The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 15, 2014.

Washington Post: "Thomas H. Boggs Jr., who sat for decades at the epicenter of Washington legal, business and political circles as the city’s marquee name in lobbying and political fund-raising, died Sept. 15 at his home in Chevy Chase. He was 73. The cause was an apparent heart attack, said his sister, the broadcast journalist Cokie Roberts."

AP: "Oscar Pistorius is free to compete for South Africa again, as long as his running doesn't go against the ruling of the judge. Pistorius, who is to be sentenced next month after being found guilty in the negligent killing of his girlfriend, could compete at any time because the South African Olympic committee has no regulations preventing someone with a criminal record from representing the country."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
September 16

1:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the Legal Services Corporation conference

4:05 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.

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

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

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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Tuesday
Apr172012

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "The Gospel According to Friedman." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times interviews French economists Emmanuel Saez & Thomas Piketty, renowned for their studies of income inequality. “'The United States is getting accustomed to a completely crazy level of inequality,' Mr. Piketty said.... 'People say that reducing inequality is radical. I think that tolerating the level of inequality the United States tolerates is radical.'” They recommend raising taxes on the rich to somewhere around 70 percent.

Spencer Hsu, et al., of the Washington Post: "... the Justice Department’s promise to protect the rights of defendants became in large part an exercise in damage control that left some prisoners locked away or in the dark for years longer than necessary. The Justice Department continues to decline to release the names of defendants in the affected cases." Link to the first part of this series in yesterday's Commentariat. ...

... Spencer Hsu: "Far from infallible, expert comparisons of hair, handwriting, marks made by firearms on bullets, and patterns such as bite marks and shoe and tire prints are in some ways unscientific and subject to human bias, a National Academy of Sciences panel chartered by Congress found. Other techniques, such as in bullet-lead analysis and arson investigation, survived for decades despite poorly regulated practices and a lack of scientific method."

Kevin Drum: "Generally speaking, domestic spending, defense spending, and Social Security are on extremely sustainable paths... We don't have a spending problem in America. We have a healthcare problem. The other three categories of government spending taken together will probably rise by a point or two over the next few decades, but that's not a big deal.... no one serious should spend an awful lot of time talking about 'the deficit' or about 'government spending.' We should be talking about healthcare. Everything else is just a red herring." Drum makes his point with charts. This is the same point I made in my NYTX column yesterday -- only he presents proofs.

They're Jerks, but They're Not Complete Jerks. Jonathan Easley of The Hill: "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is criticizing the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan for cutting food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor. In a letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee on Monday, the bishops say the budget fails to meet certain 'moral criteria' by disproportionately cutting programs that 'serve poor and vulnerable people.' A second letter sent Tuesday to the Ways and Means Committee criticizes a provision that makes it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits. The bishops called the credit 'one of the most effective antipoverty programs in our nation.'"

Based on an academic study, Ezra Klein explains why Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge works: "Norquist gets politicians to sign the pledge because it makes them more popular in primaries. And then he keeps them from breaking the pledge because breaking a promise makes them less popular with everybody."

Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly, writing of Jason Zengerle's interview of Barney Frank, linked in yesterday's Commentariat: "’m among those who really get upset when people sort of internalize the recent routine use of the filibuster by Republicans to create a de facto 60-vote requirement for doing business in the Senate, as though it came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. It didn’t. It’s a revolutionary development in the empowerment of congressional minorities, of special utility to those who wish to obstruct progress. And it has a huge ripple effect on what happens in the House..., the White House, and the country. We should never get used to it...."

Kathy Finn of Reuters: "More than 20 mobile home manufacturers have agreed to pay $14.8 million to thousands of U.S. hurricane victims who said they were harmed by formaldehyde in the trailers.... The number of claims could range from 10,000 to 20,000...." I don't know what the lawyers' compensation is in this particular case, but attorneys usually take about half the settlement. So divide $7,400,000 by 20,000 claimants and each family could get a whopping $370 to compensate them for their illnesses. Finn writes, "The settlement could affect tens of thousands of people...." Yeah, but it won't affect them much.

The Presidential Race

I believe it’s… Mitt’s time… It’s our turn now. -- Ann Romney, explaining what "entitlement" really means

Elections Matter. Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress: "In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer..., Mitt Romney refuses to say whether he would sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.... Asked about the law, Romney said he supports equal pay for women and has no plans to change the law, but wouldn’t say if he would have signed it, laying out the odd standard that he won't weigh on 'prior laws.' ... Romney’s suggestion that he won't revisit prior law when it comes to Lilly Ledbetter is unusual, especially considering that he’s had no problem saying that he would have vetoed and will work to repeal plenty of laws, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law." CW: almost all Republicans voted against the Ledbetter bill.

If you can’t galvanize and promote and recruit people to vote for Mitt Romney, we're done. We'll be a suburb of Indonesia next year. Our president, attorney general, our vice president, Hillary Clinton -- they're criminals, they're criminals.... We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions? -- Ted Nugent ...

... Josh Glasstetter of Right Wing Watch: "Washed up rocker and reality TV star Ted Nugent appeared at the NRA’s national convention in St. Louis. Nugent, a longtime NRA board member and regular presence at conventions, rallied the NRA faithful on Saturday to vote for Mitt Romney":

     ... In this clip, which has some overlap with the first, Nugent compaires President Obama & Democrats to coyotes who must be shot dead:

     ... Seriously, watch the videos. Early last month, Tagg Romney, one of Romney's adult sons, tweeted, "Ted Nugent endorsed my Dad today.... How cool is that? He joins Kid Rock as great Detroit musicians on team Mitt." ...

... Dan Amira of New York magazine: "A spokesman for the Secret Service tells us, 'We are aware of it, and we'll conduct an appropriate follow up.'" ...

... Kurt Schlosser of NBC News: "Andrea Saul, Romney's spokeswoman, did not condemn Nugent in an email on Tuesday but said Romney wants to promote civility." ...

... CW: Let's see. When a Democrat says, in words taken out of context, "Ann Romney never worked a day in her life," everybody from the President on down does backflips distancing himself from her; the media makes it a huge two-day story. When a Republican threatens the life of the POTUS to the point the Secret Service gets involved, Mitt Romney does not condemn him. And the press, so far, pretty much says "Meh." ...

     ... Update: Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: "... while [Hilary] Rosen had no connection to the President whatsoever (and really said nothing wrong), Republican candidate Mitt Romney actively sought the endorsement of serial mouth-bomber Ted Nugent...." ...

... Hypocrisy Watch. When Ann Romney "Didn't Work." Andrew Sabl resurrects a 1994 Boston Globe interview of Ann Romney. Romney told the Globe's Jack Thomas about how she and Mitt "struggled" when they were students. She sez:

We were living on the edge, not entertaining. No, I did not work. Mitt thought it was important for me to stay home with the children, and I was delighted.

       ... That's funny. It is HORRIBLE when Hilary Rosen says it. But the same expression is an example of family values when Ann Romney says it.

Alex Seitz-Wald: In "a passage from Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case For American Greatness..., he argues that children of 'nonworking parents' will be conditioned to have 'an indolent and unproductive life.'" CW: Here are the standards: rich, white, married mommies do not have to work outside the home because they married wisely & well; their choice of mate sets an example for the kids. Poor women who have no spousal support (much less maids & nannies!) must work outside the home so their kids won't grow up to be indolent & nonproductive like their mothers. It's "we" v. "them"; good v. bad. Willard falsely accuses Obama of class warfare, but hos own double standard betrays his intrinsic belief in a caste system.

Truly Frightened. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "A week after Rick Santorum quit the presidential race, fundraising mailers from him arrived in Iowa mailboxes Monday with a strongly worded warning. 'It truly frightens me to think what’ll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee,' says the letter, signed by Santorum and paid for by his campaign."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Dick Clark, the perpetually youthful-looking television host whose long-running daytime song-and-dance fest, 'American Bandstand,' did as much as anyone or anything to advance the influence of teenagers and rock ’n’ roll on American culture, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 82."

New York Times: "American investigators seeking to get to the bottom of the reported late-night activities of a group of Secret Service agents and military personnel assigned to President Obama’s recent visit to Colombia have begun searching for as many as 21 women who are believed to include prostitutes and to have spent the night with the security officers...." ...

     ... Update: "A Secret Service agent preparing for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit meeting and a single mother from Colombia who makes a living as a high-priced escort faced off in a room at the Hotel Caribe a week ago over how much he owed her for the previous night’s intercourse." ...

     ... The Hill Update: "Three secret service agents allegedly involved in the prostitution scandal in Colombia are leaving the law enforcement agency. One supervisor will retire, another supervisor is being 'removed for cause' and a third uniformed agent will resign." ...

     ... ABC News Update: "The partying U.S. Secret Service agents and officers who allegedly brought prostitutes into their Cartagena, Colombia hotel rooms brought the call girls 'into contact with sensitive security information,' the Chair and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote to Mark J. Sullivan, the director of the U.S. Secret Service today."

NEW. TPM: Meanwhile, "Mitt Romney endorser Ted Nugent will meet with the Secret Service Thursday as a followup to his incendiary comments at an NRA convention over the weekend."

Houston Chronicle: "The Obama administration on Friday established a working group to coordinate federal regulation of natural gas production amid industry complaints that an increasing number of government agencies are overseeing the activity. In issuing an executive order creating the interagency task force, President Barack Obama said the group was needed to make sure federal agencies are on the same page as they oversee "the safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources."

New York Times: "The Florida judge overseeing the murder case against George Zimmerman stepped aside on Wednesday at the request of Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, who had questioned whether her assignment could create a potential conflict of interest." ...

     ... Orlando Sentinel Update: "Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr., who's been on the bench 15 years and has a great deal of experience with high-profile murder cases, on Wednesday was assigned the George Zimmerman murder case."

Washington Post: "The senior government executive who organized the lavish Las Vegas conference at the center of a General Services Administration spending scandal took dozens of trips for the agency. The boss's wife accompanied him on some of them -- and taxpayers picked up the tab.... Deborah Neely, 49, does not work for the government, but she used the credentials of a manager on her husband's staff so she could join him at a trade show...."

Los Angeles Times: U.S. troops in Afghanistan posed with dead Afghans suspected of being suicide bombers in 2010. The U.S. Army launched a criminal investigation after the Times showed the picture to Army officials. Some representatives photos accompany the article. ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The U.S. military once again condemned the actions of some of its troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday after photographs surfaced of smiling soldiers posing with dead insurgents in the latest battlefield scandal."

AP: "North Korea accused the U.S. of hostility on Tuesday for suspending an agreement to provide food aid following Pyongyang’s widely criticized rocket launch, and warned of retaliatory measures in response."

Monday
Apr162012

The Commentariat -- April 17, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on the New York Times' sponsorship of "Deficit Reduction Week." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. My column incorporates ...

     ... Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation has a good column in the Washington Post debunking the idea -- promulgated by Brooks & Friedman, among others -- that neither side is willing to work in a bipartisan way to pass a right-wing deficit-reduction plan. ...

     ... AND this terrific post on Bill Keller's most recent NYT column by Joan Walsh of Salon. ...

     ... AND this post in which economist Dean Baker debunks David Brooks' column today.

** Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.... Justice Department officials said that they met their legal and constitutional obligations when they learned of specific errors, that they alerted prosecutors and were not required to inform defendants directly.... The Post found that while many prosecutors made swift and full disclosures, many others did so incompletely, years late or not at all." Hsu points to a number of specific cases, all of which will make you sick.

Josh Barro of Forbes makes the case for abolishing the federal Housing & Urban Development Department (HUD).

Nate Silver of the New York Times has 12 tips on how to read political polls.

Jake Tapper of ABC News on the GSA Las Vegas "meeting" scandal. With video. And photos!

The Presidential Race

Walter Shapiro: "Romney's budget plan shouldn't be a secret saved for wealthy donors."

Matthew O'Brien of The Atlantic: "The last time we checked in on Mitt Romney's tax plan, the numbers didn't add up. Actually, there weren't any numbers to add up. Instead, there was a not very plausible promise to make the numbers add up at a later date.... Romney only spelled out the taxes and not the tax deductions that he wanted to cut.... Because he promised that his plan would be 'revenue neutral,' these numbers had to offset each other. But if Romney's recent hot mic moment is any indication, they don't. Not even close.... Red ink is the likely result of the Romney tax plan. Lots of it. That's just math."

In case you'd like to know what Mitt & Ann Romney said to ABC News' Diane Sawyer, here's the transcript.

** "Why Ann Romney Stayed Home." McCay Coppins in BuzzFeed: "... for many Latter-day Saint women, staying at home to raise children is less a lifestyle choice than religious one — a divinely-appreciated sacrifice that brings with it blessings, empowerment, and spiritual prestige. These doctrinally-defined gender roles aren't entirely unique — they've been preached by various sects for centuries — but Mormons have proven uniquely unwilling to bend them to fit modern times. The Church took heat in the '70s for waging a high-profile campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment; and even today, Mormon women remain twice as likely to be homemakers as non-Mormons, regardless of income levels." ...

... Roseann Barr, who is running for president, writes an opinion piece in the Daily Beast questioning Ann Romney's veracity & criticizing the latest fake mommy war. CW: Barr mostly gets it right. I'm linking the piece largely because "people are talking" about it.

Right Wing World *

** Charles Pierce of Esquire argues that "The Democratic party has an obligation to beat the Republican party so badly, over and over again, that rationality once again becomes a quality to be desired."

Frank James of NPR: In an "entirely objective statistical procedure," two political scientists have demonstrated that "the Republican Party is the most conservative it has been a century." ...

     ... Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect: "Unfortunately, even after noting that ideological polarization is assymmetric, both NPR and Poole [the political scientist] refuse to move away from a 'pox on both houses' frame for the story.... If there’s a problem in American politics, it’s the Republican Party, whose theological devotion to to tax cuts and 'small government' has destroyed our finances — both Reagan and George W. Bush were responsible for huge explosions of debt—and made bipartisan cooperation impossible."

After the Horse Is out of the Barn. Colorado Pols: A day after the GOP organ Colorado Observer quoted Rep. Scott Tipton's campaign manager saying, "With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good," & after the quote had made national news, the Website totally sanitized the citation. "You shouldn't be surprised to discover that what the Colorado Observer and its stable of former GOP campaign staffers who call themselves 'journalists' practices isn't 'journalism,' but this kind of dishonesty convinces you they aren't really trustworthy even as a partisan mouthpiece." Via Greg Sargent. See also yesterday's Commentariat.

Mary Bruce of ABC OTUS News: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicked back Saturday night, dancing and drinking beer at a local hotspot after a day of summit meetings in Cartagena. The AFP/Getty got images of the Secretary dancing at Café Havana with her hands up in the air and swigging a local brew with friends." ...

Apparently this is shocking in Right Wing World.     ... Digby: "Yes, you may have been under the impression that right wingers consider Hillary to be a frigid, unfeeling schoolmarm but that was then and this is now. It's only a matter of time before they have her jumping out of the cake at the secret service sex parties." ...

     ... Davig Graham of The Atlantic on the brew-haha: "Inexplicably, however, we haven't seen Drunk Texts from Hillary anywhere."

* ... is far right.

Local News

War on Women. M. J. Lee of Politico: "Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law on Monday a bill that could shut down the only abortion clinic in the state, hailing it as an important step to 'ensure that the lives of the born and unborn are protected in Mississippi.'”

Emily Schultheis of Politico: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads all of his Democratic challengers in the Wisconsin recall election, per a new Public Policy Polling poll."

News Ledes

CNN: "The space shuttle Discovery landed at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Tuesday after a series of nostalgic fly-bys on the back of a NASA Boeing 747, bringing whoops of pride and tears to the eyes of space fans and astronauts alike":

New York Times: "Citigroup's shareholders rejected the bank’s plan to award its chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit, $15 million in compensation, in a show of frustration about Wall Street pay."

AP: "Under pressure to take action on rising gasoline prices, President Barack Obama wants Congress to strengthen federal supervision of oil markets, increase penalties for market manipulation and empower regulators to increase the amount of money energy traders are required to put behind their transactions."

Washington Post: "A probe into the alleged misconduct of nearly a dozen U.S. Secret Service agents has expanded to include more than five military personnel, Defense Department officials said Monday, as the scandal that erupted during President Obama's trip to Colombia last week put high-level officials on the defensive." ...

... ABC News: "... the Secret Service officials accused of misconduct in Colombia revealed their identities by boasting at a Cartagena brothel that they worked for President Obama." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The Secret Service has uncovered evidence that all 11 personnel under investigation for alleged misconduct with prostitutes in Colombia before President Obama's arrival there for a summit meeting last weekend had taken women to their rooms, Representative Peter T. King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said on Tuesday." Washington Post story here.

Washington Post: "Inspector General Brian Miller told a congressional committee scrutinizing an $823,000 Las Vegas conference that his office has asked the Justice Department to investigate 'all sorts of improprieties' surrounding the 2010 event, 'including bribes, including possible kickbacks.' ... Miller's revelations of possible further misconduct ... enraged Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The lawmakers put GSA officials on the defensive during a tense four-hour hearing, with some Republicans loudly rebuking former administrator Martha N. Johnson and her colleagues."

Show Me the Money. AP: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that the long-term partnership agreement being negotiated with the United States should specify exactly how much money the U.S. will give to Afghan forces in coming years."

New York Times: "Demanding his acquittal, [Anders Behring Breivik,] a self-styled anti-Islamic militant on trial for killing 77 people in Norway's worst peacetime atrocity took the stand for the first time on Tuesday, describing the deaths as 'the most spectacular sophisticated political act in Europe since the Second World War' and saying he would do it over again."

AP: "The Syrian regime widened shelling attacks on opposition strongholds Tuesday, activists said, targeting a second town in a new sign that a U.N.-brokered cease-fire is quickly unraveling despite the presence of foreign observers."

Sunday
Apr152012

The Commentariat -- April 16, 2012

My column in today's New York Times examiner is titled "Bill Keller Meets the Imaginary Swing Voter." As we're going to be hearing a lot about swing voters for the next six months, my column may give you a head start in figuring out who they are. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

** "Battleground America." Jill Lepore in the New Yorker: "The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.)... Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey..., the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades." No, the conservatives on the Supreme Court really do not understand the Second Amendment, and here's a little-known factoid: Black nationalists started the modern movement promoting "the right to bear arms." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "What’s insidious about Stand Your Ground laws is that in every jurisdiction that has them, these statutes tilt the balance of power in any street encounter in favor of the person who has a gun. That’s what happened in the Martin case. The law provides a perverse incentive for everyone to be armed." On gun control, some of the nation's mayors, including Mike Bloomberg of New York City & Tom Menino of Boston have stood up to the gun lobby while "state legislatures, Congress and the White House by moderates, liberals and many conservatives who ought to know better but are too petrified by the NRA to confront it."

Mike McIntire & Michael Luo of the New York Times: "Although Mr. Obama has made a point of not accepting contributions from registered lobbyists, a review of campaign donations and White House visitor logs shows that special interests have had little trouble making themselves heard. Many of the president’s biggest donors, while not lobbyists, took lobbyists with them to the White House, while others performed essentially the same function on their visits."

Paul Krugman: "... if European leaders really wanted to save the euro they would be looking for an alternative course.... The Continent needs more expansionary monetary policies, in the form of a willingness — an announced willingness — on the part of the European Central Bank to accept somewhat higher inflation; it needs more expansionary fiscal policies.... Even with such policies, the peripheral nations would face years of hard times.... What we’re actually seeing, however, is complete inflexibility." ...

U.S. Economic Problems Solved. Sheila Bair, former head of the FDIC, in a Washington Post op-ed: "For several years now, the Fed has been making money available to the financial sector at near-zero interest rates. Big banks and hedge funds, among others, have taken this cheap money and invested it in securities with high yields. This type of profit-making, called the 'carry trade,' has been enormously profitable for them. So why not let everyone participate? Under my plan, each American household could borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest." Ka-zing. CW: so how is it that Republicans and the Very Serious People, who are so-o-o-o worried about inflation, aren't a bit worried about the Fed's "printing" billions in free money & passing it out on Wall Street?

Tony Karon of Time on another round of talks, scheduled in May, between Iran and Western powers.

Jason Zengerle of New York magazine: nine pages of what Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is retiring from the House this year, thinks about everything.

With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good. -- Michael Fortney, campaign manager for Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.). CW: when the Americans are suffering economic hardship, Republicans are so happy they say so. Via Greg Sargent.

The Presidential Race

The Horse Race. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post: "President Obama retains major advantages over ... Mitt Romney ... when it comes to winning the 270 votes he needs for a second term. Not only does Obama have more paths to 270 than Romney, but he has considerable leeway — judging from his 2008 performance — in many of the purest swing states." Cillizza identifies only nine true swing states, & Obama won all of them in 2008.

Game Over. Congress Busts the Etch-a-Sketch. Jonathan Weisman & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: Congressional Republicans put Mitt Romney on notice that they are driving the agenda, are not members of his cheerileading squad, & he had better toe their ultra-conservative line.

It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it. -- Ann Romney, on how deeply upset she was by Hilary Rosen's comments. Mr. Romney was apparently pleased with the Rosen's remarks, too.

Evidently Sunday was Chris Wallace day. Here the host of Fox "News"' Sunday show tears into Mitt Romney's claim that 92.3 percent of the people who lost jobs under Obama's watch were women "It is not true," Wallace told Romney surrogate Ed Gillespie; "all of the factcheckers have said it's misleading":

     ... And here is Wallace, according to the Washington Post's somewhat dimwitted conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, "TKO-ing & "shredding" Obama political operative David Axelrod. Um, actually, Axelrod skewered himself AND Obama:

Bretty Smiley of New York Magazine: At a Palm Beach fundraiser, Mitt Romney reveals his bright ideas for eliminating tax loopholes to make up for his proposed cuts in the income tax rates. No more deductions on your second-home mortgages, kids. ...

... Counting Chickens with an Egg Detector. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "Mitt Romney is already offering top donors access to a special 'Presidential Inaugural retreat,' planned on the assumption that he will be elected president this November."

Local News

John Frank of the Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observier: "The executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party resigned Sunday as calls for his ouster mounted amid questions regarding a secret agreement to pay a former staffer to keep quiet about sexual harassment allegations. Jay Parmley, who served a year at the helm of the party, denied harassing any employee and blamed right-wing blogs for 'spreading a false and misleading story' about the incident." CW: nice place to hold the party's national convention.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Senate rejected consideration Monday of the 'Buffett rule,' a key election-year Democratic initiative that would impose a minimum tax rate on those making more than $1 million per year... Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster..., with the Senate voting 51 to 45 to move ahead. The vote was largely along party lines, although Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) voted with Democrats to allow the measure to proceed and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) voted to block it."

Orlando Sentinel: "George Zimmerman's attorney on Monday asked the judge in the case to step down because of a possible conflict of interest. Attorney Mark O'Mara filed a motion seeking Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler's removal because her husband is the law partner of Mark NeJame, who works for CNN as an analyst on the Zimmerman case."

New York Times: "The New York Times won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, one for its reporting on Africa and another for an investigative series on obscure tax code provisions that allow wealthy corporations and citizens to avoid paying taxes. But the bigger surprise this year came from new media. Two online news outlets, The Huffington Post and Politico, both won their first Pulitzer Prizes, a sign of the changing media landscape." Includes lists of prize winners.

New York Times: "The World Bank on Monday named as its next president Jim Yong Kim, a global health expert and the president of Dartmouth College, in a widely expected appointment that continues the longstanding tradition of an American leading the Washington-based development institution."

AP: "An advance team of U.N. observers was negotiating the ground rules with Syrian authorities Monday for monitoring the country's 5-day-old cease-fire, which appeared to be rapidly unraveling as regime forces pounded the opposition stronghold of Homs with artillery shells and mortars, activists said."

AP: "A brazen, 18-hour Taliban attack on the Afghan capital ended early Monday when insurgents who had holed up overnight in two buildings were overcome by heavy gunfire from Afghan-led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from U.S.-led coalition helicopters."

Guardian: "Egypt's presidential election is suddenly a contest of moderates after a decision by the country's supreme election commission to bar 10 candidates from the race, including a controversial Mubarak-era spy chief and a popular Islamic fundamentalist."

AP: "A right-wing fanatic admitted Monday to unleashing a bomb-and-shooting massacre that killed 77 people in Norway but pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, saying he was acting in self-defense."

National Journal: "The Obama campaign and other Democratic organizations raised a combined $53 million in March, according to a campaign video released on Monday."

Space: "NASA mounted space shuttle Discovery on a jumbo jet Sunday (April 15), in preparation for the retired orbiter's delivery to the Smithsonian. The paired air- and spacecraft are expected to depart Florida for Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning (April 17), weather permitting.

Sunday
Apr152012

The Commentariat -- April 15, 2012

Sorry to be so late today. My seeing eye dog is a slow reader. Or, as Pappy Bush would say, "it's the vision thing." But no big deal. Apparently the waxing & waning of the vision thing is going to occur for a while.

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Frank Bruni's irritating "column about nothing." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Maura Judkins of the Washington Post has links to lots of stories about the Titanic. Survivors remember the ship & its sinking:

** Paul Krugman & Robin Wells, from an article in The Occupy Handbook, republished in Salon: It's the inequality, stupid. A must-read on how the rich bought off both politicians & economists:

Republicans are encouraged and empowered to take positions far to the right of where they were a generation ago, because the financial power of the beneficiaries of their positions both provides an electoral advantage in terms of campaign funding and provides a sort of safety net for individual politicians, who can count on being supported in various ways even if they lose an election.

Dean Baker contradicts Greg Mankiw's New York Times op-ed on the benefits of competing state governments. Baker writes, "... the reality is that the government has implemented a wide range of policies that have led to a massive upward redistribution of before tax income over the last three decades."

Reuters: "President Barack Obama called on likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns, in an interview with Univision released on Saturday." ...

... Mary Bruce of ABC News: "President Obama, on a three-day trip to South America, attacked GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney’s stance on immigration reform today, saying his support for Arizona’s tough immigration law is 'very troublesome.' 'We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country … and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption,' Obama told Univision during an interview in Cartagena, where the president is attending the Summit of the Americas." ...

... I can't tell if this is the entire interview or just a portion of it. In any event, it covers the remarks reported in the stories above:

Nicholas Kristof: "An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.... We enlist soldiers to protect us, but when they come home we don’t protect them." ...

... Kate M. sent me this related op-ed piece on the Bales massacre, published in the Washington Post late last month. The author, Sarah Chayes, was an advisor to the U.S. military in Kandahar:

Never before has so much been asked of such a small segment of the American population. A startling proportion of the troops I’ve seen in Afghanistan have deployed three or more times: They make up less than 12 percent of the less than 1 percent of us in uniform.... U.S. soldiers are expected — by military as well as civilian officials — to make up for [the American and Afghan governments'] political and diplomatic failings.... Bales will stand trial. Afghan civilians will pay, too, dying as U.S. forces draw down and leave a government so rotten with corruption that many predict its implosion. But what accountability is there for the leaders, Afghan and American, whose poor decisions brought about such tragedies?

Right Wing World

Joan Walsh of Salon on Mitt Romney's doubletalk on working women: "His wife's [stay-at-home] 'job' is 'more important' than his, but he'd make welfare moms work 'from day one if we could.'" ...

... Don't miss this Chris Hayes segment:

News Ledes

AP: "With prayers, a hymn and a moment of silence broken by a ship's deep whistle, passengers and crew on a memorial trip marked 100 years to the moment since the Titanic sent more than 1,500 people to a watery grave."

New York Times: "A summit meeting of Western Hemisphere nations ended without a final statement of consensus on Sunday, after the United States and some Latin American nations remained sharply divided over whether to continue excluding Cuba from such gatherings."

ABC OTUS News: "President Obama today called for a 'thorough' and 'rigorous' investigation following the scandal surrounding the Secret Service officials tasked with his protection."

Washington Post: "Egypt’s top general urged Islamist and liberal political parties on Sunday to end a constitutional crisis and finish the new charter that will map out the country’s post-revolutionary future before the military council hands over power to civilian rule this summer."

USA Today: "Google deliberately impeded the Federal Communications Commission's investigation into how the technology firm used data gathered as part of its Street View project, the agency says. The FCC notified Google that it has proposed that the company be fined $25,000; Google can appeal the fine."

New York Times: "The Taliban staged multiple and sustained attacks across Kabul and eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, hitting the heavily secured diplomatic neighborhood of the Afghan capital and the Parliament area as well as Afghan government installations in at least two provinces."

Tulsa World: "Tornadoes erupting across the Midwest and Plains left five people dead and at least 29 injured in Oklahoma and damaged houses, a hospital, a jail, an Air Force base and other buildings elsewhere during a weekend outburst of severe weather, authorities said."

Washington Post: "Western diplomats claimed modest progress Saturday after more than 10 hours of talks with Iranian officials, raising hopes for at least a temporary easing of a nuclear crisis that has fueled fears of a new military conflict in the Middle East."

Washington Post: "The U.S. Secret Service on Saturday placed 11 agents on administrative leave as the agency investigates allegations that the men brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, on Wednesday night and that a dispute ensued with one of the women over payment the following morning. Secret Service Assistant Director Paul S. Morrissey said the agents had violated the service’s 'zero-tolerance policy on personal misconduct' during their trip to prepare for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit this weekend."

New York Times: Wayne LaPierre "of the National Rifle Association accused the news media on Saturday of engaging in sensationalized coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing, in the first comments that the gun lobby has made publicly about the fatal shooting since it occurred six weeks ago." Critics have zeroed in on the NRA's support for "stand-your-ground" laws; the local police cited the Florida law as a reason they did not arrest Martin's killer.