so quickly that future politicians might shy away from stimulus packages. Europe quickly embraced austerity, which is one reason the unemployment rate in the euro zone is almost twice as high as ours. Historically, recoveries in the U.S. have been much stronger and faster, and from much less damaging financial crises. This time it hasn't been as strong as it should have been, partly because of austerity fever among Republicans, stimulus discomfort among Democrats, and deep budget cuts at the state and local level. The political pendulum has swung back toward austerity, producing the 'sequester' and other anti-stimulus." ...

     ... CW: In other words, everything actually is the Republicans' fault. ...

... Still Stupid after All These Years. George Zornick of the Nation, in the Washington Post: "Republican animus toward the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, popularly known as the stimulus, hasn't decreased over time. Today marks five years since President Obama signed the legislation into law, and Republicans from Marco Rubio to John Cornyn are using the anniversary to bash not only the bill but also the very idea of government spending. It's important to knock down these conservative claims about the stimulus, which haven't gotten any more factually accurate over time.... Most of the spending measures in the stimulus bill have expired, but the point is that it did what it was supposed to do. For Republicans to simply say 'the economy is still bad, so the stimulus was a failure' is a cheap misdirection."

Do-Nothing Congress Vows to Do Nothing. Russell Berman of the Hill: "House Republican leaders, having dispensed with the debt limit and put immigration reform on the back burner, will return to their political comfort zone with a legislative agenda focused on attacking the Obama administration and government excess." ...

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "After a tumultuous week of party infighting and leadership stumbles, congressional Republicans are focused on calming their divided ranks in the months ahead, mostly by touting proposals that have wide backing within the GOP and shelving any big-ticket legislation for the rest of the year. Comprehensive immigration reform, tax reform, tweaks to the federal health-care law -- bipartisan deals on each are probably dead in the water for the rest of this Congress." ...

... Steve Benen: "Three weeks after President Obama presented a fairly ambitious agenda to Congress in a State of the Union address, the GOP House majority fully expects to get nothing done between now and November." Their "inspiring message: 'Vote GOP 2014: We only shut down the government once, not twice.'" As Benen points out, it isn't that Republicans can't govern; it's that they won't. When Houses leaders claim they can't get 218 votes on anything, what they really mean is that they can't get 218 Republican votes. There's a way, but there's no will.

Rebecca Riffkin of Gallup: "Americans have a new No. 1 problem. Nearly one in four Americans mention jobs and unemployment as the most important problem facing the country, up from 16% in January. The government and politicians had topped the list since the government shutdown in October." ...

     ... CW: So Democrats have succeeded in sending the message that unemployment remains a major problem; now the question is whether or not they can lay the blame on Republican obstructionism of policies to improve the jobs market & help the unemployed.

The Fruits of Inequality. Samuel Bowles & Arjun Jayadev in the New York Times: "Another dubious first for America: We now employ as many private security guards as high school teachers -- over one million of them, or nearly double their number in 1980. And that's just a small fraction of what we call 'guard labor.' In addition to private security guards, that means police officers, members of the armed forces, prison and court officials, civilian employees of the military, and those producing weapons: a total of 5.2 million workers in 2011. That is a far larger number than we have of teachers at all levels. What is happening in America today is both unprecedented in our history, and virtually unique among Western democratic nations.... It seems to go along with economic inequality."

"Travesty in Chattanooga." Ed Kilgore on Tennessee autoworkers' vote not to unionize the Chattanooga plant: "So addicted are Tennessee Republicans to the 'race to the bottom' approach to economic development that they are willing to risk the good will of an existing employer in their zeal to make sure their own people are kept in as submissive a position as possible. President Obama's reported comment during a Democratic retreat last week that the pols involved in this union-busting effort are 'more concerned about German shareholders than American workers' is one way to put it; I'd say they've internalized the ancient despicable tendency of the southern aristocracy to favor the abasement of working people as an end in itself." ...

... ** Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect: "America is where class struggle gets derailed by culture wars. It's happened throughout our history. It happened again last week in Chattanooga." An extremely informative piece which, among other things, reminds us of the history of the UAW.

ObamaCare Winners! AP: "For many older Americans who lost jobs during the recession, the quest for health care has been one obstacle after another. They're unwanted by employers, rejected by insurers, struggling to cover rising medical costs and praying to reach Medicare age before a health crisis. These luckless people, most in their 50s and 60s, have emerged this month as early winners under the nation's new health insurance system. Along with their peers who are self-employed or whose jobs do not offer insurance, they have been signing up for coverage in large numbers, submitting new-patient forms at doctor's offices and filling prescriptions at pharmacies."

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers. The donor, Tom Steyer, a Democrat who founded one of the world's most successful hedge funds, burst onto the national political scene during last year's elections, when he spent $11 million to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia and millions more intervening in a Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts."

Adam Aigner-Treworgy of CNN: "The Obama administration will take the next step on Tuesday in its multi-year effort to cut emissions and reduce oil use by getting better fuel economy from trucks. President Barack Obama is set to announce the energy and environmental initiative at a Safeway distribution center in Maryland, a White House official confirmed to CNN. In action that does not require congressional approval, Obama aims to build on the first-ever fuel standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that now cover model years 2014-18."

Palm Springs Weekend. Zeke Miller of Time: "President Barack Obama traveled to California on Friday to highlight the state's drought emergency at two events near Fresno, calling for shared sacrifice to help manage the state's worst water shortage in decades. He then spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the hospitality of some of the state's top water hogs: desert golf courses.... The 124 golf courses in the Coachella Valley consume roughly 17% of all water there, and one-quarter of the water pumped out of the region's at-risk groundwater aquifer, according to the Coachella Valley Water District.... Each of the 124 Coachella Valley courses, on average, uses nearly 1 million gallons (3.8 million L) a day because of the hot and dry climate, three to four times more water per day than the average American golf course."

I probably shouldn't say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 -- which is the genesis of the 215 program -- and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it's going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards.... We wouldn't have had the problem we had. What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation [by Edward Snowden].... I don't think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well, people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here's one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing. -- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on collecting & storing phone call records (more at the link)

Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call: "Responding to sharp criticism from Sen. Ted Cruz, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he voted to protect the country from default when he cast the decisive vote advancing the suspension of the debt limit this week."

Paul Rosenberg, writing in Salon, makes the case that because of racial bias, both explicit & implicit, "'Stand your ground' laws are inherently biased against black people, and should be ruled unconstitutional on that basis alone." CW: Seems to me Michael Dunn, the man who killed Jordan Davis for playing loud music, should be charged with a hate crime. Instead, prosecutors did not even introduce strong evidence of Dunn's racial bias.

Sophia Yan of CNN: Three thousand Americans lined "up at embassies around the world to renounce their citizenship. The numbers for 2013 represent a dramatic spike -- triple the average for the previous five years, according to a CNNMoney analysis of government data. Brad Westerfield, a tax lawyer at Butler Snow, said that renunciations have increased following the implementation of a new disclosure law -- the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act -- that targets overseas tax evasion. The measure, approved by Congress in 2010, is aimed at recouping some of the hundreds of billions the government says it loses each year in unpaid taxes.... Some Americans may be giving up their passports to protect their wealth.... It's illegal to renounce your U.S. status to avoid paying taxes, and giving up citizenship doesn't mean you're off the hook for back taxes."

At a speaking engagement in Chicago, Nino Scalia criticizes -- everything.

Re: a good discussion in today's Comments:

CW: Domani Spero, who wrote the post (in June 2013) from which I copied the above, argues that the practice of choosing fat cats is not going to change. As you can see, it really is a Both Sides Do It phenomenon. There is a way to change it, tho -- a way that would solve so many of our political ills -- campaign finance reform. If the fat cats lose their utility, presidents will have little incentive to appoint them to ambassadorial posts.

New Jersey News

The Lonely Guv. Steve Strunsky of the Star-Ledger: "Gov. Chris Christie's office says he never spoke about September's George Washington Bridge lane closures with a Port Authority Police lieutenant he knows personally, and whose conduct during the closures is now the subject of an internal review." CW: Either these kinds of dirty tricks were so routine that the GWB lane closings didn't rate a mention, or nobody ever speaks to Chris Christie -- not his so-called friends, not his campaign manager, not the employees in his office, not his appointed hacks.

Michael Linhorst of the Bergen Record: "... Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich rejected a request from the [governor's] attorney, Randy Mastro, to provide documents and sit down for an interview, according to a letter dated Feb. 17.... But Sokolich 'fully intends to cooperate' with those other investigations -- by the U.S. Attorney's office and the joint legislative committee.... Mastro made similar requests for interviews and documents from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who accused members of the Christie administration of withholding money slated for Superstorm Sandy recovery because she did not fast-track a billion-dollar real estate development project. Last week, Zimmer said she would not cooperate with Mastro."

... The Forgotten Christie Scandal. Rob Richie & Devin McCarthy in Salon: "There is a strong case to be made that last year's New Jersey special election was the most unnecessary statewide election in American history." It's purpose, like Christie's courting & punishing of Democratic mayors, was to increase the percentage of Christie's win in November, demonstrating own fucking popular he was in a Democratic-majority state, a percentage that most likely would have been lower if he shared a ballot with Democrat Corey Booker, who won the special Senate election.

Congressional Races 2014

NRCC Gets a Teeny Bit Less Devious. Denver Nicks of Time: "The campaign arm for House Republicans has made a small but significant change to a line of spoof political websites that raised questions about whether they misled donors in a way that could run afoul of campaign finance rules. The cookie-cutter websites had been made to look at first glance like sites set up for Democratic candidates, complete with campaign banners and web addresses like, but they actually directed donor dollars to the National Republic Congressional Committee. The sites led at least two people to accidentally donate to the NRCC (both got their money back). But while the main pages -- which include pictures of smiling Democrats — remain the same, the donation button now directs to a landing page that is more clearly one raising money for the NRCC. When first asked about the websites by Time, the NRCC stood by the tactic."

News Ledes

Think Progress: "In newly released audio of phone calls made by Michael Dunn while in jail, the man who shot 17-year-old Jordan Davis after a loud music dispute claiming self-defense said he was both the 'victor' and the 'victim,' compared himself to a rape victim, and made racially charged comments about his fellow inmates.... Prosecutors plan to seek a retrial on the first degree murder charge." The trial ended in a mistrial on this charge, but a jury found Dunn guilty of several counts of attempted murder.

New York Times: "Mayhem gripped the center of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday evening as riot police officers moved on protesters massed behind barriers raised throughout Independence Square, the focal point of more than two months of protests against President Viktor F. Yanukovych."

New York Times: "Hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians have fled rebel-held parts of the city of Aleppo in recent weeks under heavy aerial bombardment by the Syrian government, emptying whole neighborhoods and creating what aid workers say is one of the largest refugee flows of the entire civil war. The displaced, as many as 500,000 to date, the United Nations says, have flooded the countryside, swelling populations in war-battered communities that are already short on space and food and pushing a new wave of refugees into Turkey...."

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday sharpened the Obama administration's mounting criticism of Russia's role in the escalating violence in Syria, asserting that the Kremlin was undermining the prospects of a negotiated solution by 'contributing so many more weapons' and political support to President Bashar al-Assad."

New York Times: "Two members of the punk protest group Pussy Riot, recently released from prison under an amnesty program initiated by President Vladimir V.Putin, said they were arrested [in Sochi] on Tuesday. Posting on Twitter, one member of the group, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, said that she and her band mate, Maria Alyokhina, were detained in central Sochi, about 30 minutes from the Olympic Park where the Winter Games are taking place. She said they had been accused as suspects in an unspecified crime."

Reuters: "An elderly nun and two peace activists are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on Tuesday for breaking into a Tennessee defense facility where enriched uranium for nuclear bombs is stored. Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed have admitted to cutting fences and making their way across the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in July 2012, embarrassing U.S. officials and prompting security changes."