My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Steven Pinker's NYT post "Why Are States So Red and Blue?" Another column, by a professor of religious studies, Ira Chernus, also disagrees with Pinker, though Chernus is meaner than I am. I actually disagree with Chernus, too, but what the hell?
October Surprise. Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors in New York sued Bank of America on Wednesday, accusing it of carrying out a mortgage scheme that defrauded the government during the depths of the financial crisis. In a civil complaint that seeks to collect $1 billion from the bank, the Justice Department took aim at a home loan program known as the 'hustle,' a venture that has become emblematic of the risk-fueled mortgage bubble. The complaint adds to a flurry of federal and private lawsuits facing Bank of America's beleaguered mortgage business."
Des Moines Register: "Without comment, campaign officials for President Obama this morning released to the Des Moines Register a transcript of an interview he had Tuesday with Laura Hollingsworth, president and publisher of the Register, and Rick Green, editor/vice-president of news. Initially, the White House had asked that the conversation be considered off-the-record and its details not shared with readers. Its release comes on the heels of a Tuesday evening DesMoinesRegister.com blog post by Green questioning why an endorsement interview with the Register would be off-the-record." So here's the transcript of the interview. Definitely worth reading. P.S. he's still loving that granny-starving Grand Bargain. ...
... Update. Lori Montgomery & Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "President Obama, criticized as failing to offer a vision for a potential second term, has begun sketching out his agenda with greater specificity in recent days, including a pledge to solve the nation's budget problems within 'the first six months.' In an interview made public Wednesday, Obama said he would pursue a 'grand bargain' with Republicans to tame the national debt and would quickly follow that with a push to overhaul the nation's immigration laws." ...
... Jamelle Bouie in the Washington Post: "If this interview raises a question, it’s this: Why hasn't Obama been this clear more often in articulating his case for a second term, and his plans for the next four years? It's not that he doesn't have them, but until recently, talking about them has been less of a priority for Team Obama. Why?"
Jeff Zeleny & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: Mitt Romney assures supporters that he will win the presidency, but "the Romney team is mindful that the new enthusiasm has not opened any new paths to winning 270 electoral votes.... While both campaigns are still advertising in nine battleground states, advisers to both sides say that the most competitive fight is now taking place in seven: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. A huge get-out-the-vote effort is under way in all states, with only a sliver of undecided voters remaining." CW: gee, a sane report from the New York Times. Refreshing, especially considering the reporters here are Fox "News" contributor Zeleny & Maureen Dowd acolyte Parker. ...
Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "A new Public Policy Polling survey in Virginia ... finds Barack Obama expanding his lead in the aftermath of his debate victory Monday night. He now has 51% to 46% for Mitt Romney, up from a 49/47 advantage last weekend." Greg Sargent points out that the PPP poll is "out of sync with the averages."
Lydia Saad of Gallup: "For the first time in more than five years, slightly more Americans are feeling financially better off, rather than worse off, compared with a year ago, by 38% to 34%. This represents a significant improvement since May of President Barack Obama's first year as president, when the majority -- 54% -- said they were worse off."
Republican Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama again. It's a realistic & well-informed endorsement, & he has to repeatedly correct that ignorant blowhard Charlie Rose. CBS News print story here:
Women Get Stupid. Jennifer Agiesta & Nancy Benac of the AP: "... Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama's 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. And the president, in turn, has largely eliminated Romney's edge among men. Those churning gender dynamics leave the presidential race still a virtual dead heat, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent, a result within the poll's margin of sampling error...."
Deborah Charles of Reuters: "Two weeks before what could be one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, efforts to mislead, intimidate or pressure voters are an increasingly prominent part of the political landscape. Analysts say tactics typically seen in the last few days before an election are already in play."
Nicholas Kristof: "If you want to see how Romney's economic policies would work out, take a look at Europe. And weep. In the last few years, Germany and Britain, in particular, have implemented precisely the policies that Romney favors, and they have been richly praised by Republicans here as a result. Yet these days those economies seem, to use a German technical term, kaput."
The Leno interview is a five-parter. Here's Part 1. The other four parts are here:
... Helene Cooper of the New York Times writes a "Caucus" post on the interview. Jeff Mason of Reuters also covers the interview. Both lead with the President's comments on Indiana GOP candidate Richard Mourdock's remarks about rape.
Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: Benghazi is so not a scandal.
Michelle Obama appears in a generic GOTV Spanish-language campaign ad. According to Sarah Wheaton of the New York Times, this is the First Lady's first (& only) ad:
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: Mitt Romney doubles down on "misstatements" [a/k/a lies] he told during the final presidential debate.
Ouch! "Mitt Romney IS Bain Capital." This Workers Voice PAC ad will run in Ohio & Wisconsin:
Charles Blow: Paul "Ryan — the man whose budget would wreak havoc on the poor — steps to a podium and pretends to be a defender of the poor [in a speech in Ohio]. Sometimes you just run out of words for galling."
Henry Decker of the National Memo lists ten Romney scandals that the mainstream media have forgot about. CW: it is inconceivable that a Democrat could get away with this kind of resume'.
Alec MacGillis of The New Republic is bummed that the media are so lacking in self-awareness that they think they have no influence over people's perceptions of events.
Paul Krugman's worst-case-scenario result of a Romney presidency. "There's almost no bottom on what can happen":
Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: blogger David Twede of MormonThink is quitting the Mormon Church rather than face excommunication for his posts criticizing Mormon beliefs & Mitt Romney. Twede's Website is here.
Denise Lavoie of the AP: "A Massachusetts judge will hold another hearing before deciding whether to unseal testimony that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave in the divorce case of Staples founder Tom Stemberg. Ex-wife Maureen Sullivan Stemberg appeared in court Wednesday with lawyer Gloria Allred. They said they did not object to a Boston Globe motion to lift an impoundment order on Romney's 1991 testimony in the case. Attorneys said Romney's testimony dealt with financial matters." ...
... TMZ has the scoop on what that's all about: "Mitt Romney LIED under oath when he testified in the divorce of his good friend and screwed the friend's wife out of a lot of money in the process ... so claims the ex-wife of Staples' founder Tom Stemberg. Multiple sources ... tell TMZ ... during Tom's uber nasty divorce case with ex-wife Maureen, Mitt Romney gave a deposition and testified during the trial that Staples was worth virtually nothing.... Partly as a result of Romney's testimony, Maureen got relatively little in the divorce, but we're told just weeks after the divorce ended, Romney and Tom went to Goldman Sachs and cashed in THEIR stock for a fortune." There's more. ...
... David Corn of Mother Jones has some more info & corroborating evidence.
Whatever Happened to Sarah Palin? Oh, She's Still Around. Neetzam Zimmerman of Gawker: "... on her Facebook page, Palin called on President Obama to end his 'shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies.' Palin ... is purposely aiming slave-owner terminology at a black person." ...
... Greg Krieg of ABC News: "'Shuck and jive' is a racially loaded expression that has mostly disappeared from public discourse over the past half-century. 'She never ceases to amaze," ABC News political analyst Nicolle Wallace, a former aide to Palin during the 2008 election, said today. 'It's entirely possible that she was ignorant about the racial implications of her comments, but at this point, I'm not sure what's more incredible -- her ignorance or her eagerness to offend.'"
Russell Goldman of ABC News: "Donald Trump's 'major news" is now Twitter laughingstock.... Trump today pledged $5 million to a charity of President Obama's choice, provided the president makes public his college applications and transcripts and releases his passport history, a far cry from the October-surprise bombshell Trump had promised.... When asked about Trump's comments, Obama campaign chief David Plouffe told reporters: 'Direct your questions to Boston [Mitt Romney's campaign headquarters], he's Romney's biggest supporter.'" Here are some other Twitter responses. ...
... Dana Milbank: "This was trumped up even by the Donald's self-aggrandizing standards. Denunciations and derision rang out from the political left, right and center. The bookmaker that took bets on Trump's bombshell refunded the wagers. The real estate mogul had managed to make his real announcement resemble the Onion's spoof article: 'Donald Trump announced that he is a very sad man who has nothing to live for other than drawing attention to himself.'" ...
... ** Michael Grunwald of Time: Donald Trump's latest flame-out reminds us that Americans should get over the cult of the CEO. "... there is no reason to think that CEO's have any more insight into the national interest than their workers do."
Rosalind Helderman & Jason Horowitz of the Washington Post: "In the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, there are now at least eight critical contests in which polling shows essentially a dead heat, encouraging Republicans' hopes that they may yet snag the chamber, which very recently seemed beyond their reach. Some of the GOP boost is coming from the top of the ticket in the form of Mitt Romney, whose recent surge in the polls seems to be helping Republican candidates across the country." CW: this tells quite a different story from the Real Clear Politics story I linked yesterday which opined that Republicans were not likely to gain control of the Senate. How would this be a disaster? See Krugman's remarks above.
Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times reports on contentious Florida Congressional races. CW: Alvarez' piece is like reading Gail Collins, only the candidates are the jokes & provide the snark. I was born in Florida. I grew up here. And now, after a decades-long sojourn in other parts, I am back. Nonetheless, I do think I'll update my passport, pack my bags in due course & apply for a visa to Calyban's Enlightened States of America.
Gail Collins: "'I got into the race after looking at the faces of my six little grandchildren,' said Linda McMahon. She is the Republican candidate for the United States Senate in Connecticut, and, over the last three years, she has spent more than $77 million attempting to get elected. When the little grandchildren are grown into the heirs to the McMahon family fortune, do you think they'll regard that as a good choice?"
New York Times Editors: "Representative Joe Walsh, a Republican freshman congressman known for legislation like the Save Christmas Act and for shooting off his mouth, is battling Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat and war veteran, in a race that stands out for its saturating quantities of rancor, negativity and outside cash. The lowlights of Mr. Walsh's campaign include screaming at constituents, denigrating Ms. Duckworth's military service and, most recently, insisting that there is no such thing as an abortion to protect a woman's life or health because of 'advances in science and technology.' Beyond his deplorable remarks, Mr. Walsh has also drawn criticism for the questionable amounts of money flooding into his race." One of his biggest contributors: a Super PAC he helped found.
Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post: "Increasingly, the evidence suggests that the United States has come out of the financial crisis of 2008 in better shape than its peers -- because of the actions of its government."
Lynn Beisner (a pseudonym) explains the conservative Christian's view of why bad things happen to bad people: see, girls, if you're going out & about without the protection of male family members, you're asking to be raped. It's god's way of teaching you to be more virtuous. "The idea that rape is God's will is not an isolated misogynistic idea. It is but one logical outcome of a theology which says that God hurts us to help us -- that when we intervene in another person's suffering, we may be stopping God from doing his loving work in the person's life.... Think about ... what it would look like if you applied that theology to all public policy. And now you understand the Tea Party." CW: BTW, there is no such lesson in the Gospels; this is "theology" invented out of whole cloth. Rather, the lesson from the Sermon on the Mount is "[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45) The same thesis is expressed elsewhere in the Gospels. Thanks to contributor Marvin S. for the link.
The always-provocative Steven Pinker guest-blogs on the New York Times' "Opinionator" philosophy column "The Stone" to try to put the red state/blue state divide in historical context. I'll comment on his column in Thursday's New York Times eXaminer as I think Pinker is on the right track but misses some essential elements that help explain the philosophical divide. Thanks to contributor MAG for the link.
Do read the obituary of Judge Betty Binns Fletcher. What a woman!
New York Times Editors: Kentucky should abolish the death penalty. "The death penalty in Kentucky is colossally unfair, costly and riddled with constitutional error. From 1976 through last year, of the 78 people sentenced to death in the state, 50 had their sentences overturned on appeal, with 15 of those for prosecutorial mistakes or misconduct. Last December, a report conducted by the American Bar Association based on a two-year review by a team of lawyers, professors and former members of the State Supreme Court found enormous problems with the state's capital system."
Matthew Purdy & Christine Haughney of the New York Times: Mark Thompson, formerly head of the BBC & incoming Times CEO, has changed his story in the last 10 days on what he knew & when he knew it re: the Jimmy Savile sexual-abuse scandal. Said one former BBC producer who is now an MP, "Mr. Thompson was well paid 'to, apparently, not know what was going on under his own roof.'"
New York Times: "Margaret Osborne duPont, a tenacious and durable American tennis champion who won six Grand Slam singles titles in the middle decades of the 20th century while becoming one of the most dominant doubles players of her era, died Wednesday at her home in El Paso. She was 94."
New York Times: "Weeks after [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu struggled to repair a rift with the Obama administration about public comments on the Iranian nuclear threat, the prime minister and his aides were trying to head off any political problems over a report in The New York Times on Sunday saying that Washington and Tehran had agreed in principle to have direct talks after the American presidential election.... Both sides wanted to control the message to avoid further flare-up."
AP: "The U.S. military did not quickly intervene during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya last month because military leaders did not have adequate intelligence information and felt they should not put American forces at risk, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday in his most extensive comments to date on the unfolding controversy surrounding the attack in Benghazi."
AP: "Hurricane Sandy made landfall Thursday just west of Santiago de Cuba in southern Cuba, where residents boarded over windows and cleared drainage gutters ahead of the strengthening storm that had roared across Jamaica and left two dead in the Caribbean. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sandy, which had strengthened to a category 2 hurricane, was located over southeastern Cuba and moving north at 18 mph (30 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) and is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the Bahamas."
Market Watch: "Sales of new single-family homes in the U.S. rose 5.7% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 389,000, the highest pace since April 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported Wednesday." ...
... AND USA Today: "The number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 369,000 the week ended Oct. 20, the Labor Department said Thursday, reflecting an improving labor market." ...
... BUT Bloomberg News: "North American companies have announced plans to eliminate more than 62,600 positions at home and abroad since Sept. 1, the biggest two-month drop since the start of 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg."
Reuters: "President Bashar al-Assad's forces fired heavy tank and rocket barrages at a Damascus suburb on Thursday, killing five people, opposition activists said, a day before a UN-brokered ceasefire is due to come into force."