The Ledes

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

AP: "Germany says it is prepared to arm the Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany would closely coordinate its efforts with France, Britain and other European countries who are already delivering weapons to the Kurds."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Islamic State militant group claimed Tuesday to have beheaded an American photojournalist in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A video released online purported to show the execution of James Foley after he recited a statement in which he called the U.S. government 'my real killers. A second prisoner, said to be Steven Joel Sotloff, like Foley an American journalist who disappeared while covering Syria’s civil war, then appears in the video. The masked executioner, speaking with what sounds like a British accent, identifies Sotloff and says that 'the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.'”

New York Times: "Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed late Monday to extend a five-day cease-fire for Gaza that expired at midnight for 24 hours, reflecting the difficulty of reaching more durable agreements after two weeks of Egyptian-brokered talks but also an apparent lack of appetite on either side to resume the conflict." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Another Gaza cease-fire collapsed on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel, drawing retaliatory airstrikes from Israel and prompting the Israeli government to withdraw its delegation from Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo for an agreement to end the latest conflict."

Guardian: "Armed groups in Syria have several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy commercial planes, according to a new report by an international arms research group that cites the risk of the missiles being smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released a few hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to US airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 20

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."


New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.


CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:


Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

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The Commentariat -- May 16, 2012

The full episode of ABC's "The View," with President Obama, is here.

Callum Borchers of the Boston Globe: "President Obama's total assets in 2011 were as high as $8.3 million in 2011, according to an annual financial disclosure filing released by the White House Tuesday. Much of the president's wealth is in the form of US Treasury bills and notes.... The Obamas also have $500,001 to $1 million in a checking account at JPMorgan Chase, the bank currently under FBI scrutiny for a $2 billion trading loss."

In a scathing takedown of House Speaker John Boehner's(R-Ohio) announcement that he would engineer another debt crisis this year, the New York Times editors conclude, "Mr. Boehner's decision to again threaten a default shows that he is an unreliable budget negotiator. President Obama failed to recognize that last time, and Congressional Democrats gave in too easily. We hope both are hearing the message this time around."

Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "Sen. John McCain is talking with Democrats about a joint effort to require outside groups that have spent millions of dollars on this year's elections to disclose their donors. McCain (R-Ariz.), once Congress's leading champion of campaign finance reform, has kept a low profile on the issue in recent years."

Ilyse Hogue of The Nation: Facebook's Eduardo "Saverin exemplifies the spoiled 1 percenter who erodes the fabric of the country that afforded such opportunity by not paying back the investment America made in him." ...

... How Have We Helped Thee, Eduardo Saverin? Farhad Manjoo counts the ways, you little schmuck. ...

... BUT. Incredibly in Right Wing World -- Adam Peck of Think Progress: "Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder of Facebook whose falling out with the company and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the subject of the 2010 blockbuster The Social Network, renounced his US citizenship last week, and the right has wasted no time labeling him a hero."

Maureen Dowd seems fond of Jamie Dimon, and apparently JPMorgan Chase stockholders are A-okay with him, too.

This Bears Repeating. New York Times editors: "Carlos DeLuna, who was executed in 1989 by the state of Texas, was almost certainly wrongly convicted of stabbing a young woman to death with a knife in a gas station robbery in Corpus Christi. Carlos Hernandez, who died in a Texas prison while serving time for stabbing someone else, almost certainly killed the young woman and repeatedly told others that he had committed the murder."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post comments on Deb Fischer's upset win in the Nebraska GOP U.S. Senate primary. Money isn't everything.

CW: This is in the news, so I'm linking it. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Elizabeth Warren has pushed back hard on questions about a Harvard Crimson piece in 1996 that described her as Native American, saying she had no idea the school where she taught law was billing her that way and saying it never came up during her hiring a year earlier, which others have backed up. But a 1997 Fordham Law Review piece described her as Harvard Law School's 'first woman of color,' based, according to the notes at the bottom of the story, on a 'telephone interview with Michael Chmura, News Director, Harvard Law (Aug. 6, 1996).'"

James O'Keefe, Still Full of Shit. Scott Keyes of Think Progress. "Conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe released a new video today supposedly exposing voter fraud in North Carolina by highlighting non-citizens like Zbigniew Gorzkowski who have voted in recent elections. The problem: Gorzkowski is an American citizen.... The one instance in the video where O'Keefe purports to show that a non-citizen had actually voted, in fact shows that a citizen voted." CW: Despite the falsity of O'Keefe's video, Matthew Boyle of the right-wing Daily Caller is promoting it. His "update" (on page 2) is unintentionally humorous. But then, The Daily Caller is unintentionally humorous every day.

Prof. Anne Butler in a New York Times op-ed: "... the current debate [between the Vatican & American nuns] has focused on the nuns' progressive stances on birth control, abortion, homosexuality, the all-male priesthood and economic injustice, tension between American nuns and the church's male hierarchy reaches much further back."


Presidential Race

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Fifty-six percent of Americans think Barack Obama will win the 2012 presidential election, compared with 36% who think Mitt Romney will win.... The poll was conducted at a time when U.S. registered voters are evenly divided in their vote preferences. Gallup's latest Daily tracking update, based on May 8-14 interviewing, shows 46% of voters preferring Obama and 45% Romney." ...

... Nate Silver comments on the polls.

... Dylan Byers of Politico: "The New York Times has sent in its response to the Obama campaign's heavy criticism of [Tuesday]'s NYT/CBS News poll (see previous post), which the campaign objected to, in part, because it surveyed the same group of people surveyed for a poll last month. That now controversial poll has Mitt Romney leading Obama among those surveyed -- including women -- and shows two-thirds believe the president supported same-sex marriage 'for political reasons.'"

It's Obama's Fault This Guy Can't Get a Job. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Jason Clausen, a Mason City, Iowa man featured in Mitt Romney's new video featuring unemployed people has a lengthy rap sheet and served ten days in jail for 'assault on a peace officer,' public records show.... The records show Clausen had nearly 20 busts, tickets or fines, a number of them traffic infractions related to things like driving while intoxicated, or with a suspended license. Some were related to accidents, others to driving without seat belts." Here's the ad:

... Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect on the Romney ad: "In this narrative, the GOP didn't mismanage the economy into the deepest downturn since the Great Depression. Rather, the economic crisis simply happened, ex nihilo, and Obama did nothing to stop or mitigate it. What's more, he made things worse, with government spending and an explosion of debt.... For Obama to succeed, he needs to show -- convincingly — that Romney is peddling a false narrative and failed policies." ...

"Ads that Work so Long as You Don't Think." Steve Benen on Romney's ad: "There's nothing to connect the president to the plight of the individuals in the video -- unlike, say, the plight of those who got laid off because Romney's vulture capital firm threw them out of work -- but we're supposed to blame Obama anyway. What's more, there's nothing in the clip to explain why these struggling folks would be better off under a Romney administration that intends to cut taxes for the wealthy while slashing public investments that benefit working families, but we're probably not supposed to think too much about that, either."

... Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "President Obama’s Chicago-based campaign team has been waiting months to launch a real attack against Mitt Romney's experience at Bain Capital.... There is no mystery to the strategy underway: define Romney before he can fully pivot to general-election voters.... This week's opening volley is less an assault on private equity than it is an attack on the character of the former governor. It goes directly to the issue of whose side Romney is on, where the Obama campaign sees the GOP candidate as most vulnerable." ...

... David Axelrod explains the rationale behind the Obama campaign's "exploration" of Romney's run as head of Bain Capital:

Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times: "In advance of Mitt Romney's fundraising swing through Florida [Wednesday] Democrats are highlighting one of the business ventures of Bain Capital while Romney was in charge: Dade Behring, which, saddled with debt, wound up shuttering two medical technologies facilities in Miami. Some 850 jobs were lost, while Bain walked away with $242-million -- an 800 percent return on its investment. The Dade Behring case has been well-documented, but here's a new wrinkle: The company under Bain's leadership sought and received millions of dollars in tax breaks for creating jobs in Puerto Rico -- shortly before closing it's facilities, costing nearly 300 jobs."

Steve Kornacki of Salon: "George W. Bush may have established a new world record today for the shortest, most awkward public endorsement statement in presidential campaign history: '"I'm for Mitt Romney,' Bush told ABC News this morning as the doors of an elevatorclosed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from his old home -- the White House.' The reason for this strange scene is obvious: Romney and his fellow Republicans want absolutely nothing to do with the 43rd president, lest voters connect the epic financial meltdown that played out on his watch to the economic anxiety they're now feeling."

Krugman v. Friedman: "... the center not only did not hold, it couldn't seem to get any attention whatsoever. Americans Elect, a lavishly funded 'centrist' group that was supposed to provide an alternative to traditional political parties, has been a ridiculous flop. Basically, about seven people were actually excited about the venture -- all of them political pundits. Actual voters couldn't care less." Read the whole post. ...

... Rebecca Elliott of BuzzFeed with "Seven Very Bad Predictions about Americans Elect." Top Flop: Tom Friedman.

News Ledes

Politico: "Defying a veto threat from the White House, the House approved its version of the Violence Against Women Act amid furious backlash from Democrats and women's groups that it wouldn't do enough to protect abused victims. Wednesday's vote to renew the 1994 anti-violence law was 222-205. Twenty-three Republicans voted against the bill, while six Democrats voted for it. Vice President Joe Biden, who wrote the law as a senator, said after the vote the measure would water down key protections for victims."

Washington Post: "President Obama warned congressional leaders on Wednesday that he would not tolerate a replay of the bitter debt-ceiling fight of last summer that nearly put the United States in default and led to the nation's first credit-rating downgrade. During lunch at the White House with top leaders of the House and Senate, Obama called the political deadlock last year 'not acceptable' and emphasized that he expects a 'serious bipartisan approach' to tackling the budget and the federal deficit this year, White House press secretary Jay Carney said."

Fox 8 Cleveland News: "Rep. Dennis Kucinich has decided against running for Congress in Washington State."

AP: "Mary Kennedy, ex-wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was found dead at her New York home Wednesday, a source told the Associated Press. Kerry Lawrence, an attorney, confirmed her death, but did not know the cause."

New York Times: "A day after Greece's president warned about the possibility of bank runs, Greek political leaders on Wednesday began forming a caretaker government before new elections next month that could lead the rudderless country to exit the euro, a prospect that has already sent jitters sweeping through world markets."

New York Times: "The defense in John Edwards's federal corruption trial rested on Wednesday morning without calling Mr. Edwards, his daughter Cate, or his former mistress, Rielle Hunter, to the stand. Closing arguments are set to begin on Thursday morning with the case going to the jury as early as Friday." AP story here.

New York Times: "The $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase has claimed another victim. Bruno Iksil, the so-called London Whale at the center of the trading debacle, is expected to leave the bank, according to current and former colleagues. The timing of the departure is unclear."

New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner on Tuesday set the stage for a bruising election-year showdown on fiscal policy, vowing to hold up another increase in the federal debt ceiling unless it was offset by larger spending cuts. His combative comments came on the same day the Republicans' presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, hit President Obama hard on his fiscal stewardship in a speech in Des Moines, suggesting that Mr. Romney and Congressional Republicans see an opening to attack the president on the mounting federal debt and the size of the government."

Washington Post: "A Senate committee plans to vote Wednesday on legislation that would give partners of same-sex federal workers some key benefits, a week after President Obama endorsed marriage for same-sex couples."

Washington Post: "On Tuesday, Congress accomplished something relatively rare: It passed a piece of legislation and sent it to the president for his signature. On a broad bipartisan vote of 78 to 20, the Senate voted Tuesday to extend the life of the U.S. Export-Import Bank and expand its authority to make loans to U.S. exporters.... Amid the gridlock, Tuesday's bill was the rarest of breeds: a lasting compromise on an issue of substance."

Omaha World-Herald: "Deb Fischer ran a stealth campaign. The state senator from Valentine who scored one of the biggest upsets in Nebraska political history Tuesday started to surge in the polls at the perfect time -- early enough to win and too late for her opponents to respond. Fischer, who raised a paltry $440,000 to front-runner Jon Bruning's $3.6 million, is now in position to become the second woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Nebraska, if she defeats Democrat Bob Kerrey in the fall. A third was appointed."

Reuters: "In a primary election race for Oregon's top law enforcement post, the candidate who pledged to protect medical marijuana patients scored a decisive victory Tuesday night over a rival who led a cannabis crackdown last year. Retired judge Ellen Rosenblum, strongly backed by proponents of liberalized marijuana laws, captured 63 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary for state attorney general...."

New York Times: "Carlos Fuentes, Mexico's elegant public intellectual and grand man of letters, whose panoramic novels captured the complicated essence of his country’s history for readers around the world, died on Tuesday in Mexico City. He was 83."

WFTV Orlando: "WFTV has confirmed that autopsy results show 17-year-old Trayvon Martin had injuries to his knuckles when he died. The information could support George Zimmerman's claim that Martin beat him up before Zimmerman shot and killed him."

Washington Post: "Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, an effort paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated in part by the United States, according to opposition activists and U.S. and foreign officials."

Washington Post: "President Obama plans to issue an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who 'obstructs' implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen."

New York Times: "Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, went on trial [in the Hague] on Wednesday for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from some of the bloodiest events of the Bosnian war in the 1990s, including the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo."

AP: "Paperwork for Chen Guangcheng, his wife, and two children [to travel to the United State] was completed in the hospital where the family of four has stayed since he left the embassy in Beijing two weeks ago." ...

... Foreign Policy: "Chen Guangcheng called into a U.S. congressional hearing Tuesday -- for the second time this month -- and asked the international community not to forget about his extended family members and friends suffering government harassment in China."

New York Times: "Just days before Facebook is scheduled to hold its first public stock offering, which could value the company at more than $100 billion, [General Motors] one of the country's largest marketers, has decided to remove its advertising from the social network."

AP: "President Barack Obama raised a combined $43.6 million in April for his campaign and the Democratic Party. Obama's campaign says 400,000 donors contributed last month, including 169,000 who donated for the first time. Obama raised about $53 million in April."


The Commentariat -- May 15, 2012

My column in the New York Tiimes eXaminer is on Paul Krugman's column on the JPMorgan Stanley kablooey. The NYTX front page is here. ...

... ** NEW. I have another column in today's New York Times eXaminer, this one on David Brooks' attempt to explain Obama's popularity. The NYTX front page is here.

President Obama will appear on the ABC TV show "The View" Tuesday morning. Barbara Walters provides some clips:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

President Obama delivered the Barnard College commencement address Monday:

NEW. Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: "Richard Fisher, the conservative president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, has been raising alarms about the big banks for years. The top five banks now control 52 percent of the financial industry's assets; they had 17 percent in 1970.... Fisher argues 'Complacency, complicity, exuberance and greed' are in our DNA. These 'human traits and weaknesses result in market disruptions,' Fisher says, that are 'occasional and manageable.' ... Big banks backed by government turn these manageable episodes into catastrophes.' Fisher would force the big banks to reorganize and get much smaller. And he would require 'harsh and non-negotiable consequences' for any bank that ends in trouble and seeks government aid, including removal of its leaders, replacement of its board, voiding all compensation and bonus contracts and clawing back any bonus compensation for the two previous years."

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "In the years leading up to JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion trading loss, risk managers and some senior investment bankers raised concerns that the bank was making increasingly large investments involving complex trades that were hard to understand. But even as the size of the bets climbed steadily, these former employees say, their concerns about the dangers were ignored or dismissed. An increased appetite for such trades had the approval of the upper echelons of the bank, including Jamie Dimon...." ...

"Regression to the Mean, JPMorgan Edition." James Kwak of Baseline Scenario: "The performance of anyone doing anything will exhibit regression to the mean.... If JPMorgan came through the financial crisis well, it was some combination of skill and luck. Remember, JPMorgan didn't have as big a portfolio of toxic assets as its competitors because it was late to the party; only in retrospect do we ascribe this good fortune to the supposed skill of Jamie Dimon. JPMorgan was never as good as people (both supporters and critics) made it out to be, so we shouldn't be so surprised that it just lost $2 billion (and counting)." ...

... John Schoen of NBC News: JP Morgan Chase's "spectacular multibillion-dollar losses, still being tallied weeks after a risky trading strategy began to unravel, have renewed concerns that the government may not be up to the task of reining in the nation's biggest banks." CW: No kidding.

** Ezra Klein: prominent attorney Emmet Bondurant "alongside Common Cause, where he serves on the board of directors, [is] suing to have the Supreme Court abolish" the filibuster. ...

... New York Times Editors: "We have supported eliminating the filibuster for judicial and executive nominees. Making other filibusters harder would be good for both parties. If [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] remains majority leader in January, he should lead the reform."

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "The Columbia Human Rights Law Review ... has cleared its entire spring edition, doubling its normal size to 436 pages, to carry an extraordinary investigation by a Columbia law school professor and his students. The book sets out in precise and shocking detail how an innocent man was sent to his death on 8 December 1989, courtesy of the state of Texas. Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, is based on six years of intensive detective work by Professor James Liebman and 12 students."

Speaking Truth to Powell. Charles Pierce: "Has there been a more vastly ove rrated person in the past 50 years than Colin Powell? He helped cover up My Lai. He did his part to make sure that the Iran-Contra mess never came fully to light. He buckled under to chickenhawk bullies in the Bush White House and did his part to lie us into a destructive war with a speech to the U.N. that he knew was based on stovepiped bullshit from people he already didn't trust. And still, people trust him and revere him.... And now, of course, he's back with another book in which he polishes his own apple to a high gloss while ducking his responsibility for the greatest foreign-policy foul-up of our time."

NEW. Oh, dear. Could these patriots be breaking the law they hold so dear? Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "the Tea Party Patriots ... is recruiting volunteers for phone banks and promising a massive outpouring of support for embattled Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.... As a nonprofit group, TPP is banned from devoting the bulk of its resources to campaign activities.... If it goes in for a big campaign in support of him, it may risk violating its tax exempt status. The IRS recently announced its intention to crack down on nonprofit groups operating as thinly veiled political campaigns, and many of its recent targets have been tea party groups."

And Krugman gets zapped:

     ... Via Daily Kos.

Presidential Race

Priorities USA, the pro-Obama superPac, provides the two-punch in the Obama campaign's attack on Romney's tenure as head of Bain Capital (but of course they don't coordinate with the O-campaign, because that would be illegal):

... I don't agree with Michael Scherer of Time on this, but he thinks the attack on Romney's business acumen might not work. ...

... For one thing, Pat Wells, who stars in the Priorities USA ad, is a self-described conservative who voted for Dubya & McCain. ...

... Steve Benen: "... for months, there's been a standard line from the GOP campaign...: what Romney did at his vulture-capital firm was similar to what the administration did when it saved the auto industry.... Romney exploited the companies he gutted to line his pockets and those of his investors. That isn't the same as what Obama did for GM and Chrysler; it's the opposite.... Obama ... wasn't motivated by profit; he was trying to save the American auto industry, the backbone of the nation's manufacturing sector, millions of American jobs, and the economy in the Midwest."

Are These People Paying Attention??? Lucy Madison of CBS News: "Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a slight edge over President Obama in the race for the White House in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll. According to the survey, conducted May 11-13, 46 percent of registered voters say they would vote for Romney, while 43 percent say they would opt for Mr. Obama."

Tim Egan: Mitt Romney is a weasel.

Say What? Greg Sargent: "... the Obama campaign began airing an ad attacking Mitt Romney over layoffs at Bain Capital, which the Obama team is holding up as emblematic of Romney's economic philosophy. Byron York reports that the Romney campaign has settled on a line of pushback -- compare what Romney did at Bain to what Obama did with the auto companies. ...

... Jon Chait of New York magazine: "One of the hidden reserves of profit discovered by Bain was the moneymaking potential opened up by breaking a social compact between workers and their bosses, a compact that increased the security of working life but held down the profit potential.... The old corporate ethos was well embodied by George Romney..., who as head of American Motors repeatedly turned down bonuses because he believed $225,000 a year (about a million and a half dollars today) was the highest salary an executive ought to earn.... Conservatives [today] have coalesced around the view that market incomes are inherently just. [Mitt] Romney himself has argued that to the extent that unfairness exists in the economy, it consists of intervention by the government or labor unions. The market is fair by definition." Read the whole post. ...

... Dueling Views of Bain. Amy Gardner & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: Both the Obama camp & the Romney campaign produced ads yesterday about Mitt Romney's tenure as head of Bain Capital. "How the public comes to view Bain, a Boston-based company Romney led for 15 years, is critical to the former Massachusetts governor's chances in November. He has pointed to his time at Bain and the business experience he gained there as the singular reason he is the right man to fix the nation's troubled economy."

Shannon Travis of CNN: "A well-known, openly gay supporter of Mitt Romney in New York has decided to withdraw his support for Romney and back President Barack Obama instead.... Bill White wrote in a letter addressed to the former Massachusetts governor and obtained by CNN, 'You have chosen to be on the wrong side of history and I do not support your run for president any longer.'"

"Mitt Likes Music, Including This." A fairly funny auto-tune video by the Gregory Brothers, a New York Times "op-doc":

Marin Cogan of GQ reads the Ron Paul forums and reports on the "Seven Stages of Ron Paul Supporter Grief." Kinda funny. Unless you're a Ron Paul supporter.

News Ledes

Raleigh News & Observer: "John Edwards seemed surprised to hear from Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon in August 2008 that she had been providing money to Andrew Young, a friend of the former presidential candidate testified on Tuesday."

ABC News: "A medical report compiled by the family physician of accused Trayvon Martin murderer George Zimmerman and obtained exclusively by ABC News found that Zimmerman was diagnosed with a 'closed fracture' of his nose, a pair of black eyes, two lacerations to the back of his head and a minor back injury the day after he fatally shot Martin during an alleged altercation."

Washington Post: "The Justice Department has initiated a criminal probe into the $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the situation."

AP: "Greece is headed for another month of political paralysis ahead of new elections in mid-June, after party leaders on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement to build a coalition government."

Washington Post: "Newly installed French President Francois Hollande declared Tuesday that he would propose a 'new pact' to his European partners emphasizing economic stimulus, as he opened a new chapter in Europe's push-pull dispute about whether growth should be stoked through spending or saving."

New York Times: "The Virginia House of Delegates rejected the judicial nomination of a gay prosecutor on Tuesday after conservative Republican lawmakers argued that the nominee would press an activist agenda."

President Francois Hollande shakes hands with his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy before the investiture ceremony. Photo: AFP/Getty Images.

Guardian: François Hollande, France's first socialist leader in nearly 20 years, was sworn in at the Elysée palace on Tuesday in a deliberately low-key ceremony ahead of a meeting in Berlin with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at which he will begin his quest to temper Europe's austerity drive."

Guardian: "Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, is to be charged over allegations that she tried to conceal evidence from detectives investigating phone hacking and alleged bribes to public officials. Brooks, one of the most high-profile figures in the newspaper industry, will be charged later on Tuesday with three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in July last year at the height of the police investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced." New York Times story here.

Reuters: "Jamie Dimon faces growing calls to give up the chairmanship of JPMorgan Chase & Co when shareholders of the bank convene on Tuesday, days after it revealed losses of billions of dollars in trades that were supposed to protect it from risk."

NEW. Politico: "Americans Elect, the deep-pocketed nonprofit group that set out to nominate a centrist third-party presidential ticket, admitted early Tuesday that its ballyhooed online nominating process had failed.... Just after a midnight deadline Monday, the group acknowledged that its complicated online nominating process had failed to generate sufficient interest to push any of the candidates who had declared an interest in its nomination over the threshold in its rules." CW: somewhere in the world, Tom Friedman is weeping.

New York Times: "Iran said on Tuesday it had executed a man accused of being an Israeli intelligence agent responsible for the assassination of one of its nuclear scientists, Iranian state media reported." ...

... Reuters: "Iran's talks with the U.N. nuclear watchdog about Tehran's atomic activities are going well, a senior Iranian official said on Tuesday, the second day of discussions."


The Commentariat -- May 14, 2012

Paul Krugman: "... what JPMorgan has just demonstrated is that even supposedly smart bankers must be sharply limited in the kinds of risk they’re allowed to take on." ...

... "What this country needs is a businessman for President!" Clip from John Ford's 1939 film "Stagecoach":

... Heidi Moore of Marketplace explains what JPMorgan Chase did. In layman's terms. ...

... Eric Wasson of The Hill: "Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who has been leading the fight to create a strong Volcker rule, sounded confident he may now have the upper hand. 'The price will be they will lose their battle in Washington to weaken the rule,' he said, in an appearance ["Meet the Press."] Levin warned that the Treasury department appears intent on allowing the kind of risky $100 billion bet that JPMorgan made, and that allowing rules to be watered down could risk another massive taxpayer funded bailout of the banking system that was needed during the 2008 financial crisis." CW: You go, Timmy. ...

... Watch Jamie Squirm under David Gregory's devastating questioning. Ha ha:

... Alex Pareene: "Let’s put JPMorgan Chase chairman, president and CEO James 'Jamie' Dimon on trial... Let’s haul him before a judge (I would be fine with Judge Judy) and ask him to explain, without jargon, what positive role JPMorgan plays for the American and world economies that a few much smaller, less leveraged firms couldn't also play while not being at risk of losing billions of dollars by accident in a 'hedge' and sending world markets reeling."

... "Too Crooked to Fail.: Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "At least Bank of America got its name right. The ultimate Too Big to Fail bank really is America, a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we'll all be paying for until the end of time. Did you hear about the plot to rig global interest rates? The $137 million fine for bilking needy schools and cities? The ingenious plan to suck multiple fees out of the unemployment checks of jobless workers? Take your eyes off them for 10 seconds and guaranteed, they'll be into some shit again."

CW: haven't read it all yet, & I'm aware of the general story, but Jeff Toobin's long blow-by-blow of how Chief Justice John Roberts engineered the Citizens United case promises to be entertaining & maddening. ...

... Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker makes a prediction: "There are four same-sex marriage lawsuits making their way toward the Supreme Court now.... In 1956, the Supreme Court declined to take a case challenging interracial-marriage laws; by 1967, it had to. And, eventually, the Court will do the right thing on same-sex marriage, just as the President did last week. As in the [1967] Loving decision, the Court will reaffirm that the 'freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.' And it will finally uphold that freedom for gay and lesbian American."

Katy Waldman in Slate on the eight times a U.S. vice president did something that mattered.

Presidential Race

A thank-you note from Andrew Sullivan & Tina Brown of Newsweek. Sullivan has the cover story, which isn't up yet at this writing, and I won't be looking for it. Still, eat your heart out, Willard. You will not be getting an MSM cover -- ever -- in which a halo appears above your perfect hair. ...

... Peter Baker & Rachel Swarns of the New York Times: "In the hours following Mr. Obama’s politically charged announcement on Wednesday, the president and his team embarked on a quiet campaign to contain the possible damage among religious leaders and voters. He also reached out to one or more of the five spiritual leaders he calls regularly for religious guidance, and his aides contacted other religious figures who have been supportive in the past. The damage-control effort underscored the anxiety among Mr. Obama's advisers about the consequences of the president's revised position just months before what is expected to be a tight re-election vote." ...

... Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama's declaration last week that he supports same-sex marriage prompted ministers around the country to take to their pulpits on Sunday and preach on the issue. But in the clash over homosexuality, the battle ... is actually church versus church, minister versus minister, and Scripture versus Scripture."

Ken Thomas of the AP: "President Barack Obama is casting Mitt Romney as a greedy, job-killing corporate titan with little concern for the working class in a new, multi-pronged effort that seeks to undermine the central rationale for his Republican rival's candidacy: his business credentials. At the center of the push -- the president's most forceful attempt yet to sully Romney before the November election -- is a biting new TV ad airing Monday that recounts through interviews with former workers the restructuring, and ultimate demise, of a Kansas City, Mo., steel mill under the Republican's private equity firm." ...

... "We view Mitt Romney as a jobs destroyer." New Obama campaign TV ad:

     ... The accompanying Web page.

Earlier this month, Matt Viser & Tracy Jan of the Boston Globe wondered about Romney's plan to regulate Wall Street: "Republican Mitt Romney is pledging, if he is elected president, to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, a position favored by donors on Wall Street who have sent millions the candidate's way. But he is nearly silent on how -- without the regulation -- he would prevent Wall Street from once again engaging in the risky practices that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis." ...

... The J.P. Morgan news should sharpen the contrast between the two candidates considerably, and gives new meaning to Romney's frequent claim that he wants to 'get government out of the way' and let the free market work its magic. -- Greg Sargent

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "As he prepares to release his scaled-back version of the DREAM Act, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is simultaneously laying the groundwork to blame the White House for its impending failure — and Democrats appear to be falling into his trap.... Blaming the White House papers over the fact that Republicans have fiercely opposed measures that benefit people living in the country illegally.... Even so, administration officials and top Democrats may be playing into Rubio's hands by resisting his effort.... Rubio's [purpose] is to obfuscate a clear and important distinction between the two parties among a key constituency that may potentially swing the outcome of what is expected to be a close election."

"Chaos in Tampa." Steve Kornacki of Salon: At the Arizonia Republican convention this past weekend, Ron Pau' supporters booed Willard's son Josh Romney off the stage (or they didn't, depending on whom you believe). Anyhoo, "This weekend brought another reminder of the real threat that Ron Paul and his supporters pose to Mitt Romney: Chaos in Tampa."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Despite their hard line in public, German policy makers, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have begun to hint at some flexibility on the deep and painful budget cuts European officials have demanded. In Greece, despite outrage at the cost of carrying out European demands for austerity, few seem prepared to argue that the costs of leaving the euro -- and perhaps severing political ties to Europe -- are really bearable."

New York Times: "A bill that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado was defeated on Monday night during a special legislative session called by Gov. John W. Hickenlooper to debate the issue. The legislation was voted down by Republican lawmakers on 5-to-4 vote along party lines after more than two hours of emotional testimony in the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, where it was assigned Monday by Republican leadership in the House of Representatives." Denver Post story here.

AP: "The judge overseeing the criminal trial of John Edwards will sharply curtail the testimony of a key witness for the defense who could raise doubt about whether the former presidential candidate broke campaign finance laws."

AP: "Best Buy's founder Richard Schulze is stepping down as chairman of the beleaguered consumer-electronics chain after the company's investigation revealed that he failed to alert the board of directors when he learned that the CEO was having an inappropriate relationship with a female employee."

New York Times: today California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) "announced that the [state budget] shortfall had shot up ... from $9.2 billion in January, blaming a drop in revenue caused by a bad economy and court rulings barring spending cuts the state had approved. He proposed $8.3 billion in cuts, slashing welfare, social services and health care for the elderly, and a 5 percent cut in hours for state employees."

NBC News: "Texas Rep. Ron Paul said Monday that he'll cease campaigning in upcoming caucuses and primaries, an announcement of symbolic, if not substantive, significance."

NY1 News: "President Barack Obama is coming to [New York] City Monday to deliver the commencement address at all-female Barnard College and attend two high-profile fundraisers." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama's commencement speech at Barnard College on Monday highlighted the role of women in public life, a return to gender-gap identity politics that Democrats are hoping will benefit them in the coming election." See video of speech in Tuesday's Commentariat.

New York Times: "Yahoo's embattled chief executive, Scott Thompson, stepped down on Sunday after just four months on the job, sending the flailing company into limbo once again even as it faces intensifying competition from the likes of Facebook and Google for the attention of Web users. Mr. Thompson, who left amid a continuing inquiry into his academic credentials, will be replaced on an interim basis by Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo's global head of media...." ...

... The Atlantic: "The Wall Street Journal reports that shortly before stepping down as CEO, Scott Thompson told Yahoo's board that he was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer.... While the health issue allowed him to cite 'personal reasons' as the impetus for his departure..., Yahoo is officially designating his departure as 'for cause.' The termination with cause means that Thompson will not be entitled to his full severance package."

Washington Post: "The embarrassing losses at megabank JPMorgan Chase reverberated in Washington, Wall Street and on the campaign trail Sunday, with JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon acknowledging that the bank 'made a terrible, egregious mistake' by dismissing worrisome signs earlier this year about the bank's trading strategy. JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, was poised on Sunday to accept the resignations of three executives involved in the botched strategy.... Elizabeth Warren ... called on Dimon to resign from the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a critical interlocutor between Wall Street and Washington." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Stung by a huge trading loss, JPMorgan Chase will replace three top traders starting Monday, including one of the top women on Wall Street, in an effort to stem the ire that the bank faces from regulators and investors." ...

     ... New York Times Update 2: "Ina Drew, the chief investment officer who presided over JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion trading loss announced last week, has retired from the bank, according to a statement on Monday.... Two of Ms. Drew's lieutenants, Achilles Macris and Javier Martin-Artajo, are also expected to resign."

Reuters: "Greece's president met little enthusiasm from political leaders summoned to a final round of talks on Monday to avert a new election, reinforcing fears the country was firmly on the path to bankruptcy and an exit from the euro zone. European shares slid and Spanish and Italian bond yields rose as the political deadlock threatened to reignite the euro zone debt crisis. Greek banking stocks tumbled 7 percent."

AP: "Forty-nine bodies with their heads, hands and feet hacked off were found Sunday dumped on a northern Mexico highway leading to the Texas border in what appeared to be the latest carnage in an escalating war between Mexico's two dominant drug cartels."

AP: "China accused the Dalai Lama of being deceitful Monday after he reportedly alleged that Chinese agents trained Tibetan women to assassinate him by planting poison in their hair for him to touch during blessings. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Tibetan spiritual leader's allegations, reported in the London-based Sunday Telegraph newspaper, were not worth refuting, but added that he generally spreads false information."


The Commentariat -- May 13, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's fact-free ruminations. The guy is almost as talented as Willard at making up stuff. The NYTX front page is here.

William Black gets into the nitty-gritty of the Times' flawed reporting on the European economic crisis, which boils down to (a) they view it solely from the German perspective, and (b) they don't read Krugman so they don't understand where the problems lie.

** "Capitalists & Other Psychopaths." William Deresiewicz, in a New York Times op-ed: "A recent study found that 10 percent of people who work on Wall Street are 'clinical psychopaths,' exhibiting a lack of interest in and empathy for others and an 'unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, and manipulation.' ... Ethics in capitalism is purely optional, purely extrinsic." CW: this really is a must-read. And it sure helped me understand why Mitt Romney is such a facile liar.

Tom Friedman: philosopher Michael Sandel argues that "market values are crowding out civic practices."

My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks. -- President Barack Obama, to Wall Street fat cats, Spring 2009

Peter Boyer & Peter Schweitzer in Newsweek: "Despite his populist posturing, the president has failed to pin a single top finance exec on criminal charges since the economic collapse. Are the banks too big to jail — or is Washington’s revolving door at to blame?" Follow the money. ...

... Glenn Greenwald: "But the worst part of it all is that Obama is going to spend the next six months deceitfully parading around as some sort of populist hero standing up for ordinary Americans and the safety net against big business, and hordes of people who know how false that is will echo it as loudly and repeatedly as they can, tricking many people who don't know better into believing it." ...

... A pretty funny and informative post by Jessica Pressler of New York magazine on "Dimonfreude." ...

... AND Matt Yglesias: JPMorgan loses $2 billion in massive failed effort to exploit Volcker Rule loophole."

Joe Romm of Think Progress: think climatologists are exaggerating the effects of climate change? Actually, they've been downplaying it for decades.

Dean Baker & Kevin Hassett in a New York Times op-ed: "The American economy is experiencing a crisis in long-term unemployment that has enormous human and economic costs.... Policy makers must come together and recognize that this is an emergency, and fashion a comprehensive re-employment policy that addresses the specific needs of the long-term unemployed.

N. C. Aizenman of the Washington Post: "In about two dozen states across the country, the insurance marketplaces at the heart of the 2010 health-care law remain in limbo, with Republican governors or lawmakers who oppose the statute refusing to act until the Supreme Court decides its constitutionality. New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, joined the ranks Thursday,vetoing a bill from the majority Democratic legislature that would have set up the Garden State's version of the 'exchanges,' through which individuals and small businesses could shop for insurance."

In a New Yorker post, novelist Edmund White remembers his time at Cranbrook.

Matt Williams of the Guardian: "A leading Republican pollster has pushed for a party rethink on gay marriage, stressing the conservative nature of encouraging commitment between same-sex couples. In a memo to GOP operatives, Jan van Lohuizen -- a former public opinion researcher for George Bush -- notes a shift in attitudes towards gay marriage and calls for a Republican response."

David Maraniss in the Washington Post: "Obama is his mother's son." ...

... AND Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post: Anna Jarvis, who was the driving force behind the celebration of Mothers Day, eventually came to despise it because of its commercialization. Jarvis got Congress to designate Mothers Day, and later joined her sister in spending the family assets to try to end it. Jarvis had no children.

Presidential Race

War-Weary Vets. Margot Roosevelt of Reuters: "Disaffection with the politics of shock and awe runs deep among men and women who have served in the military during the past decade of conflict.... If the election were held today, Obama would win the veteran vote by as much as seven points over Romney, higher than his margin in the general population."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Obama's stance [against gay marriage] in 2008 was a product of careful cost-benefit analysis, and so, I would wager, was his reversal yesterday.... Make no mistake, he has handed a wedge issue to an opposing party that has a long history of successfully exploiting them." ...

Maureen Dowd: Obama's "embrace of gay marriage was not a profile in courage."

Don Melvin & Rod McGuirk of the AP: "In a world weary of war and economic crises, and concerned about global climate change, the consensus is that Obama has not lived up to the lofty expectations that surrounded his 2008 election and Nobel Peace Prize a year later. Many in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America were also taken aback by his support for gay marriage, a taboo subject among religious conservatives. But the Democrat still enjoys broad international support. In large part, it's because of unfavorable memories of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, and many people would still prefer Obama over his presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney."

Zack Ford of Think Progress: Mitt Romney's support of same-sex adoption lasts one day.

Frank Rich: Romney isn't qualified to be a dictator.

Local News

Gary Fineout of the AP: Florida "Gov. Rick Scott's embattled chief of staff abruptly resigned from his job on Saturday following a series of news stories detailing his job performance and handling of contracts. Steve MacNamara said in his resignation letter that he would step down from his post July 1.... The Associated Press recently reported that while working for the Senate, MacNamara helped steer a $360,000 no-bid consulting contract to a friend who now leads a task force rooting out state government waste. The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times this week wrote a series of additional stories about other contracts and how MacNamara clashed with one agency head.... Several top agency heads -- who were hired by Scott when he first took office -- wound up resigning within months of MacNamara's arrival." You can find the Miami Herald background stories here.

News Ledes

AP: "California's budget deficit has swelled to a projected $16 billion -- much larger than had been predicted just months ago -- and will force severe cuts to schools and public safety if voters fail to approve tax increases in November, Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday."

New York Times: "Mullah Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban minister who was an important go-between in potential peace talks, was shot and killed on Sunday as he headed to a government meeting on reconciliation, Afghan officials said."

New York Times: "In the face of spiraling costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, the State Department has slashed -- and may jettison entirely by the end of the year -- a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here."

New York Times: "China's central bank announced late Saturday that it would loosen monetary policy in a clear effort to stimulate the economy after the release on Thursday and Friday of a batch of economic indicators for April that were considerably weaker than most economists had expected."

Al Jazeera: "Israel and the Palestinian Authority have issued a rare joint statement saying both are committed to peace, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched an envoy to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu's office issued the joint statement on Saturday after envoy Yitzhak Molcho met Abbas in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority's administrative capital."

Al Jazeera: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks poised for a setback as polls show the country's most populous state will likely vote in favour of a centre-left government, which she has sought to label as irresponsibly spendthrift. A week after voters in Greece and France clearly plumped for anti-austerity policies, the citizens of North Rhine-Westphalia could also punish conservative champions of belt-tightening."