The Ledes

Friday, December 19, 2014.

New York Times: "The Pakistani military said on Friday that it had killed 62 militants in clashes near the border with Afghanistan, stepping up operations against insurgents after the Pakistani Taliban carried out an attack at a school that left 148 students and staff members dead."

New York Times: "Mandy Rice-Davies, a nightclub dancer and model who achieved notoriety in 1963 in one of Britain’s most spectacular Cold War sex scandals, died on Thursday after a short battle with cancer, her publicist said on Friday. She was 70."

Denver Post: "James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater two years ago, is 'a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,' his parents write in a letter that pleads for him to be spared from execution.'" The letter is here.

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

New York Times: "The stock market began the week burdened by geopolitical worries, but by the close of trading on Thursday it had bounced back to achieve one of its biggest upswings in recent years. Soothing words from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, saying that it would be 'patient' on raising interest rates, drove the surge, analysts said. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index jumped 2.4 percent on Thursday, to 2,061.23 — its biggest one-day gain since January 2013. That came on the back of a 2 percent rise on Wednesday."

CNN: "U.S. airstrikes have killed two top-level and one mid-level ISIS leader, a senior U.S. military official tells CNN. Haji Mutazz was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's deputy in Iraq; Abd al Basit was his military emir in Iraq; and Radwan Talib was his Mosul emir. Their deaths resulted from multiple strikes going back to mid-November -- it has taken until now to determine conclusively they were killed."

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

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

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

White House Live Video
December 19

1:30 pm ET: President Obama holds a press briefing

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

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

A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?" CW: Evidently, Hinderaker has not heard of Fox "News."

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

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Monday
Oct012012

The Commentariat -- October 2, 2012

Michael Luo & Mike McIntire of the New York Times: "Buried deep in the tax returns released by Mitt Romney's presidential campaign are references to dozens of offshore holdings.... Mr. Romney ... has offered a narrow defense, saying only that the investments, many made through the private equity firm he founded, Bain Capital, have yielded him 'not one dollar of reduction in taxes.' ... [But] in some cases, the offshore arrangements enabled his individual retirement account to avoid taxes on its investments and may well have reduced Mr. Romney's personal income tax bills."

** Mitt's Moochers. Frank Bass of Bloomberg News: "Almost 2,400 people who received unemployment insurance in 2009 lived in households with annual incomes of $1 million or more, according to the Congressional Research Service."

Maybe This is Mitt's Secret Jobs Plan:

     ... This Wikipedia entry has more on Unicor, which has been around since 1934.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Senate leaders are closing in on a path for dealing with the 'fiscal cliff' facing the country in January, opting to try to use a postelection session of Congress to reach agreement on a comprehensive deficit reduction deal rather than a short-term solution.... House Republicans continue to resist any discussion of tax increases. But lawmakers and aides say that a bipartisan group of senators is coalescing around an ambitious three-step process to avert a series of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts." CW: read what Paul Krugman thinks about such a plan (linked in yesterday's Commentariat.)

Adam Nagourney of the New York Times: in California, "wealthy conservatives are championing a ballot measure that would bar unions from donating to candidates. Labor leaders describe it as the starkest threat they have faced in a year of nationwide challenges to diminish their once-formidable power. The measure, Proposition 32..., would prohibit both unions and corporations from making contributions, but the corporate provision is far less stringent than the one aimed at unions.... If passed, it would also bar unions from using automatic payroll deductions to raise money for political campaigns, a major source of labor's political funding."

Jonathan Chait liked David Leonhardt's essay in the New York Times (linked in Sunday's Commentariat, & I'm still recommending it if you missed it) on what President Obama could have done better. But, Chait notes, "Leonhardt is implicitly measuring Obama against a very tough baseline. He asks is there anything more Obama could have done, and the answer is yes. But that is true of almost any leader in history.... On the whole, Obama's response was quite good. But if Obama is going to say he did everything in his power to alleviate the crisis, then people like Leonhardt should point out that he didn't."

We Learn that ObamaCare Is Racist. They’re going to tax tanning booths. Do black people tan? -- Romney Volunteer from Massachusetts

Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "As the Obama administration has cracked down on corporate fraud, lawyers representing whistle-blowers have reaped multimillion-dollar rewards. Now, as they seek to sustain these historic payouts, they are donating generously to the president's re-election campaign." Along with the political implications & intrigue, which are fascinating enough, Lipton gives some interesting stats: "Since January 2009, $13.2 billion has been collected by the federal government from companies through the False Claims Act, the primary whistle-blower tool, with about $9.4 billion of that involving alleged health care fraud. The federal government has recovered more in financial penalties against drugmakers since 2009 than in the previous 18 years combined, with whistle-blowers credited for helping initiate about three quarters of the cases...."

Presidential Race

Michael Shear & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: yo, Romney has another new campaign theme: "something, something, I'm not Obama." The old campaign theme, "I'm not Obama," has not worked out.

Gene Robinson: "Wednesday’s presidential debate promises sharp contrasts. One candidate wants to repeal Obamacare, one candidate invented it. One opposed the auto industry bailout, one takes credit for it. One doubts the scientific consensus about climate change, one believes in it. One wants to 'voucherize' Medicare, one wants to save it. One dismisses nearly half of Americans as a bunch of moochers, and one claims to champion the struggling middle class. It promises to be an epic clash: Mitt Romney vs. Mitt Romney. Oh, and President Obama will be there, too."

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "Romney's team has apparently been hard at work on the zinger front, and the New York Times reports that they've 'equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August.' Great. I don't doubt that Team Obama is doing the same, but the big difference here is that the Romney guys actually bragged about it. This is so mind-numbingly stupid that Romney probably ought to be tossed out of the race just for sheer campaign incompetence." ...

... Frank Bruni writes a fairly funny column on the Obama campaign's efforts to lower expectations for his performance at Wednesday's debate.

Craig Unger in Salon: "According to a highly reliable source..., top Republican operatives are primed to a new two-pronged offensive that will attack Obama as weak on national security, and will be based, in part, on new intelligence information regarding the attacks in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on Sept. 11.... The source described the Republicans as chortling with glee that the Obama administration 'definitely had intel' about the attack before it happened." This is supposed to be Romney's "October Surprise." Boo! ...

... Roger Cohen in the New York Times: Obama has made foreign policy mistakes, but Romney sees the world as it was 30 years ago.

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: the "47 percent" remark is still hurting Romney, thanks in part to ads the Obama campaign is running in swing states.

Allison Sherry of the Denver Post: "Young illegal immigrants who receive temporary work permits to stay in the United States under an executive order issued by President Barack Obama would not be deported under a Mitt Romney administration, the GOP presidential hopeful told The Denver Post Monday. 'The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased,' Romney said. 'Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed.'"

Jason Schwartz in Boston Magazine on why Romney is so unpopular in Massachusetts. Thanks to contributor MAG for the link. ...

... Molly Ball of The Atlantic on why Romney is so unpopular in Appalachia.

Steve Benen counts six incidents that Republicans or conservatives have identified as "Obama's Watergate," the latest of course being the Libyan attack.

CW: When even the Very Serious People on the Washington Post's editorial board accuse Paul Ryan of "budget flimflam," you know it wasn't just Romney who made a mistake in selecting Ryan as his running mate. Ryan made a mistake in accepting. When you get kicked up to VP nominee, even some VSPs will stop talking long enough to try to figure out what you're actually saying. Result: Ryan is no longer the VSP's darling boy.

Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "Haley Barbour's ... firm Resurgent Republic conducted focus groups of blue collar voters in Ohio and suburban women in Virginia who supported Obama in 2008 but are now undecided.... Their findings? Voters are a lot more willing to believe attacks based around Romney quotes than they are on Obama quotes. 'Whenever we showed direct quotes from President Obama..., voters consistently say that this is probably taken out of context and they don't seem to hold that same standard with Governor Romney,' pollster Linda DiVall ... said. CW: um, maybe that's because Romney does pull Obama quotes out of context. Apparently that trick works better when the quotes are, you know, believable.

CW: When Alex Pareene of Salon ran this picture of Romney in a post in which Pareene compared Romney to Dick Cheney (linked in yesterday's Commentariat), I thought maybe Pareene had altered the photo to make Romney look more like Cheney. But, no, I found U.S. News using the same photo, so it's the real deal. Romney is morphing into Cheney, villainous sneer & all.

Now it's time for our new show, "Two Hacks in an Office." At least Brooks says some of the right things about Willard:

     ... Via Driftglass: "What Mistah Kurtz fails to mention is that Mr. Brooks's 'longstanding conservative tradition' is a work of fiction, invented by Mr. Brooks almost entirely out of whole cloth in order to bury the deeply troubling, bigoted, anti-science, anti-reason, pro-global-conquest real conservatism to which Mr. Brooks owes his entire professional career and from which he now flees like a vampire trying to outrace the dawn."

First General Election Results Counted. Caitlin McDevitt of Politico: "Michelle Obama has won Family Circle's 2012 Presidential Cookie Bake-Off, the magazine reports in its November issue.... [Ann] Romney's M&M cookies got 48.5 percent of votes, while Obama's white and dark chocolate chip cookies won with 51.5 percent. Family Circle notes that the bake-off, which it's hosted since 1992, 'has been a bell-weather in four out of five elections.' The exception? Obama lost to Cindy McCain four years ago, despite complaints that the Arizona senator's wife had cheated."

Congressional Races

Martin Finucane of the Boston Globe: "Republican US Senator Scott Brown portrayed himself as an independent voter and thinker in Washington, while his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, charged that he had voted 'in lockstep' over and over with Republicans, as the two clashed in a debate at the University of Massachusetts Lowell tonight." Here's video of the full debate:

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post with six takeaways from the Warren-Brown debate. ...

... CW: Here's the best clip, IMHO, & may be the gaffe that costs Brown the election. You might want to watch twice: first to "See Scott Squirm," & second to watch Warren's delighted reaction to his choice:

... Steve Benen: "For much of the media, the key line in the debate was apparently Brown's pre-planned 'zinger' about not being a student in Warren's classroom. But theatrical soundbites notwithstanding, what voters actually learned last night is that Brown's centrist facade is thin and easily chipped away. Anyone who sees Antonin Scalia as a 'model Supreme Court justice' isn't a moderate." ...

... Eric Randall of Boston Magazine pans Warren-Brown moderator David Gregory & otherwise comments on the debates. Highlight clips included. ...

... ALSO, see the report in today's Comments by Julie in Massachusetts, who attended the debate.

Local News

How Low Will They Go? T. W. Farnam of the Washington Post: with Arkansas the only state in the South that still has a Democratic state legislature, the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity has its sights set on flipping a few seats to turn the statehouse Republican. ...

... Looks like the Koch Brothers Express has taken on more than one local route. Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald in a National Memo post: "The new stealth campaign against three Florida Supreme Court justices is being backed by those meddling right-wing billionaires from Wichita, Charles and David Koch. They couldn't care less about Florida, but they love to throw their money around."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Prosecutors in Lille have dropped a sexual assault investigation into Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief, after a Belgian escort recanted her original account about a brutal encounter. But Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 63, still faces a criminal charge of participating in an organized prostitution ring, the result of sex parties that he attended in northern France and at a deluxe hotel in Washington."

AP: "A former Penn State graduate assistant who complained he saw former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky showering with a young boy on campus and testified at his sex abuse trial sued the university on Tuesday for what he calls defamation and misrepresentation. Mike McQueary's whistle-blower lawsuit claims his treatment by the university since Sandusky was arrested in November has caused him distress, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment."

New York Times: "The American military's top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is preparing detailed information that could be used to kill or capture some of the militants suspected in the attack last month in Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, senior military and counterterrorism officials said on Tuesday."

ABC News: "Pope Benedict's former butler took the stand at his own trial today to say that while he admits he took thousands of documents from the pope's private apartments and leaked them to the media, he is not guilty of theft because he was doing it for the good of the church, 'to bring the church back on the right track.' ... Intrigue, corruption and back-stabbing are clearly not new here at The Vatican, what is new is that Gabriele's indiscretions have opened the doors on Vatican dirty deeds in a way that has never happened before."

New York Times: "Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, plans to travel to Europe before the end of the year, among other things to press for a toughening of sanctions against Tehran, Israeli officials said Tuesday. The plans appeared to be another indication of a shifting Israeli emphasis, at least for now, toward efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program by means other than military action."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "A Commonwealth Court judge issued an injunction today blocking Pennsylvania's controversial new voter ID law from taking full effect before the presidential election, clearing the way for voters without government-issued identification to cast regular ballots on Nov. 6. Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. in essence ruled that the general election would be - like the primary - a soft rollout of the law. 'I reject the underlying assertion that the offending activity is the request to produce photo ID; instead, I conclude that the salient offending conduct is voter disenfranchisement,' he said." Here's a pdf of the opinion.

New York Times: "With the surge of American troops over and the Taliban still a potent threat, American generals and civilian officials acknowledge that they have all but written off what was once one of the cornerstones of their strategy to end the war here: battering the Taliban into a peace deal."

Washington Post: "The White House has held a series of secret meetings in recent months to examine the threat posed by al-Qaeda's franchise in North Africa and consider for the first time whether to prepare for unilateral strikes, U.S. officials said. The deliberations reflect concern that al-Qaeda's African affiliate has become more dangerous since gaining control of large pockets of territory in Mali and acquiring weapons from post-revolution Libya. The discussions predate the Sept. 11 attacks...."

New York Times: "Georgia's larger-than-life president, Mikheil Saakashvili, conceded defeat on Tuesday after early results in Georgia's hotly contested parliamentary race showed that a coalition backed by the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili had edged out his party...."

Sunday
Sep302012

The Commentariat -- October 1, 2012

Reader Creag H. points out this remark which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made last week when speaking before the Clinton Global Initiative. You can watch her full speech here:

... one of the issues that I have been preaching about around the world is collecting taxes in an equitable manner, especially from the elites in every country. You know I'm out of American politics, but it is a fact that around the world, the elites of every country are making money. There are rich people everywhere. And yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries. They don't invest in public schools, in public hospitals, in other kinds of development internally. And so it means for leaders telling powerful people things they don't want to hear.

Richard Hasen in Slate: at issue in "an appeal being argued today by telephone, SEIU v. Husted..., at issue are potentially thousands of Ohio ballots that the state will not count solely because of poll worker error.... A numberof the state's polling places, especially in cities, cover more than one voting precinct, and in order to cast a valid vote, a voter has to be given the correct precinct ballot. Poll workers, however, often hand voters the wrong precinct ballot mistakenly."

GOP voter suppression & voter fraud notwithstanding, these stars think voting is a good idea:

Paul Krugman is planning President Obama's second term, & he is warning him off Simpson-Bowles -- "a really bad plan.... This election is ... shaping up as a referendum on our social insurance system, and it looks as if Mr. Obama will emerge with a clear mandate for preserving and extending that system. It would be a terrible mistake, both politically and for the nation’s future, for him to let himself to be talked into snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" by agreeing to a Catfood Commission-style "Grand Bargain." ...

... Matt Yglesias of Slate: "The looming payroll tax hike ... is entirely pointless. Neither progressive ideology nor conservative ideology in any sense mandates that we implement a big regressive tax increase amidst a period of sky-high unemployment. Doing so is only going to stall the household deleveraging process, make it harder for businesses to get customers, and immiserate stretched American families. We really need to stop this."

** This you gotta read. And many thanks to Calyban for catching it, because I missed it. J. D. Kleinke, a fellow of the righty-right-wing American Enterprise Institute & an specialist of health care, writing in Sunday's New York Times, makes the case for ObamaCare. Kleinke lists element after element of ObamaCare & explains why these features are conservative. "The real problem with the health care plan -- for Mr. Romney and the Republicans in general -- is that political credit for it goes to Mr. Obama. Now, Mr. Romney is in a terrible fix trying to spin his way out of this paradox and tear down something he knows is right -- something for which he ought to be taking great political credit of his own." CW: I hope Obama is taking note.

Chrystia Freeland in the New Yorker: "... Hostility toward the President is particularly strident among the ultra-rich." When you read the excuses & rationalizations billionaire Leon Cooperman comes up with to justify himself & his disdain for Obama, you may laugh out loud (he didn't send a thank-you note when I gave him a self-published book of poetry my granddaughter wrote) or feel like throwing something -- Obama never worked a day in his life. This isn't Right Wing World; it's Rich Wing World. These people, who think so much of themselves, are ignorant myth-peddlers; for instance, this should sound familiar:

Our problem, frankly, is as long as the President remains anti-wealth, anti-business, anti-energy, anti-private-aviation, he will never get the business community behind him. The problem and the complication is the forty or fifty per cent of the country on the dole that support him. -- Leon Cooperman

Ernesto Londoño and Abigail Hauslohner of the Washington Post write an interesting account of the lax security in Benghazi, Libya, before terrorists there killed four Americans, including the ambassador.

Gerardo Reyes & Santiago Wills of ABC News: Univision uncovers new details about "Fast & Furious": "Univision News identified a total of 57 more previously unreported firearms that were bought by straw purchasers monitored by ATF during Operation Fast and Furious, and then recovered in Mexico in sites related to murders, kidnappings, and at least one other massacre. As part of Operation Fast and Furious, ATF allowed 1,961 guns to 'walk' out of the U.S. in an effort to identify the high profile cartel leaders who received them."

Presidential Race

This whole race is going to be turned upside down come Thursday morning. -- Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), predicting Mitt Romney will win the presidential debate Wednesday ...

Mitt Romney has had a lot more time to debate, the president has not debated in the past four years in terms, of a campaign debate. I think the president will hold his own, but he's not known for sound bites. And these are 60 second, 90 second responses. -- Brad Woodhouse of the Democratic National Committee, predicting Mitt Romney will win the presidential debate Wednesday

Alex Pareene of Salon thinks Mitt may find his inner Dick Cheney during the debates & advocate for torture.

Flim-Flam Man Zips His Lips. Steve Stromberg of the Washington Post: "On Fox News Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan claimed that Americans don’t know enough about what a Romney-Ryan presidency would do, which explains the campaign's current troubles. But when Chris Wallace pressed Ryan to discuss the specifics of the Romney-Ryan tax plan, the mathematics of which have confounded non-partisan experts, he refused even to say how much the tax cuts the ticket has proposed would cost." With video. ...

... Romney has promised $5 trillion in tax cuts skewed toward millionaires and billionaires, but refused to say how he'd pay for them without raising taxes on the middle class or exploding the deficit. He's promised to repeal ObamaCare, but refused to say what he'd replace it with to protect the 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. He's promised to repeal Wall Street reform, but refused to say what he'd replace it with so that big banks aren't writing their own rules again. -- Obama Campaign

David Carr of the New York Times: the conservative claim that the liberal mainstream media have rigged coverage of the presidential election -- and poll results -- is bogus. "Even if legacy media still maintained some kind of death grip on American consciousness, it would be hard to claim that the biggest players in those industries are peddling liberal theology." Carr cites the Wall Street Journal, the paper with the highest U.S. circulation & Fox "News," the cable news channel with the highest ratings, plus radio showmen Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc. to argue that "the growing hegemony of conservative voices makes manufacturing a partisan conspiracy a practical impossibility."

Paul Krugman on the short memories of political pundits. Funny line: "The only [GOP primary] contender who even looked on paper like a real alternative, Rick Perry, turned out to have three major liabilities: he was inarticulate, he was slow on his feet, and I can't remember the third (sorry, couldn't help myself)."

Michael Shear of the New York Times suggests five possible sources of an October Surprise that would shake up the presidential election.

AND for those readers who took Roger Simon seriously last week when he wrote that Paul Ryan called Willard "The Stench," you've got a lot of company. Also, it's one of those stories you just want to believe.

Local News

More GOP Voter Fraud. Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times: "Formal complaints filed with the state [of California] by at least 133 residents of a state Senate district [in Riverside] say they were added to GOP rolls without their knowledge, calling into question the party's boast that Republican membership has rocketed 23% in the battleground area." CW: the trick was to tell people they were signing a petition for some liberal thing, then telling them they also had to fill out a voter registration form. Apparently, if the signer didn't fill in the party affiliation, the recruiter checked the Republican box.

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "California has become the first state to ban the use for minors of disputed therapies to overcome' homosexuality, a step hailed by gay rights groups across the country that say the therapies have caused dangerous emotional harm to gay and lesbian teenagers. 'This bill bans nonscientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide,' Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement on Saturday after he signed the bill into law. 'These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.'" ...

... Don Thompson of the AP: Brown also "signed SB9, by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco. It would let the inmates [who were sentenced to life imprisonment as juveniles] ask judges to reconsider their sentences after they serve at least 15 years in prison."

Jonathan Capehart: DNA evidence does little to back up George Zimmerman's story that he killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

News Ledes

Reuters: "U.S. manufacturing unexpectedly expanded in September for the first time since May as new orders and employment picked up, but the pace of growth showed the economy was still stuck in a slow recovery."

New York Times: "An apprentice elevator mechanic whose murder conviction was overturned after he had spent nearly 11 years in prison has been paid $2 million by New York State to settle a wrongful conviction lawsuit he filed." CW: one of many "it could happen to you or me" stories.

New York Times: "The federal mortgage task force that was formed in January by the Justice Department filed its first complaint against a big bank on Monday, citing a broad pattern of misconduct in the packaging and sale of mortgage securities during the housing boom. The civil suit against Bear Stearns & Company, now a unit of JPMorgan Chase, was brought in New York State Supreme Court by Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general who is also a co-chairman of the task force, known as the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group." CW: Look, Ma, no criminal charges.

Washington Post: "Protesters affiliated with last year's Occupy demonstrations in Washington are planning a series of events to mark the one-year anniversary of the protests. Occupy D.C. participants say they plan to 'shut down K Street' Monday morning, and they say traffic disruptions are possible."

AP: "A lawyer for a cameraman who was accompanying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the U.S. for the United Nations General Assembly in New York says his client has defected. Paul O'Dwyer, a New York City-based lawyer who is representing Hassan Gol Khanban, confirmed Sunday that his client is seeking asylum in the U.S. He provided no other details."

Guardian: "A Moscow court has delayed an appeal hearing by jailed anti-Kremlin punk band until 10 October over procedural concerns."

Saturday
Sep292012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 30, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on the New York Times' policy of using the term "illegal immigrants" to describe undocumented residents.

** David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama’s biggest mistake as president has not been the story he told the country about the economy. It’s the story he and his advisers told themselves."

"To See Ourselves as Others See Us." Kevin Sieff & Richard Leiby of the Washington Post: "Eleven years into the war, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural awareness, officials say, contributing to a string of insider attacks that have threatened to undermine the military partnership. So the Afghan army is trying something new: a guide to the strange ways of the American soldier. The goal is to convince Afghan troops that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it's likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge." Sieff & Leiby include English translations of some of the advice in the booklet -- definitely worth a read.

Elizabeth Titus of Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became the latest high-ranking Democrat to defend the Obama administration's handling of information following the Sept. 11 Libya consulate attack, saying he was 'deeply concerned about recent attempts to politicize the tragic events.'"

Follow-Up. A couple of days ago I posted a video of a young woman in Colorado who was trying to register only declared Republican voters. In an article on the growing evidence of GOP-sponsored voter registration fraud in Florida, Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times writes, "In Colorado, a young woman employed by Strategic Allied was shown on a video outside a store in Colorado Springs recently telling a potential voter that she wanted to register only Republicans and that she worked for the county clerk's office. The woman was fired, said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party." Strategic Allied is the same outfit -- hired & recently fired by the GOP -- that has been submitting false voter registration forms & committing other related crimes & misdemeanors.

Presidential Race

Quote of the Day. You know, I think my biggest concern, obviously, would just be for his mental well-being. -- Ann Romney, responding to a question about what her "primary worry" would be about a Romney presidency. Thanks to reader Judy K. for the link. ...

Mike Lillis of The Hill: "Rallying the Democratic faithful in Fort Myers, Fla., [Vice President] Biden characterized [Rep. Paul] Ryan as 'the ideological center' of the Republican Party and warned the crowd that Romney's plan to cut Medicare -- among other popular federal programs – is hiding in plain sight. 'What Gov. Romney did in picking Paul Ryan is he has given clear definition to all those vague assertions he was making during his primary campaign,' Biden said. '[And] nowhere is it more clear what they would do than in Medicare.'"

The Obama campaign is back to hitting Romney for destroying "good American jobs" as part of Bain Capital's corporate takeovers. There's a much more comprehensive hit list at this campaign Webpage. Via Alexander Burns of Politico:

Ann Gerhart & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post on Mitt Romney & His Money. The writers try to explain Mitt's relationship to the Almighty Dollar; it is largely positive, but informative. There's a related photo slideshow here.

* * *

Peter Baker & Ashley Parker: "With more than 50 million people watching and the presidency at stake, the candidates will meet for their first debate on Wednesday at the University of Denver, and both are cramming like college students before an exam.... Mr. Romney's team has ... equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy." CW: can hardly wait. Nothing is funnier or more effective than a spontaneous bon mot you've been practicing for 6 weeks. ...

... Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog: "... if Romney competently delivers a zinger or two, Chuck Todd will no doubt replicate the restaurant scene from When Harry Met Sally, and he won't be faking. People like him will declare Romney the victor as a result."

... CW: A few weeks ago, Jim Lehrer announced the topics for the first debate. I have a couple of suggestions for questions that would fit right in and keep the candidates from rambling or going off-topic:

     (A) Mr. Romney, how much do you hate the 47 percent of Americans who are in the tank for President Obama? Answer (1) for "I don't hate them; I don't even think about those low-life moochers. They're not my problem." Answer (2) for "I wouldn't use the word 'hate.' More like 'despise,' 'disdain' or 'abhor.'" Answer (3) for "I hate their lazy, dissipated guts, & I have a plan that will make most of them self-deport in leaky rowboats. Thanks for asking, Jimbo."

     (b) Mr. President, Sir, have you ever traveled with Bo on the roof of the Beast? Answer (1) for "No, absolutely not." Answer (2) for "No, and I wouldn't put a kitty or a gerbil or a pet lizard on the roof. Unlike Willard there, I'm an animal lover. And a people lover. I care about every one of you, my fellow Americans, and I'm ready to devote the next four years of my life to serving you-all. God bless America."

     I hope some of you will suggest equally appropriate, fair & balanced questions.

CW: I can't tell which of these posts from Dan Amira of New York magazine, on the campaign's attempts to set debate expectations, is factual, so you be the judge. This one sounds pretty good, but Amira's report on memos from the campaigns seems plausible, too.

* * *

Tom Friedman: "Mitt Romney ... acts instead as if he learned his foreign policy at the International House of Pancakes, where the menu and architecture rarely changes.... Romney has chosen ... to go with the same old G.O.P. bacon and eggs -- that the Democrats are toothless wimps who won't stand up to our foes or for our values, that the Republicans are tough and that it is 1989 all over again. That is, America stands astride the globe with unrivaled power to bend the world our way, and the only thing missing is a president with 'will.' The only thing missing is a president who is ready to simultaneously confront Russia, bash China, tell Iraqis we're not leaving their country, snub the Muslim world by outsourcing our Arab-Israel policy to the prime minister of Israel, green light Israel to bomb Iran -- and raise the defense budget while cutting taxes and eliminating the deficit."

Keeping It Classy. Matt Dixon of the AP: "In audio picked up by an answering machine, a volunteer for the Republican Party of Clay County can be heard calling President Barack Obama 'a Muslim' and saying he wants to 'get rid of your Medicare' while reaching out to voters in support of Mitt Romney's campaign. The call was made as part of a statewide phone bank for Romney's campaign being conducted by the Clay County GOP."

Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times discusses a remark by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, a Romney advisor, in which Bolton likened President Obama's foreign policy to a homophobic slur.

Nicholas Lemann talks about his profile of Mitt Romney which appears in this week's New Yorker (the article is firewalled):

News Ledes

New York Times: "Only two days after joint operations between American and Afghan forces were said to be returning to normal, five people -- two Americans and three Afghans -- were killed when a pitched battle broke out between soldiers of the two sides.... Afghan officials said that the clash on Saturday was a misunderstanding and that the Americans apparently attacked an Afghan National Army unit in error. A top coalition officer said the Americans were attacked first...."

AP: "U.S. military deaths in the Afghan war have reached 2,000, a cold reminder of the human cost of an 11-year-old conflict that garners little public interest at home as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014. The toll has climbed steadily in recent months with a spate of attacks by Afghan army and police against American and NATO troops...." ...

... Washington Post: "An apparent insider attack killed one NATO soldier and a civilian contractor Saturday, hours after the United States said joint raids with Afghan forces were returning to normal. Saturday's attack, which also killed several Afghan troops...."

New York Times: "Xi Jinping, who, despite a recent two-week absence from public view that raised questions about his health, is on the cusp of taking over as China&'s supreme leader at a party congress that officials announced Friday would begin Nov. 8."

Al Jazeera: "At least 25 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and elsewhere. Four car bombs in the Taji neighbourhood in the north of the city killed at least six and injured eight others...."

AP: "Three weeks after a massive Catalan separatist march in Barcelona -- the biggest since the 1970s -- the independence flags still flutter from balconies across Spain's second largest city. Spain's crushing recession has had this divisive consequence: soaring popular sentiment in Catalonia that the affluent region would be better off as separate nation."

Reuters: "Hundreds of Muslims in Bangladesh burned at least four Buddhist temples and 15 homes of Buddhists on Sunday after complaining that a Buddhist man had insulted Islam...."

Guardian: "A Russian court is due to hear the appeal of jailed punk band Pussy Riot on Monday against a two-year sentence for performing an anti-Kremlin song in a Moscow cathedral. The case against Pussy Riot highlighted the crackdown on freedom in Vladimir Putin's Russia and the rising power of the Russian Orthodox church."

AP: "Neil Young, the Black Keys, Foo Fighters and others wowed thousands who turned out Saturday night for a free concert in Central Park to call attention to poverty worldwide. Dubbed the Global Citizen Festival, the concert also featured K'naan, John Legend and Band of Horses, with Young's performance capping off the evening. Video of the event was streamed worldwide as about 60,000 music fans crowded the park's Great Lawn...."

AP: "Carmageddon II, the sequel to last year's shutdown of one of the nation's busiest freeways, is going according to script as many Los Angeles drivers heeded warnings to stay off [Interstate 405]. Traffic tie-ups were minimal Saturday as construction crews worked around the clock to tear down a portion of the Mulholland Drive bridge on Interstate 405 as part of a $1 billion project to add a new carpool lane. Officials said the demolition was on schedule and that they expect to reopen the freeway as planned for Monday morning."

Friday
Sep282012

The Commentariat -- Sept. 29, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

     The transcript is here.

The Republican Voter Fraud Scandal Grows. Matea Gold, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "Florida elections officials said Friday that at least 10 counties have identified suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms turned in by a firm working for the Republican Party of Florida, which has filed an election fraud complaint with the state Division of Elections against its one-time consultant. The controversy in Florida -- which began with possibly fraudulent forms that first cropped up in Palm Beach County -- has engulfed the Republican National Committee, which admitted Thursday that it urged state parties in seven swing states to hire the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting. The RNC paid the company at least $3.1 million -- routed through the state parties of Florida, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia -- to register voters and run get-out-the-vote operations. Wisconsin and Ohio had not yet paid the firm for get-out-the-vote operations it was contracted to do." ...

... CW: this story was first exposed by blogger Brad Friedman & amplified by at least one other blogger, Gregg Flynn of Blue North Carolina, before mainstream media began picking it up. The Internets is where it's at.

Joe Nocera: U.S. News & World Report's college rankings are a counterproductive sham. "Universities that want to game the rankings can easily do so. U.S. News cares a lot about how much money a school raises and how much it spends: on faculty; on small classes; on facilities, and so on. It cares about how selective the admissions process is. So universities that once served populations that were different from the Harvard or Yale student body now go after the same elite high school students with the highest SAT scores. And schools know that, if they want to get a better ranking, they need to spend money like mad -- even though they will have to increase tuition that is already backbreaking." Schools lose points for effecting cost-saving measures. ...

     ... CW: bear in mind when reading Nocera that here -- and oftentimes -- he makes a broad assertion based on a single source who has a vested interest in pushing the assertion. I think Nocera & his source are probably right in this case, but if you have different information, please share it. Nocera's "methodology" is really unserious, & the Times should be ashamed for allowing him to repeatedly push the agendas of people he likes. This would be a good place for a little he-said/she-said.

Prof. Roger Martin, in a New York Times op-ed, writes that the capitalistic battle of today is not merely between capital & labor, but among capital labor and "talent." The result, labor loses.

Jim Fallows, who is a long-time friend of Sen. Jim Webb, comments on Webb's remarks -- embedded in yesterday's Commentariat -- about Mitt's characterization of the "47 percent": "This is a theme straight out of Webb's heart and brain and soul. I remember hearing almost exactly the same views from him when we first met in the late 1970s. We sometimes think about campaigns as if they're all about positioning and micro-strategy and all the rest. But every now and then we see the genuine passions and principles that are at stake." CW: watch the video if you missed it.

Presidential Race

Lydia Saad of Gallup: "Gallup election polling trends since the advent of televised presidential debates a nearly a half-century ago reveal few instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes. The two exceptions are 1960 and 2000, both very close elections in which even small changes could have determined who won. In two others -- 1976 and 2004 -- public preferences moved quite a bit around the debates, but the debates did not appear to alter the likely outcome." Saad has the numbers, of course.

Markos Moulitsas: The Rasmussen polling operation "is doing its mightiest work to try and keep the fiction of Romney's candidacy alive, which really, is the only reason it exists." With charts to prove his point.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The Obama administration's shifting accounts of the fatal attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, have left President Obama suddenly exposed on the national security and foreign policy issues where he had enjoyed a seemingly unassailable advantage over Mitt Romney in the presidential race." ...

... Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy: "The two most discussed candidates to be America's next top diplomat now find themselves on opposite sides of the Libya issue, with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the role of defending the administration's narrative and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) promising tough congressional oversight while giving the State Department room to conduct its own investigation. As the controversy over the administration's handling of the issue grows, Rice's comments on the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi are coming under increasing attack. Her insistence on a number of Sunday talk shows Sept. 16 that, according to the best information available at the time, the attack was an unplanned assault and the result of an anti-Islam video is facing harsh criticism from senators."

Jonathan Landay & Lesley Clark of McClatchy News: "Extremists from groups linked to al Qaida struck the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in a 'deliberate and organized terrorist attack,' the top U.S. intelligence agency said Friday, as it took responsibility for the Obama administration's initial claims that the deadly assault grew from a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video. The unusual statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence appeared to have two goals: updating the public on the latest findings of the investigation into the assault, and shielding the White House from a political backlash over its original accounts." ...

... CW: Greg Sargent, BTW, characterizes the DNI's statement as a Friday afternoon news dump because, um, it was a Friday afternoon news dump. This suggests to me that -- contra the McClatchy report -- the goal wasn't to "shield the White House." If it had been, DNI would not have tried to bury the news.

... Bobby Cervantes of Politico: "Rep. Peter King [{R-NY}, who never saw a rolling camera he didn't like,] called for the resignation Friday of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for initially saying that the deadly Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was spontaneous." ...

... BUT WAIT! There's More. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: Mike Huckabee hints that President Obama should be impeached over his administration's evolving remarks about the Libya incident. ...

... CW: I know it's election season, but Peter King is a sitting Member of Congress & chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. Mike Huckabee is a former governor who thought he should be president. Don't these yahoos have some responsibility to stick to rational remarks? ...

Finally, Time to Play "Where's Willard?" Major Garrett of National Journal (& formerly of Fox "News") writes, "Nearly two weeks after promising to launch a multilayered critique of President Obama's handling of the Arab Spring, Mitt Romney has remained oddly silent even as evidence grows the administration misled the country about the motives behind the lethal attack in Libya that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead." Via Greg Sargent.

Michael Cooper of the New York Times: Mitt Romney just discovered the primaries are over, & he's running in the general election. Or something like that. He's "recalibrating his message"; i.e., changing his story.

Scott Shane of the New York Times: the Romney campaign tries to hang the Jimmy Carter label on President Obama. "Historians say the broad parallels between Mr. Carter's term and Mr. Obama's make for legitimate comparisons. But many of the details differ, and some tilt decisively in Mr. Obama's favor, both factually and politically."

CW: I'm totally with Ta-Nehisi Coates on this: Mitt's "47 percent" remark was no gaffe: "It is a thesis, delivered at some length, with confidence and vigor. It is unfortunate for Romney that it is now public, and that it fits right into the narrative Obama started drawing months ago. But I don't think this was a 'slip-up.'"

In Week 36 of Steve Benen's chronicle of Mitt's Mendacity, Benen identified 37 lies.

Right Wing World

CW: I have been making the point for some time that birtherism is beyond ridiculous because whether or not Barack Obama was born in the U.S., nobody doubts his mother was an American citizen, thus making Barack a "natural-born American," just like, say, John McCain, who was born in Panama to American parents. Well, evidently a few birthers got the message, so now there is a sickening, festering movement to smear the President's mother. The crazies -- a few of whom are rather prominent -- are not calling her a Russian-born Communist plant yet, but just you wait. Steve Benen has the details on the smears. ...

... Here's more from Michelle Goldberg of Newsweek.

Congressional Races

Freedom's Just Another Word for "Discrimination." I don't think the government should be telling people what you pay and what you don't pay. I think it's about freedom. -- Rep. Todd Akin (RTP-Missouri), on why he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act ...

... Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "Gender discrimination in compensation has been illegal in the United States since the passage of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. But ... [Rep. Todd] Akin responded to a question about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- which made it easier for workers to sue over unequal pay -- by suggesting that employers shouldn't even be barred from paying women less in the first place." CW: As Ari Berman pointed out while appearing on MSNBC today, this is the same argument employers used during the Gilded Age to quash child labor laws. You can see why Newt Gingrich -- who thinks poor (read "black") children should take the jobs of school janitors -- has endorsed Akin. Newt & Akin are of a feather. ...

... Rebecca Schoenkopf of Wonkette: "When Republican consultant Kellyanne Conway told Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin to be more like David Koresh -- the cult leader in Waco whose standoff with the ATF led to the death of 80 of his followers and himself -- apparently, Todd Akin listened! So how did Todd Akin set his compound on fire today? Oh just by saying that the Equal Pay Act, which dates back to 1963 and says it is illegal to pay Fallopian-Americans less than men solely on the basis of their plumbing, is unfair, because freedom." ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "So the only 'freedom' Akin is talking about here is the freedom of businesses to break the law. Which he thinks is fine, because he doesn't think that equal pay should be the law, even in largely unenforceable theory. Just like he doesn't think there should be a minimum wage. Hey, then businesses could pay women, like, 50 cents an hour. That's freedom for you!" ...

... CW: I hope readers don't pay too much attention to Schoenkopf & Clawson. They are just girls, they probably have PMS & they clearly have "issues." Let's hope they are not getting paid as much as the guys writing in the profitable bloggersphere. Besides, it's a disgrace those feminazis are not home making meatloaf, mashed potatoes & babies for their deserving hubbies. ...

... Update: Todd Akin distances himself from David Koresh. CW: see, Akin is way more liberal than you thought.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Washington Democrats ... moved into the Maine Senate race on Friday with a sizable advertising buy to attack the Republican seeking to succeed Senator Olympia J. Snowe.... The $410,000 ad buy came as the position of the front-runner, former Gov. Angus King, an independent, has seen some erosion. Washington Democrats ... have avoided supporting their own candidate, Cynthia Dill, a state senator, hoping that Mr. King would walk away with the race and ultimately side with Democrats in Washington."

Ian Lovett of the New York Times: California's new voting law pits Democrat against Democrat in an expensive Congressional race in the San Fernando Valley.

News Ledes

BBC: "The youngest prisoner to be held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre has been returned to his native Canada. Omar Khadr had been held at the US base in Cuba since 2002, after being detained in Afghanistan aged 15. A military plane flew Khadr, the last Westerner at Guantanamo, to Canada early on Saturday. He will serve the rest of his eight-year jail term in Canada. He pleaded guilty to killing a US soldier in Afghanistan."

Washington Post: "Yemen's leader said Saturday that he personally approves every U.S. drone strike in his country and described the remotely piloted aircraft as a technical marvel that has helped reverse al-Qaeda's gains. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi also provided new details about the monitoring of counterterrorism missions from a joint operations center in Yemen that he said is staffed by military and intelligence personnel from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Oman."

New York Times: "Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who guided The New York Times and its parent company through a long, sometimes turbulent period of expansion and change on a scale not seen since the newspaper's founding in 1851, died early Saturday at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 86."

AP: "... the Supreme Court is embarking on a new term beginning Monday that could be as consequential as the last one, with the prospect for major rulings about affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights."

AP: "One Somali journalist was shot dead by gunmen on Friday while a second journalist was beheaded and his body dumped in the street, officials and residents said, two attacks that bring the number of Somali journalists killed this year to 15."

Reuters: "Authorities in Libya thwarted plans for a huge demonstration against militia in the capital Tripoli on Friday, while in Benghazi, scene of mass anti-militia protests last week, supporters of an ousted Islamist group returned to the streets. Activists had hoped that a planned demonstration in the capital would be as successful as a giant anti-militia protest held in Benghazi last week, but only about 400 protesters turned up on Friday after the country's mufti and mosque preachers warned people not to attend."