2012 - %3, October

Know Your Communist History

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 1:50 PM EDT

President Obama's new booklet, "A Plan for Jobs," is subtitled "The New Economic Patriotism," and the editors of National Review are not amused. I'll admit that I could do without that subtitle myself, but it turns out that NR objects to it mainly because of its initials: "If that name seems to you redolent of early-20th-century totalitarians, that may be because it is not the first N.E.P.: Lenin’s was the Novaya Ekonomicheskaya Politika." You'd think that National Review, of all places, would know its communist history, but no. Matt Steinglass provides the free lesson:

Interesting reference! The Novaya Ekonomich-eskaya Politika was a free-market economic reform package introduced by the Soviet government in 1921. It entailed a retreat from an all-state economic model in favour of institutionalised recognition of a legitimate private sector in industry and agriculture, as well as a dramatic tax cut.

....The reforms were largely successful, leading the Russian economy back to pre-war production levels by 1927. But they also led to rising income inequality. After Stalin won the struggle for power in 1928 over alternative leaders like Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, he soon abandoned the NEP in favour of forced agricultural collectivisation and industrial centralisation under the first five-year plan. He then gradually mopped up every remaining base of political opposition within the party and had them all executed in show trials beginning in 1934.

I'll grant you that an association with Lenin does no politician any good, regardless of which particular policy we're talking about. Still, if you're going to be childish enough to object to something because of its initials, you probably ought to at least know what you're talking about first.

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How Twitter Is Ruining Political Journalism

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 12:54 PM EDT

Dana Milbank writes about the way that political journalism works today:

Walk into the “filing center” at a presidential debate and you’ll see hundreds of reporters seated at tables doing two things: Watching the action on TV (reporters covering the debates aren’t actually in the same room as the candidates) and monitoring Twitter on their laptops.

....From the first minutes, journalists at the site and back at home monitor each other’s tweets, testing out themes and gauging which candidate is ahead, point by point: “First section kind of a wash” . . . “Romney very soft on Libya” . . . “Obama is condescending here” . . . “Zing!” . . . “No laughs in the press file for that canned Obama line.” Somewhere around the 30-minute mark, the conventional wisdom gels — and subsequent tweets, except those from the most hardened partisans, increasingly reflect the Twitter-forged consensus. Well before the end, the journalists agree on a winner, a loser and which moments — Big Bird, binders full of women, horses and bayonets — should trend their way into the news coverage.

....I don’t fault the journalists who engage in instant analysis....

Let's stop right there. I fault the journalists who do this. Don't get me wrong: I understand that professional reporters don't live in a bubble. They attend the same events, they talk to each other on the campaign trail, and they read each others' stories. This is inevitable, and it's inevitably going to lead to a certain amount of bandwagoning.

But even if this is inevitable, it's something that good reporters should at least fight. The last thing they should do is actively make it worse by obsessing over their Twitter feeds. So yes: let's fault the journalists who do this. It's insane. They should be doing everything they can to resist groupthink, not gleefully diving ever deeper into the looking glass. This is really a staggering dereliction of duty.

GOP's Benghazi Smoking Gun Goes Up in Smoke

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 11:12 AM EDT

When a set of State Department emails were released Wednesday, one reporting that a local Islamist militia had claimed responsibility for the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya, conservatives thought they had the smoking gun that the Obama administration had lied about what had occurred. 

Reuters reported Wednesday that on September 11—the day of the attack—a State Department email with the subject header "Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack" was sent to the White House. The message stated that "Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli." Case closed, conservatives said: The White House had engaged in a cover-up.

"[T]he president and his advisers repeatedly told us the attack was spontaneous reaction to the anti-Muslim video and that it lacked information suggesting it was a terrorist assault," wrote Jennifer Rubin, president of the Washington Post's Mitt Romney fan club. "Bottom line? Barack Obama was willfully and knowingly lying to the American people," wrote Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (Of course, the idea that the video played a role is not inconsistent with the idea that the attack was an "act of terror," a phrase the president himself used to describe the attack in the days following the incident.)

There's only one problem—well, actually, there are many, but one big one: The email appears to have been incorrect. Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, the group suspected of attacking the consulate, never claimed responsibility for the assault. In fact, according to Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who monitors jihadist activity online, Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi didn't post about the attack on its Facebook or Twitter page until September 12, the day after the attack. They expressed their approval of the incident, but they didn't take credit; they did imply members of the group might have been involved, according to Zelin, stating, "Katibat Ansar al-Sharia [in Benghazi] as a military did not participate formally/officially and not by direct orders." The statement also justifies the attack by implicitly alluding to the anti-Islam video linked to unrest in other parts of the Middle East, saying, "We commend the Libyan Muslim people in Benghazi [that were] against the attack on the [Muslim] Prophet [Muhammad]."

"It is possible staffers were mistaken in the heat of the moment," wrote Zelin in an email to Mother Jones. "Not only was there no statement from ASB until the following morning, but it did not claim responsibility." (Zelin provided Mother Jones with screenshots of AAS's Twitter feed and Facebook page, which he also provided to CNN. It's possible the posts could have been deleted, but there's no way to prove that.)

Even if the State Department email had been accurate, conservatives pounced on it eagerly without underlying corroboration, thereby providing a pretty good example of how complicated intelligence analysis can be and why it's a bad idea to simply jump on a piece of information that fits your preconceived biases. The email was just one piece of information gathered in the aftermath of the attack. While the White House's initial explanation that the attack had begun as a protest turned out to be wrong, the email itself doesn't bear on two of the major remaining questions: what role the video played and whether the attack was planned or spontaneous. 

You'd think that this would be obvious, but in the future it's a good idea to remember that just because someone posts something on Facebook, that doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Even better: Just because someone said someone posted something on Facebook doesn't mean it's true. Even if you really, really want it to be.

America's CEOs Want the Rest of Us to Pay For Their Folly

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 10:57 AM EDT

Felix Salmon has a righteous rant about a group of CEOs who have written a manifesto insisting that "growing debt" is a serious threat to the well-being of the United States. But as Felix points out, "debt" has actually decreased in the past few years:

So when the CEOs talk about “our growing debt”, what they mean is just the debt owed by the Federal government. And when the Federal government borrows money, that doesn’t even come close to making up for the fact that the CEOs themselves are not borrowing money.

Money is cheaper now than it has been in living memory: the markets are telling corporate America that they are more than willing to fund investments at unbelievably low rates. And yet the CEOs are saying no. That’s a serious threat to the economic well-being of the United States: its companies are refusing to invest for the future, even when the markets are begging them to.

Instead, the CEOs come out and start criticizing the Federal government for stepping in and filling the gap. If it wasn’t for the Federal deficit, the debt-to-GDP chart would be declining even more precipitously, and the economy would be a disaster. Deleveraging is a painful process, and the Federal government is — rightly — easing that pain right now. And this is the gratitude it gets in return!

Later, after reviewing the blather that passes for a proposal, Felix translates:

In other words, the letter basically just says “please cut our taxes, raise taxes on everybody else, and cut the benefits they get from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which are programs we individually don’t rely upon”. It’s gross self-interest masquerading as public statesmanship.

To summarize: the economy is in bad shape, corporations are refusing to expand, the federal government is taking up some of the slack to keep the economy afloat, and 80 of our nation's CEOs are outraged and insist that the solution is to eviscerate the middle class. Very nice. If it weren't forbidden, I'd call this class wa — um, well, you know. Rich guys vs. the rest of us.

Corn on "Hardball": The GOP's Irrational Exuberance

Thu Oct. 25, 2012 10:53 AM EDT

Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief David Corn and New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball Wednesday to talk about irrational exuberance regarding Mitt Romney's prospects, and why Democrats should stay confident heading towards November 6th.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Kevin Drum's Guide to California's Ballot Mayhem

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 7:33 AM EDT

This is a special post for California readers. The rest of you may safely ignore it.

This year we have 11 initiatives on the California ballot. As longtime readers know, my default position is to oppose all initiatives. Here's the nickel version of a longer rant about this: (1) Most initiatives these days are funded by corporate interests, not the grassroots, and corporate interests don't really need yet another avenue to work their will on the public; (2) generally speaking, laws should be laws, not constitutional amendments or initiative statutes, where they're essentially etched in stone forever; and (3) ballot box budgeting is a curse. So keep my biases in mind as you read this.

It's worth noting that my dislike of initiatives softens a bit when there's no choice in the matter. We Californians have passed a ton of initiatives in the past, and since that etches them in stone (see No. 2, supra) it means that the only way to change them is via another initiative. I don't like it, but that's life. I'm mentioning this because several of this year's initiatives fall into this category, and they account for every single one of my Yes recommendations.

  1. Temporary tax hike to benefit schools: YES. California schools are badly underfunded, and thanks to Proposition 13's requirement that all tax bills require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, it's all but impossible to raise taxes to fix the situation. If tax laws could be passed by a simple majority vote, and Sacramento failed to do so, I'd take that as the will of the people and let it go. But that's not how things are, which means a ballot initiative is the only answer. This one isn't perfect, but it's not bad. It deserves a Yes vote.

    There's a competing tax measure, Proposition 38, also on the ballot. More on that below.

  2. Miscellaneous budget and local government reform: NO. Proposition 31 has some good points. Providing a small financial incentive for local governments to coordinate public services might be a good idea. It's also got some iffy points. Allowing the governor more authority to cut spending in an emergency is a so-so idea. And it's got some bad points. Micromanaging the budget process is a bad idea, and so is Prop. 31's too-vague plan to allow local governments to override state regulations. All in all, Prop. 31 is a hodgepodge that just doesn't pass a high enough bar to deserve support.

  3. Paycheck protection: NO. This zombie initiative—the third of its kind in the past 14 years—would forbid unions from deducting money from workers' paychecks for political purposes. It's ostensibly nonpartisan because it also bans corporations from doing this, but that's like passing a law making it illegal for both workers and managers to go on strike. Corporations don't do this in the first place, so in practice this initiative crushes the political power of unions but does nothing to rein in the political power of corporations. It's a scam.

  4. Auto insurance: NO. This is another zombie initiative, backed by the zillionaire CEO of Mercury Insurance, who tried to get a nearly identical initiative passed in 2010. Here's the short argument against it: Prop. 103, passed in 1988, allows insurers to consider only factors related to the likelihood of filing a claim when they set rates. Prop. 33 would add another factor by allowing insurance companies to provide discounts to drivers who have been continuously insured—a factor that, it turns out, has little relationship to the risk of loss. Prop. 33 might very well benefit Mercury Insurance, which could more easily poach business from other insurers if it passes, but unless you're a Mercury stockholder that's not a very good reason to support it. We're better off keeping Prop. 103 the way it is.

  5. Replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole: YES. The death penalty has never been one of my big hot buttons. Still, there's mountains of evidence that it's applied unfairly and sometimes imposed on innocent defendants, which is reason enough to get rid of it. But it's also worth getting rid of the death penalty because it simply doesn't work in California. Hundreds of people sit on death row for decades at a time, and millions of dollars are spent defending them, all with little hope of the death penalty actually being imposed. Only 13 people have been executed in California since 1977, and a federal judge imposed a moratorium in 2006. It's time to end the death penalty farce, and since it was originally imposed via initiative, the only way to do this is via another initiative.

  6. Human Trafficking: NO. California may or may not need better human trafficking laws, but it doesn't need this sloppily written initiative that's yet another pet project of a local zillionaire. These kinds of laws should be written by legislatures, not carved into stone forever by ballot initiatives.

  7. Three strikes: YES. Prop. 36 modifies our three-strikes law so that 25-to-life sentences are imposed only if the third strike is a serious one. This is just common sense. However, since the original three-strikes law was passed by initiative, the only way to make this change is via another initiative. It's worth a Yes vote.

  8. GM food labeling: NO. I'll confess to mixed feelings about this. But I'm afraid mixed feelings mean a No vote. I respect the desire to know where your food comes from, regardless of whether you want to know different things than I do, but on a substantive level I'm not convinced that GM foods pose enough of a genuine hazard to rate detailed labeling laws that are etched in stone forever. Also: This initiative, as with so many initiatives, is sloppily written; it can't be changed after it's passed; and it imposes expensive state labeling burdens on interstate commerce, something that I'm increasingly leery of. I'll also note that I'm swayed by our experience with Prop. 65, which imposed labeling requirements for toxic chemicals. In the end, so many warning signs got posted that they became essentially useless. I have a feeling Prop. 37 might have the same result.

    For a different view, check out Tom Philpott's take on Prop. 37 and its detractors here.

  9. Temporary tax hike to benefit schools: NO (with an asterisk). Prop. 38 competes with Prop. 30 as a tax measure to benefit public schools. Here's the calm, collected argument in favor of Prop. 30: (1) it takes effect immediately, and (2) it allows the legislature more flexibility in using its funds than Prop. 38, which strictly earmarks its revenue. Since I'm a sworn foe of ballot box budgeting, I prefer the Prop. 30 approach. A bit of flexibility is a feature, not a bug.

    And now for the decidedly non-calm argument. California needs a temporary tax hike. So last year Gov. Jerry Brown did what we elected him to do: he engaged in a bit of horsetrading and hammered out a tax proposal. Liberals rebelled, compromises were made, and Brown's measure eventually got wide support from most of the state's major political players. This means that it's not perfect. Real world compromises never are. But it's still pretty good.

    So what happened? We got a competing measure funded by yet another local zillionaire, heiress Molly Munger (she's the daughter of Warren Buffett's business partner). And in some ways Prop. 38 really is better than Prop 30. But so what? Prop. 30 is pretty good, it's widely supported, and the main effect of Prop. 38 is to confuse everyone and increase the risk of neither initiative passing. That's especially true since Munger has turned this into a death march, spending her fortune not only to promote Prop. 38, but to run negative ads against Prop 30. And needless to say, this is all in addition to the usual barrels of money being poured into the Prop. 30 opposition by California's anti-tax jihadists. Thanks, Molly!

    Self-absorbed purity contests like this really piss me off, and I would sure appreciate it if California's zillionaires could find something else to do with their riches. That said, here's the asterisk: if you do vote Yes on 38, at least vote Yes on 30 too. That way we still have a good chance to get something passed even if Prop 38 fails. Don't insist on drowning the passengers just because your particular lifeboat doesn't get chosen to rescue a sinking ship.

  10. Tax treatment for multistate businesses: YES. Back during some last-minute bargaining over a tax bill during Arnold Schwarzenegger's term, legislators decided they didn't quite have the courage to change California's corporate tax code from a three-factor system (based on sales, employment and property) to a simpler system based solely on in-state sales. So they kept both systems and allowed corporations to choose whichever one gave them a lower tax bill. This was dumb, and it costs California about $1 billion per year. Unfortunately, thanks to Proposition 13's requirement that all tax bills require a two-thirds vote, it's impossible to fix this kludge because the anti-tax jihadists consider it a tax increase. So a ballot initiative is our only option. Prop. 39 is a sensible proposal that produces better tax incentives for corporations, stops them from gaming the system, and raises a bit of money all at once. Unfortunately, it also earmarks some of that money for special purposes. But it's a temporary earmark, so it's still worth a Yes.

  11. Redistricting: YES. This is a weird one. Originally it was a Republican referendum on the state Senate redistricting plan approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, but in a ruling earlier this year the California Supreme Court indicated that even if the plan were nullified it would probably draw pretty similar lines itself. So backers, who wanted a No vote (which would overturn the CCRC plan) gave up. However, there was no way to remove Prop. 40 from the ballot, so it's still here. A Yes vote upholds the redistricting plan, and no one is opposing that.

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Charts: Women Are Backing Obama by the Binderful

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 6:13 AM EDT

Earlier this week, the New York Times' Nate Silver wrote about the gaping "gender gap" at the heart of the presidential race, specifically the degree to which women are breaking for Barack Obama and men are breaking for Mitt Romney. On average, polls show Obama beating Romney by 9 points with women, while Romney has a 9-point advantage with men. All in all, that's an 18-point gender gap, a powerful indicator of just how much each candidate's chance of victory depends on one sex or the other.

(Update: Does a new AP poll mean the gender gap is gone? Not so fast.)

The red-blue gender gap has grown during the past two decades, but women and men's presidential preferences have often diverged. According to historical Gallup survey data, in 1952, women supported Republican Dwight Eisenhower by more than 5 points over men; likewise, men broke toward Democrat Adlai Stevenson by 5 points. (Total gender gap: 10 points.) By the '80s, women supported Democratic candidates much more solidly than men. In the 2008 election, 57 percent of women voted for Obama, compared with 50 percent of men; 50 percent of men voted for John McCain, while 43 percent of women did. (Total gender gap: 14 points.)

In short, women have been increasingly backing Democrats by the binderful. Nearly 30 years of exit-poll data tells the story:

The shift has been most dramatic among women 18 to 29 and single women. A new report from the the Voter Participation Center finds that the gap between married and single women's support for Democrats is profound. In 2008, unmarried women chose Obama over McCain by a whopping 41 points, while McCain carried married women by 3 points. This is big news for Democrats, especially considering that unmarried women made up 23 percent of voters in 2008. The gender gap helps explain why this year's race is so tight. A slice of recent swing-state polling by Public Policy Polling shows that it's very pronounced in key battleground states, including Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa. (And that's just one pollster's results.)  

So why are more women flocking to Democratic presidential candidates (and fleeing Republicans)? The answer doesn't seem too complicated, what with stuff like this, this, and this. A recent Gallup poll in 12 swing states found that more than half of female voters said that abortion or equal opportunity were their top election priority—issues that the president's campaign has repeatedly hammered Romney, Paul Ryan, and Republicans on.

Or maybe it's just hormones.

Update, 10/25: According to a just-released AP poll, Romney has erased his 16-point disadvantage with women and his lead with men has shrunk to 5 points. However, this is is just one poll; it will be interesting to see if other nationwide tracking polls show similar shifts in the week ahead. As Nate Silver's post explained, nine major polls show a significant gender gap; the 18-point split he cited was an average of those. It didn't include AP. If you factor in the new AP poll, Obama has an average 8.5-point advantage with women; Romney's average advantage with men is 8.7 points.

Update 2, 10/25: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds a 14-point gender gap, with support for Obama falling among unmarried women.

This article has been revised.

The Little Glider That Could: Arctic Ocean Diaries No. 10

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 6:13 AM EDT

Donglai Gong with the Slocum glider on the flight deck of USCG icebreaker Healy.

Editor's note: Julia Whitty is on a three-week-long journey aboard the the US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, following a team of scientists who are investigating how a changing climate might be affecting the chemistry of ocean and atmosphere in the Arctic.

One of the more engaging stories on the ship has been that of Donglai Gong, an assistant professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and his Slocum glider, named after the legendary 19th-century sailor Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail single-handedly around the world.

This Slocum is an unmanned robot that can fly underwater for 20 to 30 kilometers a day for weeks to months collecting high-resolution data on temperature, salinity, pressure, and other water qualities.

Plan A was to deploy the glider in the region of Barrow Canyon, a dynamic pathway of Pacific Ocean water into the Arctic Ocean. But due to the bowhead whaling season underway, Plan B in the Chukchi Sea was launched.

Donglai Gong watches the glider launch from the Healy Bridge.  Julia Whitty.]Donglai Gong watches the glider launch from the Healy Bridge. Julia Whitty.

But before Plan B could get started, Donglai needed to perform a buoyancy test on the glider. That was conducted 70 kilometers away from the Plan B launch site. Unfortunately, the glider never surfaced from this test and when the crew on the small boat pulled in the buoy attached to the glider to see what was up, the glider was gone.

Donglai was watching from the Healy Bridge. His excitement—I thought he looked like an expectant father—gave way to shock at the realization that the glider might be lost and his experiment abruptly ended. Worse, the glider wasn't even his own, but on loan to him from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). Ooops.

Donglai with email from the glider. Julia WhittyDonglai with email from the glider. Julia Whitty

But the story wasn't over. An hour and half later Donglai got an email on his iPhone. It was a message from the glider, which had kicked into emergency mode and surfaced to uplink its location to a satellite.

By then night had fallen and recovery wouldn't be possible until the following morning.  Donglai made the risky but scientifically rewarding decision to leave the glider where it was and to ask it to its start its mission right there, 70 km away from the Plan B starting point.

Map of the glider's flight from 12 to 20 October 2012 in the Arctic Ocean. Steve Roberts / National Center for Atmospheric Research.]Map of the glider's flight from 12 to 20 October 2012 in the Arctic Ocean. Steve Roberts / National Center for Atmospheric Research.]

So the little glider that could jumped the starting pistol and took off towards the Beaufort Sea on Amended Plan B.

In the map above you can see the eventual flight path of the glider, here named we04. For eight days it flew roughly 200 nautical miles along the outer edge of the Beaufort shelf where shallower water drops off to deeper water. A current flowing in the same direction helped the glider on its way. Each green point on the map marks where the glider surfaced every ~2.5 hours to upload its data collected roughly every 1 kilometer of distance travelled.

From unintended launch to successful retrieval, Donglai, with assistance from colleagues at WHOI and Rutgers University, kept the glider on its track, flying towards its eventual rendezvous location with Healy last Saturday.

Last night Donglai let me listen in on some of the recordings the glider had captured from its travels across the Beaufort Sea, including calls that sounded to me like bearded seals. Part 2 of his project will be to test using acoustics as a way to communicate with a glider or gliders deployed under the Arctic ice pack. Maybe next year.

Donglai's glider research was conceived on last year's Healy cruise with his (then) postdoc mentor Bob Pickart at WHOI, Principle Investigator on that cruise and on this one too.

VIDEO: Michael Pollan Talks GMO Labeling

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 6:13 AM EDT

California's Proposition 37, a ballot initiative that would require the labeling of genetically modified foods, is coming down to the wire as the Nov. 6 election approaches. (I've written about Prop. 37 here, here, and here.) As recently as Sept. 27, Pepperdine University's bi-monthly poll found 3-to-1 support among the state's voters for the proposition. Two weeks later, the lead had shrunk to 48 percent for to 40 percent against. Like the presidential race, the fight over Prop. 37 has tightened dramatically.

Pepperdine University's poll shows a once-wide lead tightening rapidly.  Pepperdine UniversityPepperdine University's poll shows a once-wide lead tightening rapidly. Pepperdine UniversityWhat happened? Most likely, it's the recent multimillion-dollar major television ad blitz, funded by agrichemical giants like Monsanto and processed food makers like Kraft, to whip up opposition to GMO labeling. (Dig into the latest contributions to the effort to defeat Prop. 37 here—on Oct. 19 alone, meat giant Smithfield came through with $454,908.15; Kraft ponied up $1,094,851.75; Pepsi chipped in $429,100.00, etc.)

"This is a great example of the power of advertising," pollster Chris Condon of M4 Strategies, which conducted the survey, told The Los Angeles Times. "A lot of money has been poured into the No side, and the effect has been dramatic."

On Wednesday's Democracy Now show, Amy Goodman hosted a no-holds-barred debate between Prop. 37 spokesperson Stacy Malkan and David Zilberman, professor of agricultural and resource economics at University of California, Berkeley, who opposes the measure. In the debate, Zilberman strains to convince viewers that labeling GMOs in California would mean the starvation of thousands in Africa.

Goodman also interviewed Michael Pollan, who recently argued in The New York Times Magazine that Prop. 37 is a key test for "whether or not there is a 'food movement' in America worthy of the name—that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system."

In another segment, Pollan holds forth on the food movement's burgeoning political power, agruing that the movement remains in its infancy—he argues that the food movement today is like the environmental movement before the first Earth Day in 1970.

Finally, for one more blast of Prop. 37 commentary as the election hits the stretch run, The New York Times' food guru Mark Bittman recently made the case for it.

The Disposition Matrix

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 1:54 AM EDT

I don't have time to write a long post about this right this second, but you should read Greg Miller's piece in the Washington Post today about the "disposition matrix," the latest and greatest upgrade of President Obama's kill list:

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years....That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism. Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero.

Doug Mataconis has a good summary of reaction to Miller's piece here. It's worth a read.