Southern California has been hit with a “5.1 magnitude earthquake” and “more than 100 aftershocks,” causing “relatively minor damage” according to the LA Times:
Most of the aftershocks have been small, but some were strong enough to be felt in the areas around the epicenter in northwestern Orange County…. Fullerton police said early Saturday that as many as 50 people had been displaced by the quake. Several buildings are being investigated for possible structural damage, including some apartment buildings. The quake, centered near La Habra, caused furniture to tumble, pictures to fall off walls and glass to break. Merchandise fell off store shelves, and there were reports of shattered plate glass windows. Residents across Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Inland Empire reported swinging chandeliers, fireplaces dislodging from walls and lots of rattled nerves.
The quake also caused a rock slide that damaged a car as well as numerous water main breaks.
Third-grade teacher Barbara Castillo and her 7-year-old son had just calmed their nerves after an earlier 3.6 temblor and sat down in their La Habra home when their dogs started barking and the second, larger quake struck, causing cabinet doors to swing open, objects to fall off shelves and lights to flicker. “It just would not stop, it was like an eternity,” said Castillo, an 18-year La Habra resident.
The search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 continues,
with various objects being reported by searchers, but this latest report from CNN is just nuts, Malaysia official: Maybe, just maybe, they’re alive.
Earlier this week, loved ones of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 heard this: “All lives are lost.”
But Saturday, a Malaysian official met with relatives and then told reporters he had not closed the door on the possibility that survivors may exist among the 239 people aboard the Boeing 777-200 ER that went missing March 8.
“Even hoping against hope, no matter how remote, of course we are praying and we will continue our search for the possible survivors,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister.
“More than that, I told the families I cannot give them false hope. The best we can do is pray and that we must be sensitive to them that, as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes.”
How cruel can you get? In China relatives were alleging some kind of conspiracy.
“They’re all still alive, my son and everyone on board!” yelled Wen Wancheng, 63, whose only son was among the passengers. “The plane is still there too! They’re hiding it.”
He held aloft a banner that read: “Son, mom and dad’s hearts are torn to pieces. Come home soon!”
I can’t even begin to imagine the torture those people are going through. To give them false hope is incredibly irresponsible.
Please don’t skip over this brief but must-read piece on the ongoing scandal involving the US nuclear arsenal.
The Daily Beast: Cleaning House at Nuke Command Raises Bigger Issues.
Nine Air Force officers were fired Thursday and dozens more disciplined for their roles in a cheating scandal involving airmen in charge of the nuclear weapons arsenal. But one source familiar with the Air Force program told The Daily Beast that the punishments handed out were more show than substance, and that problems in the nuclear program go far deeper than what has been addressed so far. According to a retired senior Air Force officer familiar with the Global Strike Command (the headquarters responsible for the Air Force nuclear arsenal), who spoke with The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, the punishments issued yesterday at the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were a good show, but wouldn’t affect much substantive reform. “This issue needs leadership,” he said. “You’ve had two stars and three stars [general officers] running the reorganized nuclear enterprise of the U.S. Air Force who have been unable to raise morale, transform the culture and forestall this very type of thing.”
Read the rest at the link. I can’t understand why this scandal isn’t getting more attention. We’re talking about the people who are responsible for our nuclear weapons!
I have several articles on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
There have been reports in the past few days that Russian troops are gathering on the Ukraine border and medical and food stations are being set up. From The Wall Street Journal: Russian Buildup Stokes Worries; Pentagon Alarmed as Troops Mass Near Ukraine Border.
Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. (Follow the latest developments on the crisis in Ukraine.) The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s specific intentions. The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions.
On the other hand, Russian officials are publicly denying any plans to invade Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama yesterday, supposedly to discuss diplomatic options. But can Putin be trusted? What would an invasion of Ukraine look like? Although, he suspects it won’t happen, Mark Galeotti at Business Insider provides an answer to that question.
In brief, the aim would be a blitzkrieg that, before Ukraine has the chance properly to muster its forces and, perhaps more to the point, the West can meaningfully react, allows the Russians to draw a new front line and assert their own ground truth, much as happened in Crimea (though this would be much more bloody and contested). This would not be a bid to conquer the whole country (the real question is whether they’d seek to push as far as Odessa, taking more risks and extending their supply lines, but also essentially depriving Ukraine of a coastline) but instead quickly to take those areas where there are potentially supportive local political elites and Russophone populations, and consequently pretexts (however flimsy) to portray invasion as ‘liberation.’
He goes on to explain in further detail, and it’s well worth reading. Here a few longer think pieces on Obama’s and Putin’s goals in the Ukraine crisis. Check them out if you have the time and inclination. Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s 21st-century power politics Mosaic: It’s Not Just Ukraine The Guardian: How Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea changed the world
In domestic political news . . .
Gallup reports some good news for Democrats: Young Americans’ Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown.
From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%. This Democratic movement among the young has come at a time when senior citizens have become more Republican. The broader U.S. population has shown more variability in its party preferences in recent years, shifting Democratic from 2005 to 2008, moving back toward the Republican Party from 2009 to 2011, and showing modest Democratic preferences in the last two years. A major reason young adults are increasingly likely to prefer the Democratic Party is that today’s young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse than young adults of the past. U.S. political preferences are sharply divided by race, with nonwhite Americans of all ages overwhelmingly identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic.
In Texas, Greg Abbot is still acting like a complete idiot. From Think Progress: Sidestepping Equal Pay Attacks, Greg Abbott Tries To Accuse Wendy Davis Of Gender Discrimination. Huh?
Texas gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) faces continued tough scrutiny over his campaign’s position against equal pay for women. His campaign has twice justified the gender wage gap and implied he would veto an equal pay bill that makes it easier for women to sue. Instead of addressing the criticism directly, Abbott has chosen to fire back accusations that Wendy Davis, his opponent in the gubernatorial race, is “defending gender discrimination.” Over the last week, the Abbott campaign has posted Facebook ads that call Davis a hypocrite on the gender wage gap, linking to a petition on his site that describes a client Davis once reportedly defended:
Sen. Wendy Davis continues to launch attacks over equal pay while shielding her own record of defending gender discrimination. And while on the Fort Worth City Council, Sen. Davis approved funds to defend a former city employee with a “legs and lipstick” policy.
Here, Abbott is referring to a routine vote Davis cast as a city council member that granted legal counsel funds to a Fort Worth employer sued for harassment and discrimination.
Why on earth would anyone vote for this man? The media has been taking note of the sexist attacks on Chris Christie’s former aide Bridget Kelley. Amy Davidson has a summary at The New Yorker: Chris Christie, Surrounded by Emotional Liars? Check it out if you can. This might be a good sign for better reporting in the New York Times Magazine. Jake Silverstein editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly has been hired to revamp the stagnant NYT Sunday magazine.
Under Mr. Silverstein, Texas Monthly has been nominated for 12 National Magazine Awards and won four, including the general excellence prize.
In an interview on his new role at The Times Magazine, Mr. Silverstein said, “I think this is a remarkable moment for the magazine to commit to the kind of long-form impactful journalism that has made the magazine one of the most influential publications throughout its history.”
Mr. Silverstein, 38, holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin and became editor of Texas Monthly in 2008. He is only the fourth editor of that magazine, which published its first issue in February 1973.
In the Boston bombing trial . . .
Accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys have requested records of any FBI contacts with Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan and any FISA court ordered surveillance of the Tsarnaev brothers. From the Boston Globe: FBI pushed elder Tsarnaev to be informer, lawyers assert.
Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asserted Friday that his older brother and alleged accomplice had been encouraged by the FBI to be an informant and to report on the Chechen and Muslim community, according to court records. “We seek this information based on our belief that these contacts were among the precipitating events for Tamerlan’s actions during the week of April 15, 2013, and thus material to the defense case in mitigation,” the lawyers said in their court filing. “We base this on information from our client’s family and other sources that the FBI made more than one visit to talk with Anzor [his father], Zubeidat [his mother] and Tamerlan, questioned Tamerlan about his Internet searches, and asked him to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community
“We do not suggest that these contacts are to be blamed and have no evidence to suggest that they were improper, but rather view them as an important part of the story of Tamerlan’s decline. Since Tamerlan is dead, the government is the source of corroboration that these visits did in fact occur and of what was said during them.”The lawyers suggested that Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have misinterpreted his interactions with the FBI as pressure from the agency, and that they could have “increased his paranoia and distress.” The defense wants to investigate those factors as it seeks to portray Tamerlan as a dominating family figure who may have pushed the younger Dzhokhar to take part in the April 15 bombings last year. Tamerlan was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police in Watertown. Good luck with prying anything loose from the FBI.
So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a terrific weekend!
Before I get started, don’t forget that Ann Romney is scheduled to be on The View today at 11AM Eastern.
Now to the news. I think I have some interesting links for you today. I’m going to focus mostly on some aggressive Romney campaign tactics and on reactions to the second presidential debate.
Late yesterday afternoon, Mike Elk of In These Times revealed that Romney himself has suggested that business owners instruct their employees–and their families–how they should vote. I hope you’ll read the whole article, but I’m going to post the audio of a conference call that Romney held, sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business. The whole call is quite interesting, but the relevant part is at the end, around the 26:00 point.
Here the transcription, from Mike Elk’s article (emphasis added):
I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.
Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.
I particularly think that our young kids–and when I say young, I mean college-age and high-school age–they need to understand that America runs on a strong and vibrant business [sic] … and that we need more business growing and thriving in this country. They need to understand that what the president is doing by borrowing a trillion dollars more each year than what we spend is running up a credit card that they’re going to have to pay off and that their future is very much in jeopardy by virtue of the policies that the president is putting in place. So I need you to get out there and campaign.
Elk writes that this actually is legal now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. He also asks whether Romney is behind the recent rash of reports of CEOs putting pressure on their employees to vote for the Republican ticket.
The call raises the question of whether the Romney campaign is complicit in the corporate attempts to influence employees’ votes that have been recently making headlines….
Beyond Romney’s statements on the call, it’s unclear whether his election operation is actively coordinating workplace campaigning by businesses. Romney press secretary Andrea Saul did not respond to In These Times’ request for comment.
However, the conference call raises troubling questions about what appears to be a growing wave of workplace political pressure unleashed by Citizens United.
At Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein has another story about aggressive Romney campaign tactics. Weinstein obtained some e-mails between the Romney campaign and the Virginia Military Institute, where Romney recently gave a foreign policy speech. The military is required to be nonpartisan and stay out of politics, but Romney pressured the school to allow him to use his speech as what would have in essence been a campaign event.
When Mitt Romney addressed a crowd of cadets at Virginia Military Institute on October 8, he was supposed to give a major foreign policy speech that steered clear of partisan politics. That’s because VMI personnel observe the US military’s tradition of political neutrality when in uniform. But internal emails obtained by Mother Jones show that Romney’s campaign pushed to burnish his commander-in-chief credentials by maximizing military optics around the event. Members of Romney’s staff sought to use the VMI logo in their campaign materials, requested that uniformed cadets be let out of class early to attend Romney’s speech, and asked VMI “to select a few cadet veterans and give them a place of honor” standing behind Romney during his address.
As the campaign pushed for these requests, VMI officials pushed back, concerned that they were for partisan purposes. Each request was denied by the state-run institution, whose students serve in the US military’s Reserve Officers Training Corps, so that VMI would not be seen as endorsing Romney’s candidacy. The Romney campaign also pressured VMI to play host to “15 to 20” retired admirals and generals at the school who traveled there to endorse Romney; VMI eventually relented to that request.
Please do read the whole article at the link.
Remember Mark Leder? He’s the private equity billionaire who hosted the private fund-raiser at which Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks. Leder is giving another fund-raiser for Romney in Florida on Saturday night, according to Ryan Grim and Laura Goldman at HuffPo.
Leder has been telling potential donors that given the uproar following his last fundraiser, he feels an obligation to make the situation right by raising more money for Romney, according to people who have discussed the matter with Leder. One donor, asked if Leder had been noting that he’d been “taking heat” for the last fundraiser, said, “That was the basic pitch, except the word ‘heat’ was replaced by another four-letter word that begins with s.”
Saturday night’s event, unlike his now-famous May fundraiser, will not be held at Leder’s home. It will be in Palm Beach, Fla., and will include other hosts in addition to Leder.
Leder is a leveraged-buyout specialist, much like Romney. He owns Sun Capital Partners, which is based in Boca Raton, Fla. — the site of the upcoming presidential debate, which will be held on Monday. Leder is the co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and has been characterized in the press as a “party animal.”
I imagine all of the guests and staff will have to surrender their cell phones before the event. Will there be body searches too?
Contraception came up in the debate on Tuesday night, and Mitt Romney seems to be feeling a bit defensive about it. Abortion rights weren’t addressed, but Romney must be feeling defensive because he released a new ad yesterday.
Apparently Mitt thinks this ad proves he’s “moderate” on abortion. He wants to ban all abortions except in cases where women have been raped, are victims of incest, or whose lives are in danger if they carry the child to term. That seems pretty extreme to me, since abortion is legal, at least for now.
But Romney has also said he supports states passing personhood amendments, he has clearly stated that he will appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and he has repeatedly promised to cut all funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood released a statement in response to the ad (h/t Jezebel)
“This is an ad designed to deceive women. The Romney team knows that Mitt Romney’s real agenda for women’s health is deeply unpopular – ending safe and legal abortion, ending Planned Parenthood’s preventive care that millions of people rely on, and repealing the Affordable Care Act and the coverage of birth control with no co-pay. Romney can run from his own agenda, but he can’t hide – women will hold him accountable at the polls on election day.”
I don’t understand how these exceptions that Romney and Ryan keep talking about could work anyway. Would a pregnant girl or women have to prove that she was raped or sexually victimized by a relative? How would that work? Would there have to be a confession by the perpetrator? There certainly wouldn’t be time for the crime to be prosecuted in a court of law in time for an abortion to take place. What about the claim of danger to the mother’s life? Will doctors have to prove the claim to government inspectors? I just don’t think any of this would be realistic. I think we have to assume that these “exceptions” are just more bait and switch from the flim flam ticket.
Romney and his campaign advisers might want to take a look at the results of a new Gallup poll of women in swing states. The poll asks “What do you consider the most important issue for women in this election?” Here are the results:
For men, the top four issues on the list were jobs, the economy, the Federal deficit/balanced budget, and health care. For women, abortion was number one, and the deficit didn’t even make the list! Generally speaking, women had quite different interests than men.
On contraception, Romney surrogate and former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy told Andrea Mitchell yesterday that contraception is just a “peripheral issue” for women.
Mitchell pressed Healy on the financial considerations for women whose employers refuse to cover contraception on religious grounds. “That is a pocketbook issue,” Mitchell said. “It’s dollars and cents.”
“The problem here is that we are talking about these peripheral issues,” Healy said. ”We need to really be talking about employment, jobs. That’s what women care about.”
Laura Bassett has more on the interview at HuffPo. Bassett notes that during the debate Tuesday Romney tried to gloss over his past statements on the issue of employers making contraception coverage available to employees by during the debate on Tuesday by claiming that
“I just know that I don’t think bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they have contraceptive care or not,” Romney said during Tuesday night’s debate. “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives and the president’s statement on my policy is completely and totally wrong.”
Romney’s answer subtly changes the subject from insurance coverage of contraception to the more general issue of access to contraception, and it strategically leaves enough wiggle room for his campaign to say that his position has not changed.
Healy followed suit with Andrea Mitchell.
Romney did “not in any way” change his position, Healey said. “Governor Romney is both a strong supporter of religious freedom and also believes in access to contraception for American women.”
Pressed on the details of the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers to refuse to cover birth control on moral grounds and which Romney previously said he would support, Healey changed the subject. “The question of whether or not we should force someone to give up their religious freedom to provide insurance coverage in some hypothetical situation is not really the point to most women out there,” she said. “There are 5.5 million unemployed women in the country.”
What’s lost in both Romney’s and Healey’s answers on the contraception issue is the point that President Barack Obama made Tuesday night, which is that for many women, having birth control fully paid for by their insurance plans is an economic issue.
Yesterday afternoon the MSNBC show “The Cycle” had a body language expert, Chris Ulrich on to talk about the interactions between Obama and Romney during the debate. It was fascinating. I can’t embed the video, but I hope you’ll watch it at the link. You won’t regret it.
In a similar vein, if you didn’t see Chris Matthews’ interview with James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio last night, be sure to watch that too. Lipton analyzed the behavior of the two debate participants, and said that he thought he had finally figured out who Mitt Romney is. He’s the boss who tells dumb jokes and expects you to laugh at them–or else. Lipton said that the choice for voters is between a president (Obama) and a boss. Do we want a boss running the country? Lipton said that some people might like that, but he seemed to find it frightening.
I’ll end with the most recent confrontation between ugly, nasty troll John Sununu and Soledad O’Brien, which took place yesterday morning on CNN.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
Before I get going with the news, I want to recommend a wonderful movie. Yesterday afternoon, I took my nephews to see Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, and I loved it! Trust me, it isn’t just for kids. It’s a funny, touching story about a boy and his dog as well as a great homage to horror movies. There’s even a scene where the science teacher, who looks like Vincent Price and talks like Bela Lugosi, tells a meeting of parents complaining about his class that they’re ignorant and prefer fantasy to science.
The Boston Globe reviewer gave the movie four stars, which is unheard of for a film aimed at children. There’s a wonderful backstory too:
In 1984, when he was an eccentric young animator working for Disney, the young Burton made a 30-minute live-action short called “Frankenweenie,” about a boy named Victor and the scrappy pet he brings back to life after it’s hit by a car. The movie was weird, it was inventive, and it spooked the bejesus out of Disney executives, who refused to release it and fired Burton. After the director became famous in the wake of “Edward Scissorhands,” the company put it out on VHS; it now can be found as an extra on the “Nightmare Before Christmas” DVD.
The current entertainment landscape has been effectively Burton-ized; this season alone, there are two pallid family-film imitations, “ParaNorman” and “Hotel Transylvania,” that arguably wouldn’t exist had the director not made the world safe for light pop-goth gloom. The new, improved “Frankenweenie” is thus not only revenge served sweetly — it’s being released by Disney, tail between its legs — but a reminder that, at his best, Burton belongs in the same bleakly charming league as Charles Addams and Edward Gorey.
Now I think I need to watch Ed Wood again.
That was such a nice break from all the depressing news about Mitt Romney and other insane Republicans. Now lets see what’s in the news today.
Everyone is talking about the latest Pew Poll which has Romney leading by 4–quite a shock. Even more shocking, TPM’s polltracker average now has Romney ahead of Obama by close to 3 points. On the other hand, today’s Gallup tracking polls shows Obama ahead by 5 points. Weird.
Now for a little expert analysis. Nate Silver advises: Amid Volatile Polling, Keep an Eye on Election Fundamentals
Mr. Obama got a bounce coming out of Charlotte, and it had some staying power — with his national lead appearing to peak at about five or six percentage points. But polling released immediately after the debate seemed to suggest that Mr. Romney had drawn into a rough national tie.
By the weekend, however — after the release of a favorable jobs report last Friday — Mr. Romney’s bounce seemed to be receding some. Tracking polls released on Monday by Gallup and Rasmussen Reports actually showed a shift back toward Mr. Obama, although another poll by Pew Research showed Mr. Romney with a four-point lead among likely voters.
Polling data is often very noisy, and not all polls use equally rigorous methodology. But the polls, as a whole, remain consistent with the idea that they may end up settling where they were before the conventions, with Mr. Obama ahead by about two points. Such an outcome would be in line with what history and the fundamentals of the economy would lead you to expect.
Keep in mind:
Challengers also generally profit from the first debate: in 8 of the 10 election cycles since 1976, the polls moved against the incumbent, and a net gain of two or three percentage points for the challenger is a reasonably typical figure.
At the same time, incumbent presidents just aren’t that easy to defeat. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are now hovering around 50 percent and don’t seem to have been negatively affected by his performance in Denver. Although Mr. Obama’s approval ratings may be slightly lower among those most likely to vote — meaning that Mr. Romney could win with a strong turnout — historically that number has been just good enough to re-elect an incumbent.
David Adkins of Hullabaloo took a look at the internals of the Pew poll and found some interesting tidbits:
– For starters, a full two-thirds of the respondents were over 50 years old. Is that likely to be the shape of the electorate? Very likely not.
– A full 77% of the respondents were white. That is almost certainly not going to reflect the final electorate.
– A large preponderance of the respondents were from the South (449), with the next highest total from the Midwest (294), and only 219 from the Northeast and 239 from the West. There will not be twice as many voters from the South in the election as from the Northeast or the West.
– Finally, more respondents claimed to be Republicans than Democrats, which would destroy the President’s chances in November automatically. It’s possible for the final electorate to resemble that Party ID, but unlikely.
Read the rest at the link. I found it helpful. Markos also had a good post on the polls yesterday, if you don’t mind going to the orange place. He noted that the PPP poll to be released today will also have Romney in the lead nationally.
Paul Waldman asks the same question I ask myself every Monday: Why Do the Sunday Shows Suck So Much?
In the American media landscape, there is no single forum more prestigious than the Sunday shows—particularly the three network programs, and to a slightly lesser extent “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Sunday shows are where “newsmakers” face the music, where Washington’s most important people are validated for their importance, where issues are probed in depth. So, why do they suck so much?
I live and breathe politics, yet I find these programs absolutely unwatchable, and I can’t be the only one. On a typical episode, there is nothing to learn, no insight to be gained, no interesting perspective on offer, nothing but an endless spew of talking points and squabbling. Let’s take, for instance, yesterday’s installment of “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” We start off with dueling interviews with Obama adviser Robert Gibbs and Romney adviser Ed Gillespie. Were you expecting some candid talk from these two political veterans? Of course you weren’t. “If you’re willing to say anything to get elected president,” Gibbs says about Mitt Romney, “if you are willing to make up your positions and walk away from them, I think the American people have to understand, how can they trust you if you are elected president.” Which just happens to be precisely the message of a new Obama ad. What a fascinating coincidence! And you’ll be shocked to learn that Gillespie thought Romney did a great job in the debate: “Governor Romney laid out a plan for turning this economy around, getting things moving again. He had a fact-based critique of President Obama’s failed policies that the president was unable to respond to.” You don’t say!
Go read the whole thing. It’s not long.
As you know, Mitt Romney gave a foreign policy speech yesterday, and it isn’t getting great reviews except among the ultra-right wingers. Dakinkat wrote about it yesterday afternoon. This story is a few days old, but I wanted to call attention to it because it didn’t get a whole lot of coverage. During the debate last Wednesday, Romney made some (inaccurate, natch) remarks about Spain that caused some outrage over there. Here’s what he said:
“Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government. We’re now spending 42 percent of our economy on government. I don’t want to go down the path of Spain. I want to put more Americans to work.”
That did not go over well in Spain, where it was seen as on a par with the bumbling, insulting remarks Romney made when he was in Great Britain for the Olympics. Some reactions:
Fox News Latino: Mitt Romney Spain Jab Adds to Foreign Policy Woes
It has become apparent to some that Mitt Romney is in need of a crash course in Diplomacy 101.
He irritated Britons and Palestinians during a summer tour abroad and has declared Russia to be America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe. Just last week, the Republican candidate, who plans a foreign policy speech Monday, raised eyebrows in Spain by holding it up as a prime example of government spending run amok.
That left Spaniards confused, and threatened to reinforce Romney’s perceived handicap in international affairs….
Spanish reaction to Romney was swift.
“What I see is ignorance of what is reality, but especially of the potential of the Spanish economy,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.
Maria Dolores Cospedal, leader of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party, noted that “Spain is not on fire from all sides like some on the outside have suggested.” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo called it “very unfortunate that other countries should be put up as examples” when the facts are skewed.
At HuffPo, former Clinton economic adviser Laura Tyson corrected Romney’s inaccuracies:
Mitt Romney made a wildly inaccurate claim during Wednesday’s presidential debate, and Laura Tyson, a former top economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, is calling him out….
But according to Romney’s campaign website, government spending accounted for only 24 percent of gross domestic product last year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that government spending is 23 percent of GDP.
“I have no idea where that number came from,” Tyson, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told The Huffington Post after the debate. “That is certainly not a number that is consistent with the facts.”
Tyson said she couldn’t tell whether Romney said it “knowing it was wrong” or whether he “mixed the numbers up in his head.” But nonetheless, she said, “It’s clearly wrong.”
Tyson added that when it comes to taxes, “we’re not anywhere near countries like Spain.”
The Boston Globe reports that as many as 13,000 people may have gotten tainted steroid injections from a Framingham, MA pharmacy and could be at risk of getting meningitis.
US health officials on Monday said that 13,000 patients in 23 states, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, have been injected with a potentially tainted steroid treatment made by a Framingham pharmacy, more information can be found here and linked to a national outbreak of meningitis.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave its sweeping estimate of the reach of the crisis as it reported 14 new cases of the disease, and another death in Tennessee, which appears to be the hardest hit among the states where the rare and serious form of fungal meningitis has been confirmed.
“We know that 13,000 people received the injection,” said Jamila Jones, a public affairs specilialist for the CDC in Atlanta. “They received it at facilities across the country. They are at risk.”
So far, 105 cases and eight deaths have been confirmed nationally, the agency said.
The steroid, called methylprednisolone acetate, was made by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, which voluntarily ceased operations Oct. 3 amid a widening probe of the treatment and its use at dozens of health care facilities from New Hampshire to California.
Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? I look forward to clicking on your links!
Good Morning!! I’ve got a bit of a potpourri of news reads for you this morning. First, a followup to my post from Sunday night on the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.
Saturday’s peaceful Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City were marred by what appears to be excessive use of force by several police officers, as video shows, and one officer who calmly walked up to police-fenced protesters and pepper-sprayed them, point blank, has been identified as Deputy inspector Anthony V. Bologna, of NYPD Patrol Borough Manhattan South, according to Common Dreams.
In response to the video (embedded in this article), the Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul Browne, said the officer used pepper spray “appropriately,” according to the New York Times. “Pepper spray was used once,” he said, adding “after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier, something
that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.”
I don’t buy that argument, and I doubt if many reasonable people will. Why was the mesh barrier even necessary in the first place? The Common Dreams link above has information on where to send complaints about Bologna’s behavior.
According to the UK Guardian, Bologna was accused of civil rights violations previously:
The Guardian has learned that the officer, named by activists as deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, stands accused of false arrest and civil rights violations in a claim brought by a protester involved in the 2004 demonstrations at the Republican national convention.
Then, 1,800 people were arrested during protests against the Iraq war and the policies of president George W Bush.
Alan Levine, a civil rights lawyer representing Post A Posr, a protester at the 2004 event, told the Guardian that he filed an action against Bologna and another officer, Tulio Camejo, in 2007. The case, filed at the New York Southern District Court, is expected to be heard next year.
Levine said that when he heard about the pepper spray incident “a bunch of us were wondering if any of the same guys were involved”.
You can read the details at the Guardian link.
You probably heard that the Senate has passed a “stopgap” bill that is designed to prevent a government shutdown by Republican America haters. From the Wall Street Journal:
The Senate, on a 79-12 vote, approved a bill late Monday to fund the government through Nov. 18. The vote came after the main sticking point in negotiations between the two parties was resolved.
Lawmakers had been in a standoff over Republicans’ demands for new budget cuts as a condition for sending additional money to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid victims of natural disasters through the end of the fiscal year on Friday.
But that dispute vanished Monday when FEMA announced that it may not run out of money before then—giving it more breathing room than expected. FEMA’s new statement about its finances cleared the way for Congress to put in place a funding mechanism for at least the start of the fiscal year that begins Saturday….
Under the compromise struck Monday night, the Senate approved two bills. One would keep the government running through Nov. 18, which the House is expected to pass when it returns from a recess next week. But to keep the government afloat until the House returns, a second measure was approved for funding through Oct. 4. That is expected to clear the House by voice vote before week’s end.
Apparently Boehner has given the bill his blessing. So I guess we can relax now and look forward to another squabble over keeping the government going in November.
Yesterday, Gallup reported that Americans are really disgusted with the U.S. government–and in “historic” numbers.
A record-high 81% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed, adding to negativity that has been building over the past 10 years.
Majorities of Democrats (65%) and Republicans (92%) are dissatisfied with the nation’s governance. This perhaps reflects the shared political power arrangement in the nation’s capital, with Democrats controlling the White House and U.S. Senate, and Republicans controlling the House of Representatives. Partisans on both sides can thus find fault with government without necessarily blaming their own party.
There’s a lot more at the link. Obama must be delusional if he thinks he’s going to be reelected just on the basis of some “inspiring” speeches. He’d better get busy, stay off the golf course and basketball court, and actually do something about jobs pretty soon or he’s a goner.
I learned from Dakinikat yesterday that Paul Street, who has authored two books about Obama, agrees with me that it’s time for this President to do an LBJ.
What does Obama have to look forward to in the future if he insists on trying for a second term? The stalled profits system seems ready to double dip back into full technical recession (the human recession never stopped beneath the mild statistical recovery), fitting him with the same fatal yoke of economic powerlessness that deep-sixed Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and the first George (H.W) Bush’s hopes for second term. Unemployment remains sky high, contributing to a recent low in American history: the largest number U.S. citizens (46 million) ever recorded below the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level. Obama’s job approval is at an all time low (43 percent), 7 points under his disapproval rating (50 percent). A preponderant majority of Americans say that the country is “on the wrong track.”
Four months after his empty, politically calculated execution and sea-dumping of Osama bin-Laden., Obama is widely perceived as weak and ineffective, as too eager to compromise with – and as incapable of standing up to – his (supposed) right-wing enemies. His party has recently lost two special House elections and one of those defeats came in a district Democrats had previously held for 88 years in a row. He has staked his future prospects on a highly flawed jobs bill – legislation that may well not pass the House and that is scaring off many conservative Democratic legislators. Most Americans think the bill won’t work.
The president is starting to look like the potential victim of a landslide in November of 2012. The Democratic base is widely disillusioned with him. Even many among his fake-progressive pseudo-liberal dead-end defenders sometimes squawk about his conservative corporatism and unwillingness to govern in accord with his idealistic campaign promises. Liberal and progressive Democratic elected officials in the House and Senate have been grumbling about his center-right proclivities for some time now. It is one thing to rightwardly triangulate on the backs of welfare mothers and declining unions in the mode of Bill Clinton; it is another thing to do so at the expense of the broadly popular programs Social Security and Medicare, all while passing on hyper-regressive Republican tax cuts for the obscenely rich and powerful.
And so on. If you haven’t read the whole thing yet, please do. Especially this part:
If he cared about his party, Obama would step down and give the nomination to Hillary Clinton, determined by a recent Bloomberg poll to be “the most popular national political figure in America today.” Ms. Clinton has distinct advantages over Obama in running against Perry or Mitt Romney in 2012. She is not a member of Congress, which has even lower popular approval than Obama. She is associated with economic prosperity thanks to the long neoliberal Clinton boom of the 1990s. And she carries a reputation for toughness, quite different from Obama’s emerging legacy as a 98-pound weakling who gets kicked around on the policy beach by bullies like John Boehner, Sean Hannity, and Eric Cantor. (For those of us on the radical left, a Hillary Clinton presidency might have the benefit of inducing at least some less confusion and tepidness among progressives than “the first black president.”)
Of course Obama doesn’t care about his party, but maybe he’ll care about his own reputation after a few more humiliating defeats by the Republicans. One can only hope.
In other news, Arch West, the inventor of Doritos, has died.
When Arch West, the man credited with inventing Doritos, is buried on Oct. 1, he will be joined by a sprinkling of the bright orange chips that have become a cheesy, tangy, American institution.
His daughter, Jana Hacker of Allen, Texas, told the Dallas Morning News that the family plans on “tossing Doritos chips in before they put the dirt over the urn.”
West, who was 97 when he died of natural causes last week, was a former Frito-Lay executive. He reportedly came up with the idea of Doritos when he was on vacation with his family in Mexico and came upon a snack shack selling fried tortilla chips.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Frito-Lay officials were not too impressed with the idea, but they rolled out the chips after consumer testing proved positive. Doritos were first introduced in Southern California in 1964, according to a Frito-Lay spokesperson; Doritos Toasted Corn launched nationally in 1967.
Finally, I was very excited to learn that the Dead Sea Scrolls can now be viewed on line.
High-quality digitized images of five of the 950 manuscripts were posted for free online for the first time this week by Google and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where the scrolls are housed. The post includes an English translation and a search feature to one of the texts, the Great Isaiah Scroll.
The scroll, one of seven animal skin parchments discovered in 1947 a cave in Wadi Qumran in the West Bqnk, is the largest and best preserved in the collection.
“Some of these images are appearing for the first time in Google — what no one has seen for 2,000 years and no scholar since the Dead Sea Scrolls were found,” says James Charlesworth, director and editor of the Princeton Dead Sea Scrolls Project, who is one of the few who has handled the ancient pieces of parchment. “Now images and letters that were never found are appearing in Google.”
Charlesworth said the new images allow him to decipher in 30 minutes fragments of documents that once took 14 hours to analyze. The digital project will preserve documents that were eaten by worms and so fragile they’re turning to dust or rotting away.
Here’s some more information on the project from the Google blog.
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?
While President Obama was visiting small lily-white Midwestern towns that have managed to do pretty well during the economic crisis of the past three years, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have traveled around the country hosting job fairs. Yesterday they were in Detroit.
U.S. House Rep. Maxine Waters is asking black voters who are struggling with an unemployment rate nearly twice the national average to “unleash” her and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus on President Obama.
The California Democrat, speaking at a raucous town hall in Detroit hosted by the CBC on Tuesday, said she doesn’t want to attack the president from his base unless the base gives her the go-ahead.
“If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us,” Waters said. “When you tell us it’s all right and you unleash us and you’re ready to have this conversation, we’re ready to have the conversation.”
Judging by the reaction of the audience, including someone yelling to Waters, “It’s all right,” the president will be hearing very soon from the congresswoman and her fellow caucus members.
Since Obama took office, he has resisted pressure from the CBC to create jobs programs specifically targeting blacks, saying that improving the entire economy will help all groups.
I’m not sure I understand why the CBC can’t lead on this issue rather than waiting to be “unleashed” by African American voters. Still, at least she’s talking about the dismal employment situation African Americans face.
I guess Obama’s “jobs plan” isn’t an emergency, since Congress is so unlikely to pass it. I guess that’s why the President is going on vacation first and won’t give his latest “major speech” until after Labor Day.
Looking at that video of the CBC jobs fair reminds me of photos of lines during the Great Depression, but President Obama announced today that
“I don’t think we’re in danger of another recession, but we are in danger of not having a recovery that is fast enough to deal with a genuine unemployment crisis for a whole lot of folks out there.
And you know what an expert our fearless leader is on economic matters (snark). And to show that he’s not that worried, President Obama will soon be heading for Martha’s Vineyard for a 10-day vacation.
But wait, check this out from Gallup:
But the President is tired too, I guess. All those golf games, the weekends at Camp David, the fancy White House dinners and parties, the fundraisers, the
campaign swing bus tour of the Midwest–it’s so exhausting. He needs a break. So unemployed people need to stop being so selfish and understand President Obama’s needs. He’ll get around to their problems someday.
Funny though, I don’t recall it taking him this long to bail out the banks, do you?
Here’s a longer version of Maxine Waters’ talk.
Good Morning!! I have a real grab bag of news items for you this morning.
Via Ezra Klein, a Gallup poll found that nobody, including most Republicans, wants the government fooling around with Medicare. I can’t embed the chart, but you can see it at either of the above links. Klein:
The Republican Party has a bit of a problem: Their coalition is heavily weighted toward seniors. But their agenda is heavily weighted toward cuts to entitlement programs that benefit seniors. In 2010, they handled this by relentlessly attacking Democrats for the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act. In 2011, they’re trying to handle it by saying that Paul Ryan’s Medicare cuts will exempt anyone under 55 — but because he’s keeping all the Medicare cuts from the Affordable Care Act and implementing them on schedule, that isn’t, by the GOP’s own logic, actually true….
The most popular position in the GOP’s coalition isn’t that Medicare needs a complete overhaul, as Ryan thinks. It isn’t that it needs major changes, or even that it needs minor changes. It’s that we shouldn’t try and control costs at all.
Speaking of arrogant and deluded Republicans, The Smoking Gun obtained FAA documents relating to an incident in which James Inhofe “scared the crap out of” a bunch of Airport employees when the elderly GOP Senator landed his plan on a closed runway.
Newly released Federal Aviation Administration documents and audiotapes shed a scary new light on a bizarre incident late last year during which U.S. Senator James Inhofe landed his Cessna on a closed runway at a south Texas airport, scattering construction workers who ran for their lives as the politician’s plane hopscotched over them and six vehicles.
The FAA material, provided in response to a TSG Freedom of Information Act request, details how Inhofe, 76, chose to land on the main runway at the Cameron County Airport on October 21 despite being aware that it was closed and had a large ‘X’ on its threshold….
Shortly after Inhofe landed, Sidney Boyd, who was supervising construction on the closed runway, called the FAA to report that Inhofe’s plane, a twin-engine six-seater, initially touched down on the runway and then “’sky hopped’ over the six vehicles and personnel working on the runway, and then landed.”
During the call, which was recorded by the FAA, Boyd said Inhofe’s antics “scared the crap out of” workers, adding that the Cessna “damn near hit” a red truck. Referring to the vehicle’s driver, Boyd added, “I think he actually wet his britches, he was scared to death. I mean, hell, he started trying to head for the side of the runway. The pilot could see him, or he should have been able to, he was right on him.”
Inhofe agreed to “complete a program of remedial training” so he wouldn’t lose his pilot’s license.
According to a report by the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, released today, Goldman Sachs “Misled Clients, Lawmakers on CDOs.”
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) designed, marketed and sold collateralized debt obligations that misled investors and created conflicts of interest as the company built short positions before the U.S. housing market collapsed, a Senate panel said in its report on the financial crisis.
In the case of one CDO, Hudson Mezzanine Funding 2006-1, Goldman Sachs told investors its interests were aligned with theirs while the firm held 100 percent of the short side, according to the report released today by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who leads the panel, urged regulators to review all of the structured finance transactions described in the report.
At a briefing today, Levin said he believed Goldman Sachs executives weren’t truthful about the company’s transactions in testimony before the subcommittee at an April 2010 hearing. He said he would refer the testimony to the Justice Department for possible perjury charges.
Good. I sure would like to see some prosecutions of these lying, cheating frauds.
While speaking about an AIDS awareness program she works with, Judd writes, “Along with other performers, YouthAIDS was supported by rap and hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg and P. Diddy to spread the message…um, who? Those names were a red flag.”
Judd continued, “As far as I’m concerned, most rap and hip-hop music – with its rape culture and insanely abusive lyrics and depictions of girls and women as ‘ho’s’ – is the contemporary soundtrack of misogyny.”
She concludes, “I believe that the social construction of gender – the cultural beliefs and practices that divide the sexes and institutionalize and normalize the unequal treatment of girls and women, privilege the interests of boys and men, and, most nefariously, incessantly sexualize girls and women – is the root cause of poverty and suffering around the world.”
The backlash was immediate and vicious, and included death threats. Judd apologized for generalizing about all rap and hip hop music, but ended with this:
“Hatred of girls and women, I will oppose with spiritual and non-violent principles every day,” she concludes, adding that the Twitter responses to her remarks included death threats. “Abuse and violence in any form, at any time, in any expression, are never okay. Period. I, and other girls and women, are not afraid of you. You can keep on hating, but I am going to keep on loving.”
More power to Ashley Judd!
In more violence against women news, the search for bodies is continuing on Long Island. After finding ten bodies so far on beaches, searchers are looking underwater for more remains. In addition the FBI is helping out with “high-tech planes.”
“This is not an episode of CSI. This is an intensive long term investigation that includes the use of sophisticated technology as well as good old fashioned detective work,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer at a press conference today.
Dormer said that the FBI will provide investigators with planes and choppers that use sophisticated aerial imaging technology of the Long Island beach area where the skeletal remains of at least nine bodies have been found so far.
“Weather permitting this operation will commence later this week…We’re hoping the technology will help identify skeletal remains that may still be out there,” Dormer said.
Police believe that there are no links between the bodies found on Long Island in 2010 and 2011 and four bodies that were found in Atlantic City in 2006.
According to the NY Post, some of the bones found in the past couple of days could be victims of another Long Island serial killer Joel Rifkin.
The skull and torso found on a desolate Nassau County beachfront are too old to be connected to the serial killings of four Craigslist call girls — and could belong to long-lost victims of notorious Long Island butcher Joel Rifkin, a source said yesterday.
“These are so old that roots were growing around the vertebrae and the skull,” the source told The Post.
“These could be one or two of Joel Rifkin’s victims who were never found,” or the work of another killer, the source said.
Further complicating the case, the bodies of a man and a young child have been found during the search.
Austria is the latest country waking up to the abuse of its children by Catholic priests.
Over 800 cases of abuse in Catholic institutions in Austria have been reported so far, a commission tasked with investigating abuse cases announced on Wednesday.
A total 837 abuse victims approached the commission, which was set up by the Austrian Catholic Church last year after it was hit by a wave of abuse revelations, commission head Waltraud Klasnic told a press conference.
Three quarters of the victims were male, with the most cases — about 20 percent — reported in northern Upper Austria province, followed by Vienna and western Tyrol, according to a commission report summarising its first-year findings.
Back in the good old USA, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League says the kids were asking for it.
The group bought an expensive full-page ad in The New York Times Monday that places the blames for the church’s scandals on “homosexuality, not pedophilia.”
And perhaps most shockingly, it also claimed that some children were active participants in the abuse.
“The refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church is twice wrong: let’s get it straight — they weren’t children and they weren’t raped,” self-appointed Catholic League president Bill Donohue wrote in the ad.
“We know from the John Jay study that most of the victims have been adolescents, and that the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape),” he added, referencing a 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which was funded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The Boston Globe correctly said of the John Jay report that ‘more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.’ In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia,” Donohue wrote.
Another issue is that priests are in a position of power and should not take advantage of that position to gratify their sexual desires. But I’m sure Donohue would disagree. And where I come from adolescents are still children.
In science news, a new study revealed that Climate change affects tectonic plate movement, causing earthquakes
Understanding why plates change direction and speed is key to unlocking huge seismic events such as last month’s Japan earthquake, which shifted the Earth’s axis by several inches, or February’s New Zealand quake.
An Australian-led team of researchers from France and Germany found that the strengthening Indian monsoon had accelerated movement of the Indian plate over the past 10 million years by a factor of about 20 percent.
Lead researcher Giampiero Iaffaldano said Wednesday that although scientists have long known that tectonic movements influence climate by creating new mountains and sea trenches, his study was the first to show the reverse.
Dakninikat sent me this one from the BBC: Yellowstone supervolcano fed by bigger plume
The underground volcanic plume at Yellowstone in the US may be bigger than previously thought, according to a new study by geologists.
The volcanic hotspot below Yellowstone feeds the hot springs, mud pots and geysers that bring millions of visitors to the US national park each year.
There have been three huge eruptions of the Yellowstone supervolcano: 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 640,000 years ago. Two of these eruptions blanketed a large area of North America with volcanic ash.
The most recent full-scale eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano ejected some 1,000 cubic km (240 cubic miles) of hot ash and rock into the atmosphere. There have been smaller eruptions in between the largest outpourings; the most recent of these occurred 70,000 years ago.
Of course that can’t be true because the earth can’t possibly be that old, right?
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?