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Friday, Sep 19th

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Bridgegate II: Investigators reportedly looking into Christie's funding plans for Pulaski Skyway

Chris ChristieNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing what could be Bridgegate II -- an investigation into his plans to fund repairs to the Pulaski Skyway, the New York Times reports.

The problem is that the skyway, a dramatic 3.5-mile bridge-causeway over the Passaic and Hackensack rivers between Newark and Jersey City, belongs to the state. Christie got a 2011 agreement to use $1.8 billion in Port Authority of New York and New Jersey money to pay for a much-needed rehab.

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People who are making sense about Iraq

Iraq punditsYou can listen to the people who started the Iraq war. Or you can listen to people who've devoted their lives to studying war and the region.

There has been a lot of writing about Iraq's crisis, much of it awful. This is an attempt to shout out some people and pieces that can help you get behind the headlines.

Let's start with Marc Lynch, the George Washington University political science professor who writes at the Washington Post's Monkey Cage. Today, he points out that helping Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki fight the Sunni Arab uprising against him would in effect be fighting on the side of Bashar al-Assad. Should the United States actually intervene militarily in support of the Iraqi government, it will also find itself on the opposite side of many of the Arab networks that support the Syrian uprising," he writes.

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Prosecutors: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in criminal scheme

Scott WalkerProsecutors claim Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of a plan to illegally coordinate fundraising with an array of outside conservative groups to help him and several Republican senators survive a 2012 recall election, new court documents show.  In the documents unsealed Thursday, prosecutors spell out a "criminal scheme" by Walker and top aides to circumvent state law and raise money and plan spending by a dozen outside groups during the election.

The prosecutors' filings include an email in which Walker tells Republican strategist Karl Rove that a top campaign aide, R.J. Johnson, was leading the coordination effort and praises Johnson's work.

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Big Oil and Big Guns: Not so strange bedfellows

oil and big gunsOil and gas companies give hundreds of millions of dollars to political campaigns and lobbying groups to further their interests in Congress. In 2012 and 2013 oil and gas spent a combined $24 million on contributions to (mostly Republican) lawmakers in the Senate and the House. In 2013, OpenSecrets.org reported, the oil-and-gas industry spent almost $145 million on lobbying.

Oil and gas donations to advocacy groups relate to issues of oil and gas exploration on land and offshore, climate change, tax increases and approving the Keystone pipeline. But recent research by liberal groups suggests that millions of dollars have also been going to gun groups, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Safari Club International (SCI), for purposes that seemingly contradict the platforms those groups purport to represent.

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The Bush, NeoCon and Pro-War Liberal Blunders That Produced the New Mess in Iraq

The Iraq mess explainedAnd so the inevitable is unfolding: a possible collapse of the U.S.-imposed Iraqi state, the apparent triumph of the most brutal extremists in the world, and more to come in Syria, Afghanistan, and possibly Jordan, Mali, Libya, and who knows where else. The first step to recovery -- if recovery is even feasible -- is an honest reckoning of why this is happening.

The discourse in Washington, as always, will be superficial, partisan, and knowledge-free. The blaming of Obama for leaving Iraq in 2011 will be the Fox News mantra of coming days and weeks (and, judging from the Benghazi flap, for years). Even theNew York Times on Wednesday morning -- reporting that the forces of the extremists, the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, or ISIS, had overrun Mosul and were headed toward Baghdad -- mentioned that this was  another blow to the White House's faltering foreign policy. But while Obama has his share of missteps, the responsibility for this catastrophe rests with the neocons of the George W. Bush years and the liberal hawks who can't help but propose war when they see a wrong that needs righting.

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The Right Didn’t Mind When Bush Paid a Ransom to Terrorists

Bush dealt with terroristsRepublicans are howling (with no proof) that Obama paid a ransom for Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom. Funny. They weren’t howling when Bush actually did it.

The Bowe Bergdahl story moves to the hearing stage this week, so we’ll be treated to the sight of preening House Republicans trying to press Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on when it was that he, too, started hating America. Meanwhile, over in the fever swamps, speculation is growing about an alleged “ransom” the Obama administration may have paid to bring Bergdahl home.

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The Real Origins of the Religious Right

Bob Jones UniversityOne of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.

This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.

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