Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President discusses the measures we are taking to respond to Ebola cases at home, while containing the epidemic at its source in West Africa":

The Ledes

Saturday, October 25, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Pentagon on Friday reported the first death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq in its new mission to combat Islamic State militants who have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria. Marine Lance Corporal Sean Neal, a 19-year-old old from California, died in Baghdad on Thursday in what a Pentagon statement described as a non-combat incident. Further details about how Neal died were not immediately available."

Los Angeles Times: "A gunman suspected of fatally shooting two Northern California law officers Friday and wounding two other people was arrested after a six-hour chase with search dogs, helicopters and armored vehicles. Marcelo Marquez, 34, of Salt Lake City, was taken into custody by a SWAT team from a home in Auburn in Placer County, hours after the initial shooting occurred 30 miles away in a strip mall in Sacramento, said Placer County Sheriff's spokeswoman Dena Erwin."

Guardian: "A Palestinian-American teenager was killed during clashes with the Israeli military on Friday amid heightened tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank. A relative identified the teen as 14-year-old Orwah Hammad and said he was born in New Orleans and came to the West Bank when he was six. Hammad’s cousin Moath said he was among a group of Palestinians who were throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, October 24, 2014.

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Friday unleashed perhaps his strongest diatribe against the United States yet, using an international meeting of Russia experts to sell Moscow’s view that American meddling has sparked most of the world’s recent crises, including those in Ukraine and the Middle East. Instead of supporting democracy and sovereign states, Mr. Putin said during a three-hour appearance at the conference, the United States supports 'dubious' groups ranging from 'open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.'”

Washington Post: "The body found on an abandoned property outside of [Charlottesville, Virginia] has been confirmed as the remains of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham, a grim result that came nearly six weeks after the 18-year-old from Fairfax County went missing."

Seattle Times: "Two students are dead after one of them opened fire Friday morning in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School cafeteria before turning the gun on himself, according to law-enforcement sources. Police said a girl was killed and two other girls and two boys were wounded  in the 10:45 a.m. shooting.... Jarron Webb, 15, said the shooter was angry at a girl who would not date him, and that the girl was one of the people shot.  He said he believes one of the victims was his friend since kindergarten." Marysville is near Seattle.

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."

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.


Ancient Grains! Jeez, people will buy anything. CW PS: Unless you're a scientist with specific knowledge about the benefits of ancient grains as opposed to say, oats, don't write in & bitch about my ignorance. We all have our pet peeves, rational & irrational. Fad foods -- in fact, fads in general -- are one of mine.

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.

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:

"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. ...

... UPDATE. 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.

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The Commentariat -- August 9, 2012

** Monopoly! Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Banks are making unusually large gains on mortgages because they are taking profits far higher than the historical norm, analysts say. That 3.55 percent rate for a 30-year mortgage could be closer to 3.05 percent if banks were satisfied with the profit margins of just a few years ago. The lower rate would save a borrower about $30,000 in interest payments over the life of a $300,000 mortgage."

Joan Biskupic of Reuters: "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, the eldest member of the bench and leader of its liberal wing, said she cracked two ribs in June but met all her work obligations and remains committed to staying on the court at least three more years." ...

Linda Greenhouse: thank the Supreme Courts of yore for the U.S. women's Olympics teams, but don't expect any more "rights-creating" laws to get such positive readings in today's Court.

Charles Pierce. "... I agree with Goodhair [Rick Perry] on this. If you want to have a death penalty, and if you believe in all the barbaric arguments on its behalf, then you simply cannot care whether or not you execute the odd retarded person or two. The most singularly clumsy moral contortions we have in this country take place over the issue of whether you can wedge a death penalty into the system of laws that this country claims to have. You simply cannot do that." Read the whole post.

E. J. Dionne goes on a nice little rant about the hypocrisy of Romney & the right, principally on ObamaCare, but on other stuff, too. It includes, "If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law.If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law."

** Jim Crow Now Officially Controls Ohio. Ari Berman of The Nation: "The real story from Ohio is how cutbacks to early voting will disproportionately disenfranchise African-American voters in Ohio's most populous counties.... Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8 am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it's most convenient for working people to vote. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends." CW: we have not seen voter suppression travesties like this since the 1960s. Too bad the Voting Rights Act -- which the Supremes would like to blow up at first opportunity -- didn't cover every state. ...

Presidential Race

Alex Pareene of Salon thinks the press is getting better at exposing candidates' lies & that's why Willard has had three "Marshall McLuhan moments" in recent days. CW: I hope Pareene is right, but -- as my latest NYTX column demonstrates -- they could do a helluva a better job.

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on the Times story news about Mitt Romney's attack on Obama's welfare-to-work policy. I think my critique is of importance because it shows how the Times is skewing stories to favor Romney. The NYTX front page is here. ...

     ... Charles Blow smells desperation. ...

     ... So does the New York Times Editorial Board: "Mitt Romney's campaign has hit new depths of truth-twisting with its accusation that President Obama plans to 'gut welfare reform' by ending federal work requirements. The claim is blatantly false, but it says a great deal about Mr. Romney's increasingly desperate desire to define the president as something he is not." CW: to document their editorial, the editors link to seven sources, some of them secondary. None of them is a New York Times story. That would be because the Times reporting is fairly useless. ...

... Kevin Cirilli of Politico: "Newt Gingrich said Wednesday there's 'no proof' of a claim made in a Mitt Romney campaign ad that President Barack Obama ended the welfare work requirement. 'We have no proof today,' the former House speaker said on CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360. But I would say to you, under Obama's ideology, it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing.'" CW: evidently there's "something about Obama" that makes him "look like" a guy who would send "a lot of people checks for doing nothing." ...

... AND, not surprisingly, the Kenyan anti-colonial theorist a/k/a Gingrich is the guy "who suggested to senior Romney advisers they take on the welfare issue." Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Driftglass writes a terrific post on the welfare lie -- and the Romney campaign -- and the Republican party.

Wow! Greg Sargent writes that as a response to the Priorities USA ad featuring Joe Soptic, whose wife died of cancer years after his Bain-controlled company laid him off (see the August 7 Commentariat & an update yesterday's Commentariat), "Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul suggested today that Soptic's wife would have had health insurance if she had lived in Massachusetts and had been covered by Romneycare. 'If people had been in Massachusetts, under Gov. Romney's health care plan, they would have had health care,' Saul said. Conservatives are apoplectic. They think this has given the Obama team a big opening to remake its case about Obamacare. And they're right. The Romney campaign now seems to be claiming that government-established universal health care is the answer to what to do about people like Ms. Soptic who lack insurance. That's Obama's argument for Obamacare." Read the whole post, with which I agree to the letter. CW: it seems foot-in-mouth disease is contageous. Everyone on Team Romney -- Romney himself, Eric Etch-a-Sketch Fehrnstrom, the Kiss-My-Ass-in-Front-of-a-Polish-Shrine guy & now Andrea Saul has a serious case of it. ...

... Jed Lewison: "... the logical conclusion is that everyone without healthcare should move to Boston, and that's insane. But it's also the bare essence of Mitt Romney's health care policy." ...

... Michael Crowley of Time: "Narrowly judged, the ad is scurrilous.... But the more accurate version of this heartbreaking story is still worth telling. Indeed it may be the best illustration this campaign has offered of how politics affects the lives of ordinary people. America's employer-based health insurance system -- in which a layoff plus an illness can equal financial ruin or death -- is a national embarrassment.... My advice for Priorities USA: take your ad back to the editing room and re-release it as an endorsement of Obamacare, and an argument for re-electing the President who will preserve it."

Scott Wilson & Bill Turque of the Washington Post: "President Obama campaigned in [Colorado] Wednesday with a special appeal to female voters, warning a raucous audience in a basketball gymnasium here that Republican challenger Mitt Romney wanted to take women's health rights 'back to the 1950s.' To shouts of support, Obama spoke proudly of Obamacare, the name Republicans once derisively labeled his health-care reform legislation. On Wednesday he acknowledged to many of its beneficiaries here that 'I kind of like the name.'"

Real Economists to Romney: That's Not What We Said. Ezra Klein contacts independent economists whom the Romney campaign claims -- in an ad -- have done research which supports his economic policy proposals. The economists all say Mitt's people have misinterpreted or misused their work. ...

... AND Jim Tankersley of the National Journal interviews Jim Diamond, an economist not associated with the Romney campaign but whose work the campaign has held up in support of their plan. Well, no, Diamond says he "can't argue" with conclusions of the Tax Policy Center that showed Romney's plan as benefiting the rich while raising taxes on the middle class.

Mitt Launches His Holy War:

On the Wrong Side of Every Issue. Franco Ordonez of McClatchy News: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans a campaign stop Sunday at the for-profit NASCAR Technical Institute outside Charlotte, N.C. -- a show of support for an industry that has been hammered by Democrats in recent months." CW: Maybe some of Mitt's NASCAR-owner buddies will join him. Nothing like friends getting together to exploit the little people (including taxpayers).

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "Obama today joined Romney in publicly disagreeing with a controversial ban on gay members of the Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation's largest and most well-known youth development groups." CW: surely it's time for Romney to flipflop.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times previews the GOP convention sideshow, featuring presidential also-rans, whose "speaking engagements" will be in places other than the convention dais. Me, I'm signing up for Newt University.

Congressional Races

Maybe Sen. Claire McCaskill (ConservaD-Missouri), believed to be toast, caught a break. Her opponent, Rep. Todd Akin (RTP-Missouri) is a nut case. Greg Sargent has details. Steve Benen has more. ...

... Gail Collins: in Missouri & Indiana, "The Tea Party is once again giving Democrats a new lease on life."

News Ledes

Denver Post: "President Barack Obama relayed a message to the middle-class Thursday afternoon on a grassy quad at Colorado College, often times interrupted by chants of 'Four more years! Four more years!' from the thousands in attendance."

NBC News: "At a court hearing Thursday in Centennial, Colo., lawyers representing movie theater mass shooting suspect James Holmes said their client is mentally ill...."

AP: "George Zimmerman will seek to have second-degree murder charges dismissed under Florida's 'stand your ground' law in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, his attorney said Thursday. The hearing, which likely won't take place for several months, will amount to a mini-trial involving much of the evidence collected by prosecutors as well as expert testimony from both sides."

ABC News: "The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Google to pay $22.5 million for violating user privacy on its Apple's Safari browser. It's the biggest FTC fine ever issued for a commission violation."

New York Times: "The Postal Service's financial problems worsened in the spring. The agency reported a $5.2 billion net loss on Thursday for the quarter that ended June 30."

Guardian: New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has unveiled a new crime-fighting system developed with Microsoft – and revealed that the city will take a cut of the profits if it is sold to other administrations. The innovation, which bears a passing resemblance to the futuristic hologram data screens used by Tom Cruise in the science fiction film Minority Report, will allow police to quickly collate and visualise vast amounts of data from cameras, licence plate readers, 911 calls, police databases and other sources."

New York Times: "The murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of the deposed political leader Bo Xilai, began here on Thursday morning and came to an end seven hours later, with officials saying that the defendant and her accomplice had all but confessed to poisoning a British businessman who had threatened the safety of Ms. Gu's son."

AP: "The United States on Thursday began a landmark project to clean up a dangerous chemical left from the defoliant Agent Orange -- 50 years after it was first sprayed by American planes on Vietnam's jungles to destroy enemy cover. Dioxin, which has been linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, will be removed from the site of a former U.S. air base in Danang in central Vietnam."

Here's Al Jazeera's liveblog on Syria.

Al Jazeera: "Libya's National Transitional Council has handed over power to a new assembly in a symbolic move marking the first peaceful transition after more than 40 years of rule by the late Muammar Gaddafi."

New York Times: "The United States and its Arab allies are knitting together a regional missile defense system across the Persian Gulf to protect cities, oil refineries, pipelines and military bases from an Iranian attack, according to government officials and public documents."

AP: "The ancient Martian crater where the Curiosity rover landed looks strikingly similar to the Mojave Desert in California with its looming mountains and hanging haze, scientists say."

AP: "The president and the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure are both stepping down from their roles, the nation's largest breast cancer foundation said in announcing a major leadership shake-up. The high-profile departures come in the wake of continuing fallout from Komen's decision earlier this year to briefly end funding for Planned Parenthood."

AP: "Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has filed a defamation lawsuit in New York against the National Jewish Democratic Council and top officials, saying they made libelous statements regarding his political contributions." CW: Sorry, Sheldon. When you made yourself a public figure, you became, um, a public figure. You ain't gonna win this one. Hope that doesn't hurt your feelings, Mr. Sensitivity.


The Commentariat -- August 8, 2012

Yesterday, President Obama outlined steps the federal government is taking to help farmers in drought-devasted areas:

Liz Goodwin of Yahoo! News: "As many as 1.76 million young illegal immigrants could qualify for temporary legal status under President Obama's deferred action program, says a new report from the Migration Policy Institute. That's more than double the Obama administration's initial estimate of 800,000 people who would benefit from the program. The new number reflects the Obama administration's updated guidelines released last Friday.... Initially, only young illegal immigrants under 30 who entered the country as children, graduated from high school and had no criminal record would make the cut. Now, young people who didn't graduate or receive their G.E.D. can still apply for the legal status as long as they re-enroll in high school by the time they apply."

Danielle Douglas & Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "Regulators are catching flak for not acting sooner to stop banks that helped Iran flout U.S. sanctions. This week, the state of New York said London-based Standard Chartered Bank concealed $250 billion in Iranian transactions, violations that persisted for nearly a decade. A number of international banks, including Lloyds, Barclays and Credit Suisse engaged in similar behaviors, but it took years before regulators put their foot down. State and federal agencies routinely audit banks to ensure compliance with anti-money-laundering rules, but institutions continue to skirt the law. Critics say enforcement actions have fallen short of serving as a deterrent, especially since the punishments resulted in fines but no jail time." CW warning: this article is written in Classic Post He Said/He Said Script, but you might learn something anyway. ...

... Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Top executives at Standard Chartered said they were surprised when New York's banking regulator accused them on Monday of scheming with the Iranian government to launder billions of dollars to potentially support terrorist activities.... The regulatory order also stunned other authorities investigating the bank, namely officials at the Federal Reserve and the Justice Department...."

David Dayen of Firedoglake: "The Supreme Court justices have jurisdiction over various regions of the country when it comes to injunctions, particularly when it comes to stays of execution. In the case of Marvin Wilson, the mentally retarded man with an IQ of 61 and an intelligence level of a 6 year-old, set to die today* in Texas in conjunction with a murder conviction, that appeal had to go through none other than Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia wrote a dissent in the case of Atkins v. Virginia, which established the ban on executing the mentally retarded (Texas, like other states, got to set their own standards for what constitutes 'retarded,' and as such plowed ahead with the execution of Wilson today).... And so it should come as no surprise that [Scalia]" summarily denied the application for a stay of execution. CW: See also yesterday's News Ledes. ...

... Digby: "Why in the hell did they [the Supremes] leave it up to a bunch of blood thirsty yahoos to decide what "retarded" is? This is yet another triumph of our corrupt and immoral 'states' rights' doctrine for which the suppression of human rights and basic decency has been it's most lasting legacy."

Andrew Rosenthal writes an excellent post comparing the "paranoid ranting" of the NRA's Wayne LaPierre --

... LaPierre, said in his four-page plea for cash that President Obama's re-election would result in the 'confiscation' of weapons and a possible ban on semi-automatic weapons. 'The future of your Second Amendment rights will be at stake,' the letter said. 'And nothing less than the future of our country and our freedom will be at stake.' --

       -- to what Obama has actually done about gun control -- "nothing" is a generous reading.

Presidential Race

Evan McMorris-Santoro: "As Republicans continue trying to cash in on the out-of-context 'you didn't build that' attack on President Obama, the Obama campaign is assembling an army of small business owners who say that they did engineer their own success -- thanks to the opportunities afforded them by generations of American taxpayers."

Maureen Dowd: Barack Obama doesn't send thank-you notes.

Economist Brad DeLong provides a detailed takedown of the attempt by Romney's economic advisors to spin his economic plan.

The Priorities USA ad featuring steelworker Joe Soptic -- which I embedded in yesterday's Commentariat -- is somewhat fact-challenged. Although Soptic leaves the impression that his wife died "a short time" after he lost his job & health insurance because of a Bain takeover, that's not the case. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post has the timeline & other details. Kessler doesn't assign any Pinocchios. But Soptic's Shakespearean compression is nothing like this --

Under Obama's plan (for welfare), you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. -- Mitt Romney on Monday, August 6th, 2012 in a campaign ad

PolitiFact: "That's a drastic distortion of the planned [Obama administration] changes.... By granting waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them.... In fact..., the new policy is 'designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.' The ad's claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "The White House denounced Mitt Romney's 'blatantly dishonest' charge that President Barack Obama is looking to 'gut welfare reform' enacted under Bill Clinton by erasing a requirement that recipients actively seek work. 'This advertisement is categorically false, and it is blatantly dishonest,' press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing."

AP: "Former President Bill Clinton is taking exception to a campaign ad by Mitt Romney that asserts that the Obama administration is weakening the work requirements for welfare. In a statement Tuesday night, Clinton called the Republican's assertion 'not true' and the ad misleading."

Greg Sargent: "... Mitt Romney has again put GOP governors in a delicate position, in which they are caught between the need to defend their own policies and the need to avoid saying anything that detracts from Romney's campaign message." The Repubican governors of Utah & Nevada -- who led the group of governors asking the Obama administration for flexibiity -- refused to tell reporters whether or not they agreed with Romney's ad. ...

... Greg Sargent: "... this ad is tantamount to claiming that Republican governors want to gut welfare reform and ensure that the government just sends people a 'welfare check.' ... For an election that's supposed to be all about the economy, the Romney campaign is suddenly leaning very hard on a more traditional politics of resentment right out of an older GOP playbook."

This was a lie too far for Steve Benen, who has been chronicling "Mitt's Mendacity" for 28 weeks: "... this is as dishonest an ad as you'll ever see -- in 2012 or in any other campaign cycle.... Romney's lying. He's not spinning the truth to his advantage; he's not hiding in a gray area between fact and fiction; he's just lying. The law hasn't been 'gutted'; the work requirement hasn't been 'dropped.' ... All Obama did is agree to Republican governors' request for flexibility.... What does it say about Romney's strength as a candidate that he has to make up garbage and hope voters don't know the difference? ... The language in the ad harkens back to the kind of ugly and racially divisive rhetoric we heard from GOP candidates for far too long." ...

... Steve Benen: "The president is giving states the option of experimenting with new welfare-to-work programs -- an option Romney used to support -- but work requirements remain intact.... Republican governors were the ones who asked for the flexibility to experiment, and Obama agreed. But if Romney and the GOP have decided to go nuclear on this..., the president can simply reverse course -- Republicans are against state flexibility and experimentation? Fine, no more state flexibility and experimentation."

"A Very Nasty Piece of Work." Ed Kilgore: "It's the old welfare-queen meme, which Republicans have already been regularly reviving in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act, on Medicaid, on food stamps, and in their much broader and horrifyingly invidious claims that poor and minority people deliberately taking out mortgages they knew they couldn't afford caused the whole housing market collapse and the financial crisis that followed."

Dana Milbank on the Italian Job: "Romney's larger problem with Bain and his personal income taxes: The question is not whether he did well, or whether he did it legally, but whether he did it with any sense of ethics.... Of ... concern is that, as president, Romney would further expand the advantages of fellow rich people. Romney encouraged that worry on Tuesday, when he announced at a campaign stop that he would be tough on welfare -- 'we will end the culture of dependency and restore a culture of good hard work' -- and then went to a pair of fundraisers where high-rolling donors paid as much as $75,000 for access to him.

Romney Really Hates to Pay Taxes. Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times: "After paying cash for the Mediterranean-style house with 61 feet of beach frontage, [the Romneys] asked San Diego County for dramatic property tax relief [making] ... a months-long effort to reduce their annual property tax bill.... Initially, the Romneys asked that their 2009 assessment, $12.24 million, be reduced to $6.8 million, maintaining that their home had lost about 45% of its value in the first seven months they owned it. Thirteen months later, after hiring an attorney..., the Romneys filed an amended appeal, contending the home had suffered a less-dramatic fall of 27.3%, to $8.9 million. They also filed an appeal for the 2010 tax year, claiming the house had dropped further, to $7.5 million, 38.7% less than the home's assessed value. As a result, the Romneys have saved about $109,000 in property taxes over four years."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... the Mittster is also going to have to ingratiate himself with the regular folk, something he's never been particularly adept at.... Romney is in grave danger of joining the list of money-rich candidates who ended up as roadkill."

Congressional Races

The Neophyte Candidate. Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe: "Elizabeth Warren demanded Monday that Senator Scott Brown release more of his tax returns. The only problem was that Brown, her Republican rival, had already released six years of tax returns while Warren has refused to release more than four years of her filings. Asked to reconcile that apparent conflict, Warren backed off her demand, saying today that six years was enough. She did not, however, offer to release any more of her IRS filings." CW: I hope some of you of the "Warren for President" persuasion are beginning to understand why that was a bad idea.

God Is a Conservative Republican (And She Loves Todd Akin the Most). Tim O'Neil of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Wildwood, [Missouri,] won the battle of conservatives for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate with a strong lead that held through the evening in statewide returns.... 'The first thing I would like to do is give thanks to God, our creator,' Akin said. 'Your prayers were answered with victory.'"

Right Wing World *

"America --' Watering Down' Voting Rights since 1776." Alec McGillis of The New Republic: RNC Chair "Reince Priebus sent out this tweet: 'We need to call out Obama for trying to water down the voting privileges of our military men and women in Ohio.' So, expanding voting rights generally -- which, let's face it, tends to favor Democrats -- 'waters down' the votes of a Republican-leaning constituency like the military? ... This seems like a case of accidental and illuminating candor, right up there with the Pennsylvania House majority leader who declared recently that his state's new Voter ID law would win the state for Mitt Romney.... Sort of like expanding the franchise to women 'watered down' the voting rights of men...."

* Where only Republicans have the franchise.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "In 118 years of U.S. records, July 2012 stands as king, hotter than any month previously observed. NOAA reports today that the average temperature across the continental U.S. was 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average, 0.2 degrees hotter than the previous record set in July, 1936."

New York Times: "Wade M. Page, the man who the police say shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin this week, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said on Wednesday. The authorities had reported earlier that he was fatally shot by a police officer. Mr. Page, 40, shot himself in the head after being struck by a bullet fired by an officer from the Oak Creek Police Department, said Teresa L. Carlson, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bullet fired by the officer hit Mr. Page in the stomach, Ms. Carlson said."

Al Jazeera: "The Syrian army has launched a ground assault on the northern city of Aleppo, sparking fierce clashes with opposition fighters in the frontline district of Salaheddine."

AP: "The international security contractor formerly known as Blackwater has agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle federal criminal charges related to arms smuggling and other crimes.... The list of violations includes possessing automatic weapons in the United States without registration, lying to federal firearms regulators about weapons provided to the king of Jordan, passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval and illegally shipping body armor overseas.... In a statement issued immediately after the settlement was made public, however, Academi officials denied they admitted any guilt.... A clause in Academi's settlement with prosecutors bars the company from making any public statements 'contradicting any aspect' of the agreement. Any such statement could allow the government to nullify the settlement...." CW: and nobody goes to jail.

The Tennessean: "After two years of struggle, Murfreesboro Muslims will finally be able to hold Friday prayers in their new mosque.... County officials granted the mosque a temporary conditional occupancy permit on Tuesday after the building passed a state fire marshal's inspection. Getting the permit brought an end to two years of controversy over the mosque, which included street protests, a fire, a bomb threat and three lawsuits. Reporters from around the world covered the story...."

ABC News: "Police say they have arrested [Misty Cook,] the former girlfriend of the gunman who allegedly shot and killed six people in a Sikh temple, after authorities found a gun in the home they once shared.... A federal law enforcement official told ABC News that Cook was taken into custody on the grounds that she is prohibited from having a gun as a convicted felon. Cook was charged in 2002 for fleeing and eluding a traffic officer. There's no indication she was involved with the attack."


I Know Mitt Cheated on His Taxes

My Two Cents.

The general assumption is that Mitt did nothing illegal in his tax filings, but used every legal trick in the IRS code to limit his liability. One basis for that assumption is that Mitt has been running for president since 1994 so he wouldn't be so stupid as to illegally evade taxes. Another basis is that John McCain claims his staff reviewed 23 years of Mitt's returns and found "There's nothing in Romney's tax returns that would disqualify him as a candidate, and McCain will 'personally vouch' for that."

(1) Ask Tim TurboTax Geithner & a couple of Bill Clinton's attorney general nominees about that. It is not that hard to cheat on your taxes & get it past the IRS. Thousands -- probably tens of thousands -- of ordinary people do it every year without the IRS even noticing. Mitt admitted a few days ago that he'd "been audited a few times." But remember, even when the IRS did audit Mitt's returns, it would have been Mitt's $400/hour tax attorneys countering a couple of G-9s who don't get overtime. Not a fair fight. Besides, when the object is to exploit every loophole & tax haven ($100 million IRA???), there are bound to be dicey calls.

(2) John McCain considered Mitt as a running mate for about 15 minutes, the obligatory period required to garner a photo op & an endorsement from a former opponent. My own annual tax returns on a miniscule income -- compared to Mitt's -- are as thick as The Great Gatsby. Mitt's have to be of War & Peace proportions. Do you think McCain's staff really combed through War & Peace x 23 in 15 minutes? Remember, this was the same gang who vetted Sarah Palin.

Not only that, McCain's wording was pretty cagey. He said there was nothing in the returns that was "disqualifying." That isn't the same thing as saying there was nothing that was illegal. If you get audited & the IRS fines you -- assuming the IRS is right -- you've done something "illegal." Unless it was egregious, you'll just have to pay back taxes, interest & (maybe) a fine. That isn't disqualifying. Plenty of decent people have lost audits & been hit with penalties. I wouldn't vote against somebody just because she made a mistake on her taxes.

But now. Instead of McCain's feeble vetters, nominee Romney faces a couple of hundred expert green eye shades anxious to dig in for the sheer fun of it. They are bound to come up with something, from "innocent" mistakes (See TurboTax Tim) to possible prosecutable evasions (perhaps past the statute of limitations). With such complex returns, & with the paramount goal of reducing liability (rather than giving the government its due), it is a virtual certainty that "mistakes were made."

Here's something else. Mitt himself doesn't know WTF is in those returns. Yeah, he's a Harvard MBA, but there's a reason he didn't do his own returns (see TurboTax Tim). He doesn't know how. He doesn't have time to learn. He's running for president, for Pete's sake. Inevitably, interviewers would ask him about some of those "mistakes that were made." A man running for office almost wholly on the basis of his business acumen can't afford to admit, "I have no idea," much less, "I can't add & subtract. I pay somebody to do that." Voter interpretation (fair or not): "You think you can run the whole country & you can't even read your own tax returns?"

Mitt should have been satisfied to live out his days in luxury, basking in the friendship of NASCAR & pro football team owners, the horsey set & whoever, maybe riding his car elevator up & down for fun (it might rotate!). Instead, he thought because it was his turn to be president, he could bluff his way into the job without having to show his cards. Don't tell me Mormons don't gamble. Mitt has gambled and won plenty of times. It's how he became a multi-millionaire. But Harry Reid -- another Mormon gambler -- just called Mitt's Big Bluff. Whether or not Mitt folds or shows his cards, he's lost the game.


The Commentariat -- August 7, 2012

Today in Mass Murders News

I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching and to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence. And as I've already said, I think there are a lot of elements involved in it, and what I want to do is to bring together law enforcement, community leaders, faith leaders, elected officials of every level to see how we can make continued progress. -- President Obama, on the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin (See video following today's Ledes) ...

... Charles Pierce on Ann Althouse's "confusion." Althouse is a conservative law professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who is right good at defending the right. In a post yesterday, she "explained" why Wade Page would reasonably have known that Sikhs weren't Moooslums. Conservatives really don't want to own their own terrorist extremist white supremacist mass murderer. Mr. Pierce demurs. CW: Conservatives really don't want to own their own terrorist extremist white supremacist mass murderer, so they are working overtime to pretend Page's motives were in no way akin to the views of your ordinary real-American winger bigots. ...

Juan Cole: Wade Page "operated in an atmosphere of virulent hate speech against American Muslims [which] ... has plagued the United States in the past decade, pushed by unscrupulous bigots in public life and by entire media organizations such as Fox Cable News and other media properties of ... Rupert Murdoch. Among them is also Rush Limbaugh, who, incredibly, is still broadcast to US soldiers abroad. Among the hatemongers are Frank Gaffney, and his acolyte Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), Rep. Peter King (R-NY)... John Bolton, and sometimes Rudi Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and others, most associated with the Republican Party. The push for hate speech against American Muslims is funded by a small group of billionaires.... Some ... are connected to the US arms industry.... Others are Israel-firster fanatics. Others are looking for a bogey man to scare Americans with...." Thanks to Kate M. for the link. ...

... Adam Weinstein of Mother Jones: "Using photos of Wade from his white-power band's Myspace page, it's possible to see what concerned police: Much of his body reads like a poster text for white nationalism. In particular, a tattoo on Page's left shoulder ... suggests he was a committed devotee of white-power ideology. The tattoo consists of a large '14' in Gothic lettering superimposed on a black cross in a circle. The cross, known elsewhere as 'Odin's Cross,' is 'one of the most popular symbols for neo-Nazis and white supremacists,' according to the Anti-Defamation League. It's also used as a logo by Stormfront.org, one of the world's most-visited racist web forums." ...

... Erica Goode & Serge Kovaleski of the New York Times: "To some who track the movements of white supremacist groups, the violence was not a total surprise. [Wade] Page, 40, had long been among the hundreds of names on the radar of organizations monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of his ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy.... Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Mr. Page had come to the center's attention a decade ago because of his affiliation with rock bands known for lyrics that push far past the boundaries of tolerance." ...

... Scott Bauer & Todd Richmond of the AP have more on Wade Page's history. ...

... Here's the Washington Post story by Michael Laris, et al.

... Greg McCune of Reuters: "The semiautomatic handgun used in the deadly attack on a Wisconsin Sikh temple is the same type used in other recent U.S. mass shootings, including one at a theater in Colorado, and the attack on a congresswoman in Arizona, gun experts said. Wisconsin shooter Wade Michael Page used a Springfield 9mm semiautomatic handgun to carry out the attack at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, officials said. As in several other recent mass shootings, the gun had been purchased legally, at a Milwaukee-area gun store called the Shooter Shop."

Mark Greenblatt, et al., of ABC News: "The psychiatrist who treated suspected movie-theater shooter James Holmes made contact with a University of Colorado police officer to express concerns about her patient's behavior several weeks before Holmes' alleged rampage, sources told ABC News."

Tim Gaynor of Reuters: Jared Loughner, "accused of killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a Tucson shooting rampage last year was expected to plead guilty on Tuesday if a judge finds him mentally competent...."

... AND reporters at Mother Jones have updated their interactive Mass Murder Map. The map includes "details on the shooters' identities, the types of weapons they used, and the number of victims they injured and killed." Thanks to contributor Lisa for the link.

* * *

Gary Gensler, Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in a New York Times op-ed: "The Barclays case demonstrates that Libor has become more vulnerable to misconduct. It's time for a new or revised benchmark -- an emperor clothed in actual, observable market transactions -- to restore the confidence of Americans that the rates at which they borrow and lend money are set honestly and transparently."

Surprise, Surprise! New York Times Editors: "Republican lawmakers demanded ... [spending] cuts last year as part of their brinkmanship over the debt ceiling, and business lobbies have generally supported slashing the deficit. But now that the cuts are imminent, corporate executives seem to have realized that the last thing the economy needs is a large budget cut across the board.... Now it is up to Democrats to force Republicans to rework the coming spending cuts and tax increases in a way that benefits most Americans and the broader economy."

Reed Abelson & Julie Creswell of the New York Times: "HCA, the largest for-profit hospital chain in the United States with 163 facilities, had uncovered evidence ... showing that some cardiologists at several of its hospitals in Florida were unable to justify many of the procedures they were performing.... Unnecessary -- even dangerous -- procedures were taking place at some HCA hospitals, driving up costs and increasing profits.... In some cases, the doctors made misleading statements in medical records that made it appear the procedures were necessary, according to internal reports.... Documents suggest that the problems at HCA went beyond a rogue doctor or two."

Presidential Race

Poker Face Edition. In today's installment, Harry Reid once again demonstrates how Mormons gamble.

This whole issue is not about me. This whole controversy would end very quickly if he would release his income tax returns like everybody else has done that's running for president. -- Harry Reid, yesterday

[Mitt Romney is] the most secretive candidate since Richard Nixon. It's clear Mitt Romney is hiding something, and the only way for him to clear this up is to be straight with the American people and release his tax returns. -- Adam Jettleson, Reid's spokesman

... "The 'Missing Evidence' Instruction": Joe Conason in the National Memo: "There is a legal doctrine that applies to Romney's current behavior, as Indiana attorney John Sullivan points out -- and it doesn't place the burden of proof on Reid:

At law, if a person in control of evidence refuses to produce the evidence, then the jury is instructed that there is a presumption that the evidence would be against the party failing to produce. It is called the 'Missing Evidence' instruction.

     "The missing evidence is in Romney's grasp, yet he insists that he will never produce it. Does anyone need instruction from a judge to make the correct inference?" ...

... OR, as Hunter of Daily Kos puts it, "Whatever's in Mitt Romney's old taxes, whether it be zero-tax years or Swiss tax amnesties or non-tithing or that he made several million dollars on a new product called Fetus Chow, it's apparently so bad that America wouldn't vote for the rich business guy if they saw it. At this point, that's damning enough." ...

... House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi connects Secret Mitt's secret tax returns to Secret Mitt's secret tax policy of raising taxes on the middle class while lowering taxes on millionaire & billionaires like Willard who already use extraordinary means to further reduce their tax rates -- to somewhere around nothing. ...

... Imani Gandy in Balloon Juice: "Politifact calls Harry Reid a liar; wishes there was a way to prove that Romney paid income tax." CW: as the cited title implies, a pretty funny post.

... David Dayen of Firedoglake: "If Republicans thought they could bully Harry Reid into backing down about his comments over Mitt Romney's taxes, they simply miscalculated, and all their outrage has done is keep a story front and center that they would rather push to the margins. ...

... CW: Outraged by unproved allegations made by a friend of Harry Reid's, John Sununu jumps in to make an unproved allegations about President Obama. Tom Ovadia of Politico: "John Sununu ... [called] Sen. Harry Reid ... a 'bumbling Senate leader' and alleg[ed] that President Barack Obama is 'behind this dishonesty and misrepresentation.'" With video. ...

... Amy Parnes of The Hill: "The White House on Monday distanced President Obama from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes in a decade. White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that Reid (D-Nev.) 'speaks for himself' and had spoken on the issue without any guidance from Team Obama."

Alexander Burns of Politico: "In a new ad from Romney and the Republican National Committee, the GOP candidate laments Obama's support for waiving welfare work requirements for states that want to implement different policies." CW: oh, look, in an update Burns (no relation) writes, "... Romney supported certain welfare waivers for states, when he was governor of Massachusetts." Includes attack ad. Read the whole post, especially the update.

It's like Robin Hood in reverse -- it's Romney Hood. -- President Obama on Mitt Romney's tax plan

President Obama’s lawsuit claims it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state's early voting period. -- Mitt Romney

PolitiFact: "It is simply dishonest for Romney and his backers to claim that Obama's effort to extend early voting privileges to everyone in Ohio constitutes an attack on military voters' ability to cast ballots on the weekend before elections."

Jonathan Chait of New York: "If Romney is conceding that voting is a fundamental right rather than a privilege -- not all Republicans concede this anymore -- and, more importantly, that practical impediments can interfere with that right, then what justification do they have for their wide-ranging campaign to deny the same convenience to other Americans?"

David Firestone of the New York Times on Mitt Romney's "extraordinary lie" about early voting in Ohio.

Joe Vardon of the Columbus Dispatch: "The Romney campaign and veterans groups opposed to a lawsuit in Ohio filed by President Barack Obama's campaign continue to portray the suit as an objection to certain voting privileges for military voters. But two constitutional-law professors from different battleground states -- Ohio and Florida -- strongly disagree with the Romney campaign, and some other veterans groups say that Romney is supporting denial of voting access to hundreds of thousands of Ohio military veterans by opposing Obama's lawsuit." CW: though this appears to be a straight he-said/he-said news story, it doesn't make the Romney case look good. The headline is "Experts: Romney's wrong on Ohio early-voting suit." We like to see stories like this hit the local papers. Via Greg Sargent.

** Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "Ann Romney, [who has multiple sclerosis,] has done much to raise the profile of an incurable, degenerative illness that afflicts some 400,000 Americans.... But ... MS advocates say that policies [Mitt] Romney now supports would be detrimental for many MS sufferers, and they are actively opposing these proposals.... Romney has pledged to 'repeal and replace' the Affordable Care Act.... He also would turn Medicaid, the government health care plan for children and the poor, into a block grant, a plan that would ultimately cut millions from the program. And when he promises to replace Obamacare, Romney has offered only a few weak substitutes, such as capping damages in malpractice lawsuits. All of this would have tremendous implications for people with multiple sclerosis." CW: read the whole post. Thanks to Lisa for the link. ...

CW: Mencimer links to this video on MittRomney.com (one of my favorite sites) in which the Romney family talks about Ann's illness. The video, released in late May 2012, obviously should be one that, among other goals, puts candidate Mitt in a positive light. While their sons say Mitt has been very supportive of Ann, the only things Mitt says in the video -- titled "Soul Mate," are,

Probably the toughest time in my life was standing there with Ann as we hugged each other and the diagnosis came. As long as it's not something fatal, I'm just fine. I'm happy in life as long as I've got my soul mate with me.

     ... Ann learns she has a debilitating illness, yet somehow it's all about Mitt -- how tough her illness is on him, how he's just fine and he's happy in life. This is absolutely the closest Mitt can come to feelings of love and empathy for another human being. He doesn't get close, and evidently he and his campaign advisors see nothing wrong with his sheer selfishness. ...

... This is a tough anti-Romney ad, which I think reflects exactly the trait we see in the "Soul Mate" spot:

     ... CW: normally, I find this type of ad unfair. After all, every person in power -- even a well-meaning, caring person -- makes decisions that have negative impacts on other people's lives. But I think the ad reflects a true thing about Romney -- that he doesn't care how his decisions hurt other people; ergo, his positions on health care.

AND in Sporting News for the Super-Rich, CBS News reports, "Ann Romney said her horse Rafalca had another 'fabulous' ride at the Olympic team equestrian dressage competition and that she's thinking of breeding the German-born mare when she stops competing in a year or two. Rafalca, the 15-year-old bay that has inspired political jokes about Mitt Romney's wealth and Republican presidential ambitions, had a solid performance Tuesday, although rider Jan Ebeling said he wished the score of 69.302 percent could have been higher. The low score confirmed that Rafalca won't advance to the individual medal competition Thursday."

Congressional Races

Cameron Joseph of The Hill: "The big-spending GOP outside group Crossroads GPS has bought $7.2 million in airtime in five key Senate states, an ad-tracking source told The Hill. The ads will begin to air this Wednesday in Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Virginia -- all key swing states The Hill rates as 'toss-ups.' The GOP needs to gain a net of four seats for Senate control."

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "As they kick off tough reelection battles, the GOP [Congressional freshmen] are taking pains to distance themselves from a Capitol that remains toxic, casting themselves as the same insurgent forces that swept to power in 2010. Far from embracing the Congress that they promised to change, the freshmen are taking an ice pick to it," effectively pretending their opponents -- not they -- are the incumbents. ...

... Dave Weigel finds some Democratic incumbents who are doing the same.

News Ledes

AP: "Congressman Todd Akin has won a hard-fought Republican primary for the right to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. Akin on Tuesday topped businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman in a primary in which all three leading candidates portrayed themselves as the top conservative choice. McCaskill was unopposed in the Democratic primary."

AP: "Former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra has won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, overcoming a challenge from two Republicans who questioned his record as a conservative. The Holland former lawmaker defeated Clark Durant of Grosse Pointe and former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman of Grand Rapids Tuesday in the GOP primary. He'll advance to a November matchup with Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow."

AP: "Jared Lee Loughner agreed Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in prison, accepting that he went on a deadly shooting rampage at an Arizona political gathering and sparing the victims a lengthy, possibly traumatic death-penalty trial."

AP: "A major fire at one of the country's biggest oil refineries that sent scores of people to hospitals with breathing problems will push gas prices above $4 a gallon on the West Coast, analysts said Tuesday. The fire, which sent plumes of black smoke over the San Francisco Bay area, erupted Monday evening in the massive Chevron refinery about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco."

AP: "A Texas man, [Marvin Wilson,] convicted of killing a police informant two decades ago was executed Tuesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments that he was too mentally impaired to qualify for the death penalty."

AP: "The Federal Aviation Administration will bar airports nationwide from using a traffic-reversing operation that led to a close call last week at an airport near the nation's capital."

New York Times: "Marvin Hamlisch, the singularly productive and sensationally decorated composer of musicals like 'A Chorus Line' and songs like 'The Way We Were,' has died, his family said Tuesday through a representative. He was 68." ...

     ... Update: the Times' obituary is here. The Times also features videos of performances of Hamlisch's songs here.

The Hill: "Missouri's hotly contested Republican Senate primary will be decided on Tuesday, with major implications for the fall campaign against embattled Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) -- and control of the Senate."

Detroit News: "Headlining the ballot [in Michigan] is a GOP primary for U.S. Senate among Pete Hoekstra, Clark Durant and Randy Hekman.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Nearly 900 Roman Catholic nuns will gather in St. Louis this week to discuss their future relationship with the Vatican.... In the spring, the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog office issued a report that questioned the organization's fidelity to some church teachings, accused it of 'serious doctrinal problems' and announced that three U.S. bishops would temporarily take the group's reins in order to reform it. This week, the members of the Leadership Conference for Women Religious -- which represents 80 percent of the country's 57,000 Catholic nuns -- will discuss their options, which could range from accepting the reforms to severing their official connection to the Vatican."

More on the Mars landing at this NASA.gov page.

Charlotte Observer: "Andrew Young, the ex-aide to John Edwards, and his wife will not be prosecuted for criminal contempt for their actions in a civil case brought against them by Edwards' former mistress, the district attorney for Orange and Chatham counties announced Monday." Via Kevin Robillard of Politico.

President Obama signed a bill yesterday designed to improve health care for veterans. The bill also prohibits protesting within 300 feet of a military funeral. He answered a press question about the Oak Creek, Wisconsin murders: