The Ledes

Wednesday, November 26, 2014.

NBC News: "A holiday storm system played havoc Wednesday with the Thanksgiving travel plans of tens of millions of people — wiping out hundreds of flights in the Northeast, dumping rain on busy roads and threatening more than a foot of snow in some places.

Washington Post: "Police cleared the remaining barricades from one of Hong Kong’s largest protest sites Wednesday and arrested two pro-democracy leaders as authorities stepped up their efforts to end the two-month-long civil disobedience campaign. Hundreds of protesters chanted for 'full democracy' as workers in red caps and 'I love Hong Kong' T-shirts began clearing the metal and wooden barricades in the shopping streets of Mong Kok, a crowded working-class neighborhood that has become a flash point between protesters and opponents during the occupation."

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.

The Ledes

Tuesday, November 25, 2014.

Washington Post: "This week’s winter storm is shaping up to be a travel nightmare for Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving and the busiest travel day of the year. A coating to several inches of snow could accumulate along the I-95 corridor on Wednesday. While temperatures have been unseasonably warm early this week, snow is still likely to accumulate along coastal interstates, especially during periods of heavy snowfall."

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 26

2:15 pm ET: President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, not so much)

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

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

CW: For those of you who don't like hassling with DVDs, I accidentally found a cheap alternative to Netflix. Although I will continue to subscribe to Netflix's streaming videos, Netflix doesn't stream most decent movies. Instead, you have to maintain a (second) monthly subscription, then order & return the DVDs. However, YouTube now allows you to stream movies (you can watch them -- more than once -- during a 48-hour period.) There's no monthly fee, & you can play the movies on your TV via various devices. I have a Google dongle on one TV & a Blu-Ray box on another. The YouTube streaming videos work on both (you have to download on the Chrome browser). Setting up an account was very easy. Since I watch few movies, this works perfectly for me. When Ben Bradlee died, I watched "All the President's Men" for the umpteenth time, & today I watched "Good Night & Good Luck." Big advantage: instant gratification! I'm not sure if YouTube is good for more recent movies.

The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

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.

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Constant Comments

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-- Constant Weader

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

Tuesday
Jul172012

The Commentariat -- July 18, 2012

Mary Walsh & Michael Cooper of the New York Times: "The fiscal crisis for states will persist long after the economy rebounds as they confront rising health care costs, underfunded pensions, ignored infrastructure needs, eroding revenues and expected federal budget cuts, according to a report issued here Tuesday by a task force of respected budget experts." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Around the country..., states continue to face a fiscal crisis because of rising costs and Republican-driven cuts in federal aid. While some governors and lawmakers are searching for new revenue sources, others are using the downturn as an excuse to end a long tradition of states being the final backstop for society's neediest."

Matt Bai in a New York Times Magazine piece on why the Citizens United decision probably didn't make much difference. CW: it's a point of view, and some of Bai's POV might be right. ...

... For an excellent view to the contrary, Bill Moyers & Michael Winship outline some of the bad effects of Citizens United & tie those bad effects, not surprisingly, to the demise of the DISCLOSE Act this week (not a single GOP Senator voted for it). "... at the time of the ruling..., eight of the nine justices also made it clear that key to the decision was the importance of transparency. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, 'The First Amendment protects political speech and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.'"; Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "New laws in 10 states requiring voters to show IDs could present serious challenges to voters without financial resources and transportation, according to a report released Wednesday. The study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which opposes the new laws, found several obstacles that could keep voters from being able to cast ballots, including limited access to offices that issue the IDs required under the new measures."

Steve Kornacki: "... just because a president does what voters tell pollsters they want him to do on taxes doesn't guarantee voters will understand it that way -- especially if one of the two major parties is loudly and unanimously arguing that the president has done something completely and totally different from what he says he did." CW: the bottom line here is that Republicans lie a lot & Democrats don't defend themselves against the lies. And goobers are goobers.

Ta-Nehesi Coates in the New York Times: "The problem here is not that [Joe] Paterno shamed Happy Valley, but that Happy Valley, through its broad blindness, has shamed itself."

Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "The acting chief of the General Services Administration will announce Tuesday that he is canceling almost all bonuses for executives this year and freezing hiring after a spending scandal that prompted a major shake-up at the agency.... Of 75 career senior executives, 67 received bonuses in the last fiscal year.... The average was $9,600, the same award given to Jeffrey Neely, the organizer of the now-famous Western Regions conference. Neely got his bonus even after the inspector general" had briefed GSA leaders "on the excessive spending." CW: Um, why are bureaucrats getting bonuses anyway?

Sally McGrane of the New York Times: Denmark's "cycle superhighway, which opened in April, is the first of 26 routes scheduled to be built to encourage more people to commute to and from Copenhagen by bicycle. More bike path than the Interstate its name suggests, it is the brainchild of city planners who were looking for ways to increase bicycle use in a place where half of the residents already bike to work or to school every day." ...

... AND, by contrast, Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times on couch spuds: "... a group of groundbreaking new reports ... suggest that voluntary physical inactivity, a practice once confined mostly to North America and parts of Europe, is spreading rapidly to the rest of the world and likely contributing materially to global gains in tonnage and declines in health." CW: it isn't just a greater level of income equality that makes Danes the happiest people in the world.

So, okay, I didn't watch this hour-long interview:

       ... But here's a typical quote, courtesy of Taegan Goddard:

Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful. But I have no desire for fame and power anymore.... I crawled out of the swamp and I'm not crawling back in. -- George W. Bush

Charles Pierce on "David Brooks, Joe Klein & the Courtier Press."

Presidential Race

Maureen Dowd: "Campaigning Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Romney called Obama's course as president 'extraordinarily foreign.' But it is the Mitt-bot who keeps getting caught doing things that seem strangely outside the norm to most Americans."

Ultra-conservative Byron York in the ultra-conservative Washington Examiner on why the Romney campaign is floundering. Greg Sargent calls this a must-read. It is a good summary of Romney's problems.

Alex Altman of Time on Romney's Olympic Games credentials. Even they are not as impressive as Mitt would have you believe.

Felicia Sonmez & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The political pressure on Mitt Romney to release more of his personal income tax returns is causing some divisions inside the GOP presidential candidate's camp, according to a Republican strategist close to the campaign. Although some advisers are arguing privately that Romney needs to release additional filings to curb the political fallout, others are resisting that suggestion...." ...

... A Helpful Rebuttal. Manu Raju of Politico: "Mitt Romney's tax returns had nothing to do with Sen. John McCain's decision to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, according to the Arizona Republican, saying he chose the former Alaska governor because she was a 'better candidate.' McCain received more than two decades worth of Romney's tax returns as the former Massachusetts governor was undergoing the vetting process four years ago, far more than Romney has released publicly in the 2012 campaign. Democrats have questioned whether McCain saw something untoward in those tax returns and decided to choose Palin instead." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Yesterday, former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt rebutted the insinuation that Mitt Romney's tax returns cost him the vice presidential selection by saying that it was Romney's wealth, not his tax returns, that cost him the job. But while Schmidt was clearly trying to suggest that Romney's returns are clean, by the end of the day, he acknowledged that he'd never actually seen them." With video. ...

... Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider: "Fifty-six percent of Americans think Mitt Romney should release his tax returns from the last 12 years while 34 percent think he should not, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling. Among Independent voters,61 percent want Romney to release his returns, while just 27 percent say he shouldn't." ...

... Several tax experts tell Greg Sargent it's very likely the Romneys paid very low taxes in the years Romney is refusing to release his returns. ...

... Joshua Green of Business Week on why the theory that Romney paid no taxes in 2008 and/or 2009 is plausible. ...

... AND Matt Yglesias has another plausible theory: in 2009, perhaps Romney took advantage of an amnesty that the IRS offered Americans who evaded taxes by holding secret Swiss bank accounts. Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, had cut a deal with the IRS to disclose 4,000 accounts held by Americans. Yglesias' reasoning is solid: "Romney might well have thought in 2007 and 2008 that there was nothing to fear about a non-disclosed offshore account ... precisely because it wasn't disclosed. But then came the [UBS] settlement.... Failing to apply for the amnesty and then getting charged by the IRS would have been both financially and politically disastrous.... But even though the amnesty would eliminate any legal or financial liability for past acts, it would hardly eliminate political liability."

Garrett Haake & Michael O'Brien of NBC News: "The Romney campaign ratcheted up its language on Tuesday in a conference call on which former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff John Sununu said he wished President Obama 'would learn how to be an American.' Sununu led a series of Romney surrogates in questioning the president's commitment to economic freedom, dredging up the president's ties to Tony Rezko; another speaker on the conference call said Obama's policies were akin to 'socialism'":

     ... As McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed writes, "Earlier Tuesday, Sununu made several of the charges in an interview with Fox News, suggesting that his words on the conference call were part of a new Romney campaign effort to turn the focus of the race away from questions about his time at Bain Capitol":

Obama has no idea how the American system functions. And we shouldn't be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S., he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago. -- John Sununu, former New Hampshire governor & Romney surrogate on Fox "News" Tuesday. Coppins has the video.

      ... Update: A Romney adviser said, "'I mean, [Obama] is a guy who admitted to cocaine use, had a sweetheart deal with his house in Chicago, and was associated and worked with Rod Blagojevich to get Valerie Jarrett 'appointed to the Senate.... The bottom line is there'll be counterattacks.' The reference to Obama's past drug use seems to suggest that ... John Sununu wasn't going off-script after all when he dinged the president for spending 'his early years in Hawaii smoking something' during a Tuesday morning Fox News appearance."

... Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon has as excellent post on why John Sununu , of all people, should know better than to attack President Obama's ethnic & cultural heritage.

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "A day after forcing YouTube to pull a Mitt Romney campaign ad featuring a snippet of Barack Obama singing Al Green's 'Let's Stay Together,' a major music publisher is doing likewise with videos of the president's crooning. Romney's ad disappeared Monday, and the Obama clips — shot at a January fundraiser at the Apollo Theater in Harlem -- began coming down Tuesday."

Andy Borowitz: "Manufacturing workers from across China flooded downtown Beijing to show their gratitude for Mr. Romney's robust record of job creation in China while at the helm of the private equity firm Bain Capital. While Mr. Romney's feats of outsourcing have taken a political toll at home, they have made him a national hero in China, according to workers like Qiu Huang, who attended the rally."

Right Wing World

Still at It. AP: "Investigators for an Arizona sheriff's [Joe Arpaio] volunteer posse say President Barack Obama's birth certificate is definitely fraudulent." CW: I have serious bad news for the birthers: even if the certificate were fraudulent -- which it is not -- Sheriff Joe's volunteer posse would have to prove that Obama's mother was not a natural-born citizen, as her American nationality grants Obama automatic citizenship.

News Ledes

New York Times: "A Senate committee advanced a measure on Wednesday to normalize trade relations with Russia for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union while also sanctioning officials implicated in human rights abuses."

New York Times: "The nation's consumer watchdog on Wednesday delivered its first enforcement action against the financial industry, fining Capital One for pressuring and misleading more than two million credit card customers. Capital One, one of the nation's biggest banks and credit card lenders, agreed to pay $210 million to resolve a pair of regulatory cases, the latest legal setback for the financial industry."

Washington Post: "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers Tuesday that the central bank did all it was required to do after learning in 2008 of the manipulation of the Libor interest rate, including notifying counterparts in Britain. But Bank of England Governor Mervyn King, addressing Parliament earlier in the day, said ... 'The New York Fed did not raise any evidence of wrongdoing with regards to Libor.' ... King said that he received only a memo of suggestions from then-New York Fed President Timothy F. Geithner...." CW: ah, the "all that was required" defense. A little like "just following orders." Fire 'em all.

Washington Post: "Syrian state television said Wednesday that a bombing in Damascus killed Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, the latest and most dramatic sign of upheaval in more than 16 months of civil revolt." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "A suicide bomber attacked a meeting of the most senior ministers and security chiefs in central Damascus on Wednesday, according to state television, killing both the defense minister and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law who is the deputy chief of staff of the Syrian military." ...

     ... Story has been updated. New lede: "A lethal bomb attack in Damascus struck at the heart of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle Wednesday, killing at least three of his most senior aides, including his minister of defense and brother-in-law, in the most audacious challenge to the government's grip on power since the Syria uprising began 17 months ago."

Washington Post: "A chunk of ice twice the size of Manhattan has parted from Greenland's Petermann glacier, a break researchers at the University of Delaware and Canadian Ice Service attributed to warmer ocean temperatures."

Reuters: "Days after a blistering report accused [Joe] Paterno of covering up the child sex abuse of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to shield Penn State's reputation, Paterno's alma mater, Brown University in Providence, R.I., said it stripped his name from an annual athletic award."

Monday
Jul162012

The Commentariat -- July 17, 2012

I didn't have time to write a column today, but I did write a letter to Andy Rosenthal, the Times' editorial page editor & Greg Brock, the Times' corrections editor, about David Brooks' column today. You can read it here.

Donna Cassata of the AP: "Automatic cuts in federal spending will cost the economy more than 2 million jobs, from defense contracting to border security to education, if Congress fails to resolve the looming budget crisis, according to an analysis released Tuesday."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times on "pop-up SuperPACS" -- groups that put up a pretense of being non-profits, tax-exempt, issues-oriented organizations, spend millions to defeat a candidate, then disband -- or go bankrupt. CW: Seriously, we have no campaign finance regulations. Rich people just do what they want & say what they want.

Matt Isaacs, et al., of Frontline: "... some of the methods [Sheldon] Adelson used in Macau to save his company and help build a personal fortune estimated at $25 billion have come under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators...." ...

... Here's the Rachel Maddow segment on Adelson, which contributor Victoria D. recommends:

Sam Dolnick of the New York Times: "A company [with close ties to Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ)] that plays a critical role in New Jersey's corrections system, running halfway houses as large as prisons, has had such severe financial difficulties over the last four years that it contemplated filing for bankruptcy in 2010, according to newly disclosed documents.... Mr. Christie has long championed the company. Not long before Mr. Christie took office in January 2010, Community Education defaulted on its debt...."

MOOCs! Tamar Lewin of the New York Times: "As part of a seismic shift in online learning that is reshaping higher education, Coursera, a year-old company founded by two Stanford University computer scientists, will announce on Tuesday that a dozen major research universities are joining the venture. In the fall, Coursera will offer 100 or more free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that are expected to draw millions of students and adult learners globally.... And some of them will offer credit.

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: At an exhibition game at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., last night, President Obama predicted the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team would bring home the gold, but the Obamas' performance on the Center's "Kiss Cam" got more attention:

Presidential Race

Callum Borchers of the Boston Globe: "In recent days, Romney and his defenders have begun to say Romney left his 'day-to-day' duties at Bain Capital ... in February 1999, seemingly absolving him of responsibility for any bankruptcies, layoffs or offshore outsourcing after 1999.... But these statements address only the straw-man attack articulated by ... Karl Rove -- 'that [Romney] didn't take a leave of absence to go run the Olympic Committee and continued to run Bain.' However, Romney established a much stricter standard of separation when he asserted on his most recent financial disclosure form that he 'has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way' since he took over the Olympics...."

Drip, Drip. Oh. A "Transition Period." David Corn of Mother Jones has more from the 2002 hearing to determine whether Romney met the Massachusetts residency requirement for gubernatorial candidates: 'Did you remain more or less continuously in Salt Lake City from February '99 to the end of the year?' Romney answered: 'Actually, there was some transition away from my work in Boston for the first few months and then I pretty much stayed there after.' ... The lawyer, after referring to this 'transition,' asked, 'So from February through the end of the year you were pretty much full-time out in Utah, right?' Romney replied: 'Well again, the beginning of the year was a good deal of time back and forth, but towards the last half of the year it was pretty much exclusively in Utah.'" ...

... Sal Gentile of NBC News: Ed Conard..., a partner at Bain Capital from 1993 to 2007, said in an ... interview with Up w/ Chris Hayes ... that Romney was 'legally' the chief executive officer and sole owner of Bain Capital until 2002, not 1999 as Romney has previously stated, and said that Romney was engaged in a 'complicated set of negotiations' over his exit pay for at least two years after he says he left the firm.... Asked if the factory closures and lay-offs that occurred between 1999 and 2002 were characteristic of Bain Capital's record before 1999, Conard said, 'I believe that's true, yes. I think that Bain Capital does what Bain Capital does, which is try to make companies stronger and grow them faster." With video. ...

     ... Digby: "Romney stayed on at Bain from 99-2002 because he was holding up his partners for as much as he could get.... I guess they must figure that's a better way to explain it than having to answer why he would have been involved with a fetus disposal company."

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones says it appears Romney didn't do much for Bain during the 1999-2001 period, so all the brouhaha is moot: "The only problem is that back during the primaries [Romney] became so desperate to avoid being tainted by the unpopular aspects of running a ruthless private equity firm that he panicked.... He can't run from Bain, and he shouldn't have tried." ...

... Andrew Sullivan: "... the question of whether Romney committed a felony in his financial disclosure form is a very real one -- because Romney and Romney's lawyer provide the strongest evidence that it was perjury.... Republicans ... impeached a sitting president for [perjury]. But their current candidate is an obvious perjurer and thereby a felon."

Yay! A left-wing conspiracy theory! Brian Knowlton of the New York Times: Chicago Mayor Rahm "Emanuel suggested that [Romney's] undisclosed returns could hold only bad news about Mr. Romney's finances, and might even have played a role in Senator John McCain's decision to reject Mr. Romney as a running mate in 2008 and turn instead to Sarah Palin. Mr. Romney gave Mr. McCain's team 23 years of returns. 'The Romney campaign ... have decided that it's better to get attacked on a lack of transparency, lack of accountability to the American people, versus telling you what's in those taxes,' Emmanuel said.' ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "It's only fair to assume that Mitt is doing what he always does: acting on the basis of a careful cost-benefit analysis. [George] Will's comments on this were spot on: 'The cost of not releasing the returns are clear,' he said. 'Therefore, [Romney] must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.' But what information could the earlier tax returns contain...? Here are four possibilities: 1. Extremely high levels of income.... 2. More offshore accounts.... 3. Politically explosive investments.... 4. A very, very low tax rate." ...

... Kevin Drum: "... there are probably multiple years in which Romney paid no taxes at all." ...

... Gee, the Obama campaign thought of that, too. This ad, per Greg Sargent, goes up in Pennsylvania today:

     ... The ad builds on this independently-produced video, via Jim Fallows of The Atlantic:

Here's a DNC Web video, using winger pundits to hit Romney for not releasing his tax returns:

Glenn Kessler, the WashPo's so-called fact-checker, gets one right: "In trying to fend off demands ... that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney release more than two years of tax returns, his campaign has sought to claim that releasing two years of tax returns is normal.... [John] McCain did release two years of tax returns [in 2008], but the Romney campaign is being misleading with its suggestions that releasing two years of tax returns is some sort of standard for presidential contenders. Two years is actually the exception -- only one challenger out of the last seven presidential nominees has released just two years of returns."

Mitt Romney, Time Traveler. Dana Milbank: "Retroactive retirement! It was a brilliant formulation..., and it raised tantalizing possibilities: If Romney can do it, perhaps others can go back in time to rearrange events.... The Obama campaign's attacks on Romney's outsourcing, his foreign tax havens and his work at Bain are often unfair, not entirely accurate and sometimes downright mean -- just as they should be. ...

... Gene Robinson: "If Romney really does have the power to bend time and space, he might want to retroactively clean up the mess he’s made."

** David Firestone of the New York Times: "... to deflect attention from its troubles with Bain Capital, the Romney campaign is hyperventilating over the coziness [of President Obama and his campaign bundlers], as if it is unprecedented.... A new ad claims that Mr. Obama loves his 'donor class' more than the middle class.... But how did the Romney campaign ... know who the Obama bundlers were? Because the Obama campaign disclosed them, though it is not required to do so. And that's something the Romney campaign has refused to do.... Favoritism is a bad business, a stain on every administration.... But an ad like Mr. Romney's, encompassing hypocrisy, deceit and secrecy, may be even worse."

Charlie Cook of the National Journal: "The strategic decision by the Romney campaign not to define him personally -- not to inoculate him from inevitable attacks -- seems a perverse one. Given his campaign's ample financial resources, the decision not to run biographical or testimonial ads, in effect to do nothing to establish him as a three-dimensional person, has left him open to the inevitable attacks for his work at Bain Capital, on outsourcing, and on his investments.... Aside from a single spot aired in the spring by the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, not one personal positive ad has been aired on Romney's behalf."

Mobutu Sese Seko of Gawker really likes the new Obama ad featuring Romney singing "America the Beautiful" while "the quotes about him highlight the shallowness of his patriotism and national benefit of his business expertise." Seko makes a good argument for why Romney's whiney response to questions about when he left Bain really isn't working.

Nia-Malika Henderson & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama used an hour-long town hall event [in Cincinnati, Ohio] Monday to mock Republican Mitt Romney's economic plan as one that would create jobs only overseas":

AND, the word from ...

Right Wing World

Robert Mackey of the New York Times: "The news that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's motorcade was pelted with shoes and tomatoes by Egyptian protesters ... as she left the U.S. consulate in Alexandria on Sunday, delighted conservative bloggers in the United States.... The extent to which the Egyptians who vented their rage ... appear to have been inspired by fears that the Obama administration harbors a secret, pro-Islamist agenda which originated with American conservatives." CW: Michele Bachmann is laughable, but she can do real harm to U.S. international relations, and that ain't so funny.

News Ledes

Fed Chair Ben Bernanke urges Congress to get off the "fiscal cliff":

The Do-Nothing Fed Urges the Do-Nothing Congress to Do Something. New York Times: "The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said Tuesday that the Fed was seeking greater clarity about the health of the recovery, suggesting that officials were not ready to approve another round of stimulus." ...

... New York Times: "Senate Democrats -- holding firm against extending tax cuts for the rich -- are proposing a novel way to circumvent the Republican pledge not to vote for any tax increase: Allow all the tax cuts to expire Jan. 1, then vote on a tax cut for the middle class shortly thereafter."

Washington Post: "William Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post whose fiercely independent views illuminated conflicts concerning education, poverty, crime and race, and who was one of the first black journalists to gain a wide following in the mainstream press, died July 17 at his home in Washington. He was 76."

Daily Beast: "The DISCLOSE Act was summarily executed via filibuster in the Senate last night. But this is one symbolic vote that mattered, because it offered at least an attempt to address the flow of hidden money into our elections."

Washington Post: "A drought gripping the Corn Belt and more than half the United States has reached proportions not seen in more than 50 years, the government reported Monday, jacking up crop prices and threatening to drive up the cost of food. Though agriculture is a small part of the U.S. economy, the shortfall comes as the nation struggles to regain its economic footing. Last week, the Agriculture Department declared more than 1,000 counties in 26 states as natural-disaster areas."

NBC News: "A 'pervasively polluted' culture at HSBC allowed the bank to act as financier to clients moving shadowy funds from the world's most dangerous and secretive corners, including Mexico, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria, according to a scathing U.S. Senate report issued on Monday. The report [link to PDF here] which comes ahead of a Senate hearing on Tuesday, said large amounts of Mexican drug money was likely to have passed through the bank."

Washington Post: "Congressional investigators said Monday that the chief counsel's office at the Food and Drug Administration authorized wide-ranging surveillance of a group of the agency's scientists, the first indication that the effort was sanctioned at the highest levels. In a letter to the FDA, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that his staff had learned that the spying was 'explicitly authorized, in writing' by the agency's top legal office."

Reuters: "Retail sales fell in June for the third straight month, the longest run of consecutive drops since 2008 when the country was mired in recession."

Sunday
Jul152012

The Commentariat -- July 16, 2012

CW: Sorry for the slow morning. I had major connection problems overnight, & among the sites I couldn't access was my own. I'll try to get up to speed shortly, though I expect interruptions, access-wise & otherwise.

Banksters! Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: "Some of the nation’s biggest brokerage firms appear to be giving a handful of top hedge funds an early peek at ... changes in [their] analysts' views ... of a company's prospects ... allowing them to trade on the information before other investors get the word." CW: these are not "savvy businessmen"; they're cheats, liars & crooks. ...

... Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has so far escaped responsibility for the spreading Libor fixing scandal by releasing documents showing that when he became aware of the problem in 2008, as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he made recommendations to address it.... [But] the recommendations Geithner sent to London did not come from staff, but rather were proposed by major banks and more or less forwarded on verbatim." Thanks for the link go to Kate M., who shares my opinion of Wall Street's Man in Washington.

Bill Keller debunks five myths about the Affordable Care Act. Little of this will be news to Reality Chex readers, but Keller's piece provides good responses for you to toss at your Foxbot friends when they start explaining why ObamaCare is the canary in the coalmine of civilization.

Sen. Dr. No Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) writes an op-ed in the New York Times claiming Republicans are only to happy to raise taxes and they just pay no attention at all to Grover Norquist. To be fair, Coburn -- who is retiring, so he doesn't have to face Norquist/Tea Party wrath -- has been more willing than most in his party to discuss raising taxes in exchange for cuts in the social safety net. ...

... AND, in another op-ed from a Very Serious Jerk, Larry Summers writes in the Washington Post that the wealth inequality he helped create is maybe not such a good thing. One of his revolutionary suggestions for reducing inequality: "... the custom could be established [at top private universities] that for each 'legacy slot' room would be made for one 'opportunity slot.'" Summers was president of Harvard till nobody there could stand him, either. ...

... E. J. Dionne takes a whack at conservatives' "solutions" to wealth inequality, & notes that David Brooks' ruminations are "wrong."

NEW. Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "Democrats are making increasingly explicit threats about their willingness to let nearly $600 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts take effect in January unless Republicans drop their opposition to higher taxes for the nation's wealthiest households. Emboldened by signs that GOP resistance to new taxes may be weakening, senior Democrats say they are prepared to weather a fiscal event that could plunge the nation back into recession if the new year arrives without an acceptable compromise."

Presidential Race

NEW: Anthony Gardner in Bloomberg News: "What's clear from a review of the public record during his management of the private-equity firm Bain Capital from 1985 to 1999 is that Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for its investors. He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm's partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses. What's less clear is how his skills are relevant to the job of overseeing the U.S. economy, strengthening competitiveness and looking out for the welfare of the general public...." Gardner works at a private equity fund and was director of European affairs in the U.S. National Security Council in 1994-95."

NEW: Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Mitt Romney on Monday accused President Barack Obama of running a 'campaign based on falsehood and dishonesty,' while brushing aside suggestions from anxious conservatives to release more than two years of tax returns." ...

... NEW. Mackenzie Weinger of Politico: "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz offered Mitt Romney and his campaign team some stark advice on Monday: They 'need to put their big boy and big girl pants on and defend his record.... They don't want to show us his record. They're running the most secretive campaign for president of a major party in history.'"

** New York Times Editors: "After three days of Mitt Romney complaining about attacks on his record at Bain Capital, it's clear that President Obama has nothing to apologize for. If Mr. Romney doesn't want to provide real answers to the questions about his career, he had better develop a thicker skin." ...

... After three days of the New York Times not covering the story, today Nicholas Confessore & Michael Shear have a long piece looking at the evidence for and against Romney's claim that he "left Bain" in February 1999.

... The Personal Is Political." Paul Krugman: "The point is that talking about Mr. Romney's personal history isn't a diversion from substantive policy discussion. On the contrary, in a political and media environment strongly biased against substance, talking about Bain and offshore accounts is the only way to bring the real policy issues into focus. And we should applaud, not condemn, the Obama campaign for standing up to the tut-tutters." ...

... T. J. Walker, writing in Forbes, lists 35 questions Romney must answer before the controversy surrounding his "retirement" from Bain is resolved." ...

... Ben LaBolt, the Obama campaign's national press secretary, put out a memo (pdf) to the media highlighting some of Walker's questions. Via Greg Sargent. ...

... No Apologies. President Obama on WAVY-TV (Richmond, Virginia). The transcript is here. Via Taagen Goddard:

Drip, Drip. Ryan Grim & Jason Cherkis of the Huffington Post: "Add another document to the pile of evidence contradicting Mitt Romney's continued insistence that he ended his active role with Bain Capital in early 1999.... A corporate document filed with the state of Massachusetts in December 2002 -- a month after Romney was elected governor -- lists him as one of two managing members of Bain Capital Investors, LLC...." ...

... Matt DeLong of the Washington Post: "Romney campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie defended his candidate from attacks over the timing of his departure from Bain Capital during an appearance on CNN's 'State of the Union' Sunday, saying Romney retired 'retroactively' from the firm." With video. ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: "Over the last few days, Mitt Romney has seen his business experience, which began the campaign as his primary qualification, turn into something perilously close to a scandal. It's now time for a recurrent phase in the campaign called Republicans Give Advice to Mitt Romney. Attack! Defend! Show us your taxes! (The last category, I would note, consists entirely of people who have never seen Romney's taxes.)"

Tom Edsall in the New York Times: there's not much merit to Mitt Romney's "merit-based" society. CW: no kidding. See, for example, Gretchen Morgenson's story, linked above.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Now, with a millisecond Twitter news cycle and an unforgiving, gaffe-obsessed media culture, politicians and their advisers are routinely demanding that reporters allow them final editing power over any published quotations." CW: Who said there were no do-overs in life? These spokespeople who can't speak & think at the same time will soon insist on a 4-minute delay on the teevee, too: Eric Fehrnstrom's Etch-a-Sketch remark surely would have been Etch-a-Sketched, bleeped or cut. But seriously, the major media could put a stop to this gaffe-pass practice if the big guys all just said no. ...

... Jonathan Chait agrees with me: "Reporters, then, should just try saying no."

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Trying to shift the presidential campaign narrative away from his personal finances and tenure at Bain Capital, Republican Mitt Romney will launch a fresh assault this week accusing President Obama of political cronyism at the expense of middle-class workers." This Web video is a piece of the assault:

... AND there's this one:

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "The [Romney] commercial illustrates how Obama abandoned the rhetoric of 'hope and change' and went negative by playing quotes from CBS's Bob Schieffer, the New York Times' David Brooks, and Time's Mark Halperin.... Now two of the three journalists have responded, and surprisingly, they weren't flattered by being dragged into an attack ad without their permission." CW: You'll have to read Hartmann's post to find out which of the three "journalists" (actually, only one is a journalist; the others are hacks) hasn't complained about appearing in the Romney ad; if you try to guess, your first two guesses don't count.

News Ledes

Guardian: "New York and Connecticut attorneys general have joined forces to investigate alleged manipulation of the Libor interest rates. The scandal is already being investigated by the US justice department and financial regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. But the involvement of New York state is likely to ramp up the investigation."

Guardian: "The International Monetary Fund has cut its forecast for global growth to the lowest level since 2009, when the world was first emerging from the great recession. The IMF said Monday it expects the world economy to grow 3.5% this year, 0.1 percentage points lower than its forecast three months ago, and warned that a sharper downturn was possible if policymakers in Europe and the US fail to act."

AP: "The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first drug shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection, a milestone in the 30-year battle against the virus that causes AIDS. The agency approved Gilead Sciences' pill Truvada as a preventive measure for people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity, such as those who have HIV-infected partners."

New York Times: "Gunners on a United States Navy supply ship in the Persian Gulf near the coast of the United Arab Emirates opened fire on a small motorized vessel on Monday after the small vessel disregarded warnings and rapidly approached, the United States Fifth Fleet command reported."

The Guardian is liveblogging the civil war in Syria, describing "fierce fighting" in Damascus. The New York Times story is here.

Reuters: "The U.S. Marshals Service has captured Vincent Legrend Walters, one of the law enforcement agency's 15 most wanted fugitives, in the Mexican resort city of Cancun. Walters, 45, wanted on kidnapping, murder and drug charges stemming from a 1988 San Diego case, was apprehended Friday morning, then transported to Mexico City where he will await extradition to the United States...."

Saturday
Jul142012

The Commentariat -- July 15, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "When Did He Leave & When Did He Know It?" You can guess the subject matter. The NYTX front page is here.

Illustration by Ben Wiseman for the New York Times.Frank Bruni: "WHENEVER you doubt that the future can improve upon the past or that government can play a pivotal role in that, consider and revel in the extraordinary greening of New York."

Digby: "According to Media Matters, with the exception of Spitzer and Chris Hayes, TV news has pretty much avoided even mentioning [the LIBOR] scandal, much less trying to explain it":

CW: I hope you readers who thought I was a dope for citing the case of Tomas Lopez -- the young man fired from his lifeguard's job for trying to save a swimmer outside his assigned "zone" -- as an example of the perils of privatization, will read Steven Pearlstein's Washington Post article on the story, which he describes as "a parable about outsourcing and how it is reshaping large swaths of the economy." Pearlstein makes a number of the same points I did, and then some. I might be a dope, but I have company!

Peter Maass & Megha Rajagopalan in the New York Times: "THE device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cellphone -- guess again. It is a tracking device that happens to make calls. Let's stop calling them phones. They are trackers.... The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ... noted that GPS data can reveal whether a person 'is a weekly church goer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups -- and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.'"

Speaking of trackers, Scott Shane of the New York Times on "the moral case for drones." Something of a must-read, no matter what your opinion of drones is now.

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe: "First, it was kings and queens. Now, it is heads of state -- and the secretary of state. During a CNN interview that aired Tuesday, Senator Scott Brown said that President Obama and other powerful Democrats are regularly phoning him to get help passing their legislation.... In reality, Brown's staff says he has spoken by phone with Clinton just twice during his Senate career -- most recently over a year ago, on July 5, 2011.... Brown's staff says he has spoken with the vice president by phone just once. As for Obama himself, Brown's staff says the two have spoken by phone just once, in April 2010.... But the president also hosted Brown in June 2010 for a face-to-face talk in the Oval Office."

Presidential Race

Sing along with Mitt:

Your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this: if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. -- Mitt Romney, referring to the people who booed him at the NAACP convention ...

... Suzie Madrak: "As far as free lunches go, we of course just witnessed the biggest government handout in history, one that Romney himself endorsed. Four and a half trillion dollars in bailout money already disbursed, trillions more still at risk in guarantees and loans, sixteen trillion dollars in emergency lending from the Federal Reserve, two trillion in quantitative easing, etc. etc. All of this money went to Romney's pals in the Wall Street banks that for years helped Romney take over companies with mountains of borrowed cash. Now, after these banks crashed, executives at those same firms used those public funds to pay themselves massive salaries." Read her whole post on Willard's "character." ...

... Here's the piece by Matt Taibbi -- which Madrak cites -- on Romney big "outreach" to "those people" who are all about "free stuff." ...

... Digby: "... as usual, it's only the average Joe in a bind who needs to be taught a lesson in personal responsibility."

Tony Soprano Explains "Planned Bankruptcy a la Mitt":

Jordy Yager of The Hill: "Rep. Ron Paul said that the Republican Party is scared to let him speak at the national convention in Florida next month.... 'I think the Romney campaign organization is very insecure,' said Paul in an interview with Fox Business News on Friday."

"Perhaps there's a contradiction there":

Local News

Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "The federal government has granted Florida election officials access to a database of noncitizen residents for use in Republican-backed efforts to remove people who are not American citizens from voter registration rolls."

News Ledes

New York Times: "As regulators ramp up their global investigation into the manipulation of interest rates, the Justice Department has identified potential criminal wrongdoing by big banks and individuals at the center of the scandal. The department's criminal division is building cases against several financial institutions and their employees, including traders at Barclays...."

New York Times: "A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama."

Washington Post: "Japan on Sunday recalled its ambassador to China as the result of a reigniting territorial dispute between the East Asian neighbors. The uninhabited and long-contested Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan but claimed by China, have again turned into a flashpoint amid Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's recent proposal to buy the territory from a private Japanese landowner. China sent three ships to the area last week as an apparent response, prompting a protest from Japan."

AP: "Syria on Sunday denied U.N. claims that government forces used heavy weapons during a military operation that left scores dead and brought immediate international condemnation, while the International Committee of the Red Cross said it now considers the conflict in the country a civil war."