The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

New York Times: "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday as the government declared three days of official mourning and grappled with the aftermath of an attack on a school by the Pakistani Taliban that killed 145 people. The national flag was lowered to half-staff on all official buildings and prayer services were scheduled across the country." ...

... The Washington Post profiles "Mullah Radio," the leader of the Taliban attack on schoolchildren & teachers.

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
December 18

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

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

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

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

CW: For those of you who don't like hassling with DVDs, I accidentally found a cheap alternative to Netflix. Although I will continue to subscribe to Netflix's streaming videos, Netflix doesn't stream most decent movies. Instead, you have to maintain a (second) monthly subscription, then order & return the DVDs. However, YouTube now allows you to stream movies (you can watch them -- more than once -- during a 48-hour period.) There's no monthly fee, & you can play the movies on your TV via various devices. I have a Google dongle on one TV & a Blu-Ray box on another. The YouTube streaming videos work on both (you have to download on the Chrome browser). Setting up an account was very easy. Since I watch few movies, this works perfectly for me. When Ben Bradlee died, I watched "All the President's Men" for the umpteenth time, & today I watched "Good Night & Good Luck." Big advantage: instant gratification! I'm not sure if YouTube is good for more recent movies.

The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Tuesday
Sep182012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 19, 2012

Matthew O'Brien of the Atlantic on what our Marxist, socialistic tax structure really looks like. Um, it's barely even progressive.

Presidential Race

AP: "Rebuking Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Americans are not 'victims' and that anyone seeking the presidency ought to be working for 'everyone, not just some.'" Here's a clip. The full interview will probably be available sometime Wednesday is here & worth watching; it begins at 7:45 min. in. The clip below is an extension of the one I embedded late yesterday:

... The video below is also the full interview; Letterman or CBS may take it down, tho:

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney faced an escalating torrent of criticism on Tuesday from Democrats and Republicans for characterizing 47 percent of the country as government-dependent people who believe they are 'victims,' even as new video clips emerged of his blunt comments on other subjects during a fund-raiser in May.... The clips have already hijacked Mr. Romney's efforts to reset his campaign message and take advantage of a two-week period before the debates begin." ...

... David Corn of Mother Jones has released the full Romney Tapes, Parts 1 & 2. Corn also has audio of Romney's full remarks here.

... Jay Carney: "When you're president of the United States, you're president of all the people":

The Obama campaign talks to ordinary Americans to get their takes on Romney's remarks about the "47 percent":

Romney pushes back with an op-ed in USA Today: "Efforts that promote hard work and personal responsibility over government dependency make America strong." Huh, fails to mention that almost half of us are irresponsible, government-dependent Obama-lovin' bums. ...

... Jonathan Martin, et al., of Politico: "... longtime GOP hands find the video and Romney's attempt to neither fully embrace nor fully apologize for his comments to be symptomatic of a larger problem. The former Massachusetts governor can't seem to string consecutive positive days together and often is his own worst enemy. A month's worth of woes, beginning with a forgettable GOP convention, has taken its toll on the Republican psyche."

The Political Is Personal. Mike Isikoff of NBC News: James Carter IV, President Carter's grandson, "confirmed there is a personal side to the backstory of the campaign video: he was especially motivated, he said, because of Romney's frequent attacks on the presidency of his grandfather, including the GOP candidate's comparisons to the 'weak' foreign policy of Carter and Barack Obama." CW: as I wrote yesterday -- payback. ...

He was a refugee from Mexico. He was on welfare relief for the first years of his life. -- Lenore Romney, speaking of her husband George Romney, Mitt's father:

     ... CW: Mitt is a walking illustration of the classic selfishness that is the core "value" of so many Republicans: I got mine, screw the rest of you. Mitt's grandfather took government handouts; Mitt himself took countless millions in government handouts in his Bain deals & in his "turnaround" of the Olympics; but "you people" are irresponsible moochers who expect the government to provide for your every lazy-assed whim. Thanks to contributor Julie for the link to the video above.

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: the 47 percent make the front pages of American papers.

... Maureen Dowd: "Willard, born on third base and acting self-made, whining to the rich about what a great deal in life the poor have. We thought Romney was secretly moderate, but it turns out that he's secretly cruel, a social Darwinist just like his running mate.... Even as Mitt was spitefully demonizing and dividing in Boca, he remained cardboard-cutout un-self-aware, musing: 'The thing I find most disappointing about this president is his attack of one America against another America.' This is the absolute height of cluelessness."

Matt Miller in the Washington Post: "... the truth is that low earners were largely dropped from the rolls thanks to (sensible) Republican-supported policy that boosted the earned income tax credit? Which was itself the brainchild of conservative icon Milton Friedman! And when those in the 47 percent who aren't seniors or veterans are mostly poor workers whose payroll taxes, at 15.3 percent (since the employer side of the tax effectively comes out of workers' wages), leaves them taxed at a higher rate than was Mitt Romney on his $20 million income last year? To be so insultingly tone deaf and self-destructive even while being dead wrong and hypocritical on the substance is a perverse sort of accomplishment." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: what the Romney-Ryan-Moochermania crowd misses is that most Americans will be both "makers" and "takers" at different points in their lives, & oftentimes they are both simultaneously.

... Why, Karl Rove Agrees with Cohn. A lot of people who get a Social Security check paid into that their entire lives and they're plenty wired up about the deficit and there are lots of people getting an unemployment check who would love to have a job, so you've got to be careful about that number. [P.S. Those lazy bastards are Republican voters!] -- Karl Rove

Where's Willard? Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politics: "Romney's light public schedule in the heart of the campaign's final sprint has led some GOP donors to grumble that he should be paying less attention to them at this point and spending more time winning over voters who will decide the election at the ballot box. 'There's not really a campaign here,' said one Republican with extensive ties to the party's fundraising community. 'He's getting ready for the debates, and he's out fundraising. You've got enough money!'" Via Greg Sargent.

Tim Noah of The New Republic: conservatives split over Lucky Ducky Doctrine. ...

... Conservative David Frum: "The background to so much of the politics of the past four years is the mood of apocalyptic terror that has gripped so much of the American upper class. Hucksters of all kinds have battened on this terror. They tell them that free enterprise is under attack; that Obama is a socialist, a Marxist, a fascist, an anti-colonialist.... And what makes it all both so heart-rending and so outrageous is that all this is occurring at a time when economically disadvantaged Americans have never been so demoralized and passive, never exerted less political clout.... Yet even so, the rich and the old are scared witless!" ...

... Digby: "This also ties into Mitt's throwback comment about how if would be easier for a Mexican to be elected President (instead of a wealthy, white male with a famous political father.) This delusion of being an oppressed class is becoming pathological. When you've got people of vast, vast wealth acting as though the poorest and least of society have huge advantages, you know they've gone down the rabbit hole and may not be able to find their way back. This isn't about Mitt Romney. He just happens to be the perfect symbol of the American aristocrat's persecution complex."

CLICK ON MAP TO SEE LARGER IMAGE. Mitt Romney, Middle East expert pontificator, cannot locate Syria on a map:

The other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point, or Jordan. -- Mitt Romney, the Romney Tapes, May 2012

... Whatever contours a possible Palestinian state would have, it won't border Syria. -- Daniel Drezner, Foreign Policy, September 18, 2012. (CW: note that neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip [on the Mediterranean] abuts Syria)

Obviously, as you know, Syria is Iran's only Arab ally in the region. Syria is the route that allows Iran to supply Hezbollah with weapons in Lebanon. Syria is Iran's route to the sea. -- Mitt Romney, April 2012 (Note that the West Bank does not abut Syria.)

A reader counted at least five times in which Romney has [called Syria 'Iran's route to the sea'].... Syria shares no border with Iran -- Iraq and Turkey are in the way -- and ... Iran has about 1,500 miles of coastline along the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, leading to the Arabian Sea. -- Glenn Kessler, April 19, 2012

Here's another helpful map from Josh Fruhlinger of Wonkette:


 


If somebody is dumb enough to ask me to go to political convention and say something, they're gonna have to take what they get. -- Clint Eastwood, on his GOP convention appearance

Mitt Romney is dumb enough. -- Constant Weader

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos on the Romney's "hilarious comeback attempt" -- highlighting a 14-year-old audio tape in which Obama said he believed in "a certain level of redistribution ... to make sure that everybody has got a shot." Earth to Willard: everybody believes in that, including -- maybe today only & maybe for the ears of the lumpenproletariat only -- you, Willard. While he was attacking Obama's old redistribution comment, Rmoney said, "I believe the right course for America is one where government steps in to help people in need -- we're a compassionate people -- but then we let people build their own lives." See, Mitt, when you take money from some people & give it to some other people, whether you do it out of compassion or because it's the law -- that's redistribution. You lunkhead.

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney borrowed $20 million for his presidential campaign in August, a campaign official said on Tuesday, money that helped carry Mr. Romney through the Republican convention until he could tap into tens of millions of dollars in general election money his campaign raised.... The cash crunch appeared to have been more dire than previously disclosed."

Ben Yagoda of Slate interviews Randy Newman about his new single, "I'm Dreaming":

Congressional Races

Nate Silver: "Democrats are now favored to retain control of the Senate when the new Congress convenes in January, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, breaking a summer stalemate during which control of the chamber appeared about equally likely to go either way."

Fred Thys of WBUR: "A WBUR poll of 507 likely Massachusetts voters ... finds Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren leading Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, 45 percent to 40 percent. The survey has a 4.4 percent margin of error. The WBUR poll, conducted Sept. 15-17..., is the fourth released this week to find Warren making gains." Via Greg Sargent.

Local News

Kate Zernike of the New York Times: "... for much of the last year, Democrats and independent budget analysts have argued that [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's] current budget was built on wishful thinking.... Mr. Christie dismissed those doubters as 'rooting for failure.' On Tuesday, his frequent assertions of a 'New Jersey Comeback' came under fresh scrutiny, this time from Standard & Poor's, which downgraded the state's financial outlook to negative from stable. The ratings agency said it lowered its outlook because it believed the governor's revenue projections for the current fiscal year were overly optimistic, warning that the budget was structurally unsound." (Contributor Marvin Schwalb mentioned this is yesterday's Comments .)

News Ledes

New York Times: "Italy's supreme court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of 23 Americans in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, making it the first case to successfully challenge the contentious American program of extraordinary rendition. The ruling opened the way for the extradition of the defendants, who were tried in absentia. But legal experts said it was unlikely the Italian government would initiate proceedings any time soon."

Chicago Tribune: "More than 350,000 Chicago public school students returned to class this morning after union officials overwhelmingly called off a seven-day teachers strike."

Reuters: "A French magazine ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad on Wednesday by portraying him naked in cartoons, threatening to fuel the anger of Muslims around the world who are already incensed by a film depiction of him as a womanizing buffoon. The French government, which had urged the magazine not to print the images, said it was temporarily shutting down premises including embassies and schools in 20 countries on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers."

Space: "For the last time in history, a space shuttle soared into the skies over Florida on Wednesday (Sept. 19). Rather than riding on rockets and heading into orbit however, the space shuttle Endeavour was mounted atop a jumbo jet and is destined for a California museum's display."

Monday
Sep172012

Caught on Tape

During the next 48 hours & beyond you will likely hear or read quite a few boneheaded pundits saying that the Romney Tapes are just like Barack Obama's "guns & religion" remark. Libertarian Conor Friedersdorf (here) & David Graham (here), both of the Atlantic, have already rolling out that meme. They are wrong. The comparison is facile and, well, stupid.

The similarities are obvious. Both men were running for president. Both were speaking at what they thought was a private meeting. Both were speaking to wealthy donors. Both were talking about how to persuade voters. Both said things they would have "rephrased" for general public consumption. And both were caught on tape.

But that's where the similarities end. The thrust of their remarks could not be more different.

Read what Obama said.

... the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre...I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class don't wanna work -- don't wanna vote for the black guy.' That's...there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today - kind of implies that it's sort of a race thing....

So the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American.... Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives....

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

There is a fundamental difference here. Obama is explaining, albeit in a ham-handed way, why people in these forgotten town have given up. But he does not write off the people. He is sympathetic to their plight. He gets -- or thinks he gets -- why they are cynical. Given all that, he still wants to convince them that government can help them. He wants them to feel that once again they have a stake in the American system.

Obama's view of people who are down on their luck is the exactly the opposite of Romney's attitude.

Obama wants to give these people hope. Romney writes off the very same people -- these losers who don't earn enough to pay taxes.

Obama says circumstances have beat these people down. It is exterior factors (hmm, like Bain Capital outsourcing offshoring their jobs) -- factors largely beyong these individuals' control -- that have caused small-town people to become "cynical" & to look for scapegoats & crutches. Romney, the offshoring pioneer, says these people are moochers who have failed to take "personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Obama says he wants to give these people another shot at the American dream. Romney says it's "not his job to worry about those people."

Obama wants to include these people, even knowing they may reject him. Romney has already excluded them. In their unguarded moments, Obama illuminates the Democrats' big tent, Romney illustrates Republicans disdain for ordinary Americans.

Carl Sandburg once said the ugliest word in the English language was "exclusive." Mitt Romney illustrates why.  


If you wish to comment on this post, you can do so in the Comments section of the September 18 Commentariat, posted below.

Monday
Sep172012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 18, 2012

Art by Eric Leppanen.

Allison Linn of NBC News: out-of-work Mainer Eric Leppanen, once a heavy credit-card user, "recently found [a] box of 169 credit cards [he had discarded]. He used the cards, plus 50 state quarters, to create his own artistic tribute to the boom years of the early 2000s. He calls the piece 'Indebted States of America.'"

"America's Bloodiest Day." CW: I missed this piece by Rick Beard in yesterday's New York Times: "By 5 p.m., the Battle of Antietam was over. Over 22,000 Americans lay dead or wounded or were among the missing: the highest single-day casualty total of the Civil War.... (Sept. 17 also proved to be the war's deadliest day for civilians, when 78 workers in the Allegheny Arsenal were killed in an explosion.) An official with the Sanitary Commission wrote: 'No words can convey the utter destruction and ruin. For four miles in length, and nearly a half mile in width, the ground is strewn with hats, caps, clothing, canteens, knapsacks, shells, and shot. Visit a battlefield and see what a victory costs.'"

Stanley Fish: "We have decided that the potential unhappy consequences of a strong free speech regime must be tolerated because the principle is more important than preventing any harm it might permit. We should not be surprised, however, if others in the world -- most others, in fact -- disagree, not because they are blind and ignorant but because they worship God and truth rather than the First Amendment, which not only keeps God and truth at arm's length but regards them with a deep suspicion."

Presidential Race -- Romney Tapes, Part 2

David Corn of Mother Jones: "Romney spoke of 'the Palestinians' as a united bloc of one mindset, and he said: 'I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there's just no way.' ... In public, Romney has not declared the peace process pointless or dismissed the two-state solution." Take a look at Corn's whole post. There is more.

AP: "GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney told donors in a newly released video clip that Palestinians 'have no interest' in peace with Israel and suggested that efforts at Mideast peace under his administration would languish."

Presidential Race -- Romney Tapes, Part 1

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "All the Sad Young Men," 1936

** Jonathan Martin of Politico on why Obama is winning. This is a good, comprehensive, impartial analysis. ...

... NEW. Ramesh Ponnuru, an editor & contributor to the right-wing National Review, writes a Bloomberg News opinion piece that knocks the wind out of some conservative memes about voter preferences & GOP policy. ...

... NEW. Jon Chait of New York has a very good post on the significance of Romney's remarks: "Instead the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party. He believes that market incomes in the United States are a perfect reflection of merit. Far from seeing his own privileged upbringing as the private-school educated son of an auto executive-turned-governor as an obvious refutation of that belief, Romney cites his own life, preposterously, as a confirmation of it. ('I have inherited nothing. Everything I earned I earned the old fashioned way.')"

Nicely timed:

The End of the Line for Willard. David Corn of Mother Jones: "During a private fundraiser earlier this year..., Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don't assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them.... To protect the confidential source who provided the video, we have blurred some of the image, and we will not identify the date or location of the event, which occurred after Romney had clinched the Republican presidential nomination":

     ... Corn has three more short videos embedded in the linked post, and writes he will be publishing more. ...

... Here's Corn on Rachel Maddow's show. He has an interesting tale about the venue where the Romney Tapes were recorded:

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The blunt political and cultural assessment by the Republican presidential candidate offers a rare glimpse into Mr. Romney's personal views as the campaign enters its final 50 days. Liberals quickly condemned the remarks as insensitive and Mr. Obama's campaign accused him of having 'disdainfully written off half the nation.'" ...

      ... Update: Romney responds to release of the video. ...

      ... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times on how Romney's mini-presser came about. Read to the end.

Had [my father] been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this. -- Mitt Romney, at a private fundraiser, pointing out, I guess, that "those people" get all the breaks

 

... Digby: "He's literally saying that nearly half the country is a bunch of parasites.... I don't know that I've ever seen a presidential candidate with more contempt for the American people than Mitt Romney. It's one thing for a candidate to attack his opponent, but to attack half he country as a bunch of losers you don't have to care about is just unprecedented. He's obviously as much a believer in twisted Randroid tropes as his chosen VP." ...

... Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic: "What is most jarring about Romney's comments here is ... that sense that Romney's grasp of America is so thin, that he believes that half of it is dismissible strictly on the grounds of laziness." ...

... ** "Thurston Howell Romney." David Brooks: "... as a description of America today, Romney's comment is a country-club fantasy. It's what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney." ... CW: a la Lyndon Johnson's response to Walter Cronkite's criticism of the Vietnam War, Romney -- if he knew any history, which he probably doesn't -- would be saying right now, "If I've lost Brooks, I've lost the election."

... Paul Krugman: "... if you look at the facts, you learn that the great bulk of those who pay no income tax pay other taxes; also, many of the people in the no-income-tax category are (a) elderly (b) students or (c) having a bad year, having lost a job -- that is, they're people who have paid income taxes in the past and/or will pay income taxes in the future. The idea that half of Americans are just grifters is grotesque. If this is real, it's very, very ugly." CW: it's real. Michael Shear's post quotes a Romney spokesperson, who doesn't even try to deny it; she just says Romney is "concerned" about the grifters. ...

... AND where are all those freeloaders? Oh, my goodness gracious me! A whole passel of them just might be Republicans!

     ... Map via David Graham of The Atlantic.

... AND, as Kevin Roose of New York magazine points out, some of those freeloaders are Mitt's BFFs: "There are two primary ways to pay no (or negative) federal income taxes. The first is to be poor, and the second is to be elderly.... There, are, of course, some exceptions to the old-or-poor rule. As Bruce Bartlett noted last year, roughly 12 million households making over $33,542 in 2011 paid no federal income tax. And there are an untold number of illegal tax evaders who haven't paid a dime either. (Like Wesley Snipes!) But the most egregious members of the 47 percent are the 3,000 people who made more than $2,178,866 in 2011 (putting them in the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers), and yet paid no federal income taxes." ...

... AND, since Lord & Lady Willard Romney won't release their own tax returns -- for all we know, they are among the non-taxpaying freeloaders. Of course we already know they're major moochers, since they have knocked themselves out not to pay their fair share of income tax. Their own record of serial tax avoidance makes Mitt's little "socioeconomic theory" one giant, oozing corpuscle of hypocrisy. ...

... ** Ezra Klein: "Part of the reason so many Americans don't pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans.... When you look at graphs of the percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes, you see huge jumps after Ronald Reagan's 1986 tax reform and George W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.... Republicans have become outraged over the predictable effect of tax cuts they passed and are using that outrage as the justification for an agenda that further cuts taxes on the rich and pays for it by cutting social services for the non-rich.... Romney's theory here is ... actually core to his economic agenda." ...

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "Romney appears to conflate a few things — Obama's approval rating, the percentage of people who do not pay income taxes and people who rely on government assistance. There may be some overlap between these groups but they really are not the same thing.... Perhaps it is too much to expect a politician to be entirely accurate in a closed door speech, but one would think he would have even less need to stretch the truth if he thinks the cameras are not rolling."

... Josh Barro of Bloomberg News: "You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released today by David Corn at Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney's campaign for president." ...

     ... John Sides of the Monkey Cage runs the numbers & agrees with those of you who have argued that gaffes are not game-changers: "Many a news cycle was built on a 'gaffe' with a remarkably short shelf life."

... Joe Coscarelli of New York on how President Jimmy Carter's grandson helped leak the secret Romney video. CW: nice payback for Romney's nasty remarks about President Grandpa!

Even tho, like Barro, I think the presidential race is over, let's keep at it. Here's an Obama campaign ad hitting Romney on his promise to get tough on China:

... AND what's left of the campaign will be dirty. Charles Pierce: "There's really only one campaign left to [Romney] now.... It's going to get extraordinarily dirty extraordinarily fast. There is going to be pale birtherism and barely covert racism.... There is going to be poor-baiting, and gay-baiting, and ladyparts-baiting, and probably baiting of things I haven't thought of yet. The polite part of the campaign is going to be Romney's effort to convince You that he was really talking about Them when he was calling people moochers and sneak thieves."

AP: "Republicans ... produced an 'Apprentice'-style Donald Trump video that they never showed to delegates." CW: aw, shucks. The "you're fired" part would have been so clever.

"Patriot Games," by the Gregory Brothers for the New York Times:

News Ledes

Chicago Tribune: "The Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates decided this afternoon to end the city's first teacher strike in 25 years and return more than 350,000 students to the classroom Wednesday."

Washington Post: "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday called for more hearings on whether a new Republican-backed voter ID law can be implemented this fall without disenfranchising voters who currently lack the needed photo identification. The decision drew sharp rebukes from two of the six justices. They said it was already clear that some legitimate voters could not secure the needed ID in time for the election."

AP: "The United States said Tuesday it is ending the U.S. Agency for International Development's operations in Russia after a Kremlin demand that the aid organization leave the country, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama;s policy of 'resetting' relations between Washington and Moscow."

Washington Post: "The USS Long Beach, the first nuclear-powered surface warship in history, went around the world in a 1964 tour designed to showcase the possibilities of nuclear power.... The ship, which is docked in Bremerton, Wash., is saying its final goodbyes. But there won't be a ceremonial sinking; instead, the Navy is sending the ship off for scrap."

Guardian: "The Nato-led military strategy in Afghanistan has been thrown into disarray after joint on-the-ground operations were suspended because of a collapse in trust over the killings of Americans and other Nato soldiers by Afghan government forces."

Washington Post: "Anti-American protests that started in Cairo and spread across the Muslim world have stalled negotiations to provide crucial U.S. economic assistance to Egypt, U.S. officials said Monday."

Washington Post: "Ten people were killed near Kabul’s airport Tuesday when a suicide car bomber rammed into a minivan carrying foreign aviation workers, police said. A Pakistan-based militant group said it carried out the attack to avenge an Internet video that defames the prophet Muhammad."

Sunday
Sep162012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 17, 2012

Colin Moynihan of the New York Times: "As the Occupy Wall Street protests reach their first anniversary on Monday, numerous activities have been planned to highlight issues like the presence of corporate money in politics, the foreclosure of homes and the type of risky speculation that caused JPMorgan Chase to lose as much as $9 billion this year betting on credit derivatives." ...

... The One Percent Court:

"The Lie Factory." Jill Lepore of the New Yorker on the history of campaign consulting. "No single development has altered the workings of American democracy in the last century so much as political consulting, an industry unknown before Campaigns, Inc. [was founded in 1933.] In the middle decades of the twentieth century, political consultants replaced party bosses as the wielders of political power gained not by votes but by money. [Clem] Whitaker and [Leone] Baxter, [who founded Campaigns, Inc.,] were the first people to make politics a business."

New York Times Editors: A "bill, sponsored by Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, would hire veterans as firefighters and police officers and for conservation jobs in national parks and on other public lands, through grants to federal departments and agencies and contracts with state and local governments and private organizations. It would give a lift to veteran entrepreneurs and contractors.... Ms. Murray has tried to make her bill as bipartisan as possible." Nevertheless, Republicans are trying to defeat it. "'Where is our honor? Where is our valor? Where is our sacrifice?' thundered [Sen. Tom] Coburn [R-Okla.], suggesting that giving jobs to veterans was an affront to American values." The bill is scheduled for a vote Wednesday.

The Actuary. In a New York Times op-ed, Steve Rattner, the financier & Obama car czar advocates for death panels. CW: I hope his parents are in a safe house where he can't find them.

CW: I have a gut-level disagreement with Glenn Greenwald's absolutist stance on free speech. But I'd love to have input from others on this.

Brett Smiley of New York: "New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd rings in the Jewish new year Sunday with a controversy brewing over her column titled "Neocons Slither Back," in which she peddles Jewish stereotypes and uses anti-Semitic imagery, according to a number of writers, editors, and observers." CW: I saw some of the criticism yesterday, & I really don't agree with it. Maybe if I were Jewish, I'd have a different take, but I agree with Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "There's nothing anti-Semitic in Dowd's column."

     ... Cartoon by Jeff Danziger. His Website is here.

Presidential Race

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama, under renewed fire from Mitt Romney for not standing up to China on behalf of American workers, used a rally in [Ohio] ... on Monday to announce a new trade case against Beijing. He said it was Mr. Romney who had sent jobs to China through his zealous practice of outsourcing at Bain Capital.... 'Ohio,' the president declared, 'you can't stand up to China when all you've done is send them our jobs.... We've brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two -- and every case we've brought that's been decided, we won.' " ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: Ed Gillespie, "a top strategist for Mitt Romney, conceded Monday that the campaign has not provided enough specifics about the candidate's vision for the country and pledged a renewed effort in the last 50 days of the race to better communicate with voters."

Soledad O'Brien of CNN tries to pin down Rep. Peter King (R-NY) on just when President Obama's "apology tour" was:

Jeff Mason of Reuters: "On long flights to swing states in the West and late nights at the White House after his children have gone to bed, President Barack Obama is cramming" for the presidential debates.

Philip Rucker & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney, who last week struggled with his responses to a major ­foreign-policy crisis in the Middle East, will now turn his focus back to the economy with a new offensive aimed at recharging a campaign that even some allies believe he is losing. The Obama campaign, also sobered by the violent deaths of U.S. diplomats in Libya, seems willing to join Romney in a debate about the economy instead." ...

... CW: if you'd like to know what Romney will have to say AND what's wrong with it, Paul Krugman lays out Romney's "five points to nowhere" & has the point-by-point breakdown. If you want to skip the five points & go with five words, here's a good overview: "You've got to be kidding." As for how effective Romney's economic offensive will be, Krugman writes,

What the Romney revival people imagine is that he can now go out and aggressively sell his carefully unsubstantive economic ideas, without letting voters know that his underlying ideas involve things they really don't want. I suppose a master politician might be able to pull that off. But you go to an election with the candidate you have ...

... Jeff Zeleny & Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "With time dwindling for him to gain an edge in the presidential race and with an outbreak of finger-pointing signaling trouble in his campaign, Mitt Romney plans to begin an offensive this week, his aides said, seeking to give voters a clearer picture of where he wants to take the country." ...

... McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "Mitt Romney's campaign has concluded that the 2012 election will not be decided by elusive, much-targeted undecided voters -- but by the motivated partisans of the Republican base.... Three Romney advisers told BuzzFeed the campaign's top priority now is to rally conservative Republicans, in hopes that they'll show up on Election Day, and drag their less politically-engaged friends with them. The earliest, ambiguous signal of this turn toward the party's right was the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate, a top Romney aide said." ...

... Rick Klein of ABC News: "Things haven't been going Mitt Romney's way since roughly the moment that Clint Eastwood dressed down that empty chair.... Romney has struggled to fill the leadership chair himself, despite several high-profile opportunities handed to him by national and international events."

Paul Krugman: In response to the Fed's announcement that it would introduce a new round of quantitative easing, "Republicans ... have gone wild, with Mitt Romney joining in the craziness. His campaign issued a news release denouncing the Fed's move as giving the economy an 'artificial' boost -- he later described it as a 'sugar high' -- and declaring that 'we should be creating wealth, not printing dollars.' ... What about Mr. Romney's ideas for 'creating wealth'? The Romney economic 'plan' offers no specifics about what he would actually do. The thrust of it, however, is that what America needs is less environmental protection and lower taxes on the wealthy. Surprise!" ...

... Jonathan Bernstein in Salon: Why did Mitt Romney pull out the "liberal media" canard last week? Because he's got nothing else.

Mike Allen & Jim VandeHei of Politico have a long, mildly interesting piece on how the Romney campaign screwed up the Republican convention, especially the last night & Romney's speech. The blame goes to Stuart Stevens, Romney's chief strategist, who scrapped the prepared speech 8 days before the convention, then largely scrapped another one, written days later, then helped Romney write his own. ...

... Taylor Berman of Gawker: "The sources [from inside the Romney camp] in the article, which includes the sort of shit flinging you'd expect to read after a candidate loses, not before, fault Stevens for Romney's mediocre speech and Clint Eastwood's spectacular performance art piece at the RNC, amongst other campaign snafus."

E. J. Dionne: "Many conservative commentators attribute Obama's bounce to Romney's failure to be specific enough. They don't want to acknowledge that on core issues, the electorate is far closer to Obama's moderate progressivism than to Romney and Ryan's conservatism."

Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker on God's seat at the conventions.

Congressional Races

Robert Rizzuto & Shira Schoenberg of MassLive: "... Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren has pulled ahead of Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, according to a new poll. The survey of Bay State voters conducted Sept. 6-13 by the Western New England University Polling Institute through a partnership with The Republican and MassLive.com, shows Warren leading over Brown, 50 to 44 percent, among likely voters." CW: if the poll is accurate, it's a stunning turnaround from a poll published last week that showed Brown with a 5-point lead. In any event, it looks as if the convention speech helped, & fired up Massachusetts Democrats. ...

... Public Policy Polling: "Things have been going Elizabeth Warren's way in the Massachusetts Senate race over the last month. She's gained 7 points and now leads Scott Brown 48-46 after trailing him by a 49-44 margin on our last poll." Via Taegen Goddard.

... Sally Jacobs of the Boston Globe on Elizabeth Warren's Amerindian heritage. CW: I used to live near one of the Oklahoma towns Jacobs cites as a place where Warren's Amerindian relatives lived. A number of my neighbors there, who passed for white, appeared to be of American Indian heritage. I don't remember the women as well as the men, & I remember them because they were drop-dead handsome. I believe Warren.

"Crocodile Tears." Dan Avery of Queerty (Sept. 12): During the Democratic convention, Brian Nemoir, "a member of Republican Tommy Thompson's Senate campaign team sent out a mass email to right-wing bloggers ridiculing Thompson's lesbian Democratic opponent, Tammy Baldwin, for celebrating at a Wisconsin Capital Pride Rally in 2010.... This week, Thompson ... apologized for the gay-baiting email and tweets, explaining he was 'very upset' about them: 'I thought it was a mistake, I'm sorry, and he's apologized, I believe. He shouldn't have done it.' Clearly Thompson is furious at Nemoir -- but not so furious that he fired him. Nemoir has been removed as spokesman but will remain active in the Thompson campaign."

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon interviews Wayne Powell, the Democrat running to unseat "self-absorbed egomaniac" House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Right Wing World

** Frank Rich spends a week listening to & reading right-wing media and finds "a Republican party far more despairing than the lamestream knows." CW: I was going to write something like this, but Rich beat me to it: "I finished the week with sympathy for true believers on the right who are far more divorced from their own political party and the nation's culture than even those on the left who are perennially disillusioned by Obama, the Democratic hierarchy, and their own journalistic Establishment." Well, I probably wouldn't have included the "sympathy" part.

NEW. Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "'Nutjobs stuck in the thirteenth century' is just one insult used in the parody song showcased by ... Mike Huckabee on his website Monday. Huckabee, an outspoken Islamophobe, is the latest media figure today to embrace anti-Islam rhetoric to explain the violent anti-American protests in the Middle East." Shen has the audio. Not as irresponsible as the movie trailer, but offensive, disrespectful & stupid, particularly at this time. Bear in mind, quite a few people thought Huckabee should be president. Thanks to contributor Lisa for the link.

Ghostbusters. Stephanie Saul of the New York Times has a long piece on True the Vote, an offshoot of the Tea Party that is obsessed with dedicated to eliminating voter fraud. Their favorite urban legend is one about "those people" being bussed into polling places in a bus nobody has ever actually seen. "In some versions the bus is from an Indian reservation; in others it is full of voters from Chicago or Detroit. 'Pick your minority group,'" a Wisconsin elections official said. And get this: the founder & president of True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht, "said that until four years ago she was apolitical, a churchgoing mother of two.... 'Then in 2008, I don't know, something clicked,' she said. 'I saw our country headed in a direction that, for whatever reason -- it didn't hit me until 2008 -- this really threatens the future of our children.' -- CW: it's a mystery, isn't it, just what clicked for Catherine in 2008? Sorry, Frank Rich, these people make me want to scream.

Grover Norquist, playing the part of a wino in "Atlas Shrugged, Part 2." Or else, just Grover Norquist.The Reliable Source, Washington Post: Mr. Anti-Tax has a cameo role in "Atlas Shrugged, Part 2." Should make the movie a real hit.

News Ledes

NBC News: "Looking to reignite their movement on its one-year anniversary, several hundred Occupy Wall Street activists protested in lower Manhattan Monday, staging a sit-in near the iconic New York Stock Exchange and swarming through the streets in costumes and toting American flags and signs. Roughly 100 protesters were believed to have been arrested, including some rabbis and pastors who had sat down in the street and sidewalk, blocking them...."

Chicago Tribune: Chicago "Mayor Rahm Emanuel late Sunday called the [Chicago teachers' union] walkout 'illegal' and pledged to seek an injunction in court to force an end to the city's first teachers strike in a quarter century." ...

     ... NBC News Update: "A Cook County Circuit Court judge on Monday declined a request to hold a same-day hearing for an injunction to immediately end Chicago's teacher strike. During a short meeting, Judge Peter Flynn postponed the requested hearing until Wednesday.... That comes after the Chicago Teachers Union's delegates are scheduled to meet and vote on a proposed contract."

Washington Post: "After days of anti-American turmoil in the Muslim world, governments on Sunday looked ahead to a week of trying to make an uneasy accommodation between the anger of their citizens and their desire to convince the United States of their goodwill. But U.S. diplomatic outposts remained under threat. In Pakistan, at least one protester was killed and 18 were injured Sunday as hundreds of people broke through a barricade in a march to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, and thousands more rallied in Lahore, where American flags were burned, the Associated Press reported." ...

... AP: "Hundreds of Afghans burned cars and threw rocks at a U.S. military base as a demonstration against an anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad turned violent in the Afghan capital early Monday. And in Jakarta, Indonesians angered over the film clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and burning tires outside the mission. At least one police officer was seen bleeding from the head and being carried to safety by fellow officers."

New York Times: "The Obama administration plans to file a broad trade case at the World Trade Organization in Geneva on Monday accusing China of unfairly subsidizing its exports of autos and auto parts, a senior administration official said late Sunday, in a move with clear political implications for the presidential elections less than two months away."

AP: "U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that U.S. and Japanese officials have agreed to put a second missile defense system in Japan. The exact location of the installation has not yet been determined."

Space: "A Soyuz spacecraft carrying two Russian cosmonauts and an American spaceflyer has landed safely back on Earth, wrapping up a four-month mission to the International Space Station."