Saturday Reads: Obama’s “Grand Bargain” Rears Its Ugly Head Again, and Other News

coffins

Good Morning!!

Just in time for Halloween, Obama’s nightmare “Grand Bargain” once again rears its ugly head. Yesterday morning Bloomberg’s Joshua Green followed a hunch and attended a briefing by the President’s top economic adviser (who is not an economist). According to Green, Sperling told Democrats “they’ll have to swallow entitlement cuts.”

In his usual elliptical and prolix way, Sperling seemed to be laying out the contours of a bargain with Republicans that’s quite a bit different that what most Democrats seem prepared to accept. What stood out to me was how he kept winding back around to the importance of entitlement cuts as part of a deal, as if he were laying the groundwork to blunt liberal anger. Right now, the official Democratic position is that they’ll accept entitlement cuts only in exchange for new revenue—something most Republicans reject. If Sperling mentioned revenue at all, I missed it.

But he dwelt at length—and with some passion—on the need for more stimulus, though he avoided using that dreaded word. He seemed to hint at a budget deal that would trade near-term “investment” (the preferred euphemism for “stimulus’) for long-term entitlement reform. That would be an important shift and one that would certainly upset many Democrats.

Here’s some of what Sperling had to say. He led off with the importance of entitlement cuts. (All emphasis is mine):

“Sometimes here [in Washington] we start to think that the end goal of our public policy is to hit a particular budget or spending or revenue metric—as if those are the goals in and of itself. But it’s important to remember that each of these metrics … are means to larger goals. … Right now, I think there is among a lot of people a consensus as to what the ingredients of a pro-growth fiscal policy are. It would be a fiscal policy that—yes—did give more confidence in the long run that we have a path on entitlement spending and revenues that gives confidence in our long-term fiscal position and that we’re not pushing off unbearable burdens to the next generation. That is very important.”

After Green’s article was posted, White House spokesperson Amy Brundage tried to minimize the talk of cuts in the safety net in the following e-mail:

“Gene was reiterating what our position has been all along: that any big budget deal is going to have to include significant revenues if Republicans insist on entitlement reforms. And any budget deal needs to have first and foremost the goal of creating good jobs for middle class families and growing the economy—that’s our north star in any budget deal, big or small.”

Uh huh. They know Americans are paying attention to the constant threat of cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We need to stay vigilant and keep pushing back hard.

At Daily Kos, Joan McCarter responded: No, White House advisor Gene Sperling, entitlement cuts are not necessary.

You know what would be a really, really crappy idea? Making cuts to programs that are keeping millions from poverty in order to make a bad economy marginally better. But that’s what President Obama’s top economic advisor—Gene Sperling, director of the White House’s National Economic Council—is telling Democrats they’ll have to swallow….

Yeah, that would upset many Democrats. It would upset a helluva lot of voters, too. Millions and millions of them who have every reason right now to vote against Republicans. It would probably also not go over too well with the next generation who’s going to be far less impacted by the national debt than by having no hope of a secure retirement because a handful of austerity fetishists sold them up the river when they were young.

Sperling is saying that this will have to be done because “we still need to give this recovery more momentum.” Because of course the answer to the recovery is sacrificing some old people. By all means, get their skin in the game. They maybe have an inch or two of skin to spare.

Sign the petition from Senator Bernie Sanders, Daily Kos and an enormous coalition of progressives demanding that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Here’s an article at The Atlantic that Obama and Sperling should read: Raising the Medicare Age: A Popular Idea With Shockingly Few Benefits

Increasing the Medicare age would barely save the government any money, while increasing healthcare spending overall by keeping seniors in less-efficient private insurance (if they even have it). Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the policy is fine.

It may seem obvious that raising the Medicare age should save money. After all, the projected rise of the long-term debt is mostly about the projected rise of federal health-care spending. If we raise the Medicare age, Washington can wait longer to pay for seniors’ health care, which means they’ll pay less, overall.

Any time there’s any chance for any kind of budget bargain, “grand” or otherwise, the discussion inside the Beltway inevitably turns to hiking the Medicare age. (Call it Peterson’s Law: As a fiscal debate grows longer, the probability of a CEO proposing a higher Social Security and Medicare age approaches one). Right on cue, this got trial-ballooned during the debt ceiling talks in 2011, and then again during the fiscal cliff talks in 2012. Professional deficit hawks think of raising the Medicare age as a sign of seriousness. It’s not so much about the money it saves as the message it supposedly sends markets: that the debt will be fixed.

Except it’s all a pack of lies. Read all about it at the link.

It’s been a year since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and caused so much havoc that it was “the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.” In July 2013, it came out that four charities had been holding back millions in donations that were collected specifically for Sandy relief. Now NY is forcing them to cough up some of the money. From the NY Daily News:

Four charities that had been under fire for sitting on millions of dollars of Hurricane Sandy relief funds have agreed to pony up $10 million to aid victims of the storm.

The charities — including the American Red Cross and a fund created by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees — reached an agreement with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The deal came after revelations in July that 40% of the $575 million in Sandy aid collected by 90 charities had been disbursed within six months of the storm.

“We have been dogged about making sure that when they raise money and tell the world they are going to spend it on Sandy recovery, they in fact spend it on Sandy recovery,” Schneiderman said during an appearance Thursday in hard-hit Long Beach, L.I.

Brees’ charity had seriously dropped the ball, having received a single $300,000 donation but only allocating $75,000 of it, officials said.

Under the agreement with Schneiderman, the Brees Dream Foundation agreed to disperse the remaining $225,000 by October 2014, the second anniversary of the storm.

In less serious news–it IS Saturday after all, Gawker has learned that Fox News’ Shepard Smith began carrying on an office romance with a young producer at Fox, Giovanni “Gio” Graziano. Apparently, the two have been seen together all over Manhattan.

Gawker has learned that Smith is dating a 26-year-old Penn State grad and Fox Business producer named Giovanni “Gio” Graziano. According to multiple sources with knowledge of their relationship, the couple met sometime after Graziano started working at Fox Report in October 2011 as a production assistant. He’s the man with whom Smith frequents Bathtub Gin.

“Yes, that’s Shepard’s boyfriend,” Katya Minskova, the Bathtub Gin waitress Smith berated in March, confirmed to Gawker when shown a photo of Graziano. Another source who had seen them together at the Chelsea speakeasy confirmed Graziano’s identity as well. Both sources say they saw Graziano and Smith together at the bar on multiple occasions, and that they appeared to be romantically involved.

While Smith and Graziano’s boss Roger Ailes, a notorious homophobe, was apparently kept in the dark about the relationship—“higher ups had no idea,” a source close to Graziano said—the pair doesn’t appear to have gone to great lengths to keep the workplace romance from their co-workers.

Shep Smith arranged for Graziano to be transferred to Fox Business a year ago, so the two wouldn’t be directly working together. Now it’s not clear if Graziano is even working at Fox anymore.

Graziano’s current status at Fox is unclear. His LinkedIn profile indicates that he is currently employed at Fox Business (after three years as a production assistant at Fox News, including one year at Smith’s show). But the source close to Graziano claimed that he abruptly left Fox in mid-July. Graziano “dropped off the planet, cut off all his friends, to be with Shep,” the source said. “His former work friends are clueless about his current whereabouts.”

Very interesting . . .

I noticed this story at The Atlantic a few days ago, and saved it for today. Go to the link to check out this GIF of most popular baby girl names from 1960 to the present, based on data compiled by the Social Security Administration. Rebecca Rosen writes:

My friend Judy used to always say that whenever she met another Judy, she knew exactly how old that Judy was—to the day.

Now that level of precision might be a bit of a stretch, but, as the above map wonderfully shows, there’s good reason for that line of thinking. The most popular baby girl names in the United States are flashes in the pan—each one appearing on the map briefly, before being swept out by an up-and-comer.

The map was built in Adobe Illustrator by Deadspin‘s Reuben Fischer-Baum using data from the Social Security Administration. “Color palette,” Fischer-Baum wrote to me over email, “has to be credited to Stephen Few, from his excellent data viz book Show Me The Numbers.” Earlier drafts gave each name a unique color, he says, but in the end “it was a lot cleaner and more interesting to limit the palette to just the most popular name for any given year, and put the rest in grayscale so you could see how the different ‘eras’ of top names progressed.”

Over at Jezebel, Fischer-Baum describes the picture that emerges:

Baby naming generally follows a consistent cycle: A name springs up in some region of the U.S.—”Ashley” in the South, “Emily” in the Northeast—sweeps over the country, and falls out of favor nearly as quickly. The big exception to these baby booms and busts is “Jennifer”, which absolutely dominates America for a decade-and-a-half. If you’re named Jennifer and you were born between 1970 and 1984, don’t worry! I’m sure you have a totally cool, unique middle name.

Finally, here’s a really scary story for you from Talk to Action: A Majority of Americans 18-29 Years Old Now Believe in Demon Possession, Shows Survey.

Are Americans becoming less religious? While church affiliation is probably declining, don’t expect the atheist revolution anytime soon:

Over one half (63 percent, to be exact) of young Americans 18-29 years old now believe in the notion that invisible, non-corporeal entities called “demons” can take partial or total control of human beings, revealed an October 2012Public Policy Polling survey that also showed this belief isn’t declining among the American population generally; it’s growing.

Please read the whole creepy article at the link. It will scare you silly!

Those are my recommended reads for today. Please let us know what stories you’re following today by posting the links in the comment thread.


Let’s Build a Special Hell on Earth for these Republican Officials errrr… Psychopaths

I read this link in the morning thread from BB and thought it was about the worst thing I had read for some time. It’s called 122212-republican_sealthe “Oklahoma Test” and it’s written by one of our blog favorites Charlie Pierce. It shows how absolutely vile some republican officials are these days.  Monsters.  Psychopaths.  A$$holes.  You choose the name. Today’s republicans are poster children for depravity.

Remember that Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is often cited as one of the Republicans with whom the president might be able to do business. He is a conservative, but not a crazy person, like his colleague, James Inhofe. He can be expected to listen respectfully to other points of view and to at least consider the virtues of the kind of compromises that take the Davids, Gregory and Gergen, to their respective happy places.

Then remember that, fundamentally, Tom Coburn is also a monster.

 “That’s always been his position [to offset disaster aid],” Coburn spokesman John Hart said. “He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort.”  

This is a guy who, one day after a devastating natural disaster killed his own constituents, said he will not vote to alleviate their suffering unless he can inflict some pain on someone somewhere else in the country. And his spokesman defends this as a matter of principle, and uses the worst act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States as a salutary example. (And the link demonstrates that Coburn’s aversion to tossing money down various ratholes is not universal.)  Does Senator Coburn really believe you can budget for the unthinkable? That tornadoes are zero-sum events? That you can horse-trade on human suffering as though it were a line-item on a transportation rider? I no longer am willing to try to understand how people like this think. They are monsters and they operate on their own monstrous imperatives.

I frequently find myself in disbelief at the depths of ignorance, selfishness, and utter disregard for human life and our country that makes up the minds of today’s Republicans.  That was Senator Coburn.  Now try the pretzeled psychosis that is the mental and moral state of Senator Jim Inhofe.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) said on Tuesday that federal aid to tornado-ravaged parts of his home state will be “totally different” than a Hurricane Sandy aid bill he voted against late last year.

Speaking on MSNBC, the lawmaker said that in the case of Hurricane Sandy, “everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place.” However, he said, “that won’t happen in Oklahoma.”

President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he has already signed a federal disaster declaration for parts of Oklahoma, where tornadoes have caused dozens of fatalities and flattened entire communities.

Inhofe said the Sandy Relief bill “was supposed to be in New Jersey,” but “they were getting things … in the Virgin Islands, fixing roads there, and putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C.” Both Inhofe and Coburn voted to slash aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, with Inhofe saying he considered the full proposed aid amount to be a “slush fund.”

While Northeastern states like New Jersey and New York suffered some of the worst damage from Hurricane Sandy, the storm affected 24 U.S. states in total during October of 2012. Sandy carved a destructive path from the Caribbean Sea to the Great Lakes, where it produced 25-foot waves in Lake Huron.

Hurricane Sandy is believed to have cost more than $50 billion, making it the second-costliest storm in U.S. history.

While it’s too early to estimate what the damage from the Oklahoma tornadoes might cost, in 1999 the state requested and received more than $67 million after a series of tornadoes.

I still live with the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.  I will never forget that money and help was doled out faster to Mississippi than Louisiana for pure political reasons.  They wanted to turn Louisiana red and bring down the governor a lot more than they wanted to help those of us that suffered from that huge horrible storm.  I felt the long shit-stained hand of Karl Rove in the treatment of our diaspora and especially of our middle class black population who voted solidly democrat and kept the state purple.

FEMA Director Michael Brown, who resigned over his handling of the response, later told a group of students that the White House only wanted to federalize the response in Louisiana, where the governor was a Democrat, and not in Republican-led Mississippi in order to embarrass Louisiana officials. Brown said the White House believed they had a chance to “rub [Kathleen Blanco’s] nose in it.”

Even my asshole Senator David Vitter came up with money for Sandy victims.  You can’t spend time in the wake of death and utter destruction and stay heartless.  Or can you?

For these two and many more of their ilk, it seems you can.

It seems that disasters in republican states are more deserving than disasters in democratic states.  It also seems that you can help your own by taking from the mouths of others.  Time and time again, we see the absolutely unhinged policies put forth by the Republican party.  We see them block the most reasonable national responses to national problems for unhinged, fanatical reasons usually based on myth, lies, and greed.   Of course we won’t leave Oklahoma in the dust and destruction.  But, it won’t be their elected officials that lend them real helping hands without taking from some of the rest of us.  C’mon Oklahoma … my birth state … how can you justify reelecting psychopaths like these?  How can you keep sending your country these monsters? Please, pen them up somewhere and build them a personal hell realm here on earth.


Oh yeah…Wednesday Morning Reads

currier-ives-summerGood Morning

Wow, I completely forgot it was my turn up at bat. This morning’s post will be mainly links that I have saved up over the last few days. Being sick does have its advantages, you get to bypass all the horrible news stories…and only read about them if you want to catch up. Let’s just say, I didn’t want to catch up and leave it at that.

So here we go…

Sandra Day O’Connor expresses regret about court’s role in 2000 election

No kidding? What do you think brought about this reflective change of feelings from the former Justice? I wonder if it was all that press Dubya got recently from the grand opening of his Presidential Library and Museum to Idiotic Decisions. Anyway, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune,  O’Connor had this to say about Bush v. Gore:

Looking back, O’Connor said, she isn’t sure the high court should have taken the case.

“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” O’Connor said during a talk with the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board on Friday. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’ “

The case, she said, “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less than perfect reputation.”

“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision,” she said. “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”

Ya don’t say? Too little, too late if you ask me.

Well, from one load of shit to another load of shit. However, this load of shit was dumped by a Sandy…not a Sandra. Hurricane Sandy dumped 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into East Coast waterways

Hurricane Sandy dumped about 11bn gallons of raw and untreated sewage into waterways from Washington DC to Connecticut, the science journalism group Climate Central said on Tuesday. That’s or enough human waste to cover New York’s Central Park in 41ft of sewage, or fill 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, scientists told a conference call with reporters.

Damn, that is a whole lotta crap.

Hmmm, speaking of which:  Rocky Musical Trailer | Geekosystem

…draw a Venn diagram between fans of Broadway musicals and fans of the Rocky franchise, I would just draw two circles that were very far away from each other. Sylvester Stallone and Stage Entertainment USA seem to disagree with my assessment, and they’re betting there’s enough of an overlap for their new musical Rocky to be a success. Whether you think a musical version of Rocky is a great idea or a terrible one, the new trailer for the production will probably confirm your opinion. There’s not enough in the video to really indicate whether this will be a good musical version of Rocky or a bad musical version of Rocky, but it sure shows that there’s a musical version of Rocky happening.

Uhhhh…..were you even able to get through that trailer? ( I couldn’t. ) It seems to me that this production of Rocky is what Bialystock and Bloom should have produced as a sure fire flop…instead of Springtime for Hitler.

Damn that is crap.

Alright, sorry there. That is awful. Looks like Gitmo is not the only place where America is practicing torture these days.

Did you see the campaign donor “mess” in Virgina?/snark.  I like the title of this Atlantic article, it is a take on a real damn good Helen Mirren movie: The Governor, His Wife, Their Cook, and the FBI – Philip Bump – The Atlantic Wire

The FBI is now investigating whether or not Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell violated any laws when he allowed a campaign donor to pay for catering at his daughter’s wedding. That is perhaps the least weird part of the story.

The crux of the issue is whether or not McDonnell violated the law by allowing Star Scientific, a company run by Jonnie Williams, to pick up the $15,000 food and floral tab for Cailin McDonnell’s wedding in 2011. The governor explains his failure to report the spending on his finance reports by insisting that the donation was a gift to his daughter. Under Virginia law, only gifts received by officeholders need to be reported. Earlier this month, the Washington Post walked through the evidence for and against that claim. The daughter paid for other parts of the wedding, for example, like the rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon. But McDonnell’s guidance is literally written all over the agreement between the caterer and the family, which the governor signed.

Read more about the twist and turns at the Atlantic link above or here at this Washington Post link: AP sources: FBI looks into relationship between Va. governor, campaign donor – The Washington Post

All these sordid stories lately, a sleaze-ball porn king backs a sleaze-ball former governor currently running for the US senate, innocent Elvis impersonators, and ricin laced dojos of mensa wannabe martial arts instructors.  Not to mention…My Son, the Terrorist.

Then you have Congress, or as Jon Stewart calls them:

“Do-Nothing F@#ktards who couldn’t solve a problem if it was eating them alive anus first.”

Video at the link!

Wow…that is something innit?

But there have been some extraordinary news items that you may have missed.

**Post updated @8:00am below!**

Sgt John Hartley Robertson, US army veteran, ‘found living in remote Vietnam village 44 years after being shot down and presumed dead’

Handout

A US army veteran has been found living in a remote Vietnam village 44 years since his plane was shot down and presumed dead, a new documentary suggests.

Unclaimed, a documentary by Canadian filmmaker Michael Jorgenson, claims that a frail, elderly man, found in a remote south Vietnam village unable to remember the English language, his date of birth or even the names of his wife and two children, may be Sgt John Hartley Robertson – a former Green Beret shot down in 1968.

Sgt Robertson was working on a special operation over the South East Asian country of Laos when his helicopter was shot down. Despite his body never being found, he was presumed dead for nearly half a century; his name etched on Vietnam memorials and army records listing him as “killed in action”.

Despite this, Sgt Robertson’s family believed it was possible he survived the crash and claimed to have documents proving he had been held in a Vietnamese prison for some time.

Read the rest of this story from the Independent at the link, you can see a trailer for the documentary here:

Can you imagine?

Well, I guess this story was too good to be true….from the Independent:

Revealed: Man claiming to be Vietnam veteran Sgt John Hartley Robertson who went missing and was presumed dead 44 years earlier is ‘exposed as a fraud’ – Americas – World – The Independent

It is claimed that the man tacked down and ‘identified’ for a new documentary is in fact a fraudster who the US
government performed DNA tests on 20 years ago and whose story had been fully
debunked

Had it been true, it would have been one of
the most gripping war stories of all time.

But sadly it looks as if the man found living in the Vietnam jungle, who a new documentary claims is ‘long dead’ US army veteran Sgt John Hartley Robertson, is likely to be a fraud.

Meanwhile, after some back and forth…Mariela Castro to get gay rights award in Philly

The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro will be allowed to travel to Philadelphia to accept an award for her gay rights advocacy, officials said Tuesday, reversing a previous decision to reject her visa request.

Mariela Castro will attend the Equality Forum’s annual conference on civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, according to Malcolm Lazin, the advocacy group’s executive director.

Lazin, who had blasted the State Department’s travel denial last week, said organizers are “delighted” at the change of heart.

“She is unquestionably the leader for progressive change for the LGBT community in Cuba,” Lazin said Tuesday. “Her accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable.”

[...]

Castro, a married mother of three, is the niece of retired Cuban strongman Fidel Castro. She is also the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, part of Cuba’s public health ministry, and is the country’s most prominent gay rights activist.

Castro has instituted awareness campaigns, trained police on relations with the LGBT community and lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions. She was elected as a deputy in Cuba’s parliament in February.

On Saturday in Philadelphia, she will speak about her experiences and receive an award from the Equality Forum.

I am glad she is able to come and get this award. It is an important step no matter what anyone says.

Now check this out, Groundbreaking Surgery for Girl Born Without Windpipe

Using plastic fibers and human cells, doctors have built and implanted a windpipe in a 2 ½-year-old girl — the youngest person ever to receive a bioengineered organ.

The surgery, which took place on April 9 here at Children’s Hospital of Illinois and will be formally announced Tuesday, is only the sixth of its kind and the first to be performed in the United States. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration under rules that allow experimental procedures when otherwise the patient has little hope of survival.

[...]

Hannah was born without a windpipe, or trachea — an extremely rare condition that is eventually fatal in 99 percent of cases — and had lived since birth in a newborn intensive care unit in a Korean hospital, breathing through a tube inserted in her mouth. Because of other developmental problems, she cannot eat normally and cannot speak.

[...]

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a specialist in the field of regenerative medicine who developed the windpipe and led the complex nine-hour operation, said the treatment of the Korean-Canadian toddler, Hannah Warren, made him realize that this approach to building organs may work best with children, by harnessing their natural ability to grow and heal.

Isn’t that wonderful?

I think it is good to end on that happy note, and let you all take it from there.

How are things going for y’all today?


Friday Reads: Sandy Aid, JFK, Real War on Women, and Fake War on Xmas

Good Morning!!

I hope everyone had a great day yesterday, regardless of how you spent your time.  My day was very quiet, because I had an upset stomach from some brussels sprouts I ate on Wednesday night.  My mom and I are going to have “thanksgiving” dinner at my sister’s place on Saturday, so we just hung out and relaxed.

It’s going to be a slow news day, obviously, but I’ll do my best to provide some interesting reading material.

The New York Times had a nice story about some help for Sandy victims that came from a surprising place–Rikers Island.

On the night that the storm roared into the city, Dora B. Schriro, the correction commissioner, slept on a couch in her office at the Rikers Island jail, bracing for flooding and reassuring inmates and employees that the island would weather the storm.

The next morning, the vast jailhouse complex was mostly unscathed, but Ms. Schriro was stunned by the devastation the storm had wrought elsewhere.

So she decided to put her jail, and those who call it home, to work. Inmates did 6,600 pounds of laundry for people in emergency shelters. The jail supplied generators and gas to fuel them to neighborhoods in the dark, and donated long underwear usually given to inmates. And officers with medical training provided emergency care to victims.

“There was a lot of loss,” said Ms. Schriro, who personally pitched in at food lines on the Rockaway Peninsula, in Queens. “It was our responsibility and opportunity to jump in and help.”

I was disappointed that the story doesn’t say anything about how the inmates felt about all this.

Jail officials did not make inmates available for interviews about the role they played in helping storm victims, but Ms. Schriro said, “I’m confident they knew what they were doing.”

I’m not sure what to think about that.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of yesterday’s holiday was the fact that it was also the 49th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Journalist and assassination researcher Jefferson Morley wrote a piece about it at Huffington Post: JFK at 49: What We Know For Sure. Morley reports on new developments in the JFK story since the article he wrote in 2010 called The Kennedy Assassination: 47 Years Later, What Do We Really Know?

One nondevelopment is that “cultural elites” continue to deny any possibility that the official story of JFK’s murder could be flawed, despite new evidence that has been revealed in recent years. Morley writes that there is no real evidence of a CIA conspiracy to assassinate JFK, there is a great deal of evidence of “CIA negligence.” From the HuffPo link:

The truth is this: Lee Harvey Oswald was well known to a handful of top CIA officials shortly before JFK was killed.

Read this internal CIA cable (not declassified until 1993) and you will see that that accused assassin’s biography–his travels, politics, intentions, and state of mind–were known to top CIA officials as of October 10, 1963 six weeks before JFK went to Dallas for a political trip….

In the fall of 1963, Oswald, a 23-year old ex-Marine traveled from New Orleans to Mexico City. When he contacted the Soviet embassy to apply for a visa to travel to Cuba, a CIA surveillance team picked up his telephone calls. A tape recording indicated Oswald had been referred to a consular officer suspected of being a KGB assassination specialist.

Winston Scott, the respected chief of the CIA station in Mexico City, was concerned. He sent a query to CIA headquarters, asking who is this guy Oswald?

Oswald had been on the agency’s radar since 1959 when he defected to Russia, and they had a “fat file” on him; nevertheless, the CIA told Scott that Oswald had “matured” and there was nothing to worry about.

This optimistic assessment was personally read and endorsed by no less than five senior CIA officers. They are identified by name on the last page of the cable. Their names–Roman, Tom Karamessines, Bill Hood, John Whitten (identified by his pseudonym “Scelso”), and Betty Egeter–were kept from the American public for thirty years. Why? Because all five reported to deputy director Richard Helms or to Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton in late 1963. Because of “national security.”

Read much more at the HuffPo link. Not too many American still remember November 22, 1963 clearly, and as Morley says that dark day in Dallas “seems to be fading in America’s collective consciousness.”

It’s looking like once the final tallies from the presidential election are complete, Mitt Romney will have won about 47 percent of the vote.

The legacy of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign will be marked with by the number 47. Not only the 47 percent of voters that he notoriously dismissed during a fundraising event, but also by the 47 percent of voters who chose to support him. Analysts predict that Romney will have won under 47.5 percent of the popular vote when the final tallies come in, compared to President Barack Obama’s 51 percent.

Romney characterized 47 percent of American voters as dependent on big government and therefore sympathetic to the Democratic platform. Instead, the election proved that the conservative Republican platform could not make a strong enough appeal to the demographics outside of its own traditional backing.

What could be more appropriate?

This one is for Dakinikat: Why Black Friday Is a Behavioral Economist’s Nightmare. At New York Magazine, Kevin Roose writes:

The big problem with Black Friday, from a behavioral economist’s perspective, is that every incentive a consumer could possibly have to participate — the promise of “doorbuster” deals on big-ticket items like TVs and computers, the opportunity to get all your holiday shopping done at once — is either largely illusory or outweighed by a disincentive on the other side. It’s a nationwide experiment in consumer irrationality, dressed up as a cheerful holiday add-on.

As Dan Ariely explains in his book, Predictably Irrational, “We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains.”

This applies to shopping on the other 364 days of the year, too. But on Black Friday, our rational decision-making faculties are at their weakest, just as stores are trying their hardest to maximize your mistakes.

Read about all the potential shopping booby traps at the link.

Here’s a horrifying update in the global war on women: Saudi Arabia implements electronic tracking system for women

RIYADH — Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.

Manal al-Sherif, who became the symbol of a campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a driving ban, began spreading the information on Twitter, after she was alerted by a couple.

The husband, who was travelling with his wife, received a text message from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh.

“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Women still have a very very long way to go, as we have learned here in the supposedly “advanced” U.S. over the past few years.

But never mind the serious problems that face humanity, the wingnuts at Fox News are focused on the supposed “war on xmas.” From TPM:

In the days before Thanksgiving, Fox filled its shows with dire, sometimes terrifying segments about all the threats surrounding the merriest season of the year. There’s the eradication of free speech by atheist “loons,” the possibility of choking on our food, the diseases spread on airplanes, and the endless depression that comes from Christmas commercials.

If we even make it to Christmas, that is. Fox’s morning man Bill Hemmer charted the possibility that the “apocalypse” would arrive on Dec. 22, and just how sad it will be when we all get wiped out, leaving all those unopened presents under the tree.

Here’s a mash-up of Fox coverage of the “war,” courtesy of TPM.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you found something to your liking. Now what’s on your reading list for today.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I have a potpourri of great reads for you this morning, so let’s get started.

First up, people in the states impacted by Hurricane Sandy have barely begun to recover. CBS News/AP report that: The scale of post-Sandy challenge in NY, NJ is unprecedented.

Two major airports reopened and the New York Stock Exchange got back to business Wednesday, while across the river in New Jersey, National Guardsmen rushed to feed and rescue flood victims two days aftersuperstorm Sandy struck.

For the first time since the storm slammed the Northeast, killing at least 63 people and inflicting billions of dollars in damage, brilliant sunshine washed over the nation’s largest city — a striking sight after days of gray skies, rain and wind. The light gave officials and residents a true glimpse of destruction on a scale that the region has never seen before.

At the stock exchange, running on generator power, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a thumbs-up and rang the opening bell to whoops from traders on the floor. Trading resumed after the first two-day weather shutdown since the Blizzard of 1888.

New York’s subway system was still down, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said parts of it will begin running again on Thursday. And he said some commuter rail service between the city and its suburbs would resume on Wednesday afternoon.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie and his new BFF Barack Obama toured the devastation. From The New York Times: An Unlikely Political Pair, United by a Disaster.

President Obama toured the storm-tossed boardwalks of New Jersey’s ravaged coastline on Wednesday, in a vivid display of big-government muscle and bipartisan harmony that confronted Mitt Romney with a vexing challenge just as he returned to the campaign trail in Florida.

The scene of Mr. Obama greeting his onetime political antagonist Gov. Chris Christie in Atlantic City was a striking departure from what has become an increasingly bitter campaign, marked by sharp divisions between Mr. Romney’s more limited view of the federal role and Mr. Obama’s more expansive vision. The president placed a hand on Mr. Christie’s back and guided him to Marine One, where the two men shared a grim flight over shattered sea walls, burning houses and a submerged roller coaster.

Speaking to storm victims at a community center in the hard-hit town of Brigantine, Mr. Obama said, “We are going to be here for the long haul.” Mr. Christie thanked the president for his visit, saying, “It’s really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that’s going on here in New Jersey.”

The tableau of bipartisan cooperation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s highly visible role in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, has put Mr. Romney in an awkward position…

As for Mitt Romney, he was getting hammered by the media in Ohio for two ads in which he falsely implied that Chrysler and GM were planning to ship American jobs to China. It looks to me as if Romney has given up the ghost in Ohio, because he headed to Florida yesterday, where a new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama leading by one point.

And last night the NYT editorial board slammed Romney for “cross[ing] a red line.”

When General Motors tells a presidential campaign that it is engaging in “cynical campaign politics at its worst,” that’s a pretty good signal that the campaign has crossed a red line and ought to pull back. Not Mitt Romney’s campaign. Having broadcast an outrageously deceitful ad attacking the auto bailout, the campaign ignored the howls from carmakers and came back with more.

Mr. Romney apparently plans to end his race as he began it: playing lowest-common-denominator politics, saying anything necessary to achieve power and blithely deceiving voters desperate for clarity and truth.

I think Romney may have finally sunk his campaign with those lying ads about the auto bailout. I wonder if that has contributed to polls that show Obama widening his leads in Michigan and Wisconsin?

In the Nebraska Senate Race, Bob Kerrey has been moving up in the polls, and last night Omaha.com broke some exciting news that could put him over the top: Chuck Hagel to endorse Bob Kerrey.

A spokesman with Kerrey’s campaign says Hagel – a former Nebraska U.S. Senator and a Republican – will back Kerrey in his race against Republican Deb Fischer.

Hagel’s endorsement comes as polls have shown the race between Kerrey and Fischer tightening down the home stretch.

Hagel’s backing could go a long way with independents. And, it clearly underscores Kerrey’s contention that he is the person in the race who can win Republican and Democratic support.

If Kerry, Claire McCaskill, Tammy Baldwin, and Elizabeth Warren, and perhaps Joe Donnelly can win their races, the Democrats should at least hold their majority in the Senate.

In Massachusetts, Liz Warren began making her final arguments.

As both Massachusetts Senate candidates deliver their final messages to voters, Warren is drawing on one major advantage she has in the state: demographics. According to the Secretary of State, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Massachusetts by a more than a three to one margin. As the race remains close, Warren and her supporters are using a partisan argument to rally the Democratic base, and encourage activists to turn out the vote on Warren’s behalf. Elect Brown, Warren and her supporters argue, and Republicans will control the U.S. Senate.

Introducing Warren to a crowd of volunteers and activists at Warren’s Haverhill field office on Wednesday, Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said he came from a Halloween party. “Everyone was dressed up in really scary costumes, so I was going to dress up as (Republican Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell,” he said, to laughter. “Because can you think of anything scarier than (Republican House Speaker) John Boehner in the House of Representatives or Mitch McConnell in the Senate?”

“There’s only one vote that counts and that’s the vote about which party is going to control the United States Senate,” Fiorentini continued. “We know which way Scott Brown is going to vote.”

Warren also released a great new ad that may serve as a closing argument: For All Our Families.

Right now in Indiana Joe Donnelly is leading Richard Mourdock by 7 percentage points.

I’ll end with a couple of powerful long reads.

From Truthout: What Does Romney’s Campaign of Lies Say About Our Country? Here’s the first paragraph:

Last week Mitt Romney delivered possibly the most dishonest presidential campaign speech in American history. It contains lie after lie, distortion after distortion, and trick after trick. The fact that a person capable of giving such a speech has reached this level suggests that it may be too late to salvage the country. Our institutions may be corrupted beyond repair.

Please check it out.

At Alternet, Matthew Fleisher writes: Why I Infiltrated One of the Most Secretive and Powerful Republican Organizations in the Country. This one is really long, but well worth reading. Here’s the teaser:

The Lincoln Club is the real deal. And if they have their way, Citizens United is just the beginning of their political ambitions for the country.

That’s it for me. I hope you found something to your liking. Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Romney Does Double Back Flip on FEMA

You had to know this was coming. Just yesterday, Mitt Romney repeatedly refused to answer reporters’ questions about his position on FEMA funding. During the Republican primaries, Romney argued that the Federal government should have no role in disaster response and that the functions of FEMA should be returned to individual states.

But today, Romney suddenly switched gears and became a fan of FEMA. The Boston Globe reports:

Mitt Romney on Wednesday stepped up his support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, further rebuffing accusations that he would end funding for disaster relief if elected president.

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

Romney’s comments last year during a GOP debate in New Hampshire were interpreted by some as a call to eliminate FEMA altogether.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction,” Romney said. “And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Politico has more reporting on the sudden switch, directly from the campaign trail:

Mitt Romney’s campaign tried Wednesday to reassure voters that the GOP nominee believes the Federal Emergency Management Agency plays a “really important role.”

“Gov. Romney believes in a very efficient and effective disaster relief response, and he believes one of the ways to do that is put a premium on states and their efforts to respond to these disasters,” senior adviser Kevin Madden told reporters on the flights from Tampa to Miami. “That’s why they call them first responders — they’re first to respond, the states. Traditionally, they’ve been best at responding to these disasters. But he does believe FEMA has a really important role there and that being a partner for these states is the best approach.”

So why couldn’t Romney just say this yesterday in response to the 14 separate questions he ignored in Kettering, Ohio? Did his campaign have to run a focus group overnight to determine his new policy?

Madden also dodged a question on whether Romney agrees with NJ Governor Chris Christie that President Obama has been doing an excellent job in responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:

Asked if Romney agrees with Christie’s comment that Obama’s response to the natural disaster has been fantastic so far, Madden said: “I refer to Gov. Christie’s remarks. I believe the response is still going on so I’m not in a position to qualify the response by the federal government. I believe it’s still ongoing.”

Frankly, I can’t imagine Romney is going get away with this one, but if in the next couple of days he starts claiming that he always supported FEMA and that he did a great job responding to disasters as Governor of Massachusetts, we’ll know the focus group liked his latest backflip.


Tuesday Reads: Mostly Hurricane Sandy

Good Morning!!

Superstorm indeed. I just saw on the weather channel that we’re having high wind warnings and may even get snow here in central Indiana today. Exhaustion finally set in for me last night from drive 1,000 miles, so I’m writing this at 5:30 AM.

I had MSNBC, CNN, and the weather channel on a few times during the night, but most of the news was still about New York City only. You’d think something would have happened in other parts of New York state that was worth covering. Of course I don’t want to minimize how bad things are in NYC, It’s just that with a storm so huge, you’d think there might be some TV coverage of other places.

This morning they were actually talking about the snowstorm in West Virginia a little bit, but I have no idea if the storm did anything in New England. So let’s see what’s happening out there–largely in link dump fashion.

MSNBC: Sandy slams Northeast: 7M without power, nuclear plant on alert, homes swept away

Superstorm Sandy hurled a wall of water of up to 13 feet high at the Northeast coast, sweeping houses out into the ocean, flooding subway tunnels in New York City and sparking an alert at a nuclear power station in New Jersey.

At least 10 people were killed, more than 7 million were without power as the historic storm pounded some 11 states and the District of Columbia. More than a million people across a dozen states had been ordered to evacuate.

Power outages are expected to be widespread and could last for days. NBC meteorologist Bill Karins warned to “expect the cleanup and power outage restoration to continue right up through Election Day.”

The New York Times has massive coverage and lots of photos: Storm Barrels Ashore, Leaving Path of Destruction

The mammoth and merciless storm made landfall near Atlantic City around 8 p.m., with maximum sustained winds of about 80 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. That was shortly after the center had reclassified the storm as a post-tropical cyclone, a scientific renaming that had no bearing on the powerful winds, driving rains and life-threatening storm surge expected to accompany its push onto land.

The storm had unexpectedly picked up speed as it roared over the Atlantic Ocean on a slate-gray day and went on to paralyze life for millions of people in more than a half-dozen states, with extensive evacuations that turned shorefront neighborhoods into ghost towns. Even the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty left to ride out the storm at his mother’s house in New Jersey; he said the statue itself was “high and dry,” but his house in the shadow of the torch was not.

The wind-driven rain lashed sea walls and protective barriers in places like Atlantic City, where the Boardwalk was damaged as water forced its way inland. Foam was spitting, and the sand gave in to the waves along the beach at Sandy Hook, N.J., at the entrance to New York Harbor. Water was thigh-high on the streets in Sea Bright, N.J., a three-mile sand-sliver of a town where the ocean joined the Shrewsbury River.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” said David Arnold, watching the storm from his longtime home in Long Branch, N.J. “The ocean is in the road, there are trees down everywhere. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

But, you know, global climate change–that’s not happening. It must be gay marriage that’s causing this.

There was a huge explosion at a Con-Ed power plant in lower Manhattan during the night. Here’s the viral video.

50 homes destroyed as six-alarm blaze rips through Queens

I’m relieved to see that Sandy’s wrath wasn’t quite as bad in New England.

Boston escapes major damage from Sandy: Fierce winds knock down trees, rattle houses, and cut electricity to thousands.

Sandy wreaks havoc on Conn. shore towns; 2 dead

Superstorm Sandy lashes NH with strong winds, rain

Maine gets high winds, heavy rain from superstorm Sandy; tens of thousands in the dark

Sandy brought snow to West Virginia.

President Obama signs West Virginia Emergency Declaration

And in Virginia…

Superstorm Sandy to stick around Virginia 1 more day with rain, wind and snow

In other news…

Think Progress: PA radio station runs misleading voter ID ad

Everyone’s talking about how Mitt Romney recommended getting rid of FEMA and making state handle their own disaster responses, but of course now he’s flip flopped once again, according to Politico: Romney would give more power to states, would not abolish FEMA

Here’s something incredible from Bloomberg: Romney Avoids Taxes via Loophole Cutting Mormon Donations

In 1997, Congress cracked down on a popular tax shelter that allowed rich people to take advantage of the exempt status of charities without actually giving away much money.

Individuals who had already set up these vehicles were allowed to keep them. That included Mitt Romney, then the chief executive officer of Bain Capital, who had just established such an arrangement in June 1996.

The charitable remainder unitrust, as it is known, is one of several strategies Romney has adopted over his career to reduce his tax bill. While Romney’s tax avoidance is legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become an issue in the campaign. President Barack Obama attacked him in their second debate for paying “lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less.”

In this instance, Romney used the tax-exempt status of a charity — the Mormon Church, according to a 2007 filing — to defer taxes for more than 15 years. At the same time he is benefitting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires, according to tax returns obtained by Bloomberg this month through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Wow! This guy is the champion of sleezeballs! Too bad no no one is paying attention now that Sandy has taken over the next few news cycles.

The Hill: Bill Clinton: Mitt Romney’s Jeep-to-China ad is ‘biggest load of bull in the world’

Former President Clinton and Vice President Biden blasted Republican nominee Mitt Romney over a campaign ad that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China because of President Obama’s policies.

The Hill kinda-sorta tries to make it sound like the ad is OK and the Obama campaign is just whining!

The Obama campaign has complained about the Romney campaign’s Jeep ad, which links the president to a report saying Chrysler plans to move its Jeep production from the U.S. to China.

Chrysler released a statement on Monday saying it had no plans to stop producing Jeeps in the U.S.

The statement said, “U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”

Yeah, because there’s two sides to every story even when one is a bald-faced, blatant, dirty lie.

Now it’s your turn. What’s going on where you are? I sure hope all you Sky Dancers are staying safe and warm.