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HUFFPOST HILL - Debate Two: Who Rules The Stools?

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Tonight's presidential debate is a town hall, though unlike most political town halls, disgruntled screaming is strictly forbidden. Candy Crowley -- the traitor -- said she will pressure the candidates to answer questions. And President Obama came out ahead in a survey of under-18 Americans, so there's always an MTV VJ career if the whole presidency thing doesn't work out. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, October 16th, 2012:

CANDY CROWLEY GOING ROGUE - No, she's not going to be toking a huge J while wearing a bejeweled "YOLO" shirt during tonight's town hall debate, though that would be incredible. Politico: "In an interview with CNN this afternoon, Candy Crowley reiterated that, like past town-hall debate moderators, she intends to do more than just hold the microphone at tonight's debate in Hempstead, N.Y. -- an intention that has caused concern for both campaigns. 'They will call on 'Alice,' and 'Alice' will stand up and ask a question. Both candidates will answer. Then there's time for a follow-up question, facilitating a discussion, whatever you want to call it,' Crowley said. 'So if Alice asks oranges, and someone answers apples, there's the time to go, 'But Alice asked oranges? What's the answer to that?' Or, 'Well, you say this, but what about that?' Crowley's vision of her role at tonight's debate is in keeping with past town hall debates, but it would defy the expectations agreed to by both campaigns in the co-signed memorandum of understanding, obtained and released yesterday by Time's Mark Halperin. [Politico]

We will be live-tweeting the debate from our free iPod scambot/newsletter Twitter account, @HuffPostHill

The Onion: "Obama Excited To Participate In First Debate"

PAUL RYAN IN FEBRUARY: VOTERS NEED SPECIFICS - The vice presidential candidate's refusal to discuss the specifics of his ticket's tax plan -- despite his propensity to tote binders and his predilection for pie charts -- has dogged both him and Mitt Romney. However specificity is something that February 2012 Paul Ryan loves. "I think it's good politics, because I think people are reassured when political leaders are being specific and bold, because they are people of conviction. They're not just telling them what they want to hear, like a weathervane," he said during an intervew with WISN-TV, "They don't want to be pandered to like children. And, in this country, people can do basic math." Providing details, Ryan said, is "morally the right thing to do." [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel and Hunter Stuart]

Well played, Democrats: RomneyTaxPlan.com

BLAG! Jen Bendery: "House Republican leaders have spent nearly all of the $1.5 million they allotted themselves to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, according to new figures revealed Tuesday by a House committee. Democrats on the House Administration Committee released a report showing that the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), which took over the legal defense of DOMA after the Obama administration stopped defending it in Feb. 2011, has spent a total of $1,447,996.73. That means that House Republican leaders have effectively spent all the money they allotted themselves: BLAG members House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last year signed a $1.5 million contract with attorney Paul Clement to represent them in cases involving DOMA, or the federal ban on same-sex marriage." And yet the menace of gay marriage is still out there. [HuffPost]

PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST ANGRY - HuffPost Hill's Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist, who refuses to eat toast after he once saw a slice with what appeared to be Rachel Maddow's face on it, is mad. "If Obama fails tonight, the Professional Left will have no one to blame but themselves," PSLGOPL wrote us after he finished planting landmines in his front yard. "Chris Matthews single-handedly filled his head with bad swing thoughts. Oh, and for Candy Crowley, since when did the buck stop at a cabinet secretary? Why is America paying him?" Thanks, PSLGOPL! And yes, it's always the liberals' fault!

KOCH SUPER PAC BACKING BROWN - A new super PAC launched this month to support Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is getting serious help from billionaire benefactor and energy mogul William Koch. Koch's contributions, channeled to the America 360 super PAC through a donation by his energy company, Oxbow Carbon LLC, are listed at $500,000, a report by the Public Campaign Action Fund found this week. The only other receipts listed on the FEC report are two separate $25,000 donations from a former top Goldman Sachs executive and a Boston-area real estate developer. Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Oxbow, Koch's company, said that the giving isn't intended to be partisan. "We give to a lot of senators. We've given to [Democrat Bill] Nelson down here in Florida. We give to Democrat and Republicans. To quote the president, America isn't a red state or a blue state, it's red, white and blue," he told HuffPost Hill. On Friday, Koch was sued by a former Oxbow executive who claimed Koch kidnapped him after discovering the executive had misgivings about an alleged tax evasion scheme. Yeah.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - The Social Security Administration on Tuesday announced that the recent rise in the cost of living would be offset by a 1.7 percent increase in Social Security benefits starting in January. The increase -- one of the smallest in Social Security's history -- is calculated using a measure of inflation called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W, which seniors groups say already fails to account for rising health care costs. But economists and politicians say it's over generous, and favor a stingier inflation measure called the chained CPI. It accounts for the way consumers try to avoid inflation by not buying the same goods as prices increase. For instance, if the cost of turkey goes up, some consumers will switch to chicken. Some economists and members of Congress consider the chained CPI a more accurate measure of inflation; senior and labor advocates say the chained CPI will just make people poorer. "The cuts that Social Security beneficiaries and others would face as a result of implementing the chained CPI may seem to some like a relatively small sacrifice, but the cuts quickly snowball as they compound, growing deeper every year," said a coalition of seniors and labor advocacy groups, led by Washington-based Strengthen Social Security, in a letter to congressional leaders. [HuffPost]

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JUDGES SIDE WITH GUY WHO DROVE BAD GUY AROUND - The U.S. government may have lost one of its sharpest tools of repression today, as a court said it couldn't charge Osama bin Laden's driver with a crime he may have committed before the law was passed against it. MoJo: "Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote for a three-judge DC Circuit panel that Hamdan could not be prosecuted for acts that were not crimes at the time they were committed. That's because the Constitution prohibits Congress from passing laws 'ex post facto' -- after the fact. The government cannot make something a crime after you've already done it and then charge you for doing it. But that's exactly what Congress seemed to do in 2006 when it made 'material support for terrorism' a war crime and encouraged the military to prosecute Gitmo detainees--who had already been imprisoned for years -- for committing it. "This is a massive blow to the legitimacy of the military commissions system," says Zachary Katznelson, a senior attorney at the ACLU. The commissions 'have been trying people for years for something that isn't even a war crime.' War crime or not, prosecutors love material support charges because they're vague and relatively easy to prove. Material support often involves conduct that might not necessarily be violent -- like driving bin Laden's car or cooking his food -- that somehow helps a terrorist group.'" Why do we give a goddamn about bin Laden's driver anyway? Really? [Mother Jones]

MITT ROMNEY INVENTED JOE CAMEL - Not really, but while he led Bain & Co, the consulting firm helped implement a shift in Philip Morris' strategy that led to an increase in youth smoking. Come to think of it, Romney could easily be one of the sparkly clean doctors in those old cigarette ads ("There's no question: Doctors smoke Luckies!"). Zach Carter and Jason Cherkis: "When Mitt Romney served as CEO of Bain & Co., his consulting firm helped tobacco giant Philip Morris develop a groundbreaking sales strategy that researchers say has been linked to an unprecedented spike in youth smoking. On Friday April 2, 1993, Philip Morris stunned Wall Street and tobacco experts by the slashing price on its flagship Marlboro brand by 40 cents a pack, to $1.80. It was a landmark day for the tobacco industry, one that became known as 'Marlboro Friday to public health experts...The profit was the result of soaring sales that coincided with an unprecedented jump in smoking among high school- aged youth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey, found that the portion of young people who had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous month rose nearly 20 percent from 1993 to 1997. Youth smoking increased in all categories from that occasional user to the regular user." [HuffPost]

Fox Nation: "Romney Smokes Obama In Pre-Debate Coin Toss"

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS OHIO EARLY VOTING - As 2004 taught us, Ohio voters need the option so they can get in line a few days ahead of time. Dan Froomkin and Trymaine Lee: The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a last-gasp appeal by Ohio Republicans and approved early voting for Ohio residents on the weekend before Election Day. Ohio's Secretary of State John Husted had refused to enforce last week's appellate court decision, in which a three-judge panel came down on the side of the Obama campaign and blocked a law that would have limited early voting. Husted remained adamant that Ohioans should not be allowed to vote on that weekend, which was a prime voting period for minorities in the 2008 election." [HuffPost]

Chris Christie has downgraded Mitt Romney's chances in his state from C'mon!!! to "fuggedaboutit." Chris Gentilviso: "Christie spent Monday evening campaigning for Kyrillos in West Windsor, N.J., hoping to even out a U.S. Senate race that has polls showing a lopsided advantage for incumbent Democrat Robert Menendez. Those figures aside, the governor expressed no reserve, telling the Newark Star-Ledger that Kyrillos is 'going to win.' When asked why he's securely behind that notion, Christie injected Romney's name into the equation. 'Because Joe's more popular than Mitt Romney in New Jersey,' Christie told the paper. 'It's that simple.'" [HuffPost]

PRESIDENT ROMNEY WILL HAVE AN INSANELY BUSY FIRST DAY - Though he hasn't promised he'll direct the Treasurer of the United States to have "God" printed on our coins a few extra times, there's still a few weeks left in the election. Ian Gray and Amanda Terkel: "Romney has promised to accomplish no fewer than 15 tasks on his first day in office. These range from the relatively quick (reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy, which is a political football for presidents when they take office), to the overly ambitious and perhaps unrealistic (have a solution to undocumented immigration ready to go), to the philosophical ('end these days of drift and disappointment'). At times, Romney's promises seem to butt up against once another, as President Obama pointed out during their first debate. Romney's marquee promise is to put a stop to the Affordable Care Act. But he also wants to sit down with both Republicans and Democrats on the first day in an effort to foster greater bipartisanship." [HuffPost]

@mikememoli: Big news in Gallup track for Romney: ties Obama among RVs, 47-47. Hits 50% among LVs, Obama drops to 46%.

Ross Perot endorsed Mitt Romney in a statement released today. We suspect James Stockdale will issue his endorsement by mumbling incoherently and waddle around in the general vicinity of Romney. "Our country faces a serious choice," the statement read. "The fact of the matter is that the United States is on unsustainable course. At stake is nothing less than our position in the world, our standard of living at home, and our constitutional freedoms. That is why I am endorsing Mitt Romney in his quest for the presidency." [HuffPost]

OBAMA AND ROMNEY FLIP FAVORABILITY NUMBERS - Yikes, and all the guy ever did is look sleepy on national television. Tom Brokaw did that for years and he's a national treasure! Business Insider: "[Romney] is now viewed, based on net average, more favorably than the president. Romney's average net favorability in seven post-debate polls sits at a positive 5.4 percent. Obama's lags behind at a positive 5 percent. Voters view Obama much more unfavorably than they do Romney, which accounts for the difference. In the average of the seven polls, Obama has a 45.8 average unfavorable rating. Romney's unfavorable rating is only 44.3." [Business Insider]

Eric Asimov on the White House's homebrewed honey ale: "It was good. Very good."

Well, there's always this: "President Barack Obama won the Scholastic Student Vote by a margin of 51 percent to 45 percent over Mitt Romney. The vote polls those under 18 to weigh their preferences in a mock election. More than 250,000 did. Obama took home Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Ohio, while Romney won Virginia.The children's magazine writes that '...The results of the student vote have mirrored the actual outcome of all but two elections -- 1948, when kids voted for Thomas E. Dewey over Harry S. Truman, and 1960, when they selected Richard M. Nixon over John F. Kennedy.'" [Politico]

MARCO RUBIO UNDERCUTS ROMNEY - Inevitable presidential candidate Marco Rubio today criticized parts of Mitt Romney's tax plan that would reduce major deductions, a decision we're sure has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Mitt might take this thing (let's see how much of a team player he becomes if Obama pulls ahead in Virginia). "There will be a very helpful debate about whether things like the charitable deduction, the health insurance premium, the home interest deduction should be part of the deal," he told journalists at an event sponsored by Bloomberg View. "I don't think that those, especially the home interest deduction, [reducing that] is troubling, because it really helps the middle class. Do you really want to hurt charitable giving in a country when you are saying that you want to rely less on government and more on private institutions to deal with these issues? And how are you going to raise taxes on people on their health care premiums when you are saying you want there to be a system in place where folks can have more control over their own money?" [HuffPost's Sam Stein]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Cats discover physics.

We interrupt this broadcast... "Amid questions and criticisms related to Paul Ryan's visit this weekend to an Ohio soup kitchen, the charity's president said the Republican vice presidential candidate did, in fact, scrub dirty dishes though his visit wasn't officially sanctioned." [NBC News]

COMFORT FOOD

- The world's largest sneaker -- nay, kicks -- collection and the "shoe-zeum" where they are held. [http://bit.ly/TYhrjd]

- Video of famous San Francisco landmarks and neighborhoods, all completely empty. [http://chzb.gr/SZbQ6d]

- Anderson Cooper firing a gun repeatedly. The silver fox in action. [http://bit.ly/Ttntmv]

- Corgi dressed up like a hot dog knows what the internet likes. [http://bit.ly/RxXf2B]

- Louis C.K. interviewed by Tony Hawk. Gen Xers rejoice. [http://bit.ly/R2JZWs]

- The Higgs Boson, or "God particle," turned into music. [http://bit.ly/XhjBt6]

- If dogs had credit cards, here's what they'd buy (why the greyhound bought a pan pipes album is beyond us). [http://bit.ly/RPAwQc]

TWITTERAMA

@Indecision: Obama is such a hard-working president, the only time he has to sleep is during the debates.

@AlbertBrooks: New poll numbers:. R-48% O-46% That was a breakfast poll asking people about Rice Krispies or Oatmeal.

@delrayser: "What historical figure does your opponent most resemble? Please limit your answer to indicted war criminals." #RejectedTownHallDebateQs

ON TAP

Today - Tomorrow morning: A really bizarre Republican smorgasbord is taking place this week in New York at the Waldorf. Paul Ryan makes an appearance, as does Rudy Giuliani, Reince Priebus, Charles Schwab, Donald Trump and Dennis Miller. Paul Ryan interacting with Donald Trump is something we'd pay good money for. [New York, NY]

Tonight, 5:30 pm: Robert Menendez goes after the boomer vote -- and some of that boomer cheddar, if you know what we mean -- at his campaign reception featuring columnist and author Anna Quindlen. [Jersey City, NJ]

Tonight, 5:30 pm: Dianne Feinstein squeezes in a campaign function before the debate with a dinner with Jerry Brown Willie Brown, Jackie Speier and others. [San Francisco, CA]

Tonight, 6:30 pm: Scott Brown has a small-dollar fundraiser in Swampscott, Mass -- a town which could just as easily have been the guy's nickname in college. [Swampscott, MA]

Tomorrow, 11:30 am: Ann Romney heads home to Bah-ston for a luncheon fundraiser. [Boston, MA]

Tomorrow, 11:30 am: The most likable person in the world, Michelle Obama, jets off to the Empire State for a sizable reception at the Uniondale Marriott. [Uniondale, NY]

Tomorrow, 5:00 pm: Tim Kaine, whose name we we can't say or write without hearing the voice over guy from George Allen's attack ads (he sounds like evil Don LaFontaine), is the man of the hour. [Charlottesville, VA]

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