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.

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."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, December 19, 2014.

Los Angeles Times: "Lowell Steward, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew more than 100 missions during World War II, died Wednesday, according to Ron Brewington, former national public relations officer for the Tuskegee Airmen. Steward was 95."

NBC News: "The Army has concluded its lengthy investigation into the disappearance of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in eastern Afghanistan and must now decide whether Bergdahl should face criminal charges. Bergdahl reportedly walked away from his base into the hands of the Taliban and was held hostage for five years. Based on the investigation, the Army must now decide whether Bergdahl should be charged with desertion or a lesser charge of being 'absent without leave,' AWOL."

New York Times: "The Pakistani military said on Friday that it had killed 62 militants in clashes near the border with Afghanistan, stepping up operations against insurgents after the Pakistani Taliban carried out an attack at a school that left 148 students and staff members dead."

New York Times: "Mandy Rice-Davies, a nightclub dancer and model who achieved notoriety in 1963 in one of Britain’s most spectacular Cold War sex scandals, died on Thursday after a short battle with cancer, her publicist said on Friday. She was 70."

Denver Post: "James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater two years ago, is 'a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,' his parents write in a letter that pleads for him to be spared from execution.'" The letter is here.

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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-- Constant Weader

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Thursday
Aug022012

The Commentariat -- August 3, 2012

New York Times Editors: "What are Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Draghi waiting for? Slower growth? Higher unemployment? Lower output?"

Paul Krugman: "President Obama, if re-elected, can, and should, replace [Ed DeMarco, the acting director of the agency that runs Fannie & Freddie,] through a recess appointment. In fact, he should have done that years ago.... Mr. Obama has made plenty of mistakes. But the DeMarco affair nonetheless demonstrates, once again, the extent to which U.S. economic policy has been crippled by unyielding, irresponsible political opposition. If our economy is still deeply depressed, much — and I would say most — of the blame rests not with Mr. Obama but with the very people seeking to use that depressed economy for political advantage."

Tim Egan has a few thoughts on Nino Scalia's contribution to democracy. Like this: "Secretive donor money in federal elections went from 1 percent in 2006 to 44 percent in 2010, after the Supreme Court lifted restrictions." And this: "Fewer than 200 people in a nation of 313 million comprise 80 percent of all super PAC donations."

A Brave Senate Finance Committee Tackles Tax Reform. Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "... members of the Senate Finance Committee congratulated themselves for agreeing to jettison 20 [tax breaks], including a $5,000 credit for first-time home buyers in the District and a cash-incentive program for ­wind-energy projects that has been derided as benefiting foreign companies. But their failure to weed out dozens more pet provisions clouded prospects for a far-reaching simplification of the nation’s tax laws advocated by President Obama, GOP challenger Mitt Romney and congressional leaders in both parties." Among them: "An accelerated write-off for owners of NASCAR tracks."  Well, of course, some of these guys are "great friends" of Mitt's. (And of a senator on the Finance Committee, too, no doubt.)

Dave Weigel posts on the closing arguments in the Pennsylvania voter fraud trial.

AND Teddy Partridge of Firedoglake finds "the best obit correction ever: the New York Times on Gore Vidal."

Presidential Race

Chances are you pay a higher tax rate than him [Mitt Romney]….Mitt Romney made $20 million in 2010 but paid only 14 percent in taxes…probably less than you. Now he has a plan that would give millionaires another tax break. And raises taxes on middle class families by up to two thousand dollars a year. -- Voiceover in Obama ad ...

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "This ad is tough, but we cannot fault the accuracy of its key points. To some extent, the Romney campaign has been hoist with its own petard by refusing to provide sufficient detail that shows how the numbers add up in Romney’s tax and budget plans. So we are left with the judgment of a respected and independent third party. We hold campaign ads to a high standard, particularly attack ads.... For the first time in this frequently nasty campaign, we award a rare Geppetto Checkmark for a campaign ad."

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "President Obama on Thursday continued his swing-state offensive against Mitt Romney’s tax-cut plans, deriding them as a boon to the rich at the expense of everyone else — 'trickle-down tax-cut fairy dust,' he called them at a college here."

Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "After a rocky trip to Europe and Israel in which his remarks drew complaints from British and Palestinian leaders, Mitt Romney flew Thursday to Colorado, an important swing state, to try to regain his footing and refocus his campaign on his core message of renewing the economy."

Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Obama touted his record on women's issues and stressed the women in his personal story as he addressed a major gathering of women bloggers on Thursday. 'Women’s issues are front and center as they should be. But the conversation has been oversimplified a bit,' he told the BlogHer conference in New York, speaking live via video from Orlando, Fla. 'Women are not a monolithic bloc, not an interest group. You make up more than half our country and our workforce, not to mention 80 percent my household if you count my mother-in-law.'"

Jamelle Bouie of the American Prospect: "Obama’s attacks on Romney’s financial life — Bain Capital, his tax returns, his ostentatious wealth — are meant to present the former Massachusetts governor as an unscrupulous plutocrat, indifferent to the lives of ordinary Americans. But the goal of that is to soften Romney for the main event — an all-out attack on his economic plan." ...

... More Secret Mitt. Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "A new study describing Mitt Romney’s tax cut proposals as an average tax increase for 95% of Americans is 'a joke,' according to Romney adviser Eric Ferhnstrom. But policy aides offered no indication they plan to offer more details on Romney’s plan in order to clarify how it would be paid for...." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "The Romney campaign’s increasingly desperate attempts to dismiss a new study of its tax plan are a pretty good sign that the study is devastating. That isn’t to say the campaign is trying to counter it with actual specifics.... The Tax Policy Center ... has one of the more reliable and unbiased computer models of the nation’s tax system. But for the far right (also known as the Republican center), any tax analysis that doesn’t swallow the prosperity gospel of tax-cut magic is, therefore, liberal." ...

... Paul Krugman: "Obama['s tax plan] is inadequate; Romney['s] is intensely, screamingly irresponsible. On top of that, Romney is scamming voters, claiming not only that he can make up the lost revenue by closing unspecified loopholes, but that he can do so in a way that doesn’t shift the tax burden away from the rich onto the middle class. He can’t, as a matter of sheer arithmetic — which is the point of that Tax Policy Center study. The Romney campaign isn’t even trying to make a substantive argument in response — they’re just calling names."

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "On Sean Hannity's radio show, Mitt Romney just told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to 'put up or shut up' on the unsubstantiated allegations he's made about the GOP hopeful not paying his taxes for ten years.... But the 'put up' line was a bit surprising, since Romney is the one under fire for not releasing his returns..., and only he, in this specific instance, has the documents in question that someone is asking be 'put up.'"

Fred Kaplan of Slate: "Romney's foreign policy ideas are really quite scary.... Romney took this trip to pass a fairly simple test: to demonstrate a bedrock comfort and competence on the world stage. He failed that test.... In comparing Romney’s foreign policy to Obama’s...: They’re the same, except when Romney’s is more reckless or mysterious. Not a good bumper sticker."

... AND in Sporting News.... "Ann Romney's horse fails to win dressage but avoids offending British." Sam Jones of the Guardian: "... the 15-year-old bay Oldenburg mare acquitted herself rather well. True, she and her rider, Jan Ebeling, may have been left well behind by Britain's Carl Hester, Germany's Dorothee Schneider and Denmark's Anna Kasprzak but, by Romney standards, her performance was a positive triumph. Never for a second during her seven-minute performance did a hoof stray dangerously mouthwards, nor did she do anything at all to offend or upset the host nation. From the moment she entered the Greenwich Park equestrian arena at 12.15 on Thursday afternoon, the most famous political horse since Caligula toyed with making a consul of Incitatus seemed in her element."

News Ledes

AP: "Syria reached out to its powerful ally Russia on Friday, as senior officials pleaded with Moscow for financial loans and supplies of oil products — an indication that international sanctions are squeezing President Bashar Assad's regime.... Rebels fought regime forces in the Syrian capital only two weeks after the government crushed a revolt there."

New York Times: "Cass Sunstein, 57, who projected an air of disheveled academic detachment while becoming one of the Obama administration’s most provocative figures, announced Friday that he was leaving government to return to Harvard Law School."

Houston Chronicle: "A federal judge in Galveston on Thursday partially blocked new Texas registration laws that critics say amount to vote suppression because they prevent large voter registration drives. U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa blocked the state from enforcing five provisions of the laws that its defenders say are aimed at preventing voter fraud."

NBC News: "House Republicans will file a civil suit against Attorney General Eric Holder during the August recess, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has told NBC News."

Bloomberg News: "Payrolls in the U.S. climbed more than forecast in July, boosted by a pickup in employment at automakers, even as the jobless rate unexpectedly rose to a five-month high. The increase of 163,000 followed a revised 64,000 gain in June payrolls that was less than initially reported.... Unemployment rose to 8.3 percent."

New York Times: "Amtrak lost more than $800 million on its food and beverage services over the last 10 years, largely because of waste, employee theft and lack of proper oversight, government auditors have found."

AP: "Growing use of generic medicines has reduced U.S. health care spending by more than $1 trillion over the past decade, according to an industry-funded study released Thursday. The fourth annual report, produced for the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, found use of generic prescription drugs in the U.S. saved about $193 billion last year alone."

Washington Post: "Two federal agencies and Congress said Thursday that they were investigating an incident at Reagan National Airport in which commuter jets headed in opposite directions closed to within about 1,650 yards of one another at a combined speed of 436 mph.... Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ... praised the air traffic controller who recognized that the planes were closing on each other at a high speed. The controller ordered one pilot to abort his approach to National and turn south. The three planes, all operated by US Airways, carried 192 passengers and crew members, the airline said. They all reached their destinations safely."

Reuters: "U.S. Representative Diane Black won the primary election by a comfortable margin over Lou Ann Zelenik, noted for her fierce opposition to the Islamic Center built in Murfreesboro..., although it was outside the congressional district she sought to represent. Zelenik was backed by a wealthy conservative businessman from Nashville, who paid for ads attacking Black over the mosque and Islam. Zelenik charged that Black had not opposed the mosque vigorously."

Space: "The 1-ton Curiosity rover, the heart of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, is slated to touch down inside the Red Planet's Gale Crater on Sunday night (Aug. 5)."

Politico: "The House officially reprimanded Rep. Laura Richardson on Thursday for improperly using her official staff to conduct campaign work and personal errands, the latest blow to the California Democrat’s bid for a fourth term in Congress."

Guardian: "Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks was formally charged with phone hacking and will appear in court next month.... Six other journalists from the News of the World, including David Cameron's former spin doctor Andy Coulson, have been officially charged and will appear at the same court on 16 August."

Wednesday
Aug012012

The Commentariat -- August 2, 2012

Palestinians are a hard-working and an incredible community. They have done remarkably well outside their country. I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States; every Palestinian I know is a college professor or a doctor. -- Bill Clinton, in Riyadh, "showing Romney how it's done"

Simon Johnson in the New York Times: the big banks rely on three myths to justify their hegemony: (1) that their critics are whacked-out "populists"; (2) that Dodd-Frank reforms are not justified by a costs-benefits analysis; & (3) that financial reform will hurt economic growth.

New York Times Editors: "The I.R.S., citing 'current public interest in this issue,' promised a review [of political activity for social welfare nonprofits that enjoy exemptions under section 501(c)(4)] after receiving complaints from ... watchdog groups that have been tracking the ballooning use of the 'social welfare' guise to finance classic hardball politics. It is ludicrous to perceive Karl Rove, the canny Republican strategist and money raiser, as primarily nonpartisan and civic-minded...." The review is unlikely to affect the current campaign season.

I tell all my people, 'I'm not working for Chick-fil-A; I'm working for the Lord.' -- Donald Elam, a Chick-fil-A franchisee in -- appropriately enough -- Superstition Springs, Arizona

It's interesting that the Lord chooses to pay them a third of what they would get if they owned any other franchise. He does work in mysterious ways. -- Digby

"The Cult of Chick-fil-A." Emily Schmall of Forbes: Chick-fil-A "seeks loyal employees and operators who believe serving chicken is God's work. Careful screening of new hires keeps it out of trouble." They get away with likely discriminatory practices because so many of their workers are franchisees who are not covered under anti-discrimination laws.

Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times: "In an interview with a Baptist publication and an appearance on a devotional radio program, [Dan] Cathy, [president & CEO of Chick-fil-A] unburdened himself of the view that gay marriage violated God's plan.... Cathy's outburst ignited a very predictable outbreak of partisan posturing.... Sarah Palin and Todd Palin had their picture taken holding up big bags from Chick-fil-A, as if to prove that in modern America you can affiliate yourself with retrograde social prejudice and line your arteries with cholesterol at one stop, without moving the car."

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "F.B.I. agents on a hunt for leakers have interviewed current and former high-level government officials from multiple agencies in recent weeks, casting a distinct chill over press coverage of national security issues as agencies decline routine interview requests and refuse to provide background briefings."

Dave Weigel of Slate covers the Pennsylvania voter fraud case for Slate. It's going so badly for the state that a Republican strategist tells Weigel that the state is probably saving its thunder for the higher courts. CW: Really? The state can't call witnesses in the appellate & Supreme Courts. ...

     ... Here's a follow-up post from Weigel.

Presidential Race

The Great Suppression of 2012. Charles Blow: "... a lot of people who say that they are likely to vote may not actually be eligible to vote. The greatest margin of uncertainty may well be caused by poll respondents who think that they will able to vote for President Obama in November, but may not be allowed to do so." Update: see also links to posts, above, by Dave Weigel of Slate on the Pennsylvania case.

Maggie Haberman of Politico: Harry Reid doubles down. He now claims that "I have had a number of people tell me that" Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years. Asked by reporters in Nevada to elaborate, Reid said, "I don't think the burden should be on me. The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn't he release his tax returns?"

"He pays less, you pay more":

Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "The Romney campaign is pushing back against a new study from researchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center suggesting Mitt Romney's tax proposals would actually increase taxes for a whopping a 95% of Americans, denouncing the Tax Policy Center ... as a 'liberal' group.... While the Romney campaign hasn't rebutted the substance of the study, they claim the Tax Policy Center should be dismissed entirely as a biased source. But" the Romney camp called the Tax Policy Center an "objective third party" when they used its analysis to slam primary opponent Rick Perry's budget proposal. ...

... Worse Than Romney. Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post: "Romney can take some solace in knowing his allies in Congress have proposed a plan that shifts the burden from high-income to middle-income taxpayers even more dramatically." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... Mitt and his party are committed to fiscal policies that would significantly skew the tax burden towards in the middle and bottom of the income scale, while concentrating 'spending restraint' on the same people as well. And why wouldn't they do so? If wealth is a measurement of 'success,' and if success is a measurement of 'virtue,' then regressive policies become a moral imperative, and that's pretty much the unstated overriding goal of today's conservative movement and GOP."

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change culture and save it from itself. -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Geographer Jared Diamond in a New York Times op-ed: Mitt Romney misrepresented my views. What he said "is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it.... Our geography won't keep us rich and powerful if we can't get a good education, can't afford health care and can't count on our hard work's being rewarded by good jobs and rising incomes." ...

... Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post: "... most people still believe that two cultures in particular, African and Islamic, inhibit economic development. But the two countries that will next achieve a gross domestic product of $1 trillion are both Muslim democracies -- Turkey and Indonesia. Of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world today, seven are African.... Ironically, the argument that culture is central to a country's success has been used most frequently by Asian strongmen to argue that their countries need not adopt Western-style democracy."

... Bob Wright of The Atlantic: "... what is alarming ... is that [Romney] probably has no awareness of the stunning irony of going to Jerusalem, having a lovefest with Bibi Netanyahu, defender-in-chief of the Israeli occupation, and then preaching to Palestinians that they'd be better off if only they'd get themselves some freedom! ... There's one thing he just can't seem to wrap his mind around: not being Mitt."

Every policy prescription Romney comes up with -- even when he tries to hide the details as he does with his economic proposal -- is bad policy & would be unpopular if voters heard what it was. That is, of course, the reason Secret Mitt has a secret agenda. Besides --

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: one of the old Mitt Romneys -- the one who wrote No Apology -- thought government investing in innovation was important & cited -- contra the new winger meme -- the Internet as one example of government-funded innovation. "Romney calls for increasing government spending on R&D in his book, he has supported GOP plans like Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which would slash this kind of investment."

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: "Texas Republicans have just nominated a Senate candidate who is promising to protect America's golf courses from the United Nations.... [Ted] Cruz's victory was the latest in a number of Tea Party triumphs in Republican primaries, and it certainly does suggest that next year the Republican Senate contingent will be composed almost entirely of right-wing purists and people who are afraid they're going to be primaried by a right-wing purist." ...

... Russell Goldman of ABC News: "The stunning Texas victory of Ted Cruz, a young Tea Party-backed Republican over an establishment candidate vying for a Senate seat, has already so emboldened the insurgent conservative movement that activists are warning Mitt Romney he had better get on board. 'These guys [newly elected Tea Party candidates]" are going to force Romney to the right,' said Andrea Shell, a spokeswoman for Tea Party group Freedom Works. 'That is our entire mission.'"

Right Wing World *

I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates. -- Mike Kelly (RTP-Pa.) ...

... Pema Levy of TPM: "Beginning Wednesday, private insurers are required to cover contraceptive services in new plans without a co-pay as mandated by the health care reform law."

* Where the implementation of every Democratic act is the equivalent of an alien invasion.

News Ledes

Too Bad about the Disaster, Folks. We're Going on Vacation. New York Times: "After refusing to consider a sweeping five-year farm measure, House Republican leaders jammed through a short-term, $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers.... Democratic leaders in the Senate, which already passed a bipartisan five-year bill, refused to take up the House measure, faulting House Republican leaders for failing to consider the broader legislation in time."

Politico: "The Senate's late-summer race to pass cybersecurity legislation before leaving for recess came to a dead end Thursday when Democrats couldn't muster enough gas to clear a procedural vote over objections of GOP leaders and many big business lobbies. The bill required 60 votes to cut off debate and get it to the floor for a vote, but fell short 52-46."

Reuters: "Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is stepping down as the U.N.-Arab League mediator in the 17-month-old Syria conflict at the end of the month, the United Nations said on Thursday, the latest sign that the outlook for a diplomatic solution is bleak." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Frustrated by the seemingly intractable Syrian conflict, Kofi Annan announced his resignation on Thursday as the special peace envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, throwing new doubts on whether a diplomatic solution is possible. He also said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria 'must leave office.'"

AP: "Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added Wednesday to the U.S. government's list of natural disaster areas as the nation's agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme dryness and heat.... More than half of all U.S. counties -- 1,584 in 32 states -- have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season...."

AP: "Arab countries pushed ahead Wednesday with a symbolic U.N. General Assembly resolution that tells Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign and turn over power to a transitional government. It also demands that the Syrian army stop its shelling and helicopter attacks and withdraw to its barracks. A vote is set for Friday morning."

Bloomberg News: "The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency warned its employees and contractors last week to stop using their government computers to surf the Internet for pornographic sites, according to the agency's executive director."

New York Times: "New York City, embracing an experimental mechanism for financing social services that has excited and worried government reformers around the world, will allow Goldman Sachs to invest nearly $10 million in a jail program, with the pledge that the financial services giant would profit if the program succeeded in significantly reducing recidivism rates."

ABC News: "Dr. Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who was treating [mass murder suspect James] Holmes, 24, at the school, was also a key member of the university's threat assessment team, [and] ... by early June, Fenton had informed other members of the team about her concerns regarding Holmes. But on June 10 -- three days after Holmes bought an assault weapon and added it to his already growing arsenal -- he suddenly told the university that he was dropping out.... KMGH-TV reported last week that he'd purchased the weapon hours after failing a key oral exam."

AP: "Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, her running mate and three others have been arrested amid a sit-in at a downtown Philadelphia bank over housing foreclosures."

AP: Heidi Wys, "an adviser to Puerto Rico's most powerful female lawmaker, faced calls to resign on Wednesday after she sent a tweet to President Barack Obama" that read, ".. Take her [Michelle Obama] to Burger King, buy her a sundae with double banana, take her to your homeland, Kenya!"

Tuesday
Jul312012

The Commentariat -- August 1, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' false comparison between Obama's & Romney's "dull campaigns." The NYTX front page is here.

Dana Hughes of ABC News: "The number of worldwide terror attacks fell to 10,283 last year, down from 11,641 in 2010 and the lowest since 2005, the State Department reported today. What's made the difference? The State Department cites the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members killed last year including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Anwar al-Awlaki...."

"Fire Ed DeMarco." Paul Krugman: Ed DeMarco, who heads (I think he's the acting director) the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which runs Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, "has just rejected a request from the Treasury Department that he offer debt relief to troubled homeowners.... Deciding whether debt relief is a good policy for the nation as a whole is not DeMarco's job.... If the Secretary of the Treasury, acting on behalf of the president, believes that it is in the national interest to spend some taxpayer funds on debt relief, in a way that actually improves the FHFA's budget position, the agency's director has no business deciding on his own that he prefers not to act." So fire his ass, Mr. President. CW: this is an old story. There is some question as to whether Obama can fire DeMarco, but since he's only acting director, I'd say the answer is Caio, Eddie. ...

     ... Update: Krugman has more on DeMarco, & it's consistent with everything I've read in the past, especially the Geithner part.

... Brady Dennis & Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post tell the underlying story. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein, writing in the Washington Post on the DeMarco fiasco: "... the failure to move aggressively to fill the executive branch with his appointees has been the biggest mistake Barack Obama has made during his four years in the White House." CW: it is White House staff who are responsible for staffing up, although Obama would ultimately review all the top picks. So it would be interesting to know just who-all in the White House aren't doing their jobs of cuing up nominees. It seems unlikely that -- overall -- the administration is purposely leaving vacant key positions; therefore, this sounds like a case of gross incompetence.

Hoping No One Will Notice. Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "Senate Republicans last week proposed a plan that would raise taxes on more than 20 million Americans, while maintaining the high-end Bush tax cuts.... Now, House Republicans have adopted the same plan, and the effect is the same: roughly 24 million middle- and lower-class Americans will see their taxes raised so that roughly two million of the richest taxpayers can maintain a tax cut...."

AND Dan Pfeiffer of the White House tells Charles Krauthammer he's sorry over the Churchill bust thing. I'm none too sure an apology was in order even if it was polite.

Presidential Race

NEW. Greg Sargent: a new analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center "finds that Mitt Romney's tax plan] would cut taxes dramatically on the richest five percent while raising them on everyone else.... Romney's tax plan would result in a $2,000 tax increase on middle class families." ...

... President Obama cites the report:

NEW. Krugman Again: Really, Willard loves big government & socialized medicine. And "debasing" the currency is good, too.

** Mitt Romney in the National Review. "Culture does matter." I don't know if Mitt wrote this or commissioned it. In any event, he authorized it, & like all those post-February 1999 Bain Capital documents, he signed his name to it. For those of you who questioned the thesis "he's not all that bright," time to reconsider. Whoever wrote this essay either thinks the reader is simpleminded or is simpleminded himself. I'm going with the latter. Thanks to Jack M. for the link. ...

... Answer True or False: (1) "Often, I have trouble deciding which lie to tell." (2) "Sometimes I say things, then pretend I didn't say them, then defend what I said in the first place, all in the course of 24 hours." (3) "Friends & family say they worry I may be insane." Sara Murray of the Wall Street Journal: "Mitt Romney caused a stir among Palestinians earlier this week when he suggested culture plays a role in the Palestinian Authority's economic shortfalls. He reversed course in an interview with Fox News Tuesday and denied making such a comment, saying, 'I'm not speaking about it -- did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy. That's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that.' Well it appears Mr. Romney has changed his mind again because in an opinion piece in the conservative National Review Online, the Republican reversed course and owned up to the comments he made."

... Daniel Drezner in Foreign Policy: "... when Romney says he thinks culture is the key, it's another way of saying that he doesn't think the United States, World Bank or any policy tool out there is really going to promote economic growth in the least developed world."

Willard's World. Maureen Dowd: "We now know how little he knows about the world, how really slow on his feet he is, what meager social and political agility he has." She thinks he would make a nice garden statue.

Gossip Edition. Sam Stein & Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: an unnamed Bain investor told Harry Reid that Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for ten years. CW: if that's not true, Mitt -- prove it. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Michael Graetz, a professor of tax law at Columbia & deputy assistant Treasury secretary under Bush I, thinks it likely Romney fudged on his taxes, possibly by undervaluing assets.

Here's a lovely biographical ad about Mitt that will warm the cockles of your heart --

     -- Until Jed Lewison of Daily Kos tells you the truth behind Romney's absurd claims. What a total phony.

All of My People Are Experts at Firing You People. Callum Borchers of the Boston Globe: "The Mitt Romney campaign's chief financial officer described himself as a 'financial outsourcing consultant' on the professional networking website LinkedIn until at least July 17, according to a cached version of his profile page, but has since changed the description to 'political/finance professional.'"

Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal: "The Romney campaign finally came out firmly against tax credits for wind power. That might sound like a pretty marginal issue nationwide, but in a state such as Iowa -- home to more wind-sector jobs than any other state -- it's a pretty big deal." CW: too bad if being the anti-science candidate costs you the election, Mitt. Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: Gov. Terry Branstad (R), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), and in fact the entire Iowa GOP Congressional delegation, respectfully disagree with Wandering Willard. Grassley blames it on Poland.

Paul Krugman: "Something is very wrong with what’s going on inside that impressive head of hair." CW: I think this theme that something isn't quite right about Romney may have legs. ...

... And sorry for going All Krugman All the Time, but I think he has nailed the crux of the phony "economic debate" that constitutes the presidential campaign: "It's really amazing: between miscalculations on Obama's part and scorched-earth Republican opposition, what we've had is insane austerity in the face of depression -- yet we're having an election centered on the claim that the weak economy shows that government spending doesn't work."

A new Obama ad, tying Romney to the Bush wartime deficit:

A reader wrote to me privately the other day, fed up with all the obnoxious Obama campaign pitches for contributions. So here's yet another approach:

... AND Michael Shear of the New York Times writes, "The appeals for donations occasionally recall the 'Everything 80 percent off! Going out of Business' sales that try to entice customers into the store. And yet, Mr. Obama's campaign team has clearly calculated that it is willing to risk leaving that kind of impression if it means raising more money."

Right Wing World

John Celock of the Huffington Post: "A Republican member of the Tennessee state legislature emailed constituents Tuesday morning with a rumor circulating in conservative circles that President Barack Obama is planning to stage a fake assassination attempt in an effort to stop the 2012 election from happening."

Local News

** Charles Pierce ruminates on "What Happened in Texas: The Tea Party now has morphed into a movement made up solely of three elements: corporate money, television hucksters, and suckers. The first of these make the other two elements possible."

Cherrie Gregg of CBS Philly: Pennsylvania's Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichelle (R) testified in the state voter ID case that she didn't know what the law said but was sure 99 percent of state voters have photo ID even though she has no way of actually knowing.

Gossip Edition. Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post: "Gov. John Hickenlooper and his wife, Helen Thorpe, announced Tuesday they are separating after 10 years of marriage, but plan to remain a family that spends a 'great deal of time together.' In a joint statement, they stressed there was no affair and that they had tried 'extended counseling.'"

News Ledes

Reuters: "President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said. Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad."

Washington Post: "The Republican-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to extend expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for another year, a pre-election statement of the GOP's unyielding opposition to raising taxes for any taxpayer. The 256 to 171 vote ... fell largely along party lines, though 19 Democrats voted with Republicans.... One Republican was opposed. It came after the House rejected a Democratic alternative, also largely on a partisan 170 to 257 vote, that would have preserve tax cuts for income up to $250,000 but allowed them to expire for the wealthy."

New York Times: "A series of public statements and private communications from the Israeli leadership in recent weeks set off renewed concerns in the Obama administration that Israel might be preparing a unilateral military strike on Iran.... But after a flurry of high-level visits, including one by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to Israel on Wednesday, a number of administration officials say they remain hopeful that Israel has no imminent plans to attack and may be willing to let the United States take the lead in any future military strike...."

Washington Post: "Three commuter jets came within seconds of a midair collision at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday after confused air traffic controllers launched two outbound flights directly at another plane coming in to land, according to federal officials with direct knowledge of the incident."

Do-Nothing Fed Continues to Do Nothing. New York Times: "The Federal Reserve took no new steps to support the economy Wednesday, but it said in a statement that it was ready to act if job growth did not improve."

New York Times: "United States stock markets were thrown into turmoil on Wednesday morning after more than 100 stocks were hit with a surge of volatile and unexpected trading immediately after markets opened.

New York Times: "House and Senate leaders on Tuesday, with little fanfare and no drama, said they had reached a tentative agreement that would pay for federal government operations through next March, averting the prospect of another messy shutdown debacle." Washington Post story here.

New York Times: "The White House and Congress raced to impose more punishing sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, as that country's nuclear ambitions resurfaced in the presidential election campaign after Mitt Romney's pledge to give Israel unstinting support in its confrontation with Iran.... Sanctions have been in the works for months. Campaign officials also said that for all his criticism, Mr. Romney's prescriptions for dealing with Tehran do not differ much from the president's.... Colin H. Kahl, a former Pentagon official who is an adviser to the Obama campaign, [said] 'A lot of this is Romney describing our current policy and masquerading it as criticism of the president."

New York Times: "Gore Vidal, the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization, died on Tuesday at his home in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles, where he moved in 2003, after years of living in Ravello, Italy. He was 86."

Default Day! Washington Post: "The U.S. Postal Service, facing a $14.1 billion loss this fiscal year amid plummeting mail volume, will default for the first time Wednesday, on a congressionally mandated $5.5 billion payment to the U.S. Treasury."

New York Times: "As electric power was restored across India on Wednesday, the nation's new power minister sought to tamp down a growing argument between state and federal ministers over who was to blame for Tuesday's unprecedented blackout."

AP: "A judicial official says that Hans Kristian Rausing has pleaded guilty to preventing the proper burial of his wealthy wife Eva Rausing. A spokesman for Britain's judiciary says that Rausing, whose father made billions selling his stake in the Tetra Pak drinks-carton empire, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of 'preventing the lawful and decent' burial of his 48-year-old wife."

Monday
Jul302012

The Commentariat -- July 31, 2012

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

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

Via Digby:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do not lie to Harry Reid.

Presidential Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a difference a candidate makes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local News

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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