The Ledes

Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Washington Post: "Marion Barry Jr., the Mississippi sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who served three terms as mayor of the District of Columbia, survived a drug arrest and jail sentence, and then came back to win a fourth term as the city’s chief executive, died early on Nov. 23 at United Medical Center in Washington. He was 78." Barry's New York Times: obituary is here.

Washington Post: "Negotiators working to slow Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions pressed forward with talks Saturday amid indications that they are at an impasse with two days left before a deadline for an accord." ...

... Reuters: "Iran says it will not be possible by a 24 November deadline to reach a comprehensive deal with world powers aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday."

Guardian: "The Obama administration announced the release of another Guantánamo Bay detainee on Saturday, rebuking recent calls from congressional Republicans to stop the transfers entirely. A Saudi man who has spent 12 years at the wartime detention facility, Muhammed Murdi Issa al-Zahrani, will return to Saudi Arabia and enter the kingdom’s rehabilitation program. The transfer brings the detainee population of a prison Barack Obama has vowed for six years to close down to 142 men, 72 of whom the Pentagon considers pose little enough threat as to be eligible for transfer."

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes":

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
November 21

7:30 am ET: Vice President Biden and President Poroshenko of Ukraine deliver joint statements in Kyiv, Ukraine (audio only)

8:30 am ET: Vice President Biden attends a roundtable discussion on anti-corruption & reform efforts in Kyiv (audio only)
3:55 pm ET:President Obama speaks at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:


Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.

 

Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

Washington Post: "They have spawned parodies from 'Ellen' to 'South Park' to 'Saturday Night Live,' but Lincoln is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to its commercials starring Matthew McConaughey. There was more from the Hollywood Reporter: 'Lincoln announced that its overall sales were up 25 percent last month, the strongest October for the beleaguered marque since 2007.'" ...

... Here's one of the McConaughey ads:

Jim Carrey nails it in an SNL skit:

... AND Ellen Degeneres takes the bull by the horns in another:

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Monday
Oct082012

The Commentariat -- October 9, 2012

Brendan Nyhan in the Columbia Journalism Review on some major media outlets' irresponsible handling of the right-wing jobs report conspiracy theory. ABC News & Bloomberg News were among the worst, & other media picked up the Bloomberg story. Via Jonathan Bernstein.

** Based on a book by Yale law professor Akhil Amar, Stanley Fish writes a terrific primer on interpreting the Constitution.

Jon Stewart addresses the conspiracy to artificially lower the unemployment rate:

Presidential Race

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Registered voters' preferences for president are evenly split in the first three days of Gallup tracking since last Wednesday's presidential debate. In the three days prior to the debate, Barack Obama had a five-percentage-point edge among registered voters." ...

... Nate Silver analyzes the latest presidential polling data.

Fact-Check. Bradley Klapper & Calvin Woodward of the AP: "Mitt Romney solely blamed President Barack Obama on Monday for potential defense cuts that Republicans in Congress worked out with the White House and Democrats and left the misimpression that Obama has ignored free trade initiatives." Read the whole article. Here's a surprise: Romney told one lie after another. ...

... President Obama has shown time and again that he is a tough, responsible and steady commander-in-chief. Mitt Romney has shown throughout this campaign that he would be the exact opposite. Behind the tough talk, he has been erratic, unsteady and irresponsible in his audition on the world stage. -- Ben LaBolt of the Obama campaign ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "What [Romney's] campaign billed as a major foreign policy address didn't have much new in it and left some analysts unimpressed. The speech, they said, was much like Romney's previous swings at laying out a foreign policy: couched in broad ideology and big ambitions and lacking the specifics for how he'd bring any of them about." ...

... Spencer Ackerman of Wired: "Mitt Romney thinks Barack Obama is a terrible president. When Romney looks at Obama's foreign policies, he sees a president who projects 'passivity' in a dangerous world, as he argues in a big speech on Monday, leaving allies and enemies confused about where America stands. Which makes it curious that the policies Romney outlines in his speech differ, at most, superficially from Obama's." ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Romney's speech ... seems to have focused less on introducing new policies as introducing a new Mitt." ...

** ... Dana Milbank: "Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom famously predicted that the candidate would use an Etch-a-Sketch approach in the general election to erase his previous positions. But nobody predicted that the entire exercise would occur in the space of one week -- and just a month before the election. Stranger yet, Romney hasn't been shifting all his views to the center in recent days. While his domestic policies are moderating, his foreign policy is moving to more of a neocon hard line. The only consistency is inconsistency: Whatever Romney's positions were, they are no longer."

... Steve Benen: what Romney says about Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts in public is notably different from what he says in private.

Ezra Klein: Mitt isn't moderate, & he would govern as a conservative. Klein explains why.

CW: what this all boils down to is that Mitt's policies don't matter because he has no principles. He is completely unpredictable. He would be the Schizoid President.

Mike Allen & Jim VandeHei of Politico write what I think is a hilarious story: This Week's Willard is all the doing of -- wait for it -- Ann & Tagg Romney. "This story is based on campaign sources with direct knowledge of the events. The sources insisted on anonymity in order to discuss internal disputes and operations." Yeah, right. This story is what is technically known as a sack-o'-shit leak, designed to burnish the reps of Ann & Tagg & "explain" how This Week's Willard is the Real Romney.

AND, speaking of hilarious, contributor Julie L. links this Obama campaign ad:

     ... John McCain is not amused. ...

... Sorry for all the "Daily Show" stuff, but this is an instant classic -- "This Week with George Snuffleupagus":

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP does a nice job of politely debunking Romney's claims that he plans to provide health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. Headline: "Big Gaps in Romney Plan on Pre-Existing Conditions."

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic runs down a few of Romney's more severely conservative positions: "Romney had more than a year of campaigning to position himself as a moderate. He chose not to do so. That tells us a lot -- more, surely, than anything he says now."

Paul Ryan gets pissed off, walks out of interview by Flint, Michigan reporter. Via Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed:

... John Aravosis of AmericaBlog: "It was clear that Team Romney won't permit Ryan to do an interview, or continue an interview, with anyone who seems prepared to question the Romney campaign's lies."

Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution, writing in Salon, on the gay vote. Why would gays vote Republican? Ever? Um, jobs or something. So far, Log Cabin Republicans have chosen not to endorse Throwback Mitt.

Congressional Races

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "A potent combination of Congressional redistricting, retirements of fed-up lawmakers and campaign spending by special interests is pushing out moderate members of both parties, leaving a shrinking corps of consensus builders."

Alison Cowan of the New York Times: through an associate, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) (Staten Island & parts of Brooklyn) has ties to the Gambino crime family.

Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: Rep. Todd Akin (jRTP-Mo.) is gathering support for his candidacy & has closed the 10-point gap that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) enjoyed after Akin's "legitimate rape" remarks. And evangelicals love him!

Right Wing World

Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times has more on former state legislator Charlie Fuqua, who is running to take back his old seat. In his book God's Law: The Only Political Solution, Fuqua writes that "the guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children ... in Deut 21:18-21 ... would rarely be used, if it were the law of land, [but] would give parents authority." Even more frightening: Fuqua is a former lawyer for the state department of human services. Fuqua's campaign gets financial support from the state Republican party. CW: shouldn't a lawyer who advocates the occasional murder of brats be disbarred?

News Ledes

New York Times: "As tens of thousands took to the streets in protest, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Athens on Tuesday in her clearest gesture of European solidarity since the debt crisis began."

New York Times: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday called for elections early next year instead of as scheduled in October 2013, saying that conversations with his coalition partners had proved it would be impossible to pass 'a responsible budget' with deep cuts."

AP: "Senior State Department officials on Tuesday revealed for the first time certain details of last month's tragedy in the former Libyan rebel stronghold, such as the efforts of a quick reaction force that rushed onto the scene and led the evacuation in a fierce gun battle that continued into the streets. The briefing was provided a day before department officials were to testify to a House committee...."

AP: "A French-American duo shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for inventing methods to observe the bizarre properties of the quantum world, research that has led to the construction of extremely precise clocks and helped scientists take the first steps toward building superfast computers. Serge Haroche of France and American David Wineland opened the door to new experiments in quantum physics by showing how to observe individual quantum particles without destroying them, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said."

Reuters: "The unprecedented price spike that added more than 50 cents a gallon to California pump prices last week ended as quickly as it began, market analysts said, and consumers should see prices fall dramatically in the coming week. Political outrage, however, was still heating up as Senator Barbara Boxer joined calls for a federal investigation into possible market manipulation."

ABC News: "Jerry Sandusky didn't take the stand during his child sex-abuse trial this summer, but Tuesday at his sentencing he will declare that he is innocent despite the 45 verdicts finding him guilty, his lawyer said Monday, as Sandusky made the same claim in a new audio recording." ...

     ... Philadelphia Inquirer Update: "An emotional Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison today for molesting 10 young boys he encountered through his charity for disadvantaged youth."

Guardian: "Julian Assange's supporters have been ordered to forfeit £93,500 in bail money after the WikiLeaks founder sought political asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London."

Sunday
Oct072012

The Commentariat -- October 8, 2012

Paul Krugman explains to the lame-brained -- like former GE CEO Jack Welch -- how unemployment data are calculated. He adds, "If the American Jobs Act, proposed by the Obama administration last year, had been passed, the unemployment rate would probably be below 7 percent.... The furor over Friday's report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation's long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage."

Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the most interesting people in the world, reviews a book by Sanford Levinson on the U.S. federal & state constitutions. Stevens is particularly interesting on the preamble v. the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but maybe I think so because I independently drew the same conclusion some while back.

Bill Keller's column -- "How to Die" -- is very good.

We should have an electoral process as good as the Venezuelan system, as described here. Thanks to contributor Safari for the link. You can read the transcript of the video here:

Susan Reimer of the Baltimore Sun on school paddling in Texas. CW: What got me the most was the mother of one victim going all Stockholm Syndrome & apologizing for complaining that a male school administrator paddled her teenaged daughter to the point of raising welts. Thanks to reader Doug C. for the link. And why doesn't the New York Times hire Susan Reimer? She's a consistently good columnist. I should look for her columns.

Presidential Race

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "After weeks of refraining from dipping back into the sensitive topic of the attack that killed the American ambassador in Libya, Mitt Romney on Monday offered harsh criticism of the administration for being slow to label the assault terrorism and faulted its overall handling of the attack."

Nate Silver: "Mitt Romney remains in a considerably stronger polling position than he was before last Wednesday's debate in Denver. But the polls released on Sunday did not tell quite as optimistic a story for him as those in the debate's immediate aftermath."

Josh Lederman & Steve Peoples of the AP: "Fresh off his strongest fundraising month this year, President Barack Obama is looking to raise millions of dollars from celebrities and wealthy donors in California with just one month left in a tightening race. The two-day swing through the solidly Democratic state highlights the critical role that fundraising will play in the campaign's final weeks as Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, escalate their barrage of television ads in competitive states like Ohio. The president is to return there Tuesday."

Peter Baker & Trip Gabriel of the New York Times write a pretty interesting "what went wrong" story about Obama's debate performance -- based on sanitized accounts by Obama staffers. One thing that struck me: the staffers who were responsible for debate prep made it seem as if they were hapless passengers in a wreck in which Obama was driving the vehicle. But was there no point at which -- as they witnessed Obama's listless debate practice sessions someone had the guts to say, "Yo, Barack, wake up. You're running off the road"? ...

... John Heileman of New York magazine has a good take on Obama's debate performance, too, though one made without a lot of the reporting Baker & Gabriel did. CW: one thing I find heartening -- nonpartisans like Heilemann are now routinely calling out Romney's lies & distortions.

David Sanger of the New York Times: "Beyond his critique of Mr. Obama as failing to project American strength abroad, Mr. Romney has yet to fill in many of the details of how he would conduct policy toward the rest of the world, or to resolve deep ideological rifts within the Republican Party and his own foreign policy team. It is a disparate and politely fractious team of advisers that includes warring tribes of neoconservatives, traditional strong-defense conservatives and a band of self-described 'realists' who believe there are limits to the degree the United States can impose its will."

Peter Schroeder of The Hill: "Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs on Sunday accused Mitt Romney of delivering a 'fundamentally dishonest' performance during last week's first presidential debate. Gibbs said President Obama ended up debating against 'a clone that looked a lot like Mitt Romney, that had walked away from fundamentally every position he has taken.'" ...

... Mackenzie Weinger of Politico: "Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod on Sunday said Republican Mitt Romney delivered a 'very good performance' at the first presidential debate that was 'completely un-rooted in fact' and the president was 'taken aback at the brazenness' of the Republican nominee's answers.... 'He spent 90 minutes trying to undo two years of campaigning on that stage, but he did it very well.' Schieffer ... ask[ed] if he was saying Romney 'lied or was dishonest?' 'Well, yeah, I think he was dishonest,' Axelrod said." ...

     ... CW: of course Axelrod is just making excuses here & using his Sunday morning face-time to let viewers know Romney is a lying sack of shit as someone eloquently put it. But if by any chance Obama was "taken aback" by Romney's lies, then he has been living, not in a bubble, but on another planet.

Judd Legum of Think Progress: on "Press the Meat" Sunday, Newt Gingrich acknowledged that Mitt Romney's remarks about his tax plan were inconsistent; Gingrich claimed Romney had changed his plan, but he hasn't; he's just changed what he says about it. Gingrich called it "good politics." Yes, indeed, in Right Wing World, "lying" is another word for "good politics."

President Obama wasn't forceful in his debate, but Paul Krugman was on "This Week with George." A reader is having script problems again, which I'm guessing the ABC embeds caused, so I've eliminated the videos. You can find the first part here, then cursor through to the second part. ...

     ... AND Mary Matalin is one of the most obnoxious women on the face of the planet. Or, as Digby says (read her whole post), "All in all, this show made me miss Ann Coulter. I don't think I need to explain just how bad that makes this particular show." ...

     ... Update: Krugman follows up with a history lesson for self-made economic historian Mary Matalin.

Oh, look, Massachusetts Mitt the Moderate was introduced at a rally by none other than Tea Party Crazy Man Allen Congress-Is-Full-of-Commies West. Funny thing, Mitt's father George refused to appear with Barry Goldwater, because he thought Goldwater's beliefs were too extreme.

CW: I thought this was a pretty interesting PolitiFact analysis of Romney's claim that the U.S. "is spending 42 percent of our economy on government." PolitiFact gives Romney a "Mostly True" rating; I'd have given him a "Misleading Again" rating. Anyway, I learned something.

Hmm, I wonder if Gov. Gaysqueamish Q. Romney knows that it was a gay U.S. Senator -- David Walsh of Massachusetts -- who gave George Romney his big break. John Bohrer, writing in New York magazine, has the story.

Right Wing World

Nanette Byrnes of Reuters: "By publicly backing candidates for political office from the pulpit..., nearly 1,500 ... preachers at services across the United States were flouting a law they see as an incursion on freedom of religion and speech. 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday' has been staged annually since 2008 by a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom. Its aim is to provoke a challenge from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in order to file a lawsuit and have its argument out in court. The event has grown steadily in size, but the IRS has yet to respond -- even though the pastors tape their sermons and mail them to the agency."

Congressional Races

David Catanese of Politico: North Dakota's Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp is "proving to be perhaps the best pure Senate campaigner of this election cycle." In a race she was expected to lose, Heitkamp has "made it a barnburner."

Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) & her challenger, Republican Wendy Long, both attended Dartmouth College & have maintained their ties to friends at the school. Among Long's close Dartmouth friends: wingers Laura Ingraham & Dinesh D'Souza.

News Ledes

President Obama speaks at the dedication of the Cesar Chavez National Monument:

Huffington Post: "Staffers at the New York Times briefly walked out Monday afternoon in protest of the management's position on contract negotiations. It is the latest development in the escalating war over contract talks. Union members have been working without a contract for the last eighteen months. Now, it appears they are mobilizing in response to the latest stalemate in negotiations."

Reuters: "Some 13,000 people in 23 U.S. states may have received steroid injections linked to a rare fungal meningitis outbreak that has killed eight people, but far fewer are likely to contract the disease, the Centers for Disease Control said on Monday."

AP: "British researcher John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells -- a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. Scientists want to harness that reprogramming to create replacement tissues for treating diseases like Parkinson's, diabetes and for studying the roots of diseases in the laboratory."

Space: "A privately built rocket lit up the night sky over Florida Sunday (Oct. 7) to kick off the first-ever cargo delivery trip to the International Space Station by a robotic, American-made spacecraft. The unmanned Dragon space capsule, built by the commercial spaceflight firm SpaceX, roared into space atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket from a launch pad here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, beginning a three-day flight to the space station."

Washington Post: "Iran is ratcheting up pressure on the U.N. agency responsible for overseeing the country's nuclear program, accusing its inspectors of engaging in spying and sabotage and threatening to restrict U.N. access to Iranian nuclear facilities. So strident has been Iran's criticism of the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent weeks that some Western officials fear that the country is preparing to officially downgrade its cooperation with the nuclear watchdog."

Saturday
Oct062012

The Commentariat -- October 7, 2012

A reader wrote to me a few weeks ago wondering about whether it was a good idea for her elderly mother & friends -- who live in Florida -- to vote by absentee ballot. I have received half-a-dozen robo-calls from Florida Democratic officials offering to make sure I got an absentee ballot. This New York Times report by Adam Liptak is consistent with my response to the reader: "Nationwide, the use of absentee ballots and other forms of voting by mail has more than tripled since 1980 and now accounts for almost 20 percent of all votes. Yet votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth.... Election officials reject almost 2 percent of ballots cast by mail, double the rate for in-person voting."

Robert Reich on what the jobs report really means. Reich doesn't mention that a lot of those new jobs are part-time (yo! no benefits!), but that only bolsters his argument: "The concentration of income and wealth at the top has robbed the vast middle class of the purchasing power it needs to generate a full recovery -- something that was masked by borrowing against rising home values, but can no longer be denied. Unless or until this structural problem is dealt with, we won't be back to normal."

Novelist Kevin Baker in a New York Times op-ed: "The Republican Party is, more than ever before in its history, an anti-urban party, its support gleaned overwhelmingly from suburban and rural districts -- especially in presidential elections.... Today, four-fifths of the population lives in an urban area -- the highest percentage in our history.... [Republicans] promise to rip and tear at the immensely complex fabric of city life while sneering at the entire 'urban vision of dense housing and government transit.' There is a terrible arrogance here that has ramifications well beyond the Republicans' electoral prospects."

"The Cancer Lobby." Nicholas Kristof: Big Chem is lobbying "Congress to cut off money for the Report on Carcinogens, a 500-page consensus document published every two years by the National Institutes of Health, containing the best information about what agents cause cancer. If that sounds like shooting the messenger, well, it is.... The larger issue is whether the federal government should be a watchdog for public health, or a lap dog for industry. When Mitt Romney denounces President Obama for excessive regulation, these are the kinds of issues at stake."

Presidential Race

An animated short by Simpsons/Family Guy animator Lucas Gray. Gray animates Obama's speech at an Associated Press luncheon April 3rd, 2012. Via Crooks & Liars:

Nate Silver: "Mitt Romney continues to show improved numbers in polls published since the presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday and has now made clear gains in the FiveThirtyEight forecast. The forecast gives him roughly a 20 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, up from about 15 percent before the debate. Mr. Romney's gains in the polls have been sharp enough that he should continue to advance in the FiveThirtyEight forecast if he can maintain his numbers over the next couple of days. Four of the five national polls published on Saturday showed improvement for Mr. Romney." ...

... Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's newest Wisconsin poll finds a big debate bump for Mitt Romney in the state. Two weeks ago he trailed Barack Obama by 7 points there, 52-45. Now he's pulled to within two points, with Obama's lead now just 49-47. There's not much doubt it was Romney's strong debate performance on Wednesday night that's given him this boost. Voters think he won the debate by a 61/25 margin...." ...

... Maggie Haberman of Politico: "The Republican-leaning outside group Citizens United is releasing a poll showing a tight presidential race and a tight Senate contest in Ohio, the key battleground where Mitt Romney has consistently been behind in public and private polls. The survey, by Wenzel Strategies, has Romney in a statistical dead heat with President Obama, 48 percent with leaners to 47.3 percent for Obama, and 4.7 percent undecided." ...

Greg Ip, the economics editor of The Economist, in a Washington Post op-ed, credits President Obama with doing a lot to salvage the economy. Irony alert: if Romney wins the election, he'll get all the credit for the work Obama did. CW: another reason to vote for Obama.

Vice President Biden with Kobe Groce."The Vice President Would Like to Meet You." Kobe Groce of Fort Myers, Florida, tells his story of how the Obama administration has helped his family. Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times: "Romney's move toward the center is a matter of tone and emphasis more than substance. It took Obama by surprise, and it gave Romney a new chance to make his case to voters in the center -- all of which made it a success for the GOP campaign. But down in the details, there was less change in Romney's positions than met the ear, and his campaign insisted that he didn't say anything substantively new at all.... He's still a conservative."

Matt Taibbi writes an excellent analysis of the debate under the headline "Mitt Romney wins all-important BS contest."

William D. Cohan of Bloomberg News in the Washington Post: "... exactly how wealthy is Romney? The figure that gets tossed around is $250 million in net worth -- meaning the total value of his assets, financial and others, minus any debts. It's a big number, but frankly, it seems low. Given the industry in which he made his fortune (private equity), the era when he made it (the 1980s and 1990s) and the wealth of his peers in that business (mostly billionaires), Romney should be worth a good bit more than that.... If he were perceived as the first real billionaire to run for president, it would only exacerbate popular doubts about how someone living so removed from the concerns of average Americans -- or even just 47 percent of them -- could effectively represent them. And if he is not a billionaire, doesn't it suggest that he was not a great private-equity investor after all, thus torpedoing his claim to understand how to create jobs and get the economy back on track? Something to keep in mind on Nov. 6."

John Broder of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney vowed in a campaign appearance earlier this year to 'take a weed whacker' to the thicket of federal regulations adopted by the Obama administration and promised to impose a rigid freeze and cost cap on all new government rules.... While Mr. Romney blames the Obama administration for the edifice of federal law and regulation that he argues is choking off economic recovery, many of these rules go back decades. 'It's not just Obama he's attacking, but past acts of Congress,' said Rena I. Steinzor..., the president of the Center for Progressive Reform. 'This does not all spring from the frenzied imagination of Obama's E.P.A. It all comes down from statutes.'" CW: maybe Broder is trying to reassure us a Romney presidency won't be so bad.

Dylan Byers of Politico: "NBC has asked President Barack Obama’s campaign to stop using the network's footage in a recently released reelection ad.... In a letter sent Friday night to Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, NBC told the Obama campaign to cease using network footage in a new 30-second spot, released shortly after Wednesday's debate, in which Andrea Mitchell is shown on air citing an independent, stating that Mitt Romney's tax plan would cost $4.8 trillion over 10 years..." CW: When I first saw the video, embedded in yesterday's Commentariat, I couldn't believe Mrs. Greenspan would be of help. Well, there you go.

Congressional Races

Fernanda Santos of the New York Times looks at the Arizona Senate race where the Democrat, Dr. Richard Carmona, is one exciting candidate. Though Arizona is a red state, Carmona has a shot at the seat; both candidates, Carmona & Rep. Jeff Flake, acknowledge they are in a close race.

Nick Coltrain of the Athens, Georgia, Banner-Herald: "Evolution and the big bang theory are 'lies to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior,' U.S. Rep. Paul Broun [RTP-Georgia] said in a recently released video. In the video..., Broun also repeated fundamentalist Christian tenets that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and the Holy Bible is a guidebook to every aspect of life.... Broun ... is a medical doctor and running unopposed in District 10 on the November ballot. He serves on the Congressional science and technology, and homeland security committees."

Local News

Justin Lewis of the AP: "Arkansas Republicans tried to distance themselves Saturday from a Republican state representative's assertion that slavery was a 'blessing in disguise' and a Republican state House candidate who advocates deporting all Muslims. The claims were made in books written, respectively, by Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro and House candidate Charlie Fuqua of Batesville. Those books received attention on Internet news sites Friday. On Saturday, state GOP Chairman Doyle Webb called the books 'highly offensive.' And U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a Republican who represents northeast Arkansas, called the writings 'divisive and racially inflammatory.'" Thanks to contributor Mae F. for the link. ...

... Louis Peitzman of Gawker has more details on Hubbard's views of black Americans & their lucky immigrant ancestors. ...

... As you may recall from late last week, the Koch brothers consider these guys prizes, and their spending their pocket change ($1 million) to flip the legislature to Republican.

News Ledes

AP: "President Hugo Chavez won re-election on Sunday, defeating challenger Henrique Capriles, Venezuela's electoral council said. With most votes counted, Chavez had more than 54 percent of the vote, and Capriles had 45 percent.... She said 81 percent of the nearly 19 million registered voters cast ballots."

AP: "The U.S. Border Patrol agent killed last week in a shooting in southern Arizona apparently opened fire on two fellow agents thinking they were armed smugglers and was killed when they returned fire, the head of the Border Patrol agents' union said Sunday."

New York Times: "With gasoline prices reaching record highs across California over the last week, Gov. Jerry Brown moved on Sunday to alleviate some of the pain at the pump. Mr. Brown directed the California Air Resources Board to take emergency steps to increase the supply of fuel in the state and allow refineries to immediately switch to a winter blend of gasoline that is typically not sold until November."

Reuters: "U.S. health officials on Sunday reported an additional 27 cases in a fungal meningitis outbreak linked to steroid injections that has killed seven people and now infected 91 in nine states."

Washington Post: "Weakened from battling cancer and visibly bloated, President Hugo Chavez [of Venezuela] is fighting for his political life in Sunday's presidential election, as he faces a charismatic challenger who has energized a once-disunited opposition in a way none of the populist leader's foes ever has.... Two established pollsters show Chavez, 58, with a substantial advantage.... But two others have Chavez and Henrique Capriles, 40, a lawyer and former governor who has never lost an election, in a virtual dead heat."

Space: "An unmanned private spacecraft is counting down to launch the first commercial delivery to the International Space Station tonight (Oct. 7), marking a major shift in how NASA< sends supplies and gear to the orbiting lab. The gumdrop-shaped Dragon space capsule built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX is set to blast off from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to begin a three-day voyage to the space station. Liftoff is set for 8:35 p.m. EDT (0035 Monday GMT)."

AP: "Gasoline prices in California rose to another all-time high on Sunday after passing a four-year high a day earlier, according to AAA. The four-cent-per-gallon jump Sunday was even bigger than Saturday's jump, which was just a fraction of a penny. AAA reported in its latest update on Sunday that the statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $4.655."

Friday
Oct052012

The Commentariat -- October 6, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "A Strange Thing Happened on the Way to the Presses" and examines the way the New York Times has handled Mitt's Mendacity, Debate Episode.

Christopher Rugaber & Scott Mayerowitz of the AP: "Sasquatch might as well have traipsed across the White House lawn Friday with a lost Warren Commission file on his way to the studio where NASA staged the moon landing. Conspiracy theorists came out in force after the government reported a sudden drop in the U.S. unemployment rate one month before Election Day. Their message: The Obama administration would do anything to ensure a November victory, including manipulating unemployment data." ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic reports on three Right Wing World theories about who conspired to cook the books to make the September jobs report look so fabulous not great, but better than expected: (1) the "Chicago guys" running Obama's campaign, who ordered a group of Bureau of Labor Statistics civil service employees to alter the stats; (2) BLS employees who decided on their own to surreptitiously help Obama (as Graham observes, conservatives suddenly believe heretofore totally incompetent, superfluous bureaucrats can work together to pull off huge undercover ops); (3) ordinary out-of-work Democratic citizens, tens of thousands of them, who got together & decided to tell the BLS they got jobs last month even though they're still sitting at home, mooching off the government. CW: Probably used their free ObamaPhones to arrange the scam. Great move, all you lazy, unemployed, dependent Obamabots! Your "I Am the 47 Percent!" button is in the mail. ...

Lanhee Chen, Romney's policy director, politely declines to join the crazed Stuart Varney: in his book-cooking kitchen at Fox "News":

... Catherine Rampell of the New York Times explains to the wingnut conspiracy theorist that jobs "numbers are always tremendously volatile, but the reasons are statistical, not political." Don't expect anyone over there in fact-optional Right Wing World to hear her. ...

... "Crazy, Stupid, Scary." Paul Krugman: "The thing is, although such antics are funny in a way, they're also menacing. By attacking anyone who presents awkward facts, the right exerts an intimidating effect. It won't get the BLS to retract today's jobs report, but it might bully news organizations into avoiding objective economic analysis, and maybe even into blurring their reporting right now." ...

... Joe Nocera of the New York Times: "the idea that a handful of career bureaucrats, their jobs secure no matter who is in the White House, would manipulate the unemployment data to help President Obama, is ludicrous.... There is something truly absurd about having the presidential race hinge on the unemployment rate.... The harsh reality is that no president has much control over the economy. That is especially true of President Obama, whose every effort to boost the economy these past two years has been stymied by Republicans.... Whether the Republicans like it or not, the economy is slowing getting better. Awful, isn't it?" ...

... YEAH BUT. Hamilton Nolan of Gawker examines some really convincing evidence that comes to him by way of Right Wing World. It turns out economists at the BLS are completely immoral Obamabots who would do anything for Barry when they're not too busy looking up little girls' skirts.

CW: Jim Surowiecki of the New Yorker writes about the way Mitt Romney thinks about government, but if you want to know basic Republican political philosophy, Surowiecki articulates it: "Romney may say that he wants small government, but what he's pushing for is a government that's small when it comes to helping people and big when it comes to helping business."

Presidential Race

Jeff Mason of Reuters: "President Barack Obama's campaign and its Democratic allies raised a record $181 million in September for the president's re-election effort, adding to a fundraising haul that could prove crucial in the final stretch of the White House race."

David Leonhardt & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "... with Friday morning's jobs report..., Mr. Obama -- and the economy -- received some unexpected good news." ...

... AND Shaila Dewan & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The jobless rate abruptly dropped in September to its lowest level since the month President Obama took office, indicating a steadier recovery than previously thought and delivering another jolt to the presidential campaign. The improvement lent ballast to Mr. Obama's case that the economy is on the mend and threatened the central argument of Mitt Romney's candidacy, that Mr. Obama's failed stewardship is reason enough to replace him." ...

... PLUS David Fahrenthold & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Since the very first speech of his campaign, [Mitt Romney] has used a simple figure to bolster his argument that President Obama couldn't fix the U.S. economy: 8 percent.... For Romney, any number above 8 percent proved he was right and Obama was wrong.... The 0.3 percent dip in unemployment in September, from 8.1 to 7.8 percent, deprived Romney of one of his central campaign themes.... It wasn't because the figures showed a healthy economy -- they didn't -- but because the economy had crossed a threshold that Romney had implied it would never cross without him." ...

... Steve Peoples of the AP: "Declaring that the nation is in a 'jobs crisis,' ... Mitt Romney is charging ahead with his economic arguments in spite of unemployment dropping to its lowest level since President Barack Obama took office. Romney all but ignored the positive jobs numbers while campaigning Friday night in Florida...."

... Rampell, Again. Romney Making Up Stuff, Again: "In Virginia on Friday, Mitt Romney said that 'if the same share of people were participating in the work force today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent.' ... [Romney] ignores the fact that the baby boomers are hitting retirement age.... Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution, estimates that half of the decline in the labor force participation rate 'can be traced to an aging population.' [Romney's] calculation also ignores the fact that a higher share of young people are going to college, and are staying out of the work force temporarily." ...

     ... CW: ha! That would change if Romney were president because he's already said he'd cut student Pell grants & give the few that remain back to the banksters. Plus all those boomers would have to get back in the work force when he voucherized their asses & whacked ObamaCare. They have savings & pensions, you say? Fact: the market -- which partially determines the value of pensions & some savings plans -- goes up more during Democratic administrations than in Republican ones.

Governor Bipartisan? Nope. Romney, Making Up Stuff, Again. Michael Wines of the New York Times: "Mr. Romney said in Wednesday's debate, 'I figured out from Day 1 I had to get along, and I had to work across the aisle to get anything done.' ... But on closer examination..., bipartisanship was in short supply; Statehouse Democrats complained he variously ignored, insulted or opposed them, with intermittent charm offensives. He vetoed scores of legislative initiatives and excised budget line items a remarkable 844 times, according to the nonpartisan research group Factcheck.org. Lawmakers reciprocated by quickly overriding the vast bulk of them." Unlike the Times' usual fare, this is a pretty good "Liar! Liar!" piece.

Willard's Whoppers, Ctd. In Week 37 of Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Steve Benen comes up with a whopping 50 whoppers Mitt told JUST THIS WEEK. ...

The Obama "Truth Team" puts out a series of Web videos countering Romney's debate lies & flipflops:

     ... Who thought Mrs. Greenspan would be helpful?

... Jed Lewison, the best political "Let's Go to the Videotape" guy: "The real Mitt Romney debates the fake Mitt Romney ... and they don't agree on anything." Lewison also posts the transcript of the Two Mitts (or however many there are):

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: far from the madding crowd, the Romney camp walks back his big lie that about half the green companies that got stimulus money have failed.

"Don't Mess with Big Bird!" Charles Blow: "I don't really expect Mitt Romney to understand the value of something like PBS to people, like me, who grew up in poor, rural areas and went to small schools. These are places with no museums or preschools or after-school educational programs. There wasn't money for travel or to pay tutors. I honestly don't know where I would be in the world without PBS."

Frank Rich on the debate -- always informative -- & entertaining: "... in the real world, what I think the less committed public saw, especially in the crucial first half-hour, was a mostly tedious exchange of dueling numbers.... When there was a sudden, unexplained boom behind the two debaters in the early going, I wondered if it was a stagehand fainting from boredom."

Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "While we may be confused about the Real Romney, there is no confusion about the Republican Party. There's no reason to think they would tolerate Moderate Mitt in the Oval Office, or that Mr. Romney would even ask them to."

AND, despite evidence like this (I especially like the palm-off to the kid at the end of the debate) --

      ... Tommy Christopher of Mediaite isn't buying Hankygate. But his analysis is fun to read anyway.

Jim Lehrer defends his debate performance, says it was his goal to stay out of the picture.

Other Stuff

Pigs in Crates. Stephanie Strom of the New York Times: thanks to a Humane Society campaign, U.S. retailers are beginning to purchase pork only from hogs that have been raised in large group pens where they can move around. Farmers complain this will raise the price of pork. "Would they tell Microsoft how to make computers?" Dear Consumers: Eat less meat. Buy more expensive cuts. Guess what? Animals raised humanely taste better.

Donald McNeil of the New York Times: "The first rapid home-testing kit for H.I.V. has just gone on sale for $40, marketed as a way for people to find out privately if they have the virus that causes AIDS. But some experts and advocates say that another use, unadvertised, for the OraQuick test -- to screen potential sexual partners -- may become equally popular and even help slow an epidemic stuck at 50,000 new infections each year in the United States." CW: a mighty cheap form of preventive medicine. If you think it's expensive, maybe you should cut down on the number of new partners you're hooking up with.

Congressional Races

Gail Collins has a swell column running down how things are going in some of the Senate races, but she ends with a House race: Nancy Pelosi vs. Some Guy who is running an attack ad featuring zombies. This has to be the Worst Campaign Ad in History, at least for anyone running for high public office:

News Ledes

AP: "Turkey and Syria traded artillery fire for the fourth day in a row Saturday as rebels clashed with President Bashar Assad's forces near the border, heightening fears that the crisis could erupt into a regional conflict. Also Saturday, Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij vowed to crush the rebellion and bring the violence that has engulfed the country to an end."

Reuters: "The Israeli air force shot down a drone after it crossed into southern Israel on Saturday, the military said, but it remained unclear where the aircraft had come from."

Washington Post: "A federal appeals court on Friday sided with President Obama's reelection campaign and said that if Ohio allows military voters to cast ballots in the three days leading to Election Day, it must extend the same opportunity to all voters. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said the state had not shown why voting during the Saturday-Sunday-Monday period should be offered to only one group of voters."

AP: "As the tally from a deadly meningitis outbreak rose Friday, health officials identified the medical clinics across the country that received steroid shots for back pain now linked to the illnesses."

AP: "An ailing extremist Egyptian-born preacher and four other terrorism suspects arrived in the United States early Saturday under tight security to face trial after losing their lengthy extradition fight in England.... The preacher, Abu Hamza al-Masri, was taken to a lockup next to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan to face charges that he conspired with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and that he helped abduct 16 hostages, two of them American tourists, in Yemen in 1998." ...

     ... Update: "A partially blind extremist Egyptian-born preacher charged in multiple terrorism plots entered a U.S. court for the first time Saturday without the use of his arms, complaining that prosthetic hooks he uses were taken away as he and four other terrorism defendants were flown to New York overnight from London."

AP: "The pope's butler was convicted Saturday of stealing the pontiff's private documents and leaking them to a journalist in the gravest Vatican security breach in recent memory. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but the Vatican said a papal pardon was likely. Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre read the verdict aloud two hours after the three-judge Vatican panel began deliberating Paolo Gabriele's fate."