The Ledes

Thursday, April 17, 2014.

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emphasized on Thursday that the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament had authorized him to use military force if necessary in eastern Ukraine, and also stressed Russia’s historical claim to the territory, repeatedly referring to it as 'new Russia' and saying that only 'God knows' why it became part of Ukraine....Mr. Putin’s remarks on eastern Ukraine came as officials from Russia, the United States, Europe and the new government in Kiev were meeting in Geneva for four-way negotiations aimed at resolving the political crisis." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Russia may invade southeast Ukraine to protect the local population, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday." ...

... Washington Post: "President Vladimir Putin, who repeatedly denied Russian troops had entered Crimea before the March referendum there, changed his version of those events Thursday, telling the nation that they had indeed been there all along. But the green-uniformed men observed in eastern Ukraine right now, storming buildings and raising the Russian flag, are not Russian, he said. 'Those are local residents,' he said." ...

... AP: "Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. The carrot-stick strategy emerged as diplomats from Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and Russia prepared to meet Thursday for the first time over the burgeoning crisis that threatens to roil the new government in Kiev." ...

... Guardian: "Asked if he was expecting any progress, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, simply shrugged." ...

... Reuters is liveblogging of the Ukraine crisis.

... New York Times: "Ukrainian security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in a firefight overnight in the eastern city of Mariupol, the interim Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday. The clash was the most lethal so far in the east of the country." ...

... AP: "NATO is strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border immediately in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the alliance's chief said Wednesday."

Washington Post: "A Canadian cyber crime unit has arrested and charged a 19-year-old Ontario man for allegedly hacking into the country's tax agency using the Heartbleed Internet security bug."

Washington Post: "About 24 hours after [a South Korean] passenger ferry with more than 450 aboard began to slowly sink off South Korea’s southwestern coast, at least nine are dead and 287 others, many of them teenagers, are unaccounted for. South Korean news media put the number rescued at between 164 and 179, most of whom were brought ashore to the island of Jindo, where they were wrapped in warm towels or treated for minor injuries." ...

... Guardian: "The parents of hundreds of children missing after Wednesday's ferry accident off the coast of South Korea have accused the captain of the vessel of abandoning passengers after it emerged that he and six other crew members were among the first to leave the ship after it started to sink." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Angry relatives of passengers aboard a sunken South Korean ferry criticized the government’s response Thursday as the ship’s captain made an emotional apology for fleeing the vessel before hundreds of others had a chance to get out."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

AP: "A column of armored vehicles flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russia demonstrators Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes to re-establish control over restive eastern Ukraine."

AP: "A multi-story ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters. At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured."

Boston Globe: "A shelter-in-place order on Boylston Street has been lifted and a 25-year-old Boston man is facing charges after police executed a controlled detonation of two suspicious bags left near the Boston Marathon finish line. Just after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, on the one-year anniversary of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, police said two backpacks had been found in the area and immediately ordered people to evacuate. Authorities said the backpacks were tied to a man who goes by Kayvon Edson. Edson was captured in several videos marching down Boylston Street in a black veil, wearing a backpack, and chanting 'Boston strong.'” ...

     ... UPDATE: "A man who was arrested after suspicious bags were found near the Boston Marathon finish line was arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court. Kevin Edson, 25, of Boston is being charged with possession of a hoax explosive, threatening battery, threats to commit a crime, disturbing the peace, disturbing a public assembly, and disorderly conduct, according to the Boston Police Department. Edson is being held on $100,000 bail and is being sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for an evaluation, the Associated Press reports."

Read more here:

Public Service Announcements

Washington Post: "Researchers are reporting that injections of long-lasting AIDS drugs protected monkeys for weeks against infection, a finding that could lead to a major breakthrough in preventing the disease in humans."

New York Times: "General Motors will more than double the size of a recall issued this month for an ignition switch defect in some of its small cars, the automaker said in a news release Tuesday. The expansion brings the number of vehicles covered by the recall to nearly 1.4 million in the United States. The recall is aimed at vehicles with ignition switches that could inadvertently turn off the engine and vehicle electrical system – disabling the air bags – if the ignition key is jarred or the vehicle’s operator has a heavy key ring attached to it."

New York Times: "The essence of [a] disagreement [among experts] comes down to a simple question: Will e-cigarettes cause more or fewer people to smoke? The answer matters. Cigarette smoking is still the single largest cause of preventable death in the United States, killing about 480,000 people a year."

White House Live Video
April 17

11:05 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden welcome the 7th annual Wounded Warrior Project's soldier ride

1:45 pm ET: Jay Carney 's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

Washington Post: "Stephen Colbert and his writing staff were in fighting form Monday night, after a controversy stemming from an out-of-context tweet had hashtag activists calling for his head." ...

... This is kinda must-see TV:

AND Colbert dismantles his charity:

Michael Lewis in the New York Times Magazine on the whiz-kids of high-frequency Wall Street trading.

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The Commentariat -- November 30

In my column in today's New York Times eXaminer, I have an "exchange" with former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller about his view of the paper. The NYTX front page is here.

CW: Mostly because it annoyed me, I didn't link Jonathan Chait's long New York magazine article wherein he examines the sorry history of "liberal disappointment" in Democratic presidents. It is worth reading if you have a grain of salt handy. ...

... BUT even if you don't read Chait, do read Katrina vanden Heuvel's rebuttal in the Washington Post: "The biggest liberal groups in the country lined up to help pass [President Obama's] agenda. They stayed loyal even as his aides cut deals they found deplorable.... He faced unified Republican obstruction, not liberal opposition. Powerful corporate lobbies were able to purchase sufficient conservative Democrats ... to dilute, delay and sometimes defeat reform. Progressives in Congress criticized the limitations, but produced votes when it was time to get something passed.... If anything, Obama was hurt because progressives were too loyal rather than that they were too critical."

David Dayen of Firedoglake: The Office of Comptroller of the Currency, which is mostly useless, has found that ten major lending institutions have unlawfully foreclosed on as many as 5,000 active-duty service members, in violation "of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, in particular the restriction on foreclosing on active duty military while they are overseas. The scandal has led to an extreme degree of restitution from the banks, which have been camo-washing their reputations by providing settlements of up to $117,000 per wrongful foreclosure.... Violations of the SCRA carry with it potential sentences of up to a year in prison."

CW: Don't kid yourself that Congressional Republicans (and no doubt some bank-financed Democrats) are whacking just the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because Elizabeth Warren is so mean or something. They are working overtime (or, rather, having their staffs work overtime) to dismantle the entire financial regulatory framework, such as it is (and it's already a revolving-door joke with the "regulators" making nice to the "regulated" who will soon employ said regulators at 10 times their current salaries. Public service, my ass). See, fer instance, Charles Pierce's remarks on funding cuts for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, which is tasked under Dodd-Frank with regulating derivatives trading. (The Politico backstory is here.)

Greg Sargent shows how the payroll tax cut, proposed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats would benefit 113 million Americans, but Republicans are caterwauling that paying for it with a surtax on the super-rich "amounts to a job-killing tax hike on small businesses." Not only is that not true, the tax itself would in no way be a hardship on the 345,000 rich people who would pay an additional 3.25 percent, only on that part of their income that was over $1MM. ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "The anti-tax crowd is boxed in.... Are Republicans going to deny the average working family a $1,500 tax break in order to spare millionaires a modest increase? That $1,500 or so, multiplied by every paycheck in America, would have a huge effect on economic growth next year, widely estimated as between 1.5 and 2 percentage points. The tax increase would affect only a tiny fraction of small businesses with employees, despite the endless Republican claims that it would stifle job creation." ...

... Pat Garofalo of Think Progress: "The GOP has, time and again, blocked any legislation that would increase taxes by the slightest amount on the ultra-wealthy, even with tax revenue at a 60 year low, taxes on the rich the lowest they’ve been in a generation, and income inequality out of control.

Right Wing World

Maureen Dowd is back on her game today, for the first time in a long time, with an "Essence of the Newt" piece. She doesn't cover any new ground (though her borrowing from Barney Frank's news conference yesterday is good), but she nicely puts together a string of outrageious hypocrisies that defines the leading GOP contender du jour.

Charles Pierce of Esquire: "Herb Cain, could have the slimmest chance of being elected president of the United States is a better measure of the depth of this country's problems than the Consumer Price Index is."

After running a now-notorious ad which cut a remark by Barack Obama so as to completely change the meaning of what he said, Mitt Romney had the gall to go on Fox "News" and complain about Democratic oppo ads that portray him as a flip-flopper: "There's no question but that people will take snippets, things out of context, and show there are differences, which there are not." I ran an extended DNC Mitt v. Mitt on the November 28 Commentariat. Here's the 30-second version:

No-Information Governors. It turns out those oft-mocked "low-information" swing voters may be better informed than Republican governors:

I don’t read newspapers in the state of Ohio. Very rarely do I read a newspaper. Because ... reading newspapers does not give you an uplifting experience.... I have found my life is a lot better if I don’t get aggravated by what I read in the newspaper. -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich

No. -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott, when asked if he read Florida newspapers

Via Steve Benen. CW: these governors will never pay a political price for boasting about their willful ignorance. They are just showing their base they are not "elitists." Besides, when everybody is a know-nothing, how would the know-nothing voters ever find out their governor was Know-Nothing-in-Chief?

Perry Ups Voting Age, Election Day. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "At a town hall meeting at the Institute of Politics at New Hampshire’s Saint Anselm’s College Tuesday, Rick Perry asked that all of the college students in the crowd who will be 21 by Nov. 12 support his bid for the presidency.... The voting age in the United States is, of course, 18. And the 2012 election will be held on Nov. 6, 2012." With video.

I repudiate, and I call on the President to repudiate, the concept of the 99 and the 1. It is un-American, it is divisive, it is historically false…. You are not going to get job creation when you engage in class warfare because you have to attack the very people you hope will create jobs. -- Newt Gingrich

[Religious right activists] are the majority in the country who must stand up and take this nation back from the ‘minority elite’ who are ruining it. -- Newt Gingrich

Translation by Steve Benen: ... when it comes to the economy..., we’re all one people, and we must pay no attention to the wealth that divides us. When it comes to the culture war, we’re not one people, and those who believe ... should target and defeat those Americans who disagree. If a right-wing voice rails against the 'minority elite,' he’s speaking the truth. If an Occupy activist rails against the 'minority elite,' he’s an un-American radical.

Local News

Elizabeth Hartfield of ABC News: "On Monday night the United Wisconsin coalition, the committee organizing the effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, announced that it had collected 300,000 signatures since the recall kicked off on Nov. 15. The signature-gathering process has moved very quickly so far.... United Wisconsin will need to collect 540,208 signatures by Jan. 17 in order to get a recall of Governor Walker on the ballot."

News Ledes

President Obama speaks on the American Jobs Act in Scranton, Pennsylvania:

Reuters: "Stocks surged on Wednesday after major central banks agreed to make cheaper dollar loans for struggling European banks to prevent the euro-zone debt woes from turning into a full-blown credit crisis. The Dow posted its best day since March 2009 after the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and other major central banks stepped in to head off escalating funding pressures that threaten the key arteries of the world's financial system."

Reuters: "Nearly nine years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, the U.S. mission in Iraq is fast winding down with only 13,000 troops left in the country. Hundreds are departing each day until the end of 2011."

New York Times: "The police broke up large Occupy encampments in Los Angeles and Philadelphia early on Wednesday, arresting hundreds of protesters who had been camped out for the past two months and who had remained in public squares beyond city-mandated deadlines this week." Los Angeles Times story here, with video. Philadelphia Inquirer story here. ...

     ... Inquirer Update: "Occupy Philadelphia protesters gathered for a general assembly Wednesday evening outside Police Headquarters at Eighth and Race Streets. About 100 protesters marched to the police building from Rittenhouse Square late Wednesday afternoon."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "A feisty President Obama warned that the economy would suffer a 'massive blow' if Republicans block his proposal to extend an expiring payroll-tax cut, rallying supporters at a campaign-style rally in ... [Scranton, Pennsylvania]."

AP: "Britain ordered all Iranian diplomats out of the U.K. within 48 hours and shuttered its ransacked embassy in Tehran on Wednesday, in a significant escalation of tensions between Iran and the West. The ouster of the entire Iranian diplomatic corps deepens Iran's international isolation amid growing suspicions over its nuclear program. At least four other European countries also moved to reduce diplomatic contacts with Iran." Guardian story here.

New York Times: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived [in Naypyidaw, Myanmar,] on Wednesday to measure the depth of the political and economic opening that the country’s autocratic, military-dominated government has unexpectedly begun.

ABC News: "The latest person to accuse former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse also claims that Sandusky threatened to hurt the boy’s family if he ever told anyone about the abuse. Sandusky’s newest accuser, who is now 29, had not told anyone about the abuse until he read about the grand jury presentment charging Sandusky with 40 counts of child molestation over 15 years, his lawyer Jeff Anderson said today. Until that time, he had thought he was the only victim."

Politico: "A deal between Boeing and its Machinists union Wednesday could quiet GOP attacks against the Obama administration and National Labor Relations Board about the fate of a South Carolina 787 Dreamliner plant. If the tentative deal is ratified allowing the Boeing’s new 737 MAX aircraft to be built in Renton, Wash., the union said it will withdraw its grievances against the aerospace manufacturer over the South Carolina plant, potentially putting an end to a seven-month, highly charged labor debate."


The Commentariat -- November 29

If it's Tuesday, it must be time to deal with David Brooks. My column in the New York Times eXaminer is here. The NYTX front page is here.

** Poll of the Month. "Fox 'News' -- Making Americans Ignorant 24/7." Fairleigh Dickinson University: "Sunday morning news shows do the most to help people learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.... People who watch Fox News ... are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all.... Exposure to Sunday morning news shows helps respondents on" a question about the Occupy movement. "Listening to NPR also helps, but the biggest aid to answering correctly is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart...." ...

... In our Continuing Education series dedicated to making sure Reality Chex readers are way better informed than Foxbots, we bring you Jon Stewart lecturing on "competitive shopping":

** Dahlia Lithwick profiles Justice Elena Kagan in New York magazine.

Joe Nocera writes an excellent column explaining why Germany has screwed up the European Union & rendered the collapse of the euro almost inevitable. He also makes a good argument about why they should have known better & why they'll be sorry.

Half of them think like Michelle Bachmann and the other half are afraid of being primaried by someone who thinks like Michele Bachmann. -- Barney Frank, on Congressional Republicans

Paul Kane of the Washington Post profiles Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who announced his retirement today. See also Monday's Ledes. ...

... Charles Pierce of Esquire, who was a Boston reporter, writes a fine remembrance of Frank's career.

Garrett Epps of The Atlantic with the News from Brownbackistan. How teenager Emma Sullivan stood up to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. The First Amendment lives, even in Brownback's Kansas. CW: Read Epp's essay; he gives you more than the she said/he said.

E. J. Dionne calls out so-called "moderate" pundits like Tom Friedman of the New York Times and Mark Miller of the Washington Post (without naming them) for the third-party advocacy. "We need moderation all right, but a moderate third party is the one way to guarantee we won’t get it."

Right Wing World

"Here We Go Again." CNN: "An Atlanta businesswoman accused GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain of having had an affair with her that lasted 13 years, an Atlanta television station reported Monday."

      ... Here's the original report from Dale Russell Atlanta's Fox5 TV. Update: the interview of Ginger White:

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: Michele Bachmann claimed last week that she had never said "anything inaccurate" during the Republican presidential debates. "The record clearly shows that Bachmann has said many inaccurate statements during the debates, sometimes repeatedly."

Glenn Kessler: Grover Norquist appeared on "Press the Meat" this weekend and made up stuff. "Norquist has every right to his opinions on the dangers of excessive government spending and taxation, but he needs to come up with a better set of facts to make his case. His description of recent budgetary history bears little relation to the historical record. His comment on the stimulus bill was also highly misleading."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "A judge on Tuesday sentenced Dr. Conrad Murray to four years behind bars -- the maximum punishment possible -- for his part in Michael Jackson's death, saying the doctor’s role in the singer’s fatal overdose was 'money-for-medicine madness.' In blistering and lengthy remarks, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor lambasted Murray for failing to express any remorse for the pop star’s death and suggesting in a recent documentary that Jackson bore responsibility for his own demise." With video.

New York Times: "Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived [in Baghdad, Iraq] on Tuesday for a historic visit meant to inaugurate a new relationship between the United States and Iraq, just weeks before the last American troops are scheduled to leave the country."

Washington Post: "Businessman Herman Cain told senior members of his campaign on a conference call this morning that he is reassessing whether or not to remain in the Republican presidential race. On the conference call, which National Review listened to and transcribed, Cain denies the allegation of an affair with an Atlanta woman named Ginger White, which came to light on Monday, but acknowledged that the 'firestorm' had caused a rethinking."

New York Times: "The AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, said on Tuesday that it had filed for bankruptcy protection in an effort to reduce labor costs and shed a heavy debt burden."

Guardian: "Dozens of Iranian protesters have forced their way into the British embassy in Tehran, tearing down the Union flag and throwing documents from the windows."

Guardian: "The former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain has been told by the Metropolitan police that they are investigating evidence that his computer, and those of senior Northern Ireland civil servants and intelligence agents, may have been hacked by private detectives working for News International [Rupert Murdoch's company]. The suggestion that the minister's computers, containing sensitive intelligence material, may have been compromised is the most serious sign yet that newspaper malpractice extended far beyond the hacking of mobile phone voicemail, into the realm of other electronic data." ...

... Guardian: Rupert Murdoch's son "James Murdoch has seen off a revolt by nearly a third of BSkyB's independent shareholder to be reappointed as chairman of the satellite broadcaster at the company's annual general meeting.Provisional figures announced at the meeting in London on Tuesday gave him 81.24% of the vote, with 18.76% against."

Al Jazeera: "Egypt's first free elections for decades have entered a second day, with turnout so far described as 'very high'. Logistical problems plagued many polling stations on Monday but the first day of voting passed mostly peacefully. Egyptians are voting to create the first democratically elected assembly in the country's history."


The Commentariat -- November 28

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer: "In his most recent New York Times op-ed column, Frank Bruni warns that the 'presidential race is shaping up to be … especially mean and mendacious.' But Bruni himself, if not mean, is certainly mendacious. His central premise is untrue as is much of the 'evidence' he provides to try to support it." The NYTX front page is here. ...

... Today's Off Times Square topic is "The Pits." You'll have to read it to get it. But of course you can write about any topic related to politics.

NEW. How to Attack Female Candidates. Libby Copeland in Slate: "A review of the advertising suggests that conventions of negative advertising against women are often different from the conventions of advertising against men." Here are some "common tropes" used to defeat a woman running for office: she's nutty, a power-mad bitch, a wicked witch, frivolous, deviant, uppity, a woman. With sample ads.

George Packer of the New Yorker talks to Occupy Wall Street protesters about why they're participating in the movement.

The Fed: a Banker's BFF. Bob Ivry, et al., of Bloomberg News: "The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret.... The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue."

Paul Krugman: "... two areas in which it would make a lot of sense to raise taxes in earnest, not just return them to pre-Bush levels: taxes on very high incomes and taxes on financial transactions." Krugman explains to dummies why raising taxes on today's super-rich would make a big dent in the deficit as would "taxing financial transactions, which have exploded in recent decades. The economic value of all this trading is dubious at best. In fact, there’s considerable evidence suggesting that too much trading is going on."

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: Mayor Cory Booker brings doughnuts & coffee to Occupy Newark protesters. "Indeed, the Occupy Newark protest has unfolded with disarming civility in one of the nation’s grittiest cities."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "Just a little more than an hour after some House Democrats recently demanded an inquiry into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s ethics, Senate Republicans stepped up the pressure on Justice Elena Kagan to take herself out of the court’s decision on the health-care reform act. The process repeated itself a few days later. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) called for the release of more documents about Kagan’s role as President Obama’s solicitor general; the liberal group People for the American Way came out with another broadside against Thomas. Accusations about both justices, from the left and the right, show no signs of dissipating now that the Supreme Court has said it will review the constitutionality of Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010."

Aram Roston of the Daily Beast: Supreme Foods is the new Halliburton, a European-based company which services, has imported all of the U.S military’s food into Afghanistan, and its contract was extended by the Pentagon in 2010 for two years and $4 billion without the normal competitive bidding. But that’s just part of its business.... The rise of Supreme Group is a classic tale of a Pentagon procurement system still laboring to overcome decades of suspicions about overpriced hammers and toilet seats, conflicts of interests, kickbacks, and a revolving door between the government and private contractors.

Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker: "Americans have never met a hydrocarbon they didn’t like. Oil, natural gas, liquefied natural gas, tar-sands oil, coal-bed methane, and coal, which is, mostly, carbon—the country loves them all, not wisely, but too well. To the extent that the United States has an energy policy, it is perhaps best summed up as: if you’ve got it, burn it. America’s latest hydrocarbon crush is shale gas."

Right Wing World

Mitt v. Mitt. Here's a related AP story:

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: With Republicans facing the dismal prospect of voting for either Mitt or Newt, the Donald is thinking of making a comeback -- just in time for his release of a new book.

Max Read of Gawker on the New Hampshire Union Leader's endorsement of Newt Gingrich: "It must be a proud moment for Newt, to be included with such GOP luminaries as Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes and Pierre S. DuPont IV — all of whom received the coveted Union Leader endorsement and went on to illustrious careers as a television racist, a publisher of listicles, and a terrible Wall Street Journal columnist, respectively." Hilariously, TwitterWorld is totally confused to learn a "union leader" has endorsed Newt. With sample Tweets. ...

... Not So Fast, Skeptics. Nate Silver demonstrates that the Union Leader endorsement actually does help a New Hampshire candidate: "As it happens, although only three of the six Republicans endorsed by The Union Leader during this period won their primary, all six outperformed their polling."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A federal judge in New York on Monday threw out a settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Citigroup over a 2007 mortgage derivatives deal, saying that the S.E.C.’s policy of settling cases by allowing a company to neither admit nor deny the agency’s allegations did not satisfy the law. The judge, Jed S. Rakoff of United States District Court in Manhattan, ruled that the S.E.C.’s $285 million settlement, announced last month, is “neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest” because it does not provide the court with evidence on which to judge the settlement. The ruling could throw the S.E.C.’s enforcement efforts into chaos...."

NECN: "Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts fourth Congressional District has said he will not seek re-election for 2012." Updated Boston Globe report here.

     ... Update: C-SPAN has video of Frank's full press conference here.

Reuters: "Police in riot gear began closing in early on Monday on some 2,000 anti-Wall Street activists who defied a midnight deadline to vacate an eight-week-old encampment outside Los Angeles City Hall as some protesters blocked traffic."

AP: "Since the lifting two months ago of a longstanding U.S. ban on gays serving openly in the military, U.S. Marines across the globe have adapted smoothly and embraced the change, says their top officer, Gen. James F. Amos, who previously had argued against repealing the ban during wartime."

Al Jazeera: "Egyptians have started casting their ballots in the first parliamentary elections since former president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising earlier this year. Long queues were seen outside many polling stations amid tight security arrangements as voters flocked to the polls on Monday morning." The Al Jazeera liveblog is here.

New York Times: "Warnings that the debt crisis in Europe could cause credit to dry up across the global banking system, endangering the world economy, multiplied on Monday despite fresh efforts by European leaders to prevent the euro monetary union from fracturing."

New York Times: "Millions of voters in [the Congo] ... streamed into the polls on Monday and already many are bracing for serious unrest."


The Commentariat -- November 27

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "Ross Douthat's Mythbuster Fail." Boomer Alert: Douthat thinks you're delusional. And Kennedy was either a "mediocre" or a "disastrous" president; you get only those two choices. The NYTX front page is here.

The Hope poster is kind of faded and a little dog-eared. -- Barack Obama ...

... Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "... with unemployment stubbornly at 9 percent and consumer confidence at or near record lows, [Obama campaign operatives] are settling on a strategy that incorporates the combativeness of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1936 drive, the anti-Congress zeal of Harry S. Truman’s 1948 campaign and the disciplined focus of George W. Bush’s 2004 blitz against Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The result is not your college-age daughter’s Obama campaign of hopeful, transcendent politics." ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Nearly a year before Election Day, Republican presidential candidates and conservative action groups are already spending heavily on television advertising aimed at casting [President] Obama as a failure. Their tactics, the aggressive and sometimes misleading kind not typically used until much further along in a campaign season, have led to a spat with Democrats in what is shaping up to be the most costly election advertising war yet."

Finally, Someone Speaks up for the One Percent. John Kenney of the New Yorker: "We come from near and far, by any means necessary, some on private jets, others on extremely large private jets.... Our numbers may be smaller than those demonstrating in New York and other cities, but we are still a movement, coalesced around a cause, sleeping two and sometimes three people to a villa.... We’re angry. We’re angry at something we’re calling 'imagined frustration.' By this we mean that, except for Congress, the White House, banks, major lobbyists, and the editorial boards of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, no one is listening to us. And we’re tired of it." ...

... the tax code shouldn’t allow the wealthy the kind of loopholes that let them, essentially, force other taxpayers to underwrite donations to their pet causes. -- Scott Klinger of Business for Shared Prosperity ...

... How to Make Millions without Paying Taxes. David Kocieniewski of the New York Times: "From offshore havens to a tax-sheltering stock deal so audacious that Congress later enacted a law forbidding the tactic, [Ronald] Lauder has for decades aggressively taken advantage of tax breaks that are useful only for the most affluent.... 'There’s real truth to the idea that the tax code for the 1 percent is different from the tax code for the 99 percent,' said Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of Colorado...."

The political environment in the Republican primary ... basically means you can’t be authentic unless you’ve got a single-digit I.Q. -- Bill Clinton

Nicholas Kristof: "Obama has done better than many critics on the left or the right give him credit for."

Paul Krugman writes two blogposts refuting David Brooks' nonfactual (a/k/a big fat lying) assertion that taxing the rich won't make a dent in the deficit (here's Brooks, and BTW, here is James Kwak of Baseline Scenario also debunking Brooks' claim). In his first post on the topic, Krugman begins,

I’ve been getting the predictable hysterical reactions to today’s column. And it’s true — I’m a Sharia Jewish atheist Marxist who hates America! Bwahahaha!

But one thing actually worth reacting to is the assertion I keep getting that this is all a distraction, that even if we seized all the money of the top 0.1% it would make no difference to the fiscal outlook. Here’s a piece of advice nobody will take: before you make assertions about numbers, look at the numbers.

      ... Krugman goes on to, well, look at the numbers. What a concept! In his follow-up post published late Saturday afternoon, Krugman uses a recent analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center to bolster his point:

Seriously, the notion that denying health care to the near-poor is a serious deficit-reduction policy, but raising taxes on the very rich is not, is not something you can justify at all on the basis of the actual numbers. Anyone [CW: like, say, Brooks] who says different is practicing, well, class warfare.

CW: Columnist as Self-Parodist. If you want to read how a columnist writes speculation and distortions to demonstrate that "both sides do it," read Frank Bruni's column, which ostensibly is about how politicians use speculation and distortions to misrepresent their opponents' positions. When Bruni can't find anything negative to say about Obama's campaign, he just speculates -- based on a speculative Politico story -- that Obama will use speculations and distortions to discredit his opponent. Undeterred by lack of evidence, Bruni also disparages an accurate remark Obama made in 2008. He throws in Democrats and Republicans on the Super Committee too in service of his false equivalency.

WalMart Rules. Will Evans of California Watch: "In a push to expand across California without interference, Wal-Mart is increasingly taking advantage of the state’s initiative system to threaten elected officials with costly special elections and to avoid environmental lawsuits. The Arkansas-based retailer has hired paid signature gatherers to circulate petitions to build new superstores or repeal local restrictions on big-box stores. Once 15 percent of eligible voters sign the petitions, state election law [forces]... City councils [to] either approve the Wal-Mart-drafted measure without changes or put it to a special election." Thanks to a reader for the link. ...

... Chris Hawley of the AP: "As reports of shopping-related violence rolled in this week from Los Angeles to New York, experts say a volatile mix of desperate retailers and cutthroat marketing has hyped the traditional post-Thanksgiving sales to increasingly frenzied levels. With stores opening earlier, bargain-obsessed shoppers often are sleep-deprived and short-tempered. Arriving in darkness, they also find themselves vulnerable to savvy parking-lot muggers."

Right Wing World

Newt, Inc. Karen Tumulty & Dan Eggen of the Washington Post: "Former House speaker Newt Gingrich transfigured himself from a political flameout into a thriving business conglomerate. The power of the Gingrich brand fueled a for-profit collection of enterprises that generated close to $100 million in revenue over the past decade...."

News Ledes

AP: "A record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend starting on Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year, according to early estimates by The National Retail Federation released on Sunday. Americans spent more, too: The average holiday shopper spent $398.62 over the weekend, up from $365.34 a year ago."

Reuters: " France and Germany are planning a quick new pact on budget discipline that might persuade the European Central Bank to ramp up its government bond purchases...."

New York Times: "In center city Philadelphia, hundreds gathered outside City Hall in a show of solidarity ahead of a city-imposed Sunday evening deadline to clear a campsite there. The protesters braced for a police sweep, but it did not take place immediately after the 5 p.m. deadline, surprising few."

AP: "Bernie Fine was fired Sunday by Syracuse University after a third man accused the assistant basketball coach of molesting him nine years ago.... Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, said Sunday that he told police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room.... Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he signed an affidavit accusing Fine following a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany. Tomaselli's father, meanwhile, maintains his son is lying."

Al Jazeera: "The Arab League has approved sanctions against Syria, which could include halting co-operation with the nation's central bank and stopping flights to the country. The 22-nation body voted 19-3 to impose the sanctions on the recommendations at its headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday."

AP: "The [CW: extreme right-wing] New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Sunday editions, signaling that rival Mitt Romney isn't the universal favorite and that the state's largest newspaper could reset the contest there with six weeks to go before voters cast their ballots." You can read the Union Leader's endorsement here.