The Ledes

Sunday, April 19, 2015.

New York Times: "The Islamic State released a video on Sunday that appears to show fighters from affiliates in southern and eastern Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting."

Guardian: "A major rescue operation is under way in the Mediterranean after as many as 700 migrants are feared to have drowned just outside Libyan waters, in what could prove to be the worst disaster yet involving migrants being smuggled to Europe."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President described the historic understanding the United States – with our allies and partners – reached with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and will make our country, our allies, and our world safer":

The Ledes

Saturday, April 18, 2015.

Washington Post: Thousands of families fleeing Iraq’s western city of Ramadi choked checkpoints leading to Baghdad on Friday, after an Islamic State advance spread panic and left security forces clinging to control."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
April 17

11:50 am ET: President Obama & Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy hold a press conference

1:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the Democratic Coalition PAC retreat (audio only)

3:50 pm ET: President & Mrs. Obama host a poetry reading by U.S. Poet Laureate Elizabeth Alexander

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

Wild Things Interrupt President Obama's reading of "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House's Easter Egg Roll:

... Don't Worry, Bee Happy. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The pint-sized guests Monday might not have listened to him, but the president’s National Pollinator Initiative will forge ahead. Last June Obama launched an inter-agency task force charged with developing a federal strategy to protect pollinators, which help sustain crops ranging from almonds to blueberries and broccoli, and it should be unveiling a detailed plan in a matter of months."

The Coolest First Lady in the History of the Nation:


Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "For her forthcoming book, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,” Kate Andersen Brower managed to elicit stories from domestic staff who witnessed up close the loneliness of President Nixon as he faced impeachment, the weariness of Hillary Clinton as her husband’s sex scandal exploded and other surprisingly intimate moments involving the first families. Most of these stories — from Nancy Reagan’s tirade over three broken tchotchkes to the tearful hug Jackie and Bobby Kennedy shared with a favorite doorman in an elevator — are attributed to staffers by name, not wrapped in the cloud of anonymous sourcing that usually cloaks reporting about the inner workings of the White House." ...

Here's What $75mm Buys:

... Orange County Register: "President Richard Nixon's Western White House, an oceanfront San Clemente estate owned by retired Allergan CEO Gavin S. Herbert, is for sale at $75 million. Herbert, 83, is selling the 5.45-acre estate after owning the property for 35 years." Includes slideshow.

New York: "Here's a spoiler for people who haven't finished House of Cards season three yet: Frank Underwood doesn't die, because Netflix [April 2] announced that it had renewed Cards for a fourth season."

Los Angeles Times: "On Tuesday afternoon, just about lunch time, a 'flying saucer' was undergoing a spin test in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The saucer is technically a 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound aerodynamic test vehicle. It is designed to help engineers try out new technologies for landing spacecraft, and someday people, on Mars."

Guardian: "Comedy Central is standing by its new Daily Show host Trevor Noah, after the 31-year-old South African comedian set to replace Jon Stewart was criticized for a series of controversial jokes he tweeted before his appointment." ...

... Jessica Winter of Salon: "Not since John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate have the vetting capacities of a powerful political force been cast into such doubt." Besides being a misogynist pig & an anti-Semite, Noah isn't even funny."

Andrew Sullivan says he quit his blog because blogging is difficult, time-consuming & dehumanizing. CW a/k/a the Blog Nazi: No kidding.

David Graham of the Atlantic: "Trevor Noah's ascent on The Daily Show has been steep — hired on as senior international correspondent four months ago, he'll take over the anchor's desk from Jon Stewart after just three appearances on the show, Comedy Central announced Monday."

If you thought a meerkat was something like a mongoose ... Global News: "Meet Meerkat, the live streaming video service that allows users to host a live broadcast from their smartphones. If you haven’t heard of this new app don’t feel too bad – it’s only been around for about two weeks. But that hasn’t stopped it from garnering an estimated 300,000 active users, US$12 million in funding and even a few controversies."

In Case You Were Wondering... Megan Garber of the Atlantic examines multiple theories on why "men’s dress shirts have their buttons on the right, while women’s have them on the left (to the wearer)."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "Inside the elaborate, surprisingly unglamorous world of presidential hotel stays." Or Why President Trump Would Resign Shortly after His Inauguration.

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

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Saturday
Nov172012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 18, 2012

Okay, by popular request, I wrote a column on Dowd for today's New York Times eXaminer. And I wasn't very nice.

Contributor MAG is right. Chris Christie's Got Talent!:

Peter Baker & Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama will make a historic visit to Myanmar to mark the emergence of the long-isolated country and encourage its migration from China's orbit toward a more democratic future with the West. He will also stop in Thailand, America's longtime ally in the region as well as a friend of China's. And he will fly to Cambodia for a summit meeting of a Southeast Asian organization as the United States tries to increase its influence in that part of the region. With the election over, the White House has softened its language, and presents the trip not as an explicit attempt to contain China but as the next stage of its so-called pivot to Asia, reorienting American foreign policy after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan toward the economic and political future of the Pacific. On the cusp of a second term, Mr. Obama sees such a shift as a mission for the next four years and a possible legacy." ...

... Peter Baker: "The president's Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, spent part of World War II in what was then called Burma as a cook for a British Army captain. Although details are sometimes debated, the elder Mr. Obama's Asian experience proved formative just as his grandson's time growing up in Indonesia did decades later." ...

Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP has more on the President's itinerary.

Reuters: "The White House did not heavily alter talking points about the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, an official said on Saturday [aboard Air Force One]. 'If there were adjustments made to them within the intelligence community, that's common, and that's something they would have done themselves,' Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters. 'The only edit ... made by the White House was the factual edit as to how to refer to the facility.'" ...

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "Yes, the right wing is still trying to turn the Benghazi attack into a cut-rate Watergate scandal, despite David Petraeus's testimony backing up everything the administration said." CW: quite a good post.

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "In her sure-footed ascent of the foreign-policy ladder, [U.N. Ambassador Susan] Rice has rarely shrunk from a fight. But now that she appears poised to claim the top rung -- White House aides say she is President Obama's favored candidate for secretary of state -- this sharp-tongued, self-confident diplomat finds herself in the middle of a bitter feud in which she is largely a bystander." ...

... Maureen Dowd peppers her usual snark with some relevant context about the Susan Rice talkshow brouhaha. CW: BTW, I'm not buying Dowd's catfight supposition, & if I have time (time is my enemy), I'll write a NYTX piece on Dowd's column. ...

... President Obama & McKayla Maroney are not impressed. Backstory here. ...

... Kathleen Geier of Washington Monthly: "It's maddening that this country is more or less run by old, white, out of touch, sexist, racist men like McCain and Mitt Romney, whose accomplishments, intellectual and otherwise, are dubious, and who would reaped [sic.] enormous unearned benefits from the wealth and connections they were born into. And yet these same people, rather than being humble about their own modest abilities and respectful of others [like Susan Rice & President Obama] who have accomplished so much in the world despite facing far more formidable obstacles, have the unmitigated call to question their credentials." ...

... BUT Michael Hirsh of the National Journal: Rice has other problems that dwarf the Benghazi flap.

Michael Fletcher & Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "AARP's rejection of any significant changes to the nation's safety net could be a major factor as policymakers seek a deal to put the government's finances in order through raising taxes and cutting spending on federal programs, possibly including popular entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security."

So Yesterday. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "Romney is being erased with record speed from his party's books for three reasons. First, many Republicans backed him because they thought he had a good chance of winning; that appeal, obviously, is gone. Second, Romney had shallow roots, and few friends, in the national Republican Party. And those shallow roots have allowed Republicans to give him a new role: As a sort of bad partisan bank, freighted with all the generational positions and postures that they are looking to dump."

It Ain't Your Pappy's Confederacy No More. Karen Cox in a New York Times op-ed: "THE coalition that voted for Mr. Obama nationally -- single women, minorities and young people -- is the same coalition that voted for the president in Southern states. Latino voters, for example, voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama, and they also represent the fastest-growing population within the South. Future elections will be determined by this expanding diversity in the region, much to the chagrin of conservative whites.... The Democratic Party and liberals north and west of us should put a lid on their regional biases and encourage the change that is possible here."

** Trevor Potter, a former FEC commissioner & chairman, whom you know best as Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC lawyer, blames the moribund, deadlocked Federal Elections Commission for failing to rein in SuperPACs, not the Supremes' Citizens United decision. CW: I found this quite enlightening. I hope the President gets around to reading this Washington Post op-ed because he can do something about this.

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "A little more than a week after Mitt Romney lost his bid for the presidency, [former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt], the prominent Republican tapped to head his transition is encouraging states to implement the Affordable Care Act, a law which Romney had pledged to eliminate on 'day one'" during the 2012 campaign." Leavitt, "who also served as Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush..., is heavily invested in the law's state-based exchanges." CW: That's okay, Mike. When there's money in it for you, forget loyalty to the loser.

Your Tax Dollars at Play. Rajiv Chandrasekaren & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "The commanders who lead the nation's military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.... The amenities afforded to today's military leaders are more lavish than anyone else in government enjoys, save for the president." CW: this makes the proverbial $400 hammer look like a bargain.

Greg Miller & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: The FBI's probe of the Petraeus Affair reveals its nearly unfettered access to electronic communications. "Law enforcement demands for e-mail and other electronic communications from providers such as Google, Comcast and Yahoo are so routine that the companies employ teams of analysts to sort through thousands of requests a month. Very few are turned down."

Agence France Presse: "In March, a Florida radio talk show host named Todd Alan Clem but known as Bubba the Love Sponge said he was going to 'deep fat fry' a copy of the Koran as a stunt, the reports said. Gen. John Allen ... and CIA director David Petraeus, both asked Kelley, who lives in Tampa, to try to intervene and stop the radio host by contacting the city's mayor, Bob Buckhorn. 'I have Petraeus and Allen both emailing me about getting this dealt with,' Kelley wrote to the mayor, according to NBC News.... Kelley's emails were released by the mayor." CW Note: AFP is, of course, basing its assertion on Kelley's claim to the mayor, and Ambassador/Consul General Kelley has been known to exaggerate.

Congressional Races

Emma Fitzsimmons of the New York Times: "The former district director for [Rep. Gabrielle] Giffords [D-Az.], Ron Barber, had enough votes on Saturday to win the race for Arizona's Second Congressional District. Mr. Barber won a special election to fill Ms. Giffords's seat in June. But on Nov. 6, he barely eked out a victory over the Republican candidate, Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, in an election for a full two-year term."

Right Wing World

No comment necessary.

News Ledes

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton tour the Viharn of the Reclining Buddha with Chaokun Suthee Thammanuwat, the Dean of Buddhism of Wat Phra Chetuphon at the Wat Pho Royal Monastery in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday. AP photo.Washington Post: "President Obama on Sunday defended his trip to Burma, insisting that the visit Monday is 'not an endorsement' of the nation's long-repressive leadership but rather an acknowledgment that the country is making progress toward reform."

President Obama on Israel's right to defend itself:

Space: "A veteran astronaut crew representing the United States, Russia and Japan is returning back to Earth aboard a Soyuz capsule today (Nov. 18) to wrap up a four-month mission to the International Space Station."

New York Times: "Israel pressed its assault on the Gaza Strip for a fifth straight day on Sunday, deploying warplanes and naval vessels to pummel the coastal enclave and striking at two media offices here as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a possible 'significant' expansion in the onslaught." ...

... Al Jazeera: "Israel is continuing its assault on the Gaza Strip for a fifth straight day, bombarding the Palestinian enclave from both the air and sea. Medical sources said at least three children and two women were killed on Sunday.... Meanwhile, fighters in Gaza fired rockets into Israel. Two of them, aimed at the commercial hub of Tel Aviv, were shot down by Israel's anti-missile system, police said." ...

... Washington Post Update: "Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Sunday killed at least 10 members of one family, including a mother and her four children, and struck two buildings used by journalists, inflicting the heaviest toll on civilians since fighting began Wednesday. Militants in Gaza continued to lob dozens of artillery rounds toward Israel, including two powerful long-range rockets that burst over Tel Aviv on Sunday after Israel's antimissile system intercepted them in mid-air." ...

... AP Update: "The U.S. and Britain on Sunday warned about the risks of Israel expanding its air assault on the Gaza Strip into a ground war, while vigorously defending the Jewish state's right to protect itself against rocket attacks. The remarks by President Barack Obama and Britain Foreign Secretary William Hague were part of a diplomatic balancing act by the West as it desperately seeks an end to the escalating violence without alienating its closest ally in the region."

AP: "Divers hired by the owner of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico that caught fire recovered a body in the waters near the site Saturday evening, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and the rig's owner." ...

... AP: "The company that owns an oil platform that caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico has vowed to continue searching for a second missing worker after a body was recovered in the waters near the site."

Friday
Nov162012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 17, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' latest pontifications.

The President's weekly address:

     ... The transcript is here.

... ** The Upside Down World of Alan Greenspan. Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider... here is Greenspan being completely misleading, talking about how the big challenges now are to find places to cut spending, rather than to reverse spending cuts that we've agreed to. He's framing the cliff 100 percent backwards, and so naturally the public and politicians are going to be totally confused about the issue at hand. At some point we need to decide if taxes should be higher. And we can talk about whether we want to allocate fewer resources to the aged. But right now there's one task: Preventing austerity." CW: the Oracle of the Very Serious People is the guy who led us into this quagmire in the first place. If he had an ounce of humility, which he does not, he would STFU, get into the bathtub & quietly reread his favorite Ayn Rand books. ...

** "The Moocher Majority." Paul Krugman has a terrific post on how Romney & the Republican party came to the worldview that improving Americans' lives was a dirty trick. Hint: "It began as a deliberate appeal to racism, with explicit condemnation of Those People as welfare moochers." This short post is the must-read of the day.

** Philip Bump in Grist: "If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. That's beyond astonishing." Via Jonathan Bernstein.

** "Death by Ideology." E. J. Graff of American Prospect: "... without safe abortions, real women really die." An excellent essay.

CW: I'm not much of a fan of former Bush speechwriter David Frum who has reinvented himself as a "reasonable conservative." But he gets stuff right sometimes. On his HBO show last night, Bill Maher read this bit from a recent Frum column (Frum was a guest). It is worth repeating:

In 1962, the government regulated the price and route of every airplane, every freight train, every truck and every merchant ship in the United States. The government regulated the price of natural gas. It regulated the interest on every checking account and the commission on every purchase or sale of stock. Owning a gold bar was a serious crime that could be prosecuted under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The top rate of income tax was 91%.

It was illegal to own a telephone. Phones had to be rented from the giant government-regulated monopoly that controlled all telecommunications in the United States. All young men were subject to the military draft and could escape only if they entered a government-approved graduate course of study. The great concern of students of American society ... was the country's stultifying, crushing conformity. Even if you look only at the experiences of white heterosexual men, the United States of 2012 is a freer country in almost every way than the United States of 1962.

Never Mind. Hayes Brown of Think Progress: "Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has admitted that the CIA and intelligence community approved U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice's talking points before she made her much-derided Sept. 16 appearance on several Sunday news shows to discuss the attacks in Benghazi. King, one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration's response to the attack, came to his conclusion following testimony from former CIA Director David Petraeus." ...

... Donna Cassata of the AP: "Republican senators' angry criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over her initial account of the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya smacks of sexism and racism, a dozen female members of the House said Friday. In unusually personal terms, the Democratic women lashed out at Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham who earlier this week called Rice unqualified and untrustworthy and promised to scuttle her nomination if President Barack Obama nominates her to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton." ...

... Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution in the Washington Post: "It seems a big reach to suggest that Susan Rice, of all people, should be barred from another job in the Obama administration because of what happened in Benghazi." ...

... On the other hand, Dana Milbank really does not like Susan Rice, who he says "can be a most undiplomatic diplomat." CW: Milbank provides a number of examples, only one of which I find at all compelling. My favorite is that Rice flipped off Richard Holbrooke back in the day. RIP, Dick; I'll bet you had it coming. Maybe Rice flipped off Milbank, too. If she did, he had it coming.

New York Times Editors: "Montanans overwhelmingly approved Initiative 166 on Election Day. The measure requires the state's congressional delegation to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution that would prohibit corporate contributions and expenditures in Montana elections.... As Gov. Brian Schweitzer [D] summed it up, Montanans are saying loudly enough for the Supreme Court to hear, 'Now it's up to Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to get the dirty, secret, corporate, foreign money out of our elections for good.'"

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Now that the presidential election is over, Americans look a bit more positively toward both the winner (Barack Obama) and the loser (Mitt Romney) than they did in the final days leading up to the election. Americans' views of the Democratic Party are up significantly, while their views of the Republican Party are unchanged." ...

Gail Collins: "It appears that Mitt Romney was a terrible presidential candidate." ...

... Dan Eggen of the Washington Post: Mitt Romney -- "who attracted $1 billion in funding and 59 million votes in his bid to unseat President Obama -- has rapidly become persona non grata to a shellshocked Republican Party, which appears eager to map out its future without its 2012 nominee."

Zeynep Tufekci in a New York Times op-ed: "The confluence of marketing and politics," quantified in the Obama campaign's $100 million data operation, is worrisome.

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "The N.F.L. is being sued by several thousand retired players who accuse the league of concealing a link between head hits and brain injuries. The league denies the accusation and has said it did not mislead its players."

Union Saves Nation from Twinkies. NBC Dallas-Fort Worth: "Hostess, the makers of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, is going out of business after striking workers failed to heed a Thursday deadline to return to work, the company said." ...

... What's happening with Hostess Brands is a microcosm of what's wrong with America, as Bain-style Wall Street vultures make themselves rich by making America poor. Crony capitalism and consistently poor management drove Hostess into the ground, but its workers are paying the price.... This is wrong. It has to stop. It's wrecking America. -- Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO ...

... David Dayen has some background on Hostess's really bad business decisions. ...

... Kris Benson of Wonkette: "Today is a sad day for Americans because we are losing a quintessentially American dessert, maybe forever. This is mostly the fault of commie liberal 'labor' unions who have the NERVE to demand a living wage for their work, which makes the whole thing double plus sad. Of course, it isn't actually the fault of labor unions but corporate spokespeople the media has SAID it's the fault of labor unions so CASE CLOSED.... Labor unions mean no dessert, ever, for anyone, in Obama's America.... The company tripled CEO pay in 2011 even though the company been in bankruptcy twice since 2004." ...

... Byron Tau of Politico: "A new White House petition wants President Obama to nationalize the 'Twinkie industry,' saving the popular junk food from possible extinction." CW: sorry, not going to happen. As Kris Benson writes, there's every likelihood that the demise of Twinkies "is actually a conspiracy between Michelle Obama and Muslim communists."

Dorothy Wickenden of the New Yorker speaks with Jane Mayer, Steve Coll & Patrick Keefe about the Petraeus Affair. A sane discussion:

Local News

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster has apologized for alleging widespread voter fraud by mysterious groups of black people in rural parts of the state.... In his statement Thursday, he said he was dropping the plan to investigate" the alleged black people he said nobody knows. He also told TPM he knows "a black guy." (I'm not making that up. The guy is "Onion"-proof.) ...

... Bill Nemetz of the Kennebec Journal: Craig Hickman, 45, will represent his hometown of Winthrop, [Maine] and neighboring Readfield in the Maine House of Representatives. He's gay. He's black. People know him. Thanks to reader Gail L. for the link.

Congressional Races

George Bennett & Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post: "A divided St. Lucie County canvassing board decided Friday night to recount all 37,379 ballots from early voting in the tight congressional race between Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy. The 2-1 decision is at least a temporary victory for West, who trails Murphy by less than 2,000 votes or about 0.6 percent in unofficial returns from congressional District 18, which includes St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties.... The canvassing board's decision came hours after Treasure Coast Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn declined to intervene in the case and denied a request from the West campaign that he order a recount of all the early votes."

News Ledes

New York Times: "New York City is moving to demolish hundreds of homes in the neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, after a grim assessment of the storm-ravaged coast revealed that many structures were so damaged they pose a danger to public safety and other buildings nearby."

New York Times: "Many of at least a dozen Afghan Taliban prisoners being released by Pakistan are significant figures, according to officials on all sides, and Afghan peace representatives were exultant on Saturday as they announced that more releases might follow."

Reuters: "Thousands of people protested in Egyptian cities on Friday against Israeli air strikes on Gaza and Egypt's president pledged to support the Palestinian enclave's population in the face of 'blatant aggression'."

New York Times: "Israel retaliated for Palestinian rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with five airstrikes before dawn Saturday on the Gaza City offices of Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of Hamas -- the militant Islamist group that governs Gaza." (CW Note: the Times has a new system that prevents me from linking long stories as a single page. Sorry for their inconvenience.) Washington Post story here. ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with about 300 airstrikes Saturday and shot down a Palestinian rocket fired at Tel Aviv, the military said, widening a blistering assault to include the Hamas prime minister's headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels. The intensified airstrikes came as Egyptian-led attempts to broker a cease-fire and end Israel's four-day-old Gaza offensive gained momentum." ...

     ... AP Update 2: "The White House on Saturday defended Israel's right to defend itself against attack and decide how to respond to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, blaming the ruling Islamic militant Hamas group for starting the conflict."

... Al Jazeera: "Israeli air strikes have killed at least eight Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, medics said, with Palestinian security sources confirming that at least three of them were Hamas fighters. The Israeli army, meanwhile, said on Saturday that four soldiers were injured by a rocket fired from Gaza. Palestinian medics said 39 Palestinians have been killed and 345 wounded since Israel launched the aerial campaign on the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday. In the same period, three Israelis have been killed and 13 injured, including 10 soldiers."

Al Jazeera: "British Foreign Secretary William Hague has indicated his country would decide within days whether to officially recognise the new Syrian opposition after 'encouraging' talks with its leaders in London. Hague on Friday said he had pressed Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib and his two deputies, who are on their first visit to a Western capital since a united Syrian opposition was formed last weekend, on the need to be inclusive and to respect human rights."

Al Jazeera: "The United States has said it will allow imports from Myanmar for the first time in a decade days before President Barack Obama arrives for a historic visit, the first by a US president to the former pariah state. The lifting of the ban on most imports, excluding jade, rubies and jewelry, was announced as the latest measure to reward political and economic reforms of President Thein Sein." ...

... Al Jazeera: "Myanmar has pardoned hundreds of prisoners under an amnesty that appears to be a goodwill gesture just days before a visit by US President Barack Obama. The government ordered the release of 452 prison inmates on Thursday in a move criticised by pro-democracy activists for allegedly failing to grant freedom to many political detainees."

Guardian: "Iran has expanded its enrichment capacity and is enriching uranium at a pace that would bring it to what Israel has declared an unacceptable red line in just over seven months, according to a report by the UN nuclear watchdog."

Thursday
Nov152012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 16, 2012

Paul Krugman: "... the most dangerous zombie [idea] is probably the claim that rising life expectancy justifies a rise in both the Social Security retirement age and the age of eligibility for Medicare. Even some Democrats -- including, according to reports, the president -- have seemed susceptible to this argument. But it's a cruel, foolish idea -- cruel in the case of Social Security, foolish in the case of Medicare -- and we shouldn't let it eat our brains." Krugman explains why, then writes, "This should be a red line in any budget negotiations, and we can only hope that Mr. Obama doesn't betray his supporters by crossing it." ...

... ** E. J. Dionne takes a clear-eyed view of what the election means for both parties. CW: Read the whole column, but one point I hope President Obama reads: "A longing for balanced budgets is not what drove [Democratic] voters to the polls."

CBS News: "CBS News has obtained the CIA talking points given to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Sept. 15 regarding the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, four days earlier. CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan says the talking points, which were also given to members of the House intelligence committee, make no reference to terrorism being a likely factor in the assault, which left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead." CW: as if we ever doubted it, the whole GOP Benghazi hyperventilation factory has been a sham & a scam. ...

... Apparently there are CIA talking points & CIA talking points. CNN: "A source told CNN that Petraeus knew almost immediately that it was the work of a loosely formed militia with members sympathetic to al Qaeda.... The former CIA director also is expected to tell the congressional committees that he did develop unclassified talking points in the days after the attack but had had no direct involvement in developing the ones used by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations."

Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy: "Republicans skip Benghazi hearing; complain about lack of information on Benghazi. This week, a number of Republican senators have strongly criticized the administration for failing to properly explain the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Some of those senators failed to show up for a briefing on the attack Wednesday.... Although [Sen. John] McCain [R-Az.] had time to speak on the Senate floor and on television about the lack of information provided to Congress about the attack, he didn't attend the classified briefing for senators Wednesday given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which he is a member.... Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another Homeland Security committee member who was on television complaining about the lack of Benghazi information, also did not show up for the Wednesday hearing. Paul did a CNN interview from the Capitol building Wednesday in which said he had questions about the anti-Islam video, the lack of Marines in Libya, and diplomatic security. At one point he says, 'I don't know enough of the details.'" ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "McCain's response to a reporter asking him why he missed the meeting in order to demand a meeting was to have a considerably impressive meltdown."

... Dan Amira of New York: "Five of eight Republicans on the committee failed to show up, including John McCain.... We guess even McCain is embarrassed by how that turned out, because he was even more crotchety than usual when a CNN reporter asked him about it today.... Yes, being called out on your own bullshit can be quite upsetting":

CW: don't know what all the fuss is about. There are no cameras in secret hearings. Who could possibly expect media hogs McCain & Paul to go to dark in favor of, you know, doing their jobs? ...

... Here's a good post from Alex Pareene of Salon, slugged, "John McCain and his sidekick, Lindsey Graham, are determined to get to the bottom of an entirely made-up scandal."

... Dave Weigel of Slate: "The current round of Benghazi hearings are closed, and senators are not allowed to talk about what occurred inside them. 'You'll have to read the New York Times to find out,' joked Marco Rubio this week. McCain wants public, select committee hearings, which have been accurately described as 'Watergate-style.'" ...

... Paul Waldman of American Prospect: "So what's going on here? I can sum it up in two words: scandal envy. Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal.... Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it's all they have handy."

Nobody died in Iran-Contra. -- John McCain ...

... Dennis G. of Balloon Juice: "We all know that McCain is a bitter, angry old man and perhaps the sorest loser in the history of American politics, but that does not obscure the fact that at his center he is an ignorant, lying asshole. At least 30,000 folks died as a result a direct result of the Contras and their war in Nicaragua. The Iran-Contra funded covert project spilled over into El Salvador where another 75,000 people lost their lives and to Guatemala where CIA funded death squads helped helped to push the body count to over 200,000. The Iraq-Iran war that Team Reagan was funding with the scandal added another 450,000 to the count." ...

     ... CW: McCain was a Member of Congress during Iran-Contra & actively supported the Contras, including belonging to an organization that "was part of an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America" & that illegally supplied the Nicaraquan Contras. Nobody died? McCain busied himself making sure people did die.

CarrollAnn Mears of NBC News: "A House Foreign Affairs hearing on 'Benghazi and Beyond' quickly turned into a shouting and accusations forum." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Jillian Rayfield of Salon: "The entire GOP leadership has signed a pledge to 'oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.' The Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the Koch brothers, sent out a press release Thursday marking the election of House GOP leadership with a reminder that they had all signed." CW: President Obama should ram the Koch pledge down the throats of the GOP leadership. There is little downside to batting at billionaires -- or their toadies.

Philip Elliott of the AP: "Less than two weeks after Republican nominee Mitt Romney came up short in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama, the next class of GOP presidential hopefuls is laying the groundwork for bids of their own."

James Hohmann of Politico: Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico (R) "expressed disdain for Romney's claim this week on a conference call that Obama won reelection because he offered 'gifts' to minorities and younger voters. 'That unfortunately is what sets us back as a party -- our comments that are not thought through carefully,' she said."

Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money explains politics -- and human nature -- to Glenn Greenwald: "Ineffectual opposition tends to be ineffectual." Via Jonathan Bernstein.

Hamed Aleaziz: Fox "News," still swiftboating John Kerry. "The Swift Boat claims are no more true now than they were in 2004, when Republicans like like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) immediately came to Kerry's defense and slammed Swift Boat’s ad." With video. CW: let's see if Grumpy McCain comes to Kerry's defense now that McCain has become the Crotchitiest Man in the Senate. It's been a great couple of days for failed GOP presidential nominees, hasn't it? What an outstanding couple of citizens. ...

... Ah, Steve Kornacki of Salon noticed the Co-Chairs of the Sore Losers Club, too. "McCain's various self-reinventions as a politician are best understood as acts of sore loser-dom.... His reputation took a hit in '08, but he had an opportunity to restore it in defeat. Instead, he's behaved like an embittered partisan warrior. And so far, it's an example that Romney and Ryan are following." Read the whole post.

... Meanwhile, Fox "News"'s resident fake Democratic feminist Kirsten Powers calls President Obama a "sexist" for defending Susan Rice, Ed Kilgore reports. CW: why Powers failed to mention that black people stick together, I don't know. It's very important to reinforce the idea that the whole administration is "foreign" to Real America. John McCain can't do everything, you know.

Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon has launched a sweeping review into misconduct by senior officers, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced Thursday, a rare undertaking at the nation's largest bureaucracy, beset by recent high-profile scandals involving the brass.... The effort could shed light on whether the multiple deployments in a decade of war, which have exacted a well-documented toll on an all-volunteer force, also are afflicting those in command." ...

... Jonathan Landay of McClatchy News: "The CIA said Thursday that it had opened an 'exploratory' investigation into the conduct of former director David Petraeus, who resigned after admitting to adultery, on the same day that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the military services to review ways to strengthen ethics standards 'that keep the military well led and well disciplined.'" ...

... Mark Hosenball & Andy Sullivan of Reuters: "Classified material kept by the woman who conducted an affair with former CIA Director David Petraeus predates their liaison and does not come from the spy agency, sources briefed on the investigation told Reuters on Thursday." ...

... Kathy Finn of Reuters: "Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday defended the Justice Department's decision to hold off informing President Barack Obama of an investigation that eventually caused CIA Director David Petraeus to resign." ...

... Eric Schmitt of the New York Times writes an overview of the most recent developments in the Petraeus Affair & Congressional "investigations" of the Benghazi attack.

Greg Jaffe & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post write a compelling profile of Paula Broadwell, the little engine who couldn't quite. This interview of the reporters in good, too:


Jill Kelley, Sleazier than She Looks. (Who thought that was possible? Meow.) Brian Ross of ABC News: "A New York businessman who discussed a multi-billion-dollar Korean business deal with Jill Kelley said the Tampa woman at the center of the Petraeus scandal told him Gen. Petraeus had arranged for her to become an honorary consul for South Korea and promote free trade, and then asked him for $80 million to complete the deal.... Another source told ABC News that Petraeus had asked Kelley to stop throwing his name around." Thanks to contributor Diane for the link. CW: sorry, Jill. Looks like there will be no big payoff for all your generous "charity" work. Kaching kaput.

... AND the Petraeus Affair brings to mind this explanation of the Theory of American War by the late, great Freudian military analyst George Carlin. Thanks to contributor Jack Mahoney for the link:

     ... And that brings to mind the story of Ali Abbas, a then-12-year-old Iraqi, who, as Joan Walsh of Salon wrote, "lost 15 relatives, including his parents and three siblings, as well as both of his arms, in an errant missile strike on a Baghdad suburb.... He's got burns all over his body, some of them are infected, he's in constant pain, and he's had to be moved from hospital to hospital thanks to looters.... When [CNN] anchor Kyra Phillips interviewed Ali's doctor in Kuwait..., [he] explained that ... Ali told reporters he ... he hopes no other 'children in the war will suffer like what he suffered.' Phillips seemed shocked by Ali's apparent inability to understand we were only trying to help him. 'Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning?'" It's easy to forget or ignore the warmongering media. Luckily, we get constant reminders, like Andrea Mitchell last week, hyperventilating over the fall from grace of the god Petraeus. (In fairness, I have to admit, I'm not entirely into Carlin's explanation. It doesn't for instance, explain Phillips' & Mitchell's cheerleading.)

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "After two years of political battles and a Supreme Court case, many if not most states are expected to tell the federal government Friday if they're willing carry out a key part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. [Since Republican governors sat on their hands in hopes of an Obama defeat,] Thursday evening, the Obama administration responded to a request for more time from Republican governors by granting states a month's extension, until Dec. 14." The article includes a map to let you know where your state stands.

Local News

Jillian Rayfield of Salon has the story of a pink-colored man named Charlie Webster, who is "the outgoing Chairman of the Maine Republican Party." Webster is sleuthing for "possible instances of voter fraud on Election Day, because 'dozens' of black people voted in some precincts, but 'nobody in (these) towns knows anyone who's black.'" Webster went on to say, "I'm not talking about 15 or 20. I'm talking hundreds. I'm not politically correct and maybe I shouldn't have said these voters were black, but anyone who suggests I have a bias toward any race or group, frankly, that's sleazy."...

... CW: it's not clear to me how Webster determined these mystery voters were black because I don't think you have to put your race on voter registration forms. Well, maybe in Maine. BTW, President Obama won the state of Maine 387,794 to 290,437, give or take a few, so by 97,000-odd votes. I'm just thinking those alleged "hundreds" of blacks "nobody knows" couldn't have tilted the election either way. In fairness, math is not a GOP thing.

News Ledes

Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (Actually, President Obama is wishing Speaker Boehner a happy birthday.)Washington Post: "In a display of bipartisanship unseen since the GOP captured the House in 2010, Republican and Democratic leaders met for more than an hour with President Obama at the White House. They emerged unified, with a message of reassurance for nervous taxpayers and investors -- though intense haggling over the shape of a deal is yet to come."

Politico: "Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified Friday morning that the CIA knew that the Benghazi attacks were a terrorist attack and not a spontaneous demonstration, and he denied that his sensational extramarital affair had any impact on his testimony." The Washington Post story, which relies largely on an interview of Peter King (R-N.Y.), is substantially different from the Politico report. According to King's interpretation, Petraeus testified he gave Susan Rice different information than what she told the American people. ...

... The AP found a staffer more reliable than King: "Ex-CIA Director David Petraeus has told Congress that references to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb were removed from the agency's draft talking points of what sparked the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. A congressional staffer says Petraeus testified in a closed-door hearing Friday that the CIA's talking points did name those groups. Petraeus told lawmakers he wasn't sure which agency replaced the groups' names with the word 'extremist; in the final draft. But he said he allowed other agencies to alter the talking points as they saw fit without asking for final review, to get them out quickly." ...

... Finally, the New York Times report, published several hours after the other reports, reads to me as most accurate (though the Politico report, published earliest, is fairly consistent with the Times report).

New York Times: "President Obama opens a new round of deficit-reduction negotiations with Congressional leaders of both parties Friday morning at the White House, his bargaining hand strengthened by re-election but with time running out for a deal to avoid economy-rattling tax increases and spending cuts at the turn of the year."

New York Times: "Egypt launched a remarkable diplomatic initiative on Friday after a night of ferocious Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and militant rocket fire toward Israel, sending its prime minister to show support for Palestinians in the beleaguered enclave. The move prompted Israel to agree to a temporary, though flawed, cease-fire even as it sent armored vehicles toward Gaza and called up reservists for a possible invasion." ...

... Reuters: "Egypt opened a tiny window to emergency peace diplomacy in Gaza on Friday, but hopes for even a brief ceasefire while its prime minister was inside the bombarded enclave to talk to leaders of the Islamist Hamas movement were immediately dashed." ...

... Washington Post: "A temporary truce between Israel and Gaza militants during a Friday morning visit by Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil quickly crumbled as Palestinians continued to lob rockets across the border and Israeli aircraft responded with renewed airstrikes." Update. New lede: "... lobbed rockets as far north as Jerusalem...."

Wednesday
Nov142012

The Commentariat -- Nov. 15, 2012

Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama said in his victory speech last week that 'elections matter.' On Wednesday, he made clear how much the election matters to him -- and to the way he intends to govern in his second term. Appearing in his first post-victory news conference, the customarily cautious Obama spoke like a politician with nothing to lose after winning the last race of his life. Over the course of an hour, he struck an unabashedly populist tone in characterizing his second-term 'mandate' to help the poor and the middle class, and he warned his partisan rivals that voters had sided with his approach to the economy during the long campaign."

Ezra Klein: "The White House is saying, clearly, that they won't permit the top tax rates to remains where they are. They're taking House Speaker John A. Boehner's proposed deal and rejecting it."

President Obama responds to a question from Jonathan Karl of ABC News re: Senators John McCain & Lindsey Graham's criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice:

     ... I'm happy to say NBC News made this their lede story for awhile: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday spiritedly defended U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over her response to the September attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, assailing Republican criticism of her as 'outrageous.'" ...

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "McCain mischaracterizes [Susan] Rice's words and then assumes she should have all the information that is known now about the Benghazi attack. Her claim that there was a protest is clearly wrong, but within the context of that week, it was not off base, since it appeared in news reports quoting witnesses and even in the president's daily briefing.... Susan Rice's remarks five days after the attack appear to be a sideshow, especially because she had virtually no role in the key issues surrounding the Libyan mission.... Given that McCain was so quick to excuse [former Secretary of State] Condi Rice for making remarks of much greater import, it seems rather unsporting to quickly rush to judgment and mischaracterization in the case of Susan Rice."

Here's the President's full news conference:

John Parkinson of ABC News: "... the House Republican Conference voted [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] in to another two-year term as speaker. Boehner rejected the president's call earlier Wednesday for Republicans to quickly pass Senate legislation that would extend middle class tax cuts, and he alternatively called on the Senate to take up House-passed legislation to extend all of the current tax rates for one year." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "In order to overcome Republican obstructionism, Obama must indeed be willing to go over the [fiscal] cliff, allowing the tax cuts to expire and the automatic spending cuts, which were agreed upon during the last go-around with the Republicans, in the summer of 2011, to go into effect."

... "What we don't need to do is cut benefits." -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

GOP Excuse 127: Professors. Blowhard William Bennett, Bush Pere Secretary of Education & Drug Czar, in a CNN opinion piece: Obama won because Marxist professors are teaching our young people to be socialists. ...

... GOP Excuse 128: Blackmail/Cover-up. "Betty Cracker" of Balloon Juice: Obama blackmailed Petraeus into going along with his phony explanation of the response to the Benghazi attack. Betty details how this excuse, posited by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post & Fox "News," works. Here's a sample of the "logic" behind this excuse: "The only way Obama could cover his ass in the Benghazi affair was to orchestrate a scandal to compromise the country's most prominent general, and he fiendishly used a wingnut

... GOP Excuse 129: Obama Gifts. Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times: "Mitt Romney told his top donors Wednesday that his loss to President Obama was a disappointing result that neither he nor his top aides had expected, but said he believed his team ran a 'superb' campaign with 'no drama,' and attributed his rival's victory to 'the gifts' the administration had given to blacks, Hispanics and young voters during Obama's first term." CW: if this is the GOP's idea of "outreach" to minorities & young Americans, I don't think it will work out too well. Romney's unremitting disdain of "the 47 percent" is pathological. ...

     ... Ashley Parker of the New York Times has more of Romney's remarks about all the "gifts" Obama gave to the moocher classes. ...

     ... Oh, look. #ObamaGifts is already a Twitter meme. ...

     ... ** Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Now we know that Mitt Romney did not 'misspeak' when he whined to a big-money crowd that 47 percent of Americans mooch off government and 'believe they are victims.' He meant precisely what he said.... I guess Mr. Romney would not consider oil subsidies a gift. Or a tax system that allows him to pay a 14 percent tax rate. Or his proposal to build warships and warplanes and other fancy hardware that the military doesn't want or need.... It seems like no one in his party has figured out that it wasn't 'gifts' or bad luck that caused him to lose. It was his ideas." CW: Bobby Jindel seems to get it. ...

     ... ** Paul Waldman of American Prospect: Mitt Romney takes one last opportunity to be a jerk.... Romney seems appalled that Obama would be so diabolical as to pursue policies that were beneficial to people who then went to the polls to vote for him." ...

     ... Markos Moulitsas: "Romney rides off into the sunset, as big a dick as always." ...

... GOP Excuse 130: Obama Attacked Romney. President Obama's "whole campaign was a fear-and-smear attack to make Romney unacceptable and to blame George Bush for anything that happened while Obama was president. This was all personal: that Romney is a vulture capitalist who doesn't care about people like you, ships jobs overseas, is a quintessential plutocrat and is married to a known equestrian. An attack unanswered is an attack admitted to. -- Haley Barbour ...

... Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "A week after Mitt Romney fell short in his bid for the White House, Republican leaders offered tepid praise of his candidacy. But they quickly moved on and called for a new approach to the party's rebuilding efforts." Haley Barbour took an up-the-ass tack, suggesting the party needed to undergo "a proctological exam." Bobby Jindal rejected Romney's Obama Gifts excuse: "'I absolutely reject that notion. I don't think that represents where we are as a party,' Mr. Jindal said. He added, 'We have got to stop dividing the American voters.'" ...

... Philip Elliott of the AP: "Top Republicans meeting for the first time since Election Day say the party lost its bid to unseat President Barack Obama because nominee Mitt Romney did not respond to criticism strongly enough or outline a specific agenda with a broad appeal. In conversations at the Republican Governors Association confab in Las Vegas, a half dozen party leaders predicted the GOP will lose again if it keeps running the same playbook based on platitudes in place of detailed policies. Instead, they asserted, the party needs to learn the lessons from its loss, respect voters' savvy and put forward an agenda that appeals beyond the while [sic., white], male voters who are its base." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "Opting for a bold 'big tent' strategy to rebuild the party, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, told reporters today, 'We need to welcome people who believe in different things than we do, like math and science.'"

** Linda Greenhouse: "... the vote in four states in support of same-sex marriage, and the run-up to Election Day that saw both Democrats and federal judges pushing back against Republican strategies devised to selectively minimize voter turnout ... are directly relevant to cases on the Supreme Court's current docket...." ...

... BUT law professor Nathaniel Persily, also writing in the New York Times, suggests that "a perverse outcome of the 2012 campaign may be that President Obama's victory spells doom for the civil rights law most responsible for African-American enfranchisement" even though "a campaign marred by charges of voter suppression and Election Day mishaps also makes the need for federal protection of voting rights clearer than ever.... Congress needs to enact national rules governing voter registration, provisional and absentee ballots, and voter verification and access in a new Voting Rights Act tailored to the problems confronting American democracy today."

Here's Nancy Pelosi responding to a question yesterday from NBC News legacy Luke Russert:

Barton Gellman of Time has the cover story on the Petraeus Affair that puts all the principals -- especially Petraeus -- in a bad light.

... Greg Miller & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The FBI’s handling of the investigation that forced CIA Director David H. Petraeus to resign came under new scrutiny Wednesday as FBI Director Robert S. Mueller faced questions on Capitol Hill and President Obama alluded to lingering questions about the course of the inquiry...." ...

... Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "A computer used by Paula Broadwell ... contained substantial classified information that should have been stored under more secure conditions, law enforcement and national security officials said on Wednesday. The contents and amount of the classified material -- and questions about how Broadwell got it -- are significant enough to warrant a continuing investigation, the officials said." ...

... Robert Burns of the AP: "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday he knows of no other senior U.S. military officers being linked to the David Petraeus investigation that has ensnared the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen. Speaking at a Bangkok news conference, Panetta said he retains 'tremendous confidence' in Allen." ...

... Michael Schmidt, et al., of the New York Times: "The F.B.I. agent who helped start the investigation that led to the resignation of David H. Petraeus as C.I.A. director is a 'hard-charging' veteran counterterrorism investigator.... The agent, Frederick W. Humphries II, 47, took the initial complaint from Jill Kelley.... Mr. Humphries passed on Ms. Kelley's complaint to the cybersquad in the Tampa field office but was not assigned to the case. He was later admonished by supervisors who thought he was trying to insert himself improperly into the investigation.... Mr. Humphries in late October contacted Representative Dave Reichert, a Republican from Washington State.... [A Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association lawyer] took issue with news media reports that have said his client sent shirtless pictures of himself to Ms. Kelley.... The photo was sent as a 'joke' and was ... not sexual in nature." ...

... Lolita Baldor of the AP: "A U.S. official says the Army has suspended the security clearance of ... Paula Broadwell [who] ... held a high security clearance. Because her clearance was issued through the Army, it was the service's move to suspend it." ...

... Luis Martinez of ABC News: "Jill Kelley ... has lost the privilege of visiting MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa< without an escort.... Kelley ... had been granted unescorted access to the base under a program initiated by the Air Force unit that runs operations at the base.... [A] Defense official said Kelley's privileges ... have been taken away 'as she is involved in an ongoing investigation.'"

Douglas Dalby of the New York Times: "The death of a woman who was reportedly denied a potentially lifesaving abortion even while she was having a miscarriage has revived debate over Ireland's almost total ban on abortions." CW: this needless, unconscionable death -- multiplied thousands of times over -- would have been/still could be in our future if the anti-abortion lobby gets its way.

Right Wing World

Over and above Excuses such as Nos. 127-129-130 above, et al., here's why the GOP will never, ever get right. Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as 'Delphi' to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be forcibly relocated to cities. That's according to a four-hour briefing delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last month." CW: the Republican party is a party whose candidates not only have to be "severely conservative," they have to be severely unhinged.

To Form a More Perfect Union. Dana Milbank: "... a large number of patriotic Americans, mostly from states won by Mitt Romney last week, have petitioned the White House to let them secede.... It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish 'to withdraw from the United States and create [their] own NEW government' (the petitions emphasize 'new' by capitalizing it). Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union." ...

... Looks like students at UNC are putting their Marxist educations to good use. This map, which shows the density of signatories to the secession petitions, was plotted (and I use that term in its narrowest sense, my conspiracy theorist friends) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Current as of noon Wednesday, Nov. 14. Via John Sides of the Monkey Cage:

Local News

America's Worst Governor Sees the Light. Maybe. AP: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most vocal critics of the federal health care overhaul, is dropping his staunch opposition to the law. Scott said in an interview Tuesday with the Associated Press that he now wants to negotiate with the federal government. He said it's time for Republicans to offer solutions to help families after they lost their bid to defeat President Barack Obama." Thanks to James S. for the link.

News Ledes

AP: "In the midst of a political tempest that has engulfed his former CIA director and his top military commander in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama is traveling to New York City to view recovery efforts from the massive East Coast storm Sandy.While there Thursday, Obama will meet with affected families, local officials and first responders who have been dealing with the deadly storm...." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama got a look on Thursday at the muddy wreckage that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake, flying over ravaged neighborhoods in Queens, consoling devastated homeowners under tents and in the streets on Staten Island, and promising a strong and continuing federal role in the recovery."

Reuters: "BP Plc is expected to pay a record U.S. criminal penalty and plead guilty to criminal misconduct in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster through a plea deal reached with the Department of Justice (DoJ) that may be announced as soon as Thursday, according to sources familiar with discussions." ...

     ... Politico Update: "BP will pay a record $4.5 billion in fines and plead guilty to a dozen felony counts under a deal with the U.S. government to settle criminal charges stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident that killed 11 workers and spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Federal prosecutors also announced new indictments against two BP supervisors for manslaughter and a former BP executive for hiding information from Congress and lying to law-enforcement officials."

New York Times: "Israeli warplanes struck dozens of militant sites in Gaza< early on Thursday, the second day of Israel's deadly offensive against Hamas and other militant groups, and rockets fired from the enclave reached far into Israel, killing three civilians when one struck an apartment block in this small southern town."

New York Times: "Completing only its second orderly hand-over of power in more than six decades of rule, the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday unveiled a new leadership slate headed by Xi Jinping, the son of a revered revolutionary leader and economic reformer, who will face the task of guiding China to a more sustainable model of growth and managing the country's rise as a global power."

AP: "The 17-country eurozone has bowed to the inevitable and fallen back into recession for the first time in three years as a sprawling debt crisis took its toll on the region's stronger economies. And with surveys pointing to increasingly depressed conditions across the eurozone at a time of high unemployment in many countries, there are fears that the recession will deepen, and make the debt crisis even more difficult to handle."

Washington Post: "An investigation into misconduct by Air Force trainers at a Texas base found that at least 48 female students were victims of sexual assault or other transgressions by their instructors, according to a report released Wednesday that dissected the culture that enabled the worst military sex-abuse scandal in recent history."

ABC News: Rita Crundwell, "a former comptroller for a small town in Illinois, pleaded guilty to embezzling $53 million from city accounts to feed a lavish lifestyle that included a nationally known horse-breeding operation. All of Crundwell's items are up for auction by the U.S. Marshals, including 400 horses. Only $7 million has been recovered so far."