The Ledes

Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Washington Post: "Marion Barry Jr., the Mississippi sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who served three terms as mayor of the District of Columbia, survived a drug arrest and jail sentence, and then came back to win a fourth term as the city’s chief executive, died early on Nov. 23 at United Medical Center in Washington. He was 78." Barry's New York Times: obituary is here.

Washington Post: "Negotiators working to slow Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions pressed forward with talks Saturday amid indications that they are at an impasse with two days left before a deadline for an accord." ...

... Reuters: "Iran says it will not be possible by a 24 November deadline to reach a comprehensive deal with world powers aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday."

Guardian: "The Obama administration announced the release of another Guantánamo Bay detainee on Saturday, rebuking recent calls from congressional Republicans to stop the transfers entirely. A Saudi man who has spent 12 years at the wartime detention facility, Muhammed Murdi Issa al-Zahrani, will return to Saudi Arabia and enter the kingdom’s rehabilitation program. The transfer brings the detainee population of a prison Barack Obama has vowed for six years to close down to 142 men, 72 of whom the Pentagon considers pose little enough threat as to be eligible for transfer."

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes":

Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
November 21

7:30 am ET: Vice President Biden and President Poroshenko of Ukraine deliver joint statements in Kyiv, Ukraine (audio only)

8:30 am ET: Vice President Biden attends a roundtable discussion on anti-corruption & reform efforts in Kyiv (audio only)
3:55 pm ET:President Obama speaks at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:

Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.


Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

Washington Post: "They have spawned parodies from 'Ellen' to 'South Park' to 'Saturday Night Live,' but Lincoln is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to its commercials starring Matthew McConaughey. There was more from the Hollywood Reporter: 'Lincoln announced that its overall sales were up 25 percent last month, the strongest October for the beleaguered marque since 2007.'" ...

... Here's one of the McConaughey ads:

Jim Carrey nails it in an SNL skit:

... AND Ellen Degeneres takes the bull by the horns in another:

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The Commentariat -- August 24, 2012

Catherine Rampell of the New York Times: "Americans nearing retirement age have suffered disproportionately after the financial crisis: along with the declining value of their homes, which were intended to cushion their final years, their incomes have fallen sharply. The typical household income for people age 55 to 64 years old is almost 10 percent less in today's dollars than it was when the recovery officially began three years ago...."

Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "The middle class is shrinking, and so is its share of America's income and wage growth, according to a new study released Thursday. The study from the Pew Research Center found that the middle class -- defined as Americans with incomes between $39,000 and $118,000 -- fell backward in income for the first time since the end of World War II, and the number of Americans who fit into that category shrunk from 61 percent in 1971 to just 51 percent in 2011.... The 'lost decade' for the middle class corresponds to declining tax rates for the wealthy and a growth in corporate profits. In the last 12 years, incomes for the wealthiest 400 Americans quadrupled even as their tax rates were halved, and executive compensation has grown 127 times faster over the last three decades than worker pay, one study found."

Matt Miller in the Washington Post: the real Medicare villains? Inefficient healthcare providers.

CW: meant to link this yesterday; forgot. Linda Greenhouse on the status of free speech. "... maybe it's time to stop looking for free-speech consistency and to acknowledge that most justices are no different from most of us. We all love the First Amendment -- when it suits us."

Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "... residents of Ilion, [New York,] a community whose history and economy are indelibly linked to one of America’s more celebrated gunmakers, are starting to worry about Remington's future. The recent mass shootings at a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in Colorado and at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin have galvanized advocates of tougher gun laws in Albany, and Remington has made it clear that such laws could prompt it to leave New York for a more sympathetic state." CW Memo to dimwitted Remington execs: if you know how to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, you know how to manufacture other things, too. Why not retool for peace?

Presidential Race

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "Plans are underway for Mr. Romney to be nominated on Monday -- not Wednesday as previously thought -- because of a potential threat from Tropical Storm Isaac and concerns about a possible disruption during the roll call vote from Ron Paul supporters at the Republican National Convention next week."

Secret Mitt, Ctd. Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: "Denver TV reporter Shaun Boyd wanted to ask Mitt Romney about Todd Akin and the abortion controversy roiling the GOP Thursday. But the Romney campaign refused. In a broadcast on Thursday, Boyd revealed the Romney campaign's demand that she not ask about Akin.... Boyd told TPM that the Romney campaign offered her station an interview with Romney.... A campaign staffer whose name she didn't divulge told her what questions she wasn't allowed to ask.... Back in May, Romney snapped at Boyd when she asked about medical marijuana -- an issue before Colorado voters in November -- and gay marriage. She reported that dust-up with Team Romney on the air at the time, too." With video. ...

     ... CW: Okay, so Romney says attacks on his business career should be off the table, he almost never talks about his stint as governor, he has yet to release even one full set of tax returns & he & Lady Romney insist you people won't get access to more than two, he seldom talks about his religious beliefs or his work as a Mormon bishop, most important -- he won't reveal many of his policy proposals till after the election, and now reporters can't ask him about topical subjects. Mitt is not running for president; he's running for absolute dictator, and he is running as a dictator.

The Onion. Emily Friedman of ABC News: "Mitt Romney said Thursday night that big businesses are 'doing fine,' using similar language that the presumptive nominee has hammered President Obama for using to describe the private sector earlier this year.... Romney then added that the reason that big businesses are 'doing fine in many places' is because they are able to invest their money in 'tax havens.'" CW: Since Romney likes firing people, the campaign should fire the special valet responsible for dislodging Willard's foot from his mouth. ...

... "The Bain Files. Inside Mitt Romney's Tax-Dodging Caymen Schemes." John Cook of Gawker: "Gawker has obtained a massive cache of confidential financial documents that shed a great deal of light on those finances, and on the tax-dodging tricks available to the hyper-rich that he has used to keep his effective tax rate at roughly 13% over the last decade." Gawker has made the 950 pages of documents available online & is inviting analysis & commentary. ...

... ** Nicholas Confessore, et al., of the New York Times: "As part of his retirement agreement with Bain, Mr. Romney has remained a passive investor in the company's ventures and continues to receive a share of the firm's investment profits on some deals undertaken after his departure.... The documents also reveal that Bain held stakes in highly complex Wall Street financial instruments, including equity swaps, credit default swaps and collateralized loan obligations.... Bain private equity funds in which the Romney family's trusts are invested appear to have used an aggressive tax approach, which some tax lawyers believe is not legal, to save Bain partners more than $200 million in income taxes and more than $20 million in Medicare taxes."

... Matthew Mosk & Emily Friedman of ABC News: "The private equity firm founded by ... Mitt Romney made use of arcane techniques in several of its Cayman Islands-based funds to avoid U.S. taxes, according to a trove of Bain Capital's private audit and finance records made public on the website Gawker [Thursday]. The audited financial statements of one of the Cayman Islands funds make note of the use of 'blocker' entities, which are used to help retirement accounts and nonprofit entities avoid some taxes. Financial statements for another fund note that it 'intends to conduct its operations so it will … not be subject to United States federal income or withholding tax....'" ...

... Richard Adams of the Guardian: Mitt Romney's assets are so broad-based "it's almost as if Romney needs to make a financial disclaimer for every policy position he takes." CW: Of course, he won't. Ethics are just not his thing.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Willard tells how his years at Bain taught him how to be an excellent president. I'm sure some of you could help him revise it to make his pitch a tad more honest.

Fellow Robber Barons, I promise you a New Gilded Age. Eric Lipton & Clifford Krauss of the New York Times: "By proposing to end a century of federal control over oil and gas drilling and coal mining on government lands, Mitt Romney is making a bid for anti-Washington voters in key Western states while dangling the promise of a big reward to major campaign supporters from the energy industry."

Nicholas Riccardi of the AP: "... Mitt Romney said Thursday his plan to provide health insurance to everyone in Massachusetts was superior to the one it inspired, President Barack Obama's much-debated national law."

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "A colorful team of advertising gurus -- including a onetime 'Wheel of Fortune' contestant, a guy nicknamed for a 'Super Mario' character and a burly Texan who came up with the 'Beef, it's what's for dinner' slogan -- have converged on the campaign's drab headquarters [in Boston] to dream up the ads they hope will propel Romney to the White House." CW: they call themselves "Mad Men." But anyone who would try to sell Mitt Romney can't even measure up to Don Draper's dubious moral standards.

Paul Krugman on Ayn Rand aficionado Paul Ryan: "In pushing for draconian cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other programs that aid the needy, Mr. Ryan isn't just looking for ways to save money. He's also, quite explicitly, trying to make life harder for the poor -- for their own good.... very much in line with Rand's worship of the successful and contempt for 'moochers.'" Ryan also bases his views on monetary policy on a speech by a character is Atlas Shrugged who "denounces the notion of paper money and demands a return to gold coins. For the record, the U.S. currency supply has consisted overwhelmingly of paper money, not gold and silver coins, since the early 1800s.... So ... Mr. Ryan ... wants to turn the clock back not one but two centuries.... Mr. Ryan is considered the modern G.O.P.’s big thinker. What does it say about the party when its intellectual leader evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels?" ...

... Obviously, Krugman gets his inspiration from the comics. Thanks to contributor Platteville Walt for the link. Daily Kos publishes Tom Tomorrow's strips:

Melissa Boteach of the Center for American Progress lays out the ways Romney/Ryan would undermine the welfare-to-work program by drastically cutting programs on which the working poor rely. In the meantime, of course, they have employed the diversionary tactic of falsely accusing Obama of "gutting" the work requirement of the law. Here's a handy chart:

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "Republicans have adopted a party platform on immigration that would require employers nationwide to verify workers' legal status and deny federal financing to universities that allow illegal immigrant students to enroll at lower in-state tuition rates.... The party's platform stance comes as Mitt Romney has been moving to court Hispanic voters before the general election.... Recently, Mr. Romney has sought to soften his stance, saying he would consider a Dream Act for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.The party platform offers no support for that proposal."

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney unveiled an energy plan Thursday that he said would make North America energy independent by 2020.... His plan would allow states more control over the development of energy resources on federal lands within their borders, as well as aggressively expand offshore oil and gas drilling -- including along the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas -- as part of a broader effort to reach energy independence.... Mr. Romney has raised considerable money from donors with ties to the oil industry."

Peter Orszag in the Washington Post exposes 5 myths about Paul Ryan's budget, beginning with "If you take out everything Ryan is assuming and look at his concrete proposals, his budget is not fiscally conservative. Without the magical reductions in Medicaid, other spending and tax breaks, his plan would expand the deficit in 2040, not reduce it." CW: something weird about the Post's publication of Orszag's opinion piece: in one iteration (here), it begins with these remarks:

I've worked closely with Rep. Paul Ryan. He's an honest and amiable guy. In part because of his winning personality, Ryan ... has convinced many in Washington that his budget blueprint is a serious proposal for solving our long-term fiscal problems. Unfortunately, it’s not....

      ... But in the for-print iteration, which I linked above, this preamble is missing.

Fraud Squad, the Portrait. Found this over in Right Wing World while checking out a site that uses some of my stuff. A screenshot of a video, the image struck me as a study in made-for-TV fakery: Mitt and his sidekick all dressed up in their "regular people" disguises complete with frozen-friendly grimaces, poised in front of a Murican flag for an extra dose of "authenticity." Maybe their real selves -- if they have real selves -- are behind that blue curtain.

Susan Saulny & Christine Haughney of the New York Times profile Janna Ryan, Paul Ryan's wife.

AND Contributor Marvin Schwalb passes along these hilarious "Yiddish Curses for Republican Jews." Cursor through & pass 'em on. ...

** PLUS this Harvard Law School Revue (I spelled that right) article -- complete with footnotes -- by one Baroque Yo Mama is the real deal. Read it.

Congressional Races

Rasmussen Reports: "Embattled Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill has now jumped to a 10-point lead over her Republican challenger, Congressman Todd Akin, in Missouri's U.S. Senate race. Most Missouri Republicans want Akin to quit the race while most Missouri Democrats want him to stay." CW: Rasmussen, a Republican pollster, isn't particularly reliable. ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "Given the very well-documented pro-GOP 'house effect' of Rasmussen polls, some will wonder if ol' Scott [Rasmussen] put a thumb on the scales for Claire." ...

... Nate Silver: "My view is that the Rasmussen Reports poll represents a more-realistic portrayal of the race as it stands now" than does the Public Policy poll, conducted 48 hours earlier, which showed Akin with a one-point lead over McCaskill. ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico: "Todd Akin hasn't had many high-profile supporters with him in the trenches this week, but Mike Huckabee became an important and emphatic exception Thursday afternoon, sending a message to his own supporters that accuses Republican elites of trying to drum a good man out of a winnable Senate race." ...

... David Graham of The Atlantic: Huckabee's "jab at the RNC is especially pointed. That's because Huckabee is scheduled for a primetime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, with a 7 p.m. address on Monday in Tampa. And he's one of the most well-liked figures in the GOP, a friendly, affable guy with a wide reach (through radio and TV) and almost unparalleled cachet among Christian conservatives, meaning he's nearly untouchable.

E. J. Dionne provides a transcript of part of his interview with Elizabeth Warren. Topics: the Affordable Care Act & the application of her religious beliefs.

Right Wing World

"The Crackpot Caucus." Tim Egan: "On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers." Egan provides a brief rundown of some of the most prominent ignoramuses in Congress.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Daryl Hine, an admired poet who adhered to classical themes, complicated formal structures and intricate rhyming patterns to explore themes of philosophy, history and his own sexuality, died on Monday in Evanston, Ill. He was 76."

New York Times: "Apple won a decisive victory on Friday in a lawsuit against Samsung, a verdict that will give Apple ammunition in a far-flung patent war with its global competitors in the smartphone business.... That is not a big financial blow to Samsung, one of the world's largest electronics companies. But the decision could essentially force Samsung and other smartphone makers to redesign their products to be less Apple-like, or risk further legal defeats."

New York Times: "China is moving ahead with the development of a new and more capable generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles, increasing its existing ability to deliver nuclear warheads to the United States and to overwhelm missile defense systems, military analysts said this week."

New York Times: "Several people were shot, one of them fatally, by a gunman outside the Empire State Building shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday, according to the police and city officials. The gunman was killed by the police, officials said."

New York Times: "A volley of American drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt early Friday killed at least 18 people, security officials said, marking a sharp escalation of the controversial C.I.A.-led campaign that continues to roil relations with Pakistan."

New York Times: "A court on Friday sentenced Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who admitted killing 77 people, to at least 21 years in prison after ruling that he was sane when he carried out his country's worst peacetime atrocity. The sentence was the most severe permitted under Norwegian law, but it can be extended at a later date if he is still deemed to be a danger to society."

Washington Post: "Scores of mutilated, bloodied bodies have been found dumped on the streets and on waste ground on the outskirts of Damascus in recent days, apparently the victims of a surge of extrajudicial killings by Syrian security forces seeking to drive rebel fighters out of the capital and its suburbs."

New York Times: "International nuclear inspectors will soon report that Iran has installed hundreds of new centrifuges in recent months and may also be speeding up production of nuclear fuel while negotiations with the United States and its allies have ground to a near halt, according to diplomats and experts briefed on the findings."

iCrooks. AP: "South Korea's Samsung won a home court ruling in its global smartphone battle against Apple on Friday when judges in Seoul said the company didn't copy the look and feel of the U.S. company's iPhone, and that Apple infringed on Samsung's wireless technology. However, in a split decision on patents, the panel also said Samsung violated Apple technology behind the bounce-back feature when scrolling on touch screens, and ordered both sides to pay limited damages."


The Commentariat -- August 23, 2012

Amina Kahn of the Los Angeles Times: "After two weeks of taking stock of its surroundings, the Mars Curiosity rover has taken its first 'baby steps' and sent back images of its first tracks, NASA officials said Wednesday.... NASA officials also announced that the touchdown spot has been officially named "Bradbury Landing," in honor of the renowned science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who died earlier this year."

Gina Kolata of the New York Times tells the story of how genome scientists solved the mystery of an outbreak of a deadly bacterium infection in a hospital.

Forget all that if Republicans gain control of the federal government:

 ... CW: Actually, Matthews & I are being totally unfair. Some Republicans care about science. Here's Kevin Williamson of the ultra-conservative National Review explaining evolutionary biology, of all things:

What do women want? The conventional biological wisdom is that men select mates for fertility, while women select for status -- thus the commonness of younger women's pairing with well-established older men but the rarity of the converse.... You want off-the-charts status? Check out the curriculum vitae of one Willard M. Romney: $200 million in the bank (and a hell of a lot more if he didn't give so much away), apex alpha executive, CEO, chairman of the board, governor, bishop, boss of everything he's ever touched. Son of the same, father of more. It is a curious scientific fact (explained in evolutionary biology by the Trivers-Willard hypothesis — Willard, notice) that high-status animals tend to have more male offspring than female offspring, which holds true across many species, from red deer to mink to Homo sap. The offspring of rich families are statistically biased in favor of sons.... Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters. Romney has 18 grandchildren, and they exceed a 2:1 ratio of grandsons to granddaughters (13:5)....

Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.... From an evolutionary point of view, Mitt Romney should get 100 percent of the female vote. All of it. He should get Michelle Obama's vote....

      ... Those of you who claim conservatives are anti-woman are so wrong. It's just that fathering girls proves a man is a sissy -- like one of those lower beings who possess "fallopian tubes." David Atkins of Hullabaloo has the nerve to call Williamson's scientific hypothesis "sneering social darwinism." I don't know David Atkins, but if he has children, I'll bet their no-account girls. ...

... Aw, even Gail Collins is proving me wrong. Republicans aren't anti-science. They're originalists. Collins points out that Akin's "legitimate rape" remark "goes back to our forefathers, who believed that in order for our foremothers to conceive, 'the womb must be in a state of delight.' ... The idea never entirely faded away, possibly because it reflects so well on male lovemaking prowess. (Failure to conceive, by the same rule, was all because of female frigidity.)"

Michael Grunwald of Time on the Party of No's 2008-09 plan to vote against every Obama proposal. The magazine has an excerpt from Grunwald's book on the subject, but it is subscriber-firewalled. Grunwald's post, however, has the gist of the story. This makes me wonder why the administration bothered at all to consult with Republicans. And why the hell did Sen. Max Baucus spend months courting Chuck Grassley & other Republican senators on the healthcare law?

Shaila Dewan & Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "The number of existing homes sold rose 2.3 percent in July from the previous month, according to figures released Wednesday. Volume was up more than 10 percent from a year ago. For several months, economic data and accounts from real estate agents across the country have calmed fears that the overall market could take another big step down.... Yet the nascent recovery is still a convalescent one, with the pace of activity uneven and far below the levels reached before the bubble burst."

Presidential Race

Quote of the Day -- From the "With Friends like These..." File: If the campaign is about issues, we win. If it's about Mitt Romney's record as a businessman, then we don't win. If it's about Mitt Romney's tax returns, then we don't win. If it's about whether people like Mitt Romney more than Barack Obama, then we don't win. -- Rick Santorum

Michael Cooper & Dalia Sussman of the New York Times: "The Romney-Ryan proposal to reshape Medicare by giving future beneficiaries fixed amounts of money to buy health coverage is deeply unpopular in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to new polls that found that more likely voters in each state trust President Obama to handle Medicare."

Eric Lipton of the New York Times: Exelon, an Illinois-based energy producer, has profited from a close relationship with President Obama & his associates. "Exelon executives were able to secure an unusually large number of meetings with top administration officials at key moments in the consideration of environmental regulations that have been drafted in a way that hurt Exelon's competitors, but curb the high cost of compliance for Exelon and its industry allies. In addition, Exelon ... was chosen as one of only six electric utilities nationwide for the maximum $200 million stimulus grant from the Energy Department." ...

... Stephen Braun of the AP: Herbert M. Allison, Jr., "a veteran Wall Street executive who performed an independent review that exonerated the Obama administration's program of loans to energy companies, contributed $52,500 to re-elect President Barack Obama in the months since completing his work, according to an Associated Press review of campaign records. The executive defended the integrity of his conclusions and said he decided to donate to Obama after his work was finished."

Erika Ritchie of the Orange County (California) Register: "Rick Warren, Saddleback Church's pastor, announced Wednesday that a civil forum planned with President Barack Obama and ... Mitt Romney at the church has been canceled because of what Warren saw as uncivil discourse between the two campaigns." CW: I am terribly disappointed to be deprived of the opportunity to hear these guys talk about god and stuff.

A good ad featuring That Guy:

Demo-graphics: Romney's support among black voters? Zero percent. CW: So here's my racist comment for the day, based on statistics, for Pete's sake: black people are way, way smarter than white people.

Clifford Krauss & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney plans to unveil an energy plan Thursday morning in Hobbs, N.M., that would allow states more control over the development of energy resources on federal lands within their borders, as well as aggressively expand offshore oil and gas drilling -- including along the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas -- as part of a broader effort to reach energy independence." CW: See? There is more than one kind of rape.

Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "The supreme irony of the Romney/Ryan assault on Obama is that it's the accusers who are guilty of proposing to 'gut' work-based welfare reform, which is not and never was just a matter of imposing work requirements and time-limits and expecting all those lazy women-with-kids to get off their duffs and accept those plentiful, well-paying jobs.... a robust [Earned Income Tax Credit and minimum wage; food assistance; medical assistance; child care; Head Start; job training; and yes, education assistance. The Ryan Budget proposes scaling back the EITC and radically reducing both food assistance and the availability of health insurance for the working poor, not to mention the drastic non-defense discretionary budget cuts it demands that are almost certain to devastate every other 'work support' offered by federal or state governments.... While no one expects the GOP campaign to admit they'd unravel nearly every policy that made the 1996 law work as well as it did, they should at least have the decency to stop accusing Obama of 'gutting' an initiative whose spirit and letter they reject root and branch." ...

... Wolf Blitzer, not usually the sharpest tack in the box, very effectively tears John Sununu apart on the Romney/Ryan welfare claims:

All the Fact-Checkers Are Biased against Mitt. Justin Sink of The Hill: "Mitt Romney said Wednesday that the fact-checkers who have criticized his recent attacks on President Obama's welfare changes were examining the issue 'in the way they think is most consistent with their own views.' ... Fact-checking website Politifact -- which the Romney campaign has cited repeatedly themselves -- awarded Romney's claims a "Pants on Fire" rating, deeming the attack a 'drastic distortion' of the changes to the welfare program."

Liberal Harvard economist David Cutler in The New Republic: "Supporters for the Romney-Ryan approach to Medicare have a new talking point. They say a new study by 'three liberal Harvard economists' proves that the plan's competition will reduce health care costs without harming beneficiaries. But the study doesn't say that. And I should know. I'm one of the economists who wrote it...."

No. 2 Man on the Fraud Squad. Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: Paul Ryan "was for cutting defense spending before he was against it.... Even though Ryan voted for the Budget Control Act, and thus for the sequester, he's slamming President Obama for the cuts. The cuts he voted for. And in doing so, he's embracing something he says he doesn't believe in -- jobs created by federal spending. 'It's either lose defense-related jobs in Pennsylvania or put small businesses further at a competitive disadvantage,' Ryan said on Tuesday...."

Timothy Homan & Steve Walsh of Bloomberg News: "Ryan’s level of support [for anti-choice measures] outdoes that of his House colleague Todd Akin...."

... Jon Walker of Firedoglake: "... because of Akin's controversy, Paul Ryan has started to be asked very pointed questions about the similarity to his own views. Recently he was asked about it by KDKA in Pittsburgh:

      "... Ryan apparently accepts the scientific fact that rape can result in pregnancy, but he still thinks a women who is raped should be forced to carry their rapist's child to term." ...

... Steve Benen: "Under the legislation Ryan pushed, if a 13-year-old girl who was impregnated by a 24-year-old man would not be able to use Medicaid funds to terminate the pregnancy, unless she could prove she'd been 'forcibly' raped. If 'there's no splitting hairs over rape,' why did Paul Ryan help champion legislation that would have split hairs over rape?" ...

... Digby: "... the birth control answer is such a straight up lie that I can hardly believe he didn't start smirking like Beavis and Butthead when he said it. Both he and Romney have promised to shut down Planned Parenthood, they both agree that no insurance plans should be forced to offer it, they are both in favor of allowing 'conscience exceptions' to anyone who can't bring themselves to participate in contraceptive evil. Basically, he's saying 'sure you sluts can have your birth control --- if you can find it.'" ...

... Dana Milbank: "Does [Ryan] now regret his sponsorship of legislation that made a distinction between 'forcible rape' and other kinds -- a position eerily similar to Akin's 'legitimate rape'? 'That bill passed, I think, by 251 votes,' Ryan replied. 'It was bipartisan.' He neglected to mention that it passed after removal of the 'forcible' language.... Ryan recently hail[ed Akin] as 'a great asset' on Ryan's budget committee and an example of 'exactly the kind of leadership America needs.'"

Pema Levy of TPM: "Ryan insisted that the harsh spotlight currently falling on the party over women’s issues won't ultimately impact on how women vote in November. 'And I don't think they're going to take the bait of all these distractions that the president is trying to throw at them," [he said in the KDKA interview]. Really, ladies, your cute little so-called rights are a distraction from the real issue of ensuring that Willard & I get bigger tax cuts.

Congressional Races

The interesting thing here is that this is an individual who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology but somehow missed science class. -- President Obama, on Todd Akin, speaking at a fundraiser last night. Obama also called Akin "senator," an unfortunate slip ...

... John Eligon & Monica Davey of the New York Times: Todd Akin could still win his Senate race. "A pile of factors ... could make the situation survivable: local backlash against all the national party meddling, an intensely grass-roots fund-raising effort (Mr. Akin, a six-term congressman, has sent e-mails seeking $3 contributions from supporters in recent days), an influx of aid from some Christian groups, and a state that has in recent years grown more conservative than the national bellwether it was once seen as."

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times on how the Akin uproar is playing out in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race. ...

... E. J. Dionne: Sen. Scott "Brown is a truly gifted retail politician, and [Elizabeth] Warren will never out-personality Mr. Personality. To win, she'll have to link thoughts and ideas to feelings, a skill rarely demanded of law professors." ...

... Public Policy Polling: "Scott Brown has returned to the lead in the crucial Massachusetts Senate race. The two were tied at 46% in PPP's late June poll, but in the firm's first test of likely voters in this fall's election, Brown tops Elizabeth Warren, 49-44." ...

... Adam Sorensen of Time: "PPP found that 24% of voters who'd like to see Democrats hold the Senate in November aren't backing Warren. In other words, voters loyal to the national Democratic Party do not necessarily feel that same loyalty toward Warren, nor do they strongly associate Brown with national Republicans."

Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: since Todd Akin's voting record is consistent with that of many other Republicans, "Voters should know for sure -- what, exactly, do Mr. Akin's fellow Republicans find so offensive and indefensible about the candidate's comments? Reporters should put that question to every Republican running for national office."

Right Wing World

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Judge Tom Head, a county judge in Lubbock, Texas, announced on a local television station that he would personally join the resistance against a United Nations' takeover of American sovereignty, which he says will occur if Obama is reelected." CW: Oh yeah? He should personally be tried for treason. It's a hangin' offense, Judge. Also, I am curious to know what Obama has so far failed to turn over the keys of the country to the U.N. ...

... CW: So, in reading the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, I find that all this U.N. takeover talk is a ploy to raise county taxes. More money needed for public safety -- i.e., arming & training the good people of Lubbock for the day the U.N. troops arrive. 

And the sheriff, I've already asked him, I said 'you gonna back me' he said, 'yeah, I'll back you&rs'. Well, I don't want a bunch of rookies back there. I want trained, equipped, seasoned veteran officers to back me. -- Judge Bone Head

       ... Certainly is an original way to undermine the Grover Norquist pledge. ...

... Meanwhile, back in bucolic New Hampshire.... WMUR: Frank Szabo, "a Republican candidate for Hillsborough, [New Hampshire,] County Sheriff, said Wednesday that he believes elective abortions are unlawful and he wouldn't reject the use of deadly force to stop them. ... Szabo explained the difference by referring to the issue of slavery, which he said used to be legal but was never lawful under the Constitution. He said that even though elective abortions are legal in New Hampshire, with some restrictions, he doesn't consider them lawful.... Szabo maintains that the county sheriff is a position that doesn't answer to any other public official." CW: A sheriff is like a god, I guess.

AND Charles Blow has found a guy -- some preacher named Jesse Lee Peterson who "has made a number of appearances on Fox News" and is associated with Sean Hannity through a Tea Party group -- who has this to say:

I think that one of the greatest mistakes that America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote. We should've never turned it over to women.... They're voting in people who are evil.

      ... CW: not a gaffe -- just another knuckledragger (to borrow John Boehner's description of some of his Congressional conservative brethren) like Todd Akin saying what he really believes. At the top of his column, Blow asks, "Why do any women vote Republican?" I would refer him to Kevin Williamson, linked above: because, like Mitt Romney, so many Republican politicians are hot rich men with lots of Y chromosomes.

News Ledes

New York Times: "After more than a decade of outrunning accusations that he had doped during his celebrated cycling career, Lance Armstrong, one of the best-known and accomplished athletes in recent history, surrendered on Thursday, etching a dark mark on his legacy by ending his fight against charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs.... He will almost certainly be stripped of his seven Tour titles, the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Olympics and all other titles, awards and money he won from August 1998 on."

USA Today: "A group of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents filed a lawsuit against their own agency Thursday, arguing that the Obama administration is not letting them fully identify and deport illegal immigrants."

New York Times: Gen. John Allen of the U.S. Marines, "the senior commander in Afghanistan, made new allowances on Thursday that Taliban influence could play a large role in attacks by Afghan security forces on Americans, saying that up to one-quarter of the killings could be caused by Taliban infiltration or coercion. But he reiterated that most of such insider attacks have still been attributed to personal grievances and animosities."

Los Angeles Times: "Assistant Dist. Atty. Karen Pearson revealed that ... [James] Holmes, [accused of killing 12 people in a Colorado movie theater and] once a doctoral student in an elite neuroscience program at the University of Colorado Denver, had failed oral exams on June 7, made unspecified threats serious enough for campus police to be notified, and had his access to university buildings on the Anschutz Medical Campus revoked. He withdrew from the university June 10."

KTLY Spokane, Washington: "Ambassador Ryan Crocker, one of the most decorated State Department diplomats in the last half century, was arrested on August 14 by the Washington State Patrol for hit-and-run and DUI in Spokane Valley."

New York Times: "The anonymous Navy SEAL member who has written a book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden remained anonymous for less than 24 hours. At midday Thursday, Fox News identified him as Matt Bissonnette, a 36-year-old originally from Alaska, and hours later Defense Department and military officials confirmed his identity."

Washington Post: "A judge in Lamar County, Texas, ruled Wednesday night that TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline has the right of eminent domain, rejecting a plea by farm manager Julia Trigg Crawford and dealing a blow to landowners and environmentalists.... The ruling by Judge Bill Harris removes yet another potential obstacle for TransCanada, which already has permits from the Army Corps of Engineers for the southern leg of the pipeline, which starts in Cushing, Okla., and runs to Port Arthur, Texas."

New York Times: "Efforts led by the United States and Israel to isolate Iran suffered a setback on Wednesday when the United Nations announced that Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, would join officials from 120 countries in Tehran next week for a summit meeting that Iran has trumpeted as a vindication of its defiance and enduring importance in world affairs."

Washington Post: "Penn State's disgraced former president is trying to convince the public he had no idea that Jerry Sandusky was a child molester -- and that he most certainly did not protect one. With a network TV appearance, a magazine interview and a news conference held by his lawyers, Graham Spanier portrayed himself Wednesday as the innocent victim of a witch hunt and a rush to judgment by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose university-commissioned report on the sex-abuse scandal prompted the NCAA to hit Penn State with a $60 million fine and other sanctions."

Washington Post: "A U.S. commando involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year has written an inside account of the still-classified mission that is scheduled to be released next month, according to the book's publisher.... If the description is true, the book would shatter the secrecy maintained by members of the team of Navy SEALs involved in the raid.... It could also raise legal and political issues for the Obama administration, which has carried out an aggressive crackdown on leaks even while it has also been accused of offering access to journalists and moviemakers to exploit the success of the bin Laden operation." Reuters story here.


The Commentariat -- August 22, 2012

Paul Krugman has a fascinating post, which is mostly about Niall Ferguson's fact-challenged Newsweek cover story and types of economic "errors," but which also gives a window into how the Times fact-checks his columns. I wonder why they don't fact-check Tom Friedman?

Presidential Race

The bottom line is that Romney is proposing to take more money from seniors in higher premiums and co-pays and hand it over to private insurance companies and other providers in the Medicare system. -- Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) ...

... ** Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney's promise to restore $716 billion that he says President Obama 'robbed' from Medicare has some health care experts puzzled.... Paul D. Ryan, included the same savings in his House budgets. The 2010 health care law cut Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and insurers, not benefits for older Americans, by that amount over the coming decade. But repealing the savings, policy analysts say, would hasten the insolvency of Medicare by eight years.... To restore them in the short term would immediately add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for beneficiaries. That would violate Mr. Romney's vow that neither current beneficiaries nor Americans within 10 years of eligibility would be affected by his proposal to shift Medicare to a voucherlike system.... Henry J. Aaron, an economist and a longtime health policy analyst..., called Mr. Romney's vow to repeal the savings 'both puzzling and bogus at the same time.' ... Restoring the $716 billion in Medicare savings would increase premiums and co-payments for beneficiaries by $342 a year on average over the next decade; in 2022, the average increase would be $577." ...

     ... Paul Krugman has more.

     ... CW: Romney has devoted a lot of attention to & taken a lot of heat for his promise to "restore" the $716 billion, a campaign promise on which he would obviously have to renege immediately. Either the whole "President Obama is robbing Medicare" is a 100-percent lie or Romney has no fucking idea what he's doing. I think "no fucking idea" is a factor. And, BTW, Paul Ryan, Principled Policy Wonk, must knows this -- & he ain't telling. Venial or mortal sin? ...

... CW: Over & above the fact that my taxes will go up, too, so that Romney's and Ryan's can go down, these extra Medicare premiums come directly out of my pocket. You high-minded purists who avail yourselves of Reality Chex but plan to sit home & not vote because Obama is such a "disappointment" to you -- please have the courtesy to find another venue & take your fucking "principles" with you. You aren't welcome here.

Mary Bruce of ABC News: "President Obama kicked off a two-day campaign swing through Ohio and Nevada [yesterday] by shifting the focus of his attacks from Medicare and taxes to education, slamming the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan plan to cut student aid." ...

... A new Obama-Biden ad, which Greg Sargent says is running in Ohio & Virginia. Sargent's "Morning Plum" is particularly rich today. Of Jackie Calmes' NYT article (linked above), Sargent says, "For some reason, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times decided it might be a good idea to call up a range of experts and ask them if Romney's claim is, you know, true."

Dylan Byers of Politico: "In an in-house interview yesterday, Newsweek executive editor Justine Rosenthal said [Niall] Ferguson's controversial and heavily criticized cover story about President Obama was an opinion piece and did not reflect the opinions of Newsweek. 'This is not the opinion of Newsweek, this is the opinion of Niall Ferguson,' Rosenthal said." With video.

Julie Pace of the AP: "Mitt Romney claims he's got a winner with his criticism that President Barack Obama is giving welfare recipients a free ride. Never mind that aspects of his argument against the Democrat are factually inaccurate.... It could open Romney up to criticism that he is injecting race into the campaign.... [Bill] Clinton is among those who have called Romney's welfare attacks dishonest and false." CW: this isn't news to Reality Chex readers, but it's helpful when the AP puts out stories like this (albeit this one is way too he-said/she-said), because the stories often appear in local papers.

Gutless Wonder. "This Is What a Romney Presidency Would Look Like": Steve Kornacki of Salon: "When news of Akin's 'legitimate rape' comment broke Sunday, the Romney campaign’s initial response was [a] very tepid statement.... It was only the next day, when ... Republicans with more credibility with the party's conservative base began rebuking Akin, that Romney made a more forceful statement.... And it was only when just about everyone who's anyone in the Republican Party had called on Akin to quit that Romney finally did the same late yesterday.... His response ... shows that Romney is willing to stand up to a member of his own party -- but only if just about everyone else in his party is already doing it." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico: "... one could argue that Romney would have an easier time distancing himself from his party's problems in Missouri if his running mate shared his own, somewhat more lenient views on abortion." CW: Yes, one could. But, hey, Paul Ryan was a brilliant choice. ...

... Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "So ... there’s no Ryan 'bounce' -- except maybe in Wisconsin. (According to 538′s Nate Silver, the average VP bounce is around four points.)" CW: But, hey, Paul Ryan was a brilliant choice.

"Drawbridge Republicans." Matt Miller in the Washington Post: before now "we've never had two wealthy candidates on a national ticket whose top priority is to reduce already low taxes on the well-to-do while raising taxes on everyone else -- even as they propose to slash programs that serve the poor, or that (like college aid) create chances for the lowly born to rise. Call them the Drawbridge Republicans ... Republicans who have no qualms about pulling up the drawbridge behind them.... If Romney and Ryan actually win on their Drawbridge agenda, the United States will have crossed a scary new Rubicon for a supposedly advanced democracy."

Paul Harris of the Guardian: "The Sensata plant in Freeport, [Illinois,] is profitable and competitive, but its majority owner, Bain Capital, has decided to ship jobs to China -- and forced workers to train their overseas replacements.... As Sensata strips out costs by sacking American workers in favour of Chinese ones, the value of Romney's own investments could rise, putting money into the pockets of a Republican challenger who has placed job creation in America at the heart of his bid for the White House." Thanks to a reader for the link.

He's Not a Wonk, He's an Ideologue. Ben Adler of the Nation: "Ryan's obsession with inflation and preventing the Federal Reserve from rescuing our economy puts him in the kooky fringe of right-wing politics.... He is therefore impervious to evidence.... On economics conservatives have become as willfully ignorant as they are on matters of science. Ryan, who is being celebrated as an intellectually serious policy maker, is the economic equivalent of a climate change denier." CW: hmm. Where does Ryan stand on climate change? ...

... Mary Ellen Harte in the Huffington Post: "While Mitt Romney has expressed uncertainty over whether global warming is occurring or not, his vice-presidential pick, Congressman Paul Ryan, is a virulent denier of climate science, with a Congressional voting record to match...." CW: just a crazy man.

Joe Conason of the National Memo: Paul Ryan "may come to regret his flippant response to Carl Cameron last Saturday, when the Fox News reporter asked how he would respond to critics who question his weak national security resume. '... I voted to send people to war.' What Ryan cites as his chief qualification to serve as commander-in-chief is a series of votes that represent the most fateful, expensive, inexcusable error in recent American history. For him to cite that vote to draw a contrast with President Obama, who got the Iraq issue right, is startling."

Kaili Gray of Daily Kos: "As one of the most fervent anti-woman Republicans in the House, [Paul Ryan] must be aching to come to the defense of his bestest bud Todd Akin. After all, they've voted together 93 percent of the time, so they see eye-to-eye on pretty much everything -- including whether there are different types of rape that are not as bad as real rape and whether it's ever okay for women to have abortions. (Spoiler alert: Yes and no.) But because Ryan is now Mitt Romney's running mate, he has to keep a lid on the crazy. The campaign even forced Ryan to sit down for an interview to disavow Akin's claims and pretend that he's shocked and offended by Akin articulating exactly what Ryan also believes."

Congressional Races

Jonathan Weisman & John Eligon of the New York Times: "Representative Todd Akin said definitively on Tuesday that he would not leave the race for the Senate in Missouri, saying on Mike Huckabee's radio show that 'there's a cause here' and that an outpouring of grass-roots support would propel him to victory without the support of the Republican establishment." ...

... AND Akin Digs the Hole Deeper. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Arguing that he misplaced the word 'legitimate,' Akin explained -- during a follow up interview with Dana Loesch -- that he meant to argue that women sometimes lie about being raped.... Since he first made the comments over the weekend, Akin claimed that he meant to say 'forcible,' rather than 'legitimate' rape." ...

... The Constitution Be Damned. John Eligon: Akin says he must run to bring God back into the public forum.

Maureen Dowd: "Other Republicans are trying to cover up their true identity to get elected. Even as party leaders attempted to lock the crazy uncle in the attic in Missouri, they were doing their own crazy thing down in Tampa, Fla., by reiterating language in their platform calling for a no-exceptions Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.... Mitt..., in his last presidential bid went after the endorsement of Dr. John Willke, a former president of the National Right to Life Committee and father of the inanity about rape victims being able to turn back sperm if they put their mind and muscles to it."

Todd Akin is creepy AND grammar-challenged.

Mark Warren in Esquire: "What is it with these people who would so casually invalidate the results of an entire election just because their spectacular nominee went and accidentally told the truth -- as he sees it, anyway -- and in so doing publicly exposed the mindset of a large swath of his party? Why even bother having elections and pretending that you care what people think, if they can so easily be thrown away? And since when is being an idiot a disqualifying condition?"

Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: "Rep. Steve King [RTP-Iowa] ...told an Iowa reporter he's never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.... A 1996 review by the Guttmacher Institute found 'at least half of all babies born to minor women are fathered by adult men.' ... King's office said that King didn't mean he had never heard of pregnancy resulting from statutory rape or incest but that he had no direct, personal knowledge of such instances." With video. You decide.

Joe Klein of Time: "... the Akin-King statements and, indeed, the Akin abortion amendment that Paul Ryan supported (and which made a distinction between 'forcible' and other sorts of rape) point to a larger Republican problem: it has become a party that, at the grass roots, celebrates ignorance.... Todd Akin is not an outlier. He is a symptom of the disease."

Washington Post Editors: "It is scary that someone so ill-informed could hold elective office or have a chance of becoming a senator.... Unfortunately, Mr. Akin's remarks are not the first, nor are they likely to be the last, in a long-running effort to downplay the horror of rape as a way to restrict access to abortion."

Josh Barro in Bloomberg News: "The reason Akin walked into this mess is that he lives inside a right-wing bubble, where people believe in false but politically convenient 'facts' about science and history.... Todd Akin's problem is that a view that's acceptable within his bubble is despicable to people who understand that, in fact, rapes can and do lead to pregnancy. And the conservative movement's problem is that a strategic decision to believe in falsehoods will cause its politicians to appear, and to be, stupid."

Why It's Hard to Be a Massachusetts Republican. (Ask Willard). Scott Brown Campaign: "Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who yesterday was the first sitting senator to call on Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race, is now urging his party to take a more lenient stance on abortion in its national platform. In a letter this afternoon to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Brown expresses concern that the official Republican platform is set to include 'language opposing a woman's right to choose and supporting a constitutional amendment banning abortion. I believe this is a mistake because it fails to recognize the views of pro-choice Republicans like myself.'"

Right Wing World *

Dana Milbank: "By their own logic, Republicans and their conservative allies should be concerned that [Hurricane] Isaac is a form of divine retribution. Last year, Rep. Michele Bachmann, then a Republican presidential candidate, said that the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene -- another 'I' storm, but not an Old Testament one -- were attempts by God 'to get the attention of the politicians.' In remarks later termed a 'joke,' she said: 'It's time for an act of God and we're getting it.' ... Even if you don't believe God uses meteorological phenomena to express His will, it's difficult for mere mortals to explain what is happening to the GOP just now." CW: I might find this funnier if I weren't in the eye of the storm.

* Where god is totally paying attention.

News Ledes

The Hill: "The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Wednesday warned the economy will enter a recession next year if the country goes over the so-called fiscal cliff."

New York Times: "Older men are more likely than young ones to father a child who develop autism or schizophrenia, because of random mutations that become more numerous with advancing paternal age, scientists reported on Wednesday, in the first study to quantify the effect as it builds each year. The age of mothers had no bearing on the risk for these disorders, the study found."

New York Times: "The nation is heading toward the worst outbreak of West Nile disease in the 13 years that the virus has been on this continent, federal health authorities said Wednesday."

New York Times: "The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission had wanted to bring her vision for regulating money-market mutual funds to a vote, as early as next week, but two of the five members of the commission opposed it. Luis Aguilar, the commissioner seen as the swing vote, said on Wednesday afternoon that he would feel comfortable voting only after significant further study of the industry and the limited regulations that were adopted in 2010. Mary L. Schapiro, the chairwoman, said in a statement on Wednesday evening that she was calling off the vote."

New York Times: "A former family court judge in Syracuse should be barred from returning to the bench, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct ruled Wednesday, after an investigation into an act of sexual misconduct 40 years ago with his niece, 13 years before he became a jurist."

ABC News: "Federal agents in Washington state have arrested an armed man accused of making threats against President Obama."

AP: "Forecasters cast a wary eye Tuesday on Tropical Storm Isaac, which was moving west in the Atlantic Ocean and poses a potential threat to Florida during next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa."

AP: "U.S. officials are investigating possible violations of sanctions against Iran by Royal Bank of Scotland, Britain's Financial Times reported Wednesday." "After more than two weeks of sitting still, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is finally set to roll out on the Red Planet with its debut drive on Wednesday...."


The Commentariat -- August 21, 2012

CW: Sorry, another day I have to work on other stuff all morning, but I'll catch up later. I'll also hit Brooks late in the day.

Ari Berman of The Nation: "Franklin County (Columbus, [Ohio]) GOP Chair Doug Preisse gave a surprisingly blunt answer to the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday: 'I guess I really actually feel we shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read African-American -- voter-turnout machine.' Preisse is ... the chairman of the Republican Party in Ohio's second-largest county and a close adviser to Ohio Governor John Kasich.... Preisse said publicly what many Republicans believe privately -- keeping turnout down among Obama supporters is the best way for the GOP to win the 2012 election."

Presidential Race

Nicholas Confessore & Derek Willis of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney's cash advantage over President Obama and the Democrats more than doubled in July, as intense Republican fund-raising and heavy spending by Mr. Obama and his allies left Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee with $62 million more in the bank than the Democrats at the end of last month."

Van Jones in Reader Supported News: "Any politician who wants to live in the White House for the next four years needs to start talking about how voters can keep the houses they're living in right now."

Jim Fallows of The Atlantic tears down Niall Ferguson's fact-challanged Newsweek cover story titled "Hit the Road, Barack." Fallows doesn't think Ferguson, who is a Harvard professor, is capable of grading his student's papers. ...

... Matthew O'Brien, also of The Atlantic, does "a full fact check" of "celebrity historian Niall Ferguson's ... counterfactual history of the past four years." ...

... Noah Smith also does a great job. Why does Newsweek publish this crap? It's embarrassing. Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Paul Krugman calls the Ferguson piece "unethical commentary" and says Newsweek should print a correction. ...

... Brad DeLong writes, "Fire his ass from Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. Convene a committee at Harvard to examine whether he has the moral character to teach at a university. There is a limit, somewhere. And Ferguson has gone beyond it."

Just Trust Him. Dana Milbank writes a great column detailing a Romney speech with no details. Milbank's opener -- on a different topic -- is hilarious:

Mitt Romney, returning to New Hampshire on Monday with his new running mate, lasted only about 30 seconds before stumbling right into the issue that has dogged his candidacy like no other. 'Gosh, I feel like I'm almost a New Hampshire resident,' ... Romney said. 'It would save me some tax dollars, I think.' D'oh! Does Mr. Thirteen Percent really want to remind everybody how determined he is to keep his tax returns private?

Robert Costa of the National Review: "In a phone interview this morning, Mitt Romney told National Review Online that Representative Todd Akin’s recent remarks on rape are 'inexcusable.'' Congressman Akin's comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong,' Romney said. 'Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.'" ...

... Kaili Gray of Daily Kos: "Mitt Romney sleeps on it, decides to be offended.... it only took him 12 hours to think about it, watch the entire country -- including his own party --condemn Akin's statement, and then decide he was offended."

Jon Walker of Firedoglake: "Already the Romney campaign has made multiple statements strongly distancing themselves from Akin. The statements are coming both from the campaign staff and directly from Romney in hasty interviews with the conservative National Review. There must be some worry that Akin's rape/abortion comment could taint Romney's running mate Rep. Paul Ryan. Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Akin that would have restricted tax payer funds to be used for abortions only if they resulted from 'forcible rape.'" ...

... Oops! "Paul Ryan Changes His Abortion Stance. Trip Gabriel & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "A campaign statement that neither Mitt Romney nor Representative Paul D. Ryan opposes abortion in rape cases contradicts Mr. Ryan's earlier position on the issue.... Mr. Ryan ... has opposed abortion in the case of rape. During his first run for the seat in 1998, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that he opposed abortions in all cases except to save the life of the mother. More recently, Mr. Ryan was a co-sponsor of a House bill last year defining human life as beginning with fertilization and granting 'personhood' rights to embryos, a movement that supporters say will outlaw abortions in all cases, and may also restrict some forms of birth control." ...

... Michael Shear & Trip Gabriel: even as Paul Ryan's "presence continues to animate and enliven Mr. Romney's performance on the stump, Mr. Ryan remains a large new target for President Obama's campaign and his Democratic allies. On Monday, Democrats highlighted Mr. Ryan's history of opposing abortion -- even in cases in which a woman is raped -- after controversial comments from Representative Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri." ...

... Akin & Ryan -- Redefining Rape. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Last year, Akin joined with GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as two of the original co-sponsors of the 'No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,' a bill which, among other things, introduced the country to the bizarre term 'forcible rape.'" ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: in "a 2007 statement ... at a debate..., Romney said he would be 'delighted' to sign a bill banning all abortions, saying it would be 'terrific.' Update Mitt Romney's 2007 'on the issues' page notes he supports exceptions in cases of rape and incest, but also notes that abortion should be a state issue. Update The Obama campaign says in a statement: 'While Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are working overtime to distance themselves from Rep. Todd Akin's comments on rape, they are contradicting their own records. Mr. Romney supports the Human Life Amendment, which would ban abortion in all instances, even in the case of rape and incest. In fact, that amendment is a central part of the Republican Party's platform that is being voted on tomorrow [Tuesday].'"

"Rape is rape." President Obama held an unscheduled press conference yesterday afternoon:

... Devin Dwyer & David Muir of ABC News: "Democrats said the presumptive nominee and his running mate have a history of aligning with Akin on 'extreme' positions, including legislation that would have redefined rape, banned abortion in all cases and cut off funding for abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood.... 'Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women's ability to make their own health care decisions,' [DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz] said in an email blast to supporters Sunday night. 'This kind of "leadership" is dangerously wrong for women -- and I can't sit by and watch as these out-of-touch Republicans like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Todd Akin continue to roll back women's rights.'"

Congressional Races

CW: I'll bet Todd Akin always wanted to be famous. Now he is.

Nia-Malika Henderson & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Republican leaders are focused on a Tuesday afternoon deadline, hoping that Rep. Todd Akin (Mo.), the embattled Senate candidate who used the phrase 'legitimate rape' in talking about abortion and pregnancy, will heed their calls to get out of the race and preserve the party's chances to take back the upper house. Akin has said repeatedly that he has no intention of ending his campaign, even as his prospects of winning have likely been diminished with Republican leaders pulling financial support from the contest and denouncing his comments."

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "As part of his effort to keep his place on the November ballot, Representative Todd Akin, Republican of Missouri, released an ad Tuesday in which he asks for viewers' forgiveness for his comments on Sunday about rape." CW: Good. At least so far, he's staying in the race.

Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "Facing a firestorm of criticism over his comments about 'legitimate rape,' Missouri Rep. Todd Akin canceled a scheduled interview with CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday. And in what's becoming something of a trend on cable news, Morgan opened his primetime show with a shot of Akin's empty chair, calling the embattled Republican Senate candidate a 'gutless little twerp' for cancelling the sit-down."

What's the Matter with Missouri? Laura Davis of Yahoo! News: "A poll conducted and released on Monday found that U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who's under fire for his comments about 'legitimate rape,' still has an edge over Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in Missouri's Senate race. Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina-based Democratic polling firm, has Akin leading McCaskill by one point, 44 percent to 43 percent. "

A Missouri reader sends this video of former Missouri Sen. Jack Danforth -- an Episcopalian priest -- expressing dismay at Todd Akin's remarks. Danforth claims "that's not the Republican party." Father Jack's hand-wringing would be a little more credible if he weren't responsible for bringing us Clarence Thomas:

Zack Beauchamp of Think Progress: "Akin's crusade against women's access to medical services fits with his broader worldview, which is heavily influenced by a particularly virulent group of fundamentalist thinkers described as 'Christian supremacists' by the Anti-Defamation League." ...

... Dan Amira of New York: "One study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that over 32,000 pregnancies result from rape every year in the United States." ...

... Amanda Marcotte in the American Prospect: "Akin's comment should serve as a reminder that despite its sentimentality surrounding the fetus, the anti-choice movement is motivated by misogyny and ignorance about human sexuality."

... Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed: "Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, said today on Mike Huckabee's radio show that he won't drop out of the race in the midst of a firestorm over comments he made this weekend about 'legitimate rape' and pregnancy.... 'We're going to take this thing forward and by the grace of God we're going to win this race,' Akin told Huckabee." CW: yes, because God is totally into Todd Akin. ...

Kaili Gray: "... Todd Akin himself announced ... that he will not be dropping out of the race.... He explained that he meant to say 'forcible rape' instead of 'legitimate rape,' which brings him in line with the rest of the Republican Party, including Paul Ryan. Does the party really intend to force out Paul Ryan and every other Republican who supported redefining rape to close 'loopholes' that victims of not-really-rape have been exploiting...? Republicans would like to force Akin to take the fall for this whole mess so they can go back to completely agreeing with him but without having to say so out loud." ...

... Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic: "Arguments like his have cropped up again and again on the right over the past quarter century and the idea that trauma is a form of birth control continues to be promulgated by anti-abortion forces that seek to outlaw all abortions.... The push for a no-exceptions anti-abortion policy has for decades gone hand in hand with efforts to downplay the frequency with which rape- or incest-related pregnancies occur, and even to deny that they happen, at all." ...

... Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones: "John C. Willke, an anti-abortion doctor, writes on the website Christian Life Resources about how pregnancies resulting from rape are 'extremely rare' because of hormones and stuff."

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "The Missouri GOP could replace Akin on the ballot if he voluntarily withdraws from the race, but Akin would need to decide to withdraw very quickly if he wants his party to be able to take advantage of this opportunity. Under Missouri law, Akin must withdraw 'not later than the eleventh Tuesday prior to the general election.' This year, the eleventh Tuesday prior to the general election is the 21st of August." ...

... AND David Taintor of TPM: "Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's advisers are making preparations to withdraw from the race Tuesday, GOP operative Richard Grenell and editor Erick Erickson report. Grenell cited 'GOP sources' in his tweet announcing the withdrawal." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico: "The conservative outside-spending powerhouse Crossroads GPS is pulling its ads from the Missouri Senate race.... The group had originally booked a new round of ads to start Wednesday but began canceling them earlier today. The decision comes in the wake of comments by Missouri Rep. and GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin...." ...

... Later in the Day. Paul Kane & Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post: "... fearing the Akin controversy may cost them more that just that one race, Romney and Senate GOP leaders urged Akin to step aside and pulled funds from what they once considered a sure pickup. Democrats hope to capitalize on Akin's troubles, but it was the Republican response that brought the most pressure to bear. GOP leaders made the decision early Monday to try to forcefully push Akin out well before next week's national party convention, leaving his campaign in tatters by day's end."

... Peter Hamby of CNN: "Two top officials from the Family Research Council said the Missouri congressman is the target of a Democratic smear campaign and chided those Republicans who have condemned Akin."

... Dan Amira: "For the record, McCaskill does not think the party should try to replace the dim-witted neanderthal whose continued presence in the race gives her the best possible chance of winning. But only because it would upset so many Akin supporters."

Jon Walker: "It appears serious worries about being hurt by Akin also extend beyond people who have a direct connection to him on this issue. Already Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has called for Akin to withdraw based on his statement." (Also linked above under Presidential Race.) ...

... Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe has more on Scott Brown's remarks and Elizabeth Warren's reaction.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "House Republican leaders reprimanded 30 lawmakers last August for antics including drinking and skinny-dipping during a fact-finding trip to Israel, according to published reports. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) scolded the lawmakers -- many of them freshmen -- and senior GOP staffers for a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee. At least one of the lawmakers swam nude, according to a report published Sunday night by Politico. The FBI later inquired about the incident to determine whether there was any impropriety, the report said." Two of the participants whose re-election could be affected are Michael Grimm of Staten Island -- who is already in trouble for possible illegal campaign shenanigans -- & Ben Son-of-Dan Quayle, who is just an unmitigated jerk/chip-off-the-old-block. ...

     ... According to this New York Times story by Jennifer Steinhauer, both Grimm & Quayle say they went for a swim because of the religious significance of the Sea of Galilee.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The police arrested a professional tennis referee at a Manhattan hotel on Tuesday on a charge of murder in the death of her husband in April. The referee, Lois Ann Goodman, nicknamed Lolo, was in New York to work the United States Open."

AP: "A federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that Texas can cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide health services to low-income women before a trial over a new law that bans state money from going to organizations tied to abortion providers. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted a federal judge's temporary injunction calling for the funding to continue pending an October trial on Planned Parenthood's challenge to the law."

** New York Times: "Even as the Republican establishment continued to call for Representative Todd Akin of Missouri to drop out of his Senate race because of his comments on rape and abortion, Republicans approved platform language on Tuesday calling for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no explicit exceptions for cases of rape or incest." CW: Just astounding. ...

... Yahoo! News: "A committee drafting the Republican Party's platform decided not to add support for civil unions for gay couples into its document, according to the leader of a Republican gay rights group." CW: At least they're consistent: discriminate against everybody who isn't a straight male.

Washington Post: "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned one of the Obama administration's hallmark air quality rules Tuesday, ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its authority in curbing pollution from Midwest power plants too sharply. The 2 to 1 ruling by the appeals court represents a major victory for utilities and business groups, who fought the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule on the grounds that it was costly, burdensome and arbitrary."

Washington Post: "The Justice Department has signed off on Virginia’s new voter ID law, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Monday night, in a decision that clears the way for the bitterly contested measure to take effect in time for Election Day. Justice officials found that the law, which closes a provision that had allowed Virginians to vote without identification but also expands the types of ID accepted at the polls, does not violate the Voting Rights Act, McDonnell said in a statement."

New York Times: "A discrimination and retaliation lawsuit has embroiled the upper reaches of the federal government's immigration< enforcement agency, contributing to a sense of turmoil in a bureaucracy that has been suffering major labor conflicts between senior officials and employees. The lawsuit, filed by [James T. Hayes, Jr,] a top federal immigration official in New York, alleges that he was shunted out of a high-level position in the agency in favor of a less qualified woman because he was a man."

Washington Post: "Afghan officials say they have launched an expanded effort to spy on their own police and army recruits, an acknowledgment that previous measures designed to reduce insurgent infiltration in the country's security services have failed." ...

... Washington Post: "A plane belonging to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff was apparently attacked by insurgents in Afghanistan on Tuesday. Militants fired rockets at the Bagram Airfield outside Kabul, and shrapnel hit U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey's C-17 military plane, according to NATO officials. Dempsey was not in the plane at the time of the attack. Several members of the maintenance crew sustained minor injuries. A helicopter was also damaged."

AP: "Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia's long-time ruler who held tight control over this East African country but was a major U.S counter-terrorism ally, died of an undisclosed illness after not being seen in public for weeks, Ethiopian authorities announced Tuesday. He was 57."