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Last night Rachel Maddow dedicated her entire show to the New Jersey Bridge scandal, and who could blame her? When other cable news outlets scarcely mentioned it, Rachel Maddow has covered this story numerous times over the last several months. Below the orange squiggly, I have embedded the video for each segment of last night's show, except the final one which is just below.

All the cable news channels had been covering the scandal all day long when the 22 pages of documents were released that linked the scandal to the office of Governor Chris Christie now that there was definitive proof that a member of Christie's staff gave the order to close three lanes to the George Washington Bridge.

It was seven hours after the release of the documents that Chris Christie put out a statement. My reaction was, "It's been hours since the emails broke ... this all he could come up with?" Since Chris Christie wasn't appearing before cameras yesterday, the news stations kept playing clips of previous comments he made about the brewing scandal and how there was nothing to see here. I saw clips of him saying that he had interviewed everybody on his staff, and knew every thing there was to know about the closing of the lanes, and this was what he decided to go with?

What I've seen today for the first time ...
Okay. Maybe he was being literal. He only saw the actual printed version today. Before that he only heard about what happened from his staff. All those previous denials of knowledge began to make sense when I watched the discussion between Rachel Maddow and Steve Kornacki, when Kornacki explained that subpoena power of the Assembly was about to run out next Tuesday. I found an article from December explaining that Assemblyman Wisniewski was seeking to extend the subpoena power. Suddenly, all those ridiculous statements Christie had been making for the last few months made sense. He was simply deflecting until next Tuesday when he was counting on the investigation to be over. And the fact that David Wildstein had filed a lawsuit trying to block the subpoena he had received was all about running out the clock too.

Watch the segment (or read the transcript) for yourself:

Video of Governor Chris Christie
I know you guys are obsessed with this. I’m not. I’m really not. It’s just it’s not that big a deal. Just because press runs around and writes about it both here and nationally; I know why that is and so do you. Let’s not pretend it’s because of the gravity of the issue. It’s because I am a national figure.
Video of Governor Chris Christie being interviewed on radio:
Question: Are you convinced at this point that you know all there is to know about whatever happened there?

Governor Christie: Yeah I’ve asked; listen, I’ve asked my staff to give me a full briefing. They’ve told me everything that we know and none of it makes sense, Eric. It’s all about politics.

Rachel Maddow (RM): Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, the host of Up with Steve Kornacki here on MSNBC. Steve is as well versed in New Jersey politics as they come. Steve worked for a nonpartisan Jersey political website that was owned by David Wildstein from 2002 to 2005; although he didn’t know that at the time because David Wildstein operated the site under a political pseudonym. It’s so hard to start. Where do you start with all this?

Steve Kornacki (SK): Yeah, I could take 15 minutes and tell you right now …

RM: you did on our show…

SK: I did on your show once before so hopefully people will remember that. [Note: Kornacki guest hosted the show on 18 December 2013, and explained his entire connection to Wildstein. You can read the Transcript.]

RM: See, let me just ask you. What do you think is the most important revelation from today, and how much bigger is this story today than it was yesterday?

SK: I mean the biggest single revelation, obviously, is that this extends into the Governor’s office; that you have emails with the Deputy Chief of Staff, so you can’t just say this was two sort of rogue people at the Port Authority. This is now in the Governor’s office. And the reason that’s so significant besides just the PR value is there is an issue of timing here that has to do with the subpoena power of the State Assembly in New Jersey which is due to expire next Tuesday.

RM: Yeah …

SK … because the legislative session is due to expire next Tuesday; and for a variety of very complicated sort of only in New Jersey reasons, there was reason to believe until really today that that subpoena power by the incoming Assembly Speaker might not be extended.

RM: Which might end the investigation?

SK: Exactly. And I believe that’s what the Christie people were kind of hoping for … that that would sort of be the end of it because the incoming Speaker is a Democrat, but one of the stories about New Jersey politics that you always have to keep in mind is that Christie, at least until now, has had an alliance with some major Democratic power brokers in the state. And this incoming Speaker is the product of that alliance. So there was reason to believe before today that that incoming Speaker might say, I’m not going to extend this. Now he has no choice.

RM: The Christie administration test, I think that comes up next is whether or not Chris Christie can find it within himself to say publicly, you know what, Mr. New Assembly Speaker, you ought to keep the subpoena power. You ought to let them have it because we need to get to the bottom of this because I’m as outraged as anybody about this.

SK: Yeah.

RM: This makes us all look terrible, but Fort Lee never should have … I mean, is he capable of that?

SK: Well, I mean, that’s one the … from a PR standpoint there are so many things that Chris Christie should do, but the question that hangs over all of this is what did he know? It’s the old Watergate question, what did he know and when did he know it? Because every action he takes right now, you know if it’s firing this person, firing that person. If, if … and I don’t know … but if Chris Christie did know. If he had some knowledge; if there are more documents out there that could definitively link Christie to this, then every person that he kind of ticks off or throw overboard right now, has a reason to cough up any information …

RM: A reason to cough up … David Wildstein’s fighting the attempt to testify tomorrow; the effort to make him testify under subpoena. He’s, in fact, filed a lawsuit in order to do that. If he is compelled to testify under oath, is that potentially a big development tomorrow?

SK: It will be fascinating to watch. I mean, I think that the fact that he’s fighting this just tells me I’m not expecting there to be, you know if he does testify, I’m not expecting there to be any bombshells from his testimony. But again, my suspicion is that that fighting the subpoena has to do with trying to run that clock out to the end of the session, which again, that’s not going to happen now.

RM: Steve Kornacki, host of Up with Steve Kornacki, weekend mornings here on MSNBC. Steve, this has been; it’s been a real asset to us here to have you to talk to about this. Thanks for helping us.

SK: Thanks. It’s been a little weird here …

RM: Very weird; very, very weird. That does it for us to night. We will see you again tomorrow night.

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Rachel Maddow: "[W]e occasionally find people who have been mentioned in our coverage who
are absolutely outraged that they have been mentioned in our coverage."
On Thursday night’s edition of The Rachel Maddow Show, the opening segment was about the fiasco that the Florida law requiring welfare recipients to be drug tested had become and how the law had been adjudicated unconstitutional by a Federal Court on New Year's Eve.

Before introducing her guest for the segment, Rachel went through her usual detailed explanation of what had happened in the case. And as she is known to do, Rachel took it a step further, and explained how the failed law in Florida had been peddled to other states by conservative groups funded by the Koch brothers. The segment concluded with Rachel interviewing Howard Simon, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, to discuss the lawsuit. At the end Rachel said goodnight to Mr. Simon, he said his farewell, and as she was starting to say what I've quoted next, you could hear Mr. Simon yell off camera, "There is an error. Hello?"

I should tell you that we received a response from a representative of the Koch brothers tonight. When we called to ask them about their thoughts on drug testing welfare recipients since this group affiliated with them in Florida has been promoting that along side their promotion of more high profile issues like telling people not to get health insurance, the spokesperson for the Koch brothers who we reached tonight told us this on the subject, quote Not sure I see how we would have anything to say on this, since we are not involved in this issue in any way [Robert Tappan, Director, External Relations, Koch Companies Public Sector]. There you have it.
Fast forward to Friday night's show, and we learn that the Koch brothers have contacted the show about what was said about them on the previous night's show. Of course we had to wait until the last segment to find out what happened, but oh was it worth the wait. As ericlewis0 put it, Rachel Maddow Thoroughly Nails the Koch Bros. Follow me below the orange curlycue for the juicy details.
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When the star of your ad refuses to grant interviews to answer questions about his claims in the ad, it seems reasonable for Steve Benen at The Rachel Maddow Show blog to ask if we should be taking this ad seriously.

If casual viewers catch the ad by accident, they might think the commercial supports the Affordable Care Act. Randy Westby says in the spot, “I’ve had three heart attacks in the last six years. Health care is something that’s essential. My life depends on it.”


But as it turns out, Westby is actually the star of a new right-wing attack ad, created by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, and targeting Rep. Rick Nolan (D) in Minnesota’s 8th district. Apparently, according to the ad, Westby is in that small sliver of the population that received cancellation notices as part of reforms to the individual, non-group market.


When local reporters reached out to Westby to find out more about his circumstances, and to confirm the accuracy of the ad itself, he refused interview requests, which is certainly his right, but which leaves relevant questions about his argument unanswered.

So what are we left with? A far-right group of dubious credibility, airing an almost comically misleading attack ad featuring an Obamacare critic who stands to benefit greatly from Obamacare. The critic may now have better insurance at a lower cost, but we don’t know because he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Voters are supposed to find this persuasive? Seriously?

I also read GOP ‘confronting a new reality’ on healthcare today about how Republicans are coming to terms with the fact that it will be difficult to run against Obamacare now that it has become law and as of next week, millions of people will have health care coverage they didn't have before. I guess the Koch Brothers live in a different realm of realty if they don't even begin to understand what that means to people who are not like them.


Whew! I'm done. I hope I am any way. My situation is such that I haven't had any large medical bills in years. Literally $0 from 2008 through 2011, $59 in 2012 and $80 this year. So I selected a Bronze plan for $446.45/month with a $6,350 deductible and $6,350 maximum out of pocket. I studied the other plans but there is no sense purchasing the higher priced plans with lower deductibles if I haven't needed that much coverage to date.

We spend more on veterinary bills for our cats and dog than we do on ourselves. Well, that is until this year. My husband turned 65 in 2012 so he's covered by Medicare and for the first time in years he's actually had major medical bills thanks to a 16-day stay in the hospital in October. And now he has to take several prescription drugs daily, so the last couple of months have been an eye-opener for us.

I had gone through the application process last month but was stopped in my tracks when I entered my husband's social security number incorrectly. I patiently waited for it to be fixed for several weeks before I finally gave up and created a second account with a different email address. Then I was able to get through the entire process, at the end of which I was presented with a choice of 96 plans. With my husband being released from the hospital, our days were filled with follow-up visits to doctors, and so I decided to wait to select a plan until things settled down around here and I had time to think. And so I went back to on Tuesday where I discovered the waiting room and the fact that the 96 plans had diminished to 12 plans. I called the toll-free number and was told there was a glitch in the system, and to wait a few hours and log back in.

I waited until yesterday when I signed in to discover that the number of plans available to me went down to 9. I vented my frustration in a diary asking for help from this community. It turned out to be a good thing because I learned some additional information that I might not have found out if I hadn't written that rant.

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I am sorry to have to say that this is not snark. I'm seriously confused and am hoping that writing this that someone out there will have answers. I've tried searching the Internet, and have yet to find anybody discussing this issue much less explaining it.

So far my experiences at have not been the best. I started out by entering my husband's social security number incorrectly, and spent weeks trying to fix that problem. Finally, I created a second account and was able to get to the point where I was offered a choice of plans. There were so many plans it was confusing. Something like 96 plans. I had a lot of other things going on in my life, so I decided to put off making a decision until things settled down.

Yesterday afternoon I logged into (after spending a little time in the waiting room). When I initially created my account, I was told that I qualified for a $107 subsidy. Before selecting a plan, I indicated that I wanted to use all of it. Over the last couple of weeks while deciding which plan I wanted to go with, and learning more about how all this works when you file your income taxes, I decided I didn't want to use any of the subsidy. My reason is that my income fluctuates and I might earn a lot more next year than this year, and then I would owe the subsidy back. I would much rather just take the deduction from what I owe at the end of 2014 if I still qualify rather than have to pay it back.

Anyway, I signed in yesterday and my choice of 96 plans had been drastically reduced to only 16 plans. Part of the reason I was able to determine was because there were no plans available from Florida Blue (Florida Blue Cross/Blue Shield) when a few weeks ago there were a lot of plans available from Florida Blue. I tried to change the amount of the subsidy to use to $0 and it would not let me. Every time it reverted back to the $107. So they haven't fixed the ability to change choices once you've entered something.

I called the toll-free number and asked why all the plans had gone away, especially the Florida Blue ones. The woman on the other end of the phone said that there were some glitches they were dealing with and that I should wait a few hours and try again. I waited more than a few hours. I waited an entire day until this afternoon. This time when I logged in my subsidy had increased from $107 to $196, and now there were only 9 plans to select from. Ugh!

Since I didn't want to use the subsidy, the easiest thing to do was delete the application and start over from scratch. This time I indicated that I didn't want to apply for the subsidy, so I didn't have to enter all the financial details. When I was done, I had the choice of 9 plans. What happened to the other 7 that were there yesterday? It looks like f I wait much longer to select a plan, there won't be any plans to select from the way they are slowly disappearing. Any insights anybody has about why plans are disappearing would be greatly appreciated.


I have some free time this afternoon and decided to go ahead and select my healthcare plan. I've already completed the application process, and just need to choose a plan and pay my premium. To my amazement, when I arrived at this is what greeted me when I clicked the LOG IN link:

There is also an alert on the frontpage of that states:
During times of especially high demand, you may be queued to begin your online Marketplace application to ensure the best possible shopping experience.
Color me impressed. I don't ever recall going to a site and being told we have so many people here right now that you'll need to wait your turn. Usually if there are too many people on a site, it just crashes.

I've kept the page open and can tell that approximately every 60 seconds it reloads as if it is checking to see if there is room to let me in yet. In the 10 minutes it took me to put together this diary, my wait ended. The screen just switched to the Log In page and I was able to log in without any further delay.


It all started on October 1. While Congress was busy shutting down the government, the Affordable Care Act opened the exchanges for business, and I kept seeing one governor on television talking about the ACA in his state. It was Steve Beshear (D), the Governor of Kentucky. For days I watched him appearing on news shows proclaiming how wonderful the ACA was and how people were enrolling in his state. He talked about the study he had done that showed that the ACA was going to help the economy and add jobs to his state.

I kept marveling at the optics of it all because out of Washington, D.C., the two senators from Kentucky, Rand Paul and Minority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell, were also appearing on news shows talking about what a disaster the ACA was. I couldn't help but wonder if these two Senators knew what was going on in the state they represent, or if they did know, but since it didn't fit into their world view, just ignored or dismissed the reality.

At 11:30 this morning, President Obama gave a speech on Economic Mobility. It is an inspirational speech well worth reading or watching. However, considering what is going on in Kentucky, one of the highlights of the speech is near the end. I was watching The Rachel Maddow Show tonight and they played a clip from this section just before going into the half hour commercial:

I have acknowledged more than once that we didn’t roll out parts of this law as well as we should have.  But the law is already working in major ways that benefit millions of Americans right now, even as we’ve begun to slow the rise in health care costs, which is good for family budgets, good for federal and state budgets, and good for the budgets of businesses small and large.  So this law is going to work.  And for the sake of our economic security, it needs to work.  (Applause.)  

And as people in states as different as California and Kentucky sign up every single day for health insurance, signing up in droves, they’re proving they want that economic security.  If the Senate Republican leader still thinks he is going to be able to repeal this someday, he might want to check with the more than 60,000 people in his home state who are already set to finally have coverage that frees them from the fear of financial ruin, and lets them afford to take their kids to see a doctor.  (Applause.)  

One of the most interesting 2014 races to watch will be Mitch McConnell's race for reelection. First he has to survive the primary challenge. And if he does that, he gets to ask the voters of his state to send him back to Washington so he continue to work towards repealing Obamacare and taking away the healthcare they just obtained, many for the first time in their lives. Voters like Ronald Hudson who (as was already diaried last month), had a memorable reaction upon learning that he finally had health care coverage:
“Well, thank God,” Hudson said, laughing. “I believe I’m going to be a Democrat.”

I haven't done much writing here lately, but I've done a lot of reading. And while nothing much has inspired me to write, I've noticed a habit I've been developing while reading ... and that is that I keep rolling my eyes. It seems that every time I click on a diary, I'm rolling my eyes in amazement at what some corporation, news organization or Republican has done this time. Then I find myself wondering what drives them to do these things? The usual suspects come to mind: greed, selfishness, hate, self-righteousness, lust for power.

It's getting old. So old that when I happen upon another story I think about sharing, I stop myself. What's the point of propagating another example of man's inhumanity to man?  Look at what so-and-so has done now. Are we surprised?  No. It's just business as usual. Same crap; just another day.

Years and years ago I read a quote that I think was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but for all the searching I've done, I've yet to find it again. It basically said that most differences between men are not between right and wrong, but between two opposing ideas of what is right. Lately I've been wondering how that can be true. The hate and vitriol just seems to get worse with each passing day.

This afternoon I had the television on in the background while I worked at my computer, when I heard President Obama finishing his speech in Hollywood. And something he said jumped out at me.

I have my critics, obviously. But since we're here in Hollywood, I want to think about something the late, great Chicago film critic Roger Ebert (and I was fortunate to get to know Roger Ebert and was always inspired by how he handled some really tough stuff). "Kindness," he wrote, "covers all of my political beliefs." Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. And when I think about what I'm fighting for, what gets me up every single day, that captures it just about as much as anything.

Kindness. Empathy. That sense that I have a stake in your success. That I'm going to make sure just because Malia and Sasha are doing well, that's not enough. I want your kids to do well also. And I'm willing to help to build good schools so that they get a great education even if mine are already getting a great education. And I'm going to invest in infrastructure and building things like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam and the Internet, because ... because I'm investing for the next generation, not just this one.

And that's what binds us together and that's how we've always moved forward based on the idea that we have a stake in each other's success. And that's what drives me. And that's what will continue to drive me. I believe that every kid should have opportunity. I believe that our daughters should have the same opportunities as our sons.


We may have different ideas and different policies on how to do things, but that shouldn't negate that that core vision is what we're fighting for. And we should be able to sit down together, and to keep dreaming, and to keep working, and to make sure that the American dream that's been described here in Southern California is sustained for generations to come. And what's stopping us is not policy details, it's not technical issues, its to summon the courage to put politics aside once in a while and remember that we got more in common than our politics would suggest. And as long as I've got the privilege of serving as your president, that's what I'm going to keep making sure that I do. To put politics aside once in a while and work on your behalf.

I do not understand how anybody could find anything to hate about this man who has so much kindness in his heart. And then I stop and think about a time thirty or so years ago when somebody made my life very difficult and one day I asked my mother a question about that woman. "Mom, why does Grace hate me?" And my mother responded, "because you forgave her." And that's when I realized why so many from the right hate President Obama. It is because he forgives them. He does not let their hate change who he is or what he believes. He does not retaliate against their hate. He takes the high road and does what is best for the people he was elected to serve, including those that hate him so much.

From now on when I read about another injustice in this country, I will work towards improving myself and having a heart as big and forgiving as that of President Obama.


I was just watching the nightly news here in Central Florida and learned that Florida launched a brand new website called CONNECT to process unemployment claims.

No, this isn’t the troubled debut of the site that is dominating cable news these days.

It’s Gov. Rick Scott’s roll out of Florida’s new $63 million unemployment benefits website. Launched last week and initially called a success by a Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman, it’s becoming increasingly evident that it’s having Obamacare-esque problems of its own.

On Wednesday, the Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees the state’s processing of claims for an average of 235,000 recipients, issued its most detailed acknowledgment yet that all is not well with the new website.

Florida's DEO admits ongoing issues with unemployment benefits website

I wonder if the GOP-lead State Legislature will be calling for hearings and damning Rick Scott and his administration for the poor roll-out of this new website. People can't use the website so they've been calling the help line. Shouldn't somebody be accountable for results like this?
DEO Spokeswoman Jessica Sims said that between Tuesday and Saturday of last week, 1,124,350 calls were made to the state’s 1-800 help line. Of those calls, 47,619 were handled by an operator, a rate of about 4.2 percent.

I've been hearing about the new NBC/Esquire poll that says most of Americans fall in the middle. So I found it online and answered the questions. I was sure I would fall in the middle but ...

If you want to try and take the poll, you can take it HERE.

Wow! I just read Constance Hilliard's diary How FOX News (Accidentally) Blew Up the GOP, and couldn't help but smile. Unintended consequences sure do make things interesting. Reading the diary made me think of a segment I saw on The Cycle yesterday afternoon, about the unintended consequences of the Citizens United decision that was pointed out when Josh Barro was a guest during a panel discussion.

Conventional wisdom has been that Citizens United was a bad decision for injecting too much money into our political system because it gave one side a lopsided advantage over the other. Of course we always thought that it was Republicans gaining an even larger financial advantage over Democrats. So wrapped up in the us against them scenario it never occurred to me to step back and think about what all that money was going to do power struggles within the GOP.

The panel started out discussing how gerrymandering and the hyper-partisanship of the Tea Party have played a part in the current political battles in Washington. The segment ended with a discussion about the role of money and started with Touré excerpting a small quote from the following piece from Tuesday:

Parties have less control over their members: One, the national parties and congressional leaders have less control over their rank-and-file than they used to. And there’s one basic reason why: money. Part of it is because of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform, which eliminated the practice of the parties being able to collect six- and seven-figure “soft money” donations. So when political parties stopped being the main source for cash, that was step one in the decentralizing of the parties. Another part has been earmark reform, which took away the ability of leaders and committee chairman to dangle goodies to get votes. (Think Boehner could have more control over his caucus if he could promise a $10 million bridge in that member’s district?) And a third part was the recent Citizens United decision, which allowed outside groups (and individuals) to have as much fundraising/ad-spending power as the parties. Think about it: Outside special-interest groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth have much more power over individual members than the Republican National Committee does. And whenever Democrats lose control of the White House, you can see how that party could splinter like the GOP has here, too. First Thoughts: How we got here, First Read, 8 Oct 2003.
I thought it was interesting to learn that Citizens United had unintended consequences, and so I  transcribed the end of the segment and provided the video below the orange squiggly.
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I just read a post by Ezra Klein at his Wonkblog that assures us that President Obama will not be blinking in the current impasse with Republicans. According to Klein, the White House thinks that Republicans are playing Calvinball, a game where the rules are constantly changing.

I have been a big fan of Ezra Klein for quite some time because he always does a great job of explaining what's going on in a way that is easy to understand. The post goes through the steps that brought us to the point we are at now, and then concludes:

The White House has decided that they can't govern effectively if the House Republicans can keep playing Calvinball. The rules and promises Boehner makes are not their problem, they've decided. They're not going to save him. And that also rules out unusual solutions like minting a platinum coin or declaring the debt limit unconstitutional. The White House doesn't want to break the law (and possibly spark a financial crisis) in order to save Boehner from breaking a promise he never should have made.

Top administration officials say that President Obama feels as strongly about this fight as he has about anything in his presidency. He believes that he will be handing his successor a fatally weakened office, and handing the American people an unacceptable risk of future financial crises, if he breaks, or even bends, in the face of Republican demands. And so the White House says that their position is simple, and it will not change: They will not negotiate over substantive policy issues until Republicans end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.

How the White House sees the shutdown (and debt ceiling!) fight

[Emphasis added]

There is a bit of humor in the post if you look closely at the image included of President Obama and Boehner talking. In very tiny letters it is captioned "This part comes later."

As a diary on the Recommended List indicates, Boehner has already blinked and Klein has another post about the response from Boehner's office about that report:

I asked Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, about the report. “Speaker Boehner has always said that the United States will not default on its debt, but if we're going to raise the debt limit, we need to deal with the drivers of our debt and deficits," he e-mailed. "That’s why we need a bill with cuts and reforms to get our economy moving again."

That's what they call a non-denial denial. And it speaks to a deep problem Boehner's team has never quite figured out how to resolve. On the one hand, Boehner has always said he won't allow the United States to default. On the other hand, he's also always said that he won't pass a clean debt-ceiling bill.

Imagine a bank robber who swears no hostages will be harmed under any circumstances but also says no one gets out alive if his demands aren't met. That's more or less Boehner's position.

Did John Boehner just end the debt-ceiling fight?

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