1. "How a race in the balance went to Obama"
Adam Nagourney, Ashley Parker, Jim Rutenberg, and Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times
This week, President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney to secure a second presidential term. Obama's decisive victory reportedly came as a surprise to Romney's campaign staff, which had been relying on polls that showed the Republican candidate as a clear favorite — particularly after Obama's lackluster performance in the first presidential debate. An explanation of how Obama earned a second term, and how Romney's team had such an inaccurate view of their chances in the election:
"Even as the networks declared Mr. Obama the winner, Mr. Romney, who had earlier told reporters he had written only a victory speech, paused before the walk downstairs from his hotel room in Boston. It was 11:30 p.m., and Romney field teams in Ohio, Virginia and Florida called in, saying the race was too close for the candidate to give up. At least four planes were ready to go, and aides had bags packed for recount battles in narrowly divided states. Bob White, a close Romney friend and adviser, was prepared to tell the waiting crowd that Mr. Romney would not yet concede. But then, Mr. Romney quietly decided it was over. 'It’s not going to happen,' he said. As Ann Romney cried softly, he headed down to deliver his speech, ending his second, and presumably last, bid for the White House. Four decades earlier, his father and inspiration, George Romney, a former Michigan governor failed in his own such quest."
2. "How the Bond franchise almost died"
Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter
On Friday, Skyfall, the 23rd film in the James Bond franchise, opened in the United States to some of the strongest reviews in the series' history. The film's success has been an enormous relief to both producers and fans who had breathlessly followed Skyfall's troubled 4-year production cycle (one key development: It went on an "indefinite" hiatus during parent studio MGM's bankruptcy). How did the film's creative team rebound to make what some are calling the best James Bond movie ever? An in-depth, behind-the-scenes report:
"'They couldn't guarantee anything,' [producer Barbara] Broccoli laments. 'The company was going into bankruptcy, and they didn't know how it was going to emerge. But we needed to know we would have financing and distribution — and there was no deal with Sony in place at the time.' (Sony had distributed the previous two Bond films.) [Director Sam] Mendes admits he seriously considered pulling out. In London, following his split with wife Kate Winslet, he was developing an adaptation of Ian McEwan's 1960s-based drama On Chesil Beach but had problems casting it. Other offers came his way — he even had brief talks about helming The Hunger Games — and yet he resisted. 'I was tempted to go,' he acknowledges. 'I said to Barbara, 'Can you give me some assurance this is going to happen?' She said, 'To be honest, I can't.' But I had a feeling it would be sorted out, so I took the risk of turning down other work and just waiting.'"
3. "Here comes the groom: A (conservative) case for gay marriage"
Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic [republished at Slate]
Tuesday's election offered several major victories for same-sex marriage advocates, with voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington approving same-sex marriage initiatives, and voters in Minnesota turning down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It's a political shift that would have been deemed impossible less than 25 years ago, when commentator Andrew Sullivan first made a case for gay marriage in The New Republic. An excerpt from Sullivan's groundbreaking 1989 essay, reprinted in full at Slate:
"Gay marriage squares several circles at the heart of the domestic partnership debate. Unlike domestic partnership, it allows for recognition of gay relationships, while casting no aspersions on traditional marriage. It merely asks that gays be allowed to join in. Unlike domestic partnership, it doesn't open up avenues for heterosexuals to get benefits without the responsibilities of marriage, or a nightmare of definitional litigation. And unlike domestic partnership, it harnesses to an already established social convention the yearnings for stability and acceptance among a fast-maturing gay community. Gay marriage also places more responsibilities upon gays; it says for the first time that gay relationships are not better or worse than straight relationships, and that the same is expected of them. And it's clear and dignified. There's a legal benefit to a clear, common symbol of commitment. There's also a personal benefit. One of the ironies of domestic partnership is that it's not only more complicated than marriage, it's more demanding, requiring an elaborate statement of intent to qualify. It amounts to a substantial invasion of privacy. Why, after all, should gays be required to prove commitment before they get married in a way we would never dream of asking of straights?"
4. "Unsafe at any rate"
Elizabeth Warren, Democracy Journal
Democrats scored a major victory this week when Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren defeated Republican incumbent Scott Brown in a closely-watched Massachusetts Senate race. Warren, who earned national recognition in 2009 as chair of the congressional panel overseeing the 2008 Wall Street bailout, was eventually put in charge of establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which regulates consumer protection with regard to financial products and services. Here, a 2007 article in which Warren lays out the case for a "Financial Product Safety Commission":
"The pain imposed by a dangerous credit product is even more insidious than that inflicted by a malfunctioning kitchen appliance. If toasters are dangerous, they may burn down the homes of rich people or poor people, college graduates or high-school dropouts. But credit products are not nearly so egalitarian. Wealthy families can ignore the tricks and traps associated with credit card debt, secure in the knowledge that they won’t need to turn to credit to get through a rough patch. Their savings will protect them from medical expenses that exceed their insurance coverage or the effects of an unexpected car repair; credit cards are little more than a matter of convenience. Working- and middle-class families are far less insulated. For the family who lives closer to the economic margin, a credit card with an interest rate that unexpectedly escalates to 29.99 percent or misplaced trust in a broker who recommends a high-priced mortgage can push a family into a downward economic spiral from which it may never recover."
5. "The history of cannabis in Colorado… or how the state went to pot"
William Breathes, Denver Westword News
On Election Day, voters in both Washington and Colorado approved a ballot initiative to make recreational marijuana use legal in their states. But marijuana wasn't always illegal in Colorado; from the time when Colorado joined the United States in 1876 until legislators made the cultivation and smoking of cannabis a misdemeanor in 1917, marijuana was widely used in the state. What changed, and why? A look at marijuana's convoluted history in the Centennial State:
"In March 1917, Colorado legislators made the use and cultivation of cannabis a misdemeanor; those who broke the law were subject to a fine of between $10 and $100 and up to a month in jail. The bill was sponsored by Andres Lucero of Las Animas; given his Hispanic surname and the fact that, later that same year, he also sponsored a measure outlawing cocaine and opium distribution, it's likely that Mexican immigrants were not the target of the bill. Instead, it might have been part of the growing national temperance movement that led to Prohibition in 1920. But in 1929, when the Colorado Legislature passed a law making the sale, possession and distribution of marijuana a felony in Colorado, minorities were clearly the focus of the measure. A Mexican immigrant who'd murdered his stepdaughter in Denver that year was reportedly under the influence of cannabis; sensational newspaper stories played up both the drug and his origins. Val Higgins, a Denver chaplain, told the Rocky Mountain News that the new, stricter legislation was necessary to control the growing Mexican population. 'The use of marijuana came into the state with the Mexicans migrating here for agricultural work,' he said. "Its use is growing because of the increasing number of Mexicans and the ease with which most of them have been able to avoid penalties.'"