The Supreme Court is slated to hear an appeal soon from a company that lost an NFL contract:

On Jan. 13, the pro football owners will be asking the high court to rule for the first time that the NFL is shielded from antitrust laws because, while its teams compete on the playing field, they function in business as a "single entity."

....In its appeal, the NFL asked the justices to rule broadly that a pro sports league can be "deemed a single entity" and is thereby immune from the antitrust laws "with respect to core venture functions." This should include matters such as "where to locate its clubs" and "the terms and conditions of player employment," the league's lawyers said.

Obviously I'm confused about something, but if the NFL is a "single entity" — i.e., the only pro football entity in America — shouldn't that mean they're especially subject to antitrust laws, not immune from them? What am I missing here?

Simon Rosenberg, who heads the New Democratic Network, has an interesting take on the failed Christmas Day terrorism attack. He notes that this bungled al Qaeda-linked attempt to blow up an airliner flying to Detroit from Amsterdam "could radically impact Washington's agenda in 2010" and "may very well knock other important priorities off the legislative calendar." That calendar is already overflowing with the completion of health care reform, financial reform, climate change legislation, and Obama's top priority for the election year of 2010: jobs, jobs, and jobs. But Rosenberg contends this could be a blessing: 

Rather than fighting the consolidation of the 2010 agenda it may be in the interest of the governing party to embrace it, and not look defensive, as if they have other things they would rather be talking about. Peace and prosperity drive most elections in the US, and 2010 may end up being no different. The Republicans are already jumping on the Christmas Day attempt, and will no doubt spend the year ahead trying to reorient the national discussion to an area—national security—they feel will advantageous for them. But given their actual record in the decade just past, and the extraordinary mess they left for others to clean up, the Republicans may rue the day the debate became about national security, for there is no way to have this debate without talking about the epic foreign policy and security failures of the Bush era, something they simply cannot disown.

So rather than wishing this new issue environment away, the President and the Democrats might decide rather to make it their own, and spend their political year making their case for how they hope to bring peace and prosperity to a country desperately seeking it.

Perhaps. The problem that Democrats may encounter is that it is easy for Republicans to out-war them. If President Barack Obama does embrace this issue as a top-of-his-list priority, regardless of the actions he takes, GOPers will claim it is not enough and he should do more (such as keep Gitmo going). It doesn't matter that Bush, Cheney & Co. screwed up big-time on Iraq, Afghanistan, and the battle against al Qaeda. When it comes to national security, it's too easy for demagogues to out-shout anyone who takes a reasonable approach. Certainly, Obama must do everything he can to make sure air travel is safe—and to demonstrate that protecting Americans is the top priority of this White House. (His initial response was far more fierce than George W. Bush's reaction to the infamous shoe bomber.) But Obama will have to keep pushing ahead on other fronts: the economy, climate change, health care, Afghanistan, financial reform. An opportunity or not, Flight 253 has handed Obama's over-burdened presidency yet one more heavy obligation.

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When Alexander Ebert performs with his new, 10-plus-member band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, he does so barefoot, sometimes shirtless, and with his long wavy hair tousled into a messy bun of sorts. (Rolling Stone referred to the ensemble as an "L.A. hippie clan.") Ebert's lack of footwear and clothing facilitate his desire to gleefully jump about the stage leading a unique ensemble of vocalists and horn, piano, accordion, tambourine, and banjo players that put on warm yet captivating live shows. After releasing their debut album Up From Below last August, the Zeros launched a cross-country tour and sold out nearly every show to hand-clapping, foot-stomping fans who can't get enough. Now, they're working on an epic, 12-part rock opera and hoping to put out one, if not two new albums this year. I spoke with Ebert, 31, about the origins of his talents, the dark side of signing to Virgin Records with Ima Robot, and what it means to be driving what some consider a folk-rock revolution.

Mother Jones: How did you first become interested in music?

Alexander Ebert: I took a lot of long summer road trips with my dad, and the mix of music we listened to on the road skipped around from classical to Western to new age to hyper-cinematic. You know, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and 100 others. But when I was 7, I got really into hip-hop and was all about rapping and tagging. When I was 13 or 14, I started taking rap more seriously. I had loose affiliations with other hip-hop groups and some inroads, but I was too young and I lost interest. After '94 I became totally disenchanted. The music coming out at that time was redundant and boring to me. It was no longer about the grit of making money. It was about the gloss and floss of having too much money.

Happy new year! My first resolution for 2010: Clean my fridge. Which, after a holiday season full of goodies, is kind of an archaeological undertaking. I'm going to compost as much as possible, and when it's not too gross, reuse things in other way. Eggshells are especially versatile. If you have eggs that have passed their expiration date, don’t chuck 'em. Try one of these ideas instead, courtesy of AltUse.com:

  1. Grow seedlings. Break eggs so that you have about two-thirds of the bottom part of the shell in tact. Rinse out. Poke a hole in the bottom with a pushpin. Fill each egg with some soil, and plant a few seeds in each egg. Place eggs back in the carton. Once the seeds are big enough to plant, put them into the ground, shells and all. The shells will act as fertilizer.
  1. Clean your disposal. Put an egg or two down your disposal—the sharp shells clean the blades.
  1. Fertilize plants. Crush five dry eggshells into a powder and add to soil before planting. Since eggs are made up mostly of calcium and magnesium, they're great for plants. To make a liquid fertilizer, just keep your eggshells in a watering can. Add water, soak for several days, then use the water for your plants. Water from boiling eggs works, too.
  1.  Scrub pots and pans. Use crushed eggshells instead of steel wool. 
  1. Make better coffee. Add a few crushed eggshells to your coffee before brewing for a smoother taste. An old cowboy trick.

Jonathan Mann, a.k.a. the Song A Day guy, has more than a little musical chutzpah. Not only did the Berkeley, California, songwriter compose a new ditty every single friggin' day during 2009, rain or shine, in sickness or health, but he also created daily music videos to post on his website, called (WTF?) RockCookieBottom.com. Some are simple, some reasonably ambitious; a handful are truly inspired while another handful are shameless ploys to win contests or get media attention—and he's gotten his share, particularly on MSNBC. When you write a song every day, as Mann intimated to Rachel Maddow—who'd invited him on her show to perform his ode to economist Paul Krugman—a few of them are bound to be pretty lame. But occasionally you'll get a gem.

Rather than go back and listen to all 365 songs Mann wrote in 2009, I invited him to sum up the year for Music Monday, giving us his best and worst for each of the past 12 months. By the by, what began as a motivational experiment begat a lifestyle. Logging into my email on New Year's Day, I found a message from Mann in my inbox. Subject: "Song A Day #366!" In the past year, Mann also formed a band—the Rock Cookie Bottoms—with whom he performed his best creations live at an Oakland club. Recently the group went into the studio to record a five-song EP titled Barefoot in the Family Tree. You can download any of his songs, and will soon be able to purchase the EP, through his other website. And now, heeeere's Jonny….

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. displays some holiday spirit Dec. 21, as he speaks to the Soldiers of 1st Armored Division in Germany, about their role in their upcoming deployment to Iraq and how the Afghanistan troop surge will affect it. (army.mil.)

Need To Read: January 4, 2010

Today's must reads:

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Ping Pong Update

Will House and Senate Democrats convene a conference committee to hash out differences between their healthcare bills? Or will the House simply vote on the Senate version and be done with it? Jon Cohn says it's going to be neither — and both:

According to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are “almost certain” to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee....“There will almost certainly be full negotiations but no formal conference,” the House staffer says. “There are too many procedural hurdles to go the formal conference route in the Senate.”

....“I think the Republicans have made our decision for us," the Senate staffer says. "It’s time for a little ping-pong.”

“Ping pong” is a reference to one way the House and Senate could proceed. With ping-ponging, the chambers send legislation back and forth to one another until they finally have an agreed-upon version of the bill. But even ping-ponging can take different forms and some people use the term generically to refer to any informal negotiations.

If this turns out to be true, then presumably one chamber or the other will pass the renegotiated bill and then send it directly to the other chamber. At least, that seems more likely to me than literally ping-ponging the bill back and forth several times.

In any case, this seems like a reasonable plan. Republicans have made it clear that they plan to erect every possible procedural hurdle they can think of, even including objections to routine things like naming conference committee members. So, since they've plainly given up on trying to influence the bill itself and are merely trying to obstruct and delay, there's really no reason why Democrats shouldn't play by the same rules and try to avoid obstruction any way they can. Congress has other things to do, after all, and spending weeks playing procedural games with Republicans keeps them from getting to it. It's time to put healthcare to bed and start spending time on climate change, financial regulation, and the 2011 budget instead. Enough's enough.

You've seen catblogging in the aughts. Now prepare yourself for the awesome spectacle of catblogging in the teens!

Which, um, turns out to be much the same. But maybe it's because these pictures were taken yesterday and aren't truly new decade material. In any case, Inkblot is on the left, swatting at a stick outside the frame of the picture. Actually, it was an iron rod that I was waving around, and after Inkblot bopped it a few times and realized it didn't bend friskily like a normal stick, he got scared of its adamantine nature and eventually fled the scene. (And by "fled" I mean he jumped over to the other chaise longue and gave me the evil eye.) As for Domino, she's just enjoying the last of the December sun here in Southern California. Good call.

In announcing January hearings of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which he chairs, Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman promised to address the “big, urgent questions” raised by the midair bombing attempt that took place on Christmas. Lieberman said that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “evaded our homeland security defenses,’’ adding, “We were very lucky this time but we may not be so lucky next time, which is why our defenses must be strengthened.’’

The answer to those questions may lie not far from home--in Lieberman’s own office and those of other members of Congress who have routinely turned away federal whistleblowers trying to alert the government to the weaknesses in our air security systems. These alarms were sounded even before 9/11, and have been repeated many times in years following.

Steve Elson, a former Navy Seal, served as a member of the FAA’s “Red Team”— a special ops outfit deployed to secretly probe U.S. air security defenses—from 1992 to 1999. After 9/11, as a private citizen, he continued to try to draw attention to the serious security problems in commercial aviation. Elson began working with TV reporters in setting up undercover operations and penetrated air security systems, he says, in dozens of airports around the United States, including JFK, Dulles, O’Hare, and San Francisco. In most cases, he smuggled lead protected bags, which could hide explosives, through checkpoints tailed by TV crews using hidden cameras. Elson easily made it past screeners in more than 70 percent of the cases.