The Ledes

Monday, July 28, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in a letter on Monday."

New York Times: "The United States and Europe put aside their differences and agreed on Monday to sharply escalate economic sanctions against Russia in a set of coordinated actions driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in the war in Ukraine. After months in which European leaders were hesitant to go as far as the Americans, the two sides settled on a package of measures that would target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors. In some cases, the Europeans may actually leapfrog beyond what the United States has done, forcing Washington to try to catch up."

Guardian: "Dutch and Australian police have failed to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 for a second day as clashes rage in a town on the road to the area." ...

... Washington Post: "The Ukrainian military on Monday captured a strategically important swath of territory close to the debris field of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a spokesman said, dealing a blow to pro-Russian rebels but raising new questions about whether an investigation at the site will ever yield conclusive evidence about the attack on the airliner."

NEW. Washington Post: "Israel will press its air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, preparing his country for a longer and bloodier campaign and dashing hopes that the three-week-old conflict would end soon." ...

... Washington Post: "International efforts to end the devastating three-week-old Gaza war intensified Monday with the U.N. Security Council calling for an 'immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' in the conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,035 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers. The ravaged coastal enclave was relatively quiet Monday as Palestinians started celebrating the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel mostly held its fire overnight, shelling only a site in the northern Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired from there." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Explosions rocked a major hospital and a neighborhood of Gaza City on Monday, leaving at least 10 people dead, witnesses reported." ...

... New York Times: "On Sunday, however, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even ... a succession of temporary cease-fires..., despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement. ...

... A White House readout of the conversation between Obama & Netanyahu is here.

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 28

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

3:05 pm ET: President Obama awards the 2013 National Medal of Arts & the National Medal of Humanities Medal

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


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

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

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

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


New Yorker illustration.

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


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


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

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

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

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

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British State Visit

AP: "British Prime Minister David Cameron met Thursday with the mayor of Newark to learn about education reforms and other programs in the impoverished city before concluding his trip to the United States with a planned visit to New York City and the 9/11 memorial. Cameron was briefly greeted by Mayor Cory Booker on the front steps of City Hall before they headed inside to talk about municipal reforms that could be replicated in Great Britain. They also planned a short walk around New Jersey's largest city...."

Reuters: "President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the possibility of releasing emergency oil reserves during a meeting on Wednesday, two sources familiar with the talks said, the first sign that Obama is starting to test global support for an effort to knock back near-record fuel prices."

President Obama & PM Cameron trade toasts at the state dinner:

Samantha Cameron & Michelle Obama arrive at the state dinner.

The Obamas greet the Camerons as they arrive for the state dinner:

CNN: "Concluding the official visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Washington D.C., the president and first lady hosted Cameron and his wife at a State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday evening. As yet another signifier of the importance of the so-called special relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain, the White House opted for a full State Dinner despite the fact that the dinner’s honoree is the head of the British government and not its head of state." Chicago Tribune story here.

First Lady Michelle Obama previews the state dinner:

Preparing the state dinner:

President Obama & Prime Minister Cameron hold a joint press conference:

The Obamas & Camerons, following the arrival ceremony Wednesday morning.

The Obamas & Bidens officially welcome the Camerons to the White House:

AP: "Basketball fan-in-chief President Barack Obama gave British Prime Minister David Cameron a front-row seat to March Madness on Tuesday, taking his European partner to an election swing state [Ohio] for an NCAA tournament basketball game":

New York Times: "Britain will add its voice to President Obama’s in discouraging an Israeli military strike on Iran when Prime Minister David Cameron begins a three-day visit [to the U.S.] this week, a senior British diplomat said Monday."


The Commentariat -- The Ides of March

Robert Reich hits on exactly what's wrong with the whole Republican playbook: "There is moral rot in America but it’s not found in the private behavior of ordinary people. It’s located in the public behavior of people who control our economy and are turning our democracy into a financial slush pump. It’s found in Wall Street fraud, exorbitant pay of top executives, financial conflicts of interest, insider trading and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign 'donations.'” ...

... Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times states the obvious: "A job at a Michigan car factory is not inherently better than a job at a clothing store or a restaurant; it’s more desirable because it pays better, and it pays better because a few generations ago the Detroit labor force unionized. A job at Walmart with a pension upon retirement doesn’t sound too bad. It could happen through collective bargaining." There is a connection between Reich's post & Rosenthal's. Republicans want to talk about the immorality of your sex life, not just because it's fun for them, but more because they don't want you to notice the immorality of your employer's wage & salary policies.

** Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone in a major piece on the Bank of America -- "Too Crooked to Fail": "It's been four years since the government ... saved this megabank from ruin by pumping $45 billion of taxpayer money into its arm. Since then, the Obama administration has looked the other way as the bank committed an astonishing variety of crimes.... Bank of America has systematically ripped off almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, depositors, homeowners, shareholders, pensioners and taxpayers. It brought tens of thousands of Americans to foreclosure court using bogus, 'robo-signed' evidence – a type of mass perjury that it helped pioneer. It hawked worthless mortgages to dozens of unions and state pension funds, draining them of hundreds of millions in value. And when it wasn't ripping off workers and pensioners, it was helping to push insurance giants like AMBAC into bankruptcy by fraudulently inducing them to spend hundreds of millions insuring those same worthless mortgages."

The $2 Billion-Dollar Good-bye. Christine Harper of Bloomberg: "Goldman Sachs Group saw $2.15 billion of its market value wiped out after an employee assailed Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein’s management and the firm’s treatment of clients, sparking debate across Wall Street. The shares dropped 3.4 percent in New York trading yesterday, the third-biggest decline in the 81-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index, after London-based Greg Smith made the accusations in a New York Times op-ed piece." ...

... Matt Taibbi, who has written extensively about Goldman Sachs -- a/k/a "giant vampire squid" -- comments on Greg Smith's boffo buh-bye to Goldman, linked in yesterday's Commentariat & at the end of the Bloomberg link above. ...

... George Zornick of The Nation: Paul Volcker weighs in. ...

... Roben Farzad of Business Week: Today is "a nightmare scenario for what was long Wall Street’s most storied and secretive partnership. Ultimately, the events of March 14 will be inextricably linked to another landmark day in Goldman Sachs history: May 4, 1999. That’s when Goldman went public, eschewing the need for partners to constantly risk their own capital and maintain superconservative risk controls on traders and department heads." ...

... BUT Felix Salmon of Reuters is skeptical of Smith's motives & his pretense at innocence. He detects "a strong smell of faux-naive." ...

... AND Donald Drezner of Foreign Policy notes that the op-ed is all about Smith, who fails to own up to his own complicity. ...

... Goldman honchos Lloyd Blankfein & Gary Cohn respond in a Guardian op-ed to Smith's op-ed. Surprisingly, they see Goldman entirely differently from Smith's POV. ...

... AND Andy Borowitz: Blankfein announces he is replacing Smith with Joseph Kony, who -- like Blankfein -- is doing the Lord's work. ...

... Susanne Craig & Landon Thomas of the New York Times on reactions to Smith's op-ed.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "... Senate Democrats are beginning a push to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the once broadly bipartisan 1994 legislation that now faces fierce opposition from conservatives. The fight over the law, which would expand financing for and broaden the reach of domestic violence programs, will be joined Thursday when Senate Democratic women plan to march to the Senate floor to demand quick action on its extension. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has suggested he will push for a vote by the end of March."

To compare [me] to Rush is ridiculous -- he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women's rights all year, on the public airwaves. I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who's called people 'terrorist' and 'unAmerican.' Sarah Barracuda. The First Amendment was specifically designed for citizens to insult politicians. Libel laws were written to protect law students speaking out on political issues from getting called whores by Oxycontin addicts. -- Bill Maher, in an interview with Jake Tapper of ABC News

Rod Nordland of the New York Times: why a cold-blooded mass murder of innocent adults and children is not as bad as incinerating a holy book. CW: another example of why fundamentalist religious beliefs are bad for humanity.

Laura Rozen of Yahoo! News: "Bashar al-Assad ... and his London-born wife Asma al-Assad appear to live in a surreal psychological bubble, insulated from the grotesque violence that has claimed the lives of 8,000 Syrians, according to a cache of some 3,000 alleged emails and documents obtained by Syrian activists and published by the Guardian Wednesday." Here's the Guardian's page on the e-mails.

We’re about promoting the private sector. They’re about protecting the privileged sector. We’re a fair shot, and a fair shake. They’re about no rules, no risk and no accountability. -- Prepared remarks for a speech Vice President Joe Biden will deliver today to the UAW in Toledo, Ohio

Right Wing World

It's easy to make Republicans look bad. -- Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)

Fundamentalist Factoid: "More than 70 percent of voters in [Alabama & Mississippi] said it was important that a candidate shared their religious beliefs."

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "During a local television interview in Missouri on Tuesday, GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney said 'Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that.' ... Romney was reiterating a previous promise to 'Eliminate Title X family planning programs benefiting abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.'” Cohn goes to to review the effects of Rick Perry & the Texas legislature's decision to defund the state's women's health clinics. CW: This infurates me. I have no sympathy or regard for any person who votes for Republicans. None. They stand proudly for the oppression & intimidation of women. I wish some of our conservative contributors would weigh in, but they do so at their peril. ...

... Irin Carmon of Salon: "The mainstreaming of anti-woman extremism within the Republican party is a fact of life that, most recently, Mitt Romney has had to come to terms with."

Romney isn't alone: His presidential rivals have pledged to the same thing.

Charles Pierce suggests a game plan for the liberation of Willard Romney. CW: It is, in a way, a good apologia for Romney (tho contributor Jack Mahoney is right -- Pierce's use of "bitches" as a poetic device doesn't work). Underlying Pierce's premise is this: Romney doesn't care about poor people; he doesn't care about middle-class people; you probably could count on your fingers & toes the number of people Romney does care about, & use fewer digits if he didn't have such a large family. Romney is in it to win it, & that is his only goal. Completely missing from Romney's raison de campaign: principles of governance or patriotism or moral rectitude or whatever it is decent people think are valid reasons for running for public office. You might argue this is true of most politicians, but Romney wears his craven, principle-free ambition on his sleeve. ...

... Cheesy Grit. Romney's super-rich donors are irritated the super-rich candidate is not connecting with ordinary voters. Really, they're paying this guy to pander & he just sucks at it.

The dangers of carbon dioxide. Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is. -- Rick Santorum, accepting the Michele Bachmann chair in biochemistry ...

.. A potted plant on the Jimmy Kimmel set begs to differ with Prof. Santorum:

... Colbert elaborates:

... Reuters: "Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told Puerto Ricans on Wednesday they would have to make English their primary language if they want to pursue U.S. statehood, a statement at odds with the U.S. Constitution." CW: and perfectly emblematic of the ethnocentric, xenophobic my-way-or-the-highway Republican party. If Romney is the stereotype of a rich Republican, Santorum is a stereotype of the narrow-minded rube wing of the party.

Our political system is so methodically and deliberately stupid – and I use that word deliberately, the willful avoidance of knowledge -- that it’s astonishing. -- Newt Gingrich, last night

Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "... Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign message can be boiled down to five words: The math is with us. It is as accurate as it is uninspiring.... By the GOP delegate numbers, Romney won the night Tuesday. He captured more delegates in the four contests — Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa — than Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul.... But ... Romney [is] at best slogging forward slowly, rather than gaining momentum against Santorum, a candidate who is at a huge disadvantage in terms of money and infrastructure and who wasn’t considered a likely contender only a few months ago."

Local News

Blago Goes to Jail. His last goodbye -- a press conference:

     ... The transcript is here. Chicago Channel 5 NBC News: "Disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich delivered his final stump speech Wednesday. Blagojevich, who heads to prison in Colorado Thursday, navigated through more than 50 reporters and assembled supporters to deliver a farewell message to Illinoisans before he takes off for his 14 year sentence in a federal prison." Chicago Tribune story here.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Pentagon acknowledged Thursday that a security breach during Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s visit to Afghanistan was much more serious than officials first reported, saying that an Afghan man tried to ram a stolen truck into a group of VIPs who were waiting to greet Panetta just moments after his plane landed at a military base."

AP: "British Prime Minister David Cameron met Thursday with the mayor of Newark to learn about education reforms and other programs in the impoverished city before concluding his trip to the United States with a planned visit to New York City and the 9/11 memorial. Cameron was briefly greeted by Mayor Cory Booker on the front steps of City Hall before they headed inside to talk about municipal reforms that could be replicated in Great Britain. They also planned a short walk around New Jersey's largest city...."

Bloomberg: "Claims for jobless benefits dropped last week in the U.S., matching the lowest level in four years, more evidence the labor market is improving. Applications for unemployment insurance payments fell by 14,000 to 351,000 in the week ended March 10, Labor Department figures showed today."

Washington Post: "The Afghan Taliban has suspended preliminary peace talks with the United States and will forgo opening a political office in Doha due to Washington’s “alternating and ever changing position,” the group said in a statement on Thursday."

Reuters: "President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the possibility of releasing emergency oil reserves during a meeting on Wednesday, two sources familiar with the talks said, the first sign that Obama is starting to test global support for an effort to knock back near-record fuel prices."

New York Times: "A fight over a small export credit agency is dividing Congress and holding up a popular bipartisan jobs bill."


The Commentariat -- March 14, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Tom Friedman's cronyism. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Wow! The New York Times publishes Confessions of a Goldman Sachs Derivatives & Hedge Fund Manager. Greg Smith explains why he is quitting the firm today: "... the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.... The current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch.... It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as 'muppets.'" ...

     ... Update: Nelson Schwartz of the Times reports on Smith's op-ed, some reactions to it & some history of Street "ethics."

Michael Cavna of the Washington Post interviews cartoonist Garry Trudeau. The "Doonesbury" page is Slate is here.

... Charles Pierce: " Apparently..., Garry Trudeau's 'Doonesbury' is once again giving the vapors to the people who run our nation's newspapers. The important thing to remember is that nobody is objecting that the facts of the Dildos Mandating Dildos laws on which Trudeau is riffing here are in any way untrue.... The reasons for this is that many of America's newspapers ... are now in the hands of bean-counting poltroons.... Some of the bravest people I know work for daily newspapers, and very damn few of them work in management." ...

Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress. They want to control how we act. They even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies. Yes, it is hard to believe that even here at home, we have to stand up for women’s rights and reject efforts to marginalize any one of us, because America needs to set an example for the entire world. -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Saturday

... Maureen Dowd: "The attempt by Republican men to wrestle American women back into chastity belts has not only breathed life into President Obama, it has roused and riled Hillary."

** Howard Friel writes an excellent piece in the NYTX on the media's participation in war cheerleading. He covers a lot of ground, beginning by asking the question, "Are we civilized?" The answer appears to be "nope."

Digby riffs on Ezra Klein's New Yorker piece, linked in yesterday Commentariat, on presidents' power of persuasion -- or lack thereof. She makes a good point: "The reason [progressives] wanted [Obama] to make speeches was to mobilize his followers to help 'persuade' their representatives to pass progressive legislation --- or even just reaffirm his commitment to shared goals and educate the public about what those goals are.

David Goodfriend rants about big oil:

Both Sides Do It. CW: I never link columns by the Washington Post's Richard Cohen because Richard Cohen is a dick. Here's a good example of what I mean. Cohen's thesis is that "Sarah Palin's foolishness ruined politics." To prove it, Cohen writes a good synopsis of this year's field of GOP presidential candidates:

Apres Palin has come a deluge of dysfunctional presidential candidates.... Herman Cain ... had a nonsensical tax plan, zero knowledge of foreign affairs and had never held elective office.... Michele Bachmann told a touching fib about vaccinations and Rick Perry did not know squat about who governs Turkey.... He got wrong the number of justices on the Supreme Court — he said eight — and could not remember a Cabinet department he had vowed to eliminate. Rick Santorum knows his stuff, but his stuff includes a wild denunciation of John F. Kennedy’s famous speech about the proper role of religion in public life and a characterization of President Obama as a snob for extolling the value of college. Newt Gingrich has the wattage to be president, but so does Hannibal Lecter, if you get my drift. As for Ron Paul, he appears to be running for president of some theme park.

Then he writes this:

Surely, though, there lurks in the Democratic Party potential candidates who have seen Palin and taken note. Experience, knowledge, accomplishment — these no longer may matter. They will come roaring out of the left proclaiming a hatred of all things Washington, including compromise.

I rest my case.

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research. If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century."

Right Wing World

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: what happens next in the GOP presidential primary depends on what Newt Gingrich does.

Robert Draper details Romney's political aspirations in a long GQ article.

I think he is great. -- Matt Romney, Mitt's son, on President Obama

The man has had a 10-to-1 money advantage. He’s had all the organizational advantage. He’s had Fox News shilling for him every day.... And yet, he can’t close — he can’t seal the deal because he just doesn’t have the goods to be able to motivate the Republican base and win this election. -- Rick Santorum on Romney

I'm afraid his conclusions are exactly wrong. Senator Santorum is at the desperate end of his campaign, and trying in some way to boost his prospects. Frankly misrepresenting the truth is not a good way of doing that. -- Mitt Romney on Santorum ...

... To make Santorum's point, this chart from BuzzFeed:

Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: Sarah Palin wants the Obama campaign to stop using her own words against her.

Local News

Nice Work, Scott Walker! Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Newly revised jobs figures released Tuesday show Wisconsin with the biggest decline in total jobs in the US over the past 12 months."

News Ledes

New York Times: "In what could prove to be one of the most damaging chapters yet in the scandal enveloping Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspapers in Britain, Scotland Yard arrested a former chief reporter for The News of the World on Wednesday on suspicion of intimidating a witness, the first time the police have raised the specter of witness tampering in the course of their investigations."

New York Times: "The Senate easily approved a two-year, $109 billion transportation and infrastructure bill on Wednesday, putting pressure on House Republicans to set aside their stalled version and pass the Senate’s before the federal highway trust fund expires at the end of the month."

Al Jazeera: "President Barack Obama has said the prospect of international military intervention in Syria is premature and could lead to a civil war. Speaking at a White House news conference on Wednesday, Obama said military intervention could lead to more deaths in Syria. Obama says he and David Cameron, the British prime minister, discussed possible 'immediate steps'' their countries could take in order to make sure humanitarian aid is being provided to the Syrian people." Al Jazeera's Syria liveblog is here.

Washington Post: "An American soldier who is suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting rampage was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday and is likely to face legal proceedings back in the United States, Pentagon officials said."

New York Times: "Rick Santorum captured twin victories in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday, overcoming the financial advantages of Mitt Romney and the Southern allegiances to Newt Gingrich on a night that amplified his argument that the Republican nominating fight is becoming a two-man race with Mr. Romney."

AP: "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has won the Republican presidential caucuses in Hawaii, salvaging a much-needed victory after resurgent rival Rick Santorum won primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday."

New York Times: "Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta landed [at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan] Wednesday morning on an unannounced and tense trip, the first by a senior member of the Obama administration since an American soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians, mostly children and women." ...

    ... Story has been updated: "A tense visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta got off to an unscripted start when a stolen truck sped onto a runway ramp at the British military airfield as his plane was landing. Mr. Panetta was unhurt, but Pentagon officials said the Afghan driver emerged from the vehicle in flames."

New York Times: "After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print."

AP: "Basketball fan-in-chief President Barack Obama gave British Prime Minister David Cameron a front-row seat to March Madness on Tuesday, taking his European partner to an election swing state [Ohio] for an NCAA tournament basketball game."


The Commentariat -- March 13, 2012

And doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:

             'Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the
                      United States'
             'Whaling Voyage by One Ishmael'
             'Bloody Battle in Affghanistan'

-- Ishmael, Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "Stanley Fish's Strange Double Standard." Thanks to contributor Carlyle for the inspiration. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

President Barack Obama & Prime Minister David Cameron in a Washington Post op-ed: "The alliance between the United States and Great Britain is a partnership of the heart, bound by the history, traditions and values we share."

"What If Bush Had Done That? Josh Gerstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama has forged a surprising consensus on opposite ends of the political spectrum: They wonder how on earth he gets away with it. A series of recent moves — from aggressively filling his reelection war chest to green-lighting shoot-to-kill orders against an American terror suspect overseas — would have triggered a massive backlash if George W. Bush had tried them, say former Bush administration officials and a few on the political left."

New York Times Editors: the Justice Department and a Wisconsin judge block restrictive voter ID laws enacted by Republican legislatures trying to suppress the vote (the Texas law would have disenfranchised as many as 800,000 Hispanic voters).

Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: "How much does the president have to do with the price of gasoline? A lot, say American voters. According to oil experts and economists, not so much — at least in the short term. Today’s oil prices are the product of years and decades of exploration, automobile design and ingrained consumer habits combined with political events in places such as Sudan and Libya, anxiety about possible conflict with Iran, and the energy aftershocks of last year’s earthquake in Japan."

Steve Israel (D-NY) in a Politico op-ed: "Tone-deaf House Republicans are preparing a budget that will — again — protect millionaires over Medicare."

Right Wing World

Greg Sargent wonders if there is any limit to Romney's dishonesty: "The Romney campaign is accusing Obama of slashing Medicare, and hence 'ending Medicare as we know it,' while simultaneously accusing him of failing to curb entitlement spending in ways that pose grave danger to the nation’s finances. This, even as Romney has endorsed a plan that would quasi-voucherize Medicare and end the program as we know it." ...

... Brian Beutler has a more detailed take, but draws the same conclusion: the Romney camp charges are totally fake. (I'm looking to see if the MSM will cover this, & if so, how.) ...

... Multimillionaire Romney, who turned 65 yesterday, won't be enrolling in Medicare. ...

... AND Steve Benen makes a point I made in a NYTX column a few days ago: "... when we're dealing with one of the year's most important policy disputes, and the leading Republican contender gets caught lying blatantly, media professionals are making a mistake when they do little more than shrug their shoulders. When reporters get so inured to Romney's dishonesty that it no longer seems interesting or noteworthy, it sends a signal to the political world that facts and honesty simply don't matter anymore, and campaigns should come down to which candidate can tell better lies."

Forget the facts; it's all about what you believe. A funny post by Joshua Keating of Foreign Policy on Rick Santorum's strange claim than one in 20 Dutch people are euthanized against their will: "Dutch medical statistics are ultimately unknowable -- just another of the unresolvable mysteries that have confronted us since the dawn of mankind. Who are we? Why are we here? What are the laws in the Netherlands concerning doctor-assisted suicide? We all have our own beliefs."

News Ledes

Alabama & Mississippi GOP voters go to the polls today. Politico: "In a topsy-turvy GOP primary, where the unexpected has been the norm, such a final plot twist may be altogether fitting: The Mormon Yankee who thinks cheese grits are a revelation effectively seals the nomination in Alabama and Mississippi. Mitt Romney has a shot to win both states — polls show him leading or effectively tied in each. But even if the former Massachusetts governor doesn’t take them outright, the apparent resurgence of Newt Gingrich in the Deep South has once again muddled the primary-within-a-primary so that Rick Santorum is going to be denied his wish to get a clean shot at the front-runner." ...

     ... Update: Here's the New York Times election results page. ...

     ... Update 2: at about 8:55 pm ET, NBC News projected Rick Santorum as the winner in Alabama. Mississippi still too close to call. ...

     ... Update 3: at about 10:50 pm ET, NBC New projected Santorum as the winner in Mississippi.

New York Times: "Stocks climbed to new heights in part on rosy retail sales data on Tuesday, pushing the broad market to levels last seen in June 2008 and the Nasdaq composite index to close above the 3,000 milestone for the first time since 2000."

Yahoo News: "President Barack Obama on Tuesday vowed to defend U.S. workers from unfair competition and bluntly warned China to play by the rules of global trade as he announced that the United States, the European Union and Japan were joining forces to bring a commercial dispute with Beijing to the World Trade Organization (WTO)." ...

... New York Times: "President Obama pledged on Tuesday that a thorough investigation would be conducted into the bloody rampage by an American soldier in Afghanistan."

New York Times: "The Obama administration is discussing whether to reduce American forces in Afghanistan by at least an additional 20,000 troops by 2013, reflecting a growing belief within the White House that the mission there has now reached the point of diminishing returns. Accelerating the withdrawal of United States forces has been under consideration for weeks by senior White House officials, but those discussions are now taking place in the context of two major setbacks to American efforts in Afghanistan — the killings on Sunday of Afghan civilians attributed to a United States Army staff sergeant and the violence touched off by burning of Korans last month by American troops."

New York Times: "Britain will add its voice to President Obama’s in discouraging an Israeli military strike on Iran when Prime Minister David Cameron begins a three-day visit [to the U.S.] this week, a senior British diplomat said Monday."

Reuters: "The Obama administration on Monday blocked a new law in Texas requiring voters to show photo identification before they can cast a ballot, citing a concern that it could harm Hispanic voters who lacked such documents. The law, which was approved in May 2011, required voters to show government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license, military identification card, birth certificate with a photo, current U.S. passport, or concealed handgun permit."

New York Times: "Rebekah Brooks, the formeToolsMeasureOptions [NYT typo??] Rupert Murdoch’s News International, was arrested early Tuesday on suspicion of obstruction of justice, according to a person with knowledge of the arrest. Her husband, Charlie, a decades-long friend of Prime Minister David Cameron from their days at Eton, was also arrested, the person said." Guardian story here.

Guardian: "Taliban militants opened fire on senior officials from the Afghan government and military at a memorial service for 16 civilians thought to have been shot dead in their homes by a US soldier.... Four members of the security forces were injured in the attack, but no one was killed, said Jawed Faisal, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial government."

AP: "Nitrate contamination of drinking water is a pervasive problem in California's agricultural heartland and is bound to intensify in the coming years, according to a University of California, Davis study released Tuesday. The study, ordered by the state Legislature, shows chemical fertilizers and livestock manure are the main source of nitrate contamination in groundwater for more than 1 million Californians in the Salinas Valley and parts of the Central Valley."