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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

The only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to. -- Prospective Juror, Martin Shkreli trial ...

... Harper's republishes some of the jury selection proceedings in the Martin Shkreli case.

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America."

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody."

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings."

Click on the picture to see larger image.... AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress."

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco."

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers."

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends."

Constant Comments

Monday
Nov032014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 4, 2014

November Elections
Are Today

The New York Times is liveblogging the elections. ...

... AND the Guardian is liveblogging the elections, too.

Here are the New York Times' final odds on U.S. Senate races. Related detail is here:

AND here is Larry Sabato's "Crystal Ball" analysis for the Senate, House & governors' races. Related story here:

Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "The Department of Justice plans to send federal monitors to 18 states to watch for discrimination against voters. Monitors will head to Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin." ...

... Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "The obscure rules of elections will be under intense scrutiny on Tuesday as civic groups, political parties and the Department of Justice, concerned about fair play, monitor polling places for irregularities. New rules to limit same-day registration or require photo identification will be in effect in some states, even as their constitutionality is argued in the courts. Most of the changes were adopted by Republican legislatures in the name of electoral integrity, even though evidence of voter fraud was negligible. They are opposed by Democrats who say tighter rules are aimed at discouraging minorities, poor people and college students from voting. All those groups tend to prefer Democrats." ...

     ... CW: I have to give Eckholm credit for "telling it like it is," rather than formulating a "both sides" pretense. This is a too-rare example of honest political reporting. He does give a GOP partisan a one-off, but most of his report centers on the ugly facts. Refreshing.

Joe Coscarelli & Margaret Hartmann of New York highlight what they think are "the 12 most interesting midterm races to watch."

Jonathan Martin & Nate Cohn of the New York Times suggest some things to look for as election results roll in.

Roger Simon of Politico: "We keep reelecting the same yahoos, expecting the results to be different.... The candidates ... believe enough money will buy enough attack ads to ensure them a victory. So public service is reduced to gathering bucks to pay for the next empty campaign. 'The hardest thing about any political campaign,' [Adlai Stevenson once] said, 'is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.'"

Danny Vinik of the New Republic: Also on a number of state ballots today: Medicaid expansion (indirectly), minimum wage, marijuana legalization & abortion.

"Let My People Go." John Oliver on state legislative elections. Thanks to James S. for the link:

Brent Budowsky of the Hill: "In a last-minute gift to Democrats on the eve of the midterm elections, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has announced his plan to push for Senate Republicans to declare a rightist war against Democrats if the GOP wins control of the Senate. Set aside the campaign pitches of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Colorado Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (R), Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R), Georgia GOP Senate candidate David Perdue and Alaska GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, who promise to end gridlock in Washington and govern for 'all of the people.' Cruz says they are all wrong.... Cruz is the real voice of what will happen if Republicans take control of the Senate." CW: Budowsky is an opinion writer.

Colorado. Adam Weinstein of Gawker: "Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall's tenuous chance at reelection took a hard blow Sunday after he was cussed out in the middle of a public stump speech by one of his own ultra-wealthy donors [Leo Beserra] because, in the donor's words, 'fucking abortion is all he talks about.' Udall -- the scion of an American West political dynasty that descended from one of the country's most infamous religious mass-killers -- is a first-termer with a shaky tenure in a purple state where opinions are bitterly divided on the president and his political party." The Guardian story, by Paul Lewis, is here.

Iowa. Charles Pierce gets into it with Joni Ernst. It turns out that according to Ernst, it's a "press ... opinion" that only one person in the U.S. -- Dr. Craig Spencer -- has Ebola. See, inconvenient facts are merely the opinions of the liberal media. Right Wing World is a supernatural place. ...

... AND Pierce claims Bruce Braley "delivered his own eulogy" at a campaign event last night. "Braley contributed to his own peril by being approximately as charismatic as a green salad, and citing his ability to 'work across the aisle,' while his opponent was tossing red meat under cover of a very effective camouflage. There is no longer an effective and reliable constituency out there for actual governance, at least not during elections."

Louisiana. Brian Beutler: May Landrieu was right, of course, when she said last week that "President Obama's unpopularity in her state, in part, to the fact that 'the South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans.'" She was also being politically astute: "Absent the motivating effect his candidacy has on black voters, Landrieu needs to find other ways to juice black turnout. Signaling to them that she's aware of the state's race problems, and that she's on the right side of that struggle, isn't an error 'politically,' as [that idiot Mark] Halperin suggested. It is a matter of political necessity."

Maine. Gov. Paul LePage (RTP), at a campaign rally with Chris Christie, in predicting his own victory, said he wanted to put Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz "on suicide watch.... We've got to make sure that for the next 24 hours that he doesn't go anywhere near the new Bucksport bridge." Here's the AP report, via the Press Herald. ...

... FYI, here's Nemitz's most recent Press Herald column (Nov. 2): "Here's a counterintuitive solution to Maine's not-really-Ebola crisis: Take Gov. Paul LePage, Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Sheila Pinette and lock them in a remote cabin somewhere in Aroostook County. It's the best way to prevent their ignorance from infecting the entire state of Maine."

New York. The Daily News endorses Michael Grimm! "In Domenic Recchia, the Democrats have fielded a candidate so dumb, ill-informed, evasive and inarticulate that voting for a thuggish Republican who could wind up in a prison jumpsuit starts to make rational sense." Via Joe Coscarelli. CW: That an endorsement for the ages.

AND in Other News ...

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: For too many Americans, there are no second chances. (One in every 13 black adults across the country cannot vote in this election because of a criminal record, according to the Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed 'supercookies' -- markers so powerful that it;s difficult for even savvy users to escape them. The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the 'private' or 'incognito' modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance."

Tina Nguyen of Mediaite: "During a Q&A in Canada, Glenn Greenwald was asked why his colleague and NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, wasn't on any of the social media platforms -- i.e., Facebook -- and Greenwald didn't mince words.'He doesn't use Facebook because he hates Facebook,' he said. 'They're one of the worst violators of privacy in history. Nobody should use Facebook.'" CW: Ah, eventually I knew I'd find something Ed & I had in common.

Shane Harris of the Daily Beast: "At the same time Gen. Keith Alexander was running the National Security Agency..., he was also trading stocks in an obscure technology company that had a sweetheart deal with one of the NSA's most important sources of intelligence -- the global phone and Internet giant AT&T.... The deal between AT&T and Synchronoss wasn't a secret, but Alexander's financial stake in it was. The NSA only handed over his financial-disclosure forms showing that he was an investor in October, following a lawsuit by investigative journalist Jason Leopold. The agency initially had claimed that revealing any of Alexander's investments could jeopardize national security.... Some of Alexander's other stock investments have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, raising questions about whether the former NSA director was using information he gleaned in the course of his official duties to influence his stock picks."

Steve Benen: The U.N. published a terrifying climate-change report. Republican legislators say "Meh." Lamar Smith, "the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee said on Sunday that a United Nations report that said the earth is heading toward 'severe, pervasive, and irreversible' climate change impacts is 'nothing new.... Similar to previous reports, the latest findings appear more political than scientific,' he said. 'People are tired of the re-packaged rhetoric. It's time to stop fear mongering and focus on an honest dialogue about real options.'... The more serious the crisis becomes, the more forceful the GOP becomes in rejecting the science." ...

... Emily Atkin of Think Progress: "The Weather Channel has released an official position statement on global warming, just two days after the channel's co-founder [John Coleman] told Fox News' Megyn Kelly that climate change is based on 'bad science' and does not exist. In the statement, The Weather Channel said the planet is 'indeed warming,' with temperatures increasing 1 to 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 100 years. The statement acknowledged that humans are helping make the planet warmer due to the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation." Coleman is a former TV weatherman, not a meteorologist.

Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama and Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen discussed the long-term outlook for the U.S. economy in their first one-on-one meeting since she took charge at the central bank, the White House said Monday. The pair also discussed the president's upcoming trip to Asia and Australia, which is expected to include discussion of a Pacific trade deal and a meeting of the G-20 economies."

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "U.S. officials are weighing whether to broaden the air campaign in Syria to strike a militant group that is a rival to the Islamic State and that is poised to take over a strategically vital corridor from Turkey. Extremists from the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group were said Monday to be within a few miles of the Bab ­al-Hawa crossing in northwestern Syria on the Turkish border, one of only two openings through which the moderate Free Syrian Army receives military and humanitarian supplies provided by the United States and other backers." ...

... Kristina Wong of the Hill: "The Pentagon on Monday sought to play down the significance of reports that two moderate Syrian rebel groups, armed by the United States, had surrendered to an al Qaeda affiliate. 'There are battles all the time between these various groups, and territory trades hands in these local areas regularly,' Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said." ...

... CW: If the situation were not so deadly serious, this would be hilarious. Kristina Wong: "President Obama's strategy against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been a 'disaster,' Sen. John McCain said Monday. McCain cited reports that Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria had defeated two major groups of moderate Syrian rebels -- the same forces that the United States is arming and training in their battle against President Bashar Assad." Ya know, John, it was you like a broken record, insisting "Arm the moderates. Arm the moderates." You are railing against your own damned policy, you crazy old coot.

Kevin Quealy & Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act -- its expansion of Medicaid to low-income people around the country -- must be optional for states. But what if it had ruled differently? More than three million people, many of them across the South, would now have health insurance through Medicaid, according to an Upshot analysis of data from Enroll America and Civis Analytics. The uninsured rate would be two percentage points lower." ...

     ... CW: Thanks, John Roberts, Elena Kagan, et al. Some of those three million will die because of your decision, & many will unnecessarily get sick. Sometimes you make lawmakers do things because they're too fucking nasty to do the right thing on their own. If you think doing the right thing requires bending the Constitution a teeny bit, so be it. ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "... several individuals with life-threatening health conditions ... joined an amicus brief filed Monday in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The brief asks the court to reject a claim brought by opponents of the Affordable Care Act seeking to cut off health subsidies to people entitled to receive them in nearly three dozen states.... Indeed, the Halbig plaintiffs' legal theory was rejected by dozens of Republican elected officials who called upon the Supreme Court to repeal the law. Thirty-six senators -- all Republicans -- signed an amicus brief in 2012 explaining that Obamacare is 'dependent on each of its interlocking provisions,' including the insurance subsidies. Twenty-four state governors or attorneys general signed a brief in the same litigation explaining that the Affordable Care Act's 'core provisions are carefully constructed to work in unison....'"

David McCabe of the Hill: "The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the Senate's filibuster rules from House Democrats. The justices declined to revisit a lower court ruling that found the congressmen did not having legal standing to sue over the rules in the upper chamber. The Democratic congressmen -- Reps. John Lewis (Ga.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Michael Michaud (Maine) and Hank Johnson (Ga.)‬ -- joined with Common Cause in 2012 to file the legal challenge, arguing that the Senate's requirement for 60 votes to break a filibuster runs counter to the constitutional idea of majority rule."

Jack Jenkins of Think Progress: "A federal district court in Oregon has declared Secular Humanism a religion, paving the way for the non-theistic community to obtain the same legal rights as groups such as Christianity."

** Paul Starr in the American Prospect: "The United States began as two societies -- one based on racial slavery, the other on free labor -- and despite all that has since happened in the nation's history, today's political divisions are descended from that original split.... Since the 1980s..., after a long period when the prevailing currents favored convergence, the trends have reversed, and the country has split apart along its old seams...." ...

... Conservative Michael Gerson: "Republicans are stuck in a Reagan timewarp." They find support "not in history but in mythology."

Scapegoating Immigrants Is Traditional! Dan Dinello, in Juan Cole's Informed Consent: "The attempt by some GOP politicians to tie the ebola outbreak to immigration issues is nothing new in American or European history. Immigrants have often been despised, feared and stigmatized by the native-born as harbingers of disease or even death. Conflating disease carriers with foreigners and social outcasts is a practice that stretches back to the Black Death when helpless Church Officials -- fearing loss of public confidence -- blamed Jews, immigrants and witches for the plague."

My favorite thing about Mitt Romney now is, imagine if the second-string quarterback on a football team got to just go around on all the shows and go, 'I'd have fucking nailed that pass.' For Romney, it&'s, 'Ebola? There wouldn't even be Ebola if I were president. I'm not sure Africa would still exist.' -- Jon Stewart

... Chris Smith of New York interviews Jon Stewart., ostensibly about Stewart's new film "Rosewater," but about other stuff, too.

Mary Jalonick of the AP: "A 2010 email from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says his department was 'waiting for the go-ahead' from the White House before accepting the resignation of employee Shirley Sherrod, according to newly released documents, despite Obama administration assertions that her ouster was Vilsack's decision alone. Lawyers for [a] Breitbart colleague ... filed the emails in court to bolster their argument that government decisions were the reason for Sherrod's dismissal, not the blog post."

Putin's Russia Is Fairly Horrible. Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "A Russian monument to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has been taken down, after Apple CEO Tim Cook's announcement last week that he is gay. The monument, which is in the shape of an oversize iPhone, was located on a university campus in St. Petersburg, one of the more liberal cities in Russia, until its removal Friday. It was put there in 2013 under the initiative of Maxim Dolgopolov, head of the holding company ZEFS, known in English as the Western European Financial Union, which cited Cook's revelations about his sexuality in a Bloomberg Businessweek article last Thursday as the reason the company decided to remove the statue." See also Infotainment.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Joshua Keating of Slate with "The latest installment in a continuing series in which American events are described using the tropes and tone normally employed by the American media to describe events in other countries." Here's a sampling: "In this deeply traditional society, where great import is accorded to family ties, powerful clans build patronage networks, and political office is often passed between relatives. Remarkably, one race pits the cousin of a former governor against the daughter of a former senator."

Jonathan Bernstein reiterates how media bias is helping Republicans. ...

... CW: Let me just add how unnecessary this is. Bernstein argues, via Norm Ornstein, that the media "adopted a narrative" early in the year & is sticking with it. In fact, the so-called media narrative is partially true. But there is no reason whatsoever that the media cannot note outlier instances where the "narrative" fails. So, where the narrative is, Republicans didn't nominate any Todd Akins this year, reports should add caveats like "of course, Joni Ernst & Tom Cotton are full-blown loonies." (Okay, hints to that effect.)

Everything Is Obama's Fault, Media Edition. Juliet Eilperin & David Nakamura of the Washington Post are unaware that Congress, the courts & the media have any influence over politics. "Where Did Obama Go Wrong?" is the headline of their piece in today's paper. It is Obama's fault, for instance, that Congress didn't act on immigration. Huh? The reporters note that even former Cabinet members Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates & Leon Panetta "question[ed] his approach" to ISIS. What the reporters didn't bother to note was that Obama was right to be concerned that U.S.-supplied weapons would fall into the wrong hands.

News Lede

BBC News: "Police in Mexico say they have arrested the fugitive mayor of the town of Iguala, where 43 students went missing in September. Jose Luis Abarca was detained by federal police officers in the capital, Mexico City, a police spokesman said. Mexican officials have accused Mr Abarca of ordering police to confront the students on the day of their disappearance on 26 September."

Sunday
Nov022014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 3, 2014

E. J. Dionne: "There should be no doubt that Republicans immediately saw [in Obama] the threat of what Sarah Palin came to call the 'hopey-changey stuff' and set out from the start to foil Obama and disappoint his optimistic expectations of harmony.... Obama remains the steward of the aspirations he awakened." ...

... CW: Dionne is right; in a country that has always looked to the future, Republicans set out to destroy hope. At the same time, they have been doing their best to actually destroy or circumscribe the futures of most Americans. In a just world, the parties would be competing to find ways to make life better for most Americans. But we live in Right Wing World, where everything is upside down.

Noam Scheiber of the New Republic does a mea culpa on his thesis -- produced in book form -- that the Obama administration botched the recovery. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link.

Greg Sargent: "A new batch of polls released over the weekend confirm that a GOP takeover of the Senate is now very likely. The major forecasts are putting the odds of that happening at 70 percent and higher. Yet even though it has not happened yet, the argument among Republicans over the meaning of their Senate takeover is underway. The differing interpretations capture the fault lines that will complicate the GOP quest to use their majority to prove they can govern in the run-up to the 2016 election." ...

... Sebastian Payne & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: Ted "Cruz's desire to turn his party further right in the coming months is one of the challenges already facing [Mitch] McConnell should Republicans regain the Senate, with tea party leaders inside and outside the Capitol spoiling for a number of hard-line moves." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico: "With growing confidence as Election Day approaches, Republican leaders are preparing to argue that broad GOP gains in the House and Senate would represent a top-to-bottom validation of their party's mainline wing.... National Republicans managed this year to snuff out every bomb-throwing insurgent who tried to wrest a Senate nod away from one of their favored candidates."

Paul Krugman: "... business leaders often give remarkably bad economic advice, especially in troubled times.... Why?The answer, to quote the title of a paper I published many years ago, is that a country is not a company. National economic policy, even in small countries, needs to take into account kinds of feedback that rarely matter in business life." ...

... CW: This is why I laughed out loud at Maureen Dowd's column yesterday on Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks. Schultz figures that starting & running a successful company, along with a few visits to veterans (& having a WashPo reporter "co-author" a "slender volume" about it), make him presidential material. When Dowd asks him if he has presidential ambitions, Schultz replies, “'I have an interest in trying to make a difference.... I don't know where that's going to lead.' He believes that 'the country is longing for leadership and for truth with a capital T.'" Dowd doesn't argue with that. Oh, barf. Here's a better piece on President Schultz, which karoli of Crooks & Liars wrote in 2012.

Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration's Syria strategy suffered a major setback Sunday after fighters linked to al-Qaeda routed U.S.-backed rebels from their main northern strongholds, capturing significant quantities of weaponry, triggering widespread defections and ending hopes that Washington will readily find Syrian partners in its war against the Islamic State." CW: Remember, this is precisely what Obama has feared all along, & what Hillary Clinton & Leon Panetta (and many Republicans -- John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mitt Romney, etc., etc. -- vehemently urged him to do. Panetta's whole book tour was a critique of Obama's failure to arm Syrian "moderates." ...

... MEANWHILE. Michael Gordon & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Iraqi security forces, backed by American-led air power and hundreds of advisers, are planning to mount a major spring offensive against Islamic State fighters who have poured into the country from Syria, a campaign that is likely to face an array of logistical and political challenges."

Once a Chickenshit, Always a Chickenshit. Bernie Becker of the Hill: "James Baker, a former secretary of State [under Bush I], didn't seem troubled during an interview on Sunday by recent anonymous comments from Obama administration officials knocking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.... Baker said that Netanyahu -- then a senior Israeli official on foreign policy -- had said that 'American policy in the Middle East is based on lies and distortions' during the George H.W. Bush administration. 'I barred him from the State Department,' Baker said. 'That may not be widely known.'"

Justin Elliott, et al., of ProPublica, in Salon: The Red Cross's Sandy disaster relief effort was, well, a disaster. (P.S. So was its Katrina effort.) CW: If the Red Cross got a fraction of the scrutiny Republicans give the Obama administration, no one would ever contribute a dime to the so-called charity. I haven't given them money in decades because I think they're a scammer outfit.

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: Kenneth Tate, the armed Center for Disease Control guard who accompanied President Obama on an elevator at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, can't figure out why the CDC contractor fired him. Also, it turns out Tate did not have a criminal record, as previously reported; he "had been arrested several times, including on charges of robbery and assault, but never convicted." CW: Based on Schmidt's report, it seems the contractor fired Tate (& his son!) because of Secret Service screw-ups.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Steve M.: "Frank Bruni, the master of competently written know-nothing-ism, laments in today's column that the campaigns run by this year's candidates offer no 'visionary plan' for solving the big problems we have.... Bruni is the ideal pundit for our times. Nothing is ever just the fault of Republicans. Whenever anything bad is being done in politics, either Democrats do it or both sides do it." ...

... Charles Pierce on the Sunday shows. "Before we begin, let's stop and pay homage to ol' Panchito himself, Frank Bruni, of The New York Times, who may have written the beau ideal of what Jay Rosen calls journalism's 'View From Nowhere,' something I was taught against my better judgment in journalism school and which now, confronted with a party gone mad from three decades of a prion disease, is something that is worse than inadequate. It is actively dangerous to the craft itself and, therefore, to the politics of the country." ...

... AND Al Hunt of Bloomberg News complains that the midterm elections have been "about everything except a governing agenda." CW: So? But why should candidates be bothered with developing policy platforms if the media won't even cover them? (A number of Republican candidates found policy of so little import that they just cut & pasted their policy agendas from the proposals of candidates in earlier races. If Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed [or his intern] hadn't scoured the campaign literature for plagiarism, no one would have been the wiser.) ...

... Thomas Frank returns to Kansas, where he finds he is the ONLY REPORTER "who had bothered to come and hear [independent candidate for U.S. Senate Greg Orman]'s "plans for wind energy and broadband on the prairie." MEANWHILE, Orman's opponent, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, "has been able to call in an unlimited amount of Republican supporting fire, parading all manner of right-wing superstars through the state: Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, all of them here to tell us how highly they think of their dear buddy Pat and maybe rescue Republican dreams to control the Senate. On Friday, it was New Jersey governor Chris Christie's turn -- his third tour of duty for Roberts -- and I got to gape at the Roberts caravan when it pulled up, speakers blaring Kid Rock, into a vast and vacant field outside a NASCAR racetrack in Kansas City, Kansas.... Reader, it was a Republican cornucopia." And plenty of reporters. CW: A perfect example of the media's collective preference for parades over policy.

David Carr of the New York Times contrasts brand-sponsored "journalism" with the non-profit Texas Tribune, which is funded by corporations & foundations, who get no say about the content.

November Elections

I have got a simple message: we've got to vote.... Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.... Ukraine just went through an election, and they have got a war going on, and they had about a 60 percent turnout. There is no excuse for us to just give away our power. -- President Obama, at a rally for Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf. Voter participation in U.S. midterms usually hovers around 40 percent.

Kevin Bohn & Brian Rokus of CNN: "Vice President Joe Biden isn't buying the growing consensus heading into Election Day that Republicans are poised to take control of the Senate. 'I don't agree with the oddsmakers,' Biden [told] ... CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. 'I predict we're gonna ... keep the Senate.' But even if Republicans do win the chamber for the first time in nearly a decade, Biden didn't seem to think the victory would have much impact on the administration's priorities."

Rachel Maddow in the Washington Post: "This year, the closing argument from the Republican side is a whole bunch of ghastly fantasies: Ebola, the Islamic State, vague but nefarious aspersions about stolen elections and a whole bunch of terrifying fantasies about our border with Mexico..... Congress thinks it's more advantageous to run ads about how scary the Islamic State is than to face the real threat of actually taking a vote on what to do about that threat." ...

... Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker: "When does Ebola look like a gift? Apparently, when you are a Republican candidate for the Senate who sees it as a handy pretext for bringing up immigration politics while scaring people into voting for you.... While fears of Ebola ... clouded the campaign..., real dangers seemed to slip from view.... Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman, who became a gun-control advocate after she was wounded in a shooting in which six people died, toured the country in the run-up to the elections, calling for tighter legislation in order to help save lives. Not a single candidate joined her."

Nicholas Confessore & Derek Willis of the New York Times: "A stealthy coterie of difficult-to-trace outside groups is slipping tens of millions of dollars of attacks ads and negative automated telephone calls into the final days of the midterm campaign, helping fuel an unprecedented surge of last-minute spending on Senate races."

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: Even if they win the close races, 2014 won't be "as good as it seems for the Republicans." Cohn explains why. ...

... Michael McDonald in the Huffington Post: "... my take on the early vote data -- where there are enough statistics to be informative -- is that the Republican sweep screaming in the headlines is overblown. Senate control is up for grabs and Democrats have a decent chance to defy the polls. I expect that the election will be so close that we won't know who won until all ballots are counted and the vote is certified several days following the election, not to mention highly probable run-off elections in Georgia and Louisiana." Via Greg Sargent. ...

Campbell Robertson & Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: Control of the Senate may be decided in runoff elections in Georgia & Louisiana.

Rachel Blade of Politico: "A record number of rogue Christian pastors are endorsing candidates from the pulpit this election cycle, using Sunday sermons to defiantly flout tax rules. Their message to the IRS: Sue me. But the tax agency is doing anything but.... IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in an interview last month with Tax Analysts suggested the IRS isn't planning to crack down on churches anytime soon.... It's another sign of the tax agency turned upside down by the tea party targeting controversy. Although the IRS is under fire from the right for being heavy-hand with conservative tax-exempt entities, it's also getting hit from the left for failing to enforce decade-old rules governing churches and politics."

David Schanzer & Jay Sullivan argue in a New York Times op-ed that the U.S. should pass a Constitutional amendment to increase House terms to four years & change Senate terms to four or six years, thus cancelling the midterms. CW: Schanzer is a professor of public policy. Does he have any idea how difficult it is to change the Constitution? Not gonna happen, gentlemen.

California. Claire Tragesor of KPBS: "Just days before Tuesday's election in the tight race for San Diego's 52nd Congressional District seat, a second former staffer [-- Navy veteran Justin Harper, 25 --] for Republican candidate Carl DeMaio is accusing him of sexual harassment.... DeMaio has denied sexual harassment allegations made by another former campaign staffer, Todd Bosnich.... A 10News/U-T San Diego poll released Sunday shows DeMaio and [first-term Rep. Scott] Peters [D] in a statistical tie -- 46 percent for DeMaio, 45 percent for Peters and 11 percent undecided."

Connecticut. Christopher Keating of the Hartford Courant: "Independent candidate Joseph Visconti abruptly dropped out of the race for governor on Sunday and endorsed Republican challenger Tom Foley. The surprise move -- only two days before the election -- could provide a boost to Foley in a race that recent polls have put at a dead heat. Visconti made the announcement during a joint campaign appearance with Foley at the local Republican headquarters in Brookfield.... Visconti said he made his decision at 4 p.m. Saturday after seeing a poll by Public Policy Polling of North Carolina that showed [Gov. Dannel] Malloy [D] ahead by 3 percentage points with Visconti in third place at 6 percent."

Iowa. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on GOP Senate nominee Joni Ernst:

     ... Update. CW: Apparently Republicans, the great defenders of women's rights & chiefs of the PC police, are all upset by Harkin's "sexist" remark. Puh-leze. Contrary to Ernst's claim that Harkin would never have said this if she were "Jon Ernst," plenty of pundits (Charles Pierce) have commented on Scott Brown's attractiveness. That few have made "sexist" comments about handsome male Republicans probably reflects the fact that the majority of male GOP candidates are remarkably unattractive.

New Hampshire. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Hillary Clinton defended Democrats' focus on women's rights on Sunday, as she returned to her old redoubt of New Hampshire to help the party keep hold of a crucial US Senate seat and maintain the state's all-female congressional delegation.... Appearing at a rally in Nashua alongside Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Clinton attacked Shaheen's opponent, Scott Brown, for past votes opposing legislation that would guarantee women equal pay and coverage for contraception in their health insurance."

Washington State. Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "Washington state voters appear ready to go where their politicians fear to tread and impose greater gun controls in the face of a well-funded campaign by the National Rifle Association and a rival spoiler measure on Tuesday's ballot. Opinion polls suggest a clear majority in favour of requiring background checks on all firearms sales in Washington state including at gun shows and through private advertising."

Wisconsin. Betsy Woodruff of Slate: Republicans think Gov. Scott Walker's race for re-election is "the most important election in America."

Beyond the Beltway

Jack Gillum & Joan Lowy of the AP: "The U.S. government agreed to a police request to restrict more than 37 square miles of airspace surrounding Ferguson, Missouri, for 12 days in August for safety, but audio recordings show that local authorities privately acknowledged the purpose was to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests.... The conversations contradict claims by the St. Louis County Police Department, which responded to demonstrations following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, that the restriction was solely for safety and had nothing to do with preventing media from witnessing the violence or the police response." ...

... Caroline Bankoff of New York: "The AP's report on the no-fly zone is hardly the first time that the police have been accused of violating the First Amendment rights of reporters trying to cover the events in Ferguson, but the apparent participation of the federal officials at the FAA makes this one especially troubling."

Presidential Election

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: In Detroit & elsewhere, Rand Paul courts the black vote. CW: Of course this is a cynical ploy, but I give Paul points for guts. Also, unlike Paul Ryan, Rand Paul seems to really believe in the initiatives he's pushing that will help blacks; Ryan, by contrast, is using his new-found interest in "helping" the poor to further his cruel Ayn Rand-inspired ideology of leaving the poor behind.

News Ledes

NPR: "Tom Magliozzi, one of public radio's most popular personalities, died on Monday of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 77 years old. Tom and his brother, Ray, became famous as 'Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers' on the weekly NPR show Car Talk. They bantered, told jokes, laughed and sometimes even gave pretty good advice to listeners who called in with their car troubles."

Bangor Daily News: "Attorneys for nurse Kaci Hickox and the state have agreed that the temporary court order issued Friday by a Maine District Court judge will remain in place until 11:59 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10, when the 21-day incubation period for Ebola expires. Judge Charles C. LaVeriere signed the order Monday morning."

Oregonian: "Brittany Maynard, who moved to Oregon to use the Death with Dignity act, died Saturday in her home in Portland, the nonprofit Compassion & Choices confirmed Sunday. Maynard, 29, was diagnosed with a grade four glioblastoma, a highly malignant and aggressive form of brain tumor. After being told she had six months to live, she moved to Portland from California this summer."

AP: "Israeli officials are pushing forward with plans to build new apartments in an east Jerusalem settlement after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's endorsement last week. Jerusalem's Planning and Building Committee said Monday it approved construction of 500 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a week after Netanyahu gave his blessing for the plans."

Saturday
Nov012014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 2, 2014

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "The gathering risks of climate change are so profound they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report. Despite rising efforts in many countries to tackle the problem, the overall global situation is growing more acute as developing countries join the West in burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said here on Sunday." ...

     ... The Washington Post report is here.

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon has scaled back its plan to assemble an overseas spy service that could have rivaled the CIA in size, backing away from a project that faced opposition from lawmakers who questioned its purpose and cost, current and former U.S. officials said. Under the revised blueprint, the Defense Intelligence Agency will train and deploy up to 500 undercover officers...."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Jed Rakoff in the New York Review of Books: "The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes.... "Our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.... Until roughly the end of the Civil War, plea bargains were exceedingly rare.... [But now mandatory sentencing] guidelines, along with mandatory minimums, were causing the virtual extinction of jury trials in federal criminal cases."

Fred Kaplan of Slate calls the war against ISIS "Obama's Quagmire": "So here we are, back in the Middle East again, shoring up a dysfunctional regime, caught in the middle of a sectarian conflict, saddled with allies who aren't doing much and whose interests conflict with ours, roped off from potential allies who could do much more but whose interests conflict with ours more deeply, and facing a bunch of millenarian savages whose appeal grows as our involvement deepens."

Benjamin Mueller of the New York Times: "The chief safety officer of the hazardous-materials company that cleaned the apartment of New York City's first Ebola patient was, in a past career as a mortgage negotiator, accused of fraud in 2009 by the attorney general at the time, Andrew M. Cuomo.... City officials have said that they followed the standard vetting protocol for the cleanup contract given to Bio-Recovery Corporation, and that health officials had reviewed the company's work and determined that it was successfully completed."

Ahiza Garcia of TPM: "Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) came to the defense of his former running mate, Sarah Palin, on Friday, more than a month after she and her family were involved in a drunken, bloody altercation at a house party in Alaska. During an interview with Phoenix television station KTVK, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee said he wasn't excusing the brawl but went on to blast the media's coverage of it." He blames liberals, too. CW: Yo, John, if the media suck, why don't you boycott them?

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Molly Ball of the Atlantic: "Joni Ernst ... has ... flirted seriously with wacky conspiracy theories, especially Agenda 21, which takes off from an innocuous, voluntary UN resolution and turns it into a sinister plot.... And she has made comments about Americans totally dependent on government that make Mitt Romney's '47 percent' observations look almost populist by comparison.... Tom Cotton ... has ... said, at a town-hall meeting, 'Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they're willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.'... [Yet] the premier newspapers of our time, The Washington Post and The New York Times ... [don't report] ... about the wacky or extreme things they have said.... The most common press narrative for elections this year is to contrast them with the 2010 and 2012 campaigns.... What [this] suggests is how deeply the eagerness to pick a narrative and stick with it, and to resist stories that contradict the narrative, is embedded in the culture of campaign journalism." ...

... Steve M.: "It's also that the press agrees with the GOP (and much of the public) that Barack Obama is a terrible president who needs to be punished. Journalist resent Obama because he hasn't always been nice to them (why weren't they allowed to watch him play golf with Tiger Woods?).... What's happening now is the result of journalists settling on a story they like about Republicans -- but it also reflects a story they like about Obama, which is that he's getting what's coming to him." ...

... Here's a letter to the Post by Grace Morsberger of Chevy Chase, Maryland, complaining about the Post's hagiographic profile of Ernst while suggesting her Democratic opponent Bruce Braley is an elite snob.

God News

Paul Kengor, in the Washington Post: Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave speeches/sermons on both sides of the Berlin wall. The transcript of the East Berlin speech is here. ...

Lauren Markoe of Religion News Service: "The mayor of Houston on Wednesday withdrew the subpoenas of sermons from five pastors who opposed an ordinance banning discrimination against LGBT people."

Pope Francis Gets the Obama Treatment. Josephine McKenna of Religion News Service: "American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the feisty former archbishop of St. Louis..., likened the Roman Catholic Church to 'a ship without a rudder' in a fresh attack on the pope's leadership. In an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva, published Thursday (Oct. 30), Burke insisted he was not speaking out against the pope personally but raising concern about his leadership."

Marlene Winell & Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... certain aspects of Christian beliefs and Christian living ... can create ... stressors, even setting up multigenerational patterns of abuse, trauma, and self-abuse. Also, over time some religious beliefs can create habitual thought patterns that actually alter brain function, making it difficult for people to heal or grow."

AND Pat Robertson says Ouija boards cause people to communicate with "demonic spirits." Also via Benen.

November Elections

Here are the New York Times' odds for U.S. Senate seats as of Saturday evening. Related story here:

CW: I guess I'll have to overlook Bill Maher's usual misogynism to give him two thumbs-up for explaining why Democratic candidates are losers. Thanks for Victoria D. for the link & for getting Maher started on this topic:

     ... CW: I'll add this. Some of President Obama's problems begin with himself or with events beyond his control (the Republican & Ebola viruses, ferinstance), but more of them begin with the media -- see Molly Ball's post linked above. But Democratic members of Congress & those running for the job are at least as much at fault for the President's low public approval ratings as is Obama himself or are the media. If I were a low-information voter in Kentucky, Alison Grimes' campaign would convince me Obama was a bad president whereas Clinton was a great success. (No, he was not. Nixon's policies were more progressive than Clinton's.) These candidates are both shameful & stupid.

Georgia. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: Former President Jimmy Carter & his grandson Jason Carter, who is running for governor, "are close confidants, but they've appeared infrequently together in public. The former president, who is a polarizing figure in this largely Republican state, has been kept to a series of discreet appearances at union halls, predominantly black colleges and rural communities. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who remains widely popular in Georgia, has spent more time with her grandson greeting voters on the campaign trail.... At age 90, [President] Carter has traveled the state at a dizzying pace this year as he maintains an active travel schedule around the globe."

Kentucky. Lee Fang of the Nation has the full story on Mitch McConnell's cocaine connection, which P.D. Pepe mentions in today's Comments. Kinda makes you wonder if Mitch is living off a drug lord; in any event, the future Senate Majority Leader is living off his father-in-law.

Iowa. Judd Legum of Think Progress: "The GOP is trying to convince Iowa voters on Facebook that their neighbors will know if they voted Republican. Screenshots of Facebook ads, promoted by the official Facebook page of the Republican National Committee feature an ominous message: 'NOTICE: All Voting Is Public.' The ad tell voters that 'In a few months, Iowa will release the list of individual who voted in this election.' Most troublingly, the ad includes an aerial view of a neighborhood with checkmarks indicating that 'These People Voted GOP.'"

New York. He's a Jerk, But He's Our Jerk. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Rep. Michael Grimm appears to be [on] his way to a landslide reelection victory on Tuesday, at least if a new Siena College poll is any indication.The Staten Island Republican leads Democrat Domenic Recchia by a 19 points among likely voters in the district, a shocking result considering that forecasters expected the race to be very close. Grimm's lead defies the troubled year he has had. In January he threatened to break a New York reporter in half and throw him off a balcony. In April he was indicted by the federal government on fraud charges." ...

... Update. Victoria D., with a little help from Jon Stewart, explains why this is:

Presidential Election

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "Why is it that so many people, in and out of the Republican Party, continue to bounce along with the Bush family? It is an article of faith with that crowd that Jeb is a natural leader. And yet his presence reminds one of Play-Doh left out of the container too long.... The odd idea is that, after one mediocre Bush Presidency and one failed one, it would be a matter of simple fairness to try a third."

Way Beyond the Beltway
But a Lot Like Texas

Jo Becker & Steven Myers of the New York Times: By the time the school year began this fall, the number of approved textbooks for Russia's 14 million schoolchildren had been slashed by more than half. The summary winnowing by the Ministry of Education and Science upset lesson plans, threatened the livelihoods of nearly two-dozen small publishers and left principals, teachers and parents puzzled and angry. There was, however, one standout winner: A publishing house whose newly appointed chairman was a member of President Vladimir V. Putin's inner circle, Arkady R. Rotenberg, a judo sparring partner from Mr. Putin's St. Petersburg youth."

Friday
Oct312014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 1, 2014

Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "... travelers [to the U.S. from from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea] now have to submit to temperature checks and questioning. But scientific studies published by the National Institutes of Health have shown that similar protocols were largely ineffective during an outbreak of Swine Flu in 2009, as Government Executive pointed out in an article last week.... A study of screenings at Australia's Sydney Airport during the Swine Flu pandemic found that ... screeners likely missed the vast majority of individuals who arrived at the facility with Swine Flu, despite grabbing thousands of travelers who showed signs of fever." ...

... Jerome Groopman of the New Yorker: "... there are still serious gaps in what we know about the biology of Ebola, and that ignorance inhibits us from preventing future outbreaks and reducing death rates that still exceed seventy per cent. We don't know enough about the biology of Ebola to bring the outbreak under full control, or to neutralize the virus once the outbreak is contained."

Stupid FBI Tricks. New York Times Editors: "The F.B.I. has a history of pushing the limits that protect Americans' civil liberties. And it has continued to broaden agents' investigative powers in troubling ways.... Deceptive tactics used in Las Vegas and Seattle, if not prohibited by the agency or blocked by courts, risk opening the door to constitutional abuses on a much wider scale."

Joe Nocera of the the New York Times on developments in the case against force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners.

I'm not a scientist. -- Republicans

I'm not a Republican. -- Scientists

Maria Konnikova of the New Yorker takes seriously Jonathan Haidt's assertion that social psychologists are biased against Republicans. CW: What both Konnikova & Haidt overlook is that most of what passes for conservatism today is laughable bullshit. Where it's not cohesive sociopathy, it's incoherent, non-intellectual rationalization based on disproved hypotheses or deceit. So, yeah, I guess the vast majority of social psychologists are "biased" against conservatives to the extent they can see through the malarkey & discount it -- or study! -- it.

Corby Kummer of the Atlantic: "Long before the food movement took shape, [Boston's former mayor] Thomas Menino believed in -- and acted on -- its ideals: fresh food available to everyone of every income level, and as a route to better health."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW: I've sort of avoided this story because it seemed thin at best & bogus at worst. Steve M. has done the legwork for us, & he's going with bogus: "Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS reporter turned wingnut hero, has a new book out in which she claims that sinister forces from the government invaded her computer and monkeyed with her data. She's now released a video purporting to show what happened.... Robert Graham, in a post at the blog Errata Security, says that a lot of the claims in excerpts from her book don't pass his smell test." Neither does the video offer any measure of convincing "proof" that a government agency has hacked Attkisson's computer. Graham says he is a "right-winger," so he hasn't released his conclusions because of some political bias. Post includes Attkisson's scary video, wherein the most incriminating evidence revealed is that she watches "Dancing with the Stars." ...

... Hannah Groch-Begley & Joe Strupp of Media Matters: "Computer security experts say that a video released by former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson appears to show her computer 'malfunction[ing],' likely due to a stuck backspace key, not being hacked by government agents as she had suggested." Groch-Begley & Strupp cite four experts who find no evidence of hacking. ...

... OR, as J. K. Trotter of Gawker puts it: Sharyl Attkisson blames broken laptop on Benghazi.... A stuck backspace key is, unfortunately, a less dramatic explanation than a hidden government conspiracy to surveil reporters who write unflattering things about the President. It is also the more likely one." ...

... CW: So, kids, if your backspace key gets stuck, it isn't a government plot; it's a crappy keyboard. And all along I thought that time my "e" & "t" died on my old computer, it was Barack Obama out to get me. Such are the dreams of the everyday paranoid.

November Elections

Here's your election day pop quiz from Gail Collins.

All the News Is Bad News. CW: I'll let Nate Silver break it to you.

Sam Wang in the New Yorker on gerrymandering. "Using the tool of redistricting, [Republicans] have successfully tilted the political playing field to secure a large majority for at least the next two years without the same popular appeal."

Jonathan Chait: "The contest to control the Senate is about one thing: whether Obama can confirm judges and staff his administration.... What's more, if a Supreme Court justice becomes incapacitated or dies, the judicial gridlock could become a Constitutional struggle.... News reports have wildly overstated the legislative importance of Republican Senate control. At the same time, they have understated its importance to the judiciary." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times Channels Victoria D. (See yesterday's Comments): "... given the universal mythology that a lower deficit is always a good thing, would it kill Democrats to point out that the deficit actually has fallen by more than 50 percent since President Obama took office? None of [the Democratic candidates] mention that the budget is in far better shape largely because taxes went up on the rich, and because health care costs are falling. It's unusual even to hear that unemployment is down to 5.9 percent, or that 5.5 million jobs have been added since 2009, which is four times more than under all eight years of George W. Bush.... If Democrats lose control of the Senate next week, they may wonder why they ... left out the country's good news." Read the whole post. ...

... Here's the President, yesterday, mentioning the good stuff that Democratic candidates are too skeert stoopid to tout:

Richard Hasen & Dahlia Lithwick in Slate: "This year's scary election ads will destroy any lingering confidence in the judicial branch....In 39 states, some or all judges must face some kind of election -- often a partisan one. These races used to be about as interesting to watch as Bingo night. But now, it's all Law and Order, and all the time. The ads are scarier than the shows they interrupt. These new judicial attack ads are a consequence of a series of Supreme Court rulings that have allowed judicial elections to get noisier, nastier, and costlier, with no limit on outside spending by groups such as the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity." CW: Thanks again, Supremes!

Colorado. Molly Ball of the Atlantic tries to profile Colorado's GOP Senate nominee Cory Gardner, which isn't easy to do since in all likelihood he's an arch-conservative now parading around as a moderate.

Kentucky. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The campaign of Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes has filed a lawsuit to stop Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign from distributing a mailer that it says amounts to illegal voter intimidation tactics. The Grimes campaign on Friday said it had filed for an immediate injunction.... The mailers have the words 'ELECTION VIOLATION NOTICE' sprawled at the top and attack Grimes for spreading 'fraudulent' information." ...

... Michael Beckel of the Center for Public Integrity: "The most mysterious force in Kentucky's pivotal U.S. Senate race is a ghost that dwells in a hole in a wall. Hunt for the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, and one finds no grassroots army, no canvassing operation, no office or headquarters at all -- just a scuffed U.S. Postal Service box nestled inside a suburban shopping plaza about 10 miles from downtown Louisville.... Corporeal or not, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition has ... haunt[ed] Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in her increasingly unlikely bid to unseat incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky." Via Charles Pierce.

Maine. Darren Fishell of the Bangor Daily News: "Wondering how to blow $1.2 million in two days? Try a whole lot of TV ads. At least, that's how seven political action committees spent their $1.2 million over the last two days, according to the latest filings with the Maine Ethics Commission. Most of that spending -- about $852,000 -- went to benefit the campaign of Democrat Mike Michaud, who is locked in a dead heat against incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage, according to a BDN/Ipsos poll released today."

Massachusetts. Fish Story. Nestor Ramos & Michael Levenson of the Boston Globe: "Some of the details of Charlie Baker's emotional 2009 encounter with a soulful fisherman may have been lost at sea. Baker on Thursday acknowledged that he may have misstated some of the particulars of the story he told tearfully during a debate this week. That, in turn, has complicated efforts to locate the man whose hardships, in Baker's retelling, produced one of the most remarkable moments in this year's race for governor.... Despite searches mounted by both campaigns, several media outlets, and various New Bedford fishing industry lifers, no one has been able to find the massive man whose embrace Baker described as 'like hugging a mountain.'" Via Charles Pierce. ...

... Justin Snow of Metro Weekly: "Responding to calls from the National Organization for Marriage for social conservatives to vote for pro-LGBT Democrat Seth Moulton over his openly gay Republican opponent, Richard Tisei, Moulton's campaign refused such support Thursday." ...

... As Charles Pierce reminded us yesterday, vote for Moulton.

Texas. Joshua Fechter of the San Antonio Express-News: "Four days before federal authorities arrested him on federal weapons charges and found ammonium nitrate in his South Texas hotel room, border militia leader Kevin Lyndel 'K.C.' Massey chatted and posed for a photo with Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott at a campaign event in Brownsville.... Video footage captured by Fox 2 News in Brownsville also shows Massey taking photos of Abbott while wearing a GoPro camera on his head, which was later confiscated during the raid.... Abbott deputy communications director Amelia Chasse ... declined to say whether Abbott supports the [militia] group." Via TPM. CW: Your next governor of Texas is a guy who can't decide whether or not he supports a group that the feds suspect of planning to bomb something.

Beyond the Beltway

Sari Horwitz & Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post: "Justice Department investigators have all but concluded they do not have a strong enough case to bring civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., law enforcement officials said."

Free to Be My Congressman Again. AP: "Former Florida Congressman Trey Radel, who resigned in January after pleading guilty to cocaine possession, has had his record expunged.... U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman William Miller said Friday that Radel completed all the conditions of his probation and was granted an early termination of it in July. Miller said Radel then asked to have his case dismissed and his record expunged, and prosecutors agreed with the request."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Doctors have upgraded the condition of New York City's first Ebola patient [Craig Spencer] to stable, health officials said on Saturday."

Guardian: "US fighter and bomber planes have launched five attacks against Islamic State militants near Kobani, Syria, and five in Iraq since Friday, Central Command said on Saturday. The Kobani strikes 'suppressed or destroyed' nine Islamic State fighting positions and a building. In Iraq, air strikes destroyed an Islamic State vehicle south-west of Mosul dam and hit four vehicles and four buildings used by militants near Al-Qaim, the US military said in a statement."

AP: "With a malevolent laugh, the leader of Nigeria's Islamic extremists tells the world that more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls have all been converted to Islam and married off, dashing hopes for their freedom.... In a new video released late Friday night, the Boko Haram leader also denies there is a cease-fire with the Nigerian government and threatens to kill an unidentified German hostage."

Guardian: "Sir Richard Branson acknowledged on Saturday that his dream of commercial space tourism may have ended in the explosion that consumed Virgin Galactic's test craft SpaceShipTwo in the skies above California's Mojave desert."