The Ledes

Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Washington Post: "Marion Barry Jr., the Mississippi sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who served three terms as mayor of the District of Columbia, survived a drug arrest and jail sentence, and then came back to win a fourth term as the city’s chief executive, died early on Nov. 23 at United Medical Center in Washington. He was 78." Barry's New York Times: obituary is here.

Washington Post: "Negotiators working to slow Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions pressed forward with talks Saturday amid indications that they are at an impasse with two days left before a deadline for an accord." ...

... Reuters: "Iran says it will not be possible by a 24 November deadline to reach a comprehensive deal with world powers aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday."

Guardian: "The Obama administration announced the release of another Guantánamo Bay detainee on Saturday, rebuking recent calls from congressional Republicans to stop the transfers entirely. A Saudi man who has spent 12 years at the wartime detention facility, Muhammed Murdi Issa al-Zahrani, will return to Saudi Arabia and enter the kingdom’s rehabilitation program. The transfer brings the detainee population of a prison Barack Obama has vowed for six years to close down to 142 men, 72 of whom the Pentagon considers pose little enough threat as to be eligible for transfer."

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes":

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
November 21

7:30 am ET: Vice President Biden and President Poroshenko of Ukraine deliver joint statements in Kyiv, Ukraine (audio only)

8:30 am ET: Vice President Biden attends a roundtable discussion on anti-corruption & reform efforts in Kyiv (audio only)
3:55 pm ET:President Obama speaks at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:


Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.

 

Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

Washington Post: "They have spawned parodies from 'Ellen' to 'South Park' to 'Saturday Night Live,' but Lincoln is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to its commercials starring Matthew McConaughey. There was more from the Hollywood Reporter: 'Lincoln announced that its overall sales were up 25 percent last month, the strongest October for the beleaguered marque since 2007.'" ...

... Here's one of the McConaughey ads:

Jim Carrey nails it in an SNL skit:

... AND Ellen Degeneres takes the bull by the horns in another:

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Friday
Nov022012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 3, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

... The transcript is here.

Presidential Race

Mark Murray of NBC News: "... President Barack Obama maintains his lead in the key battleground state of Ohio and is locked in a close contest with ... Mitt Romney in Florida, according to new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls. In Ohio, Obama holds a six-point advantage over Romney among likely voters, 51 percent to 45 percent, which is unchanged from last month's poll in the Buckeye State. And in Florida, the president gets support from 49 percent of likely voters, while his GOP challenger gets 47 percent. Those numbers are virtually identical to the ones from October, when it was Obama 48 percent, Romney 47 percent." ...

... Nate Silver: "There were 22 polls of swing states published Friday. Of these, Mr. Obama led in 19 polls, and two showed a tie. Mitt Romney led in just one of the surveys, a Mason-Dixon poll of Florida.... Although the fact that Mr. Obama held the lead in so many polls is partly coincidental -- there weren't any polls of North Carolina on Friday, for instance, which is Mr. Romney's strongest battleground state -- they nevertheless represent powerful evidence against the idea that the race is a 'tossup.'"

What Might Have Been. Mike Allen & Jim Vanderhei of Politico: "One of the most tantalizing subplots of the 2012 campaign has been the curious and sometimes controversial performances of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Now, campaign insiders tell Politico that Christie was Mitt Romney's first choice for the Republican ticket, lending an intriguing new context to the continuing drama around the Garden State governor. The strong internal push for Christie, and Romney's initial instinct to pick him as his running mate, reflects how conflicted the nominee remained about choosing a running mate until the very end of the process." CW: Kinda explains some of Christie's recent behavior, doesn't it?

The New York Review of Books has a special election edition. Read these four essays, starting with the one by Frank Rich. They're all terrific. Thanks to reader Doug C. for pointing me to the NYRB. ...

... Speaking of terrific writers, here's Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker on God & presidential politics. Hertzberg, BTW, is an atheist. Or at least he was till the storm hit; maybe that kernel of conventional wisdom -- "There are no atheists in foxholes" (variously attributed, most often to Ernie Pyle) -- is at work on Hertzberg! ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, makes "the case against Romney: at heart he's a delusional one-percenter." A very good piece, too. ...

... Now read Chait on why Obama "is a great president. Yes, great."

Washington Post Editors: "Through all the flip-flops, there has been one consistency in the campaign of ... Mitt Romney: a contempt for the electorate. How else to explain his refusal to disclose essential information? Defying recent bipartisan tradition, he failed to release the names of his bundlers.... He never provided sufficient tax returns to show voters how he became rich. How, other than an assumption that voters are too dim to remember what Mr. Romney has said across the years and months, to account for his breathtaking ideological shifts? ... The same presumption of gullibility has infused his misleading commercials ... and his refusal to lay out an agenda.... And then there has been his chronic, baldly dishonest defense of mathematically impossible budget proposals." CW: too bad most people thing the Post is a liberal paper.

John Cassidy & Rick Hertzberg speak with Dorothy Wickenden about how Sandy might affect the presidential election:

... Cassidy has a good post on the implications of the October jobs numbers: "For the first time, Obama can now say that more Americans are working than when he took office. Doubtless, it's a point he'll be making over the next few days."

Charles Pierce takes up the same theme Paul Krugman illuminated in his Friday column: "As part of his 'closing argument,' Willard Romney, who has tried on every argument for making him our president that can be conceived by the mind of mortal man, seems to have settled on simple blackmail." Read to the end; Pierce doesn't waste words. ...

... More from Jonathan Chait, who explains why the blackmail argument is appealing to know-nothing voters -- they have no idea what the issues are, but the don't like the Bickersons of Capitol Hill. Chait also provides a little history lesson to show how Romney's promise would work out in the Real World of said Bickersons. (Think Bush III.) Oh, and catch Chait's point on Romney's clever use of the passive voice. ...

... Here's Romney making his blackmail threat. Watch that smirk creep across Romney's face as he pauses after making the threat. I think it might be the same expression a goulish murderer assumes when denying the crime -- as blood drips from his hands:

Steve Benen in the last of his long-running series, "Mitt's Mendacity": "I've published 40 installments in this series, which, before today, featured 884 falsehoods. (If you include today's edition, the new total is 917 falsehoods for the year.)"

"You don't scare hard-working Americans just to scare up some votes. That's not what being President is all about":

CW: I don't usually put much stock in what celebrities say, & Stephen Stills, in this Rolling Stone endorsement of President Obama doesn't say much that the editors at the New Yorker & the New York Times haven't said in their endorsements, but there is a certain something to the vernacular that makes Stills' piece compelling: "At the second debate, somebody asked how Bush and Romney differ. I'll give you the answer: Romney's taller, Mormon and a little smarter and meaner. That's about it. I couldn't believe how he acted at that debate. He's a churlish little prick. At least Bush was affable.... It's not right to be that rude to the President of the United States, let alone anybody else." Coincidentally, I was also just thinking this, too: "I never in my lifetime thought I would see a creepier politician than Richard Nixon, but in the last few days, it became clear that Willard Mitt Romney is really, really creepy." Thanks to contributor Ken W. for the link.

Charles Blow on why Romney appears to be losing.

Even Fox "News" Is Sick of Fox "News." Terry Krepel of Media Matters: "Fox News' argument that the Obama administration deliberately abandoned Americans in Libya to let them die in the Benghazi terrorist attack is apparently so odious that even Fox's own experts and commentators are rebelling against the narrative." Krepel cites examples & includes video. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Jon Ortved of the New York Times: "There's always Canada." With some caveats.

Other Stuff

NEW. Paul Krugman fingers Karl Rove as a con-man -- someone who is not just conning voters but also his clients: "We've been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he's best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America."

NEW. Carol Leonnig & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "The investigation into the arrest of a man on charges of dumping voter registration forms last month in Harrisonburg, Va., has widened, with state officials probing whether a company tied to top Republican leaders had engaged in voter registration fraud in the key battleground state, according to two persons close to the case."

Jayne Mayer of the New Yorker rebuts a rebuttal to her recent article on Hans von Spakovsky, a self-described legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation & "a prominent alarmist about election fraud in America." Bottom line: "...there is virtually no modern record of individual voters trying to steal elections by impersonating others at the polls."

<[>Michael Cooper of the New York Times: "The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is threatening to create Election Day chaos in some storm-racked sections of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut -- and some effects may also be felt in other states, including Pennsylvania, where some polling sites still lacked power on Friday morning. Disrupted postal delivery will probably slow the return of absentee ballots. And with some polling sites likely to be moved, elections officials were bracing for a big influx of provisional paper ballots -- which could delay the vote count in places."

Craig Child in a New York Times op-ed: "Hurricane Sandy showed us how sea-level rise actually works. It comes up in spikes that top historic highs and then fall back to normal.... We talk about life slowly returning to normal along the Eastern Seaboard, but ultimately, it never will. A new high-water mark has been set. In the aftermath, one fact stands out above all: seas are rising, and we are in the way."

Eric Lipton & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "The first trickle of federal funds has started to go out after Hurricane Sandy -- $29 million to rebuild highways, $30 million to hire temporary workers to help with the cleanup. But lawmakers are just beginning to tally what is certain to be a multibillion-dollar bill for the federal government at a time of fiscal restraint."

Charles Pierce also has something to say about Senate Republicans' killing a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service which concluded, "essentially, that almost 35 years of Republican economic policy was sheer lunatic moonshine.... Republicans in the Senate have the same problem with numbers and with math that they have with science in general -- namely, that numbers and -- math were invented by Democrats, probably in Nate Silver's Carpathian la-BOR-a-tory, in order to help Republicans look foolish." Pierce characterizes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell thusly: "... [his] presence in a position of influence is an embarrassment to every democracy back to Pericles." (CW: I linked the underlying story, by New York Times writer Jonathan Weisman, in yesterday's Commentariat.

News Ledes

NBC News: "A jury on Friday ordered an American military contractor to pay $85 million after finding it guilty of negligence for illnesses suffered by a dozen Oregon soldiers who guarded an oilfield water plant during the Iraq War. After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated for just two days before reaching a decision against the contractor, Kellogg Brown and Root."

New York Times: "As long lines persisted at gas stations in the New York metropolitan area, federal authorities moved on Friday to restore supplies, instructing the Defense Department to send 24 million gallons of fuel to the region and lifting restrictions on deliveries by foreign-flagged ships." ...

     ... Update: "The lights flickered on in Manhattan neighborhoods that had been dark for days, and New York's subways rumbled and screeched through East River tunnels again. But in shorefront stretches of Staten Island and Queens that were all but demolished, and in broad sections of New Jersey and Long Island, gasoline was still almost impossible to come by, electricity was still lacking, temperatures were dropping and worried homeowners wondered when help would finally arrive."

New York Times: "Four dark days after Hurricane Sandy blew through the New York region, residents and businesses in the lower end of Manhattan began to get power back on Friday.... In other boroughs and in the suburbs, the prognosis for full restoration was grimmer. In many parts of the region, utility companies forecast that people might be without power until the middle of November."

AP: once more, Staten Islanders feel they live in the forgotten borough. The New York City borough hardest-hit by Hurricane Sandy, help was slow to arrive, partly because the Verrazano bridge was closed until Friday. CW: the bridge story sounds like an excuse to me: according to this report, on Tuesday the Port Authority re-opened the three bridges that connect Staten Island to New Jersey.

New York Times: "Just when they might have thought they were in the clear, people recovering from meningitis in an outbreak caused by a contaminated steroid drug have been struck by a second illness. The new problem, called an epidural abscess, is an infection near the spine at the site where the drug -- contaminated by a fungus -- was injected to treat back or neck pain. The abscesses are a localized infection, different from meningitis, which affects the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. But in some cases, an untreated abscess can cause meningitis."

AP: "Some documents sealed in the 1970s as part of the court case against seven men involved in the Watergate burglary must be released, a federal judge ... says. U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth said in a two-page order Friday that some materials being sought by a Texas history professor should be released. He gave the National Archives and Records Administration a month to review and release the materials."

Thursday
Nov012012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 2, 2012

David Porter of the AP: "New Jersey will deploy military trucks to serve as polling places on Election Day in storm-battered communities, the state secretary of the state announced Thursday during a visit to this flood-ravaged town. The state is also extending the deadline on mail-in ballots. Department of Defense trucks will be parked at regular polling places that have lost power, as long as the sites are still accessible. Paper ballots will be used."

Presidential Race

Greg Sargent: The monthly jobs report, released this morning (see today's News Ledes for links) "was unexpectedly decent: 171,000 nonfarm jobs added in October, and unemployment essentially unchanged at 7.9 percent.... What these numbers really mean is that the last remaining catastrophe that could have derailed Obama's reelection effort didn't happen." ...

... Steve Benen: "... the figures offer good economic news for the American people, and good political news for President Obama." With charts. ...

... If you liked Benen's charts, indulge yourself in this post by Bill McBride of Calculated Risk. ...

... The View from Right Wing World. David Brockington of Lawyers, Guns & Money: "... the wingnut response, or in the words of one retweet I read, 'The jobs numbers come out today, and either they prove Obama is a complete failure or that he cooked the books. Those are the only choices.'"

Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times: "In a surprise announcement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg [of New York city] said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the presidential campaign and that as a result he was endorsing President Obama. Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent in his third term leading New York City, has been sharply critical of both Mr. Obama, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney..., saying that both men have failed to candidly confront the problems afflicting the nation. But he said he had decided over the past several days that Mr. Obama was the best candidate to tackle the global climate change that the mayor believes contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage." ...

... Bloomberg made his endorsement in an editorial opinion piece in Bloomberg News.

Michael Shear & Mark Landler of the New York Times: President Obama campaigned in Wisconsin & in Las Vegas, Nevada, Thursday. "Until Election Day, the president will be in nearly constant motion, flying to three states a day, as he works furiously to lock down what his campaign insists are narrow but durable leads. Mr. Obama was scheduled to spend all Friday in Ohio, and he is likely to return to the state at least one more time before Tuesday. In addition, the president's campaign released a television ad Thursday featuring effusive praise from [former Secretary of State Colin] Powell, [a Republican].... After avoiding attacks on Mr. Obama for 72 hours because of the storm, Mr. Romney plunged back into the fray in Roanoke, Va., mocking the president for proposing a cabinet-level post devoted to business development. Mr. Obama discussed the idea in an interview with MSNBC that was shown Monday, just as Mr. Romney was entering cease-fire mode." ...

... Here's the Powell ad:

Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: Michelle Obama is on the campaign trail this week & is fundraising, too.

Nate Silver: "Mr. Obama continues to hold the lead in the vast majority of polls in Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin, the states that represent his path of least resistance toward winning the Electoral College. This was particularly apparent on Wednesday, a day when there were a remarkable number of polls, 27, released in the battleground states."

"The Blackmail Caucus." Paul Krugman: "I've seen a growing number of Romney supporters [arguing that] ... if he loses, Republicans will destroy the economy.... Arguing for Mr. Romney on the grounds that he could get things done veers dangerously close to accepting protection-racket politics, which have no place in American life." CW: I couldn't agree more with Krugman's takedown of the Des Moines Register's stupid rationale for endorsing Romney.

!!! Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Matt Romney, a son of the Republican presidential nominee, traveled to Moscow this week seeking Russian investors for his California-based real estate firm just days before his father is to wrap up a campaign in which he has vowed to take a tougher stance with the Kremlin.... The Romney campaign said it had no comment.... But while in Moscow, Mr. Romney told a Russian known to be able to deliver messages to Mr. Putin that despite the campaign rhetoric, his father wants good relations if he becomes president, according to a person informed about the conversation."

In a Washington Post op-ed, former Mississippi Governor, former RNC chair, & all-around unreconstituted redneck Haley Barbour, in a Washington Post op-ed, says the President has a lot of control over how disaster funds are distributed to states: "Republicans worried that [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie saying anything favorable about [President] Obama is politically disloyal need to remember that a governor's first responsibility is to his or her state and its people. Those in the media looking to determine political winners and losers in this situation should stop."

Wherein Dana Milbank proves he doesn't know the first thing about probability & statistics. ...

... Mark Blumenthal of the Huffington Post: "... some argue that Republican nominee Mitt Romney will come out on top because Obama's poll totals linger just below 50 percent. The arguments are based on what campaign pollsters used to call the 'incumbent rule,' the idea that when an officeholder seeks reelection, undecided voters would break decisively to challengers in the final days of the campaign. The problem is that such late shifts have become increasingly rare. They may never have been much of a factor in close presidential races and show few empirical signs of occurring among the undecided voters of 2012."

Congressional Races

Steven Shepard of the National Journal: in Indiana, GOP U.S. Senate candidate "Richard Mourdock's support has collapsed following his comments about rape at a debate last week, and the GOP nominee in the Indiana Senate race now trails by a significant margin, according to a new independent poll released on Friday [which] ... shows Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly leading Mourdock, the state treasurer, 47 percent to 36 percent.... In September, the two candidates ran neck-and-neck...." CW: Donnelly is no friend of women. He's against abortion except in cases of rape, incest or health of the mother. It's pathetic that in much of the country, for a Democrat to win, his Republican opponent has to be a knuckle-dragging loon.

Voter Suppression

David Dayen of Firedoglake: "A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday placed a stay on a lower court ruling that would allow voter disenfranchisement based on poll worker error. The panel, all appointed by either Bush 41 or Bush 43, ruled that Ohio may disallow ballots where the voter used the wrong precinct to vote. This is true even if the poll worker directed the voter to the wrong precinct. Otherwise, the opinion says, this would 'absolve voters of all responsibility for voting in the correct precinct.' ... the Sixth Circuit merely stayed the ruling of the lower court. The appeal still must be heard. But we are five days out from the election." ...

... BUT wait, there's more. Joe Guillen of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "A small fraction of Ohio voters' absentee ballot requests may have been mistakenly rejected due to a recently discovered glitch in the transfer of change-of-address records. Even though the deadline for voters to register or change their address was three weeks ago, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted just this week sent about 33,000 updated registration records to local elections officials." ...

     ... David Dayen: "He just didn't send the data.... This is ... just an example of how Husted has put his thumb on the scales of this election in the most pivotal state. And remember, he has to count the votes, too."

John Aravosis of AmericaBlog: at a predominently-black Broward County, Florida (yes, that Broward County!), the number of early voters suddenly drops by 1,000+ votes. How did that happen? The story is evolving? CW: thanks to Akhilleus for the link. Frankly, I'd be surprised if the Obama campaign didn't have a poll-watcher there counting noses. However, I didn't specifically see any poll-watchers when I voted early. Might be a failure of the system. ...

... Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times: in early Florida voting, Democrats are "crushing" Republicans in getting out the vote among "sporadic" -- i.e., UNlikely -- voters. ...

... CW: obviously, Democrats think Florida is still in play. In a last-minute call, Bill Clinton is coming to Fort Myers today. This is Republican country, although Fort Myers itself does have a tiny pocket of heavily-Democratic precincts. Except as I noted above, I have some anecdotal evidence -- my own experience -- that Democrats have a better GOTV system than do Republicans. Within 24 hours of the time I voted, I got an e-mail from the Obama campaign thanking me for voting. So they noticed. A few hours later, Sen. Marco Rubio (RTP-Fla.) robo-called, urging me to vote for Romney. A Republican lady robo-caller was on the phone this morning with something about Democrats killing jobs. And one of those fundamentalist orgs robo-called me yesterday. After I said I disagreed with something Billy Graham said about gay marriage, my "survey" was over. So only the Democrats know it's too late to persuade me. ...

... AND from the fundy crowd, here's a dire warning from Mike Huckabee that "your vote will be recorded in eternity" and it may not withstand "the test of fire." Translation: if you don't vote Republican, you'll go to hell:

Other Stuff

Read the cover story by Paul Barrett. Barrett covers all bases. ...

** Tim Egan: "Climate change is to the Republican base ... untouchable and unmentionable. Their party is financed by people whose fortunes are dependent upon denying that humans have caused the earth's weather patterns to change for the worse.... President Obama has been silent on this issue of great import to his children, Sasha and Malia, and their children. He is afraid of those pockets of coal-mining, climate-change-denying voters in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.... A profile in courage he is not, but at least his party has some smart advocates for treating the patient before the meteorological malady kills it.... The other cherished idea of Republicans that was thrown to Sandy's winds is the notion that people don't need government in times of domestic trauma.... When the full bill for New Jersey's recovery comes due, no single state or private entity in the land will able to come close to paying for it." ...

... Jim Dwyer of the New York Times: "The consensus of scientists globally is that climate change has taken place and has contributed to the rise of sea levels by close to a foot over the last century.... Yet climate change has been close to unmentionable during the presidential campaign. The agenda has been set by minority voices, some of them quietly financed by industries that might be threatened by measures to curb greenhouse gases. Somehow, by denying the existence of climate change, they managed to shut down debate over what to do about it. That is why a disagreement between the governor [Cuomo] and the mayor [Bloomberg] about sea gates is so refreshing."

** Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The [TOTALLY NONPARTISAN] Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper's findings and wording. The decision, made in late September against the advice of the agency's economic team leadership, drew almost no notice at the time.... But it could actually draw new attention to the report, which questions the premise that lowering the top marginal tax rate stimulates economic growth and job creation. 'This has hues of a banana republic,' [Sen. Chuck] Schumer [D-NY] said. 'They didn't like a report, and instead of rebutting it, they had them take it down.' ... The pressure applied to the research service comes amid a broader Republican effort to raise questions about research and statistics that were once trusted as nonpartisan and apolitical." ...

... Steve Benen: "As David Leonhardt noted when it was published, the CRS analysis undermines a 'defining economic policy' of modern Republican thought. Indeed, the entire Romney/Ryan economic plan is predicated on the assumption that supply-side theory works, and here was the CRS saying it doesn't.... We simply cannot have a functioning federal system in which neutral, independent offices are ignored, pressured,and/or censored when Republicans don't like what they have to say. We've now seen this recently with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Congressional Budget Office, and democratic norms dictate that GOP officials cut this out.... For what it's worth, the CRS pulled the report from its website, but Senate Democrats have liberated it, republishing the analysis on their own site."

Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Security officers from the C.I.A. played a pivotal role in combating militants who attacked the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, deploying a rescue party from a secret base in the city, sending reinforcements from Tripoli, and organizing an armed Libyan military convoy to escort the surviving Americans to hastily chartered planes that whisked them out of the country, senior intelligence officials said Thursday. The account given by the senior officials, who did not want to be identified, provided the most detailed description to date of the C.I.A.'s role in Benghazi." ...

... Lolita Baldor of the AP: "CIA security officers went to the aid of State Department staff less than 25 minutes after they got the first call for help during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday, as they laid out a detailed timeline of the CIA's immediate response to the attack from its annex less than a mile from the diplomatic mission.... The timeline was offered just days before the presidential election in a clear effort to refute recent news reports [by Fox "News"] that said the CIA told its personnel to 'stand down' rather than go to the consulate to help repel the attackers."

John Burns & Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "Despite widespread suspicion about [British TV personality Jimmy] Savile's behavior over decades, and Mr. Savile's acknowledgment in his autobiography that he had a predilection for young girls..., a number of missteps and missed signals ... allowed Mr. Savile to escape scrutiny for most of his career.... Seven police investigations were begun into Mr. Savile before he died last year..., according to British news reports, but officers have said that separate police forces across Britain were unable to connect the dots, partly because a national crime database did not come into effect until 2010.... Newspapers, afraid of Britain's strict libel laws, decided not to publish their suspicions, although several had conducted their own investigations over the years."

News Ledes

CW: I missed this from the Nov. 1 Los Angeles Times: "Letitia Baldrige, an etiquette maven who served as social secretary to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and later wrote books and a syndicated column advising readers on good manners in contemporary America, has died. She was 86."

New York Times: "The American Red Cross struggled on Friday to reassure beleaguered New York City residents that its disaster-relief efforts were at last getting up to speed, after the agency's delayed arrival in devastated areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens drew intense criticism." CW: they were probably delayed looking for soupçons of soup cans from Mitt Romney. ...

... New York Times: "Across the city, New Yorkers who had found each other through Facebook and Twitter, churches and community groups, City Hall and local elected officials, tried in ways small and large to ease the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy. Several volunteers said the relief provided by their small-scale community efforts was the first to arrive in some of the most hard-hit parts of the city, outpacing large organizations like the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

New York Times: "After days of intensifying pressure from runners, politicians and the general public to call off the New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, city officials and the event's organizers decided Friday afternoon to cancel the race."

New York Times: "In the last assessment of the job market before the presidential election, the Labor Department announced Friday that the nation's employers had added 171,000 positions in October. The unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in September." ...

... Reuters writes a much more upbeat account of the same numbers: "U.S. employers stepped up hiring in October and the jobless rate ticked higher as more workers restarted job hunts, a hopeful sign for a lackluster economy that has dragged on President Barack Obama's reelection chances."

ABC News: "With concerns about hypothermia increasing -- and another storm forecast for next week -- nearly 64,000 utility workers are now working around the clock to turn the power back on in a dozen states."

Bloomberg News: "Manhattan, slowed by power outages, flooded subways and closed markets since Sandy struck Oct. 29, should have electricity fully restored by the end of today....

Wednesday
Oct312012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 1, 2012

Scott Keyes of Think Progress has a follow-up to his story (linked on yesterday's Commentariat) about the Romney campaign's training poll-watchers to give disinformation to would-be voters in Wisconsin and to hide their affiliation with the Romney campaign. The Obama campaign has written a letter of complaint to Wisconsin's secretary of state, & a spokesman for Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board spoke to the Washington Post, essentially collaborating Keyes' assertions that the Romney campaign was teaching its secret poll watchers to mislead the public. The Post story, by Bill Turque, is here. ...

... Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Stephen Einhorn -- a Wisconsin venture capital fund manager and major GOP donor -- acknowledged Monday that he and his wife Nancy paid for dozens of anonymous billboards in and around Milwaukee and two Ohio cities warning residents of the penalties for committing voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups complained that the signs - which were taken down last week - were concentrated in minority neighborhoods and intended to suppress the election turnout, though some were posted as far out as Waukesha and Washington counties." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Gail Collins: "P.G. Sittenfeld ... is a member of the Cincinnati City Council who went to battle recently over a series of billboards that popped up in minority neighborhoods announcing 'VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY!' with a picture of a gavel banging down. The ads ... were paid for by a foundation led by a big Republican donor from Wisconsin. Now they're down, and thanks in part to Sittenfeld's yelps, there are new billboards in the same neighborhoods saying, 'Hey, Cincinnati: Voting Is a Right, Not a Crime.' So there's a happy ending. Although, in an ideal world, we probably wouldn't be required to remind folks that voting for president is not against the law."

Presidential Race

Dashiel Bennett of the Atlantic: "Political polling guru Nate Silver is so confident in his statistical models that he just offered to bet MSNBC's Joe Scarborough $1,000 that Barack Obama will win re-election. Scarborough ... criticized Silver's math earlier this week, saying that 'Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue ... they're jokes.' He was specifically talking about Silver's FiveThirtyEight website, which shows Mitt Romney with just a 1-in-4 chance of becoming president." ...

... Missed this one (& evidently so did Scarborough), but it's helpful. Statistician Andrew Gelman in a New York Times op-ed on "what 'too close to call' really means.... I can simultaneously (a) accept that Obama has a 72 percent chance of winning and (b) say the election is too close to call. What if the weatherman told you there was a 30 percent chance of rain -- would you be shocked if it rained that day? No. To put it another way, suppose Mitt Romney pulls out 51 percent of the popular vote and wins the election. That doesn't mean that Nate Silver skews the polls (as is suggested by this repulsive article at Examiner.com, which, among other things, criticizes Silver for being thin and having a soft voice). Romney winning the election with 51 percent of the vote is well within the margin of error, as Silver clearly indicates. That's what too close to call is all about."

Here's Gov. Christie (R-NJ) running up President Obama's numbers:

... Reid Epstein & Josh Gerstein of Politico have the story. ...

... More from Mark Landler & Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "The president placed a hand on Mr. Christie's back, guided him to Marine One, where the two men shared a grim flight over shattered sea walls, burning houses and a submerged roller coaster."

... In this world all things are possible. Here's Mark Halperin, in a video he uploaded of himself (natch!), wherein he makes a cogent point: "The coverage of the storm is going to carry all the way through the election ... and the President has hit every mark on substance and on stage craft.... So, he's going to blot out a lot of the effort of Republicans to message. The other thing is, what was Mitt Romney's closing argument? "I can work across the aisle. This President has a four year record of failure, doesn't know how to work with the other side." The symbolism of, with Chris Christie, working across the aisle, getting things done, it goes right to the heart of how Mitt Romney wanted to close this election."

Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "Mitt Romney sidestepped a controversy over whether he plans to shut down the federal emergency response agency at an election rally in Florida where he is struggling to hold onto a once commanding lead in the opinion polls.... [Romney] avoided praise for the government's relief response and did not touch on questions dogging him about a statement he made last year saying he would scrap Fema, which has led the post-Sandy recovery efforts.... [Florida] polls put [Romney] up to seven percentage points ahead a month ago, but a New York Times survey on Wednesday has the president back in front, even if only by one point. If Romney fails to take Florida, he stands little chance of winning the election."

If all the reporters in all the world were only as tenacious as Akhilleus, they would have unearthed the Romney-Ryan Emergency Management Plan. Thanks to Akhilleus for breaking the story. I feel safer already. Mmm Mmm Good:

... By the way, the Romney campaign purchased that Campbell's soup at an Ohio Wal-Mart. McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: the campaign decided to turn a planned Ohio rally into a "storm relief event." "But the last-minute nature of the call for donations left some in the campaign concerned that they would end up with an empty truck. So the night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Wal-Mart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned food, and diapers to put on display while they waited for donations to come in, according to one staffer. (The campaign confirmed that it 'did donate supplies to the relief effort,' but would not specify how much it spent.)" Coppins' whole story is a hoot. ...

... Kevin Drum with a brief recent history of FEMA: "At a deep ideological level, Republicans believe that federal bureaucracies are inherently inept, so when Republicans occupy the White House they have no interest in making the federal bureaucracy work. And it doesn't. Democrats, by contrast, take government services seriously and appoint people whose job is to make sure the federal bureaucracy does work. And it does." ...

... Paul Krugman: "George Bush the elder turned the agency into a dumping ground for hacks, with bad results; Clinton revived the agency; Bush the younger ruined it again; Obama revived it again; and Romney -- with everyone still remembering Brownie and Katrina! -- said that he wants to block-grant and privatize it. (And as far as I can tell, even TV news isn't letting him Etch-A-Sketch the comment away)."

Nicholas Kristof: Time to talk not just about the weather but about climate change. "The Times has reported that three of the 10 biggest floods in Lower Manhattan since 1900 have occurred in the last three years.... 'Of the 10 warmest summers on record for the contiguous United States, seven have occurred since 2000,' notes Jake Crouch of the National Climatic Data Center.... Politicians have dropped the ball, but so have those of us in the news business. The number of articles about climate change fell by 41 percent from 2009 to 2011.... We'll also need a stronger FEMA -- which makes Romney's past suggestions that FEMA be privatized particularly myopic." ...

... Bill Clinton on Obama v. Romney re: climate change, in Minneapolis Tuesday:

... David Edwards of Raw Story: "In fact, Romney's joke about climate change had come during the Republican National Convention, not the first debate, but that doesn't change the point that Clinton was making. 'President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,' Romney had said. 'My promise is to help you and your family.' As Grist's Philip Bump pointed out, Obama's 2008 remarks about climate change have been used over and over again by conservatives to portray him "as an effete other." ... What Romney argues is a classic false choice: the idea that we must either choose to save the environment or put people to work.'"

Here's the end of "The Conversation" between David F. Brooks & Gail Collins: "David: 'As Sandy reminds us, there are many other things in most people's lives that are much more important than politics.' Gail: 'Politics is about everything! How we organize our society. What responsibilities we have to our fellow citizens. I wish it could hold back the tide, but at least politics lets us figure out how we'll prepare for the cleanup.'"

** Patricia Mazzel of the Miami Herald: "Yesterday ... Mitt Romney was onstage in Miami talking about the need to unite the country and to stop all the attacks. On Spanish-language TV, though..., his campaign has begun heavily running [an] ad that links President Barack Obama with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro's niece and communist revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. The campaign, despite repeated requests, didn't furnish the ad." Read the whole post. Includes iPhone video copy of ad & English-language script. CW: ¿Como se dice "slimeball" en español? Via Greg Sargent.

Sarah Jones of PoliticusUSA has a rundown of what newspapers are saying about Romney's Jeep lie. And she makes this point: "The press has finally caught Romney in a lie that can't be explained away. And why is that? Because this lie impacts corporations.... When workers came forward to tell of how Romney decimated their jobs they were dismissed as sore losers. When women came forward to tell of how Romney tried to force them to give up their child for adoption or not have a life-saving abortion, they are ignored and the press gives Romney a pass on his extremist views on women's freedom. But when Mitt Romney started lying about corporations, that was too much." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... The Cleveland Leader was particularly scathing: "We all know that lying and politics go hand-in-hand, but Mitt Romney is really taking the cake this year.... After being blasted by the auto industry for making false claims at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, last week that Chrysler was going to move jobs from their Jeep plant in Ohio to China, Romney's campaign decided to solidify the blatant lies in a television ad suggesting the exact same thing. Despite the claims be called outright lies by Chrysler itself, which has invested over $500 million into the Jeep factory in Ohio, Romney's campaign is not backing down. Instead, they've opted to triple down on the assertion that Chrysler is moving Ohio jobs to China in a new radio ad that began running in Ohio on Tuesday." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Mitt Romney can't admit that the auto bailout helped Detroit and America, so instead he invents problems with it.... In a flailing, last-minute grab for Ohio, Mr. Romney is providing a grim preview of what kind of president he would be."

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: during an appearance on MSNBC, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) "accused the Obama administration of promulgating regulations that are undermining job creation at [American Motors,] an auto manufacturer [once run by George Romney] that has been defunct since 1988. CW: after dodging a question "about Mitt Romney's dishonest claims regarding Jeep," Blackburn, who is from the 1950s, putt-putted away in her Nash Rambler, her perfect pageboy still perfect & her copious crinolines nearly filling the cab of the tiny AMC vehicle. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Greg Palast of the Nation in Truthout: in Toledo, Ohio, today, "Bob King, President of the United Automobile Workers, will announce that his union and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have filed a formal complaint with the US Office of Government Ethics ... stating that Gov. Romney improperly hid a profit of $15.3 million to $115.0 million in Ann Romney's so-called 'blind' trust. The union chief says, 'The American people have a right to know about Gov. Romney's potential conflicts of interest, such as the profits his family made from the auto rescue. It's time for Gov. Romney to disclose or divest.'" The issue revolves around Ann Romney's investment in Delphi Corp. auto parts, where she made about a 4,000 percent profit, partly as a result of Delphi's holding bailout negotiations hostage. Palast has the details here (in a story I linked some while back). Thanks to reader Janet L. for the link.

CW: This is not Charles Pierce's most compelling essay, but for those of you considering voting for the Green party's Jill Stein, Pierce's unenthusiastic endorsement of Barack Obama might help dissuade you.

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos has produced an Obama ad of the sort Romney's staff would make if they were in charge of Obama's campaign:

AND this little girl is fed up with both of them. Thanks to contributor Mushiba for the link. In the "Why Didn't I Think of That? Department," let us be grateful to a little child for bringing us "Bronco Bamma":

Congressional Races

"The Rape Thing." Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "John Koster, a Republican running for Congress in Washington [state]..., said he would support abortion only if the woman's life is in danger, but would not extend the same right to women who are survivors of incest or 'the rape thing,' as he casually termed it. To justify his opposition, Koster insisted that incest is rare and argued that abortion would only further hurt rape survivors." CW: A reader, who lives in Koster's Congressional district, says this bozo has a chance of winning against a good Democratic candidate: "Even in this blue state, we have a lot of Tea Party nuts," she writes.

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel will cross party lines on Thursday and endorse Democrat Bob Kerrey in his effort to return to the U.S. Senate, according to a report. The Omaha World-Herald reports Hagel will back Kerrey, a fellow Vietnam War veteran whom he served with in the Senate. Kerrey is running against State Sen. Deb Fischer, and a World-Herald poll released last week showed Fischer's lead shrinking to just three points after she held a double-digit lead for months." CW: Kerrey may be a putz, but he's our putz. So rah, rah, etc., etc.

Something Else

Matt Miller, in the Washington Post: "I’ve always felt that a deeper appreciation of the role that luck plays in life could form the basis of a consensus for bolder measures to get serious about equal opportunity, economic security and a minimally decent life in America. For the truth is it's not just poor kids nowadays who are buffeted by forces outside their control. When it comes to the fate of the middle class in an era of globalization and rapid technological change, the waters are rising all around us." ...

... Here's the post by Richard Posner which Miller cites.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Widespread gas shortages stirred fears among residents and disrupted some rescue and emergency services on Thursday as the New York region struggled to return to a semblance of normalcy after being ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Tiny increments of progress -- some subway and bus lines were back in service -- were overshadowed by new estimates of the storm's financial cost, struggles to restore power, and by the discovery of more bodies in flooded communities."

New York Times: "The soggy marshes and still-damp ruins of homes on Staten Island yielded a grim postscript to the toll from Hurricane Sandy on Thursday, as search teams discovered more bodies where the storm's giant wall of water had smashed its way through.... In all, the death toll from the storm in the United States and Canada reached 95, with 48 deaths in New York State, 40 of them in the city. Twelve deaths have been reported in New Jersey and four in Connecticut. The storm also killed at least 69 people in the Caribbean before it whipped toward the Northeast, including at least 54 in Haiti and 11 in Cuba."

AP: "A senior Secret Service agent who was being investigated by the government for failing to disclose a long-standing relationship with a foreign citizen killed himself last week in Washington.... Rafael Prieto, a married father assigned to the security detail for President Barack Obama, had acknowledged to U.S. investigators that he had been having an affair for years with a woman from Mexico...."

New York Times: "A new video from the Syria conflict that circulated via the Internet on Thursday showed antigovernment fighters armed with rifles kicking and summarily executing a group of prisoners, apparently soldiers or militiamen, in what human rights activists called evidence of a war crime and another indication that both sides were increasingly committing atrocities."

New York Times: "Amid intensifying criticism, New York Road Runners continued Thursday to prepare for the New York City Marathon with an abbreviated schedule of events leading to the race. With the death count from Hurricane Sandy growing, hundreds of thousands still without power, and air, rail and ferry service struggling to resume, some runners and elected officials have called for Sunday's marathon to be canceled or postponed. Police, fire and other essential public services, they said, should be focused on helping those most in need. Nevertheless, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, aware that the marathon generates hundreds of millions of dollars for the city, repeated Thursday that the race would go on."

Reuters: "New Jersey natives Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi will join Sting and other top music stars on Friday for a special television benefit concert NBC to aid victims of Sandy, the giant storm that killed scores and devastated large sections of the U.S. Northeast."

AP: Rezwan Ferdaus, "a Massachusetts man, was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in prison in a plot to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol."

Sorry, Mitt. Reuters: "Companies added 158,000 jobs in October in the biggest gain in eight months, data from a payrolls processor showed on Thursday in a revamped report on the private sector labor market."

Gallup: "U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, fell to 7.0% for the month of October, down significantly from the 7.9% measured at the end of September. Gallup's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 7.4%, improved more than a half a point from September."

AP: "Weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 363,000 last week, a level consistent with modest hiring."

Bloomberg News: "Confidence among American consumers climbed in October to a more than four-year high, which may help drive bigger gains in the largest part of the economy."

AP: "People along the battered U.S. East Coast slowly began reclaiming their daily routines Thursday, even as crews searched for victims and tens of thousands remained without power after superstorm Sandy claimed more than 70 lives."

New York Times: "Subways and buses started to roll again in some sections of New York City on Thursday, promising a morning commute at least slightly more fluid than Wednesday's gridlock brought on by Hurricane Sandy."

New York Times: "Though the storm raged up the East Coast, it has become increasingly apparent that New Jersey took the brunt of it. Officials estimated that the state suffered many billions of dollars in property damage. About a quarter of the state's population -- more than two million people -- remained without power on Wednesday, and more than 6,000 were still in shelters, state emergency officials said. At least eight people died, and officials expressed deep concerns that the toll would rise as more searches of homes were carried out."

Washington Post: "The Obama administration has spent the past several months in secret diplomatic negotiations aimed at building a new Syrian opposition leadership structure that it hopes can win the support of minority groups still backing President Bashar al-Assad. The strategy, to be unveiled at a Syrian opposition meeting next week in Qatar, amounts to a last-ditch effort to prevent extremists from gaining the upper hand within the opposition and to stop the Syrian crisis from boiling over into the greater Middle East." ...

... Washington Post: "Nearly a week of fighting between Kurds and Arab rebels in northern Syria risks opening a new front in the already bloody battle for control of the country, underscoring the complexity of a conflict that threatens to ignite sectarian and ethnic tensions across the region. Efforts were underway Wednesday between the leadership of the rebel Free Syrian Army and Kurdish representatives in Turkey to negotiate an end to the clashes, in which scores of hostages have been seized and more than 40 fighters on both sides killed."

Bloomberg Business Week: "U.S. regulators proposed a record $469.9 million in penalties against Barclays Plc (BARC), and an additional $18 million on four of its former traders, as part of stepped up enforcement against energy-market manipulation."

New York Times: "A British bank says it has frozen the estate of the disgraced television host Jimmy Savile because of possible claims for damages arising from accusations of sexual abuse that include misconduct on the premises of the British Broadcasting Corporation and at hospitals where he pursued charitable projects."

AP: "China has test flown a second model of a prototype stealth fighter, aviation experts said Thursday, in a sign of its aircraft industry's growing sophistication."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pennsylvania "State Attorney General Linda Kelly is expected to announce today that former Penn State University President Graham Spanier has been charged in relation to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, according to sources close to the investigation. The sources, who requested anonymity, said Mr. Spanier is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice." ...

     ... USA Today Update: "Former Penn State president Graham Spanier and two other former administrators were charged Thursday with perjury, obstruction of justice and endangering children in an alleged coverup of sexual abuse of children by assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky." The Philadelphia Inquirer story is here.

Reuters: "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will investigate Lance Armstrong's 2000 Olympics bronze medal after the American was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in the biggest doping scandal to hit the sport."

Tuesday
Oct302012

The Commentariat -- Oct. 31, 2012

CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGE. Art by Brian McFadden of the New York Times.Jerry Markon & Bill Turque of the Washington Post: "Officials in a variety of affected state said that while early voting had been delayed in some areas, most of the time was likely to be made up in the days before the Nov. 6 election. They also vowed that Election Day itself would be relatively unaffected, even as they scrambled in the hardest-hit states to make sure all voting machines would have power."

Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker: "The number of ... weather-related disasters, has quintupled over the last three decades.... It is, at this point, impossible to say what it will take for American politics to catch up to the reality of North American climate change. More super-storms, more heat waves, more multi-billion-dollar 'weather-related loss events'? The one thing that can be said is that, whether or not our elected officials choose to acknowledge the obvious, we can expect, 'with a high degree of confidence,' that all of these are coming." ...

... Michael Gormley of the AP: "New Yorkers on Tuesday cheered the extraordinary rescues that saved hundreds of lives in and around New York City in the midst of Superstorm Sandy, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it's time to brace for more of the same havoc which he blames on climate change." ...

... We have a 100-year flood every two years now. -- Andrew Cuomo:

Presidential Race

Nate Silver: "Just about every method for evaluating the election based on state polls seems to hint at a very slight lead in the popular vote, as well as an Electoral College victory, for President Obama."

Donovan Slack of Politico: "President Obama is hitting the trail on Thursday after taking three days off from campaigning to oversee storm response. He will attend rallies in Green Bay, Wis.; Boulder, Colo.; and Las Vegas, Nevada...."

David Nakamura & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "In a campaign notable mostly for its negativity, the historic storm provided Obama with a commander-in-chief moment a week before Election Day. The president gained a rare moment of bipartisan praise, with Democratic and Republican governors alike commending the performance of the federal government.... On Wednesday, Obama will travel to New Jersey to tour damaged areas with Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a regular critic of the president who heaped praise on him in the aftermath of the storm...."

Maureen Dowd: "Gov. Chris Christie ... was all over TV Tuesday, effusively praising the president for his luminous leadership on Hurricane Sandy, the same president he mocked last week at a Romney rally in Virginia as a naif groping to find 'the light switch of leadership.' ... Christie also extolled FEMA, even though Romney has said it is 'immoral' to spend money on federal disaster relief when the deficit is so big.... Just about the only criticism the president got on his storm stewardship was, amazingly enough, from 'Heck of a Job, Brownie' Michael Brown, the FEMA chief during Katrina, who naturally thought Obama acted too quickly and efficiently." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Romney has a Christie problem and a FEMA problem."

Feliciz Sonmez of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney repeatedly ignored questions about his position on federal funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at an event for storm victims Tuesday.... 'Governor, you've been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?' one [reporter] asked. Romney ignored the reporters' queries and continued loading up the truck. Earlier, during the event, he ignored similar queries." ...

... Charles Pierce: Both Romney & Ryan "are on record ... as recommending that the federal government's responsibility for things like disaster relief be either handed back to the states, or privatized entirely. They have made this argument in public. They have made this argument as part of the reason why you should vote for them. They also have similar plans for the National Weather Service, and for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they have made those arguments as part of the reason why you should vote for them. If those ideas had prevailed..., more people would have died because of this storm, and more people would still be dying from this storm two or three weeks from now.... This election has come down to a battle between two visions of the the functions of the national government and, through that, a battle over whether the political commonwealth exists at all." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "So far, Romney and his allies haven't suffered politically because of their boasts to shrink or abolish federal agencies. Government, in the abstract, doesn't get a lot of love from the voters. Maybe Sandy will remind people that it should." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "On a day when millions of Americans face serious hardship as they recover from Hurricane Sandy's damage, Mitt Romney ... turned a scheduled rally in Kettering, Ohio, this morning into a 'storm relief event,' and posed before piles of donated canned goods.... He described such donations as 'the American way.' ... Mr. Romney's rash promise to put a hard ceiling on discretionary spending -- which includes emergency response -- would mean far less money for [FEMA]. The House budgets developed by ... Paul Ryan would cut this kind of spending even further, an idea that Mr. Romney considers 'excellent.' Mr. Romney ignored all questions this morning about his plans for federal emergency management. It's probably embarrassing to admit those plans consist largely of collecting soup cans."

Nathan Bomey & Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press: in a radio ad, "... Mitt Romney has broadened his attack on President Barack Obama's auto industry restructuring, implying that General Motors used the aid to hire more workers in China than in the U.S.... GM quickly defended its performance. 'We've clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days,' GM spokesman Greg Martin said. 'No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.' Separately, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne used an e-mail to employees today to refute the implication in a Romney TV ad that Chrysler may move all Jeep production from the U.S. to China." ...

... Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "Mitt Romney's round of highly dubious television and radio ads suggesting that Chrysler and GM are shipping American jobs to China has managed to offend both car companies."

Liars-in-Training. Scott Keyes of Think Progress: "Documents from a recent Romney poll watcher training obtained by ThinkProgress contain several misleading or untrue claims about the rights of Wisconsin voters.... One blatant falsehood ... informed poll watchers that any 'person [who] has been convicted of treason, a felony, or bribery' isn't eligible to vote. This is not true. Once a Wisconsin voter who has been convicted of a felony completes his or her sentence, that person is once again eligible to vote.... The training also encouraged volunteers to deceive election workers and the public about who they were associated with."

Surrogate Liar. Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: on Monday, former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), a "top Romney surrogate, told a group of Jewish voters in [Ohio] that ... [Roe v. Wade] is in no danger of being overturned should Romney become president.... For his part, Romney has said overturning Roe is a personal goal."

Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Nation, in the Washington Post: "Republicans ... settled on a true Plutarch ... as their banner carrier. Romney has waged a campaign of upper-class disdain for the electorate.... He called for tax cuts for all -- particularly the wealthy -- without revealing how he would pay for them. He called for deep cuts in domestic spending without revealing what he would cut, other than Big Bird. He called for repealing Obamacare without revealing what he would replace it with. He called for turning Medicare into a voucher system that would put more costs on seniors without revealing how he thought they would pay for it. He championed a 'territorial' corporate tax system that would make any profit earned abroad tax-free -- giving multinationals multimillion-dollar incentives to move jobs or report profits abroad. This part of his agenda was inviolate; everything else -- from his position on abortion to his catering to the anti-immigrant crowd to his muscular posturing on foreign policy -- seemed to be situational, depending on the audience he sought to sell."

Michael Tomasky on "Mitt Romney's Closing Con Game." Republicans obstruct, obstruct, obstruct; then blame Obama for not being "a uniter"; then Romney promises to be a uniter, unlike the "divisive" Obama. CW: this is the insanely stupid argument, BTW, that the editors of the Des Moines Register adopted as their main rationale for endorsing Romney.

Local News

CW: My husband and I are going to vote this afternoon. As Michael Grunwald of Time reports, we should expect long waiting lines, thanks to Republican's cutting early voting days nearly in half.

News Ledes

President Obama tours a New Jersey neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Sandy & makes remarks:

New York Times: "President Obama stood shoulder to shoulder with Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, Wednesday afternoon, offering reassurance in the wake of devastating storm damage -- and a politically powerful picture of bipartisanship just days before the election."

Washington Post: "Sandy, the hybrid hurricane/nor'easter, began to lose steam Tuesday as it drifted across Pennsylvania and veered toward Canada. But the damage was done, and it will go down as a historic storm, not least because of what it did to New York City, where a surge of seawater inundated some of the most valuable real estate in America."

AP: "The floodwaters that poured into New York's deepest subway tunnels may pose the biggest obstacle to the city's recovery from the worst natural disaster in the transit system's 108-year history."

AP: "Criminal investigators from France will exhume Yasser Arafat's remains next month to try to find out how the Palestinian leader died, a French official said Tuesday."