The federal government, back open for business. A brilliant story on the flight home from Dallas on 11/22/63. And a disturbing new high school rape case

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Well Hallelujah and pass the champagne: We have a government back open in these here United States!

Yes, our brief national nightmare is over for now, after two-plus weeks of hundreds of thousands of government workers furloughed, national parks and other major pieces of society closed, and more ridiculous posturing in Congress than any country should ever be subjected to.

Happily and surprisingly, this shutdown ended with a pretty complete surrender by the Republicans, as even the wing-nuts like Ted Cruz and Louis Gomert seem to have realized that they weren’t going to win this one.

Some quickie thoughts on the end of a shutdown that never should have happened:

— I was happy to see that for once, Harry Reid and his fellow Dems didn’t back down, didn’t cave, didn’t move an inch. But as I said to a friend Wednesday night, “where would they have caved to?” Would they have agreed to repeal ObamaCare, to delay it for a few years, to do all kinds of the idiotic measures the House wingnuts were asking for?

— Also, all this talk of the Democrats “winning” is nice, but look at all kinds of discussions we’re having now. The sequester cuts seem permanent, we’re not spending ANY money to replace all the devastating cuts to social services, infrastructure, etc., and it would take an act of God to raise taxes in this country again. The GOP has pushed the debate so far to the right that just the Dems stopping them a little bit seems like a big victory.

— And before we all start celebrating, and I hate to throw cold water on things, but all the deal Wednesday does is delay the real negotiations for a few months. The debt ceiling and the funding of the federal gov’t only goes through mid-January and early February, so we might have to do this all over again this winter.
Now I can’t BELIEVE the GOP Tea Partiers will be stupid enough to try another gov’t shutdown, but no one ever went broke overestimating the Tea Party’s stupidity.

— My buddy Clay seems to think this shutdown, which has greatly damaged the GOP in every poll I’ve seen, is going to have a big effect on the 2014 elections. I’m dubious, though, because 2014 is a long way away and this country has the attention span of a gnat, and because all kinds of delay and obstruction can still happen between now and then.

So, we’ll see. But hey, for today, we’ve got Yosemite National Park (above) open again, so let’s be happy.

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**Whether you like it or not, you’re about to be inundated with news about the the JFK assassination, as we’re a few weeks away from the 50th anniversary. There’ll be TV specials, movies (the new “Parkland” movie, about what happened at the hospital right after the shooting, looks interesting), and a whole ton of newspaper and Internet stories about it.

Obviously we can’t consume all of it, but if you read only one thing, I highly recommend this Chris Jones story from Esquire this month. Through meticulous reporting and dozens of interviews, Jones reconstructed what happened on the flight back from Dallas to Washington on Air Force One, when John F. Kennedy’s casket was on board, along with a grieving Jackie Kennedy, a stunned but suddenly-President Lyndon B. Johnson, and two rival factions of advisers trying to figure out what to do next.

What struck me most about the piece was how composed Jackie Kennedy was, how unsure of everything LBJ seemed, and just the incredible balance everyone else tried to achieve between grief, and acceptance, while the body literally lay a few feet away.

Truly an incredible, and unprecedented moment in American history, and awfully compelling reading.

**Finally today, you may remember the rape trial of a couple of high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio last year, where two boys got a girl drunk and then sexually assaulted her. The case, and trial, divided the town and attained the kind of national attention a city just doesn’t want.

Not surprisingly, another small town is now facing the same specter. Again, the details are disgusting: Teenage boys, 14-year-old girls, a whole lot of alcohol, and sexual assault (this one has the lovely detail of the boys dumping one of the half-naked victims out of the car and leaving her, completely drunk, outside her house in the 22-degree weather.

Maryville, Missouri is where this incident occurred, and Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel has all the gruesome details, including why the prosecutor there already decided the boys should not stand trial. Here’s an interview as well with the second victim

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