72 hours and counting until government funding expires….

• Don’t look now, but the bloom is coming off the New Gingrich rose in Iowa, and the beneficiary happens to be none other than Ron Paul. How will the media manage to write Paul out of the story if he wins the caucuses?

• It would be one thing for Republican Presidential candidates to drone on and on about the scourge of undocumented workers coming over from Mexico if there were actually a scourge. There isn’t.

• Dave Weigel has a really nice story about the year in protest and how the Occupy movement has become the standard-bearer for activism on the left.

• Tom Edsall on inequality. Notice that he gets the matter much better than the confused Jason DeParle, who looks at an incomplete snippet of data and declares inequality dead and buried.

• Soon-to-be-former Rep. Dennis Cardoza (he’s retiring) blasts the President mostly on character issues. This has been building for a while.

• Jon Corzine showed up at another Congressional hearing today, again asserting that he doesn’t know where depositor money went after MF Global used it to make bets on their own account.

• Even Joe Lieberman plans to oppose the House payroll tax/UI bill.

• One of the bigger untold stories of the year is the total downshift of the American combat role in Afghanistan. I don’t know if this is a ploy to hide casualties or bide time for a reconciliation or what, but it’s undeniable.

• The deficit’s down! Yay! Wait, we actually need more debt right now, and moreover debt is extremely useful and should not be undermined. Boo!

• One fear about the unemployment insurance benefits extension is that a substantial number of long-term unemployed Americans already aren’t collecting benefits owed to them. Speaking of unemployment benefits, if all the top executives at Wall Street firms had to take a drug test to collect federal bailouts, the way House Republicans would have the unemployed, every bank in this country would be nationalized by now.

• The UN now estimates over 5,000 dead in Syria since the beginning of the uprising.

• Good background on the Federal Reserve, the ports, trade and unions from Matt Stoller.

• Ron Johnson’s bid to get a Tea Party foothold in the Senate Republican leadership failed today, as he lost out on a conference vice chair position to Roy Blunt.

• Here’s what the very cool Website redaction technology from the anti-SOPA activists looks like.

• The government wisely stopped printing useless and unnecessary $1 coins which nobody wanted and which clogged up the US Treasury at a high cost. Now we can get rid of the useless, unnecessary penny to save more money. Or we could stop printing money altogether and apparently end all recessions (I’m not so sure on that score).

• Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is basically giving his entire state over to natural gas fracking interests.

• Democratic Senators want some answers on the Administration’s decision on Plan B, but we’ll have to see whether this goes beyond the sternly worded letter phase.

• Adam Serwer claims that the new loopholes added to the detainee provisions of the defense authorization bill make the measures mostly worthless. That’s not everyone’s take, but FWIW.

• The year of protest has been a boon for the sound cannon industry.

• Hezbollah exposed what they call CIA spies in Lebanon in a TV report, re-enacting meetings at Starbucks and Pizza Hut.

• I don’t know how America will be able to make informed choices in this year’s Presidential election without a debate moderated by Donald Trump.

• A deeply horrific viewable street map of the Fukushima region.

• Remember when Slovenia almost sunk the euro by balking at a vote to agree to the European bailout fund? Remember how the Slovenian opposition demanded snap elections as a condition for their acceptance? The opposition won the snap elections.

• A shortfall in an optimistic revenue projection has led to automatic cuts to education and health care in California.

• The Christiane Amanpour experiment on ABC’s This Week is sadly coming to an end.

• A tragic and yet heartwarming story about a foreclosure in Orange County.

• Now here’s a good bill in Congress: it would ban government grants and loans from any company that offshores its call centers.

• The Department of Transportation is calling for a complete ban on in-car phone use, even with hands-free devices. Hopefully this will finally be what fixes traffic in LA.