** Jim Fallows of The Atlantic on Barack Obama & John Roberts, ca. 2005, each predicting what kind of chief justice Roberts would be: "We have two men who now sit atop two of the three branches of the government. They both laid down markers seven years ago on how one of those men was likely to perform once in office. One of the predictions seems a lot more prescient than the other."
New York Times Editors: "The Obama administration has added to its string of victories in a tawdry pursuit -- making overly expansive claims of secrecy and executive power to deny full disclosure of torture and other abuses of prisoners committed during the George W. Bush administration. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York has upheld the administration's claim that cables describing the Central Intelligence Agency's use of waterboarding and a photograph of a 'high value' detainee, Abu Zubaydah, taken during the time he was subjected to repeated waterboarding, are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.... The judges should have given the government's overwrought claims of national security and secrecy special scrutiny, not extreme deference."
Our Educational Racket. Floyd Norris of the New York Times: "The volume of federally guaranteed student loans to students at so-called proprietary colleges — the ones that intend to operate at a profit and get nearly all their revenue from the government -- continues to grow. At the same time, state and local governments across the country are slashing spending on higher education, and community colleges -- the ones most likely to offer alternatives to the students recruited by the far more expensive proprietary schools -- are suffering some of the largest reductions."
Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "Though the Chinese economy continues to expand, construction workers are losing jobs in droves and retail sales grew last month at the slowest pace in more than three years. Investments in fixed assets have increased more slowly this year than in any year since 2001."
** Paul Krugman: "In the wake of a devastating financial crisis, President Obama has enacted some modest and obviously needed regulation; he has proposed closing a few outrageous tax loopholes; and he has suggested that Mitt Romney's history of buying and selling companies, often firing workers and gutting their pensions along the way, doesn't make him the right man to run America's economy. Wall Street has responded -- predictably, I suppose -- by whining and throwing temper tantrums." Krugman then takes a delightful detour to whack David Brooks' phony paean to vulture capitalists (published Tuesday)! He hits Cory Booker, too. ...
... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "The Facebook affair provides one more bit of confirmation -- not that any should be needed -- that our economic system, when left to its own devices and when regulated by rules that powerful interests have shaped, tilts grotesquely toward the rich and their institutions.... The dysfunction of American capitalism has become the backdrop before which this year's elections are playing out." Read the whole column. ...
... Gene Robinson: "Suppose a company is failing and appears beyond rescue. Suppose a private-equity firm buys the company with borrowed money, burdens it with more debt, and then spends the next few years firing workers, selling assets, eliminating pension plans — all while collecting handsome 'management fees.' Then the company fails anyway, as it was fated to do. What higher economic purpose has been served? Why is this not what [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry memorably called 'vulture capitalism'?
I heard Governor Romney here called me an economic lightweight because I wasn't a Wall Street financier like he was. Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as the president of the United States? Do you think that's the kind of experience we need? Someone who';s going to take and look after, as he did, his friends on Wall Street and bail them out at the expense of Main Street America? -- Rick Santorum, March 2012
Peter Baker of the New York Times: In Iowa yesterday, "the president attacked Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat whose prescriptions for the economy would reverse the fragile gains of the last couple of years. 'There may be value in that kind of experience, but it's not in the White House,' Mr. Obama told supporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Thursday night. He used the setting to needle Mr. Romney about a controversial comment he made here during the primaries. 'The world view that Governor Romney gained' in private finance, he said, 'explains why the last time he visited these very same fairgrounds he famously declared that corporations are people.' Encouraged by the partisan audience, Mr. Obama then mimicked Mr. Romney. '"Human beings, my friend" -- that's what he called them.' Then, he called Mr. Romney's speech here last week warning of a 'prairie fire of debt' more like 'a cow pie of distortion.' He added, 'I don't know whose record he twisted the most, mine or his.'" ABC News story by Devin Dwyer here. Des Moines Register story by Jennifer Jacobs here.
Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "When Mitt Romney came to an inner-city charter school [in West Philadelphia, Penn.,] Thursday to promote his new education agenda, he received something of a history lecture about the persecution of blacks in America and the struggles of African American children to meet the academic achievements of their white counterparts.... Romney was venturing for his first time in this campaign into an impoverished black neighborhood to hear the concerns of local educators and community leaders. But here in the streets of West Philadelphia, the emotion surrounding his contest with the nation's first black president was raw, as dozens of neighborhood residents shouted, 'Get out, Romney, get out!'"
The Haunting of Williard Romney. Emily Friedman of ABC News: "It's not just the media that won't forget Mitt Romney saying in New Hampshire earlier this year that he likes 'being able to fire people.' The candidate revealed in a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan that the remark ... is one that has stuck with him -- and haunted him -- ever since. CW: The Noonan opinion piece, which -- in my never-ending search for the truth I have declined to read -- is here.
Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo! News: "Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker ... has been under fire since a Sunday appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" during which he said Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital were 'nauseating,' Having endured days of excoriating criticism, and having tried to explain his comments on multiple talk shows and via a self-produced web video, Booker took to [Twitter].... Booker lashed out at his critics Thursday night: 'Sorry I make u sick. And sorry I made a mistake. I'm sorry that 15 seconds on MTP erodes my 20 yrs of work in inner cities around our nation.' That was almost immediately followed up by another tweet to his more than 1,150,000 followers, reading, in part: 'In the end we are all imperfect. Best we can do is learn from our mistakes, not let them stop u but make u stronger.'" The New York Times' David Brooks criticized Booker for "collapsing under a bit of pressure."
Eric Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota: Forget the Wisconsin recall; "looking at the state's 2012 U.S. Senate race to replace the retiring Herb Kohl may just give an indication of where the presidential race will ultimately end up in Wisconsin."
Dan Kaufman, writing in the New York Times Magazine, on the political divisiveness in Wisconsin.
Tim Egan: "There’s no mystery what a nation run by the Tea Party and talk-radio zealots who’ve taken over the G.O.P. would look like. It would be Arizona."
Political Hack. Tim Mak of Politico: "A New Jersey mayor and his son were arrested Thursday by the FBI for allegedly hacking into an email account and website tied to a recall effort -- and then intimidating those associated with the site. Felix Roque, 55, the Democratic mayor of West New York, N.J., and his son Joseph, 22, allegedly accessed and cancelled the domain registration for Recallroque.com, a website that was critical of the mayor and associated with a movement to recall him in early February."
Denise Lavoie of the AP: "Harvard University alumni attending their 50th class reunion this week are getting updates on classmates -- including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski graduated in 1962 and is locked up in the federal Supermax prison in Colorado for killing three people and injuring 23 during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995. In an alumni directory, he lists his occupation as 'prisoner' and says his awards are 'Eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998.' Harvard's alumni association said ... it regrets including his references to his convictions."
New York Times: "The Senate Ethics Committee has smacked the hand of Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, for his minor role in the sordid scandal that ended the career of John Ensign, the former Republican senator from Nevada. The committee on Friday issued a public letter of qualified admonition that mildly rebuked Mr. Coburn for arranging a meeting about potential lobbying work for a former aide to Mr. Ensign -- Doug Hampton, the husband of Mr. Ensign’s paramour. Mr. Hampton was precluded from lobbying at that time under federal law."
AP: "The private company SpaceX made history Friday with the docking of its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, the most impressive feat yet in turning routine spaceflight over to the commercial sector. It marked the first time a business enterprise delivered a supply ship to the space station."
New York Times: "Spain's banking crisis worsened Friday as the board of Bankia, the country's biggest mortgage lender, warned that it would need an additional 19 billion euros ($23.88 billion), far beyond what the government estimated when it seized the bank and its portfolio of delinquent real estate loans earlier this month."
The Butler Did It. New York Times: "An on-again-off-again scandal that the Italian press has called VatiLeaks burst into the open on Friday with the arrest by Vatican gendarmes of a man, identified in news reports as Paolo Gabriele, the pope's butler, who the Vatican said was in possession of confidential documents and was suspected of leaking private letters, some of which were addressed to Pope Benedict XVI."
New York Times: 'International atomic inspectors in Iran have detected traces of uranium enriched to levels of purity higher than the Iranians have previously disclosed, according to a new report on Tehran’s nuclear program made public on Friday."
Washington Post: "Vice President Biden, speaking Friday to families and friends of military personnel killed in action, gave a powerful retelling of the death of his wife and daughter 40 years ago -- saying he'd realized then how grief might push a person to suicide."
Reuters: "Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill aimed at keeping state courts and agencies from using Islamic or other non-U.S. laws when making decisions, his office said on Friday, drawing criticism from a national Muslim group."
Washington Post: "The controversial auction of a vial that contained President Ronald Reagan's blood has been halted, and the valuable glass tube is being donated to the former president's foundation."
Yahoo! News: "A new Amnesty International report paints a gruesome picture of summary executions, torture and ill-treatment in North Korea as Kim Jong Un succeeded his late father, Kim Jong Il, as the country's ruler last December. The country used firing squads or staged traffic accidents to execute 30 officials involved in talks to unite North and South Korea, according to the 2012 Amnesty International report released Thursday."
Ah, Democracy! New York Times: "The Islamist candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood will face former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister in a runoff to become Egypt's first freely elected president, several independent vote counts concluded Friday morning. Out of a broad field of more than a dozen candidates, the runoff will pit the two most polarizing figures against each other in a reversion to the decades-old power struggle between Egypt's secular-minded military elite and its longstanding Islamist opposition." Al Jazeera's liveblog is here.
Washington Post: "President Obama on Thursday nominated Allison M. Macfarlane, a professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University, to be the next chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Macfarlane, a geologist by training, served as a member of the White House Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, which examined nuclear waste disposal."
Al Jazeera: "US senators outraged by Pakistan's jailing of a doctor for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden have voted to cut aid to Islamabad by $33mn -- one million for each year in the doctor's sentence. 'It's arbitrary, but the hope is that Pakistan will realise we are serious,' said Senator Richard Durbin after the unanimous 30-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday."
New York Times: "French President François Hollande made a surprise visit to French troops in Kapisa Province, [Afghanistan,] on Friday, assuring them that their mission in Afghanistan would be over this year."
New York Times: "The investigations editor [of the Albany, New York, Times Union], J. Robert Port, said he believed that the city's mayor and local law enforcement agencies targeted his wife's business in retaliation for critical coverage in his newspaper, including a series of articles questioning the practices of an undercover unit of the sheriff's office that investigated drug cases, prostitution and gambling.