My column on David Brooks' last effort is up on the New York Times eXaminer front page. I ran it on Reality Chex last Friday, so you may already have seen it. I will have a column on Tom Friedman's latest malarkey up later this morning. The NYTX front page, which features my columns today, is here. You can contribute here.
Eric Schmitt & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "A month after the last American troops left Iraq, the State Department is operating a small fleet of surveillance drones here to help protect the United States Embassy and consulates, as well as American personnel. Some senior Iraqi officials expressed outrage at the program, saying the unarmed aircraft are an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.... [A State Department report] foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency."
E. J. Dionne, a Roman Catholic, thinks the Obama Administration "threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus" when Health & Human Services issued a rule -- which is the same as an interim ruling it made last August -- that "required contraceptive services to be covered by the insurance policies that will be supported under the Affordable Care Act." The ruling essentially exempts churches but not RC hospitals & universities. CW: I disagree with Dionne, who also writes about an alternative policy that he thought should have been applied.
Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker: quite a few Mormons have run for POTUS, including Joseph Smith, the founder of the faith. Here's how that worked out: "As mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois (his only political office), Smith ordered the destruction of an opponent’s newspaper. For that, he was jailed and ordered to stand trial. Before that could happen, a mob burst into the jail and killed him."
Right Wing World
In a New York Times post, Prof. Tom Edsall argues that the country is turning more liberal, so Newt Gingrich and the desperate, angry loons he appeals to are going the way of the Studebaker (well, he couldn't write, "Edsel"). Or something like that.
Justin Sink of The Hill: "Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) said that her Republican counterpart Reince Priebus showed a 'dramatic level of insensitivity' in comparing President Barack Obama to the disgraced captain of the Italian cruise ship that ran aground earlier this year, killing at least 16 people." CW: I could not agree more with Wasserman Schultz. Priebus said, in part, "... we're going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama...." I am positive this is a further attempt to characterize Obama as "foreign" and a foreign coward, to boot. Even the name "Schettino" sounds to an English-speaker like a derogatory foreign word -- "little scooter," or something, tho my husband -- who is an Italian-born linguist -- says the name has no meaning; it's just a name.
Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post: "As the Republican establishment mounts attacks denouncing him as too erratic to be president, [Newt] Gingrich has seemed only more energized. Despite slipping in Florida’s polls, he has vowed a 'wild and woolly' primary battle that will end with his victory. And on Sunday, he and Mitt Romney traded their harshest attacks yet, with Romney telling Gingrich to 'look in the mirror' if he wants to understand his slide in the polls, and Gingrich slugging back, calling Romney a 'pro-abortion, pro-gun-control, pro-tax-increase moderate.'” ...
... Sam Youngman & Steve Holland of Reuters: "Republican Newt Gingrich struggled to halt surging rival Mitt Romney's momentum on Sunday, accusing him of launching false attacks as polls showed Romney widening his lead two days before Florida's presidential primary. Romney, who has battered Gingrich in a flood of television ads and two debates in Florida last week, opened a double-digit lead over the former House of Representatives speaker in four polls released on Sunday." ...
... Nate Silver seems to think Gingrich is a dead duck in Florida. ...
... Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: Mitt Romney & his allies are outspending Newt Gingrich & Co. five-to-one in Florida. "The Dems think ... it’s not Romney who’s winning votes in Florida, but the size of his wallet." Thanks to Kate M. for the link. ...
... So it appears Gingrich is threatening a brokered convention. Oh, the fun of a nasty GOP free-for-all.
** "Existential Otherness." Frank Rich sees Mitt Romney as "the white shadow," someone nobody -- even his close associates -- know nothing about.
James Surowiecki of the New Yorker: A "curious reality of this year’s election: ... the same party that loves to inveigh against the dangers of excessive borrowing is now likely to nominate for President a man whose entire career, and entire fortune, was built on debt. Leveraged-buyout firms like Bain Capital, which Mitt Romney ran between 1984 and 1999, routinely borrow massive sums in order to make their acquisitions, leaving companies with debt loads equal to twice their annual sales or more.... The implicit message [the Republican party will' send by nominating Romney is ...: Debt for me, but not for thee."
Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: Romney has grabbed some of Newt's far-right language about President Obama. Also, in Right Wing World, the proletariat truly believe that Obama is an idiot who can't speak in full sentences without a teleprompter.
Buh-bye, Voting Rights Act; Adios, Latinos. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "As Republican primary voters head to the polls in Florida on Tuesday, both GOP front-runners have endorsed a policy that would contradict existing law and could disenfranchise millions of voters across the country. During a recent debate, both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney supported getting rid of bilingual ballots when the topic was brought up by the moderator."
The deficit hawks that are the Washington Post editorial board are still on the warpath, but they're right about this much: "The Republican presidential candidates claim to abhor debt, yet propose tax cuts that would add trillions more.... It makes no sense to further benefit the wealthiest taxpayers at a time when spending programs for the most vulnerable would be on the chopping block — of necessity, given the candidates’ pledges to cap spending. In their fiscal consequences these cuts would be disastrous; as a matter of fairness, even more so.
CW: Steve Benen, who is now a producer on the Rachel Maddow show, blogs that my very senator, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) doesn't understand the economy. inasmuch as Marco claims jobs growth & economic growth are "worse" than jobs losses & economic contraction. Actually, I think Marco is just a liar. Don't know which is worse, especially if I try to apply Marco's definition of "worse."
President Obama answered questions at a Google Plus event this afternoon:
New York Times: "All but two European Union countries agreed Monday to new and tougher measures to enforce budget discipline in the euro zone, but the bloc still showed few signs of producing a comprehensive solution for the sovereign debt crisis or a credible plan to revive fragile economies across Europe's weakened Mediterranean tier."
New York Times: "As Syrian forces pushed rebels back from strongholds near Damascus on Monday, some of the world’s top diplomats converged on the United Nations to try to press President Bashar al-Assad to leave office through a Security Council resolution." ...
... Washington Post: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned 'in the strongest possible terms' the escalation of Syrian government attacks on opposition protesters and said she would voice American concerns at a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject Tuesday."
Washington Post: the Park Police sort of closed down the Occupy Washington encampment at McPherson Square today, allowing tents to stay up -- as symbols of protest -- but forcing protesters to remove camping equipment & stuff. The ban is the result of "pressure from Republican congressmen."
Reuters: "House Republicans will propose legislation on Tuesday calling for $260 billion in spending on transportation infrastructure for up to five years, an election-year proposal touted as a job creator in a tough economy.... Additional elements could be tacked on by other committees in coming days, including a plan to authorize the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline despite the refusal of President Barack Obama to advance the project."
Reuters: "Ratings agency Standard & Poor's warned it may downgrade 'a number of highly rated' Group of 20 countries as of 2015 if their governments fail to enact reforms to curb rising health-care spending and other costs related to aging populations. Developed nations in Europe, as well as Japan and the United States, are likely to suffer the largest deterioration in their public finances in the next four decades...."
New York Times: "Claremont McKenna College, a small, prestigious California school, said Monday that for the past six years, it has submitted false SAT scores to publications like U.S. News & World Report that use the data in widely followed college rankings."
Reuters: "Crews cleaned up Oakland's historic City Hall on Sunday from damage inflicted overnight during violent anti-Wall Street protests that resulted in about 400 arrests, marking one of the largest mass arrests since nationwide protests began last year." The San Francisco Chronicle story is here.
Reuters: "Republican lawmakers will try to force the Obama administration to approve the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline by attaching it to a highway bill that Congress will consider next month, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday."
AFP: "Iran could develop a nuclear bomb in about a year and create the means for delivery in a further two to three years, the US defense chief [Leon Panetta] said Sunday, reiterating President Barack Obama's determination to halt the effort." ...
... New York Times: "Iran’s foreign minister was reported on Monday to have offered to extend a three-day visit to his country by United Nations inspectors in what seemed a further attempt to lower the strident tone of a crisis with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program following the imposition of new economic sanctions."
Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration secretly monitored the personal e-mail of a group of its own scientists and doctors after they warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that posed unacceptable risks to patients, government documents show. The surveillance — detailed in e-mails and memos unearthed by the scientists and doctors, who filed a lawsuit against the FDA in U.S. District Court in Washington this week — took place over two years as the plaintiffs accessed their personal Gmail accounts from government computers. Information garnered this way eventually contributed to the harassment or dismissal of all six of the FDA employees, the suit alleges."
Reuters: "China intends to establish Shanghai as the global centre for yuan trading, clearing and pricing over the next three years as part of broader plans to make the commercial hub an international financial centre by 2020."<>AP: In Kingston, Ontario, Canada, "a jury on Sunday found three members of an Afghan family guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another woman in what the judge described as 'cold-blooded, shameful murders' resulting from a 'twisted concept of honor,' ending a case that shocked and riveted Canadians. Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet."