The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 29, 2014.

AP: "Militants of the Islamic State group were closing in Monday on a Kurdish area of Syria on the border with Turkey — an advance unhindered so far by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, including one that struck a grain silo, killing two civilians, according to activists. Islamic State fighters pounded the city of Kobani with mortars and artillery shells, advancing within three miles (five kilometers) of the Kurdish frontier city, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a Kurdish official."

New York Times: "A wave of protest in Hong Kong further engulfed the city on Monday as thousands of residents defied a government call to abandon street blockades, students boycotted classes and the city’s influential bar association added its condemnation of a police crackdown on protesters."

Los Angeles Times: "Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated Monday as president of Afghanistan, succeeding President Hamid Karzai and marking the first peaceful transition of power in the nation’s history."

Oklahoman: "In a bizarre coincidence, a fired Oklahoma City nursing home employee was arrested Friday after a co-worker reported he threatened to cut her head off. Jacob Mugambi Muriithi, 30, is being held in the Oklahoma County jail on a terrorism complaint. His bail is set at $1 million... She said Muriithi identified himself as a Muslim and said he 'represented ISIS and that ISIS kills Christians,' the detective told a judge in the affidavit. The two had not worked together before."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 29

11:00 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at an event announcing winners of Job-Driven Training grants

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

9:00 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's awards dinner in Washington, D.C.

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

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

Los Angeles Times: "George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin are married, having said their vows Saturday evening in Venice, Italy." ...

... OR, as the Business Women Media lede reads, "Amal Alamuddin, a 36 year old London-based dual-qualified English barrister and New York litigation attorney who has long been a high-profile figure in international refugee and human rights law has gone against the trend for professional women in her field and married… an actor."

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

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Monday
Sep102012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 11, 2012

REALITYCHEX HAS BEEN HACKED. Sorry for the inconvenience to everybody. Update: back in business after many hours. Update 2: not hacked; "internal issued." (See today's Ledes.)

Reporter Kurt Eichenwald in a New York Times op-ed: "I have ... come to an inescapable conclusion: the [Bush II] administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it." Read the whole piece: neocons advised Bush, et al., that the CIA's warnings of an imminent attack by bin Laden were wrong & the administration should ignore the CIA. Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

CW: I'll have to leave it to the reader to decide whether Neil Barofsky or Tim Geithner is right on the payoff of the A.I.G. bailout -- my "arithmetic" isn't good enough. Here's one impressive opinion: "The Government Accountability Office, which is not swayed by politics, estimated in May that taxpayers will receive a profit of about $15 billion from the A.I.G. bailout."

George Will Is Crazy. Jon Chait of New York: "George Will is a longtime hater of liberalism, and a longtime hater of football, so it makes sense that he would try to align his hatreds and write a column arguing that college football is an expression of liberalism." Chait liberally cites Will's column, so I won't bother to link to it. ...

... Paul Krugman: "Last year [George Will] uncovered our plot to undermine individualism by making people ride trains; now he's uncovered our long-term strategy of inculcating collectivist values through, um, college football. Foiled again."

Presidential Race

Julie Pace & Philip Elliott of the AP: "Both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney plan to take down their negative ads in honor of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Neither planned to appear at overtly political events.... Obama has scheduled a moment of silence at the White House and a trip to the Pentagon, the target of one of four planes al-Qaida hijacked 11 years ago. Romney, meanwhile, is set to address the National Guard, whose members deployed as part of the U.S. response to the attacks."

Gary Langer of ABC News: "Barack Obama has emerged from the nominating conventions in his best position against Mitt Romney since spring, a 50-44 percent race among registered voters in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. But Romney recovers to a virtual dead heat among van those most likely to vote, keeping the contest between them wide open." ...

... Charlie Cook of National Journal: "... if President Obama is reelected, it will be despite the economy and because of his campaign; if Mitt Romney wins, it will be because of the economy and despite his campaign."

Van Duzer & Obama in motion:

     ... Greg Krieg of ABC News: "Earlier [Monday], users flooded the rate and review website Yelp, sending Big Apple Pizza's overall rating in a tailspin.... But just as quickly as Big Apple's stars disappeared, they were back. The backlash to the backlash was delivered swiftly. By late afternoon, Van Nuzer's [sic.] pizza spot was back up in the rankings, registering a full five stars." ...

     ... Kevin Cirilli of Politico has a related story here.

Michael Hastings, et al., of BuzzFeed: the Obama campaign sees a clear Obama advantage over Romney on national security issues. Romney's defense goes something like this: "I can speak French! I've met Russian ice dancers! I have money hidden all over the world!" CW P.S.: Romney's French sucks.

Lyndsey Layton & Bill Turque of the Washington Post: "Teachers in Chicago went on strike for the first time in 25 years on Monday in a bitter dispute with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that is reverberating across the country as the issues at the core of the conflict.... The fact that the fight revolves around Emanuel, a former chief of staff to President Obama, has pushed the municipal labor fight into prime time and complicated the political calculus. Obama is relying heavily on the support of unions in his reelection bid...." Despite the fact that President Obama has not addressed the strike, Romney issued a statement saying, "Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples. President Obama has chosen his side in this fight." ...

... Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: "Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan spoke out against the Chicago Teachers Union strike on Monday, saying he stands behind Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's opposition to the demonstration."

Matt Miller in the Washington Post: "Instead of 'Believe In America,' the de facto GOP motto has become: 'Let other people's children fight our wars, funded by debt other people's children can pay off later.' ... It's the ultimate proof the GOP has gone off the rails. The amazing thing is that Democrats almost never make the tax argument this way."

Ezra Klein on why Romney's repeated bait-&-switch ploys are biting him. Example: "Among the most popular parts of President Obama's health reforms is the protection for people with preexisting conditions. So Romney wants to keep that bit... [But] if you don't let insurers turn away people with preexisting conditions, you need some way to keep healthy people from only buying insurance once they get sick. That means you need an individual mandate, or something like it. And if you're going to have some sort of mandate-like policy, you need subsidies to help people afford the insurance the government is now pushing them to buy. And so, soon enough, you've got Obamacare -- or, as it was known in Massachusetts, Romneycare. And Romney opposes Romneycare/Obamacare." ...

ObamaCare Has Become "The New Normal." Amy Fried of Pollways: "Obamacare ... is putting pressure on Romney. A key reason is that Obamacare created a new normal in who's covered. The law requires insurance companies to take all comers. People with pre-existing conditions cannot be excluded... [Romney] wants to associate himself with the new normal, the popular provision on pre-existing conditions. However, from the policy point of view, this is impossible without a mandate.... Obama's advantage on health care is seen in more and more polls, as he favored on healthcare over Romney." Via Jonathan Bernstein. ...

... Pema Levy of TPM: "Democrats are accusing Mitt Romney of purposefully misleading on the issue of pre-existing conditions in order to win over undecided voters." CW: yeah, me too. ...

... Update. Very nice. Robert Pear & Amy Goodnough of the New York Times try to figure out ways RomneyCare Part 2 could work without a mandate. Maybe they should just become advisors to the Romney campaign.

Alex Altman of Time on the two campaigns of Mitt Romney. Romney originally planned to run solely on a platform of bashing Obama on the economy. But when his campaign saw that wouldn't work, they tailored red-meat base-motivating rhetoric to selective audiences. CW: evidently, the campaign is unaware the national media are following Willard around.

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post writes about one good column out of a hundred. This one is it: Ann Romney doesn't understand poverty. "Poverty, after all, is not about bookcases made of planks and bricks but about utter hopelessness." CW: Lady Romney is just an embarrassment.

Kevin Roose of New York: actually, Bain Capital isn't the worst of the private equity firms.

** Thomas Edsall in the New York Times: "... the Ryan budget contains an $897 billion sinkhole: massive but unexplained cuts in such discretionary domestic programs as education, food and drug inspection, workplace safety, environmental protection and law enforcement. The scope of the cuts -- stunning in their breadth -- is hidden.... While the Ryan budget does specify cuts in programs serving the poor, many of whom are Democratic constituents (Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits), it hides under the abstruse veil of 'Function 920 allowances' the cuts in programs popular with many other voters. This maneuver stands in stark contrast to Ryan's campaign rhetoric." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the Ryan story isn't just about Ryan; it's about how the establishment allowed itself to be taken in by such an obvious shyster, despite warnings from many of us that he was, well, an obvious shyster."

Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post comes up with two more whoppers by Ryan in his "Face the Nation" Lie-a-Thon: (1) that Obama never proposed an alternative to the sequester -- he did, for 10 years; and (2) that "'the supercommittee offered' a sequester alternative. In fact, the supercommittee failed to come to an agreement." (See also yesterday's Commentariat.)

Eric Hananoki of Media Matters: "Fox News contributor Elaine Chao has recently appeared on Fox Business to criticize Obama over the economy and push the falsehood that he stripped the work requirement from welfare. During these appearances, Fox didn't disclose that Chao is a national chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Fox News has made it a regular practice to not disclose some of its frequent guests' ties to the Romney campaign.... News Corp., the parent company of Fox News, recently nominated Chao to join its Board of Directors. Chao is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).... Fox News contributors John Bolton and Walid Phares, and Fox regular Jay Sekulow, have all appeared on the network to criticize Obama without disclosing they're Romney advisers." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Congressional Races

Jonathan Weisman & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "With less than two months until Election Day, the Senate landscape is both broader and more fluid than it has been in years, with control of the upper chamber now anyone's guess. Both parties have seen new opportunities and new challenges, but the net result is that Democrats appear to be in less danger of losing the Senate, while Republicans have a more difficult path to gaining the majority."

Reid Wilson of National Journal learns that Republicans are going to run ads pushing the Democratic Senate candidate in Maine in hopes she will peel off votes from the popular independent Angus King, who is likely to caucus with Democrats if he wins. CW: Say anything; do anything.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Internal Revenue Service awarded $104 million to a banker-turned-whistleblower who helped the government penetrate a scheme in which Switzerland's largest bank helped its American clients dodge taxes. The award, confirmed by the IRS on Tuesday, was announced by the legal team representing Bradley Birkenfeld. The former UBS banker gave federal investigators an inside account of the bank's conduct over several years, but he ended up serving nearly three years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to helping one of his clients evade taxes."

Washington Post: "Signaling a deepening dispute with Washington over issuing ultimatums for Iran's nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that those who won't make such demands on Tehran 'don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.'" CW: wouldn't be trying to influence the U.S. election, would you, Bibi?

New York Times: "After two years of study, a panel of top scientists and military experts working for the National Research Council has concluded that the nation's protections against missile attack suffer from major shortcomings, leaving the United States vulnerable to certain kinds of long-range strikes."

Washington Post: "The U.S. government's debt rating could be heading for the 'fiscal cliff' along with the federal budget. Moody's Investors Service on Tuesday said it would likely cut its 'Aaa' rating on U.S. government debt, probably by one notch, if budget negotiations fail."

Washington Post: "The detainee who was found dead over the weekend at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a Yemeni who had recently gone on a hunger strike and had previously attempted to kill himself multiple times, according to his lawyer. Adnan Latif, 36, was discovered unresponsive in his cell Saturday and did not respond to emergency treatment. After extensive lifesaving measures were performed, the detainee was pronounced dead by a physician, the military said."

President Obama speaks at the Pentagon:

Vice President Biden spoke in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Video here.

USA Today: "President Obama said Tuesday the 9/11 anniversary is always a difficult day, but the United States has emerged stronger in the 11 years since the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon."

New York Times: "GoDaddy, the Web services company, said on Tuesday that its extensive technical problems on Monday were a result of internal issues, not an attack by a supporter of Anonymous, the loose confederation of rogue hackers."

Chicago Tribune: "Talks between Chicago's school board and the city's striking teachers failed to produce an agreement Monday, leaving more than 350,000 children locked out of the classroom for a second day. As parents faced another day of figuring out how to care for their children without school, thousands of teachers in red T-shirts flooded the Loop on Monday afternoon to show solidarity for the strike, filling streets and stopping traffic."

AP: "A territorial flare-up between China and Japan intensified Tuesday as two Beijing-sent patrol ships arrived near disputed East China Sea islands in a show of anger over Tokyo's purchase of the largely barren outcroppings from their private owners."

Guardian: "WikiLeaks has released a batch of more than 32,000 emails relating to the Syrian foreign ministry." (The story is on the Guardian's liveblog of the Middle East.)

New York Magazine: in an interview to be aired on the CBS morning show today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calls out former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette for writing about the Osama bin Laden raid, a raid in which Bisonnette participated.

Sunday
Sep092012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 10, 2012

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times: "The share of young adults without health insurance fell by one-sixth in 2011 from the previous year, the largest annual decline for any age group since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began collecting the data in 1997, according to a new report released on Monday." P.S. Thank you, Democrats.

New York Times Editors: Citizens United notwithstanding, there are still ways for states & the federal government to impose some restrictions on campaign financing, as a ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court demonstrated last week. Obstructing those restrictions at the federal level: Republicans. Big surprise.

Once Again, It's Paul Krugman v. a Panel of Idiots. You are looking at a screenshot of two powerful know-it-alls who in fact don't know shit about what they're talking about but are unashamed to go on national teevee & flaunt their ignorance:

... Paul Krugman: "... you’d expect government employment to grow with population (remember, the typical government employee is a schoolteacher). And here's what has happened to government employment per capita:"

Michael Schmidt & Thom Shanker of the New York Times: "American authorities have discovered at least three models of a new and sophisticated drug-trafficking submarine capable of traveling completely underwater from South America to the coast of the United States."

Presidential Race

Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "The November presidential election, widely expected to rest on a final blitz of advertising and furious campaigning, may also hinge nearly as much on last-minute legal battles over when and how ballots should be cast and counted, particularly if the race remains tight in battleground states. In the last few weeks, nearly a dozen decisions in federal and state courts on early voting, provisional ballots and voter identification requirements have driven the rules in conflicting directions, some favoring Republicans demanding that voters show more identification to guard against fraud and others backing Democrats who want to make voting as easy as possible. The most closely watched cases -- in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania -- will see court arguments again this week, with the Ohio dispute possibly headed for a request for emergency review by the Supreme Court."

President Barack Obama, right, is picked-up and lifted off the ground by Scott Van Duzer, owner of Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant during an unannounced stop, Sunday in Fort Pierce, Florida. Van Duzer, a Republican, says Obama has his vote. AP Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

Sex, Lies and Tax Cuts. That's because all [the Republicans] got to offer is the same prescriptions that they've had for the last 30 years -- tax cuts, tax cuts, gut some regulations, oh, and more tax cuts. (Laughter.) Tax cuts when times are good; tax cuts when times are bad. Tax cuts to help you lose a few extra pounds. (Laughter.) Tax cuts to improve your love life. (Laughter.) It will cure anything, according to them. -- Barack Obama, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. Read the whole post.

E. J. Dionne: Right now, Obama has the advantage. BUT. "The debates next month are Romney's biggest opening, and he's very disciplined in his approach to such encounters. He used them effectively to turn back primary challenges from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. The president, on the other hand, is out of practice. And although Obama performed well in the 2008 debates against John McCain by directing almost every word he spoke to swing voters, debating has never been his strongest suit. Indeed, some of Obama's most loyal supporters see an additional debate risk for him: The president can look arrogant and dismissive when he doesn't respect an opponent or when he feels he has the upper hand."

Might as well throw this in, too. "The biker lady — who was photographed with the vice-president at Ohio's appropriately named Cruisers Diner — has not been identified.... Biden also reportedly asked to borrow one of the male biker's motorcycles. Judging by the looks on their faces here, it's not surprising that he responded 'probably not.'" -- Caroline Bankoff of New York magazine

John Heilemann of New York profiles Joe Biden. No mention of the biker lady.

Annie Lowrey & David Kocieniewski of the New York Times try to figure out Mitt Romney's arithmetic-challenged tax plan: "Mr. Romney has pledged to cut individual income tax rates for everyone, and to do it without increasing the federal budget deficit or putting new tax burdens on middle-income people to make up for the lost revenues from the rate cuts. But he has provided no further specifics, confounding analysts.... Asked on ... 'Meet the Press' ... which tax deductions he would eliminate, he said only that he would target 'some of the loopholes and deductions at the high end' while lowering the 'burden on middle-income people.' Democrats -- as well as a broad range of economists from the left, right -- and center -- say that the consequence of ending tax breaks substantial enough to offset the lost revenue from income tax rate cuts would be to hurt middle-class Americans. Many independent analysts contend that the only way to raise the revenue Mr. Romney is talking about would be to eliminate breaks like the preferential treatment of investment income or the mortgage-interest deduction."

Paul Krugman explains, for the umpteenth time, Republicans' cynical obstruct-and-exploit policy. He mentions something I noticed this weekend, too: "Right now Mitt Romney has an advertising blitz under way in which he attacks Mr. Obama for possible cuts in defense spending -- cuts, by the way, that were mandated by an agreement forced on the president by House Republicans last year. And why is Mr. Romney denouncing these cuts? Because, he says, they would cost jobs! This is classic 'weaponized Keynesianism' -- the claim that government spending can't create jobs unless the money goes to defense contractors, in which case it's the lifeblood of the economy. And no, it doesn't make any sense."

CW: I've been looking for a good synopsis of Greggers' interview of Willard. Haven't found it yet. But a number of them -- like this post by Michael Barbaro & Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times -- mention this: "When the show's host, David Gregory, asked Mr. Romney what elements of Mr. Obama's health care program he would maintain, Mr. Romney said..., 'I'm not getting rid of all of health care reform.... There are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.'" But, so far, none of the reports has mentioned that this is a change in policy. Earlier this year, Romney told Jay Leno that people with pre-existing conditions should be denied coverage. ...

     ... Incredible Update. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "Within Hours, Mitt Romney Takes Back Everything He Said About Preexisting Conditions." A few hours after promising on 'Press the Meet' that he would guarantee insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, a Romney spokesman "'clarified' what he meant: '... He was not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer those particular features.'" CW: in other words, he assures a national audience that they can get coverage if they have pre-existing coverage -- that his program will be as good as ObamaCare; then he tells the insurance companies, sotto voce, "Don't worry. I'm not gonna make you cover those losers." What a despicable, lying prick. ...

     ... PLUS Judd Legum of Think Progress: "A Romney campaign aide sends a statement to BuzzFeed stating that Romney 'will ensure that discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited.' This does not mean he supports the protections in Obamacare and would leave millions uninsured." ...

... Driftglass: "Half of Gregger's interview spent on Mitt and Ann's campaign bus with Mitt's arm half-around him asking giggly, open-ended fluff. Greggers spent the other half of the interview in big, comfy white chairs on the roof of the Romney campaign headquarters tossing Mitt softballs (nothing on Mitt's taxes, one-count-em-one question on abortion, etc.) which Romney deflected with big wads of pre-chewed talking points -- 'I'm as Conservative as the Constitution!' -- for which Gregory had no substantive follow-up questions of any kind."

"I Didn't Vote for the Bill I Voted for." -- Paul Ryan. Zack Beauchamp of Think Progress: "Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has gotten in hot water before for criticizing President Obama for the very same defense cuts that he voted for in 2011. When confronted with this incongruity today on Face The Nation, Ryan simply denied that he ever voted for the cuts, telling an incredulous Norah O’Donnell that he didn't actually vote for the cuts he's on record as voting for.... Moreover, Ryan's statement after voting for the bill contained not a single word of criticism about the defense cuts...."

... Paul Ryan Again Demonstrates His Uncanny Ability to Look Directly into the Camera & Lie:

... Jim Fallows of the Atlantic: "Paul Ryan's fame has depended on his reputation as the man who knew the obscure details of federal budget policy, and who was brave and honest enough to tell the public the unvarnished truth about those details.... Therefore questions of selectively presented truth, or incomplete honesty, count against his reputation more than they would someone who is seen as a run-of-the-mill partisan.... In his speech at the GOP convention, Paul Ryan really laid on the 'selectively presented truths,' more than other major speakers from either party." Fallows gives kudos to O'Donnell for knowing the facts & repeatedly challenging Ryan's lies.

Steve Coll of the New Yorker doesn't really say anything you haven't read before or figured out for yourself, but he does write a good, short synopsis/compare-&-contrast of the conventions.

Jillian Rayfield of Salon: "Could this be the final straw for Erick 'David Souter is a “goat-f*cker"' Erickson? Erickson, who's both a CNN contributor and blogger for the conservative website Red State, is being targeted by a women's advocacy group after he tweeted this about the female speakers during day one of the DNC:

First night of the Vagina Monologues in Charlotte going as expected.

      ... "He tweeted an apology shortly after... But that wasn't enough for the women's advocacy group UltraViolet, which shortly after launched a petition to get him yanked off of CNN.... The petition [also] noted how Erickson defended Rush Limbaugh's attack on Sandra Fluke." CW: you can sign the petition here. I did.

Congressional Races

Steve Coll: "Some of the Senate races ... look like Three Stooges punch-ups. In Florida, Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is in a dead heat with Republican congressman Connie Mack IV (half-Mack, as he is known to those who thought his father, Mack III, was a better politician). Nelson's TV admakers introduced their Republican opponent this way: 'Florida, meet Connie Mack IV. A promoter for Hooters with a history of barroom brawling, altercations and road rage…' (Incidentally, Florida Politifact, a fact-checking nonprofit, rated Nelson's ad 'Mostly True.')"

If you're a New Yorker subscriber, you can read Jeff Toobin 's profile of Elizabeth Warren. The profile will probably be available to non-subscribers in a few weeks.

News Ledes

Reuters: "The first eight months of 2012 have been the warmest of any year on record in the contiguous United States, and this has been the third-hottest summer since record-keeping began in 1895, the U.S. National Climate Data Center said on Monday. Each of the last 15 months has seen above-average temperatures, something that has never happened before in the 117 years of the U.S. record...."

New York Times: "After nearly a year of discord and delay, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reached an agreement on Monday to resume construction of the Sept. 11 museum at ground zero in Manhattan."

AP: "Another prisoner has died at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the U.S. military said Monday, two days after the man was apparently found unconscious in his cell at the isolated, high-security prison."

AP: "An airstrike killed al-Qaida's No. 2 leader in Yemen along with six others traveling with him in one car on Monday, U.S. and Yemeni officials said, a major breakthrough for U.S.-backed efforts to cripple the group in the impoverished Arab nation. Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi national who fought in Afghanistan and spent six years in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, was killed by a missile after leaving a house in the southern province of Hadramawt, according to Yemeni military officials. They said the missile was believed to have been fired by a U.S.-operated, unmanned drone aircraft."

ABC News: "A Taliban spokesman said Monday that the terror group would use 'all our strength' to kidnap or kill the U.K's Prince Harry, who has just begun serving a four-month tour of duty as a chopper pilot in Afghanistan."

New York Times: "Tests commonly recommended to screen healthy women for ovarian cancer do more harm than good and should not be performed, a panel of medical experts said on Monday."

New York Times: "President Obama announced Monday that he would nominate Robert Stephen Beecroft, a career diplomat, as the next ambassador to Iraq after his first choice was forced to withdraw after the disclosure of racy e-mail messages. Mr. Beecroft is now the No. 2 American civilian official in Baghdad and therefore already set to run the embassy temporarily until the Senate votes on his confirmation."

Boston Globe: "The Rev. Paul A. LaCharite, 65, of Boston faces one count of assault with intent to rape a child and three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. The crimes allegedly occurred over a 10-year period at the St. James Episcopal Church in Somerville..., prosecutors said. The victim is 26 years old now.... LaCharite, who is currently affiliated with the Old North Church in Boston, 'vehemently denies' the allegations against him...."

New York Times: "A supporter of Anonymous, the loose hacking collective, claimed responsibility on Monday for an attack that apparently brought down Web sites hosted by Go Daddy." ...

... "Millions of Sites Down." Tech Crunch: "According to many customers, sites hosted by major web host and domain registrar GoDaddy are down. According to the official GoDaddy Twitter account the company is aware of the issue and is working to resolve it. Update: customers are complaining that GoDaddy hosted e-mail accounts are down as well, along with GoDaddy phone service and all sites using GoDaddy's DNS service."

NBC News: "The federal government is expected to recognize that rescue workers and people living near ground zero on September 11, 2001, got cancer as a result of the terror attacks. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is expected to announce Monday that 14 categories of cancers, for a total of 50, will be added to the illnesses covered in the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act."

Chicago Tribune: "Striking for the first time in 25 years, Chicago's teachers set up picket lines this morning after talks with public school officials ended over the weekend without resolution. 'Rahm says cut back, we say fight back,' picketers chanted this morning outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced late Sunday night that weekend talks had failed to resolve all the union's issues."

Washington Post: "The U.S. military prison in Afghanistan known as Bagram, infamous for its association with abuse of detainees during the 11-year war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, was officially transferred to Afghan control Monday. The long-demanded handoff occurred amid tensions between Washington and Kabul over the Afghan army's ability to guarantee security at the prison, and the Afghan court system's preparedness to competently adjudicate detainee cases."

Saturday
Sep082012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 9, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "Stupid Stuff New York Times Columnists Wrote Today." It's a four-fer. The NYTX front page is here. Comments are open to all on NYTX.

Bob Woodward has a long piece in the Washington Post on the debt crisis, which is based on his new book. CW: Wimpiest wimp in the room (IMHO): Tim Geithner.

Adam Himmelsbach of the New York Times: "The N.F.L. has long fought the stigma of having a homophobic culture. Now, two pro football players have powerfully lent their support for same-sex marriage, taking a political figure to task in the process." Here's the full letter from Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to Maryland sate delegate Emmett Burns (no relation, I swear). The last word is, appropriately, "Asshole."

Presidential Race

Bounce. Alina Selyukh of Reuters: "President Barack Obama ... widened his narrow lead over ... Mitt Romney in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Saturday. The latest daily tracking poll showed Obama ... with a lead of 4 percentage points over Romney [47-43].... Obama increased his lead over Romney in certain favorable characteristics. Asked who was more 'eloquent,' 50 percent ... favored Obama, compared to 25 percent for Romney. Asked about being 'smart enough for the job,' 46 percent sided with Obama compared to 37 percent for Romney. In fact, Obama led Romney in a dozen such favorable characteristics, such as 'represents America' or 'has the right values.' The only such category in which Romney had an advantage was being 'a man of faith,' as 44 percent picked Romney...." ...

... Thud. Sam Wang of Princeton U.: on "the best glimpse we are going to get of the negative post-GOP-convention bounce. Basically, their convention appears to have helped Obama.... Why would the Republicans be hurt by their own convention? ... (1) The Ryan-VP bounce effectively used up whatever room there was for a bounce.... (2) The GOP convention was not particularly inspiring. Indeed, the most notable event was Clint Eastwood's empty-chair routine, which overshadowed Romney's acceptance speech." ...

... Nate Silver: "The question now is not whether Mr. Obama will get a bounce in the polls, but how substantial it will be."

The New York Times has a slideshow of B&W photos taken backstage at the Democratic convention.

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "Kicking off a two-day bus tour through [Florida]..., the president told a rally [in Seminole] that Mitt Romney's running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, had proposed overhauling Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system that could mean higher costs for beneficiaries.... The president's advisers have indicated that they are eager to re-engage their opponents on their Medicare plan, while the Romney camp would prefer to talk about the economy.... Mr. Romney has sought to blunt Mr. Obama's Medicare offensive with attacks of his own, something Obama advisers appeared to await eagerly." ...

... Erik Wasson of The Hill: "At a St. Petersburg, Fla. rally, Obama noted that [Bill] Clinton 'made the case as only he can.... After he spoke, somebody sent out a tweet that said "you should appoint him 'secretary of explaining stuff.' ... I have to admit, it didn't say "stuff". I cleaned that up." CW: Akhilleus had some other suggestions for Cabinet positions in the September 7 Commentariat. ...

... President Obama cracks a birther joke.

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "In an interview with NBC’s 'Meet The Press' set to air on Sunday morning, Mitt Romney said former President Bill Clinton elevated the Democratic National Convention and suggested the contrast between Clinton and other convention speakers might have worked against President Obama.... David Gregory spoke with Romney over of two days this week, and also interviewed Ann Romney. It's the first time since 2009 that Mitt Romney has sat for an interview with the Sunday news program." See also Infotainment. ...

     ... CW: since the GOP convention was a comparative flop, I'm not so sure Romney is the best person to critique the Democratic convention. But then it's David Gregory asking the questions. I'll bet he came down really hard on Ann Romney, her husband's so-called "women's ambassador," for refusing to address women's health issues. Sample women's health question: "Lady Romney, is it true that a woman should always brush her hair a hundred strokes a day?" Answer: "Well, of course -- if she doesn't have a lady-in-waiting to do it for her. And, you know, David, I've been talking to thousands of women all across this country, and that's what they're telling me -- they're praying for me & they're worried that if Mitt isn't elected, they could lose their ladies-in-waiting. For women, the economy is the most important issue." ...

     ... Update: Mitt tells Greggers he can do simple arithmetic, but his answers are still secret. ...

     ... AND. Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Mitt Romney is slamming the 2011 deal that ended the protracted congressional fight to raise the debt limit -- a vote that his own vice presidential pick backed.... 'I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it.'" CW: Mitt's story is becoming, "I chose Paul Ryan as my running mate because I disagree with every one of his policy positions & every vote he cast in Congress." ...

... George Stephanopoulos: "Putting himself at odds with his GOP presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan this morning on 'This Week' refused to tell me that he would reject a hypothetical debt reduction deal -- composed of spending cuts and tax hikes by a ratio of ten to one - that Mitt Romney famously rejected during a presidential primary debate last year."

Willard Whitey Is at It Again. Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "... at a Saturday afternoon rally [in Virginia Beach, Virginia], Mr. Romney did not just recite the Pledge of Allegiance; he also metaphorically wrapped his stump speech in it, using each line of the pledge to attack President Obama." CW: Read the whole post. This is Romney (a) repeatedly lying about President Obama & (b) identifying him as "Not American." Yo, Dante Alighieri, time for a 10th circle of hell. I don't know about you, but Romney sure energizes me. ...

... That reminds me. Here's Steve Benen's 33rd weekly installment of "Mitt's Mendacity."

Shushannah Walshe of ABC News: "Paul Ryan said today the president has gone to 'great lengths' to make gas more expensive in this country." CW: this would be because it is always a good idea for an incumbent to raise gas prices right before an election. Probably the reason Obama caused Hurricane Isaac that shut down rigs in the Gulf & nearby refineries. He doesn't just control the National Weather Service; he controls the weather.

"Fair & Balanced" Fox "News" covers the conventions:

Missed this: Andrew Restuccia of Politico answered a question I had about the Democratic convention: "Where's Al Gore?"

Congressional Races

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is running an ad in which he features President Obama paying him a compliment. CW: It's an excellent spot; now I see why he's whupping Elizabeth Warren:

News Ledes

AP: "The U.S. government is selling more of its shares in insurer American International Group Inc., in a move that should decrease its holdings below a majority stake for the first time since the $182 billion bailout in 2008. The sale is the latest step to recoup taxpayer money spent on the largest bailout of the financial crisis."

AP: "Damaging storms that spawned tornadoes in New York City, darkened tens of thousands of homes in the Washington, D.C., area and flooded New England streets turned a normal day of rest into a day of cleaning up for many East Coast residents on Sunday. No serious injuries were reported when a twister hit a beachfront neighborhood Saturday on the edge of New York City and a second, stronger tornado followed moments later about 10 miles away. Residents got advance notice...."

AP: "Insurgents killed at least 44 people in a wave of attacks against Iraqi security forces on Sunday, gunning down soldiers at an army post and bombing police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs, officials said. The violence, which struck at least 11 cities and wounded nearly 240 people, highlighted militant attempts to sow havoc in the country and undermine the government."

Friday
Sep072012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 8, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' "analysis" of President Obama's acceptance speech. The NYTX front page is here.

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

New York Times Editors: "In a scalding opinion issued on Thursday, Judge Royce Lamberth of Federal District Court rejected new rules imposed by the Obama administration last spring that limit access to counsel for prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who are not actively challenging their detention.... Judge Lamberth ... is completely right."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times writes the story behind the conviction of Bishop Robert Finn for misdemeanor failing to report suspected child abuse. Plea bargains save taxpayer money, but really -- misdemeanor, my ass. ...

... New York Times Editors: "At a minimum, Catholic officials concerned about church credibility should press for the resignation of Bishop Finn for having abetted the scandal."

"Freaky Freon Friday." Elisabeth Rosenthal & Andrew Lehren of the New York Times: smuggling a banned A/C coolant has become big business in the U.S. & Europe.

Presidential Race

Frank Newport of Gallup: "President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party look as if they are getting at least a preliminary bounce from their convention. Today's (Friday, Sept. 7) Gallup Daily tracking update puts Obama's job approval rating at 52%, the highest it has been since May 2011, after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama has also moved to a 48% to 45% lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters in the election tracking, up from Obama's 47% to 46% margin over the last nine days."

Republican know-it-all Joe Scarborough in Politico: "Maybe there seemed to be such a disparity between the two conventions because the Republican Party has never been the least bit excited about its nominee. Or maybe it's because Democrats were simply blessed with a deeper bench of political athletes in 2012. But whatever the reason, Republicans were lapped by their rivals and may ultimately pay in November for botching Mitt Romney's debut. And that means that these conventions will have mattered -- a lot." CW: hey, Scarborough gets some things right.

Howard Kurtz of Newsweek: "While the pundits are generally calling the president's Thursday night address mediocre, Obama and his advisers had taken great pains to avoid soaring rhetoric that might have been derided as empty. Indeed, they extensively tested the president's speech in dial groups, a type of focus group where voters twist dials to register approval or disapproval of specific passages, and say it tested off the charts." ...

... John Harris, et al., of Politico: "A surprisingly long parade of Democrats and media commentators described the [President's] speech less as a failure than a fizzle -- an oddly missed opportunity to frame his presidency or the nation's choice in a fresh or inspirational light. Even those who liked the president's performance generally went no further than saying that he was effective in doing a job that needed to be done, in a tough-minded if prosaic style." ...

... CW: my impression is that the speech holds up better on paper than it did in delivery -- which is kinda surprising in an Obama speech. But I also think Ken Winkes' commentary in today's Comments is exactly right. Winkes points to some critical facts that Obama should have included in his speech -- facts low-information (i.e., most) voters simply don't know. ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker titled on the front page (but not on the post), "How Obama Might Lose": "There was an odd mismatch between Obama's claim about the enormous stakes of this election and his own preview of what he would do if re-elected." CW: Lizza's analysis is in line with my own observation (see NYTX column, linked above) that Obama is promising only to be the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. He's planning to save us from the flood but doesn't think he can actually effect flood control. ...

... Also in line with my NYTX column, Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker: "... if Obama is re-elected, he will almost certainly face a Republican House and a Senate that, whichever party is nominally in control, is paralyzed by Republican filibusters. That is why there were no big plans, no sweeping visions." ...

... AND Hertzberg, Lizza, John Cassidy & Dorothy Wickenden discuss the conventions & the what-all to expect next:

Mark Warren of Esquire on Joe Biden. A lovely encomium, but the takeaway is Your Analogy of the Day -- Joe Biden : Violence Against Women Act :: Paul Ryan : forcible rape. That alone should tell all voters, women and men, who has the better judgment -- Obama or Romney.

Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska. Mitt Romney talks like he's only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV. -- John Kerry, speaking before the Democratic convention (video in yesterday's Commentariat)

Quote of the Day. I think he diminished himself by even mentioning my name. How does he even know my name? I mean aren't these guys supposed to be these big wig elites who don't waste their time on the little people like me -- me representing the average American who, yeah I did say in Alaska you can see Russia from our land base and I was making the point that we are strategically located on the globe and when it comes to transportation corridors and resources that are shared and fought over [in] Alaska and I as the governor had known what I was doing in dealing with some international issues that had to do with our resources that could help secure the nation. -- Guess Who (no prizes for this one!) on John Kerry's speech

Good question, Guess Who. How could a 2004 presidential candidate possibly find out the name of a 2008 vice-presidential candidate? Obviously, Kerry's research team did some deep diving. And you're right: mentioning you in beneath Kerry's dignity. And mine. Oops! -- Constant Weader

Afghanistan, U.S. Troops Aren't "Important" Enough to Mention. Ben Ambruster of Think Progress: "In an interview with Fox News..., Mitt Romney shot back at critics who complained that he didn't mention Afghanistan or praise U.S. troops in his convention speech last week....

When you give a speech you don't go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important and I described in my speech, my commitment to a strong military unlike the president's decision to cut our military. And I didn't use the word troops, I used the word military. I think they refer to the same thing. ...

     ... "His speech did mention the military, but only to say that he wants to 'preserve' a strong military (incidentally so does Obama)." ...

... Markos Moulitsas: "Wrong answer. You thank the fucking troops. They are not a laundry list. And while Romney might not think they are important, they kind of are. Romney then goes on to claim that he talked about a 'strong military,' which was totally the same as thanking the troops for their service. Except that it's not. One of them speaks to the institution, the other speaks to the individuals who do the work of the institution. It's the same distinction as corporations and the people who work for them -- a distinction that Romney famously fails to understand." ...

... CW: when Mitt talks about increasing "the military," what he's really talking about is increasing military contracts. And, yeah, I know military contractors, like all corporations, are people, too -- people like the ones that wacko leftie Ike warned about. Ike was warning about Mitt Romney, too.

Lady Romney Refuses to Answer Again. David Nelson of KWQC (Iowa): "Mrs. Romney ... said she wanted to speak about women's issues.... 'My message, really, was "women, I hear your voices."' ... When asked if she believes a lesbian mother should be allowed to marry her partner, Mrs. Romney said, 'I'm not going to talk about the specific issues.' ... When asked if she believes that employer-provided health insurance should be required to cover birth control, Mrs. Romney said 'Again, you're asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about.' ... [Nelson cited] an April 2012 Pew Research Center poll [which] found that 46% of women voters under age 50 said birth control is 'very important' to their vote this November.... Mrs. Romney responded 'but I personally believe, and this is what I'm hearing from women all across the country that they are going to look for the guy that's going to pull them out of the weeds and get them job security and a brighter future for their children. That's the message." The full transcript of the interview is here. The video is here. Quite a show. ...

... Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "... Ann Romney declin[ed] to address whether she believes women should have access to contraception through their employer-based insurance plans. Such questions are irrelevant, Romney said, because this election is not going to be about birth control.... In fact, women's access to reproductive health services is inextricably linked to the economic issues that countless women face." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: Mitt Romney's "women's ambassador" says women's issues don't matter.

Congressional Races

McCay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "At a rally in the most conservative county in Iowa, Mitt Romney enthusiastically endorsed conservative lightning rod Rep. Steve King.... Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith issued a statement: ... 'If his speech today praising Rep. Steve King -- who has questioned whether women get pregnant from rape and incest and said hateful things about immigrants -- is any indication, we know [Romney] wouldn't stand up to the most strident voices in his party.'" ...

... For more on King's immigrants = animals remarks, see Jillian Rayfield of Salon. And to get a fully picture of the Real Steve King, Hunter of Daily Kos has a good overview of the guy Romney wants to "partner" with in Washington.

Bob Salsberg of the AP: "Joseph Kennedy III, the first of his famous political family's generation to seek elective office, defeated two little-known Democrats in Thursday's primary in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District. Kennedy, 31, will face the winner of a three-way Republican primary in the November election for the seat currently held by longtime liberal Democratic Rep. Barney Frank."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The bleak [jobs] report is all but certain to spur the Federal Reserve to expand its efforts to generate faster economic growth and lower unemployment. The central bank, whose policymakers meet next week, is strongly considering pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the mortgage market." CW: I'm not holding my breath.

New York Times: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged on Saturday that the United States would soon lift cold-war-era trade sanctions on Russia, but she did not address related legislation in Congress that has so far blocked the move, infuriated the Kremlin and become an unexpected issue in the American presidential race." CW: the presidential race part, spelled out in the story, is interesting.

Reuters: "Nearly seventeen years after O.J. Simpson walked away from his murder trial a free man..., former Los Angeles deputy district attorney Christopher Darden on Thursday accused Simpson defense lawyer, the late Johnnie Cochran, of 'manipulating' one of the infamous gloves that the prosecution said linked Simpson to the grisly double murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman."