The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President reflected on the significant progress made by this country in 2014, and in the nearly six years since he took office":

The Ledes

Saturday, December 20, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States transferred four detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison to Afghanistan late Friday, the Defense Department announced Saturday, fulfilling a request from the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, in what officials here characterized as a show of good will between the United States and the government in Kabul.The four men are not likely to be subjected to further detainment in Afghanistan, an Obama administration official said."

New York Times: "In an apparent targeted killing, two police officers were shot in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon by a man who later fatally shot himself in head, police officials said."

Reuters: "Dozens of protesters were arrested on Friday in Milwaukee when they blocked rush-hour traffic on a major highway to protest the killing of an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer this year. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department took at least 73 adults and one minor into custody during the protest that blocked Interstate 43, which runs through the city, according to the department's Twitter feed."

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

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
December 19

1:30 pm ET: President Obama holds a press briefing

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

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A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?" CW: Evidently, Hinderaker has not heard of Fox "News."

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

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Friday
Aug102012

The Commentariat -- August 11, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. AP story here.

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Debunking the Douthat Doctrine." The NYTX front page is here. ...

... Speaking of nuns, as I do in my column, apparently our nuclear facilities are not safe from at least one of them -- a fascinating New York Times story by William Broad on Sister Megan Rice, an 82-year old nun who, with two accomplices, aged 57 & 63, & a couple of pairs of bolt cutters, easily breached the so-called security at the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in Tennessee.

Perseid meteor over Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah. Space.com photo.Tom Skillern of Yahoo! News: "NASA says the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks Saturday and Sunday nights, will be the best show of the year. Hundreds of shooting stars -- along with Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon -- will be visible to viewers across North America. 'We expect to see meteor rates as high as a hundred per hour,' NASA's Bill Cooke says. Cooke advises space enthusiasts to look for meteors just before dawn in the eastern sky and avoid city lights. A trip to the dark skies in the countryside will yield three times as many visible meteors." ...

... A friend & Reality Chex reader writes, "Tonight is the Perseid Shower. It's cloudy. But I know something beautiful and wonderful is happening without any help from any human being, and can't ever be sullied."

CW: Here's one I missed from earlier this week -- Amy Chozick of the New York Times: President Obama is an avid news consumer -- and critic. He hates he-said/she-said journalism.

Gail Collins writes an amusing column about oppo trackers, who follow political candidates & record their every word. The candidate whom Collins remarks got caught saying "he prays the media will stop covering 'sob stories' about how someone 'couldn't get, you know, their food stamps or this or that'" is Eric Hovde, who is running in the Wisconsin GOP (natch!) U.S. Senate primary.

Matt Miller of the Washington Post calls out his weasly colleague Charles Krauthammer for this remark: "Obama loves to cite great federal projects such as the Hoover Dam and the interstate highway system. Fine. Name one thing of any note created by Obama's Niagara of borrowed money." Wells, sez Miller, "... the stimulus created the equivalent of a dozen Hoover Dams." Miller cites a Center for American Progress study: "The increase in U.S. wind-power output under the Obama administration so far has been ... 12 times as much as produced by the [Hoover D]am.... As Michael Grunwald points out in a Time column today, it was 'the Obama stimulus bill that revived the wind industry and the rest of the clean-tech sector from a near-death experience.'"

Presidential Race

CW: If Romney's VP pick is indeed Paul Ryan, that supports what I said yesterday: Romney knows he hasn't closed with conservatives. It also reinforces the fact -- and at this point it is a fact -- that Romney is a pushover for conservatives & as president would roll over for all but the most insane GOP Congressional demands. People who vote for Romney will, in effect, be voting for President Ryan, making Ryan the Dick Cheney of domestic fiscal terrorism. If this is where the voters are, we're looking at 16 years of Ayn Rand economics. ...

     ... Update: Hate to say I told you so, but Mitt Romney just said, in introducing Paul Ryan, "Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States." He has already turned over the reins to Ryan. ...

... "The Smell of Panic." Steve Kornacki of Salon: "The most important thing to know about Mitt Romney’s running-mate choice is this: It's not the move he would have made if the campaign was going the way he hoped it would." ...

... "Five Things to Know about Ryan -- and Romney." Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven't since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn't have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance. And the richest Americans would get a huge tax cut. This is the America that Paul Ryan envisions. And now we know that it is the America Mitt Romney envisions." Thanks to contributor P. D. Pepe. ...

... Greg Sargent: "In picking Ryan, Romney is confirming his commitment to full-flown economic radicalism - something that he had kept well disguised until the Tax Policy Center study unmasked it." ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "Romney, who has been extremely vague about what he would do if elected, will now own Paul Ryan's ideas, which include privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into a voucher program, bloc-granting and drastically cutting Medicaid, and reducing discretionary spending to levels that would affect every popular government program.... Even before this (apparent) announcement, Democrats were planning on tying Romney to Ryan's policy platform. Now Romney has done it for them." ...

... Mark Murray & Domenico Montanaro of NBC News have their own list of Ryan's strengths & weaknesses, which largely coincides with Lizza's. ...

... Here's Krugman's "Flim Flam Fever" post re: Ryan. ...

... Andy Borowitz: "The race to become the Republican vice-presidential candidate seemed hopelessly deadlocked today as Mitt Romney announced he would choose between former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, and Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan 'as soon as I can tell them apart.' ... The campaign has even resorted to creating flashcards with the likenesses of Messrs. Pawlenty, Ryan, and Portman on one side and their names on the back, but to no avail. 'It's gotten so frustrating, last night Mitt suggested that maybe we should choose someone who wasn't white or male,' the aide said. 'He was kidding, of course....'" CW: guess Willard had a breakthrough.

Harry Reid's Accusation Is Not Preposterous. James Stewart of the New York Times: "... this summer the Internal Revenue Service released data from the 400 individual income tax returns reporting the highest adjusted gross income. This elite ultrarich group earned on average $202 million in 2009, the latest year available. And buried in the data is the startling disclosure that six of the 400 paid no federal income tax. The I.R.S. has never before disclosed that last fact. Not even Mr. Romney, with reported 2010 income of $21.7 million, qualifies for membership in this select group of 400. But the data provides a window into the financial lives and tax rates of the superrich.... Besides the six who paid no federal income tax, the I.R.S. reported that 27 paid from zero to 10 percent of their adjusted gross incomes and another 89 paid between 10 and 15 percent.... What's abundantly clear, both from Mr. Romney's 2010 returns and from the returns of the top 400, is that at the very pinnacle of taxpayers, the United States has a regressive tax system."

Greg Sargent: Jon Huntsman, Sr., who says that speculation that he is Harry Reid's source is inaccurate also "forcefully called on Romney to release his tax returns. This matters, because Huntsman is a longtime backer of Romney -- he has long been close to Romney; he supported his early campaigns; he was the national finance chairman of Romney's 2008 presidential campaign; and he has raised a lot of money for him over the years. (He backed his own son in the latest GOP primary.)"

Paul Krugman: "The big story of the week among the dismal science set is the Romney campaign's white paper on economic policy, which represents a concerted effort by three economists -- Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, and John Taylor -- to destroy their own reputations. (Yes, there was a fourth author, Kevin Hassett. But the co-author of 'Dow 36,000' doesn't exactly have a reputation to destroy). And when I talk about destroying reputations, I don't just mean saying things I disagree with. I mean flat-out, undeniable professional malpractice." Krugman thinks the economists have fallen prey to the "Culture of Fraud" that pervades the Romney campaign: "... this is a campaign that's all about faking it -- fake claims about Obama, fake claims about policy, fake claims about Romney's personal history."

Charles Pierce: while Willard was being the governor who never raised taxes, he was being the governor who "raised fees on practically everything. Including being blind."

Charles Blow answers the question "What's the matter with Romney?"

No Fair Picking on Me. Sabrina Siddiqui of the Huffington Post: "Mitt Romney appears to be seeking an agreement with the Obama campaign to remove his business record from the conversation, a sign that the repeated attacks on his tenure at private equity firm Bain Capital may be getting under the presumptive Republican presidential candidate's skin." CW: in The Sociopath's Guide to Election Etiquette, that's in the chapter that explains Romney can tout his business acumen as his major qualification for the presidency, but Obama can't criticize Romney's business record.

CW: Jerry Markon of the Washington Post has a long piece on Romney's management of the Big Dig. Turns out he was very, very good at it -- for about 5 minutes, after which he lost interest. Sounds as if he has a short attention span.

Dana Milbank: "What makes Romney's welfare gambit dispiriting is that, as a member of one of the most persecuted groups in American history, he knows more than most the dangers of fanning bigotry. Yet now he has injected into the campaign what has for decades been a standard device for race-baiting.... Romney made the racial component official when his Republican National Committee hosted a conference call the next day with Gingrich, who, sure enough, reprised his food-stamp assault.... Thursday, the RNC hosted a call with Santorum, who did everything but revive the 'welfare queen' attack of the 1980s."

Alex Becker of the Huffington Post: "The Franciscan Action Network (FAN), a Catholic faith-based advocacy and civic engagement organization, is strongly criticizing Mitt Romney's recent ads and rhetoric regarding welfare programs and welfare recipients, urging him to spend some time in low-income communities." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Romney -- Worse than Bob Dole. Marcos Moulitsas cites some variables that suggest Romney won't get much of a convention bump.

AND in Steve Benen's 29th week of chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, he comes up with -- 29 lies. Let's shoot for 30 lies next week, Mitt. We know you can do it.

Congressional Races

Scott Brown Takes a Stand for Voter Suppression. Peter Schworm of the Boston Globe: "US Senator Scott Brown today criticized the state's welfare department for sending voting registration forms to 478,000 people on public assistance, saying the mass mailing was a ploy to boost the ranks of Democratic voters and benefit rival Elizabeth Warren's campaign. The state ... last month sent registration forms, along with prepaid return envelopes, as part of a settlement over a lawsuit accusing the Patrick administration of violating the federal 'motor voter' law. It requires states to provide voter registration at motor vehicle and public assistance offices." Brown also is pissed because Warren's daughter chairs one of the organizations that brought suits against a number of states, including Massachusetts. ...

... Globe Update: "U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is calling on Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren to reimburse Massachusetts for the cost of mailing voter registration letters to welfare recipients.In a statement released Friday, Brown alleged the letters were sent to nearly half a million welfare recipients, as part of a court settlement, in an effort to 'aid' Warren's Senate campaign." CW: As usual, the Warren campaign's response was, in my opinion, flat-footed & totally inadequate. They've let slip yet another opportunity to make a laughingstock of Brown.

... Alec MacGillis of The New Republic: "Yes, it is now apparently considered politically acceptable -- in Massachusetts, the birthplace of American democracy! -- for a candidate to object publicly to the registration of low-income voters. Used to be one had to say such a thing in veiled terms...."

News Ledes

** New York Times: "Mitt Romney is scheduled to announce his vice-presidential candidate on Saturday in Norfolk, Va., with several signs pointing toward Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin emerging as the leading candidate for the position. Mr. Romney is set to disclose the selection as he tours the battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, the campaign announced Friday evening." ...

... Washington Post story here. ...

... NBC News Update: "Mitt Romney's campaign has announced that the presumptive GOP nominee has chosen House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate." ...

... Update: You can also watch the hoohah here or here. ...

... Here's an updated New York Times story.

National Catholic Reporter: "At the end of its annual assembly Friday in St. Louis, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said it will proceed with discussion with the Vatican 'for as long as possible' but will reconsider if the sisters are 'forced to compromise the integrity of [their] mission.'"

AP: "A federal jury in San Diego on Friday convicted two former Border Patrol agents of human smuggling in one of the highest-profile corruption cases in the last decade. After a five-week trial, Raul and Fidel Villarreal were found guilty of conspiracy to bring in illegal immigrants for financial gain and other counts. Raul Villarreal was long a public face of the Border Patrol who frequently appeared on television as an agency spokesman."

Meridian, Mississippi Is Still Meridian, Mississippi. ABC News: "The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has released investigative findings determining that children in predominantly black Meridian, Miss. have had their constitutional rights violated by the Lauderdale County Youth Court, the Meridian Police Department, and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services in what civil rights investigators allege is a school to prison pipeline with even dress code violations resulting in incarceration."

Thursday
Aug092012

The Commentariat -- August 10, 2012

Rural Acreage for Sale. Mountain, valley views. Private setting; distance to nearest neighbor averages 225 million km. Commute time to nearest town: about 8-1/2 months. A portion of Curiosity's first color photo of Mars.

Q&A with Frank Rich: why Harry Reid is no Joe McCarthy. And other stuff.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Jon Grinspan compares 19th-century political "discourse" & voting practices to today's campaigns. Things have been worse.

Dana Milbank on the newest McCarthy: "Andrew McCarthy's work is providing the intellectual underpinnings -- such as they are -- for Rep. Michele Bachmann's outrageous suggestion that Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood." Milbank so thoroughly tears McCarthy's attack of Abedin to shreds that McCarthy ends up saying, "I'm a whack job, I guess."

Mark Bittman of the New York Times forgets about food & pleads for gun contro'. Good for him.

Jim Salter of the AP: "At a pivotal national meeting, members of the largest group for American nuns have been weighing whether they should accept or challenge a Vatican order to reform.... The president of the nuns group, Sister Pat Farrell, is expected to make an announcement Friday as the meeting ends. She has indicated in her public remarks this week that the sisters may not formulate a definitive response."

Jennifer Preston of the New York Times: "Leadership changes at the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure six months after an online uproar over a decision to cut funds for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood was greeted with skepticism on Thursday among breast cancer advocates and longtime former supporters."

An Employee of the New York Times & Damien Cave: on top of everything else, a crime wave in Syria.

Presidential Race

Jonathan Easley of The Hill: "Obama’s lead in the [new] CNN-ORC poll is buoyed by men and independents -- two groups that until recently had favored Romney. Obama leads 53 percent to 42 among independents, and has a 6 percentage point advantage among men. Romney's unfavorability rating climbed considerably in the poll."

Mike Allen of Politico: "Advisers to President Barack Obama are scripting a Democratic National Convention featuring several Republicans in a prime-time appeal to independents — and planning a blistering portrayal of Mitt Romney as a heartless aristocrat who 'would devastate the American middle class' ...."

You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad. They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they're wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them. -- Mitt Romney, Thursday, apparently with a straight face

... Paul Waldman of American Prospect writes on Romney's welfare attack ad & echoes my view of Newt's "rationale" for it: "In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads.... I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one.... Newt's argument is ... that although the Romney ad makes false claims, that's OK because Barack Obama and those who work for him are, in Newt's opinion, the kind of people who would gut work requirements if they could, so therefore it's OK to say that they are actually doing it, even though they aren't." ...

The Obama camp hits back on the welfare claim:

... Michael Cohen of the New York Daily News: "So Mitt Romney has two new ads out this week, and they offer a pretty clear indication of his larger political problem: He hasn't closed the deal with conservatives. First there was an ad on Monday that that accused Obama of gutting welfare reform.... Then there is an ad [Thursday] that accuses President Obama of declaring a war on religion because of his decision to force employers to offer contraceptive services to women.... Both of these ads are deeply dishonest.... Accusing Obama of a 'war on religion' is the height of political slander.... And once again it's completely hypocritical: when Romney was governor he went along (without comment) with a similar contraceptive policy in Massachusetts." ...

... CW: following Cohen's logic, I'd say Romney would have to choose Paul Ryan as his running mate, though Ed Rendell's suggestion that Romney choose Michele Bachmann would be great, too. Michael Shear & Trip Gabriel write in today's New York Times: "That Mr. Romney has not yet named his vice-presidential nominee has created an opening for social and economic conservatives to pressure him publicly, and they have taken the opportunity to make an aggressive case for Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin."

CW: I wouldn't link to an Erskine Bowles op-ed if that pompous deficit hawk bashed Mitt Romney. Oh, wait, here's Bowles in the Washington Post complaining that Romney's budget wouldn't cut the deficit: "This month, Romney said that his tax reform proposal is 'very similar to the Simpson-Bowles plan.' How I wish it were. I will be the first to cheer if Romney decides to embrace our plan. Unfortunately, the numbers say otherwise: His reform plan leaves too many tax breaks in place and, as a result, does nothing to reduce the debt." Sometimes one has to compromise one's principles for the greater good.

The Obama campaign's latest. CW: I'm going to have to look up that "Son of Boss" story. It's news to me:

Okay, here ya go.... Grace Wyler of Business Insider: "The ad, "Son of Boss," pivots off of a new CNN op-ed from tax lawyer Peter C. Canellos and tax expert Edward D. Kleinbard":

Peter C. Canellos, a tax attorney & former chair of the New York State Bar Association Tax Section, & tax expert Edward D. Kleinbard, former chief of staff of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation, in a CNN opinion piece: for years, Mitt Romney was on the board of directors of Marriott International, & "from 1993 to 1998, Romney was the head of the audit committee of the Marriott board. During that period, Marriott engaged in a series of complex and high-profile maneuvers, including 'Son of Boss,' a notoriously abusive prepackaged tax shelter.... In this respect, Marriott was in the vanguard of a then-emerging corporate tax shelter bubble that substantially undermined the entire corporate tax system..., perhaps the largest tax avoidance scheme in history.... The Son of Boss transaction was listed by the [IRS] as an abusive transaction, requiring specific disclosure and subject to heavy penalties.... The government brought successful criminal prosecutions against a number of individuals involved in Son of Boss.... Romney approved the firm's reporting of fictional tax losses exceeding $70 million generated by its Son of Boss transaction." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "In February, Bloomberg News reported on Romney's role as head of Marriott's audit board, including his approval of the 'Son of Boss" transactions.' Lewison quotes the Bloomberg piece. ...

... Ashley Killough of CNN: "Team Obama said the ad will run in the same states that Romney's bus tour will cross in the coming week, including Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio -- all battleground states."

Antics. CNN: "The Democratic National Committee is rolling out another bus tour to trail Mitt Romney's own over the weekend through key battle ground states, harping on the Republican candidate's economic policies as throwing 'the middle class under the bus.'" And speaking of buses ...

... Network: "NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, is inviting Governor Mitt Romney to spend a day with Catholic Sisters who work every day to meet the needs of struggling families in their communities..., people who will be further harmed by his proposed budget cuts and by the terribly divisive and demeaning political advertisements about welfare. The Sisters' invitation comes after recent false attacks from Mr. Romney that demonstrate his lack of understanding of the struggles families and children face as they work to get out of poverty.... As NETWORK demonstrated in their recent 'Nuns on the Bus' tour, budget cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and endorsed by Mitt Romney will hurt struggling families throughout the nation. The Romney-Ryan budget would devastate services such as nutrition assistance, childhood education and job training that provide pathways out of poverty for millions of families." Via Steve Benen. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Bill Burton, the main face of Priorities USA Action, refused to back away from an ad that the pro-President Obama super PAC unveiled yesterday, despite blowback from Republicans and fact-checks that have questioned the account the spot relays. 'What fact in that ad is wrong?' Burton said as he pushed back on a fairly feisty Wolf Blitzer during an interview on the CNN set."

Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "The Romney campaign ... has seized on a new soundbite to distort. The campaign sent an email blast Thursday afternoon featuring a video of an Obama rally in Colorado from earlier that day and falsely claimed that he wants the government to bail out every industry."

Turns out the Romney Liars & Hypocrites Club is bilingual. Lawrence Downes explains in the New York Times.

AND Donald Trump turned down a chance to speak at the GOP convention. CW: uh-huh. A spokesperson for Trump said the former millionaire had given his fortune to the obscure Order of Oopsus Daisi, & has entered a monastery where he has taken a vow of silence. (Well, that's as believable as the "turned down a chance to speak" story.) ...

... CW: guess I was wrong. Jennifer Wlach of ABC News: "Donald Trump will have a 'major role' at the Republican National Convention, an aide to the real estate mogul tells ABC News."

Congressional Races

** Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "In the battle for control of the Senate, no race has received as much financial attention as the reelection bid of Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, with outside conservative groups working together to pour tens of millions of dollars into Ohio's airwaves to try to unseat him.... The Brown-Mandel campaign is a case study of the aggressive fundraising and spending this election season by interest groups outside the candidates' campaign operations. And because many of the groups behind the spending are not required to disclose their donors, the effort has created a virtual shadow campaign that will probably far exceed what Mandel spends on his campaign."

AP: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS "says it will stop airing a television ad that is critical of North Dakota Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp's record as attorney general. The ad claims when Heitkamp was attorney general during the 1990s, she spent taxpayer money on private airplanes. Heitkamp on Thursday called the statement 'completely false' and asked TV stations to quit running it.... Heitkamp says ... her office got two surplus planes for free from the Department of Defense. One was flown on anti-drug missions. The second was used for spare parts." Via Greg Sargent.

Cameron Joseph of The Hill: Missouri's GOP Senate nominee "Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) voted against the creation of a national sex offender registry and against reauthorizing a program that assists runaway and homeless children. Both bills passed by wide margins with strong bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled House.... Democrats believe votes like these can be used to paint Akin as too conservative for the state."

Joe Swickard & Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press: "Four staffers of former U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Livonia, [Michigan,] were charged today in connection with the false nominating petitions that led to McCotter's departure from Congress. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette described the four as 'not simply Keystone Kops running amok ... criminal acts were committed.'"

Local News

CW: this New York Post story was way too entertaining to ignore: "They must have rubbed Mayor Bloomberg the wrong way. City officials pulled the plug on a vibrator giveaway by the Trojan condom company yesterday, disappointing potentially thousands of pleasure-seeking women.... Trojan sent tingles of excitement across the city when it announced the giveaway of some 10,000 vibrating sex toys from hot-dog-style pushcarts.... But instead of climaxing in a successful giveaway, the promotion was prematurely interrupted by City Hall, which sent a dark-suited representative to put the squeeze on Trojan's 'Pleasure Carts.'" ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Breaking! For $3,100, Trojan was granted the permit they need to please the masses, and will try again on 14th Street between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. tonight. Patience, people."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Now that the murder trial of Gu Kailai has ended, far more detailed accounts have emerged from inside the courtroom of the case that prosecutors built against Ms. Gu, the wife of one of China's most ambitious leaders. The accounts show her plotting with allies, including the local police chief, to protect her son from what she saw as the blackmail demands of the British business associate she is believed to have killed."

Bloomberg News: "The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today proposed new regulations that would revamp how American homeowners interact with mortgage servicers. One set of rules aims to provide homeowners with clearer, timelier information about changes to interest rates and options for avoiding foreclosure. A second set of rules requires servicers to credit payments promptly, correct errors, stay accessible and limit foreclosures if homeowners are working on loan modifications."

Washington Post: "The long-moribund housing market has bustled to life, with prices and new-home construction rising in recent weeks. Hiring, so weak earlier this year, picked up last month. And on Thursday, the government reported an acceleration of a downward trend in the number of people seeking unemployment insurance, as well as a sharp improvement in U.S. exports. Together, the signs point to an improving economy, a potentially important shift for President Obama's re-election campaign." ...

... BUT. CNN: "A new national survey indicates that the number of Americans who say things are going badly in the country is on the rise, as a growing number of people believe that economic conditions are getting worse."

New York Times: "Federal authorities ended two investigations into the actions of Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis, handing a quiet victory to the bank after years of public scrutiny. In a statement late Thursday, the Justice Department said there was 'not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution' against Goldman or its employees after a Congressional committee asked prosecutors to examine if the bank had been involved with any illegal acts related to several mortgage deals."

AP: "Thousands of mourners are expected to pay their final respects to the half-dozen Sikh worshippers gunned down by a white supremacist at their Wisconsin temple over the weekend.... Dignitaries scheduled to attend include U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan."

Wednesday
Aug082012

The Commentariat -- August 9, 2012

** Monopoly! Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Banks are making unusually large gains on mortgages because they are taking profits far higher than the historical norm, analysts say. That 3.55 percent rate for a 30-year mortgage could be closer to 3.05 percent if banks were satisfied with the profit margins of just a few years ago. The lower rate would save a borrower about $30,000 in interest payments over the life of a $300,000 mortgage."

Joan Biskupic of Reuters: "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, the eldest member of the bench and leader of its liberal wing, said she cracked two ribs in June but met all her work obligations and remains committed to staying on the court at least three more years." ...

Linda Greenhouse: thank the Supreme Courts of yore for the U.S. women's Olympics teams, but don't expect any more "rights-creating" laws to get such positive readings in today's Court.

Charles Pierce. "... I agree with Goodhair [Rick Perry] on this. If you want to have a death penalty, and if you believe in all the barbaric arguments on its behalf, then you simply cannot care whether or not you execute the odd retarded person or two. The most singularly clumsy moral contortions we have in this country take place over the issue of whether you can wedge a death penalty into the system of laws that this country claims to have. You simply cannot do that." Read the whole post.

E. J. Dionne goes on a nice little rant about the hypocrisy of Romney & the right, principally on ObamaCare, but on other stuff, too. It includes, "If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law.If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law."

** Jim Crow Now Officially Controls Ohio. Ari Berman of The Nation: "The real story from Ohio is how cutbacks to early voting will disproportionately disenfranchise African-American voters in Ohio's most populous counties.... Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8 am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it's most convenient for working people to vote. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends." CW: we have not seen voter suppression travesties like this since the 1960s. Too bad the Voting Rights Act -- which the Supremes would like to blow up at first opportunity -- didn't cover every state. ...

Presidential Race

Alex Pareene of Salon thinks the press is getting better at exposing candidates' lies & that's why Willard has had three "Marshall McLuhan moments" in recent days. CW: I hope Pareene is right, but -- as my latest NYTX column demonstrates -- they could do a helluva a better job.

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on the Times story news about Mitt Romney's attack on Obama's welfare-to-work policy. I think my critique is of importance because it shows how the Times is skewing stories to favor Romney. The NYTX front page is here. ...

     ... Charles Blow smells desperation. ...

     ... So does the New York Times Editorial Board: "Mitt Romney's campaign has hit new depths of truth-twisting with its accusation that President Obama plans to 'gut welfare reform' by ending federal work requirements. The claim is blatantly false, but it says a great deal about Mr. Romney's increasingly desperate desire to define the president as something he is not." CW: to document their editorial, the editors link to seven sources, some of them secondary. None of them is a New York Times story. That would be because the Times reporting is fairly useless. ...

... Kevin Cirilli of Politico: "Newt Gingrich said Wednesday there's 'no proof' of a claim made in a Mitt Romney campaign ad that President Barack Obama ended the welfare work requirement. 'We have no proof today,' the former House speaker said on CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360. But I would say to you, under Obama's ideology, it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing.'" CW: evidently there's "something about Obama" that makes him "look like" a guy who would send "a lot of people checks for doing nothing." ...

... AND, not surprisingly, the Kenyan anti-colonial theorist a/k/a Gingrich is the guy "who suggested to senior Romney advisers they take on the welfare issue." Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Driftglass writes a terrific post on the welfare lie -- and the Romney campaign -- and the Republican party.

Wow! Greg Sargent writes that as a response to the Priorities USA ad featuring Joe Soptic, whose wife died of cancer years after his Bain-controlled company laid him off (see the August 7 Commentariat & an update yesterday's Commentariat), "Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul suggested today that Soptic's wife would have had health insurance if she had lived in Massachusetts and had been covered by Romneycare. 'If people had been in Massachusetts, under Gov. Romney's health care plan, they would have had health care,' Saul said. Conservatives are apoplectic. They think this has given the Obama team a big opening to remake its case about Obamacare. And they're right. The Romney campaign now seems to be claiming that government-established universal health care is the answer to what to do about people like Ms. Soptic who lack insurance. That's Obama's argument for Obamacare." Read the whole post, with which I agree to the letter. CW: it seems foot-in-mouth disease is contageous. Everyone on Team Romney -- Romney himself, Eric Etch-a-Sketch Fehrnstrom, the Kiss-My-Ass-in-Front-of-a-Polish-Shrine guy & now Andrea Saul has a serious case of it. ...

... Jed Lewison: "... the logical conclusion is that everyone without healthcare should move to Boston, and that's insane. But it's also the bare essence of Mitt Romney's health care policy." ...

... Michael Crowley of Time: "Narrowly judged, the ad is scurrilous.... But the more accurate version of this heartbreaking story is still worth telling. Indeed it may be the best illustration this campaign has offered of how politics affects the lives of ordinary people. America's employer-based health insurance system -- in which a layoff plus an illness can equal financial ruin or death -- is a national embarrassment.... My advice for Priorities USA: take your ad back to the editing room and re-release it as an endorsement of Obamacare, and an argument for re-electing the President who will preserve it."

Scott Wilson & Bill Turque of the Washington Post: "President Obama campaigned in [Colorado] Wednesday with a special appeal to female voters, warning a raucous audience in a basketball gymnasium here that Republican challenger Mitt Romney wanted to take women's health rights 'back to the 1950s.' To shouts of support, Obama spoke proudly of Obamacare, the name Republicans once derisively labeled his health-care reform legislation. On Wednesday he acknowledged to many of its beneficiaries here that 'I kind of like the name.'"

Real Economists to Romney: That's Not What We Said. Ezra Klein contacts independent economists whom the Romney campaign claims -- in an ad -- have done research which supports his economic policy proposals. The economists all say Mitt's people have misinterpreted or misused their work. ...

... AND Jim Tankersley of the National Journal interviews Jim Diamond, an economist not associated with the Romney campaign but whose work the campaign has held up in support of their plan. Well, no, Diamond says he "can't argue" with conclusions of the Tax Policy Center that showed Romney's plan as benefiting the rich while raising taxes on the middle class.

Mitt Launches His Holy War:

On the Wrong Side of Every Issue. Franco Ordonez of McClatchy News: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans a campaign stop Sunday at the for-profit NASCAR Technical Institute outside Charlotte, N.C. -- a show of support for an industry that has been hammered by Democrats in recent months." CW: Maybe some of Mitt's NASCAR-owner buddies will join him. Nothing like friends getting together to exploit the little people (including taxpayers).

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "Obama today joined Romney in publicly disagreeing with a controversial ban on gay members of the Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation's largest and most well-known youth development groups." CW: surely it's time for Romney to flipflop.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times previews the GOP convention sideshow, featuring presidential also-rans, whose "speaking engagements" will be in places other than the convention dais. Me, I'm signing up for Newt University.

Congressional Races

Maybe Sen. Claire McCaskill (ConservaD-Missouri), believed to be toast, caught a break. Her opponent, Rep. Todd Akin (RTP-Missouri) is a nut case. Greg Sargent has details. Steve Benen has more. ...

... Gail Collins: in Missouri & Indiana, "The Tea Party is once again giving Democrats a new lease on life."

News Ledes

Denver Post: "President Barack Obama relayed a message to the middle-class Thursday afternoon on a grassy quad at Colorado College, often times interrupted by chants of 'Four more years! Four more years!' from the thousands in attendance."

NBC News: "At a court hearing Thursday in Centennial, Colo., lawyers representing movie theater mass shooting suspect James Holmes said their client is mentally ill...."

AP: "George Zimmerman will seek to have second-degree murder charges dismissed under Florida's 'stand your ground' law in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, his attorney said Thursday. The hearing, which likely won't take place for several months, will amount to a mini-trial involving much of the evidence collected by prosecutors as well as expert testimony from both sides."

ABC News: "The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Google to pay $22.5 million for violating user privacy on its Apple's Safari browser. It's the biggest FTC fine ever issued for a commission violation."

New York Times: "The Postal Service's financial problems worsened in the spring. The agency reported a $5.2 billion net loss on Thursday for the quarter that ended June 30."

Guardian: New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has unveiled a new crime-fighting system developed with Microsoft – and revealed that the city will take a cut of the profits if it is sold to other administrations. The innovation, which bears a passing resemblance to the futuristic hologram data screens used by Tom Cruise in the science fiction film Minority Report, will allow police to quickly collate and visualise vast amounts of data from cameras, licence plate readers, 911 calls, police databases and other sources."

New York Times: "The murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of the deposed political leader Bo Xilai, began here on Thursday morning and came to an end seven hours later, with officials saying that the defendant and her accomplice had all but confessed to poisoning a British businessman who had threatened the safety of Ms. Gu's son."

AP: "The United States on Thursday began a landmark project to clean up a dangerous chemical left from the defoliant Agent Orange -- 50 years after it was first sprayed by American planes on Vietnam's jungles to destroy enemy cover. Dioxin, which has been linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, will be removed from the site of a former U.S. air base in Danang in central Vietnam."

Here's Al Jazeera's liveblog on Syria.

Al Jazeera: "Libya's National Transitional Council has handed over power to a new assembly in a symbolic move marking the first peaceful transition after more than 40 years of rule by the late Muammar Gaddafi."

New York Times: "The United States and its Arab allies are knitting together a regional missile defense system across the Persian Gulf to protect cities, oil refineries, pipelines and military bases from an Iranian attack, according to government officials and public documents."

AP: "The ancient Martian crater where the Curiosity rover landed looks strikingly similar to the Mojave Desert in California with its looming mountains and hanging haze, scientists say."

AP: "The president and the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure are both stepping down from their roles, the nation's largest breast cancer foundation said in announcing a major leadership shake-up. The high-profile departures come in the wake of continuing fallout from Komen's decision earlier this year to briefly end funding for Planned Parenthood."

AP: "Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has filed a defamation lawsuit in New York against the National Jewish Democratic Council and top officials, saying they made libelous statements regarding his political contributions." CW: Sorry, Sheldon. When you made yourself a public figure, you became, um, a public figure. You ain't gonna win this one. Hope that doesn't hurt your feelings, Mr. Sensitivity.

Tuesday
Aug072012

The Commentariat -- August 8, 2012

Yesterday, President Obama outlined steps the federal government is taking to help farmers in drought-devasted areas:

Liz Goodwin of Yahoo! News: "As many as 1.76 million young illegal immigrants could qualify for temporary legal status under President Obama's deferred action program, says a new report from the Migration Policy Institute. That's more than double the Obama administration's initial estimate of 800,000 people who would benefit from the program. The new number reflects the Obama administration's updated guidelines released last Friday.... Initially, only young illegal immigrants under 30 who entered the country as children, graduated from high school and had no criminal record would make the cut. Now, young people who didn't graduate or receive their G.E.D. can still apply for the legal status as long as they re-enroll in high school by the time they apply."

Danielle Douglas & Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "Regulators are catching flak for not acting sooner to stop banks that helped Iran flout U.S. sanctions. This week, the state of New York said London-based Standard Chartered Bank concealed $250 billion in Iranian transactions, violations that persisted for nearly a decade. A number of international banks, including Lloyds, Barclays and Credit Suisse engaged in similar behaviors, but it took years before regulators put their foot down. State and federal agencies routinely audit banks to ensure compliance with anti-money-laundering rules, but institutions continue to skirt the law. Critics say enforcement actions have fallen short of serving as a deterrent, especially since the punishments resulted in fines but no jail time." CW warning: this article is written in Classic Post He Said/He Said Script, but you might learn something anyway. ...

... Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Top executives at Standard Chartered said they were surprised when New York's banking regulator accused them on Monday of scheming with the Iranian government to launder billions of dollars to potentially support terrorist activities.... The regulatory order also stunned other authorities investigating the bank, namely officials at the Federal Reserve and the Justice Department...."

David Dayen of Firedoglake: "The Supreme Court justices have jurisdiction over various regions of the country when it comes to injunctions, particularly when it comes to stays of execution. In the case of Marvin Wilson, the mentally retarded man with an IQ of 61 and an intelligence level of a 6 year-old, set to die today* in Texas in conjunction with a murder conviction, that appeal had to go through none other than Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia wrote a dissent in the case of Atkins v. Virginia, which established the ban on executing the mentally retarded (Texas, like other states, got to set their own standards for what constitutes 'retarded,' and as such plowed ahead with the execution of Wilson today).... And so it should come as no surprise that [Scalia]" summarily denied the application for a stay of execution. CW: See also yesterday's News Ledes. ...

... Digby: "Why in the hell did they [the Supremes] leave it up to a bunch of blood thirsty yahoos to decide what "retarded" is? This is yet another triumph of our corrupt and immoral 'states' rights' doctrine for which the suppression of human rights and basic decency has been it's most lasting legacy."

Andrew Rosenthal writes an excellent post comparing the "paranoid ranting" of the NRA's Wayne LaPierre --

... LaPierre, said in his four-page plea for cash that President Obama's re-election would result in the 'confiscation' of weapons and a possible ban on semi-automatic weapons. 'The future of your Second Amendment rights will be at stake,' the letter said. 'And nothing less than the future of our country and our freedom will be at stake.' --

       -- to what Obama has actually done about gun control -- "nothing" is a generous reading.

Presidential Race

Evan McMorris-Santoro: "As Republicans continue trying to cash in on the out-of-context 'you didn't build that' attack on President Obama, the Obama campaign is assembling an army of small business owners who say that they did engineer their own success -- thanks to the opportunities afforded them by generations of American taxpayers."

Maureen Dowd: Barack Obama doesn't send thank-you notes.

Economist Brad DeLong provides a detailed takedown of the attempt by Romney's economic advisors to spin his economic plan.

The Priorities USA ad featuring steelworker Joe Soptic -- which I embedded in yesterday's Commentariat -- is somewhat fact-challenged. Although Soptic leaves the impression that his wife died "a short time" after he lost his job & health insurance because of a Bain takeover, that's not the case. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post has the timeline & other details. Kessler doesn't assign any Pinocchios. But Soptic's Shakespearean compression is nothing like this --

Under Obama's plan (for welfare), you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. -- Mitt Romney on Monday, August 6th, 2012 in a campaign ad

PolitiFact: "That's a drastic distortion of the planned [Obama administration] changes.... By granting waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them.... In fact..., the new policy is 'designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.' The ad's claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "The White House denounced Mitt Romney's 'blatantly dishonest' charge that President Barack Obama is looking to 'gut welfare reform' enacted under Bill Clinton by erasing a requirement that recipients actively seek work. 'This advertisement is categorically false, and it is blatantly dishonest,' press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing."

AP: "Former President Bill Clinton is taking exception to a campaign ad by Mitt Romney that asserts that the Obama administration is weakening the work requirements for welfare. In a statement Tuesday night, Clinton called the Republican's assertion 'not true' and the ad misleading."

Greg Sargent: "... Mitt Romney has again put GOP governors in a delicate position, in which they are caught between the need to defend their own policies and the need to avoid saying anything that detracts from Romney's campaign message." The Repubican governors of Utah & Nevada -- who led the group of governors asking the Obama administration for flexibiity -- refused to tell reporters whether or not they agreed with Romney's ad. ...

... Greg Sargent: "... this ad is tantamount to claiming that Republican governors want to gut welfare reform and ensure that the government just sends people a 'welfare check.' ... For an election that's supposed to be all about the economy, the Romney campaign is suddenly leaning very hard on a more traditional politics of resentment right out of an older GOP playbook."

This was a lie too far for Steve Benen, who has been chronicling "Mitt's Mendacity" for 28 weeks: "... this is as dishonest an ad as you'll ever see -- in 2012 or in any other campaign cycle.... Romney's lying. He's not spinning the truth to his advantage; he's not hiding in a gray area between fact and fiction; he's just lying. The law hasn't been 'gutted'; the work requirement hasn't been 'dropped.' ... All Obama did is agree to Republican governors' request for flexibility.... What does it say about Romney's strength as a candidate that he has to make up garbage and hope voters don't know the difference? ... The language in the ad harkens back to the kind of ugly and racially divisive rhetoric we heard from GOP candidates for far too long." ...

... Steve Benen: "The president is giving states the option of experimenting with new welfare-to-work programs -- an option Romney used to support -- but work requirements remain intact.... Republican governors were the ones who asked for the flexibility to experiment, and Obama agreed. But if Romney and the GOP have decided to go nuclear on this..., the president can simply reverse course -- Republicans are against state flexibility and experimentation? Fine, no more state flexibility and experimentation."

"A Very Nasty Piece of Work." Ed Kilgore: "It's the old welfare-queen meme, which Republicans have already been regularly reviving in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act, on Medicaid, on food stamps, and in their much broader and horrifyingly invidious claims that poor and minority people deliberately taking out mortgages they knew they couldn't afford caused the whole housing market collapse and the financial crisis that followed."

Dana Milbank on the Italian Job: "Romney's larger problem with Bain and his personal income taxes: The question is not whether he did well, or whether he did it legally, but whether he did it with any sense of ethics.... Of ... concern is that, as president, Romney would further expand the advantages of fellow rich people. Romney encouraged that worry on Tuesday, when he announced at a campaign stop that he would be tough on welfare -- 'we will end the culture of dependency and restore a culture of good hard work' -- and then went to a pair of fundraisers where high-rolling donors paid as much as $75,000 for access to him.

Romney Really Hates to Pay Taxes. Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times: "After paying cash for the Mediterranean-style house with 61 feet of beach frontage, [the Romneys] asked San Diego County for dramatic property tax relief [making] ... a months-long effort to reduce their annual property tax bill.... Initially, the Romneys asked that their 2009 assessment, $12.24 million, be reduced to $6.8 million, maintaining that their home had lost about 45% of its value in the first seven months they owned it. Thirteen months later, after hiring an attorney..., the Romneys filed an amended appeal, contending the home had suffered a less-dramatic fall of 27.3%, to $8.9 million. They also filed an appeal for the 2010 tax year, claiming the house had dropped further, to $7.5 million, 38.7% less than the home's assessed value. As a result, the Romneys have saved about $109,000 in property taxes over four years."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... the Mittster is also going to have to ingratiate himself with the regular folk, something he's never been particularly adept at.... Romney is in grave danger of joining the list of money-rich candidates who ended up as roadkill."

Congressional Races

The Neophyte Candidate. Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe: "Elizabeth Warren demanded Monday that Senator Scott Brown release more of his tax returns. The only problem was that Brown, her Republican rival, had already released six years of tax returns while Warren has refused to release more than four years of her filings. Asked to reconcile that apparent conflict, Warren backed off her demand, saying today that six years was enough. She did not, however, offer to release any more of her IRS filings." CW: I hope some of you of the "Warren for President" persuasion are beginning to understand why that was a bad idea.

God Is a Conservative Republican (And She Loves Todd Akin the Most). Tim O'Neil of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Wildwood, [Missouri,] won the battle of conservatives for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate with a strong lead that held through the evening in statewide returns.... 'The first thing I would like to do is give thanks to God, our creator,' Akin said. 'Your prayers were answered with victory.'"

Right Wing World *

"America --' Watering Down' Voting Rights since 1776." Alec McGillis of The New Republic: RNC Chair "Reince Priebus sent out this tweet: 'We need to call out Obama for trying to water down the voting privileges of our military men and women in Ohio.' So, expanding voting rights generally -- which, let's face it, tends to favor Democrats -- 'waters down' the votes of a Republican-leaning constituency like the military? ... This seems like a case of accidental and illuminating candor, right up there with the Pennsylvania House majority leader who declared recently that his state's new Voter ID law would win the state for Mitt Romney.... Sort of like expanding the franchise to women 'watered down' the voting rights of men...."

* Where only Republicans have the franchise.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "In 118 years of U.S. records, July 2012 stands as king, hotter than any month previously observed. NOAA reports today that the average temperature across the continental U.S. was 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average, 0.2 degrees hotter than the previous record set in July, 1936."

New York Times: "Wade M. Page, the man who the police say shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin this week, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said on Wednesday. The authorities had reported earlier that he was fatally shot by a police officer. Mr. Page, 40, shot himself in the head after being struck by a bullet fired by an officer from the Oak Creek Police Department, said Teresa L. Carlson, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bullet fired by the officer hit Mr. Page in the stomach, Ms. Carlson said."

Al Jazeera: "The Syrian army has launched a ground assault on the northern city of Aleppo, sparking fierce clashes with opposition fighters in the frontline district of Salaheddine."

AP: "The international security contractor formerly known as Blackwater has agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle federal criminal charges related to arms smuggling and other crimes.... The list of violations includes possessing automatic weapons in the United States without registration, lying to federal firearms regulators about weapons provided to the king of Jordan, passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval and illegally shipping body armor overseas.... In a statement issued immediately after the settlement was made public, however, Academi officials denied they admitted any guilt.... A clause in Academi's settlement with prosecutors bars the company from making any public statements 'contradicting any aspect' of the agreement. Any such statement could allow the government to nullify the settlement...." CW: and nobody goes to jail.

The Tennessean: "After two years of struggle, Murfreesboro Muslims will finally be able to hold Friday prayers in their new mosque.... County officials granted the mosque a temporary conditional occupancy permit on Tuesday after the building passed a state fire marshal's inspection. Getting the permit brought an end to two years of controversy over the mosque, which included street protests, a fire, a bomb threat and three lawsuits. Reporters from around the world covered the story...."

ABC News: "Police say they have arrested [Misty Cook,] the former girlfriend of the gunman who allegedly shot and killed six people in a Sikh temple, after authorities found a gun in the home they once shared.... A federal law enforcement official told ABC News that Cook was taken into custody on the grounds that she is prohibited from having a gun as a convicted felon. Cook was charged in 2002 for fleeing and eluding a traffic officer. There's no indication she was involved with the attack."