Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President highlighted the progress our economy is making, and the commonsense policies that could make it even stronger by ensuring that everyone who works hard has the opportunity to get ahead, especially women and working families":

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, October 31, 2014.

Reuters: "The ringleader of a beating ritual that led to the death of a Florida college marching band member was convicted on Friday of manslaughter and felony hazing, the first case to go to trial in an incident that drew national attention to hazing abuses. A jury convicted percussionist Dante Martin, 27, for his role in a November 2011 ritual involving the Florida A&M University's celebrated 'Marching 100' band that led to the death of Robert Champion, a 26-year-old drum major." ...

... CW: Why are these college students so old?

Los Angeles Times: "Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, part of a commercial space venture founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, crashed during testing Friday, according to a Mojave Air and Space Port spokesperson and the FAA. At least one person was killed." MSNBC is saying two were injured as well.

New York Times: "Less than a day after restricting the movements of a nurse who treated Ebola victims in West Africa, a judge in Maine has lifted the measures, rejecting arguments by the State of Maine that a quarantine was necessary to protect the public. Within an hour of the decision, state troopers who had been parked outside the nurse’s house for days had left. The order, signed on Friday by Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere, the chief judge for the Maine District Courts who serves in Kennebec and Somerset counties, said the nurse, Kaci Hickox, 'currently does not show symptoms of Ebola and is therefore not infectious.' The order requires Ms. Hickox to submit to daily monitoring for symptoms, to coordinate her travel with state health officials, and to notify them immediately if symptoms appear. Ms. Hickox has agreed to follow the requirements.” Thanks to James S. for the link.

AP: "Eric Frein, 31, appeared gaunt and battered as he answered yes or no questions and listened as a judge read the criminal complaint detailing the Sept. 12 attack that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and critically wounded Trooper Alex Douglass."

Washington Post: "Russia agreed Thursday to resume selling natural gas to Ukraine, ending a cutoff.... The stopgap deal will secure critical energy supplies for Ukraine through March and will also help assure European countries that their own natural gas supply will not be disrupted during chilly winter months."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
October 31

9:15 am ET: President Obama & Michelle Obama greet the kids for trick or treat (CW: looks like the time is wrong on this; the video has a countdown which shows the event won't occur for about 8 hours)

11:10 am ET: President Obama speaks about the economy

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

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

Rolling Stone: Jon Stewart that NBC News approached him about hosting "Meet the Press.": "My guess is they were casting as wide and as weird a net as they could. I'm sure part of them was thinking, 'Why don't we just make it a variety show?'"

We're Fairly Wonderful, and the Boss Sucks. Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill & John Cook: "Matt Taibbi, who joined First Look Media just seven months ago, left the company on Tuesday. His departure ... was the culmination of months of contentious disputes with First Look founder Pierre Omidyar, chief operating officer Randy Ching, and president John Temple over the structure and management of Racket, the digital magazine Taibbi was hired to create. Those disputes were exacerbated by a recent complaint from a Racket employee about Taibbi’s behavior as a manager." ...

... CW: This article is an extraordinary exercise in using a publication's content to bitch about the publication's financial backer. Let's see if Omidyar just takes his own money & runs.

He Took the Money & Ran. New York Times: When Credit Suisse erroneously dropped $1.5MM in the business account of hedge-fund manager Joseph Galbraith, Galbraith kept the money & has moved to parts unknown. He has not completely disappeared as he's had contact with the New York Times (directly or indirectly): in an e-mail he called Credit Suisse's suit against him “ridiculous, bordering on laughable.”

Andrew Rice of New York: "Matt Taibbi, the star magazine writer hired earlier this year to start a satirical website for billionaire Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, is on a leave of absence from the company after disagreements with higher-ups inside Omidyar's organization, a source close to First Look confirmed today. Taibbi's abrupt disappearance from the company's Fifth Avenue headquarters has cast doubt on the fate of his highly anticipated digital publication, reportedly to be called Racket, which First Look executives had previously said would launch sometime this autumn." CW: Ah, "creative differences." ...

     ... "UPDATE: Taibbi has left the company."

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

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

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowden, The Movie:

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Monday
Jul302012

The Commentariat -- July 31, 2012

** Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "a personal note about ObamaCare and my recent absence." ...

... For Some, the Check Is in the Mail. Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: the Affordable Care Act "requires insurers to give out annual rebates by Aug. 1, starting this year, if less than 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect go toward medical care. For insurers covering large employers, the threshold is 85 percent. As a result, insurers will pay out $1.1 billion this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, although not all of it will go to individuals."

Via Digby:

... Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) lets a lawyer for the Koch-funded Cato Institute have it. Whitehouse is a former prosecutor, & it shows, big-time. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link:

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "The deep federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the start of next year may trigger dismissal notices for tens of thousands of employees of government contractors..., and the warnings may start going out ... days before the presidential election.... Obama administration officials say that the threat of layoffs is overblown and that Republicans are playing up the possibility rather than trying to head it off.... Republicans reacted with fury, saying it is the White House that is playing politics."

Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: Paul "Ryan is either a radical or a fraud."

Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones posts a lot of charts, which -- all told -- add up to this:  

Despite raking in such a large share of the national income, our nation's über-wealthy pay very little in taxes by global standards. -- Josh Harkinson

 

Sorry to be late with this, but it's worth reading Charles Pierce's reflections on -- mostly -- the Sunday shows. And let me just say that the fact ABC "News" would give Dana Loesch a prominent place to air her views suggests to me that the FCC should yank its broadcast licenses today.

New York Times Editors: "According to [a] study [released by Sen. Tom Harkin {D-Iowa}], taxpayers poured about $32 billion into for-profit colleges in the most recent year -- much of it spent on marketing or pocketed as profit. Meanwhile, 96 percent of their students were forced to take out loans, as opposed to about 13 percent in community colleges and 48 percent in four-year public colleges. A majority leave without degrees. And while the for-profit sector accounts for only about 13 percent of enrollment nationally, it accounts for nearly half the loan defaults." The overview of Sen. Harkin's investigative report is here, with links to particulars.

Think Progress: " A Pew Research Center ... poll, taken after the Colorado shooting, shows that 47 percent of Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, compared to 46 percent who say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns. While Pew calls this 'no significant change' from April numbers, it does represent a 5-point swing since their previous poll...."

Ian Millhiser: once again Senate Republicans filibuster an Obama judicial nominee who has strong bipartisan support. Just because.

Prof. Colin Carter & Dr. Henry Miller in a New York Times op-ed: "By suspending renewable-fuel standards that were unwise from the start, the Environmental Protection Agency could divert vast amounts of corn from inefficient ethanol production back into the food chain, where market forces and common sense dictate it should go." CW: Miller is with the conservative Hoover Institution, but I think he's right.

Whistleblowers Can Be Obnoxious. Eric Lichtblau & Scott Shane of the New York Times on Robert Smith, the radiologist & lawyer at the center of an F.D.A. spying scandal.

Do not lie to Harry Reid.

Presidential Race

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "President Obama hinted Monday evening that his re-election campaign will transition to a more positive and forward-looking message by the end of next month and into the fall. Obama told a group of high-dollar donors at a New York City fundraiser that he intends to spend 'a lot of time talking about the specific agenda that I intend to pursue in the second term.'"

Julián Aguilar & Zoë Gioja of the Texas Tribune: "San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who was jokingly mistaken for a White House intern by Barack Obama less than three years ago, will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that will nominate the president for a second term."

... Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe: at this year's Democratic National Convention, "Elizabeth Warren ... will speak immediately before Bill Clinton speaks on what party officials hope will be an energetic penultimate night. Warren and Clinton will speak in prime time on Wednesday, Sept. 5...."

Jim Acosta of CNN: "The traveling press secretary for Mitt Romney lost his cool and cursed at reporters who attempted to ask questions of the Republican presidential candidate in a public plaza near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw Tuesday."

Steve Holland of Reuters: "Solidarity, the trade union movement which led the Polish struggle against communist rule, distanced itself on Monday from a visit to Poland by U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, saying he supported attacks on unions in his own country." But former Polish President Lech Walesa, who has broken with Solidarity (so not so solid), practically endorsed Romney. Current "Polish leaders enjoy fairly strong ties with the Obama White House."

NPR's Cokie Roberts says Romney was going to Poland to get out the white vote back home. AND the wingers wig out.

What a difference a candidate makes:

Pushback. Dana Davidsen of CNN: "Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said the Obama White House has been the most supportive administration throughout the two countries' diplomatic relations on matters of Israeli security, in an interview to air Monday on 'The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.' Barak -- also a former prime minister of Israel -- said that though historically administrations from both political parties have supported the Jewish state President Obama's support, security-wise, is unparalleled." Watch Blitzer -- he's so astounded you expect him to spit the GOP Kool-Aid he's been drinking:

Mitt Gives the Thumbs-up to Socialized Medicine. It's totally cost-effective! Charles Dharapak Zeke Miller of BuzzFeed: "Mitt Romney offered praise for the Israeli health care system today -- a medical plan that has been socialized since its founding in 1948. Romney ... marveled at how little Israel spends on health care relative to the United States." CW: Yes, it is marvelous, Mitt. Now, tell us why that is. ...

... Digby adds, "Don't tell Mitt but it's funded with a progressive health care tax." Thanks to contributor Janice K. for the link. ...

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post has more: "Israel regulates its health care system aggressively, requiring all residents to carry insurance and capping revenue for various parts of the country’s health care system.... Israel's lower health care spending does not look to sacrifice the quality of care. It has made more improvements than the United States on numerous quality metrics, and the country continues to have a higher life expectancy." With charts! ...

... Jon Walker of Firedoglake: "While heavy government price control is the 'secret' to Israel’s lower health care costs, the simple fact is that it is the same secret used by every other first world country to keep costs down."

... Here's the Bottom Line. Romney Doesn't Know What He's Talking about. Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "So was Romney simply clueless about the details of Israeli health care? Was he too busy trying to ingratiate himself with his hosts to pay attention? Or does he secretly think government-run health care has its virtues? I don't know -- and I'm not sure Romney does either."

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon on Romney's "analysis" of Israeli v. Palestinian culture: "... as Romney often likes to remind us, government restrictions on commerce can be bad for the economy, and there are probably few places on earth where commerce is more restricted than in the Palestinian territories.... Meanwhile, Romney vastly underestimated the economic gulf between the two economies. He guessed the gross domestic product per capita difference between Israel and the Palestinian territories to be about two-to-one, along the lines of the U.S. to Mexico. But in fact it's more like 20-to-one. Israel's GDP per capita is about $31,000 compared to just $1,5000 [sic.; that's $1,500] for West Bank and Gaza, according to the World Bank." ...

... CW: as a couple of commenters to Seitz-wald's post pointed out, Romney's crediting the Jewish "culture" for creating a higher GDP than Palestine's is just his way of stereotyping Jews as good businesspeople. ...

... Ashley Parker & Richard Oppel of the New York Times report on the controversy. "Throughout the day, Mr. Romney's aides were grim-faced and exasperated as they tried to contain the aftermath of what Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist, called 'a completely manufactured story.'" ...

... Scott Wilson's report for the Washington Post has the same gist: "Romney has tried to follow an unwritten rule of American campaigning: Don’t criticize the president while on foreign soil. But he has struggled with another unwritten rule -- one that applies to travel more generally: It is also a bad idea to criticize foreigners while on foreign soil." ...

... Dan Amira of New York: "Mitt Romney is now two-for-two in insulting large swaths of people during his international tour. After he enraged the British..., Romney moved on to Israel, where he appeared to blame Palestinian poverty in part on 'providence' and the territory's inferior culture.... Ignoring Israel's role [in impoverishing Palestine] is a major omission if one is actually trying to explain the differences in GDP-per-capita between Israel and Palestine. Of course, an accurate and thorough analysis was not Mitt's goal." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "John McCain refuses to believe that Mitt Romney said what he said." McCain actually defended Romney's remarks about Palestine, because, as he said, 'I am sure that Gov. Romney was not talking about difference in cultures, or difference in anybody superior or inferior.' It's "worth keeping in mind when you consider the fact that McCain not only vouched for Romney today, but he's also vouched for Romney's tax returns as well."

Secret Mitt's Secret Audits Shall Remain Secret. CNN: "Mitt Romney's campaign said Monday they would not release any more of the candidate's personal income tax information, despite an acknowledgement from Romney that he had been audited in the past." CW: actually, he said "from time to time."

Jonathan Chait of New York: actually, no, Romney isn't a wimp. ...

... Alex Pareene of Salon: he's a bully. And he doesn't care what John McCain thinks. And Barack Obama doesn't care what John McCain thinks. But if you care, the answer is "bomb everywhere forever." ...

... In Stupid v. Evil, Stupid Gets the Last Word. Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: after Dick Cheney said McCain's choice of Sarah Palin was a mistake, McCain reminds Fox "News" viewers that Cheney was America's Torturer-in-Chief.

Different Cast, Same Story. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "The star of the most recent Mitt Romney campaign ad criticizing President Barack Obama for arguing that government can play a constructive role in helping business has major business dealings with government entities."

Local News

New York Times Editors: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (RTP) & a Tea Party-associated group are trying to oust the only three state Supreme Court justices appointed by Democrats. "If the three justices lose their retention battle..., it would ... send a message of intimidation undermining judicial independence and impartiality...."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "Republican congressional investigators have concluded that five senior ATF officials -- from the special agent-in-charge of the Phoenix field office to the top man in the bureau's Washington headquarters -- are collectively responsible for the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation that was /marred by missteps, poor judgments and inherently reckless strategy.'"

AP: "The two Republicans vying for the U.S. Senate nomination in Texas spent the final hours of their white-hot runoff race rallying their bases Monday, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst making a hard appeal to veterans and tea party-backed Ted Cruz taking his anti-establishment message to radio and television stations." ...

     ... Houston Chronicle Update: "Texas' drift toward the Tea Party brand of GOP conservatism continued Tuesday when lawyer Ted Cruz scored a surprisingly easy win over David Dewhurst in the Republican primary runoff for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison."

Washington Post: "Syria’s top diplomat to Britain defected Monday, according to the British Foreign Office..., as tens of thousands fled heavy fighting in Aleppo, the most populous city in the country and its commercial capital."

AP: "India's energy crisis cascaded over half the country Tuesday when three of its regional grids collapsed, leaving more than 600 million people without government-supplied electricity in one of the world's biggest-ever blackouts."

Washington Post: "Japan raised concern Tuesday about China's growing assertiveness in regional waters at a time when it's becoming less clear who in Beijing is making decisions about the military."

New York Times: "Tony Martin, the debonair baritone whose career spanned some 80 years in films and nightclubs and on radio and television, died on Friday at his home in West Los Angeles. He was 98."

Sunday
Jul292012

The Commentariat -- July 30, 2012

New York Times Editors: "A new Republican spending proposal revives some of the more extreme attacks on women's health and freedom that were blocked by the Senate earlier in this Congress. The resurrection is part of an alarming national crusade that goes beyond abortion rights and strikes broadly at women's health in general.... Even [though Speaker Boehner has postponed consideration of the bill], the subcommittee's anti-woman work product is a statement of Republican policy.... There is a striking overlap between the subcommittee's regressive politics and the polices espoused by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. That makes it a window on what a Romney presidency could mean for women’s rights and lives."

Daniel Devise of the Washington Post: "A Senate committee that successfully pressed for tighter regulation of the for-profit higher-education sector published a report Sunday that said the business had put shareholders before students."

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: "... half of the nation's adjustable-rate home mortgages are based on" the Libor index. "That's a lot of money resting on an interest rate that turns out to have been rigged." But A.R.M.s used to be tied to a federal index. Wall Street changed that, for Wall Street.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post: "A U.S. initiative to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects in Afghanistan ... is running so far behind schedule that it will not yield benefits until most U.S. combat forces have departed the country, according to a government inspection report to be released Monday. The report, by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, also concludes that the Afghan government will not have the money or skill to maintain many of the projects, creating an 'expectations gap' among the population that could harm overall stabilization efforts."

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker profiles Paul Ryan. Or "What We're in for if the GOP Wins Big in November."

Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post: half the money spent on the 2012 election so far has been "dark money" -- donated to groups that don't reveal the names of their donors. CW: laughably, the conservatives on the Supremes said in their Citizens United decision that transparency would be a guarantee against corruption. Scalia said the same thing in his CNN appearance last week -- but that didn't stop him from ruling against Montana's election finance law without even hearing arguments.

Ron Brownstein, writing in the Atlantic, says "Obama would be foolish not to pursue gun control.... Among the voters who might actually vote for Obama (particularly minorities and college-educated white women), restrictions on gun ownership still attract solid majority support." ...

... AND Justice Scalia ruminates on the teevee about the limitations of the Second Amendment. "'Yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed,' he said. 'What they are will depend on what the society understood was reasonable limitation' when the Constitution was written. He cited, for example, a misdemeanor at the time, of carrying a frightening looking weapon such as a 'head ax'." CW: can anybody see anything wrong with limiting Constitutional interpretation to what it meant to wealthy white men 225 years ago? If you can, you're smarter than a Supreme Court justice.

** Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "... a team of genealogists is ... saying that Mr. Obama's mother had, in addition to her European ancestors, at least one African forebear and that the president is most likely descended from one of the first documented African slaves in the United States." CW: The Ancestry.com page that has links to the pdfs on Obama's slave ancestor is here; however, when I tried the links, the files did not come up, perhaps because the pages are overloaded. I'll try later.

Presidential Race

Obama wants to take my money and give it to do-nothing animals. -- Republican Matron at a Dick Morris party ...

... This whole idea of American exceptionalism, that we're the greatest, when people don't have health insurance, don't have housing. There are all these people in this country who are just not participating in the American Dream at all.... Right now, for some bizarre reason, a lot of these people are supporting Republicans who want to cut taxes on the wealthy. At some point, if we keep doing this, their numbers are going to keep swelling, it won't be an Obama or a Romney. It will be a ­Hollande. A Chávez. -- Jeff Greene, crass billionaire Democrat who gets it ...

... Jessica Pressler of New York interviews Jeff Greene at his Hamptons estate.

When Even Politico Gets It. Emily Schultheis of Politico: "At least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012.... Perhaps an even bigger complication than the laws themselves is that so much of the voter legislation around the country is in flux, and could still be by Election Day." ...

... AND don't forget about longstanding laws. "A Lifetime Sentence." Washington Post Editors: "... laws in 11 states ... disenfranchise felons.... "About 7.7 percent of the African American voting-age population is disenfranchised, compared with 1.8 percent of the non-African American population. In Virginia, Kentucky and Florida, felon disenfranchisement affects a staggering one in five African Americans. There's no excuse for that."

Beth Fouhy of the AP: "Former President Bill Clinton will have a marquee role in this summer's Democratic National Convention, where he will make a forceful case for President Barack Obama's re-election and his economic vision for the country."

Not Enough Kiss-Ass. Jason Zengerle of New York: "... now that Obamamania has subsided, the president and his fund-raisers are discovering that they're not exempt from the usual rules of what's politely called 'donor maintenance.' Some top-level 2008 backers complain about not being sought out for policy advice. Others carp that they haven't been invited to any state dinners." CW: Just one more argument for campaign finance reform.

They Know They Have to Lie to Win. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post on Romney's newest false ad: "In any case, the Romney campaign clearly ripped these words out of context, leaving them untethered from their original meaning -- in order to score political points in a highly misleading way. Obama was not talking about today's economy, but about different philosophies of taxation."

** Michael Tomasky in Newsweek's cover story on "what's really wrong with Romney. He's kind of lame, and he's really ... annoying. He keeps saying these ... things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately -- with all the sincerity of a hostage. Or maybe he doesn't: sometimes he whines about the subsequent attacks on him. But the one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker writes a brief review of Romney's visit to Israel, in which he did not, as Andy Borowitz claims, attempt to deposit $10 million at the West Bank. ...

... Foot, Permanently Inserted in Mouth. Aside from declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel & having a top advisor (Dan Senor, a/k/a Mr. Campbell Brown) who told the media that Romney endorsed Israel's unilateral action again Iran (something Romney himself later walked back), there's this. Kasie Hunt & Karin Laub of the AP: "Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who suggested his comments were racist and out of touch with the realities of the Middle East. His campaign later said his remarks were mischaracterized." CW: This guy cannot even pander without grossly insulting somebody. So far, during his three-country excursion, Romney has said the British people may not be up to snuff & the Palestinians definitely are not. On to Poland! If he doesn't explain why it takes 5 Poles to change a lightbulb, I'm going to be very disappointed. ...

     ... Update: the New York Times has just published a "Caucus" blogpost by Ashley Parker. Lede: "Mitt Romney found himself on the defensive yet again on his overseas trip, this time after offending Palestinian leaders with comments he made at a breakfast fund-raiser here on Monday."

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "In an interview with ABC News' David Muir, Romney was unable to say whether he'd ever paid less than his 2010 rate of 13.9 percent, which is a lower rate than many middle-class Americans pay. However, he assured voters that he hasn't been overpaying his taxes...." The transcript of the interview is here. The bit about the taxes is on page 2, the linked page. Here's the video. The discussion of taxes begins at 2:20 min. in:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sought Sunday to portray the United States and Israel as unified in their support for increasingly tough international sanctions, rather than military measures, against Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon.... Panetta is to arrive in Israel on Tuesday, just days after a visit by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose campaign has tried to suggest that the Obama administration is not sufficiently supportive of Israel."

Raflaca, Doing Her Bit for the 1 Percent. Mary Mycio, in Slate: "The association between horses and wealth was forged millennia ago. In fact, the first people known to celebrate hierarchies of power, whose inequalities of wealth were integral to their society and culture -- the people you could call the first 1 percent -- were the first people to ride horses."

News Ledes

Washington Blade: "The Democratic Party platform drafting committee approved on Sunday language endorsing same-sex marriage in addition to other pro-LGBT positions as part of the Democratic Party platform, according to two sources familiar with the drafting process. Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank...."

Reuters: "The former graduate student accused of killing 12 people in a shooting spree at a Denver-area movie house was due to make a second court appearance on Monday as prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over a mysterious package sent to his psychiatrist.... Criminal charges against [James] Holmes, who has remained jailed since his arrest, were expected to be formally presented at Monday's hearing." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Colorado prosecutors formally charged James Eagan Holmes on Monday with 142 criminal counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and explosives charges in the shooting rampage at a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater this month."

AP: "Northern India's power grid crashed Monday, halting hundreds of trains, forcing hospitals and airports to use backup generators and leaving 370 million people -- more than the population of the United States and Canada combined -- sweltering in the summer heat."

Saturday
Jul282012

The Commentariat -- July 29, 2012

My column on Ross Douthat's Sunday sermon is up at the New York Times eXaminer. The NYTX front page is here.

** Prof. Drew Westen: "If Obama loses the election, here's why." CW: an excellent essay that lays out in one place the foolish mistakes Obama has made during his presidency. And, no, this isn't a case of hindsight being 20-20. Many of us here railed against these very mistakes as Obama was making them. There have been few disappointments in my life greater than watching a man with such potential turn himself into an ordinary pol. We can hope he's learned his lessons, but we have little in the way of assurances.

** Prof. Joe Stiglitz in the Los Angeles Times: "Any solution to today's problems requires addressing the economy's underlying weakness: a deficiency in aggregate demand. Firms won't invest if there is no demand for their products. And one of the key reasons for lack of demand is America's level of inequality -- the highest in the advanced countries." Read the whole essay: it's a straightforward prescription for repairing the economy, writ in very few, but easily understandable, words.

Prof. Richard Muller in a New York Times op-ed: "Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

Andrew Rosenthal really hates it when the White House misleads him, even on a trivial matter. In "The Great Bust Incident: Part II," he writes, "The complaints about Mr. Obama’s decision regarding the bust are without merit. The White House’s handling of the issue was bumbling and amateurish. In other words, business as usual." CW: I'm actually glad to see Rosenthal cares about trivialities.

Presidential Race

Rattling Somebody Else's Saber -- the Bellicose Candidate Abroad. Kasie Hunt of the AP: "Mitt Romney would respect an Israeli decision to make a unilateral military strike against Iran aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear capability, a top foreign policy adviser said Sunday as he outlined the aggressive posture the Republican presidential candidate will take toward Iran in a speech in Israel later in the day." ...

     ... Update: Here's the New York Times report on Romney's speech. Here's a more detailed report from Al Jazeera, along with a 9-minute video of Romney's speech.

... He Can't Handle a Photo-Op. Mitt 'looks forward to chatting" with Bibi about military options against Iran. Who "chats" about military strikes? Oh, somebody who doesn't give a damn about the little people who will inevitably die in any military operation:

Maureen Dowd writes a spot-on takedown of Mitt's Misadventures in Merry Olde England.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "... in a new USA Today-Gallup survey..., respondents gave Romney higher marks on every issue that voters say they care most about this year: the economy, jobs, taxes, the deficit. But President Obama crushed Romney -- 60 percent to 30 percent -- on the question of which of the two was more likeable.... In every election for the past two decades, the candidate viewed as more likable was also the one who won." ...

     ... CW: this is the counter-factual to racism; in the poll results Tumulty linked, dated July 9, the results were 64-26 in favor of Obama over Romney. When 64 percent of respondents say they find Obama more likable than Romney, I think you have to assume that at least 64 percent -- or almost 2/3rds -- of Americans do not hold overtly racist attitudes toward blacks (of course that's not 64 percent of white Americans). In view of what we've witnessed during the GOP primaries, I find that encouraging.

CW: since I don't look at the Huff Post unless someone else directs me there, I missed this piece by Jason Cherkis, which discusses Romney's days as a registered lobbyist for the Salt Lake Olympics Committee. Cherkis recalls some of the highlights of Romney's deals -- reported contemporaneously -- which transferred your tax dollars to SLC wheelers & dealers.

Still, the Salt Lake Olympics were All about Mitt. Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "Romney commissioned five separate official pins bearing his name and likeness, including one that had animals declaring 'Hey Mitt, we love you.' ... 'There have been plenty of big-headed CEOs for Olympic Games, but none has ever had his or her likeness on a pin,' says Ed Hula, a veteran Olympics pin collector told NPR.... Ken Bullock, who served with Romney on the board of the Olympic committee, later told NPR. 'He’s an opportunist. And he took advantage of [the games].'"

Pundits are getting around to what some wise Reality Chex contributors have been saying. Joan Walsh of Salon: could Romney's gaffosis "be more than entitlement and an odd personal style? I've found myself wondering over the course of the campaign whether Romney has some kind of personality disorder, so dissociated does he occasionally seem from the well-worn routines of normal human interaction. Maybe we should be asking to see his medical records and not just his tax returns. I don't mean to be flippant about that or insensitive to any kind of problem he may struggle with. But his struggles are our struggles; he's running to be our president. There is something very odd about Mitt Romney." ...

     ... CW: so maybe withholding the tax records is part of a scheme to distract the media from pressing for the medical records. ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "Mitt's insults, mistakes, and blunders abroad aren't gaffes. They actually represent his true worldview. Romney is not the sort of businessman -- his brand of capitalism is not the sort of enterprise -- that requires even the most elementary understanding of diplomacy, courtesy, or sensitivity to other people's values, lives, or perceptions."

Mittness Protection Program. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "... Mitt Romney, who touched down [in Jerusalem] Saturday night..., plans to wrap up his visit to Israel by collecting money from some of his biggest benefactors behind closed doors. Some of Romney's Jewish donors are flying here from the United States..., including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.... The campaign's decision to close the fundraiser to the press violates the ground rules it negotiated with news organizations in April...." ...

     ... Update: Mitt, Unchained! Jonathan Martin of Politico: "Mitt Romney's campaign has reversed a decision to not allow the media into a fundraiser here Monday morning, bowing to reporters' demand that they be allowed to record the Republican's address to some of his top donors."

Henry Alford of Vanity Fair imitates Mitt & takes an action-packed working vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee, all of which he recounts in a New York Times travel piece. Enjoyable.

Note to Vendors: Demand Cash for Services. David Levinthal & Robin Bravender of Politico: presidential also-rans stiff small businesses that provided services to their campaigns. Oh, whatever happened to financial responsibility?

Right Wing World

This piece by Farhad Manjoo of Slate debunks a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by former WSJ publisher Gordon Crovitz -- who claimed Xerox invented the internet and that 'It's an urban legend that the government launched the Internet," -- shows you how far from reality the right will wander -- with a straight face -- to deny the government's role in boosting the economy. ...

     ... CW: how are we to prosper, I wonder, when a significant percentage of our society is growing up in an environment that fosters fantastic, ideological explanations of scientific phenomena & historical events? I await the return of the alchemists. Maybe Dr. Ron Paul, now that he's retiring, will lead them.

The Ultimate Anti-War Ad: Compare the President to a Psychotic Killer. Katy Moeller of the Idaho Statesman: "An electronic board ... in Caldwell, [Idaho,] juxtaposes photos of James Holmes, accused of killing 12 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last week, with President Obama. About Holmes, it says: 'Kills 12 in a movie theater with assault rifle, everyone freaks out.' About Obama: 'Kills thousands with foreign policy, wins Nobel Peace Prize.' What's the point? Obama broke his promise to bring the troops home and many young Americans have died, said Maurice Clements, who is helping keep alive the provocative libertarian tradition of the late Ralph Smeed, whose billboard (now electronic) is a Caldwell landmark."

Local News

Tampa Bay Times columnist Daniel Ruth has a few thoughts on the Florida Republican party, which as far as I can tell is nothing but a Mafia-like gang of sleazy bastards on the take.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that Sarah Palin was not ready to be his successor and that picking her was 'a mistake' that Mitt Romney should seek to avoid in making his choice." With video.

Al Jazeera: "Fierce fighting has erupted in rebel-held districts of Aleppo, a day after opposition forces repulsed an offensive by government troops in Syria's second-largest city, a human rights group said." ...

... Reuters: "Exasperated by the slow progress [of rebellion] in Aleppo, rebels in the countryside said they were finally emboldened to push into the city after an assassination in the capital Damascus of four top government officials, including the defense minister."

Reuters: "A senior Israeli official denied on Sunday a newspaper report that President Barack Obama's national security adviser had briefed Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a U.S. contingency plan to attack Iran should diplomacy fail to curb its nuclear program. The Israeli liberal Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying the adviser, Thomas Donilon, had described the plan over dinner with Netanyahu earlier this month. 'Nothing in the article is correct. Donilon did not meet the prime minister for dinner, he did not meet him one-on-one, nor did he present operational plans to attack Iran,' the senior official ... told Reuters."

AFP: "Philippine authorities have arrested a founding member of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group blamed for some of the worst terror attacks in the region, security officials said on Sunday. Ustadz Ahmadsali Asmad Badron, also known as Ammad or Hamad Ustadz Idris, was arrested on Saturday in the remote Tawi-Tawi islands in the southern Philippines."

AP: "Tens of thousands including teachers and parents pushing strollers took to Hong Kong streets Sunday to protest the upcoming introduction of Chinese patriotism classes they fear will lead to brainwashing, the latest sign of growing discomfort over Beijing's influence in the semiautonomous territory."

Friday
Jul272012

The Commentariat -- July 28, 2012

P. D. Pepe, et al., inspired me. I just put up a NYTX column on David Brooks' Lessons from the Olympics. The NYTX from page is here.

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

On the Raid on Osama bin Ladin's Compound

At the end of the day, make no mistake about it, it was the president of the United States that shouldered the burden of this operation, that made the hard decision.... The president of the United States is fantastic. I'm not a political guy. I've worked in both [administrations,] very much enjoyed working with President Bush and I very much enjoy working for President Obama. This isn't about politics. This is about a Commander in Chief who I have the opportunity to engage with on a routine basis.... I'll tell you as an interested observer of this, [Obama's national security team] were magnificent how they handled this start-to-finish. The president asked all the right questions.... The president gave me ample time to prepare once the conversations were through. -- Adm. Bill McRaven, U.S. Special Operations Commander, in a rare interview

Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order. -- Mitt Romney

Commenting on the weak economy, Paul Krugman publishes a chart, which he says "isn't a picture of an economy hobbled by Big Government; it’s a picture of an economy hobbled by premature austerity." CW: The hobblers-in-chief mostly have an (R) after their names.

Yo, Democrats -- It Pays to Fight Back. Jennifer Haberkorn & Kathryn Smith of Politico: "This spring, Republicans were on a mission: repeal the Obama administration's rule to require employers to cover birth control. House Speaker John Boehner even stood on the floor of the House in February and promised that Congress would act.... But now, with the rule set to take effect Wednesday..., few on Capitol Hill are saying anything about it at all. And that House vote to block the rule? Never happened -- and isn't in the works either.... What looked like a great attack line against the president on religious liberty -- and a chance to rally evangelical and Catholic voters against President Barack Obama — quickly morphed into another example of what the left dubbed the Republicans' 'war on women.'" ...

... BUT Haberkorn & Brett Norman: "A U.S. district judge in Colorado on Friday blocked the Obama administration from enforcing its requirement that a Colorado employer provide its workers with insurance coverage of contraceptives without a co-pay. The judge, [a Jimmy Carter appointee,] issued a three-month temporary injunction, allowing for further legal review.... The ruling applies to one specific business, and does not stop the whole rule from going into effect next Wednesday."

Part of the Olympics opening ceremonies. No mention of the Mittster, except that some British pundits were referring to him as Mr. Bean. The "real" Mr. Bean does have a cameo here (and besides, Mrs. Fromtheheartland [see today's Comments] gets it exactly right):

     ... Guardian story here. And a good overview by Sarah Lyall of the New York Times. ...

... Charlotte Higgins of the Guardian: As Danny Boyle's extraordinarily bonkers Olympic opening ceremony progressed, you could feel left-of-centre Britain gradually giving into its curious and often unintentionally hilarious charms, while Tory Britain little by little grew more enraged.... It was Boyle's impassioned poem of praise to the country he would most like to believe in. One that is tolerant, multicultural, fair and gay friendly and holds the principles of the welfare state stoutly at its heart. One that is simultaneously silly and earnest, mainstream and subversive, 'high' and 'low' in its culture." CW: hope it made Mitt uncomfortable. ...

... The Daily Mail has more commentary here. ...

... Queen Elizabeth II welcomes dignitaries, including Michelle Obama:

David Maraniss of the Washington Post: President Obama's "virulent detractors ... are the frauds and fabricators," not Obama. ...

... Dan Pfeiffer of the White House: "Now, normally we wouldn't address a rumor that's so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama 'started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.' This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room":

President Obama shows British PM David Cameron a bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the private residence of the White House, July 20, 2010. White House photo.

... Randall Gross of Little Green Footballs: "Mitt Romney also got this totally wrong -- and unfortunately, ABC News repeated the falsehood without catching it: 'President Obama returned the bust in 2009, drawing ire from the British press who said that the move had made some leaders "nervous" about what the gesture meant for U.S.-U.K. relations. The bust had a home in the Oval Office during President George W. Bush's administration.'" ...

... Here's the ABC News report by Emily Friedman, which is interesting in its own right as she links Romney to the unnamed advisors who criticized President Obama for not getting the "special Anglo-Saxon connection" between the U.S. & the U.K. Friedman, despite the dogged reporting of her colleague Jake Tapper (see below), has not corrected her report. ...

... Markos Moulitsas: "... only in America does the self-styled 'patriotic American' party get insanely outraged when a bust of a foreign leader gets replaced with that of an American president. And a Republican president, at that." ...

... Jake Tapper of ABC News: "Like a plot twist in a sitcom, IT TURNS OUT THERE ARE TWO CHURCHILL BUSTS!!!!! The one in the White House residence was a gift to the White House from the British Embassy during the Johnson administration. The other one was loaned to President George W. Bush by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.... How did I figure out what was really going on? I never gave in. Never, never, never never. In nothing great or small, large or petty." (CW: See also Pfeiffer's post on this.)

Presidential Race

Every Olympics is ready, I don't care whatever he [Romney] said. I swear, sometimes I think some Americans shouldn't leave the country. Are you kidding me, stay home if you don't know what to say. -- Carl Lewis, Nine-time Olympic gold-medal winner

At this rate, Mitt Romney may provoke an international incident with the United Kingdom by the weekend. -- Christina Boyle & Jonathan Lamire of the New York Daily News

The opening ceremonies aren't until Friday, but Romney is already in medal contention for the gaffe-cathlon. -- Republican strategist

It's not good for us as a country -- it's not good for him -- but as a country to have somebody that's nominated by one of the principal parties to go over and insult everybody. -- Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Senate Majority Leader

We Really Don't Care about You People. Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "Mitt Romney's campaign is scrambling to limit the damage from his gaffe-strewn visit to London -- which has drawn mocking put-downs from the city's mayor and the British prime minister, and 'Mitt the twit' headlines in the UK -- by saying that Americans don't care what the foreign press prints.... Romney also avoided the risk of further gaffes by declining to make any public comments when he met the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, in London."

Mark Mardell of BBC News: Romney's "team are not yet willing to talk on or off the record about the drubbing he got at the hands of the British press. Not wishing to indulge in even a little face-saving spin must be a sign of deep trauma. I'm told Mr Romney thought the opening ceremony was 'absolutely amazing', and wanted to thank the organisers for a spectacular show. But as no cameras were allowed near Mr Romney, we don't know how he felt during the Olympics' literally all-dancing celebration of the single-payer health scheme (the NHS). This musical tribute to what he calls the 'European entitlement society' can't have made him stand up and cheer."

E. J. Dionne: "Does this trip make any sense at all for Romney? It is very hard to see how Romney will ever win the debate over foreign policy.... I think Romney will want to stay away from foreign policy. The more we talk about it, the better Obama will do."

Dana Milbank: "It's understandable that Romney would be reluctant to discuss dressage. Seamus may have made him look odd, or insensitive. Rafalca makes him look like a super-rich playboy.... Nothing says 'man of the people' quite like horse ballet.... The candidate's disavowal of dressage as 'Ann's sport' isn't quite right.... Rafalca's trainer, Jan Ebeling, said Mitt Romney selected the music for the horse's routine at an international competition; Ebeling ... said [Mitt Romney] 'really enjoys the horses.' Romney joined his wife at an Olympic qualifying dressage event in April 2008, and the couple declared a $77,731 loss on their 2010 tax returns for their share of Rafalca's care."

CW: here's something I missed. Judith Ireland of Australia's National Times (July 23): After meeting in the U.S. with Australia's foreign minister, Sen. Bob Carr, Romney told attendees at a fundraiser that Carr had told him about his and other Australians' concern that "America is in decline." "But despite headlines today such as 'Mitt Romney Gets Grim Warning From Australian Leader', a spokesman for Senator Carr says Australia's Foreign Minister was talking up the US economy, not talking it down. That is, any fears that Australia's foreign minister has been overseas criticising a key alliance partner, would be misplaced." So either Bob Carr is lying because he got caught privately dissing an ally while on its soil, or the Republican nominee for president is completely misrepresenting a private conversation he had with a leader of one of our closest allies. I know what my guess is: Mitt Romney is dangerous even out of office. That's before he got to "England" and further embarrassed the U.S.A.

What Friends Are for. Irina Ivanova & Wayne Barrett of Mother Jones look into Romney's long-time friendship/business relationship with Kem Gardner, a Salt Lake City real estate developer tangentially implicated in the 2002 Olympics scandal but who still managed to secure the Olympics job for Romney. Romney returned the favor by pushing through a lucrative no-bid contract for Gardner for a key real estate deal associated with the Olympics employing a method that specifically violated Romney's own ethics rules (it's legal if the president does it). In return, Gardner has been a big financial booster -- sometimes making illegal contributions -- to Romney's political career. Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link.

Jonathan Chait takes one more stab at "You Didn't Build That" to explain why it's working. He says the clip makes Obama sound like an "angry black man," the leader of the cabal of people of color who are robbing the middle class of their stake in the country. "The entire key to the rise of the Republican Party from the mid-sixties through the nineties was that white Americans came to see the Democrats as taking money from the hard-working white middle class and giving it to a lazy black underclass. Reactivating that frame is still the most mortal threat to the Democrats and to Obama. That is why Obama is reacting so urgently to reestablish himself." CW: I think Chait is right; this is a lie that feeds into the Great Republican Stereotype. It's disgusting at every level, but the GOP pitch has been disgusting at every level for decades, so it's nothing new. This is not to disparage individual Republicans but the party's essential divisive, racist strategy. That's a lot more un-American than telling lies about where the President put Churchill's bust. ...

... A related piece from Chait pointed me to this remarkable June 1 post by Sasha Issenberg, in Slate. Even puppies can be the victims of racism. Really. ...

... AND, if this Romney interview, cited by Chait, is a harbinger of things to come, Romney will incite a Middle East catastrophe before the week is out. I hope Obama doesn't have to send in the Marines to rescue Romney from whatever trouble he instigates. I find it entirely in character for Romney to be arguing for less democracy & more benevolent Arab dictators, as seems to be the case. ...

     ... Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian: "An American military strike against Iran's nuclear sites should not be ruled out, Mitt Romney has said in interviews with the Israeli media before his visit to the Jewish state. He also suggested it was not 'right' for the US to act as a negotiator between Israel and the Palestinians, and he accused President Barack Obama of publicly criticising its 'friend and ally'.... Presidential candidates traditionally refrain from attacking their opponents while abroad but, in an interview given before his departure from the US, Romney denounced Obama for public criticism of Israel."

Donovan Slack of Politico: "A highly touted Gallup poll released Thursday suggested that business owners had soured on President Obama with their approval of him dropping 6 percent in just three months.... But Gallup did not take into account party affiliation in its samples, and according to data provided to Politico by the polling organization, more Republicans and fewer Democrats were surveyed for the second quarter results."

Wilful Ignorance. Amy Bingham of ABC News: "Three and a half years into President Obama's first term as president, half of Americans cannot accurately say what religion he is, according to a poll released this week. Only 49 percent of respondents said that Obama was Christian while 17 percent inaccurately said he was Muslim. Nearly one-third of respondents said they did not know the president's religion.... More people - 60 percent - knew that Romney, who has not held elected office in a decade, was Mormon...."

Congressional Races

Gail Collins continues her North Dakota sojourn, tagging along with U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp. ...

Collins mentions this guy:

The other happy Senate surprise for the Democrats is Arizona, where the party somehow came up with a Hispanic physician who is a disabled Vietnam veteran and former surgeon general for the Bush administration, as well as the hero of several dramatic rescues, during one of which he shot a deranged suspected murderer. I believe I speak for all the political hopefuls in America when I say that the bar for a potential upset win is being set unacceptably high. ...

      ... Read "Rich's Story." It's -- literally -- a made-for-TV movie. Notice how Carmona never says in his ad that he's running as a Democrat. --

"Let's go to work!":

     ... Justin Sink of The Hill: "The ad, which argues for additional spending on infrastructure and education, is intended to counter a spot released by the Brown campaign earlier this week that linked Warren to President Obama's 'you didn't build that' comment. "

Right Wing World

New York magazine: "What Makes Us Exceptional -- A debate between Barack Obama and the GOP, as culled from public remarks."

Local News

Lucy Morgan of the Tampa Bay Times: "In a wide-ranging deposition that spanned two days in late May, former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer denounced some party officials as liars and 'whack-a-do, right-wing crazies' as he described turmoil in the months before his resignation. Greer said some GOP leaders were meeting to discuss ways they could suppress black votes while others were constantly scheming against each other." CW: this is some deposition.

News Ledes

Strange News. New York Times: "A kidnapped man was found bound and gagged in a police detective's garage in Queens, leading to the detective's suspension and the arrest of four other men, the authorities said on Saturday.

Al Jazeera: "Syrian government forces have launched a ground assault in the largest city Aleppo, and are bombarding rebel-held areas with heavy artillery...."

BBC News: "Ethnic clashes in southern Ethiopia are reported to have left at least 18 people dead and 12 others injured. More than 20,000 people have crossed into Kenya to escape the fighting, the Kenyan Red Cross says."

New York Times: "Despite warnings of a potentially crippling cyberattack, a group of lawmakers led by Senator John McCain has successfully weakened bipartisan legislation that the Obama administration said was crucial to protecting computer systems responsible for operating the nation's critical infrastructure.... Mr. McCain ... and others on behalf of the business community forced Democratic and Republican supporters of the legislation to drop provisions that would have given the federal government the power to enforce minimum standards on systems that run power plants, air traffic control systems, dams and similar facilities."

Chicago Sun-Times: "U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who has been on medical leave from Congress for more than six weeks, is now being treated at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota 'for extensive inpatient evaluation for depression and gastrointestinal issues.'"

New York Times (via NBC): "Apple, which has stumbled in its efforts to get into social media, has talked with Twitter in recent months about making a strategic investment in it."