The Ledes

Friday, October 24, 2014.

Guardian: "European leaders have struck a broad climate change pact obliging the EU as a whole to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030. But key aspects of the deal that will form a bargaining position for global climate talks in Paris next year were left vague or voluntary, raising questions as to how the aims would be realised."

New York Times: "American security officials said Thursday that they were looking into a new report that Islamic State militants had used chlorine gas as a weapon against Iraqi police officers last month near Balad, north of Baghdad."

Bloomberg News: "Mali became the sixth West African country to report a case of Ebola, opening a new front in the international effort to prevent the outbreak of the deadly viral infection from spreading further."

New York Times: "Frank Mankiewicz, a writer and Democratic political strategist who was Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s press secretary, directed Senator George S. McGovern’s losing 1972 presidential campaign and for six years was the president of National Public Radio, died Thursday at a hospital in Washington. He was 90."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, October 23, 2014.

Los Angeles Times: "Islamic State still generates tens of millions of dollars a month in illicit income despite a U.S.-led effort to cut the financing streams that have helped turn the once-obscure militant group into a terrorist organization unlike any previously seen, a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said Thursday."

Guardian: "The prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, vowed a tough and uncompromising response to a brazen gun attack on the national parliament on Wednesday that left a soldier dead and a nation in shock. As calm fell on Canada’s idyllic capital, where hours earlier Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had forced his way into the parliament building in a hail of gunfire before being killed by a ceremonial official, Harper delivered a sombre television address declaring that the country would not be cowed by terrorism." ...

... Toronto Globe & Mail: "Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the slain 32-year-old suspected killer of a Canadian Forces soldier near Parliament Hill, was a labourer and small-time criminal – a man who had had a religious awakening and seemed to have become mentally unstable. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was born in 1982 and was the son of Bulgasem Zehaf, a Quebec businessman who appears to have fought in 2011 in Libya, and Susan Bibeau, the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. The two were divorced in 1999." ...

... New York Times: "A day after a terrorist attack convulsed the heart of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, the city’s police chief said he was satisfied that it was the work of a lone gunman, who shot dead a soldier before being killed in a hail of gunfire in the Parliament building.... In the hours following the raid, police officials had said that there might be as many as three armed men."

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
October 24

12:45 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

Washington Post: A "virtual autopsy" of King Tut suggests the boy king had "buck teeth, club foot and a pronounced overbite."

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:


No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.

 

 

A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

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Saturday
Aug182012

The Commentariat -- August 19, 2012

Lawrence Downes of the New York Times laments the popularization & dillution of Woody Guthrie, who would be 100 this year. ...

... An actual protest song against government-sponsored mass murder:

James Risen & Duraid Adnan of the New York Times: "When President Obama announced last month that he was barring a Baghdad bank from any dealings with the American banking system, it was a rare acknowledgment of a delicate problem facing the administration in a country that American troops just left: for months, Iraq has been helping Iran skirt economic sanctions imposed on Tehran because of its nuclear program."

Prof. Jennifer Scanlon, who wrote a biography of Helen Gurley Brown, on Brown's "other revolutionary idea: saving money is sexy." In the Washington Post.

Childhood Redux -- when the comic strip was the best part of the paper. Brian McFadden of the New York Times on campaign reporting:

CLICK ON CARTOON TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.

Presidential Race

Joe Conason in the National Memo: "Veteran Republican political consultant, unrepentant dirty trickster, and recently reborn libertarian Roger Stone yesterday published a startling accusation against Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney on his personal website, The Stone Zone. According to Stone, the billionaire Koch brothers purchased the Republican vice presidential nomination for Ryan from Romney in late July by promising to fork over an additional $100 million toward 'independent expenditure' campaigning for the GOP ticket. Any such transaction would represent a serious violation of federal election laws and perhaps other statutes, aside from the ethical and character implications for all concerned. What he has written amounts to a gleeful felony indictment of everyone involved. Will any of them demand a retraction or even issue a denial?" CW: Absent a confession from one or more of the interested parties or testaments from numerous fatcats within earshots, proving the case against Romney-Koch is virtually impossible. Thanks to contributor Lisa for the link.

Gov. Romney's just sort of a guy that you never want to play pick-up basketball with. He's always fouling, and he's always crying foul. -- Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Maryland)

CW: Jim Kuhnhenn & Philip Elliott of the AP write a fairly classic he-said/he-said report on the Medicare debate and provide a fine example of the sloppy sort of reporting McFadden (above) lampoons. Kuhnhenn & Elliott write that "Romney's and Ryan's were at the ready, too, to point out Obama had shifted billions from the program to pay for Democrats' health care law.... On Saturday, Ryan accused Obama of raiding the Medicare 'piggybank' to pay for his health care overhaul. Obama countered that seniors shouldn't trust their golden years to Romney." Note that the reporters never say that Ryan's two budgets would have made the same cost savings Ryan is bashing on the campaign trail & that rather than repurposing those cost savings for healthcare needs for Americans of all ages (including those +65), Ryan would have used the savings "to reduce the deficit." Now that Ryan has "evolved," I guess he & Willard are committed to either increasing the deficit by $716BB or cutting more out of food stamps, Pell grants & such.

The Transformation of Barack Obama. Ta-Nehisi Coates in the New York Times: "Before Obama became the Great Deceiver of Men, he was a pinot-noir-sipping weakling who was a horrible bowler, marveled at arugula and otherwise failed at manhood.... And so, no longer able to portray Obama as weak, the authors of Willie Horton, swift-boating and modern day poll-taxing have been reduced to other tactics -- among them wildly yelping, 'Please, Mr. President, nothing to the face.' Arugula partisan that I am, I must admit to some glee here.... [But] Obama's tough guy bona fides were largely built on the expansive bombing campaign he launched against Al Qaeda, a campaign that regards due process and the avoidance of civilian casualties as indulgences.... It is an ambiguous feat, accomplished by going to the dark side, by walking the G.O.P.'s talk, by becoming the man Dick Cheney fashioned himself to be."

New York Times Editors: "Republican attacks on President Obama's plans for Medicare are growing more heated and inaccurate by the day. Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan made statements last week implying that the Affordable Care Act would eviscerate Medicare when in fact the law should shore up the program's finances. Both men have also twisted themselves into knots to distance themselves from previous positions, so that voters can no longer believe anything they say. Last week, both insisted that they would save Medicare by pumping a huge amount of money into the program, a bizarre turnaround for supposed fiscal conservatives out to rein in federal spending. The likelihood that they would stand by that irresponsible pledge after the election is close to zero." ...

... Trip Gabriel & Helene Cooper of the New York Times finally do some due diligence: In a retirement community in Florida, "Paul D. Ryan wove a story of generational obligation on Saturday to make the case for his controversial Medicare plan.... Mr. Ryan accused Mr. Obama of being the bigger threat to the program because of savings wrung from the growth of spending in the program contained in the president's health law of 2010. The savings -- or cuts, in the eyes of Mr. Ryan -- are used to help pay for health care for the currently uninsured.... Left unsaid was that his own budget plan passed by the House in March includes the same $716 billion in savings, to be used to reduce the deficit." ...

... BUT Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post went the "he said/he said" route, refusing to call our Ryan. ...

... Don't Kid Yourselves, Seniors. Elise Viebeck of The Hill: "Medicare is not the only entitlement Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has big plans to reform. Its sister program, Medicaid, would lose about three-quarters of its federal funding by 2050 under proposals from the Republican vice presidential candidate, according to federal budget auditors. Medicaid provides healthcare for the poor and the disabled. Over 10 years, Ryan's budget plan would cut the program's budget by about $810 billion.... Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors [said,] 'It pays for 40 percent of the country's births and the majority of the nation's long-term care [for the elderly].'"

Shannon Young of the AP: "Speaking before 2,300 supporters in a crowded high school gym [in Windham, New Hampshire, President] Obama touched on his proposals to fix the economy, while drawing comparisons between his plan and that of Republican challenger Mitt Romney and running-mate Rep. Paul Ryan."

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Are taxes a form of charitable donation? ... Mitt Romney seemed to suggest that he might think so last week, when he responded to questions about how much he pays in taxes by suggesting that people should take into account his total contributions to the government and charities.... Experts ... said it was an inadvertently revealing moment, a brief window into the deep philosophical differences between how liberals and conservatives view government and society." CW: not mentioned in the story -- Romney seems to think that taxes -- like charitable gifts -- are optional. Also, the other day when I commented on Romney's remark, I exaggerated his gift to the Mormon Church. According to Helderman's story, the Romneys don't tithe.

Maureen Dowd lets other people take down Paul Ryan. But in the end, she writes, "Beyond the even-keeled Ryan mien lurks full-tilt virulence. A moderate demeanor is not a sign of a moderate view of the world." ...

... Dowd refers to a Rolling Stone essay by Tom Morello, the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine. Here's the post: "Ryan claims that he likes Rage's sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don't care for Paul Ryan's sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage."

I voted to send people to war. -- Paul Ryan, on why he has more foreign policy experience than President Obama did in 2008. Really, he said that. ...

... Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: "Speaking to Fox News’ Carl Cameron Saturday morning, Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan made the case for why he believes his foreign policy credentials are stronger than President Obama's, emphasizing that he has been a voting member of Congress longer than the president. Ryan cited his votes in favor of the Iraq War as evidence that he has had more foreign policy experience than Obama. 'I've been in Congress for a number of years,' he told Cameron. 'That's more experience than Barack Obama had when he came into office. 'I voted to send people to war,' he added."

AND the Boston Globe's editors say Vice President Biden should apologize for his "back in chains" remark.

Congressional Races

Parker of Fired Up Missouri: "f it's a day that ends in Y, extremist Rep. Todd Akin (R-Clayton) is saying something outrageous and/or dumb. Today [Friday] is no different. From Fox 2:

Republican Congressman Todd Akin said Friday afternoon he thinks it's time for a second look at federal "civil rights and voting rights" laws. The republican U.S. senate candidate told FOX 2's Charles Jaco states not the federal government should set voter rules. Congressman Akin of course is trying to unseat democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. And Akin has always said the federal government's role should be much smaller than it is. But Akin says that federal voting rights laws may need to be looked at, changed or overturned is something new. Those laws were passed in 1964, 1965 and 1968.

     ... CW: Obviously, the very need for these laws was created by the states themselves -- states that denied black Americans their Constitutional rights. So mark Friday as a day Todd Akin said something both dumb and outrageous -- which likely doesn't make Friday unique in any way.

News Ledes

AP: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange planned to make his first public appearance Sunday since he took refuge inside Ecuador's embassy in London two months ago, seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sexual misconduct allegations." The Guardian is liveblogging the event. ...

     ... Update: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called on President Barack Obama to end a 'witch hunt' against his secret-spilling website, after appearing in public for the first time since he took refuge inside Ecuador's embassy in London two months ago."

AP: "At least some of the seven people arrested in a fatal shootout with Louisiana deputies have been linked to violent anarchists on the FBI's domestic terrorism watch lists.... Detectives had been monitoring the group before Thursday's shootout in Laplace in which two deputies were killed and two more wounded, said DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle. His detectives and other law enforcement discovered the suspects were heavily armed adherents to an ideology known as the 'sovereign citizens' movement. The FBI has classified 'sovereign citizens'" as people who believe they are free from all duties of a U.S. citizen, like paying taxes."

Guardian: "United Nations observers have begun to leave Damascus as their mission in Syria comes to an end. The last 100 out of 300 observers have been departing throughout Saturday -- their mandate expires after midnight on Sunday -- as their commander spoke of his frustration at being unable to minimise the violence."

Friday
Aug172012

The Commentariat -- August 18, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. ABC News story here.

The Way We Were When the South Was Away. Charles Pierce writes an excellent piece on the Morrill Act of 1862. Really, read it. Pierce's essay -- and Morrill's vision -- are antidotes -- and a retort -- to everything the "zombie-eyed granny-starver" stands for. And, in my opinion, another argument against the Civil War. The North shoulda let 'em get away & stay away.

David Adams & Alex Dobuzinskis of Reuters: "The Obama administration's new policy to grant temporary legal status to millions of young illegal immigrants will end the immediate threat of deportation but may not give them the same privileges as legal residents. Within hours of the policy's going into effect on Wednesday, Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, issued an executive order denying public benefits such as driver's licenses to illegal immigrants who are given temporary legal status.... Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, a Republican, issued a statement on Friday saying the state will continue to deny driver's licenses, welfare benefits and other public benefits to illegal immigrants even if they are granted temporary legal status."

Presidential Race

Two new Obama-Biden ads with significant buys in swing states:

In this Web video, Stephanie Cutter of the Obama campaign does a great job of explaining the differences between whatever the Romney-Ryan plan is & Obama's Medicare plan:

** "Buyer's Remorse?" Ezra Klein: "Here's the weird thing about Paul Ryan being named to the Republican presidential ticket: It's all part of Barack Obama's campaign plan -- a plan that's working better than his strategists could have hoped. It could also backfire more disastrously than they could have ever imagined.... By pitting his presidency against Ryan and his budget, Obama helped make Ryan the de facto leader of the Republican Party. As Mitt Romney emerged as the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, the Obama administration began calling Ryan's budget the 'Romney-Ryan budget.' ... If Obama loses, Republicans will have won the presidency with a mandate to enact a deeply conservative agenda."

Just looked at this PolitiFact page of recent campaign ads & remarks: Obama gets a lot of "Mostly True"s; Romney gets only "Mostly False"s. (And PolitiFact is notoriously tough on Democrats.)

Road to Ruin. Charles Blow: "Shady money, voter suppression, shifting positions, murky details and widespread apathy. If there is a road map for a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan win in November, that's it."

Web of Greed. John Swaine of the London Telegraph: while Romney was governor of Massachusetts "appears to have profited from a marketing company that was contracted by the state of Massachusetts after receiving $5 million (£3.2 million) in financial backing from Bain Capital, Mr Romney's investment firm. One of [Paul Ryan]'s brothers, who is a former Bain consultant, was at the time of the investment a senior executive at the marketing company, Imagitas, which was co-founded by another former Bain executive. Both Mr Romney and Tobin Ryan, who omits his work at Imagitas from his corporate biography, also apparently stood to benefit from the $230 million (£146 million) sale of the company in 2005, while Mr Romney remained in office. Massachusetts law requires that all state employees divest themselves of financial interests in private sector contracts with state agencies. At the time, failure to do so could have resulted in a $2,000 (£1,273) fine or a 2.5-year prison sentence." ...

     ... CW: Now we're beginning to see why Romney won't release his tax returns. They would, for instance, show his profits from Imagitas, which appear to be ill-gotten gains.

R&R Admit to Smoke & Mirrors Strategy. Mike Allen & Jim Vandehei of Politico: "The Romney strategy is simple: Hammer away at Obama for proposing cuts to Medicare and promise, in vague, aspirational ways, to protect the program for future retirees -- but don't get pulled into a public discussion of the most unpopular parts of the Ryan plan. 'The nature of running a presidential campaign is that you're communicating direction to the American people,' a Romney adviser said. 'Campaigns that are about specifics, particularly in today's environment, get tripped up.'" ...

... Greg Sargent: "As Steve Benen asks: 'what does it say about the merit of Romney's policy agenda if voters are likely to recoil if they heard the whole truth?' And this is coming after the campaign touted the selection of Paul Ryan as proof that the GOP ticket is deeply serious about policy and committed to making the tough decisions Democrats won't." ...

... Imani Gandy in Balloon Juice: "Better to be vague and accuse President Obama of being black than to tell voters what you stand for, (or, as the case seems to be, than to tell voters just how much you're going to screw them when you get elected.)"

Steve Benen has an interesting lead-in to his 30th installment of "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity": In a speech this week, Romney said "'How can you go out there and tell people things that just aren't true? ... This is a time for truths.' ... Romney was referring to Obama's claim that 'we're adding jobs in the coal industry.'" This is true. "Romney was looking for an example of the president saying something that 'just isn't true,' and he pointed to an Obama quote that happened to be accurate, though he told his audience the opposite. It's hard not to appreciate the ironic circle -- the president said something true, Romney lied when he said the accurate claim is false, and then he complained about falsehoods in the campaign.... It's actually a little scary to think of a leader ... who can convince himself that his falsehoods are true, and that others' truths are falsehoods." ...

... Speaking of falsehoods, reader Jeanne B. reminds us that Romney & his team have previously (and repeatedly) lied to the public about what was in his tax returns.

Kaili Gray of Daily Kos: "After weeks of insisting that the Romney campaign had learned the hard lessons of 2008 and would very deliberately do the opposite of everything McCain did, including seeking an 'incredibly boring white guy' for the VP spot to avoid any Palintastrophes, the fact that the campaign ... is now following the same disastrous roadmap McCain did, starting with, in McCain's own words, 'a pretty bold choice' for the VP slot, is pretty shocking." ...

... This commentary by Frank Rich on the Ryan roll-out is a few days old but still worth reading. Rich was not impressed.

** Paul Krugman: "what [Ryan's] budget actually proposes (as opposed to vaguely promises) in its first decade...:

Spending cuts: $1.7 trillion
Tax cuts: $4.3 trillion

     "This is, then, a plan that would increase the deficit by around $2.6 trillion. How, then, does Ryan get to call himself a fiscal hawk? By asserting that he will keep his tax cuts revenue-neutral by broadening the base in ways he refuses to specify, and that he will make further large cuts in spending, in ways he refuses to specify. And this is what passes inside the Beltway for serious thinking and a serious commitment to deficit reduction." ...

     ... CW: instead of having Joe Biden debate Ryan, why can't we have Paul Krugman fill in? ...

... Harsha Natata in Think Progress: "A Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis shows that Ryan voted to add a grand total of $6.8 trillion to the federal debt during his time in Congress, voting for at least 65 bills that either reduced revenue or increased spending."

Now that Romney & Ryan are "on the same page," whatever page that might be, Gail Collins write a handy column to help the uninformed voter tell them apart. She includes this aside:

Practically the only person in America who claims to have no idea who he's going to vote for is Senator Joseph Lieberman, who recently declared himself absolutely and totally undecided. People, do you think it's possible that the entire presidential campaign is now being waged just for the benefit of Joseph Lieberman? On the one hand, that's a real waste of about $1 billion. On the other, it's exactly what Joseph Lieberman has been waiting for all his life.

      ... CW: The only sad thing about saying goodbye to Joe Lieberman is that we might be saying hello to the super-rich wrestler lady. Please, Connecticut voters, you have already saddled us with Loathsome Joe. Don't add insult to injury.

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: Romney has such a lousy personality, the GOP convention will focus on his business acumen instead of his person qualities -- which is the usual thrust of conventions. CW: I'm paraphrasing.

Romney to Ryan: "Keep yer mouth shut, kid." Steve Peoples of the AP: "Ryan has been directed to avoid taking questions from reporters who travel with his campaign and to agree only to a handful of carefully selected interviews.... Romney's Boston headquarters -- so far, at least -- seems to prefer that ... [Ryan] talks about camping and milking cows instead of the transformational budget proposals that made him a conservative hero.."

Jerry Markon & David Fallis of the Washington Post: Paul Ryan "has often ... [sought] federal funds for his Wisconsin district, sometimes from existing pools of money and other times in ways that would increase federal spending.... It complicates the image that Ryan, and now the Romney campaign, have sought to project of a man who is single-mindedly focused on sharply cutting the federal budget and erasing the nation's deficit.... In several instances, he sought earmarks opposed by the George W. Bush administration. In 2009, he urged the Obama administration to award millions of economic stimulus dollars for 'green' jobs in his district, even though he had voted against the stimulus package that year.... [His] stance ... drew more attention this week when he [twice] denied that he had ever sought stimulus dollars.... He backtracked Thursday and acknowledged he had sought stimulus funds, but he said his office had mishandled the requests. He continued to voice opposition to the stimulus program, which he has called a 'wasteful spending spree.'"

Friday Afternoon News Dump. Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Paul Ryan and his wife Janna paid an effective tax rate of 15.9% in 2010 and 20% in 2011, according to tax returns provided by the Romney-Ryan campaign to the Journal Sentinel Friday."

David Firestone of the New York Times: "Among the many falsehoods in the Romney campaign's new Medicare ad is this remarkable line pitched to the elderly: 'The money you paid in for guaranteed health care is going into a massive new government program that's not for you.' ... The implication is that Obamacare is for the poor, the uninsured, blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, anyone but the upstanding older Americans that the Romney-Ryan ticket is suddenly very afraid of losing. 'It's not for you.' As it happens, the ad is incorrect. For instance, the president's health care bill eliminated the notorious Medicare 'doughnut hole,' which forced beneficiaries to use their own money for prescription drugs after they reached a limit. That hole, created by President George W. Bush and Congress, had a serious health effect on millions of older Americans."

Juliet Lapidos of the New York Times on "Paul Ryan & the Auto Bailout." Ryan said at a campaign stop & in an interview Thursday that the auto bailout didn't work because GM shut down its Janesville, Wisconsin, plant. "What's his argument? That the auto bailout, which saved GM, was a failure because it didn’t save one particular GM plant? That Janesville proves the president might as well have let Detroit go bankrupt? ... On Talking Points Memo, Benjy Sarlin reports that the Janesville plant closed in 2008, before Mr. Obama took office. Mr. Ryan, moreover..., supported the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act in the waning months of the Bush administration. That bill, which died in the Senate, would have extended a $14 billion loan to Chrysler and GM." CW: just an all-around tip-top Olympic-calibre hypocrite.

CW: in honor of its new favorite son, Janesville should at least temporarily change its name to Janusville because that guy is so incredibly two-faced.

Steve Kornacki of Salon: the whole point of the untrue Romney-Ryan Medicare attack ads is to obfuscate, and it could work. "Just because Romney's running mate is the author of a reviled Medicare plan doesn't necessarily mean that the GOP ticket will pay a price for it."

Ready for His Close-Ups. Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, has emerged as the choice to play Representative Paul D. Ryan in mock debates with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr."

CW: Ed Klein, author of a"stunning exposé" of "the real Barack Obama," reveals that "As recently as a couple of weeks ago, the White House was putting out feelers to see if Hillary Clinton was interested in replacing Joe Biden on the ticket." Klein said Bill Clinton was encouraging the move. "Klein ... quoted unnamed sources who revealed that top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett put the vice presidency on the table during a lunch with the secretary of state."

Hillary Clinton's spokesman Philippe Reines responded, sort of "Cat in the Hat" style:

This did not happen
They did not have lunch
They did not have any meal
They did not meet this month
They did not meet last month
They did not meet in 2012
They did not meet in 2011, 2010, 2009
This is not happening
Truth is that Ed Klein is an idiot with not a shred of credibility
Truth is that Ed Klein's motto is 'If at first you don't succeed, lie lie again.'

Congressional Races

Alison Cowan of the New York Times: "According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Friday..., Ofer Biton ... schemed to commit immigration fraud and other illegal acts.... According to the complaint, Mr. Biton deceived the government in June 2010 about the source of $500,000 that he claimed to have put into a new business that was to make him eligible for a permanent visa.... While it was not mentioned in the complaint, Mr. Biton has also emerged as a key figure in the 2009-10 Congressional campaign of Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn.... Though Mr. Biton is barred from raising money for federal election campaigns because he is an illegal immigrant, he is said to have raised much of Mr. Grimm's campaign money...."

Local News

Rich Abdill of Wonkette: "Kentucky Republicans passed education legislation in 2009 that made it easier to compare the state's students to other states. Now they're very upset that the results came back Stupid. ACT, the state's testing company, interviews professors to figure out the things most important to student readiness for college, which sounds like a smart thing to do. Unfortunately, those professors have bad news: If you want students to do well in biology classes, they have to know about evolution."

News Lede

Politico: "Lost in the hubbub last weekend over Rep. Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate was the fact that Obama signed a bill that eliminates the need to obtain Senate confirmation for about 170 executive branch posts: the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011. The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), addresses concerns that the Senate's confirmation process has become so constipated that in many cases, especially with lower-profile posts, nominations were being held up without anyone really trying."

Thursday
Aug162012

The Commentariat -- August 17, 2012

Presidential Race

If the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more — neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign. -- Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager to Matt Rhoades, Romney campaign manager; via Greg Sargent ...

... As Steve Kornacki says, "an offer Mitt will definitely refuse" ...

... Update from Felicia Sonmez, et al., of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney's presidential campaign Friday rejected a new call from the Obama campaign to release five years of tax returns, while trumpeting a surge in support for the Republican ticket since Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate."

John Stanton of BuzzFeed: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office isn’t backing down from its charges Mitt Romney may have not paid taxes over the years and demanding he release a decades worth or returns -- despite Romney's assertion Thursday that he's paid at least 13 percent in taxes over the last decade. 'We'll believe it when we see it. Until Mitt Romney releases his tax returns, Americans will continue to wonder what he's hiding. Romney seems to think he plays by a different set of rules than every other presidential candidate for the last thirty years, all of whom lived up to the standard of transparency set by Mitt Romney's father and released their tax returns," Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told Buzzfeed ... Thursday." ...

David Firestone of the New York Times: "At some level, Mr. Romney doesn't seem to understand that voters don't automatically trust the assurances and promises of politicians. He and his wife seem genuinely shocked that they are being pressed to provide paperwork.... This haughty trust-me attitude -- why can't we escape these pestering questions and run on our own obvious goodness and decency? -- extends to the rest of Mr. Romney's campaign."

... Ezra Klein: "I find it a bit difficult to believe that Romney has paid more than 13 percent every year.... One thing he could be doing when he says he paid more than 13 percent every year for the past 10 years is referring to the rate he paid on his taxable income as opposed to his [adjusted gross income]. That would make it easy for him to say that he paid more than 13 percent, but he wouldn't have paid more than 13 percent by the normal standards of accounting." ...

... David Dayen: "Also, there's the matter that 13% is an obscene federal income tax rate for someone with the income of a Mitt Romney." Dayen's whole post is quite good. ...

... CW: one aspect of Romney's MYOB statement I meant to zero in on yesterday was: "But every year I've paid at least 13 percent and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, well the number gets well above 20 percent." First, the "gifts to charity" are of course tax deductions, so his charitable giving is a loss to the government. Second, we know from the part of his 2010 tax returns he's released that the Romneys' contributions to "charity" are overwhelmingly to the Mormon Church. So every year he is literally taking millions from Washington & sending it to Salt Lake City. Third, it is notable that in Romney's mind, paying taxes to the federal government & more-or-less tithing to his church are kinda the same thing. He seems incapable of separating church and state. That is not surprising -- his faith teaches that Jesus made a special post-resurrection trip to the U.S. & that the U.S. Constitution is a sacred document. The First Amendment, from this point-of-view, would be a sacrilege. And I would guess anything other than an originalist interpretation of the Constitution would be, too.

Ginger Gibson of Politico: "... after the 10-minute and 11-second news conference [yesterday], Romney shed no new light on how he would overhaul the 47-year-old federal health care program for senior citizens and how (or if) his program differs from that of his running mate's much-maligned proposal that is part of an effort to slash the federal budget deficit." CW: Gibson all but says Romney either doesn't know what he's talking about or he's obfuscating. This is a straight news story. ...

... Sam Baker of The Hill: "Republicans insist they're playing offense on Medicare and argue the fall campaign will prove that Democrats do not have the upper hand on the issue.... [Ryan's] budget proposals for the past two years kept the $716 billion in Medicare cuts that he is now attacking, while repealing the rest of the healthcare law. That has led to an awkward handful of news cycles in which Romney had to distance himself from his new running mate's embrace of Medicare cuts.... Democrats argue the Ryan pick has shifted the focus from jobs to Medicare, where they feel they have the advantage, while muddling Romney's Medicare attack against Obama. And neither Republican is making a detailed pitch for his Medicare plan."

... Kate Pickert of Time has a good explanation of what the ObamaCare cuts actually do. "The idea ... that the Affordable Care Act struck a dangerous blow to Medicare that will change the program in fundamental ways is untrue. Under the new law, Medicare will remain a wildly popular, public single-payer health insurance system that provides comprehensive coverage to millions of Americans."

New York Times Editors: "A careful presidential campaign would put distance between itself and a businessman like [Sheldon] Adelson [whose business is under investigation for a number of possibly illegal activities]. Instead, this one is cultivating him. Mr. Romney recently met with him in Israel, and Mr. Ryan this week paid homage to him and other big donors in a private casino for high-rollers on the 36th floor of Mr. Adelson's Venetian hotel. By allowing Mr. Adelson to have such an outsize role in their race, the candidates themselves are placing a very risky bet.

I'm not one [of those] people who votes for something then writes to the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money. -- Paul Ryan, 2010

In 2009, Ryan wrote to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking for stimulus money to cover costs on two energy conservation projects in his home state of Wisconsin. In the letter, Ryan said the funds would help create jobs and reduce 'energy consumption' in the state. At least one of the companies received the requested cash. -- Gregory Krieg, ABC News

I never asked for stimulus. I don't recall … so I really can't comment on it. I opposed the stimulus because it doesn't work, it didn't work. -- Paul Ryan, Wednesday

After having these letters called to my attention I checked into them, and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled. This is why I didn't recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that. Regardless, it's clear that the Obama stimulus did nothing to stimulate the economy, and now the President is asking to do it all over again. -- Paul Ryan, yesterday in a statement

Watch, especially, Maddow's discussion with Ezra Klein, which begins at about 12:30 in.

... Alan Semuels of the Los Angeles Times: reporters keep hounding Paul Ryan on why he's just flip-flopped on major positions he's held for years. ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "Ryan has built his image on being a straight-talking intellectual statesmen who is willing to fight for what he thinks is needed, regardless of the political costs. This is likely part of the reason why Romney, who suffers from a perception of being overly malleable, selected Ryan as his VP." CW: so how's that workin' out for ya, Paul?

Sandra Fluke, in an NBC commentary, lists some of the stunning "anti-woman" votes Paul Ryan has cast. Fluke's larger point is that "Ryan's record on women's issues is so far outside the mainstream that many find it unbelievable.... If voters assume no one could be that bad, and don't learn the truth about Ryan's record, Romney/Ryan will have the opportunity to put their vision for women's health and economic security into action." ...

     CW: This is a problem on other issues -- like their planned cuts to social welfare programs. The other day I made a comment on Politico (I think it was) where I mentioned George Bush's unfunded wars. I got the same response Fluke did -- people wrote in saying things like "prove it." (I did, in a follow-up comment.) People who take the trouble to read and comment on political articles obviously are actively interested in politics. Yet many are woefully ignorant. Millions of voters probably view GOP policies as "too bad to be true."

Fun & Games with Paul Ryan. Matt Miller of the Washington Post teaches you on how to recognize when altar boy Paul Ryan is lying. (Yeah, I know -- when his lips are moving.) Miller is really offended.

     ... CW: The video Miller links to crashed my Adobe Flash program 5 times. The 2-minute clip that (I think) the Miller-linked video covers begins 4:50 into the video below. I watched the whole segment; despite his best effort, Hume was never able to get Ryan to give truthful answers to his major questions:

I mean, I think that he's a practical conservative. He's got a very conservative voting record, but he's not a knuckle-dragger, all right? -- John Boehner, in praise of Paul Ryan ...

... CW: Digby has a very substantive post on Boehner & Ryan. But what struck me was the gaffiness of Boehner's remark. He is calling his teabagger buddies "knuckledraggers." Since Boehner made his comments on Fox "News," they probably were all watching. I don't think dissing his knuckledragger caucus improves Boehner's chances of retaining his leadership position.

Paul Harris of the Guardian looks into "Opsec," the group that is swiftboating President Obama.

Andy Borowitz publishes Paul Ryan's "Song of Himself." Apologies to Walt Whitman. Thanks to Kate M. for the link.

@alan: not sure about that:

Congressional Races

Alex Koppelman of the New Yorker uses moderate Republican Chris Shays' whopping defeat to wrestler lady Linda McMahon in Connecticut's U.S. Senate Republican primary as inspiration for a review of the state of the Congress -- and the polarization of the nation.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The first criminal prosecution of Planned Parenthood came to an abrupt end Friday when Kansas prosecutors dropped all charges against a local affiliate accused of failing to determine the viability of fetuses before abortions were performed."

New York Times: "The anxieties of an unexpected landing in war-ravaged Syria were compounded for passengers on an Air France flight when they were asked by the crew if they couldn't possibly, you know, come up with some cash to help out with the refueling."

AP: "Unemployment rates rose in 44 U.S. states in July, the most states to show a monthly increase in more than three years and a reflection of weak hiring nationwide."

Salon: "In a decision as predictable as it was stomach-churning, three members of the Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot were found guilty Friday of hooliganism for a protest in a cathedral last winter. The judge declared that they had engaged in 'homosexual propaganda' and 'imitated demonic attacks.' The women, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova -- who have already spent six months in jail -- received a sentence of two years imprisonment." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "At his daily briefing, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration is 'disappointed by the Pussy Riot verdict. While we understand the group's behavior was offensive for some, we have concerns about the way these young women were treated by the Russian judicial system.'"

Guardian: "A major diplomatic row over the fate of the fugitive Julian Assange erupted after the WikiLeaks founder was offered political asylum by Ecuador to escape extradition from Britain over allegations of serious sexual assaults. The [British] foreign secretary, William Hague..., said Assange would be arrested if he leaves the embassy in London where he has lived for nearly two months. Ecuador's decision has also angered the Swedish authorities...."

AP: "A federal court on Thursday gave five Florida counties four extra days of early voting in this fall's elections. The Republican-controlled Florida legislature last year cut the state's number of early-voting days to 8 from 12. But the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the changes won't happen in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe counties, which are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

AP: "Iraqi officials said Friday that a blistering string of attacks across the country the previous day ultimately killed at least 93 people, as the extent of the violence grew clearer and mourners started to bury their dead."

Wednesday
Aug152012

The Commentariat -- August 16, 2012

My latest column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's post touting Paul Ryan. The NYTX front page is here.

David Plotz of Slate: in a new book, Michael Grunwald of Time argues that the Obama stimulus "has been an astonishing, and unrecognized, success." Plotz interviews Grunwald.

Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) has an excellent piece in Salon ripping Tim Geithner.

New York Times Editors: the Pennsylvania voter ID "lawsuit was an opportunity to sweep away barriers to full citizenship. Judge [Robert] Simpson should have placed his court on record supporting the country's first principles." He didn't.

Azam Ahmed & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "A criminal investigation into the collapse of the brokerage firm MF Global and the disappearance of about $1 billion in customer money is now heading into its final stage without charges expected against any top executives."

Presidential Race

Flim-Flam Man Flip-Flop-Flip-Flop-Flips. Benjy Sarlin of TPM: Paul Ryan, in his ongoing evolution from active supporter to newfound critic of the Affordable Care Act's $716 billion in Medicare savings, now claims he actually opposed the cuts before he embraced them (and then turned against them again later).... The confusing new wrinkle is the latest example of Ryan's awkward contortions as he tries to reconcile the Romney campaign's new promise to restore the $716 billion in cuts with Ryan's previous decision to include the same exact cuts in two Republican budgets he wrote.... So the score now stands at: Ryan says he wouldn't have cut Medicare. Then Obama made those cuts. Then Ryan voted to reverse them. Then he decided to bring them back in the Republican budget. Now he opposes them and thinks they hurt seniors." Got that? There will be a test.

Greg Sargent: "In a remarkable bit of political theater, Mitt Romney carefully divulged a bit more information about his tax returns, confirming for the first time that for the past 10 years, he has paid at least 13 percent in taxes.... The problem with this response, of course, is that it only gives Dems another hook to call for the release of his returns, by challenging him to prove his claim.... Jay Rosen has dubbed the Romney effort the 'post truth campaign.' It’s also the post transparency campaign. If it works -- and it very well could work -- think of the precedent it will set." With video. ...

... Dan Amira of New York: "All it means is that his tax rate is not the thing that Romney is terrified of showing to the American public."

Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you. -- Vice President Joe Biden, on Tuesday

Thanks to contributor MAG for calling this to our attention:

Paul Tough has a long piece in the New York Times Magazine titled "Obama & Poverty" that examines how President Obama has dealt with the issue of poverty & looks back at his work as a community organizer. CW: haven't read it yet.

** Dana Milbank: "Forgive me, but I'm not prepared to join this walk down Great Umbrage Street just yet. Yes, it’s ugly out there. But is this worse than four years ago, when Obama was accused by the GOP vice presidential nominee of 'palling around with terrorists'? Or eight years ago, when Democratic nominee John Kerry was accused of falsifying his Vietnam War record? What's different this time is that the Democrats are employing the same harsh tactics that have been used against them for so long, with so much success. They have ceased their traditional response of assuming the fetal position when attacked, and Obama's campaign is giving as good as it gets -- and then some." CW: couldn't agree more. I gagged when I read Dan Balz's stupid piece last night; I purposely didn't link it, but here it is. The gist: it's so wrong to pick on Mitt. (See also Krugman's piece on "demagoguery" below.)

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "... a group of former special operations and C.I.A. officers started a campaign Tuesday night accusing Mr. Obama of recklessly leaking information about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and other security matters to gain political advantage. The new group, called the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, using shorthand for 'operational security,' describes itself as nonpartisan, but some of its leaders have been involved in Republican campaigns and Tea Party groups. A 22-minute video ... featured on its Web site appears to be aimed squarely at the president, echoing charges made previously by Mitt Romney and other Republicans. The Obama campaign immediately compared the effort to the so-called Swift Boat advertisements against Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign."

Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: Mitt Romney claimed on Wednesday, "'Look, no one is talking about deregulating Wall Street.' Actually, Mr. Romney has made deregulation of Wall Street and 'every street' a central component of his campaign. On the regulation page of his website -- a misnomer; it's really the deregulation page -- Mr. Romney says that 'regulations function as a hidden tax on Americans' and pledges to 'tear down the vast edifice of regulations the Obama administration has imposed on the economy' by: Repealing the Affordable Care Act, repealing Dodd-Frank, amending Sarbanes-Oxley and providing multi-year lead times before companies must come into compliance with new environmental rules.'"

Paul Krugman writes an excellent post summarizing the Ryan budget plan(s). It's what you need to know.

"The Truth Has a Well-Known Demagogic Bias." Also from Krugman: what's wrong with the conventional Beltway "wisdom"? It assumes -- and asserts -- that GOP plans can't possibly be as bad as they are.

Charles Blow: "... by hammering Romney on his strength, the Obama campaign forced him to make a disastrous choice for a running mate. According to a Gallup report issued on Monday, the response to the Ryan pick 'is among the least positive reactions to a vice presidential choice Gallup has recorded in recent elections.' Score one for Team Obama."

Angie Holan of PolitiFact: "While the [Obama] health care law reduces the amount of future spending growth in Medicare, the law doesn't actually cut Medicare. Savings come from reducing money that goes to private insurers who provide Medicare Advantage programs, among other things. The money wasn't 'robbed.' We rated the statement Mostly False." There's more detail here. ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic also has a simple explanation of a somewhat complex Mediscare flim-flam: "Obama takes money away from the health care industry and uses it to help people pay their medical bills. Some of those people include seniors already getting help with their drug bills and free preventative care. Ryan and, by implication, Romney takes the same money from the health care industry. But they also take away those new benefits for seniors, even as they find room in their tight budgets to cut taxes for the wealthy." ...

... Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "... Mitt Romney's new promise to restore the Medicare cuts made by President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law could backfire if he's elected.... By repealing [the cuts] Romney would move the insolvency date of the [Medicare] program closer, toward the end of what would be his first term in office.... Obama's cuts were not directly aimed at Medicare's 48 million beneficiaries; instead they affect hospitals, insurers, nursing homes, drug companies and other service providers. Simply undoing the cuts ... would cause Medicare to spend money faster."

... Here's another guy explaining the differences. He's pretty good at it:

... Gail Collins, as usual, isn't very serious. But she gets at one important point: "Ryan's passion for health care cost-cutting is actually not directed at Medicare so much as Medicaid. The seniors who could really take a hit would be the ones in nursing homes who've already run through their own savings." CW: for some reason (Ayn Rand), that guy really has it in for poor people.

Halimah Abdullah of CNN: Speaking to Brit Hume of Fox "News," Paul Ryan goes all wobbly & fuzzy on budget figures.

Tim Egan: "... the true Romney is a phantom -- lost long ago to reinventions and calculations."

What She Said. We have been very transparent to what's legally required of us. There's going to be no more tax releases given. It will only give them more ammunition. There's nothing we're hiding. -- Ann Romney

What She Meant. The lawyers tell us nobody can make us release our returns, so I told Mitt he's releasing those returns over my dead body. The travesties in those returns would bury Mitt. We're not hiding anything -- we're hiding everything. It's our turn, for Pete's sake. -- Ann Romney

There's nothing we're hiding. We just don't want Obama to see our returns because there's plenty of ammunition in them to bury Mitt. (Or something like that.) -- Ann Romney

Here's our next Treasury Secretary Erskine Bowles praising Paul Ryan:

     ... Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo! News: "A video of former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles began circulating in conservative news outlets today. In the clip, the Democratic co-chair of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform gives high praises to Paul Ryan's budget plan.... The video was shot on September 8, 2011, but was just uploaded to YouTube yesterday. What's striking is that not only does Bowles, a former U.S. Senate candidate from North Carolina, praise Ryan's effort, but he is also highly critical of the budget offered by President Obama." ...

      ... CW: I am apoplectic over the idea Obama might nominate this guy -- or someone like him -- for Treasury Secretary. I hope this video at least pisses off Obama enough that Bowles is out. Anybody who praises Ryan's arithmetic prowess & calls his budget "sensible, straightforward, honest, serious" is a full-blown idiot who probably can't balance a checkbook, much less a federal budget.

Andy Borowitz found a leaked memo from Romney to Ryan.

Congressional Races

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Jolted by concerns over the wave of Medicare-themed Democratic attacks sparked by Paul Ryan's vice presidential nomination, House Speaker John Boehner held a Tuesday evening conference call aimed at soothing jittery Republican members...." ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "Unless the jittery Members were among the four House Republicans (one of whom is retiring) who voted against Ryan's budget resolution earlier this year, instead of the 235 who voted for it, then it seems a little cowardly of them to complain about being 'tied' to a bill they voted for so recently. Since the bill represented pretty much the entire GOP agenda for this Congress, I can't imagine they didn't think it would come up on the campaign trail.... Boehner apparently advised them to get right on those talking points about Obama's massive cuts to Medicare, without mentioning they had voted for that, too, in the Ryan budget."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United Nations Security Council decided on Thursday to terminate the United Nations observer mission in Syria, where the increasingly violent rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad's government has left diplomatic peacemaking efforts paralyzed. But the Council agreed to keep a much smaller United Nations office in the country, holding out hope that a political solution was still possible."

Arizona Republic: "As young undocumented immigrants on Wednesday celebrated the start of a new federal program allowing them to apply to stay and work temporarily in the United States, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order ... that state agencies are required to deny [driver's] licenses and other public benefits to all undocumented immigrants, even those who gain approval under President Barack Obama's new 'deferred action' program.... Earlier in the day, Maricopa County Community Colleges announced that students who get work authorization through deferred action would be eligible to apply for in-state tuition, but hours later, district officials said they would reconsider the decision because of Brewer's order." CW: I hope federal marshals come after her.

Reuters: "South African riot police opened fire on striking miners armed with machetes and sticks at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine on Thursday, killing at least a dozen men in the deadliest episode of a week of union violence."

Bloomberg News: "The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits was little changed last week, bringing the average over the past month to the lowest level since late March, a sign the labor market has stabilized after employment picked up in July."

New York Times: "The government of Ecuador is prepared to allow Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, to remain in its embassy in London indefinitely under a type of humanitarian protection, a government official said in Quito on Wednesday night. Mr. Assange has been holed up in the embassy for two months seeking asylum." ...

     ... Update: the story has a new lede: "Ecuador forcefully rejected British pressure to announce Thursday that it was granting political asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who has been holed up for two months in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London trying to avoid extradition to Sweden." The Guardian is liveblogging the story.

AP: "The trial for an Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly Fort Hood shooting has been put on hold while an appeals court considers his objections to being forcibly shaved. All court proceedings for Maj. Nidal Hasan were put on hold Wednesday. He had been scheduled to enter a plea. According to a defense motion, Hasan indicated he wanted to plead guilty for religious reasons. Hasan is an American-born Muslim."

Reuters: "The mayor of Dallas declared a state of emergency ... on Wednesday to combat the spread of West Nile virus infections.... There have been more cases of West Nile virus reported so far this year than any year since the disease was first detected in the United States in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control said on its website."

AP: "As Gen. William 'Kip' Ward traveled around the world as the head of the military's U.S. Africa Command, he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in excessive hotel costs and allowed unauthorized family members to travel on his government plane, according to a Pentagon investigation. Ward ... is facing possible demotion for the alleged lavish spending.... It was not immediately clear whether Ward also could face criminal charges."