Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President lays out why new, high-standards trade agreements are important for our economy, our businesses, our workers, and our values":

The Ledes

Saturday, April 25, 2015.

New York Times: "An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.9 shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu. People in the capital described scenes of panic and collapsed buildings, and the United States Geological Survey predicted severe damage to villages near the quake’s epicenter, about 50 miles from Katmandu." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging developments.

AP: "The University of Florida suspended one of its fraternities on Friday after allegations that its members hurled drunken insults and spat at a group of disabled military veterans at a Panama City Beach resort."

The Wires

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 24

Sorry. This is yesterday's livefeed. Since the White House doesn't date their schedule (despite my repeated requests) I just can't tell. I probably won't have time to republish today's schedule, should the White House ever get around to publishing it.

10:00 am ET: President Obama makes a statement

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana campus (audio only)

2:15 pm ET: President Obama honors the Super Bowl champs

4:55 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Organizing for Action summit

7:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at an Israel Independence Day ceremony (audio only)

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.


Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

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.

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The Commentariat -- Oct. 28, 2012

Nicholas Kristof: "... rape kits are routinely left untested in the United States.... The lackadaisical attitude toward much sexual violence is seen in another astonishing fact: Sometimes, women or their health insurance companies must pay to have their rape kits tested.... In 31 states, if a rape leads to a baby, the rapist can get visitation rights.... One way to start turning around this backward approach to sex crimes would be to support the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (Safer) Act, a bipartisan bill in Congress that would help local jurisdictions count and test their rape kits."

Once again Maureen Dowd trashes all comers, but she's harder on Republicans today. And she does write this: "... rapists can assert parental rights in 31 states." Seems to be the theme for the day, & for me, both informative & shocking.

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic:

  1. [Richard Mourdick] believes that whenever conception occurs, God intended it and it is a gift.
  2. He further believes that rape is one way in which conception sometimes occurs.
  3. Thus he believes that conception through rape is a gift from God and furthermore intended by God.
  4. Mourdock believes that life begins at conception.

    ... Thanks to contributor Diane for the link. Read Coates' entire post. As Diane writes, "Ta-Nehisi Coates dealt with the issue of the extreme pro-life position in a succinct, meaningful way. Taking down the flawed logic in a couple paragraphs."

Tom Friedman: "... you don't get to call yourself 'pro-life' and be against common-sense gun control.... You don't get to call yourself 'pro-life' and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don't get to call yourself 'pro-life' and oppose programs like Head Start...." CW: if you'd like to think Friedman got it right for once, you might want to skip the last major paragraph.

** Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Obama administration will soon take on a new role as the sponsor of at least two nationwide health insurance plans to be operated under contract with the federal government and offered to consumers in every state. These multistate plans were included in President Obama's health care law as a substitute for ... the public option.... Supporters of the national plans say they will increase competition in state health insurance markets, many of which are dominated by a handful of companies."

Presidential Race

Nate Silver: "The FiveThirtyEight forecast model has found the past several days of battleground state polling to be reasonably strong for Barack Obama, with his chances of winning the Electoral College increasing as a result. The intuition behind this ought to be very simple: Mr. Obama is maintaining leads in the polls in Ohio and other states that are sufficient for him to win 270 electoral votes." ...

... "Fortune Favors the Brave." Paul Krugman: "... what the auto rescue and the bin Laden strike have in common is that they were both very courageous decisions -- decisions that could easily have gone wrong, that faced lots of second-guessing. You can criticize Obama for many things (and I have, and will in future), but he showed true grit when it mattered, and now seems likely to reap the reward.... If Romney has Big Mo, it looks like this:

John Heilemann of New York magazine: "... there is a small but nontrivial possibility that come November 7, we will find ourselves facing an outcome that would trigger a national political meltdown, in which a large portion of each side decries the election result as illegitimate." Heileman presents four possible nightmare scenarios. ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM on the "illegitamacy" of a president who wins the Electoral College but not the popular vote: "... to those making these arguments I would make the following points: Get over it and most of all STFU." ...

... Steve M. of No More Mr. Nice Blog agrees with Marshall.: "Yes, it's true that the Electoral College is ridiculous. But it's also true that both campaigns have been trying to win 270 electoral votes, not 50% of the popular vote plus 1 -- and Mitt Romney is on the verge of losing that contest. If this were a popular vote race, the candidates wouldn't be practically living in Ohio and other swing states...."

Welcome to Climate Change. Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "With Hurricane Sandy heading toward a collision with an early winter storm and expected to reach the East Coast late Sunday, Mr. Obama, more than his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, must figure how to marshal the government's response while also rallying votes ahead of the Nov. 6 elections. It is a delicate balance, made more so by the fact that some of the swing states necessary to Mr. Obama's re-election hopes -- Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire -- are in the storm's projected path." ...

     ... Update. Steve Peoples of the AP: both presidential candidates have altered their schedules because of the East Coast storm.

Alex Mooney of CNN: "In the latest sign of just how tight both presidential campaigns view the race, President Barack Obama rallied voters on Saturday in New Hampshire -- a battleground state that carries just four electoral college votes. Obama carried the state by a 10 points four years ago, but his fortunes in the Granite State now are considerably more in doubt."

AP: "Vice President Joe Biden says Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are fleeing from their record to appear more moderate than they are. Biden says the GOP ticket has backtracked on issues, ranging from a GOP budget he says would slash Medicare to a planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. Biden said Romney and Ryan 'are counting on the American people to have an overwhelming case of amnesia.'"

The New York Times Editors endorse President Obama for re-election. Oh, and this about Willard: "Mitt Romney ... has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney's true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney's choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that."

Curtis Hubbard of the Denver Post discusses the editorial board's endorsement of President Obama & the makeup of Colorado's electorate. The endorsement, published October 19, is here:

... BUT the Des Moines Register buys the bullshit, endorses Romney, even though it was apparently not a unanimous recommendation. These people must read only one newspaper.

Frank Bruni: "I still think [President Obama will] win this thing, and I think he'll win it because he's a seriously intelligent, thoughtful leader more in tune and in touch with Americans' lives than his sheltered opponent is.... But this campaign has illuminated nothing so brightly as the limits of his magic, along with shortcomings that he would carry with him into a second term (should he get one) and would be wise to address."

For Salon readers who are somehow persuaded by Matt Stoller's nihilistic lnihilistic exhortation to vote for a third-party candidate because Obama & Romney are pretty much alike, Scott Lemieux of Lawyers Guns & Money responds: "[Stoller's] latest ridiculous argument in favor of throwing the election to Romney has all of the same transparent defects as his previous ones, the most notable being a lack of an argument for how throwing the election to someone who is far worse than Obama on most things and better on nothing will work any better than it did in 2000."

Governors' Races

Mike Baker of the AP: "Of the 11 states with gubernatorial elections in November, eight of them are currently led by Democrats. Each of the most competitive races is a GOP pickup opportunity. The numbers suggests that Republicans will soon claim 30 to 33 governorships after holding just 22 of those seats a few years ago."

Other Stuff

"Remember the Supremes." Jay Reeves & Mark Sherman of the AP: "The Supreme Court could say as early as Monday whether it will consider ending the Voting Rights Act's advance approval requirement that has been held up as a crown jewel of the civil rights era."

CW: contra Right Wing World conspiracy theorists journalists, Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News writes, "The White House on Saturday flatly denied that President Barack Obama withheld requests for help from the besieged American compound in Benghazi, Libya, as it came under on attack by suspected terrorists on September 11th. 'Neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi,' National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News by email."

Jason Deans of the Guardian: "Arthur Sulzberger Jr, chairman and New York Times Company, said in an internal email on Thursday that he was satisfied [incoming NYT CEO Mark] Thompson 'played no role' in the cancellation of BBC current affairs show Newsnight's investigation into the Savile sex abuse allegations in late 2011, when he was still director general. Thompson is due to begin his new job on 12 November. Thompson's knowledge of the Newsnight story and allegations about Savile has come under intense scrutiny since Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times public editor, published a blog on Tuesday saying it was “worth considering now if he is the right person for the job" in light of the scandal enveloping the BBC." CW: thanks for clearing that up, Pinch.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Massachusetts shut down another compounding pharmacy after a surprise inspection last week found conditions that called into question the sterility of its products, state officials said Sunday."

Guardian: "Detectives investigating the Jimmy Savile child sex abuse scandal have arrested Gary Glitter on suspicion of sexual offences in the first of what is likely to be a series of arrests of suspected associates of the late DJ. The glam rocker, who was a friend of Savile and appeared on his TV shows, was arrested at his London home early on Sunday by Scotland Yard officers..., which is following about 400 lines of inquiry involving 300 victims -- mostly young girls but also a few boys -- of alleged sexual exploitation by Savile and others."

AP: "As Hurricane Sandy barrelled north from the Caribbean -- where it left nearly five dozen dead -- to meet two other powerful winter storms, experts said it didn't matter how strong the storm was when it hit land: The rare hybrid storm that follows will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes." The Weather Channel's main report is here. With video.

AP: "A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck off the west coast of Canada, but there were no reports of major damage.... [It was] the biggest quake in Canada since 1949.... The U.S. Geological Survey said the powerful temblor hit the Queen Charlotte Islands just after 8 p.m. local time Saturday at a depth of about 3 miles ... and was centered 96 miles ... south of Masset, British Columbia. It was felt across a wide area in British Columbia, both on its Pacific islands and on the mainland." ...

... Reuters: "A tsunami warning [triggered by the Canadian earthquake] for Hawaii has been downgraded to an advisory on Sunday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said."

AP: "Syrian troops shelled rebellious suburbs of Damascus and clashed with rebel fighters in several other areas of the country Sunday, the third day of what was meant to be a four-day holiday truce...."

AP: "Lawyers have denied a report that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's family has amassed $2.7 billion in "hidden riches," a Hong Kong newspaper said Sunday. The New York Times said in a lengthy article Friday that most of the alleged wealth was accumulated by Wen's relatives after he rose to high office in 2002."


The Commentariat -- Oct. 27, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

The transcript is here.

Presidential Race

Susan Saulny of the New York Times: "Many of the black voters who gathered [in front of the main polling site in Duval County (Jacksonville)] Saturday morning, the first day of early voting in Florida, had spent the night sleeping in tents and recreational vehicles near the elections office. Their plan was to 'Occupy the Polls' in an effort to raise awareness about changes to early voting this year that shorten the number of days for casting ballots."

Nate Silver: "Thursday was a busy day for the polls, with some bright spots for each candidate. But it made clear that Barack Obama maintains a narrow lead in the polling averages in states that would get him to 270 electoral votes. Mr. Obama also remains roughly tied in the polls in two other states, Colorado and Virginia, that could serve as second lines of defense for him if he were to lose a state like Ohio."

Another October Surprise. Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "The White House is weighing the idea of a tax cut that it believes would lift Americans' take-home pay and boost a still-struggling economy, according to people familiar with the administration's thinking, as the presidential candidates continue battling over whose tax policies would do more for the country."

Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has told President Obama that she will stay in office until her successor is confirmed, but said in an interview that 'this is not an open-ended kind of time frame.'"

Kyle Clark of KUSA Denver interviews President Obama. He answers questions about Libya & that bullshitter guy:

Will Oremus of Slate: "Jim Lehrer didn't do it. Martha Raddatz didn't do it. Candy Crowley 'almost' did it. Bob Schieffer wishes he had been able to do it. Sway Calloway, a DJ and media personality known for giving rappers Eminem and Notorious B.I.G. their first radio airplay, finally did it. In an interview with President Obama that aired on MTV on Friday evening, Sway asked a question about climate change." Includes transcript of Obama's full response. Video segments of the full interview are here.

This One's for Kate. Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: The number one thing at stake in this election is the Supreme Court. Bernstein is a genuine, certified political scientist.

David Remnick & Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker discuss the presidential candidates with Dorothy Wickenden:

Steve Benen chronicles -- and refutes -- 36 lies in this week's edition of "Mitt's Mendacity." Benen begins with this (I've altered it slightly for brevity's sake):

St. Peter stands at the Pearly Gates, a huge wall of clocks behind him. A new arrival asks what the clocks are for. St. Peter says, "These are lie clocks. Every time a person lies, the clock hands move." St. Peter points out Mother Teresa's clock. The hands have never moved. Then he points to Honest Abe Lincoln's clock. The minutes hand had ticked twoice. "Where is Mitt Romney's clock?" the new arrival asks. "Romney's clock is in Jesus' office," St. Peter says. "He's using it as a ceiling fan."

"Memo from the Boss." Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times on employers urging their employees to vote for Mitt Romney, legalized by our favorite Supreme Court decision, Citizens United. "In these letters [to employees], the executives complain about the costs of overregulation, the health care overhaul and possible tax increases. Some letters warn that if President Obama is re-elected, the company could be harmed, potentially jeopardizing jobs.... Larry Gold, associate general counsel of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said some of the recent employer letters, by hinting at the possible loss of employees' jobs, appeared to cross the line into improper coercion. Federal law and the laws of several states bar anyone from coercing or intimidating voters into voting a certain way." ...

... Wendy Gittleson of Addicting Information: Bishop David L. Ricken of the Green Bay, Wisconsin, Roman Catholic Diocese "warned his parishioners that their souls might be in danger if they vote for Obama.... Not only is the Bishop threatening his congregation's souls, he's threatening the community, by saying that the Church will withhold healthcare services." Includes copy of the bishop's full letter. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Strange But True. Lee Ferran of ABC News: Romney bundler & billionaire Paul Singer holds Argentine naval ship, economy hostage.

Not surprisingly, in the last few weeks of the campaign Romney & Congressman Creepy have been drawing bigger crowds. But apparently not big enough! So they just photoshopped a buncha people into a "panoramic shot" of a campaign event for use in an official Instagram.

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: Indiana's Richard "Mourdock is the only Senate candidate for whom Romney has appeared in a TV ad, although there are lots of beleaguered Republicans who could use his help: the guy in Montana who had a fire on his property and then sued the local fire department that worked to put it out; the guy in Florida who used to do promotional work for 'Hooters'; the woman who's running against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in New York. She's against abortion even in cases of rape and incest, but, so far, very few New Yorkers know it because they have yet to learn more basic information, such as her name." ...

... Mark Leibovich of the New York Times profiles the Hooters guy, my own Congressman, Connie Mack IV a/k/a CoMa. If you'd like to know what species of lowlife the average GOP Congressman is, look no further than CoMa.

Ed Kilgore: "... the biggest defeat the Right has already suffered (other than the failure to recruit and/or unite behind a presidential candidate less weaselly than Romney) was to take a Senate victory for granted. They've got no one but themselves to blame for that mistake."

Right Wing World ...

... Is apoplectic to find that "we live in a fallen world destined for hell fire..., [where] people ... have no problem with the President of the United States, via a campaign ad, ridiculing virgins and comparing sex to voting." See yesterday's Commentariat for the "offending" video by Lena Dunham.

Other Stuff

Sabrina Tavernise & Andrew Pollack of the New York Times: "An FDA inspection of the New England Compounding Center, "whose tainted pain medicine has caused one of the worst public health drug disasters since the 1930s, found greenish-yellow residue on sterilization equipment, surfaces coated with levels of mold and bacteria that exceeded the company's own environmental limits, and an air-conditioner that was shut off nightly despite the importance of controlling temperature and humidity.... Instead of producing tailor-made drugs for individual patients, as the law allowed, the company turned into a major drug maker that supplied some of the most prestigious hospitals in the country, including ones affiliated with Harvard, Yale and the Mayo Clinic, all with minimal oversight from federal regulators."

John Cushman of the New York Times: "The United States is facing a year or more without crucial satellites that provide invaluable data for predicting storm tracks, a result of years of mismanagement, lack of financing and delays in launching replacements.... The project is run by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, and NASA. The outside review team ... called the management of the program 'dysfunctional.'"

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The two big weather models that track storms came to a consensus Friday that the storm [Sandy] would turn inland somewhere to the east of the Chesapeake Bay and drench at least eight states as it drives across the Great Lakes into Canada. It is expected to turn into a blizzard before it gets there, dropping up to a foot of snow. Although Sandy's top winds diminished Friday and the National Weather Service downgraded it to tropical storm status at 5 a.m. Saturday, that loss of power was seen as temporary." The Weather Channel story is here.

Reuters: "Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri has called on Muslims to kidnap Westerners, join Syria's rebellion and to ensure Egypt implements sharia, SITE Monitoring reported on Saturday, citing a two-part film posted on Islamist websites. The Egypt-born cleric, who became al Qaeda leader last year after the death of Osama bin Laden, spoke in a message that lasted more than two hours."

ABC News: Frank Tanabe, "a World War II veteran whose effort to vote from his deathbed inspired thousands, has died a week after casting his final ballot.... Honolulu elections officials say Frank Tanabe's vote will be counted unless they receive his death certificate before the Nov. 6 election and they're able to find his ballot from among the tens of thousands of ballots mailed in." (CW: sorry, late with this story.)


The Commentariat -- Oct. 26, 2012

Rerun from Yesterday Afternoon's Commentariat: 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.

Presidential Race

Nate Silver: "Mitt Romney clearly gained ground in the polls in the week or two after the Denver debate. However, the FiveThirtyEight forecast finds a slightly favorable trend for President Obama over the past 10 days."

We're Not Racists, But We're Voting for the White Guy. Jon Cohen & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago. At this stage in 2008, Obama trailed Republican John McCain by seven percentage points among white voters. Even in victory, Obama ended up losing white voters by 12 percentage points.... But now, Obama has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney 60 percent to 37 percent among whites, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll." ...

... Frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.... I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being President of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him. -- John Sununu, Romney surrogate campaign chair

Yes, because "when you take a look at Colin Powell," the former Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs & a fellow Republican, all you can see is a black man. -- Constant Weader

Four years ago, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh led the charge, accusing Powell of only supporting the Democrat because of race. In 2012, the same argument is being pushed by the national chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. -- Steve Benen

Washington Post Editors endorse President Obama for re-election:

... there is no way to know what Mr. Romney really believes. His unguarded expression of contempt for 47 percent of the population seems as sincere as anything else we've heard.... At times he has advocated a muscular, John McCain-style foreign policy, but in the final presidential debate he positioned himself as a dove. Before he passionately supported a fetus's right to life, he supported a woman's right to abortion. His swings have been dramatic on gay rights, gun rights, health care, climate change and immigration. His ugly embrace of 'self-deportation' during the Republican primary campaign, and his demolition of a primary opponent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for having left open a door of opportunity for illegal-immigrant children, bespeaks a willingness to say just about anything to win.... Rarely has a politician gotten so far with only one evident immutable belief: his conviction in his own fitness for higher office.

So voters are left with the centerpiece of Mr. Romney's campaign: promised tax cuts that would blow a much bigger hole in the federal budget while worsening economic inequality. His claims that he could avoid those negative effects, which defy math and which he refuses to back up with actual proposals, are more insulting than reassuring.

By contrast, the president understands the urgency of the problems as well as anyone in the country and is committed to solving them in a balanced way. In a second term, working with an opposition that we hope would be chastened by the failure of its scorched-earth campaign against him, he is far more likely than his opponent to succeed. That makes Mr. Obama by far the superior choice.

Douglas Brinkley interviews President Obama for Rolling Stone. ...

... Brinkley recounts a conversation between Rolling Stone editor Eric Bates & President Obama that took place after the interview wrapped up. In part, it went like this: "'Thought about lowering the voting age?' Bates joked. 'You know, kids have good instincts,' Obama offered. 'They look at the other guy and say, "Well, that's a bullshitter, I can tell."'" The Bullshitter Romney campaign is totally pissed. ...

... BTW, according to Paul Krugman, Romney is promising us a pony. I guess Obama misrepresented the source of the shit. Here's what else Krugman says: "... a slow job is better than a snow job. Mr. Obama may not be as bold as we'd like, but he isn't actively misleading voters the way Mr. Romney is. Furthermore, if we ask what Mr. Romney would probably do in practice, including sharp cuts in programs that aid the less well-off and the imposition of hard-money orthodoxy on the Federal Reserve, it looks like a program that might well derail the recovery and send us back into recession."

Horror Story. Tim Egan foretells how a Romney presidency would go.

"Winners & Losers." Would Mitt Romney really make better choices than President Obama has? --

... Oh, There's This. Callum Borchers of the Boston Globe: "Mitt Romney testified under oath in 1991 that the ex-wife of Staples founder Tom Stemberg got a fair deal in the couple's 1988 divorce, even though the company shares Maureen Sullivan Stemberg received were valued at a tenth of Staples' stock price on the day of its initial public offering only a year later.... 'In my opinion, [$2.25 was] a good price to sell the securities at,' Romney ... testified in June 1991. But on April 28, 1989, barely a year after Sullivan Stemberg sold more than half of her shares on the premise that they were worth less than $2.50 apiece, the company made its initial public offering at $19 per share and ended its first day at $22.50." ...

... Elizabeth Amon of Bloomberg News: "... Mitt Romney, as a board member of Staples Inc., voted to set a low price on the stock and create a new class of shares as a 'favor' to its co-founder who was involved in a divorce. Romney, in testimony in 1991 in the divorce case of Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg, said the special class of Staple shares was created because Stemberg 'needed a settlement with his wife.'" ...

... Julie Pace & Steve Peoples of the AP: "... Mitt Romney is ... facing continued pressure to break his silence on a GOP Senate candidate's statement that any pregnancy resulting from rape is 'something God intended.' ... [Romney] is also trying to move past new questions about his role in a key supporter's divorce. Court documents released Thursday reveal that Romney created a special class of company stock for Staples founder Tom Stemberg's then-wife as a 'favor.'"

New York Times Editors: during the final two weeks of the campaign, "Mr. Romney is providing nostrums instead of policies.... By comparison, Mr. Obama, though he waited too long to begin providing specifics on his second-term agenda, has decided to spend the last two weeks describing them."

Nicholas Confessore & Derek Willis of the New York Times: "President Obama and Mitt Romney are both on pace to raise more than $1 billion with their parties by Election Day, according to figures released by the campaigns on Thursday."

Karl Rove, Social Welfare Missionary. S. V. Date of NPR: "Karl Rove's tax-exempt Crossroads GPS group just months ago said it was only interested in advancing issues, not engaging in electoral politics. This week, it began running a minute-long ad telling viewers to vote for Republican Mitt Romney -- and it doesn't mention at all those very issues it had been saying were central to its mission." CW: Read the whole post; sounds like the IRS may have some bad news for Brother Karl and his secret mega-donors. Thanks to contributor Diane for the link. ...

... BUT none of his lyin' ads is as terrific as this one. Thanks to contributor Lisa for the link:

... AND The End of Virginity. Filmmaker/actor Lena Dunham tells about her "first time":

Greg Sargent has a useful piece on early voting & why the Obama campaign is urging its supporters to vote early. Early voting starts in Florida Saturday, & we just got our sample ballots Thursday. My husband & I will be voting during the next week. Especially if you live in a Voter Suppression state (like mine), I think it's a good idea to try to vote early in case you encounter an impediment & need time to clear it up. ...

... President Obama voted Thursday in Chicago:

** Writing in the New York Times, Joe Stiglitz, Dean of the Dismal Science, gives depressing a lecture on income inequality in the U.S. & why Mitt Romney will make it even worse. CW: most Reality Chex readers already know all this, but it's helpful to see the story summed up in one piece.

About Those Battleships. David Axe of Wired: "A bigger maritime force has the possibility of personally enriching one of [Mitt Romney]'s top advisers. In fact, it already has.... For one of Romney's most important advisers on Navy issues, a man who oversaw a massive naval expansion for Pres. Ronald Reagan, there's more at stake than U.S. national security. John Lehman, an investment banker and former secretary of the Navy, has strong and complex personal financial ties to the naval shipbuilding industry. He has profited hugely from the Navy's slow growth in recent years -- raising the prospect that he could make even more if Romney takes his advice on expanding the fleet." Thanks to reader Kay S. for the link.

Michelle Obama appeared on Jimmy Kimmel's show last night. You can watch her appearance, divvied into 93 segments, here.

Congressional Races

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The Indiana Senate candidate Richard E. Mourdock's reintroduction of rape and abortion into the political dialogue this week is the latest in a series of political missteps that have made the Republican quest to seize control of the Senate a steeper climb. Once viewed as likely to win the Senate, Republicans are now in jeopardy of losing seats in Massachusetts and Maine." CW: yes, indeedy, it's just a "misstep" to accidentally reveal you're a misogynist loon. ...

... CW: Sorry to O.D. on Stewart today, but this is why satire & "fake news" is more informative than the New York Times (and of course Joe Scarborough):

Other Stuff

Mark Clayton of the Christian Science Monitor: "In four key battleground states -- Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado -- glitches in e-voting machines could produce incorrect or incomplete tallies that would be difficult to detect and all but impossible to correct because the machines have no paper record for officials to go back and check." CW: I suppose Chuck Todd thinks the Christian Science Monitor is spreading crazy conspiracy theories.

File This Under "Things You Don't Expect to Find on the Front Page of the New York Times." Joseph Goldstein: "In one of the most disturbing and unusual arrests involving a police officer, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents took Officer ... Gilberto Valle, a six-year veteran of the New York Police Department..., into custody on Wednesday, after they uncovered several of his plots to kidnap, rape, cook and eat women. 'I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus,' he wrote to a co-conspirator in one electronic communication intercepted by law enforcement authorities. 'Cook her over a low heat, keep her alive as long as possible.'"

How to Fire a CEO. Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: "Vikram Pandit's last day at Citigroup swung from celebratory to devastating in a matter of minutes. Having fielded congratulatory e-mails about the earnings report in the morning that suggested the bank was finally on more solid ground, Mr. Pandit strode into the office of the chairman [of the board] at day's end on Oct. 15 for what he considered just another of their frequent meetings.... Instead, Mr. Pandit ... was told three news releases were ready. One stated that Mr. Pandit had resigned, effective immediately. Another that he would resign, effective at the end of the year. The third release stated Mr. Pandit had been fired without cause. The choice was his."

Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "The Chinese government swiftly blocked access early Friday morning to the Chinese-language Web site of The New York Times from computers in mainland China and intermittently halted most access to the English-language site as well after the news organization posted an article in both languages describing wealth accumulated by the family of the country's prime minister."

News Ledes

AP: "Just two days after announcing he won't run in spring elections, former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in prison Friday in a verdict that could see him barred from public office for five years.... The court, which began hearing the case in 2006, also said Berlusconi could not hold public office for five years or manage any company for three years.... In a statement, Berlusconi's lawyers ... said they would appeal."

AP: "'Frankenstorm' is looking more ominous by the hour for the East Coast, and utilities and local governments are getting ready. Meteorologists expect a natural horror show of high wind, heavy rain, extreme tides and maybe snow to the west beginning early Sunday, peaking with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday and lingering past Halloween on Wednesday."

AP: "The U.S. economy grew at a slightly faster 2 percent annual rate from July through September, buoyed by more spending by consumers and the federal government."

Washington Post: "The 'fiscal cliff' is still two months off, but ... is already reverberating through the U.S. economy, hampering growth and, according to a new study, wiping out nearly 1 million jobs this year alone. The report, scheduled for release Friday by the National Association of Manufacturers, predicts that the economic damage would deepen considerably if Congress fails to avert the cliff, destroying nearly 6 million jobs through 2014 and sending the unemployment rate soaring to near 12 percent." CW: so if the government is superfluous to the vaunted market economy, why do manufacturers claim the so-called fiscal cliff would wreak havoc?

AP: "In a stirring tribute Thursday to former Sen. George McGovern, Vice President Joe Biden hailed the onetime presidential nominee as the 'father of the modern Democratic Party' for his forceful stand against the Vietnam War and for helping open the party to more women, young people and minorities."

Reuters: Fighting in Syria killed several people on Friday as a ceasefire brokered by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to mark a holy Muslim day frayed almost before it had begun."

Reuters: "A suicide bomber killed at least 40 people in a mosque in Afghanistan's relatively peaceful north on Friday as worshippers gathered for prayers marking the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.... The attack in Maimana, capital of Faryab province, also wounded 40...."

Reuters: "President Vladimir Putin flatly rejected on Thursday Western criticism of the imprisonment of the Pussy Riot punk protest band, saying its three female members deserved their fate because they threatened the moral foundations of Russia."


The Commentariat -- Oct. 25, 2012

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."

Presidential Race

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."

Congressional Races

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.

Other Stuff

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.'"

News Ledes

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."