The Ledes

Tuesday, April 15, 2014.

Boston Globe: The Boston Marathon finish line has been evacuated after suspicious packages were discovered. ...

... Washington Post: "Boston and its surroundings braced for an emotional week that begins Tuesday with a large ceremony honoring the victims, first responders, medical personnel and others affected by [last years Boston Marathon bomb] attack. It will be a chance to mourn the dead and remember the bloodshed, but also to proclaim that what is perhaps the world’s most famous footrace will continue for a 118th year, and to marvel at the way events have brought this community together."

Los Angeles Times: "President Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of a drug convict, correcting a mistake that had extended his prison time by more than three years and could not be fixed by the courts."

Even in Canada. AP: "Five people were killed and the son of a police officer is in custody after multiple stabbings at a house party attended by university students near the University of Calgary, the police chief said, calling it the worst mass murder in Calgary's history."

CNN: "A new video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years. And the CIA and the Pentagon either didn't know about it or couldn't get a drone there in time to strike." With video.

Detroit Free Press: "Two members of General Motors’ senior leadership team are leaving the company three months after a transition to a new CEO and amid a crisis over the automaker’s failure to fix an ignition switch defect."

AP: "Federal authorities have lodged two criminal charges against a Phoenix woman accused of throwing a shoe at Hillary Rodham Clinton while she gave a convention speech at a Las Vegas Strip resort."

New York Times: "After days of failing to enforce its own ultimatums, the Ukrainian government on Tuesday began what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country." ...

... Washington Post: "... Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Ukraine was descending into civil war." ...

    ... Update: "The Ukrainian government said its forces had repelled an assault by pro-Russian militiamen at a military airfield, hours after announcing the start of a staged counteroffensive Tuesday to reclaim control of the eastern part of the country."

BBC News: "Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi must do one year's community service over tax fraud, a Milan court has ruled. He was convicted of tax fraud last year in connection with TV rights purchased by his firm Mediaset in the 1990s. The alternative to community service had been house arrest. It is not yet clear what form his community service will take."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, April 14, 2014.

New York Times: "In a new sign of desperation, Ukraine’s acting president asked the United Nations on Monday to send peacekeeping troops to the east of the country, where pro-Russia militias have seized government buildings and blocked major highways with seeming impunity. A deadline set by the Ukrainian government for the militants to vacate occupied buildings passed earlier Monday without any signs of an effort to enforce it, while militants, in an apparently coordinated strategy, used the day to seize another police station in an eastern town, then hoist a Russian flag over the building." ...

... Reuters: "U.S. President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that Russia's actions in Ukraine were not conducive to a diplomatic solution of the crisis in that country, and the White House warned that Moscow would suffer further costs for its behavior. Obama spoke to Putin at the Russians' request, a senior administration official said, describing the call as 'frank and direct,' a diplomatic construction that usually means tense."

AP: "Megan Huntsman ... told police she either strangled or suffocated [six of her babies] immediately after they were born. She wrapped their bodies in a towel or a shirt, put them in plastic bags and then packed them inside boxes in the garage of her home south of Salt Lake City. What's not clear is why."


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/10/3772409/fbi-rescues-kidnapped-wake-forest.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

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 15

12:00 noon ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a Boston Marathon bombing anniversary service in Boston, Massachusetts (audio only)

12:15 pm ET: Jay Carney's press briefing

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

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

 

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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Sunday
Nov202011

The Commentariat -- November 21

Paul Krugman on European "romantics," who are not, as some would say, "technocrats." ...

... My New York Times eXaminer column on Krugman's tour de Times is here. The lede:

Once again, Paul Krugman has used his own New York Times column to try to save the Times op-ed page from its stable of uninformed columnists who insist on sharing their impressions of complicated things they know nothing about. Today, Krugman takes on David Brooks, Tom Friedman and Ross Douthat in his lede paragraph.

A flyer distributed in downtown Dallas in the days prior to the Kennedy assassination. Via New York Magazine.** "What Killed JFK." Frank Rich in New York Magazine: "What defines the Kennedy legacy today is less the fallen president’s short, often admirable life than the particular strain of virulent hatred that helped bring him down. After JFK was killed, that hate went into only temporary hiding. It has been a growth industry ever since and has been flourishing in the Obama years. There are plenty of comparisons to be made between the two men, but the most telling is the vitriol that engulfed both their presidencies." CW: this is the writer the New York Times let go.

     ... Rich refers to this video in his essay. Here's another, which also includes excerpts from the audio tapes of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s 1964 interview of Jaqueline Kennedy:

"Pre-Occupied. The origins and future of Occupy Wall Street." Mattathias Schwartz, in the New Yorker, on the origins of the Occupy movement.

Glenn Greenwald: "Every time the citizenry watches peaceful protesters getting pepper-sprayed ... many become increasingly fearful of participating in this citizen movement, and also become fearful in general of exercising their rights.... That’s ... exactly what the climate of fear imposed by all abusive police state actions is intended to achieve: to coerce citizens to 'decide' on their own to be passive and compliant...." BUT "the most important effect of the Occupy movement: acts of defiance, courage and conscience are contagious.... For the first time in a long time, the use of force and other forms of state intimidation are not achieving their intended outcome of deterring meaningful (i.e., unsanctioned and unwanted) citizen activism, but are, instead, spurring it even more." ...

... Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post: "It looks like he’s spraying weeds in the garden or coating the oven with caustic cleanser. It’s not just the casual, dispassionate manner in which the University of California at Davis police officer pepper sprays a line of passive students sitting on the ground. It’s the way the can becomes merely a tool, an implement that diminishes the humanity of the students and widens a terrifying gulf between the police and the people whom they are entrusted to protect." CW: quite a good essay.

In his sign-off to his PBS series Bill Moyers' Journal in May 2010, Moyers called for a public uprising against plutocrats. In four minutes, Moyers explains, pre-OWS, why Occupy Wall Street would be the one means to reclaiming American democracy:

A Reminder. Matt Yglesias in Slate: "Today’s the day when Washington officially comes to terms with the fact that the 'Supercommittee' — a bipartisan, bicameral group charged with reducing America’s long-term fiscal deficit — won’t agree on anything. This is being termed a 'failure,' and by the standards of D.C.’s fetishization of bipartisanship, it is one. But in terms of deficit reduction, failure is actually better than success."

Greg Colvin in Nation of Change: "Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) offered the strongest constitutional amendment introduced in either House of Congress so far to rectify the imbalance of power between the corporations and the people in our democracy. Colvin compares Deutch's amendment to several others proposed by Members of Congress and reform advocates. Here's Deutch's press release on the amendment. And here's a pdf of the Deutch/OCCUPIED amendment.

Stan Collender of Capital Gains & Games on the reasons for the "hardly-super committee's" failure to make a deficit-reduction deal. Here's Reason 3: "Grover Norquist was the super committee's Lex Luthor. All the reports that committee Republicans were moving away from the no tax increase pledge turned out to be completely incorrect, utterly misleading, and very likely were more wishful thinking than anything else."

Victoria McGrane of the Wall Street Journal: "In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate appears likely to easily confirm" Thomas Hoenig, President Obama's nominee to head the F.D.I.C. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell initially recommended Hoenig to the president, even though "the choice has rattled Wall Street executives.... Mr. Hoenig believes there is only one way to end this phenomenon of 'too big to fail.' 'We must break up the largest banks,' he said in a February speech, arguing that regulators could do so by restricting the activities of government-backed banks 'and significantly narrowing the scope of institutions that are now more powerful and more of a threat to our capitalistic system than prior to the crisis.'" CW: there must be a catch!

Sarah Seltzer in the New York Times eXaminer: "You’d think, [in response to the Herman Cain & Joe Paterno scandals,] our national op-ed pages would rush to publish some feminist-minded pieces ... pushing back against this pervasive culture.... What we got instead, in the New York Times, was a column by professional antifeminist Katie Roiphe, sounding a lot like Don Draper, with the essential message that sexual harassment is just ladies who can’t take a joke.... Sexual harassment is a genuine bar to equality, and the onslaught of denial in both the Herman Cain situation and even worse, the Penn State rape coverup scandal, shows that we need to talk about these dynamics in the places we work and play seriously."

NEW. Prof. Robin Wells on the student walk-out of conservative economics Prof. Greg Mankiw's Ec10 class at Harvard. In an economic environment in which students' parents are struggling, students' futures look bleak, millions are out of work & income inequality has reached Gilded-Age magnitude, "instructors who lecture on the superiority of free markets without acknowledging the dysfunction in the wider economy are at risk of appearing out of touch and exacerbating antipathy towards economics."

CW: Larry Summers posts his Not-My-Fault op-ed in the Washington Post. Summers, whose ideas-turned-into-policies during the Clinton Administration made him one of the architects of rising income inequality in the U.S., spends most of his piece arguing that factors other than government policy are "substantially" to blame for income inequality. Oh, and why it's okay for the super-rich to get super-richer. At the end, Summers, whose piece is titled "Three Ways to Combat Rising Inequality," does get around to tossing out a few bromides about tax reform and access to education which are unobjectionable. If this is the way Larry Summers really thinks, and I suspect it is, this little Not-My-Fault exercise explains a lot about why we're in the mess we're in.

Right Wing World

I Did Not Make This Up. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Newt Gingrich tonight said at an address at Harvard that child work laws 'entrap' poor children into poverty -- and suggested that a better way to handle failing schools is to fire the janitors, hire the local students and let them get paid for upkeep." Gingrich blames liberals:

Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid. -- Newt Gingrinch

NASCAR Fans Know Their Manners. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: "First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden were on hand this afternoon at the Homestead-Miami Speedway to Grand Marshall NASCAR’s Sprint Cup finale, and to support Joining Forces, an initiative to hire and train veterans. When they were introduced to kick off the race, however, loud booing could be heard above the cheers.... However, the Associated Press reports that the First Lady and Dr. Biden did receive a standing ovation at a pre-race driver’s meeting, much more in keeping with the spirit of the occasion." With video.

Local News

Gina Barton of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "In a demonstration reminiscent of those that occurred in February and March, between 25,000 and 30,000 protesters took over Capitol Square [in Madison, Wisconsin] on Saturday to protest Gov. Scott Walker's policies and to promote a signature drive to recall him."

News Ledes

Politico: "President Obama granted five pardons and commuted one individual's sentence for distribution of cocaine, according to a White House press release. Those pardoned were incarcerated for charges ranging from distribution of illegal drugs to running an illegal gambling business."

President Obama speaks about the supercommittee's failure to propose a deficit-reduction plan:

Washington Post: "A special congressional supercommittee acknowledged failure Monday in efforts to cut the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, and President Obama warned that he would veto any attempt to undo a resulting round of across-the-board spending cuts. The failure promptly triggered finger-pointing between Republicans and Democrats."

Nation of Change: "...the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee and the Partnership for Civil Justice today filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) asking the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA and the National Parks Service to release 'all their information on the planning of the coordinated law enforcement crackdown on Occupy protest encampments in multiple cities over the course of recent days and weeks.'"

ABC News: "Former FBI director Louis Freeh was tapped today to head an independent investigation of Penn State University's role in allegations of child sex abuse by former football coach Jerry Sandusky. The investigation announced today by the school's board of trustees is the fifth probe of the school launched since the scandal broke earlier this month. The state attorney general's office, the federal Department of Education, the NCAA, and the university's faculty senate are all also investigating or planning investigations of the abuse and events surrounding it on Penn State's campus."

Guardian: "Bradley Manning, the US soldier who has been held in confinement for the past 18 months on suspicion of having leaked a huge trove of state secrets to WikiLeaks, is to go before a military panel on 16 December at the start of the most high-profile prosecution of a whistleblower in a generation."

AP: "Actor Hugh Grant told a London courtroom Monday about the dark side of celebrity life, describing mysterious break-ins, leaked medical details and hacked voice mails — and laying blame on the entire tabloid press, not just the now-shuttered News of the World.... Earlier, the parents of a murdered schoolgirl whose phone was targeted by the tabloid described how the hacking had given them false hope that their daughter was still alive."

The Guardian has a liveblog on the Leveson hearings.

They Said/They Said. New York Times: "As a handful of the lawmakers on the sputtering joint Congressional committee charged with drafting a deficit reduction package met for what seemed like one final time, the White House said Monday that only Congress could have produced a solution, while Republican presidential candidates moved to frame the committee’s failure to meet its deadline as a lack of leadership by President Obama."

President Obama signed legislation to provide tax credits for businesses that hire veterans. AP story here.

ABC News: "In a significant failure for the United States in the Mideast, more than a dozen spies working for the CIA in Iran and Lebanon have been caught [by Iran & Hezbollah] and the U.S. government fears they will be or have been executed, according to four current and former U.S. officials with connections to the intelligence community. The spies were paid informants recruited by the CIA for two distinct espionage rings targeting Iran and the Beirut-based Hezbollah organization, considered by the U.S. to be a terror group backed by Iran."

New York Times: "The University of California, Davis, said Sunday that two police officers had been placed on administrative leave after using pepper spray on seated protesters at the campus on Friday during a demonstration aligned with Occupy Wall Street." ...

... Here's a more expansive Sacramento Bee story on reaction to the police attack on Occupy protesters at U.C. Davis. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The chancellor of the University of California, Davis, said Monday that its police chief had been placed on administrative leave, three days after two campus police officers sprayed seated protesters with pepper spray during a demonstration aligned with Occupy Wall Street."

Al Jazeera: "Protesters calling for Egypt's military to hand over power have beaten back a new raid by security forces to evict them from Cairo's Tahrir Square after more than 48 hours of violence in the heart of the Egyptian capital.... Egypt's health ministry says at least 22 people have been killed and 1,500 wounded in clashes between government forces and protesters in Cairo and other cities since Saturday, raising concerns over the conduct of parliamentary elections due to begin later this month." ...

    ... Update: "Egypt's interim cabinet has offered its resignation to the country's ruling military council as clashes raged for a third day in Cairo's Tahrir Square, pitting police and soldiers against protesters demanding democratic change. 'The government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has handed its resignation to the [ruling] Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,' Mohammed Hegazy, cabinet spokesperson, said in a statement aired on Monday night by the official MENA news agency."

New York Times: "A Manhattan man who became fascinated by the American-born Muslim militant Anwar al-Awlaki was arrested on charges of plotting to build and detonate bombs in New York, city officials announced on Sunday night." ...

     ... AP Update: "Federal authorities declined to pursue a case against an 'al-Qaida sympathizer' accused of wanting to bomb police stations and post offices in New York City because they believed he was mentally unstable and incapable of pulling off the alleged plot, two law enforcement officials said Monday. New York Police Department investigators sought to get the FBI involved at least twice as their undercover investigation of Jose Pimentel unfolded, the officials said. Both times, the FBI concluded that he wasn't a serious threat, they said."

AP: "Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as Boston's archbishop in 2002 after the priest sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States, has left his subsequent job as head of a major Roman basilica."

Saturday
Nov192011

The Commentariat -- November 20

In yesterday's Commentariat, I linked to Nicholas Confessore's New York Times piece about Scott Brown's ties to Wall Street & noted Confessore's misstatements regarding Elizabeth Warren. Then I got mad: My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "The Case against Elizabeth Warren, by Wall Street financiers, Karl Rove and the New York Times." Here's the lede:

When does a myth become a 'fact'? When the myth is reported as fact on the pages of the New York Times. That hardening of myth into fact is even stronger when the supposedly liberal 'paper of record' publishes a negative characterization of a liberal candidate. And if the paper piles on a series of misstatements, innuendo and Republican talking points, the myth becomes an indisputable truism.

... For a decidedly more positive view of Warren, Rebecca Traister see this long profile of the Massachusetts Senate candidate in the New York Times Magazine.

Harvard, Tuition-Free, Episode 2. Prof. Michael Sandel. Part 1: "Putting a Price Tag on Life"; Part 2: "How to Measure Pleasure": 


Power v. People

Sudhin Thanawala of the AP: "Video surfaced online Saturday showing an officer at a California university calmly pepper-spraying a line of several sitting protesters, who flinch and cover their faces but remain passive with their arms interlocked as onlookers shriek and scream out for the officer to stop. The chancellor of the University of California, Davis described the video images as 'chilling' and said she was forming a task force to investigate even as a faculty group called for her resignation because of the incident Friday....

..."At Saturday's news conference, UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said the decision to use pepper spray was made at the scene. 'The students had encircled the officers,' she said. 'They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.'" ...

... CW: Watch the videos. Spiculla's assertion that students cordoned off the police is a bald-faced lie. In the second video an officer smiles & casually chats briefly with a news cameraman whom he appears to tell to move back:

... Prof. Nathan Brown, in a letter to U.C. Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi describes what he observed. At one point, Brown writes, in part,

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

      ... CW: Brown is an assistant professor in the English Department. That means (a) he does not have tenure; (b) he works in a field where there are probably 100 qualified applicants for every university opening (my guestimate -- I could be way off). In other words, Brown really stuck his neck out. ...

      ... Jim Fallows of The Atlantic: "... this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population.... Less than two months ago, it seemed shocking when one NYPD officer cavalierly walked up to a group of female protestors and pepper-sprayed them in the eyes. The UC Davis pepper-sprayer doesn't slink away, as his NYPD counterpart did, but in every other way this is more coldly brutal." ...

      ... Digby: "Of course it's torture. It couldn't be more obvious. The question we have to ask ourselves if our society believes torturing of political dissidents is acceptable." Digby reviews the history of the 1997 Humboldt County, California, case in which police pepper-sprayed environmental activists, then swapped pepper spray on the eyes of protesters whom they had restrained. Comments on her post are quite good, too. ...

      ... Former policeman Peter Moskos in the Washington Monthly: "... trying to make policing too hands-off means people get Tased and maced for non-compliance. It’s not right. But this is the way many police are trained. That’s a shame. (Mind you, I have no problem using such less-lethal weapons on actual physical threats, but peaceful non-compliance is different.) ...

      ... In a column about the U.C. Davis crisis, Joan Walsh of Salon explains non-violent resistance to U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgenau, who says students locking arms is "not non-violent." Asshole. ...

... ** Nicholas Kristof: "I watched in downtown Manhattan last week as the police moved in to drag off protesters — and several credentialed journalists — and the action seemed wildly over the top. Yet in a larger sense, the furor over the eviction of protesters in New York, Oakland, Portland and other cities is a sideshow.... The high ground that the protesters seized is not an archipelago of parks in America, but the national agenda. The movement has planted economic inequality on the nation’s consciousness, and it will be difficult for any mayor or police force to dislodge it. ...

... Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic provides a roundup of video of "some of the other dramatic moments in the ongoing confrontations between Occupy protesters and police. Taken together, they paint a disturbing portrait that should at a bare minimum call into question the standards and practices police officers around the nation have developed for deploying pepper spray, which has only become a universal policing tool within the past 20 years. And they raise real questions about whether disproportionate police responses to the movement's intentional acts of civil disobedience have in some cases increased social disorder rather than restored calm." She does not include the sickening video the Guardian obtained, which is posted below ...

... Adam Gabbatt of the Guardian: "Protester and three-tour American veteran Kayvan Sabehgi was beaten by Oakland police during the Occupy protest's general strike on 2 November. Sabehgi, who was 'completely peaceful', according to witnesses, was left with a lacerated spleen." The incident is horrible to watch:

... Jonathan Larsen & Ken Olshansky of NBC News: "A well-known Washington lobbying firm with links to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to take on Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests, according to a memo obtained by the MSNBC program 'Up w/ Chris Hayes.”' A pdf of the memo is here. CW: This is pretty astounding. If you can't watch the video, read the report & memo:

** Kalle Lasn & Micah White, Editor & Senior Editor of Adbusters, in a Washington Post op-ed: ". . . you cannot attack your young and get away with it. [NYC Mayor Michael] Bloomberg’s shock-troop assault has stiffened our resolve and ushered in a new phase of our movement. The people’s assemblies will continue with or without winter encampments. What will be new is the marked escalation of surprise, playful, precision disruptions — rush-hour flash mobs, bank occupations, 'occupy squads' and edgy theatrics. And we will see clearly articulated demands emerging, among them a 'Robin Hood tax' on all financial transactions and currency trades; a ban on high-frequency 'flash' trading; the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act to again separate investment banking from commercial banking; a constitutional amendment to revoke corporate personhood and overrule Citizens United; a move toward a 'true cost' market regime in which the price of every product reflects the ecological cost of its production, distribution and use; and with a bit of luck, perhaps even the birth of a new, left-right hybrid political party that moves America beyond the Coke vs. Pepsi choices of the past." ...

... ** Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times: Portland, Oregon, Mayor "Sam Adams' sympathies are with the protesters, but he still sent police in after complaints about crime in the liberal city's encampment. 'As a mayor, I have responsibilities.' ... The decision to close them has been heart-wrenching for mayors in many cities — particularly in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, where bicycle-riding, carbon-hating politicians probably feel as much sympathy for the people in the camps as for the downtown business executives upset about threats to the holiday shopping season."

Obama v. Women: Robert Pear of the New York Times: "... after protests by Roman Catholic bishops, charities, schools and universities, the White House is considering a change that would grant a broad exemption to health plans sponsored by employers who object to [birth control] coverage for moral and religious reasons. Churches may already qualify for an exemption. The proposal being weighed by the White House would expand the exemption to many universities, hospitals, clinics and other entities associated with religious organizations. The prospect of such a change has infuriated many Democrats in Congress, who fought hard to secure coverage of birth control under the new health care law." ...

It just doesn’t make sense to take this benefit away from millions of women. Americans of all religious faiths overwhelmingly support broad access to birth control. -- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)

In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Tim Noah of The New Republic reviews "Paul Starr’s compact but thorough 'Remedy and Reaction,'” a book about the history of American healthcare policy. 

Welcome, Greece. We're going to be Greece.... At some point, what's happening in Europe will happen here. -- David Brooks, on the PBS "News Hour," lamenting the impending failure of the Congressional deficit reduction supercommittee to make a deal ...

... Economist Dean Baker, in the New York Times eXaminer, explains why, in three easy-to-understand grafs, "the comparison with Greece is utterly baseless. People are making this comparison to advance their agenda for cutting Social Security and Medicare. It absolutely should not be taken seriously."

Peter Nicholas & Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times: Touring the Asia Pacific region last week, President Obama appeared before cameras with one national leader after another to praise joint efforts on economic growth, maritime security, copyright protection and other concerns. Conspicuously absent was a buzzword of these kinds of news conferences for the last decade: terrorism. That silence speaks volumes for the Obama administration's efforts to shift the U.S. focus away from a single-minded battle against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups."

Right Wing World

 GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr., likes his chances in New Hampshire:

Newt Gingrich ... is a Nigerian prince e-mail, send-me-your-bank-details guy. He does e-mail spam, fax spam, direct mail, sucker list, bottom-feeding, prey-on-the-gullible financial scams. -- Rachel Maddow ...

Paranoia, Exemplified. Alex Pareene of Salon: Oscar Ramiro "Ortega-Hernandez wanted to kill President Obama because Ortega-Hernandez thought himself the second coming of Jesus Christ and was convinced Barack Obama was the antichrist.... Because of a bad bit of reporting...., ABC initially said that police suspected Ortega-Hernandez had spent time at the Occupy DC encampment.... Police may have suspected that, but there’s been no evidence whatsoever that it’s the case.... But ... that ... has not stopped conservatives from … crying about liberal media bias against conservatives. So here we have a wholly invented right-wing meme based on fantasy and one out-of-context line from a now out-of-date news story, repeated endlessly in an attempt to unfairly smear a political movement they despise, and the fact that responsible media outlets aren’t repeating the smear is an example of the nefarious leftist media conspiracy." [Emphasis added.]

News Ledes

Reuters: "Spain's center-right opposition stormed to a crushing election victory Sunday as voters punished the outgoing Socialist government for the worst economic crisis in generations. The People's Party, led by former Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy, won an absolute majority in parliament and is expected to push through drastic measures to try to prevent Spain being sucked deeper into a debt storm threatening the whole euro zone."

Statement: "University of California President Mark G. Yudof today (Nov. 20) announced the actions he is taking in response to recent campus protest issues."

Oakland Tribune: "Police cleared an Occupy Oakland encampment at 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue Sunday morning. There were no arrests or injuries during the 8 a.m. raid in Oakland's uptown district, said Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson."

Los Angeles Times: "The co-chairs of the congressional 'super committee' seemed doubtful the panel would reach a deficit-reduction accord by Monday's deadline, each blaming the other party's unwillingness to budge on the contentious issues of taxes and entitlement spending. In separate appearances on Sunday talk shows, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said they both held out hope for last-minute progress, but saw little chance of the impasse being broken." ...

... Washington Post: "The congressional committee tasked with reducing the federal deficit is poised to admit defeat as soon as Monday, and its unfinished business will set up a year-end battle over emergency jobless benefits and an expiring payroll tax holiday."

New York Times: "A police action to roust a few hundred protesters out of Tahrir Square on Saturday instead drew thousands of people from across Egyptian society into the streets, where the violence continued on Sunday. The confrontations were the most violent manifestation so far of growing anger at the military-led interim government."

AP: "The Arab League says it has rejected amendments proposed by Syria to a peace plan to end the crisis in the country, saying the changes put forward by Damascus alter the 'essence' of the plan. A statement issued Sunday by the Cairo-based organization says the league told the Syrian government that its proposals were also unacceptable because they introduce 'drastic changes' to the mandate of an observers' mission the league wants to dispatch to Syria to ensure the implementation of the peace plan."

AP: "The revolutionary fighters who captured Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent said Sunday they want to hold him in their town until a court system is established in Libya, and they demanded he be tried inside the country."

Friday
Nov182011

The Commentariat -- November 19

The Weekend Open Thread is running on today's Off Times Square. And there's a bonus question!

President Obama's Weekly Address:

      ... Here's the transcript. Related AP story here.

On This Day, Seven Score and Eight Years Ago:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. -- President Abraham Lincoln, at the dedication of the soldiers' cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

... My column in the New York Times eXaminer, on Charles Blow's column, is here. Some excerpts:

This Week in Statistics has Blow worried about our declining belief in American exceptionalism. A new Pew Research poll found that only 49 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, '… our culture is superior to others.' ... What has Blow most concerned is the opinion of young Americans: ... among the 18-to-29-year-old demographic, Pew researchers found that just 37 percent said American culture was superior to other national cultures and 61 percent said it was not. Now, I see these results as a good thing.... Blow disagrees. What I see as hopeful, Blow sees as a sign 'we are settling into a dangerous national pessimism.' ... The Pew results actually suggest otherwise.

      ... Update: A NYTX reader cites this letter from Lynne Milnes to the New Yorker as a good example of an exception to U.S. exceptionalism. ...

      ... Update 2: for a different take on the Pew results, see Karen Garcia's post "Twilight in America," which incorporates a comment by Nan Socolow. Both essentially agree with Blow, though -- not surprisingly -- their remarks are more incisive.

These numbers are higher than we anticipated. There are more people struggling than the official numbers show. -- Trudi J. Renwick, the Census Bureau’s chief poverty statistician ...

... Jason DeParle, et al., of the New York Times: "When the Census Bureau this month released a new measure of poverty..., it began altering the portrait of national need. Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September. All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.... The size of the near-poor population took even the bureau’s number crunchers by surprise."

Here's a classic joke from Steve Martin. The joke was funny when Martin told it in 1978 because the premise was absurd:

You can be a millionaire... and never pay taxes! You say... 'Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?' First: Get a million dollars. Now, you say, 'Steve... what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, "You... have never paid taxes'?' Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: 'I forgot!' ...

... The premise is no longer absurd. Now you don't even have to say, "I forgot." It's all legal. Pat Garofalo of Think Progress: "In 2009, 1,470 households reported income of more than $1 million but paid no federal income tax on it, through their use of various tax loopholes and shelters. Tax rates for millionaires have fallen by 25 percent since the mid-’90s, while one quarter of millionaires currently pay lower tax rates than the average middle-class household." ...

... The One Percent are making a lot more than they were in 1986, but they're paying income tax at a rate 10 percent lower than in '86:

Charts by the Washington Post

Greg Sargent: "Yesterday Paul Ryan released a very serious looking report entitled: “A deeper look at inequality.” Ryan’s effort — a rebuttal to that recent CBO report on growing inequality that got so much attention — was applauded by conservatives as an important contribution to the debate." Sargent asked "Tim Smeeding, an expert on inequality at the University of Wisconsin, to evaluate his report. Smeeding’s verdict: Ryan’s effort is only 'half serious,' fails to prove its argument about inequality, and doesn’t offer any policy prescriptions that would fix the problem as Ryan himself defines it." CW: you have to read the whole post (it's neither long nor complicated) to see what a mendacious watercarrier-for-the-rich Ryan is. He's just reprehensible. ...

... Paul Krugman: "As usual, Ryan makes me think of Ezra Klein’s old line about Dick Armey: he’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like." ...

... NEW. Ezra Klein: It's great that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has taken a sudden interest in income inequality. It's not so great that his plan to address it increases income inequality.

In case you care about the Super Committee (and why should you?), Greg Sargent explains where they are and where they have been all along: "This, in a nutshell, is why the supercommittee is deadlocked: 1) Republicans believe that the better policy outcome would be for the wealthy to pay less in taxes towards deficit reduction. 2) Democrats believe that the better policy outcome would be for the wealthy to pay more in taxes towards deficit reduction. And that’s all there is to it."

Are You a Whistleblower? Maybe Not. CW: Last week, in our Off Times Square discussion of the Penn State scandal, I argued that people with high ethical standards still may not meet those standards when they themselves face an ethical crisis, especially one in which they must act immediately and/or when they are part of a culture that tolerates unethical behavior. As it turns out, academic research backs me up. Alina Tugend of the New York Times reports on a wide variety of studies and experiments that make my points. (Too bad she riffs off a David Brooks column!) Thanks to reader Diane F. for the link.

Please read Driftglass on David Brooks. He's hilarious. Adn 100 percent right, as he proves.

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: Sen. Scott "Brown [R-Mass], a freshman who harnessed populist Tea Party anger to win the seat once held by Edward M. Kennedy, has taken more money from the financial industry than almost any other senator: all told, more than $1 million during the last two years.... Of the 20 companies that accounted for the most campaign donations to Mr. Brown, about half were prominent investment or securities firms like Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments and Bain Capital.... Mr. Brown, in turn, has been an important ally at critical moments, using his swing vote in the Senate to wring significant concessions out of Democrats on last year’s financial regulation bill, including helping strip out a proposed $19 billion bank tax and weakening a proposal to stop commercial banks from holding large interests in hedge funds and private equity funds.... Several executives said that [Elizabeth] Warren’s entry into the campaign in mid-September had sparked renewed interest in Mr. Brown’s re-election." CW: BTW, Confessore blithely mischaracterizes Warren's support for the principles behind the Occupy movement. When does a myth become a reality? When it appears as fact on the pages of the New York Times, especially when it's a misstatement about a liberal.

Right Wing World

So has the Taliban moved to Libya or has Libya moved to Central Asia? You'll have to ask Herman Cain, who "clarified" his flubbed Libya response to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter by confusing Libya with Afghanistan. Or Pakistan. Or someplace:

     ... Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress: "First he attempted to blame the interviewer for not being 'specific' enough and for supposedly selectively editing Cain’s response. (Over five uncut minutes of his remarks are visible on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s website.) Then, Cain erroneously claimed that the Taliban has taken control in Libya."

Hail to the Chief. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Americans, Michele Bachmann has already been elected and sworn in as the POTUS. She's on the job, and no, President Bachmann is not going to let anybody waterboard her. See her response to the queston "If you think it’s not that bad, would you ever willingly submit to it, just to see what it’s like?” right under the video. Thanks to Jeanne B.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Libyan capital erupted in celebratory gunfire, singing and dancing as it was announced by militia commanders that Saif al-Islam, the favored son of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, has been arrested on the border with Niger. He was detained while his supporters were trying to smuggle him out of the country, according to Othman Maigeta, one of several brigade commanders at a press conference...." Al Jazeera story here. ...

     ... AP Update: "The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Saturday he will travel to Libya next week for talks with the country's transitional government on where Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam will be tried."

Washington Post: "President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held an unscheduled meeting Saturday morning on the sidelines of a summit of Asian leaders on the Indonesian island of Bali, and the two briefly discussed the territorial dispute in the South China Sea that has unnerved some of China’s neighbors."

AP: "Syrian troops stormed Saturday a central town and a northwestern region in search of opponents of the government as pressure on Damascus intensified to end an eight-month crisis that has left thousands of people dead, activists said. The attacks on the town of Shezar in the central province of Hama and the restive Jabal al-Zawiya region near the Turkish border came a day after Syria agreed in principle to allow Arab observers into the country to oversee a peace plan proposed by the 22-member Arab League."

AP: "Police and protesters clashed for control of downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday, after security forces tried to stop activists from staging a long-term sit-in in the symbolic site. Protesters attacked a police armored truck, shaking it and pummeling it with rocks. Earlier in the day, riot police beat protesters and dismantled a small tent city set up to commemorate revolutionary martyrs." ...

Reuters: "Myanmar vowed on Saturday to address concerns raised by U.S. President Barack Obama, outlining far-reaching plans to make peace with ethnic rebels, gradually release all political prisoners and relax controls on freedom of expression."

Al Jazeera: "The board of the UN's atomic watchdog has passed a resolution expressing 'deep and increasing concern' over Iran nuclear activities, following the Vienna-based body's recent highly critical report of the country's atomic programme. However, the text of the resolution, proposed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany and 12 others, stopped short of reporting Iran to the UN Security Council or setting Tehran a deadline to comply."

Thursday
Nov172011

The Commentariat -- November 18

Natasha Lennard, the New York Times stringer whom the NYPD arrested when she was covering the Brooklyn Bridge Occupy movement October 2, on why she has quit the mainstream media: "... if the mainstream media prides itself on reporting the facts, I have found too many problems with what does or does not get to be a fact — or what rises to the level of a fact they believe to be worth reporting — to be part of such a machine." ...

... In my column in today's New York Times eXaminer, I study David Brooks' sudden affinity for populism:

In his column in today’s New York Times, David Brooks lashes out at European elites.... It is for ... Wall Street moguls that Brooks has turned populist for a day. It is not for you.

... the New York Times eXaminer front page is here.

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "Total up the systemic failures in law enforcement and public policy that led to the devolution of our once-vibrant middle-class democracy, and is it any wonder that people took to the streets and sparked a movement to remake our country? Occupy Wall Street’s challenge ... is to channel its rage and hopes into strategies that will alter the course of American capitalism. As the great organizer Bayard Rustin put it, from protest to politics." ...

... Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News: "They aren’t going anywhere. During a long and turbulent day of street protests, the ragtag rebels of Occupy Wall Street served notice that their two-month-old movement against the nation’s big banks and corporations is now stronger than ever."

... Greg Sargent: Quinnipiac’s polling director, Maurice Carroll, thinks the Occupy movement may be the reason support has grown for a millionaires' tax to help balance the New Jersey state budget. Quinnipiac reports that, "To balance the state budget, New Jersey voters support 64-28 percent the so-called Millionaire’s Tax, up from a high of 55-34 percent February 10." Sargent writes, "Readers, it’s time to start documenting little tells like this one from around the country. If you see anything in your states or districts that capture the ways the debate is shifting, please send them my way." ...

... BUT -- Here's a Surprise -- Matthew Goldstein & Jennifer Ablan of Reuters: "The cognitive disconnect between the protesters and the captains of finance is alive and well.... In conversations with nearly two dozen current and former bankers, finance professionals and money managers across the United States, the prevailing sentiment is that the anger at Wall Street's elite is misguided and misdirected. Blame the politicians and policymakers in Washington, many of them say...."

Steve Benen: Republicans are hammering President Obama because the national debt just exceeded $15 trillion. So let's see how we got here. Benen has a nifty timeline that begins with President Reagan. And there's this more recent history, expressed in a bar graph:

Much Ado about Nothing?

Paul Krugman: "So the supercommittee will fail — and that’s good. For one thing, history tells us that the Republican Party would renege on its side of any deal as soon as it got the chance.... Also, any deal reached now would almost surely end up worsening the economic slump." ...

... CW: Krugman does not explain, however, the automatic or "sequestered" cuts that are to take effect when the supercommittee fails. For that, Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution has the short answer, which I also linked in yesterday's Commentariat:

... the law calls for a sequester that ... would cut spending $1.2 trillion, half from defense and half from nondefense.... CBO estimates that the proportion borne by discretionary programs would be 71 percent and the proportion borne by nonexempted mandatories would be 13 percent (with the remainder taking the form of debt service savings).... Those who are willing to accept such cuts should worry about the likely effects on our competitiveness, on the disadvantaged, on public safety, on veterans, and on the ability of the federal government to responsibly administer a wide variety of laws and programs in a way that does not lead to greater fraud and abuse. ...

      ... CW Update: it turns out the future may not be nearly as bad as Sawhill suggests. Rather, as Jay Newton-Small of Times lays out, if the SuperCommittee fails to reach agreement, as is more than likely, Congress could take any number of paths. Newton-Small finds the following the path most likely to be taken:

On Monday night, after U.S. markets close and after both sides hold outraged press conferences blaming each other for failure, supercommittee members slink out of town, joining their colleagues for Thanksgiving break.... The committee hopes no one, especially Wall Street and the ratings agencies, notices. Some time in 2012, lawmakers find a way to avoid the sequestration either by enacting tax reform or repealing the sequestration or some combination. ...

... AND Lori Montgomery & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "If the congressional 'supercommittee' cannot agree on a plan to tame the federal debt by next week’s deadline, as now appears likely, here’s what will happen: nothing. The automatic spending cuts that were supposed to force the panel to deliver more palatable options would not take effect until January 2013. That leaves lawmakers a full year to devise alternatives." ...

... Michael Tomasky in the Daily Beast on the GOP "deficit reduction" plan: "The actual Republican position as of this writing submits to $250 billion in semi-phony revenues but seeks to add $3.7 trillion to the 10-year deficit. And the supercommittee is a panel that, remember, is charged with reducing the deficit. This is more politics by hostage-taking, just like during the debt-ceiling fiasco.... They want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.... They’ve said to the Democrats, in other words, that they will agree to minor revenue increases now, but only on the firm condition that the Democrats accept depleting the Treasury by 15 times as much over the next decade." ...

... MEANWHILE, Most Americans Don't Care. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post: "In a Politico/George Washington University national poll, 50 percent — yes, half the country! — said they were 'not at all familiar' with the supercommittee while 38 percent said they were only 'somewhat familiar' with it. That means that almost nine out of every ten Americans lack even the vaguest notion of what the supercommittee is — much less what its tasked with doing.

It's not democracy. It's Di Giorno. -- Jon Stewart, on how pizza became a vegetable ...

... Mary Clare Jalonick of the AP: "... Congress wants pizza and french fries to stay on school lunch lines and is fighting the Obama administration's efforts to take unhealthy foods out of schools. The final version of a spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year.... Food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes and lobbied Congress.... The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now."

Monday. I’m going to be in Portland in the morning. I’m going to be visiting some of our labs in California in the afternoon. That’s two. I can’t remember what the third thing is. -- Nancy Pelosi, in response to Rick Perry's request to debate her Monday

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "At least some of the weather extremes being seen around the world are consequences of human-induced climate change and can be expected to worsen in coming decades, a United Nations panel reported on Friday."

Right Wing World

The Double Life of an Historian/Opinion Writing Salamander. Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: gee, it turns out Newt Gingrich was "advising" quite a few corporate clients, even though this very same Newt Gingrich is running for president as the "Washington outsider" former Speaker of the House. Speaking of "history," the history of his relationship with the Gundersen Lutheran Health System provides a nice insight: First Newt takes their money; then he writes a pro-Gundersen op-ed (without revealing his financial relationship with them); then -- a whole few weeks later -- when his op-ed position became unpopular with the GOP base, he just reversed his position. Somehow, I don't think he returned Gundersen's money. Advice to Gundersen: do not trust a creature who slithers out from under rocks. ...

... Dan Eggen of the Washington Post has a startling lede & more hilarious details: "A think tank founded by GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich collected at least $37 million over the past eight years from major health-care companies and industry groups, offering special access to the former House speaker and other perks, according to records and interviews.... The health center advocated, among other things, requiring that 'anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond,' a type of insurance mandate that has since become anathema to conservatives. The group also pushed proposals to build centralized electronic medical records and use such data to research treatment effectiveness, both central features of President Obama’s health-care reforms." In other words,NewtCare looks a lot like RomneyCare looks a lot like ObamaCare.

Just Joking. Again. Maybe. Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Herman Cain says he was kidding when he said he had asked Henry Kissinger to serve as his secretary of state in a hypothetical Cain administration. 'Dr. Kissinger turned my offer down to be secretary of state,' Cain told the Milwaulkee-Journal Sentinel’s editorial board in a video clip published Monday.... Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon earlier told reporters that Cain was joking and had not asked Kissinger to serve in his administration. On the campaign trail in Iowa on Tuesday, Cain avoided questions about Kissinger on Tuesday; that is, until he was told that his campaign had said he was joking...." With video. ...

... AND Cain advocates for the dumbing-down of the presidency:

We need a leader, not a reader. -- Herman Cain, Anti-Intellectual-in-Chief

 ... Via Adam Sorensen of Time

... Mark Preston & John King of CNN: "Presidential candidate Herman Cain will receive protection from the United States Secret Service, the agency confirms to CNN. Cain will be the first [2012 GOP presidential] candidate ... to be placed under the protection of this federal law enforcement agency.... Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan ... told CNN that the Cain campaign requested coverage, and the review found that it met the criteria. It is not yet clear why Cain is getting Secret Service protection." ...

... CW: Oh, I don't know. Maybe this is why: Amy Gardner of the Washington Post: "Lately..., physical skirmishes involving the press ... [have] emerged from the fever-pitch of the Cain road show."

Local News

United Republic, a campaign-finance-reform coalition, on how SuperPacs are about to take Wisconsin. as both sides gear up for a recall of Gov. Scott Walker. Walker spent $300K for ads in the first week alone.

Howard Fischer of the Arizona Daily Star: "The Arizona Supreme Court ruled late Thursday that Gov. Jan Brewer illegally fired Colleen Mathis from the Independent Redistricting Commission.... They said Brewer can oust a commissioner only for substantial neglect of duty or gross misconduct, and nothing the governor alleged in her letter firing Mathis rises to that level. Commission spokesman Stuart Robinson said the order means Mathis is once again chairing the five-member panel. Thus, she can call a meeting to decide what to do next with the draft congressional and legislative maps the commission had approved before her firing -- maps that Brewer and Republicans want changed." Thanks to Fred D. for the link.

News Ledes

AP: "Days after losing the job he held for nearly a half century, former Penn State coach Joe Paterno was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer." ...

... ABC News: "The lawyer for accused Penn State child molester Jerry Sandusky said today he can defeat a potential prosecution by attacking the credibility of key witness Mike McQueary and the accounts of two alleged victims."

Al Jazeera: "Tens of thousands of Islamist and secular protesters have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in Alexandria for a mass rally to press the ruling military to hand power to a civilian government." With video.

AP: "The House is voting on a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, a step some see as the only way to fix a Congress deeply divided over how to put its fiscal affairs in order." ...

     ... Reuters Update: "A measure that would amend the Constitution to require the government to balance its books each year fell short in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday. By a vote of 261 to 165, largely along party lines, the bill fell short of the two-thirds majority that constitutional amendments need to pass the House and Senate."

New York Times: "Hours before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most prominent democracy campaigner, announced her return to formal politics on Friday, President Obama disclosed that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a visit there next month, the first by a secretary of state in more than 50 years."

AFP: "President Barack Obama Friday seized on Boeing's biggest-ever deal for commercial jets as a multi-billion dollar vindication of his bid to mine booming Asia for American jobs. Obama officiated as the US aviation giant signed a deal to build at least 230 medium-range 737s worth $21.7 billion for Lion Air, a regional carrier based in Indonesia, where he is attending an East Asia summit."

AP: "Pope Benedict XVI is making his second trip to Africa, where he plans to outline the church's future for the continent with the fastest growing number of faithful. Even in Benin, the heartland of the voodoo tradition, the number of Catholics has grown by nearly half in the past decade, adding more than half-a-million converts."

Los Angeles Times: "Thirty years after Natalie Wood died off Santa Catalina Island, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced Thursday that it was reopening the investigation into one of Hollywood's most enduring mysteries. Wood, 43, was boating off the island on Thanksgiving weekend 1981 with her husband, Robert Wagner, fellow actor Christopher Walken and others when she somehow went overboard and died. Officials at the time ruled her death an accident, but there has been much speculation since over whether there was more to the story." ...

     ... AP Update: "Actor Robert Wagner is not a suspect in the 30-year-old drowning of his actress wife, Natalie Wood, and there is nothing to indicate a crime, even though the investigation has been reopened, a sheriff's detective said Friday.... Officials would not say why they were taking another look at the case, although the captain of the boat where the couple had stayed blamed Wagner for Wood's death."

Occupy around the U.S. in yesterday's Day of Action:

     ... Occupy Wall Street Journal: "Tens of thousands took action Thursday, November 17 to demand that our political system serve all of us — not just the wealthy and powerful. The NYPD estimated [Thursday] night’s crowd at 32,500 people, at the culmination of the day of action. Thousands more also mobilized in at least 30 cities across the United States. Demonstrations were also held in cities around the world."