Even after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) filed the paperwork to seek re-election, the rumors about his possible retirement didn't stop. Much of D.C. has assumed that Boehner would walk away at the end of this Congress, and after the Republican leader recently bought a Florida condo, speculation picked up about who the next Speaker night be.
But if Boehner's latest comments to the Cincinnati Enquirer are true, he's not going anywhere.
He plans to seek re-election as House Speaker and is confident that he will win the position.
"I think I'm in better shape with my own caucus than I have ever been in the last three years," Boehner said.
The purchase of a condominium on Florida's Marco Island "has nothing to do with my future," he said.
Whether or not Boehner is sincere is anybody's guess. Maybe the Speaker fully intends to stick around; maybe he's waiting to show his cards until the last possible moment.
But I continue to believe that if Boehner genuinely expects to hold the Speaker's gavel for at least another two years, this matters quite a bit to all Americans, not just those in his Ohio district.
After the 2012 elections, congressional Republican leaders not only recognized the severity of the gender gap, but also acknowledged that the party has struggled with a stagnant number of women in their ranks. By June, party officials had a solution in mind: Project GROW.
As we talked about at the time, the name stands for "Growing Republican Opportunities for Women." (Yes, the "G" in "GROW" stands for "grow.") The basic idea was to recruit, mentor, and elect more women candidates in 2014.
"We need more women to run," Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said at the launch. NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) added, "Women are the majority, and we need to do a better job, and that's what this is all about." The RNC touted the effort with an unfortunate choice of words: "We need to be a party that allows talented women to rise to the top." (The DNC immediately responded, "Democratic women DO rise to the top. We don't need permission.")
There was certainly nothing wrong with House Republicans making a conscious effort to improve its gender diversity -- remember the committee chairmen chart? -- but Jay Newton-Small checked on Project GROW's progress and found that the party is "coming up short."
Thirty years ago, Republicans and Democrats had equal numbers of female politicians, but since then Democratic female representation has taken off dramatically. Part of the problem is that Republican female state legislators tend to be more moderate than their male counterparts and therefore have a tougher time getting through increasingly partisan primaries, according to Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. [...]
Indeed, last election cycle 108 Republican women ran in House primaries, according to data compiled by Walsh's center. Less than half won and only 20 were elected to Congress, most of them incumbents. The 19 Republican women currently serving in the House make up only 4.4 percent of the House, and only 8 percent of the GOP conference.
Not many governors have their own private jets. It's something Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) apparently takes full advantage of, and not just for the sake of convenience at the airport.
By using his personal jet for public business, Florida Gov. Rick Scott can shield his itinerary from websites that track flights, and when his plane lands, he uses a public records exemption to tighten the cloak of secrecy.
Wherever Scott goes, he is shadowed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents. In citing a records exemption that protects FDLE "surveillance techniques" from publication, he withholds the members of his traveling party, restaurants and homes he visits, and people at meetings -- all in the name of security.
To a much greater degree than the past three governors, Scott, former chief executive of the nation's largest private hospital chain, conceals information from the public about his travel.
Scott has struggled with transparency before. The Republican governor launched something called "Project Sunburst" a couple of years ago, vowing to put all executive-staff emails available online for public scrutiny. A year later, Scott's team had failed to meet their commitments. The governor's daily schedule is also published online every morning, but it's routinely incomplete.
But this issue with his private jet seems considerably more serious.
The Republican Governors Association recently launched an attack ad in Pennsylvania, criticizing Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) for supporting this year's farm bill in Congress. There was, however, a small problem: incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett (R), the candidate the ad was intended to help, endorsed the same legislation.
This week, the RGA ran into a similar problem in South Carolina. Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake reported:
A new ad from the Republican Governors Association attacks the Democrat running for governor of South Carolina for supporting Obamacare, as well as its Medicaid expansion.
Left unsaid? Several GOP governors took that same Medicaid expansion, including ... RGA Chairman and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
It's at least rational when one party blasts the other over genuine disagreements. But the RGA is playing some fairly transparent games.
In South Carolina, we're effectively left with a situation in which the Republican Governors Association wants voters to oppose a Democrat for agreeing with the head of the Republican Governors Association (and several other prominent RGA members).
From the RGA's perspective, it's probably worth the risk. South Carolinians, the argument goes, probably won't know the whole story, and will have no idea the Democratic candidate agrees with so many Republicans on the issue.
But what does that say about the merit of Republican arguments, if they're dependent on public ignorance to work?
A week ago, the U.S. Senate race in Colorado didn't look especially interesting. Sen. Mark Udall (D) was likely to take on Ken Buck (R); the incumbent senator was likely to win; and the candidate Republicans recruited for the race, Rep. Cory Gardner (R), said he wasn't interested.
A week later, Gardner has changed his mind; Buck is now running for the House in Gardner's Republican-friendly district; and Colorado will apparently have a competitive race after all.
In a rousing speech inside a Denver lumber warehouse, Republican Congressman Cory Gardner officially announced his candidacy Saturday for the U.S. Senate, vowing to bring a battle against Democrat Sen. Mark Udall.
"Today, we begin a nine-month fight for the future of our country. And don't let anyone say otherwise -- this fight is about the future, for our families, children and grandchildren," Gardner said.
At a minimum, Gardner's entrance changes how people perceive the Senate race in Colorado. Once it became clear the congressman would run after having said he wouldn't, and Democratic control of the Senate is on the line, Dave Weigel wrote, "Democrats: Panic!"
But in Gardner's case, it's hard not to wonder how seriously to take the hype seriously. When I searched Google this morning for "Cory Gardner" and "rising star," I saw 43,700 results -- which suggests the phrasing comes up quite a bit.
About six months ago, the Obama administration was very close to launching missile strikes in Syria, following the Assad government's apparent use of chemical weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin, an Assad ally and benefactor, took the unusual step of writing an op-ed in the New York Times.
The headline read, "A Plea for Caution From Russia," and a half-year later, it's interesting to read it again with a fresh perspective, given recent events in Ukraine.
[W]e were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization -- the United Nations -- was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
Sure, Vladimir, tell us again how important it is to celebrate the United Nations as the bedrock for global stability seems a little ironic.
The United Nations' founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus.... The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.
It appears Putin's interest in peaceful dialogue and international law isn't quite what it was in September.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) appeared on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, raising a compelling suggestion about domestic politics in the context of the Ukrainian crisis.
"We're 48 hours from an international crisis, I would hope Americans would focus on condemning the actions of Putin rather than in a knee-jerk way, again, criticizing the president of the United States," the congressman said.
What a nice, wholly unrealistic attitude.
Americans have seen our share of international crises involving Russia. What's unusual about this one, at least from a domestic political perspective, is that we now see prominent Republican officials publicly expressing admiration for Russian leadership.
The Ukraine crisis is just the latest example of President Barack Obama being outmaneuvered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Sunday.
"Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles, and I don't think it's even close" the Michigan Republican said on "Fox News Sunday." "They've been running circles around us." [...]
"And, by the way, the big one that started this was the absolute retreat on our missile defense system in Poland and Czechoslovakia."
First, Czechoslovakia hasn't actually been a country for the last couple of decades. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee should probably know that.
Second, remember all the prominent Democrats praising Putin's strategic acumen over the Bush/Cheney administration when Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008? All the Dems who hit the Sunday shows to say Putin is "running circles around us"? No? That's probably because it never happened. Indeed, if it had, the praise likely would have become a controversy unto itself.
And third, Rogers is impressed with Putin for reasons that don't make any sense.
Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday, condemning Russia's invasion of Ukrainian territory. The following excerpt stood out:
"Well, it's an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning, willful choice by President Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations. Russia is in violation of its obligations under the U.N. charter, under the Helsinki final act. It's in violation of its obligations under the 1994 Budapest agreement.
"You just don't, in the 21st Century, behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext."
All of this is true, of course. It's easy to imagine, however, how some around the world blink, at least a little, hearing a U.S. leader make comments like these after we invaded another country on completely trumped-up pretext.
Regardless, Kerry is doing far more than just appearing on Sunday shows. The Secretary of State will travel to Kiev tonight to meet with Ukrainian officials about the crisis. What's more, Peter Baker reports that President Obama has begun working the phone from the Oval Office, rallying allies and approving "a series of diplomatic and economic moves intended to 'make it hurt,' as one administration official put it."
If Russian President Vladimir Putin expects the West to be at all divided during the crisis, he's likely to be disappointed.
Sec. of State Kerry heads to the Ukraine as Pres. Obama works to rein in Russia. (NY Times) NC coal-ash spill shows how watchdog agency was defanged. (NY Times) A look at NC Gov. McCrory's career at Duke Energy. (Winston-Salem Journal) Top Christie appointees at the Port Authority devised toll-hike plan to bolster image of NJ, NY governors. (Bergen Record) read more
The oldest piece of the Earth to date has been located, and it's in Western Australia. It's a fragment of a crystal in a fragment of a rock: a zircon, to be precise.
Earth's crust is full of zircons, which form when magma is forced to the surface and cools. They have such a high melting temperature that even if they are subducted, they usually don't remelt and are often incorporated into newer rocks once they surface again. The zircons in question, in Australia, have most likely been through the magma cycle a few times. However, geologists can tease apart individual fragments of a given rock, dating each one with various techniques, including individual zircon crystals.
In 2001, a team dated a zircon found in the Jack Hills at 4.4 billion years old, using radiometric dating based on the decay of uranium isotopes into lead. The result shocked a lot of people who had theorized that the Earth was still far too hot for rocks to form that soon after the formation of the Solar System (4.5 billion years ago), and so like all good scientists, they continued to analyze their data. Now they've confirmed the original dating, which means Earth did indeed cool off a mere 100 million years after it formed. It follows, then, that liquid water could not have been too far behind, and with it, life.
First up from the God Machine this week is an update on a creationist effort to build a giant version of Noah's Ark in Kentucky, which is suddenly back on track following a very high-profile event.
Creation Museum Founder Ken Ham, who leads a creationist-focused ministry called Answers in Genesis, recently debated scientist Bill Nye on evolutionary biology. It apparently had an unintended consequence.
Creation Museum founder Ken Ham announced Thursday that a municipal bond offering has raised enough money to begin construction on the Ark Encounter project, estimated to cost about $73 million. Groundbreaking is planned for May and the ark is expected to be finished by the summer of 2016.
Ham said a high-profile evolution debate he had with "Science Guy" Bill Nye on Feb. 4 helped boost support for the project.
Nye said he was "heartbroken and sickened for the Commonwealth of Kentucky" after learning that the project would move forward. He said the ark would eventually draw more attention to the beliefs of Ham's ministry, which preaches that the Bible's creation story is a true account, and as a result, "voters and taxpayers in Kentucky will eventually see that this is not in their best interest."