The Ledes

Sunday, February 7, 2016.

New York Times: "Defying warnings of tougher sanctions from Washington, North Korea launched a rocket on Sunday that Western experts believe is part of a program to develop intercontinental ballistic missile technologies."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President discussed climate change and how the most ambitious climate agreement in history is creating private sector partnerships that are advancing the latest technologies in clean power.":

Hill: "President Obama will send a budget to Congress that increases the amount of funding toward clean energy research and development by about 20 percent, he said Saturday."

White House Live Video
February 5

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Timess: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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Wednesday
Nov062013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 7, 2013

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: In Dallas, President Obama ... sought to pressure Gov. Rick Perry to expand Medicaid in Texas, the largest of the Republican-led states that have refused to participate in his Affordable Care Act.... 'There's no state that actually needs this more than Texas,' Mr. Obama said [to a group of ACA volunteers]. 'Here in just the Dallas area, 133,000 people who don't currently have health insurance would immediate get health insurance without even having to go through the website' if Texas would just expand Medicaid. He noted that neighboring states have taken action because 'this is a no-brainer.' Arkansas, he said, cut the number of uninsured by 14 percent in the last month by expanding Medicaid." ...

... Nedra Pickler of the AP: President "Obama invited Senate Democrats facing re-election next year to the White House to discuss the problem-plagued health care rollout that could affect their races. The White House confirmed Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with 16 senators to describe fixes that are being made to the website for Americans to sign up for insurance under his signature health care law." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "In a meeting at the White House, Obama's chief of staff Denis McDonough asked insurance executives to explain to customers who are losing their plans what new options are available under ObamaCare and what new subsidies they might qualify for." ...

... Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Wednesday that the government needed to fix hundreds of problems with the website for the federal health insurance marketplace, but she categorically rejected bipartisan calls to delay parts of the new health care law. She made her comments at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee hours after the Obama administration disclosed that the chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [Tony Trenkle] would retire. His office supervised the creation of the troubled website." ...

... Sam Hananel of the AP: "The Obama administration appears ready to give some labor unions a break from costly fees under the new health care law, a move that drew criticism from Republicans who say it unfairly favors a key White House ally. In regulations published last week, the administration said it intends to propose rules that would exempt 'certain self-insured, self-administered plans' from the requirement to pay the fees in 2015 and 2016." ...

... Don't give up on Stewart. Watch the whole segment:

... Brian Beutler of Salon: In the Virginia gubernatorial election, Ken "Cuccinelli's anti-women positions were far more disqualifying than [Terry] McAuliffe's pro-healthcare stance," but Republicans have a need to blame ObamaCare for everything. "It was fun ... witnessing the various ways Republicans across the spectrum are contorting themselves to argue that Obamacare was the one thing preventing Terry McAuliffe -- World's Most Likable Democrat™ -- from winning an off-year landslide in a statewide race in Virginia." ...

... A Reality Chek from Paul Waldman: "Things could hardly have gone worse [for the ACA] in this stage of the rollout, and guess what: Americans' opinions about the law are, by all indications, exactly what they were before.... I think Republicans haven't been able to translate the problems of the last month into a change in opinion because their warnings were so apocalyptic that even what has gone wrong hasn't lived up to their hype. They used to say, 'This law will destroy every last shred of our freedom!' and now they're saying, 'The website should be working better!'" ...

... Matt Miller in the Washington Post: "Politicians and pundits who bash Obamacare should have displayed under their talking head or byline the source of their own coverage. Let's caption Ted Cruz in flashing neon that reads, 'Enjoys Gold-Plated Health Coverage from Goldman Sachs Spousal Plan.' Let's have the subtitles for John Boehner and Eric Cantor read, 'Has Never Worried About Going Broke From Illness A Day in His Life Thanks To Federal Government Insurance.' And let Obamacare supporters begin their response to absurd claims that 'Obamacare is the enemy' with this simple line: 'Spoken like a Very Well-Insured Person.'" ...

... Dana Milbank: Senators demonstrate how to govern by anecdote. "Using props to make policy may be unreliable, but it's apparently irresistible."

Cash & Slash. Billionaires v. Hungry Kids. Billionaires Win. Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "The federal government paid $11.3 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies from 1995 to 2012 to 50 billionaires or businesses in which they have some form of ownership, according to a report released Thursday by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research organization.... The Working Group said its findings were likely to underestimate the total farm subsidies that went to the billionaires on the Forbes 400 list because many of them also received crop insurance subsidies. Federal law prohibits the disclosure of the names of individuals who get crop insurance subsidies, the group said. The report is being issued as members of the House and Senate are meeting to come up with a new five-year farm bill." (CW: Why are crop subsidies doled out in secret? Taxpayers have a right to know which millionaires & billionaires they're subsidizing.) ...

... David Dayen of the American Prospect writes that Democrats are as much to blame for the food stamp crisis as are Republicans. They've been treating the program like an open cookie jar since President Obama took office. ...

... Susan Heavey of Reuters: "The number of poor people in the United States held steady at nearly 50 million last year, but government programs appear to have lessened the impact, especially on children and the elderly, federal data released on Wednesday showed. The Census Bureau, using an alternative measure to the government's main poverty gauge, said the figure was virtually unchanged from a year earlier with the overall poverty rate stuck at 16 percent."

... Here's the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial that Maddow cites. The editors do concede their U.S. Senator is "not a thief in the sense of Clyde Barrow or Willie Sutton...." ...

... The Plagiarist Is Holier than Christ(ie). Arlette Saenz of ABC News: "During a Senate committee hearing on post-Sandy recovery efforts, [Sen. Rand] Paul asked Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan whether it was appropriate to use federal relief funds for television ads, a clear jab at the New Jersey Republican [Gov. Chris Christie ]who starred in ads touting the Jersey Shore":

Some of these ads, people running for office put their their mug all over these ads while they're in the middle of a political campaign. In New Jersey, $25 million was spent on ads that included somebody running for political office. Do ya think there might be a conflict of interest there? That's a real problem. And that's why when people who are trying to do good and trying to use taxpayers' money wisely, they're offended to see our money spent on political ads.

Joan Biskupic of Reuters: "When the U.S. Supreme Court talks about religion, all hell breaks loose. A dispute over an upstate New York town's prayer before council meetings produced an unusually testy oral-argument session on Wednesday that recalled the decades of difficulty Supreme Court justices have had drawing the line between church and state.... Overall, the justices' remarks were more pessimistic than positive regarding a possible consensus. They voiced frustration with the lawyers who appeared before them and with each other as well." ...

... Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog has an excellent recap of the arguments in the case.

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The C.I.A. is paying AT&T more than $10 million a year to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations by exploiting the company's vast database of phone records, which includes Americans' international calls, according to government officials. The cooperation is conducted under a voluntary contract.... AT&T has a history of working with the government."

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "National Security Council officials are scheduled to meet soon to discuss the issue of separating the leadership of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, a shift that some officials say would help avoid an undue concentration of power in one individual and separate entities with two fundamentally different missions: spying and conducting military attacks. The administration is also discussing whether the NSA should be led by a civilian."

AFP: "A group of lawyers, journalists and privacy advocates in the Netherlands is taking the government to court to prevent Dutch intelligence using phone data illegally acquired by the US National Security Agency. Five individuals, among them a prominent investigative journalist and a well-known hacker, and four organisations filed the case before The Hague district court on Wednesday, according to their lawyer...."

Brian Fung of the Washington Post: commercial cable companies spend big bucks & use a variety of techniques to prevent municipalities from installing public fiberoptics communications systems.

As contributor Diane pointed out yesterday, I plumb forgot MoDo & the Bobbleheaded Twins. In this episode, MoDo & the Boys remark on the Obama clan's mistreatment of Loyal Uncle Joe. Stay tuned. There is sure to be another chapter. ...

... MEANWHILE, Charles Pierce (again, thanks to Diane) plots to confiscate MoDo's remote. AND he is sure he'll enjoy the well-wrought urn that is Double Down. (I'd recommend he down a double first.)

Election Returns 2013

Jeremy Peters & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Leaders of the Republican establishment, alarmed by the emergence of far-right and often unpredictable Tea Party candidates, are pushing their party to rethink how it chooses nominees and advocating changes they say would result in the selection of less extreme contenders. The party leaders pushing for changes want to replace state caucuses and conventions, like the one that nominated [Ken] Cuccinelli, with a more open primary system that they believe will draw a broader cross-section of Republicans and produce more moderate candidates. Similar pushes are already underway in other states, including Montana and Utah, and last week Mitt Romney said Republicans should consider how to overhaul their presidential nominating process to attract a wider range of voters." ...

     ... CW: No use being "alarmed" by the quality of your candidates while John Boehner & Mitch McConnell cater to the every whim of the winners, at the expense of the nation and of the party.

... Marc Fisher & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "If lessons emerged from Tuesday's vote, they were almost instantly lost in the volley of finger-pointing that began even before the polls closed. Republican Ken Cuccinelli II's narrow loss, despite what opinion surveys had consistently called a comfortable lead for [Terry] McAuliffe, left the candidate's camp accusing national party organizations of abandoning their man in the closest major race in the nation this year. Party officials said it was Cuccinelli who had failed to raise money from mainstream Republican sources skeptical of his hard-line rhetoric and uncompromising conservatism."

Julie Davis & John McCormick of Bloomberg News: "Republicans cite their 2.5-point defeat in the Virginia governor's race as proof that Ken Cuccinelli would have reversed his fortunes if he'd hammered earlier and longer on Obamacare.... Democrats argue Terry McAuliffe's narrow Nov. 5 victory amid a glitch-plagued rollout of the insurance program shows they can navigate politically around public opposition to the law.... Geoff Garin, McAuliffe's lead polling expert, said in the closing days of the race that Cuccinelli's focus on the health-care measure had 'actually been counterproductive,' even with voters who disapproved of the law. It solidified their view that he was an ideological candidate with a national agenda that had nothing to do with Virginia, said Garin."

Frank Rich on "the National Circus": "... if you tune in to the unofficial headquarters of the Christie '16 campaign, Morning Joe at MSNBC, [Chris] Christie is not only the front-runner, he's his party's savior, and is within a step of two of measuring the drapes for the White House." Unless the GOP bosses scrap all the primaries, which they won't, the real race, Rich says, is between Tailgunner Ted & Li'l "Genuine Hair" Randy.

Maya Rhodan of Time: "Who won this election cycle? Union leaders say they did. Across the country, candidates backed by unions triumphed over their counterparts, while ballot measures broke in favor of the unions that had campaigned for them as well."

Rick Lyman of the New York Times: election watchers on both sides of the Texas voter ID controversy say the law had little effect at the polls Tuesday. CW: But halfway through the story, Lyman lets the Texas League of Women Voters make the obvious point: "... voters who do not have the proper documentation at all ... might stay away from the polls altogether as a result." If you know you don't have proper ID to vote & can't afford or don't have time to obtain it, you're going to stay home. There is no way to guess how many Texans made that "choice."

Gail Collins discusses Tuesday's results, with only 790 days to go till the Iowa caucuses.

Driftglass: "... Chris Christie is 'centristy' when compared to the rest of the Teabagger Legion of Doom only in the same sense that a cinderblock is 'edible' when compared to a stick of dynamite, so why pretend otherwise?"

Senate Race

Blue Texas Pipe Dreams. Steve M. of NMMNB: "Public Policy Polling conducts a survey on the 2014 Texas Senate race and finds that if GOP incumbent John Cornyn loses a primary, Republicans could hold the seat even if Cornyn's replacement on the ticket is ... Louie Gohmert.... Julian Castro, rising star and potential Democratic VP candidate, loses by 9 points in his home state to Louie freaking Gohmert.... If Louie freaking Gohmert runs that well statewide, do yourself a favor and don't bet the rent money on Wendy Davis winning the governorship. Or on a Democrat winning any statewide race in Texas in the next twenty years."

Gubernatorial Race

Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter will challenge Gov. Nathan Deal next year in a move that catapults the gubernatorial contest into the national spotlight and tests whether Georgia's changing demographics can loosen the Republican Party's 12-year grip on the state's highest office. Carter's decision, which he announced Wednesday in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is another step along the trail forged by his famous grandfather Jimmy Carter, who was elected to the state Senate and then the Governor's Mansion before winning the presidency."

Local News

Amel Ahmed of Al Jazeera: "Following Al Jazeera America's exclusive report on Oct. 30 revealing that California state Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) is the subject of a federal investigation for having solicited bribes, California's Democratic majority leader asked the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday to strip Calderon of all his committee assignments pending the outcome of the investigation."

News Ledes

AFP: "In a landmark move, US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Geneva Friday to join nuclear talks with US arch-foe Iran, fuelling hopes a historic deal may be in sight."

New York Times: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed measures that would all but eliminate artificial trans fats, the artery clogging substance that is a major contributor to heart disease in the United States, from the food supply."

New York Times: "On its inaugural day of trading, Twitter managed to avoid the missteps that marred Facebook's initial public offering last year, even as Twitter's lofty stock market valuation added pressure on the company to turn a profit soon."

New York Times: "In a surprise choice that bodes poorly for proposed peace talks, the Pakistani Taliban on Thursday appointed as their new leader the hard-line commander [Mullah Fazlullah, who is] responsible for last year's attack on Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani education activist."

Being an Ex-King Is a Bummer. AFP: "Belgium's government ruled out any increase Thursday in the 923,000-euro allowance paid to King Albert II since his July abdication, despite reports he sees it as too little to live on." Also, he has to pay taxes. Also, a natural daughter filed suit to be officially recognized. Just rough all around.

Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors arrested a third senior Navy official in a widening bribery scandal Wednesday, charging that he delivered classified and other sensitive information to a major defense contractor in exchange for prostitutes, luxury travel and more than $100,000 in cash. Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, was arrested in Tampa on charges that he gave classified information about ship movements to Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Singapore-based contractor that has resupplied and serviced Navy ships and submarines in the Pacific for a quarter-century."

AP: "Pakistan has freed former President Pervez Musharraf from his months-long house arrest, days after he received bail in a case related to the death of a radical cleric...."

Tuesday
Nov052013

Election Results November 2013

Yes to Secession. Denver Post: "... in six of the 11 [Colorado] counties where the secession [from Colorado] question appeared on the ballot, the measure passed by strong margins.... Proponents say they have become alienated from the more urbanized Front Range and are unhappy with laws passed during this year's legislative session, including stricter gun laws and new renewable-energy standards. 'The heart of the 51st State Initiative is simple: We just want to be left alone to live our lives without heavy-handed restrictions from the state Capitol,' said 51st state advocate Jeffrey Hare."...

... Time: "Colorado voters approved a 25 percent tax on newly legalized marijuana on Tuesday, paving the way for retail sales to begin next year."

Iowa City Press-Citizen: Three Coralville, Iowa council members beat the Koch brothers' big money machine, & vice President Joe Biden called to congratulate the winners. Here's the related New York Times story, which citizen625 linked last week.

Detroit Free Press: "For the first time in 40 years, predominantly black Detroit elected a white person as mayor. Community leaders, political observers and voters ... said Mike Duggan beat Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in the city whose population is 82% African American because of a more organized, better-financed campaign. Others sensed desperation among voters -- a thirst for change in a broken city that led to a measuring of the whole candidate against the other."

New Jersey Star-Ledger: " Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly withstood Republican Gov. Chris Christie's decisive victory over Barbara Buono on Tuesday, retaining majorities in both houses of the Legislature and ensuring at least four more years of divided government in Trenton. With most of the votes counted Tuesday night, Democrats said they would hold onto their 24-16 majority in the state Senate. They also appeared to hold a majority in the Assembly -- currently 48 to 32 -- though they lost at least one seat."

Washington Post: "The Virginia attorney general's race was a virtual dead heat and headed for a recount early Wednesday morning, with Democratic State Sen. Mark Herring clinging to a 541-vote lead over Republican State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain with 2.2 million ballots cast, according to unofficial results posted by the state board of elections. With 99.92 percent of the vote tallied, the margin between the two candidates was a scant .03 percent. State election law provides for the trailing candidate to request a recount if the margin is less than 1 percent of the total vote."

Houston Chronicle: "A $217 million bond measure to fund a massive Astrodome renovation failed by several percentage points, a decision expected to doom it to the wrecking ball.... [Harris] County commissioners have said they would recommend the wrecking ball if the bond failed."

10:58 pm ET: Al.com: "Bradley Byrne is the winner in the Republican runoff for Alabama's First Congressional District with 52.48 percent of the vote over Dean Young's 47.51 percent." Byrne is the "establishment" candidate, endorsed by his predecessor; Young was the Tea Party candidate. Philip Bump of the Atlantic has a good piece on their differences, which Byrne sees as most differences of "tone."

9:50 pm ET: The AP has called the Boston mayoral race for Martin Walsh, a Democrat. His opponent was also a Democrat. Boston Globe: "Martin J. Walsh, a legislator and long-time labor leader, ground out a narrow victory over City Councilor John R. Connolly today to become Boston's 48th mayor propelled by a diverse coalition that transcended geography, race, and ideology."

9:50 pm ET: New Jersey voters approved raising the state's minimum wage to $8.25 an hour. The Democratic-controlled state legislature had voted for the measure, which Gov. Christie vetoed. Update: Washington Post story here.

9:39 pm ET: NBC News projects that Terry McAuliffe will "narrowly" win the Virginia governor's race. Fox "News" also projects McAuliffe as the winner. Washington Post: "Terry McAuliffe..., captured the Virginia governor's seat Tuesday, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli II...."

9:10 pm ET: NBC News projects Democrat Bill De Blasio has won the New York City mayoral race. New York Times story here.

9:00 pm ET: Virginia governor's race is still too close to call.

8:25 pm ET: NBC News & the Washington Post project Ralph Northam (D) winner of the Virginia lieutenant governor's Race.

8:00 pm ET: NBC News & the New York Times have called the New Jersey governor's race for Gov. Chris Christie.

Tuesday
Nov052013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 6, 2013

** George Packer of the New Yorker: "Our democracy's unnecessary stupidities."

Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News: "President Obama will use his time in Dallas on Wednesday to ramp up pressure on Gov. Rick Perry to expand Medicaid, aides said -- a step that could lop 1.4 million Texans off the rolls of the uninsured. The president will call on Perry to join 'reasonable Republican governors in states like Ohio and Michigan and Arizona' who already have agreed to such an expansion...." CW: Yup. Jan Brewer (Az.) is reasonable. ...

... MEANWHILE. Robert Garrett of the Dallas Morning News: Texas "Attorney General Greg Abbott hinted strongly Tuesday that Texas may impose additional training and background checks on 'navigators' hired under federal grants to help people sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act." CW: Sabotage by any other name still stinks. ...

... Robert Pear of the New York Times: Inexplicably, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rules that the ACA is not subject to a "law that ban rebates, kickbacks, bribes and certain other financial arrangements in federal health programs, stripping law enforcement of a powerful tool used to fight fraud in other health care programs, like Medicare." Let the circus begin!

** Juan Williams of Fox "News": "Taking crocodile tears to a new level, ObamaCare opponents are now rushing to their defense and calling the president a liar. These critics include Republican politicians who did not vote for ObamaCare; these are Republican governors who refuse to set up exchanges to reach their own citizens; these are people oppose expanding Medicaid to help poor people getting better health care; these are people who have never put any proposal on the table as an alternative fix for the nation's costly health care system that leaves tens of millions with inadequate medical coverage and tens of millions more totally uninsured.... If you are one of the estimated 2 million Americans whose health insurance plans may have been cancelled this month, you should not be blaming President Obama or the Affordable Care Act. You should be blaming your insurance company because they have not been providing you with coverage that meets the minimum basic standards for health care." CW: Read the whole post. This is an amazing piece coming from a conservative commentator on Fox "News." A-Mazing! ...

... Dana Milbank: "No, the Obamacare pratfall is not Obama's Iraq: The magnitude is entirely different, and the problems -- Web site malfunctions and a wave of policy cancellations -- are fixable. But the decision-making is disturbingly similar: In both cases, insular administrations, staffed by loyalists and obsessed with secrecy, participated in group-think and let the president hear only what they thought he wanted to hear." ...

... Brian Beutler of Salon on the arc of health insurance "rate shock" stories: "... it's really striking how long it's taking reporters to realize that these stories are incomplete, and probably inaccurate, unless and until they and their subjects have a handle on all of the relevant information.... The truth is the Affordable Care Act isn't blameless -- not, as its critics suggest, because it imposes too much regulation on the individual insurance market, but because it doesn't impose enough." ...

... CW: Beutler faults the insurers for much of the brouhaha: "The transition period between the old individual market and the new, better one, provides them one last chance to use the power of inertia and fear of the unknown to feed their consumers into expensive plans and shunt the blame for the price hike onto Obamacare." This brings to mind a comment in yesterday's thread: citizen625 noted that the president of UnitedHealth Group received nearly $49 million in compensation last year according to Forbes. "Next time some someone says whats wrong with the healthcare system and blames Barry O and the Democrats, trot that number out as a representative drain on non-medical costs of healthcare," citzen625 writes. ...

     ... Worth Noting: United HealthCare had to rebate premiums to many policyholders because the company failed to meet "the ACA's 80/20 rule that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on medical care or quality improvements and no more than 20 percent on administrative costs and overhead." (Sen. Al Franken put the rule in the bill.) In North Carolina, for instance, this UHC "accounts for ... nearly two-thirds, of all rebates" due that state's policyholders." United HealthGroup companies also accounted for the most rebates in Florida. In 2012, insurers had to pay out about $1.1 billion for failing to meet the ACA requirement. In 2013, that figure was down to about $500 million. More importantly, the Obama administration estimated that "the 80/20 standard contributed to $3.4 billion in lower premiums for 77.8 million consumers because health insurance companies charged less up front." Obviously, United HealthGroup was one of the companies that missed that boat. Surely overcompensating their CEO contributed to their being one of the minority of health insurers who couldn't meet the 80/20 standard. (There's an 85/15 standard for group insurance.)

     ... It isn't just the insurers. From-the-Heartland adds: the highest paid U.S. CEO on the Forbes list "is John Hammergren of McKesson at $131,190,000.00 for the year (McKesson delivers medicines, pharmaceutical supplies, information and care management products and services) and #6 is George Paz of Express Scripts at $51,520,000.00 for one year (Express Scripts is a pharmacy benefit management company). These are all obscene salaries that we are paying for through our insurance premiums or cost of care if uninsured." F-t-H recommends single-payer insurance, which would largely cut private health insurers out of the picture. Beutler agrees. Jonathan Chait, below, explains why single-payer didn't happen. ...

... ** Jonathan Chait: "The point is that [the ACA] represents the least-disruptive, least-painful way to clear the minimal threshold of any humane reform. The preferred alternatives of both right and left would impose an order of magnitude more dislocation -- creating not a few million 'victims,' but tens of millions. What's on display at the moment is a way of looking at the world that sanctifies defenders of the horrendous status quo and places all the burden upon those trying to change it."

Donna Cassata of the AP: "Invoking the Declaration of Independence, proponents of a bill that would outlaw discrimination against gays in the workplace argued on Tuesday that the measure is rooted in fundamental fairness for all Americans. Republican opponents of the measure were largely silent, neither addressing the issue on the second day of Senate debate nor commenting unless asked. Written statements from some rendered their judgment that the bill would result in costly, frivolous lawsuits and mandate federal law based on sexuality.... Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a final vote in the Senate is possible by week's end."

Ed Kilgore: "Unions and progressive activists are uniting around Tom Harkin's bill to boost benefits by $70 a month for all Social Security recipients (and more for those heavily dependent on benefits for retirement security), increase (rather than decrease, as the 'chained CPI' tentatively accepted by the White House...) the cost-of-living adjustment formula, and pay for it all by eliminating the regressive payroll tax cap for the program.... The ... 'expand Social Security' message may be less about ... changing the playing field than the simple fact that voters, and particularly the older voters on which the Republican Party so heavily relies, are likely to support higher benefits however they feel about 'entitlements' as an abstraction.... The broader subject of rapidly eroding retirement security is long-overdue for serious public debate."

Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he plans to have two more test votes on nominations to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals by the end of the week. The move is intended to determine whether Republicans will follow through on their threat to filibuster judicial picks Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins. If they do, as seems likely, the Nevada Democrat has said he may revive his own threat to end the minority's ability to filibuster nominations through the so-called nuclear option."

John Boehner -- Democrats' Secret Weapon. Steve Benen: "The Democratic coalition is stable, but not unbreakable. By refusing to govern, Boehner and House Republicans are strengthening that coalition, boosting Democratic fundraising, helping Democratic recruiting efforts, and motivating the Democratic base."

But you know, I think that the president should take ownership not just of what he's said and what he's promised the American people on Obamacare. But I think he should take ownership over this divisive culture that he has created, this KKK analogy you saw Trey (sic) Grayson roll out. And no Democrat is out there in any sort of organized fashion denouncing this. Now you got Harry Belafonte making the same allegation. -- Reince Priebus, RNC Chair

Priebus's high dudgeon is awfully precious considering his party is littered with folks who have done nothing but coarsen this nation's political discourse with nary a peep of condemnation from him or anyone of any stature in the GOP.... There are sitting Republican members of Congress who have openly talked about impeaching the president because they continue to believe he was not born in the United States.... And there were winks and nods on this issue from Speaker John Boehner and other so-called leaders of the party. No wonder a protester felt comfortable unfurling a Confederate flag in front of the White House last month. If anyone 'should take ownership over this divisive culture' it's Priebus. -- Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post

Charles Pierce: With respect to Chris Christie, Democrats are following "the same ghastly strategy that aided and abetted the rise of C-Plus Augustus in Texas."

The Plagiarist, Ctd. Jim Rutenberg & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "While maintaining the defiance he has shown since the claims of plagiarism were first made last week, [Sen. Rand] Paul ... said he was putting in place a more diligent system within his office to footnote and attribute material, part of what he called a restructuring on his staff. He said there would be no firings. But, in an interview at his Senate office complex, Mr. Paul said he resented implications from those he termed 'haters' that he had sought to dishonestly take other people's work as his own." ...

What we are going to do from here forward, if it will make people leave me the hell alone, is we're going to do them like college papers. We're going to try to put out footnotes.... We have made mistakes..., but [they have] never been intentional. This is coming from haters to begin with, because they want the implication to be out there that you're dishonest. -- Rand Paul ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "While Sen. Rand Paul is off challenging people to fisticuffs or worse, one of his senior advisers has finally admitted the obvious: Yes, there's been a bucketload of copying going on in the Paul camp.... Now the word has come down; it's the fault of unnamed staffers, and it's more the fault of you, the reader, for not being able to magically discern when Rand Paul and his staff are speaking their own words and when they're lifting entire pages of content from somewhere else...." ...

... How Not to Regard Having Your Work Stolen. Dan Stewart of the Week, who was one of the writers Paul plagiarized, doesn't care: "In fact, I'm rather flattered." CW: Nice, libertarian notions here about the "anachronism" of "the concept of intellectual property." But I don't think Stewart would be so nonchalant if his employer decided not to pay him but published his stuff anyway because his right to be paid for an "intellectual product" was an "anachronistic concept." ...

... Right-Wing Paper Fires the Plagiarist. Jim McElhatton of the Washington Times: "The Washington Times said Tuesday that it had independently reviewed Mr. Paul's columns and op-eds and published a correction to his Sept. 20 column in which the senator had failed to attribute a passage that first appeared in Forbes. The newspaper and the senator mutually agreed to end his weekly column, which has appeared each Friday since the summer." ...

... The Nut Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree: Crazy Coot & Cooch. James Hohmann of Politico: "Headlining the final rally of Ken Cuccinelli's underdog campaign for Virginia governor, Ron Paul suggested the 'nullification' of Obamacare on Monday night." If that wasn't enough of a reprisal of the Civil War, Paul flirted with talk of open rebellion: 'The Second Amendment was not there so you could shoot rabbits,' he said. 'Right now today, we have a great threat to our liberties internally.'" CW: Not sure if Ron Paul -- unlike his son -- writes his own stuff or if he copies it from John C. Calhoun & Jefferson Davis speeches. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... can you imagine a statewide Democratic candidate anywhere, much less in a 'purple state,' associating himself or herself so conspicuously with such ravings? No, you can't. If you want a fresh example of what 'asymmetric polarization' is all about, just consider that this is how the Republican Party of Virginia chose to conclude a statewide campaign."

Cruzing YouTube, Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch finds another anti-gay, anti-choice rant by Ted Cruz's father & political surrogate Rafael Cruz.

Apartheid, U.S.A. Thomas Edsall of the New York Times: "The Republicans who now control the legislatures and governorships in the deep South are using the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 to create a system of political apartheid. No state demonstrates this better than Alabama.... Once Alabama Republicans gained control of the levers of power, they wasted no time using the results of the 2010 Census to reinforce their position of dominance. Newly drawn lines further corralled black voters into legislative districts with large African-American majorities, a tactic political professionals call 'packing and stacking.' ... In that famously vicious political blood sport, redistricting, they will exploit their ability to deploy the cloak of civil rights to maintain and strengthen a politically advantageous segregation of the races."

Spy Rules Kaput? Steve Holland & Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "The United States is working to improve intelligence cooperation with Germany but a sweeping 'no-spy' agreement between the two countries is unlikely, a senior Obama administration official said on Tuesday."

Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: "Senior U.S. senators revived a push on Tuesday to ratify a treaty to protect people with disabilities from discrimination, almost a year after Republican lawmakers blocked approval of the international pact. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called a hearing to address concerns about the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, during which some Republican lawmakers made strong appeals for more support from members of their party.... A Senate attempt to approve ratification in December 2012 failed by a vote of 61-38, five votes short of the 66 needed for ratification."

Digby: It appears that "anal rape by instrumentality" is now part of "our basic moral fabric."

Local News

Monique Garcia & Ray Long of the Chicago Tribune: "The [Illinois] General Assembly today narrowly approved a gay marriage bill, clearing the way for Illinois to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex unions. The bill got 61 votes in the House, one more than the bare minimum needed to send the measure back to the Senate, which quickly signed off. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign the bill into law should it reach his desk."

Presidential Election 2016

Isaac Chotiner of the New Republic: "If [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie can somehow be considered the front-runner for the 2016 nomination, however, it is only because of a dearth of strong Republican candidates. His political shortcomings are much more acute than people realize.... The big problem for Christie is that ... two ostensibly separate concerns -- his temperament and his problems with the base -- are likely to merge in unpleasant ways."

News Ledes

New York Times: "On the eve of a new round of talks between world powers and Iran, a senior Obama administration official said Wednesday that the United States was prepared to offer Iran limited relief from economic sanctions if Tehran agreed to halt its nuclear program temporarily and reversed part of it."

AFP: "Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed US opposition to Israeli settlements on Wednesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of creating 'artificial crises' over the issue. Kerry spent all day shuttling between the Israelis and Palestinians and after a late dinner with Netanyahu the two dismissed their teams and again huddled alone for private talks."

New York Times: "On Wednesday, Twitter set the price of its initial public offering at $26 a share, valuing the company at $18.1 billion. Twitter shares are set to begin trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange."

AP: "City councilors called on Toronto's deputy mayor to 'orchestrate a dignified' departure for Mayor Rob Ford, who was greeted by angry protesters on his first day of work after acknowledging he smoked crack. Deepening the crisis, Ford's long-time policy adviser Brooks Barnett resigned, continuing an exodus from his office that started in May when news reports emerged of a video showing the mayor smoking what appears to be crack. Police announced last week they had a copy of the video, which has not been released publicly." CW: Maybe somebody should explain to Ford what "dignified" means.

AP: "A court in Egypt upheld Wednesday an earlier ruling that banned the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its assets confiscated, the state news agency reported. The decision moves forward the complicated process of the government taking control of the Islamist group's far-reaching social network and its finances."

AP: "Swiss scientists have found evidence suggesting Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned with a radioactive substance, a TV station reported Wednesday, prompting new allegations by his widow that the Palestinian leader was the victim of a 'shocking' crime. Palestinian officials have long accused Israel of poisoning Arafat, a claim Israel has denied. Arafat died under mysterious circumstances at a French military hospital in 2004, a month after falling ill at his Israeli-besieged West Bank compound."

Reuters: "A former U.S. militant who hijacked a plane to Cuba almost 30 years ago flew home to the United States to face air piracy charges on Wednesday and was taken into FBI custody in Miami, an FBI spokesman said. William Potts was scheduled to appear before a U.S. judge in Miami on Thursday, FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock said."

Monday
Nov042013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 5, 2013

Paul Kane & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate cleared a critical hurdle Monday on legislation banning discrimination against gays in the workplace, demonstrating the latest shift in a dramatic transformation of political views toward gay rights over the last decade. Seven Republicans joined 54 members of the Democratic caucus Monday evening in a vote to formally begin consideration of the bill -- virtually guaranteeing passage later this week -- on legislation that would prohibit discrimination in the workplace against gays." ...

... Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) speaks in favor of ENDA:

... Benjy Sarlin of NBC News: "Not a single Republican Senator delivered a speech opposing its passage." ...

... Thomas Ferraro of Reuters: "House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Monday opposed a bill to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, dimming the chances of the White House-backed measure becoming law." ...

... Sarlin (linked above) explains why Boehner's opposition to ENDA is a BIG MISTAKE for the GOP. ...

... "Barack Obama Is a Terrible Blogger." Jonathan Chait: "Not long ago, Barack Obama gave a highly publicized speech in which he disparaged bloggers as a class of people who, along with lobbyists and talk-radio hosts, ought to be ignored. Just what Obama holds against bloggers was never entirely clear.... Today, Obama has a blog item of his own in the Huffington Post, urging Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. A consideration of its polemical merits makes clear the source of his mysterious resentment of bloggers: rank envy.... He resents bloggers because he is a failed blogger himself. Obama should not quit his day job. Whatever that is." Obama's post is here.

I can't always quote everything perfect. I'm not perfect. I do make mistakes. In the book in fact we made a mistake, it should have been blocked off or indented to show that it was a quotation. It was footnoted at the end. We didn't try to pass off anything as our own. And they're coming up with these absurdities. -- Sen. Rand Paul, to Sean Hannity Monday night ...

I can't always quote everything perfect. Look, adverbs and adjectives confuse me. And 'they' expect me to indent? -- CW Rough Translation

... The Plagiarist, Ctd. Linguakleptomania. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Sections of an op-ed Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul wrote on mandatory minimums in The Washington Times in September appear nearly identical to an article by Dan Stewart of The Week that ran a week earlier. The discovery comes amid reports from BuzzFeed that Paul plagiarized in his book and in several speeches. Paul also delivered testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 16, 2013, that included the copied sections.... Paul's office did not return a request for comment." ...

... Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who in recent weeks has had to explain how Wikipedia entries came to be incorporated into his speeches with no attribution, faced charges of direct plagiarism on Monday night.... Aides to Mr. Paul declined to comment about the apparent plagiarism, which was first reported by BuzzFeed." ...

... NEW. UPDATE. Wait, Wait, There's More! Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "A section of Rand Paul's 2012 book Government Bullies appears to be plagiarized from a Forbes article from earlier in that year. BuzzFeed had previously reported that more than three pages plagiarized from The Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute were the only instances of copying in the book. As was the case with cut-and-pasted sections from The Heritage Foundation and a Cato scholar, Paul included a link to the Forbes article in the book's footnotes, but made no effort to indicate that not just the source, but the words themselves, had been taken from Forbes." ...

... MEANWHILE. David Edwards of Raw Story: Paul's staff has been "scrubbing transcripts" from his Website to eliminate evidence of plagiarism.

The first time I came here to Cape Town I almost got in a fight with the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, because he was refusing to let AIDS be treated.... That's the closest I've come to getting into a fist fight with a head of state. -- President Jimmy Carter

The Real Reason the Cancer Patient Writing in [Monday's] Wall Street Journal Lost Her Coverage," a terrific piece by Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "The [insurance] company, [United Healthcare,] packed its bags and dumped its beneficiaries because it wants its competitors to swallow the first wave of sicker enrollees only to re-enter the market later and profit from the healthy people who still haven't signed up for coverage." CW: We are all really fortunate to have bloggers like Volsky & Tommy Christoper of Mediaite to debunk &/or give nuance to these MSM stories. ...

... AND Steve M. of NMMNB finds convincing evidence -- some of it in the WSJ op-ed writer's own words from earlier pieces -- that the ObamaCare "victim" isn't telling the truth about her current health insurance. CW: Mind you, I feel great sympathy for anyone who is enduring a severe illness, but illness is still a poor excuse for trying to make oneself a minor celebrity. ...

... "The Memo that Could Have Saved ObamaCare." Ezra Klein on woulda, shoulda, (maybe) coulda on ACA implementation. They wuz warned. ...

... Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post emphasizes a key point: "What the GOP gleefully calls a train wreck was a self-fulfilling prophesy courtesy of Republican sabotage.... The federal exchange that Republicans said wouldn't work ended up not working because it was starved of the money needed to help make it work.... The federal exchange that Republicans said wouldn't work ended up not working because the GOP pressured Republican governors to not form their own state exchanges. This made the federal task more complex and difficult, thus ensuring its failure." CW: Which is more likely to get a rock to the top of a hill? -- Pushing it up the hill with help from the neighbors or pushing it uphill while the neighbors throw stones at you? ...

... Amy Goodnough of the New York Times: Kentucky demonstrates how ObamaCare was supposed to work. CW: You won't be hearing this story from Goodnough's report on Fox "News":

The woman, a thin 61-year-old who refused to give her name..., had come to the public library here to sign up for health insurance through Kentucky's new online exchange. She had a painful lump on the back of her hand and other health problems that worried her deeply ... but had been unable to afford insurance as a home health care worker who earns $9 an hour. Within a minute, the system checked her information and flashed its conclusion on [an ACA navigator's] laptop: eligible for Medicaid. The woman began to weep with relief. Without insurance, she said as she left, 'it's cheaper to die.'

... CW: A Washington Post headline writer is a liar. The headline, which is attached to a Sarah Kliff video: "Kliff Notes: Will Obamacare cancel my plan?" If Kliff wrote the headline, & she may have, no one knows better than she that the headline is misleading. "ObamaCare" can't cancel a policy; only an insurance company can. The ACA mandates that health insurance policies provide certain basic benefits. This forces carriers to enhance substandard policies, not to cancel them.

Gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail. -- Secretary of State Henry Stimson, 1929 ...

... Pew Research Center: "In the wake of reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been listening to phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other heads of state, a 56% majority of Americans say it is unacceptable for the U.S. to monitor the phones of allied leaders, while 36% say the practice is acceptable. There are virtually no partisan differences in these opinions."

David Sanger of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has told allies and lawmakers it is considering reining in a variety of National Security Agency practices overseas, including holding White House reviews of the world leaders the agency is monitoring, forging a new accord with Germany for a closer intelligence relationship and minimizing collection on some foreigners. But for now, President Obama and his top advisers have concluded that there is no workable alternative to the bulk collection of huge quantities of 'metadata,' including records of all telephone calls made inside the United States."

New York Times Editors: "Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Egypt, included in his Middle East itinerary at the last minute, served only to add to the confusion over the Obama administration's policy toward this critically important Arab nation. Mr. Kerry was the highest-ranking American official to visit Cairo since Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, was deposed in July. Mr. Kerry seemed to go further than necessary or prudent to make common cause with the authoritarian generals who led the coup and are now running the country." CW: The U.S. has a long, inglorious history of bolstering Middle East tyrants. Let's call Kerry a traditionalist!

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "In an important, if likely temporary, victory for abortion rights, the Supreme Court took a major abortion case off its docket on Monday. The Court's brief order does not explain the justices’ reason for doing so -- it simply provides that '[t]he writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted.['] Nevertheless, it is likely that the justices decided that a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision muddied the issues presented by the case to such an extent that it made sense to wait to decide an important question regarding the ability of states to restrict the use of medication abortions.... the fact that the justices turned aside an opportunity to uphold the very broad Oklahoma law may offer a small ray of hope to supporters of abortion rights. For the moment, the justices seem uninterested in endorsing an expansive ban on medication abortions, even if there may be five votes to uphold a narrower ban like the one in Texas." CW: See also Local News below re: Texas anti-abortion law. ...

Local News

Matt Sloane of CNN: "On Monday abortion-rights groups filed an emergency motion asking the Supreme Court to block Texas from enforcing part of the [anti-abortion] law, which is considered among the most restrictive in the country. Justice Antonin Scalia has given the state until November 12 to respond.... The motion comes four days after a federal appeals court reinstated a key part of the law -- a provision that requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic at which they're providing abortion services. The appeals court's decision allowed that provision to remain in place, but Monday's motion asks the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling." ...

... Jesse Wegman of the New York Times: "On Monday morning, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia allowed the charade to continue for at least another week when he declined to grant an emergency request by the law's challengers to stay the appeals court's ruling, and ordered the state to file a response by Nov. 12. (Justice Scalia hears all emergency-stay applications out of the Fifth Circuit.)

Already we have lost 14 states in this union to the most corrupt group of citizens I've ever known. They make up the heart and the thinking in the minds of those who would belong to the Ku Klux Klan. They are white supremacists. They are men of evil. They have names. They are flooding our country with money. They've come into to New York City -- they are beginning to buy their way in to city politics. They are pouring money into Presbyterian Hospital to take over the medical care system. The Koch brothers, that's their name. -- Harry Belafone, at a campaign event in Harlem for mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio

Seth Masket of Pacific Standard on the Northern Colorado secessionist effort. "Secession is the conservative equivalent of moving to Canada.... It represents a rejection of representative democracy. It's a refutation of the idea that if you're losing, you make better arguments, recruit better candidates, and run better campaigns until you win." Via Jonathan Bernstein.

He's No Twit. I don't twit. I only walk. I don't email. I don't Facebook.... I'm an old-school politician. I return calls. I know neighborhoods. I know Mrs. Lopez. -- Newark Mayor Luis Quintana, who replaced newly-elected Sen. Cory Booker

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Democrats and unions, fearful that a landslide victory by Gov. Chris Christie will reshape New Jersey's political landscape, have poured tens of millions of dollars into a record-breaking outside spending campaign that has transformed the state's election season. The effort, designed to preserve Democrats' dominance of the State Legislature and complicate Mr. Christie's plans to build a record of legislative achievement as he considers a presidential bid in 2016, has inundated some legislative districts with millions of dollars in negative ads on a scale never before seen in New Jersey." ...

Guns, Governors & Angry White People

Emily Schultheis of Politico: "New polling finds that the gun control issue favors Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor's race." ...

... Ben Pershing of the Washington Post: "How McAuliffe became the frontrunner: 8 turning points in the race for Virginia governor." CW: Not sure any of these is a "turning point"; let's call them "significant events."

Tom Jacobs of Pacific Standard: "A research team led by Kerry O'Brien of Monash University in Australia reports a high score on a common measure of racial resentment increases the odds that a person will (a) have a gun in the house, and (b) be opposed to gun control. This holds true even after other 'explanatory variables,' including political party affiliation, are taken into account." ...

... Charles Pierce: "The obviously coded subtext of a great deal of the NRA and general gun-mongering propaganda concerns scaring white people about black criminals.... The election of a black president, I suspect, acted merely as what the arson squad would call an accelerant. The fire already was lit and, frankly, the NRA didn't light it."

CW: Yesterday I was applauding Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), a candidate for governor, for coming out of the closet, albeit for practical political reasons. But now -- via Charles Pierce -- I learn that he may be all for his own sexual rights, but for women, not so much. Republican Sherry Huber elaborates in the Portland Press Herald.

An Angry White Man. Darryl Isherwood of NJ.com: "Gov. Chris Christie's official Facebook page is awash in comments attacking him for his treatment of a teacher during a campaign stop this weekend.... Accounts differ, but [teacher Melissa] Tomlinson said the governor snapped at her, telling he is 'tired of you people.'" CW: Accounts may differ, but here's a snapshot of Christie during the exchange with the teacher. You be the judge:

How Not to Run for President. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chats up a New Jersey schoolteacher. He's a shoo-in for the masochist vote. ...

... CW Update: Contributor Patrick credibly argues that the picture doesn't tell a thousand rants because "... the off-kilter framing gives the viewer the initial impression that CC is leaning into, towering over, his interlocutor. Straighten the frame and he is not so intimidating.... With that canted frame, it also appears that CC is gesturing aggressively...." See Patrick's full comment below. Here are two more photos taken by Dave Weigel of Slate, who also posted the one above (I wasn't certain about this earlier, so didn't give proper credit):

Ah, you put the proper angle on your pic & Christie looks like a real sweetheart.... Weigel writes, "... here's what I saw. After the rally, Christie made his way back to his campaign bus, flanked by low-key security guards. Tomlinson, who had been carrying a sign and handing out fliers from her Badass Teachers Association, asked Christie why he'd called New Jersey schools 'failure factories.' Christie rounded on her, blurting out that he was sick of 'you people.'" Weigel goes on to the report the entire exchange he overheard. CW: I've found Weigel, a libertarian, to be a fair reporter. I'll go with his first-hand report. This is a confrontation, not a conversation. Contrast Christie's response to the schoolteacher with Romney's response to hostile, jeering fair-goers -- "Corporations are people, my friend" -- & you realize that even Mitt Romney is a better politician than Christie -- unless you have a fondness for boors.

... Presidential Election 2016

Paul Waldman of the American Prospect on the coming (brief) "explosion of Christie mania." CW: Read it & enjoy. ...

... Charles Pierce: "If anything drives me out of political blogging before my time, it [will be] ... a full two-years of fiery bro-love among the media for Chris Christie, not merely among Republicans looking for a winner, but for Democrats who are prepared once again to fall for a straight-talkin', two-fisted man o' the people who you'd like to have a beer with.... Chris Christie's only claim to being a Republican 'moderate' is that he condescended to accept the president's help when half of Christie's state had been blown out to sea. Beyond that, he's a rich guy who will do what richer guys than he is want him to do. He has a gender gap wider than the Dardenelles."

CW: So far the GOP's top choices for its 2016 presidential nominee include a megalomanic (that would be Tailgunner Ted), a zombie-eyed granny starver (see Charles Pierce), an unrepentant kleptomaniac & a serial bully. On the Democratic side, we have Hillary Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton. I am not at all convinced she can beat each & every one of the deranged boys on the other team.

Congressional Race

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "The long-running battle for the heart and soul of the national Republican Party will play out [in Alabama] on Tuesday in the form of a nasty little House special-election primary, pitting business-oriented establishment Republicans against angry and energized tea party insurgents who have become a dominant voice in the GOP. Dean Young is the insurgents' candidate. Bradley Byrne is the establishment choice."

News Ledes

Another Day in the Land of the Free. New Jersey Star-Ledger: "Hours after a volley of shots were fired in Garden State Plaza, trapping customers and store workers for hours as police searched for the gunman, the suspect was found dead inside a construction zone within the mall, authorities said this morning." ...

... Star Ledger: "The sound of shots fired inside one of New Jersey's largest shopping malls just before closing last night triggered a lockdown and frantic evacuation, as police launched a massive manhunt to find the apparent lone gunman. Police preliminarily identified the suspect in the shooting at the Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus as Richard Shoop, 20, of Teaneck...."

Washington Post: "Roughly one in every five sunlike stars is orbited by a potentially habitable, Earth-size planet, meaning that the universe has abundant real estate that could be congenial to life, according to an analysis of observations by NASA's Kepler space telescope. Our Milky Way galaxy alone could harbor billions of rocky worlds where water might be liquid at the surface, according to the report, which was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and discussed at a news conference in California."

Reuters: U.N.-Arab League "Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met U.S. and Russian officials on Tuesday to discuss convening long-delayed Syrian peace talks this year despite disputes over President Bashar al-Assad's future and whether his ally Iran can attend. Hours earlier, Damascus reiterated that Assad will stay in power come what may, casting doubt on the political transition that is the main focus of the proposed 'Geneva 2' conference."

AP: " India on Tuesday launched its first spacecraft bound for Mars, a complex mission that it hopes will demonstrate and advance technologies for space travel."

Guardian: "A court in Bangladesh has sentenced 152 people to death for their actions in a 2009 border guard mutiny in which 74 people, including 57 military commanders, were killed.... Human rights groups have criticised Bangladesh for the mass trial.... New York-based Human Rights Watch last week said at least 47 suspects have died in custody while the suspects have had limited access to lawyers, and to knowledge of the charges and evidence against them."