The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

TMZ: "Joan Rivers' daughter Melissa has retained a law firm that will file a major lawsuit over her mom's death ... TMZ has confirmed.... The firm -- Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom & Rubinowitz will file a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the clinic where Joan stopped breathing and the doctors who were involved."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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."

White House Live Video
October 29

12:45 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

3:40 pm ET: President Obama speaks at American health care workers fighting Ebola

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


He Took the Money & Ran. New York Times: When Credit Suisse erroneously dropped $1.5MM in the business account of hedge-fund manager Joseph Galbraith, Galbraith kept the money & has moved to parts unknown. He has not completely disappeared as he's had contact with the New York Times (directly or indirectly): in an e-mail he called Credit Suisse's suit against him “ridiculous, bordering on laughable.”

Andrew Rice of New York: "Matt Taibbi, the star magazine writer hired earlier this year to start a satirical website for billionaire Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, is on a leave of absence from the company after disagreements with higher-ups inside Omidyar's organization, a source close to First Look confirmed today. Taibbi's abrupt disappearance from the company's Fifth Avenue headquarters has cast doubt on the fate of his highly anticipated digital publication, reportedly to be called Racket, which First Look executives had previously said would launch sometime this autumn." CW: Ah, "creative differences." ...

     ... "UPDATE: Taibbi has left the company."

Ancient Grains! Jeez, people will buy anything. CW PS: Unless you're a scientist with specific knowledge about the benefits of ancient grains as opposed to say, oats, don't write in & bitch about my ignorance. We all have our pet peeves, rational & irrational. Fad foods -- in fact, fads in general -- are one of mine.

Washington Post: A "virtual autopsy" of King Tut suggests the boy king had "buck teeth, club foot and a pronounced overbite."

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:

No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.



A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story. ...

... UPDATE. Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

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The Commentariat -- May 31, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "Ross Douthat -- the Etch-a-Sketch Columnist" -- a work of journalistic excellence inspired by Akhilleus. The NYTX front page is here.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Just as strife in the former Yugoslav republic confounded first President George Bush and then his successor, Bill Clinton, the bloody crackdown in Syria -- underscored by last week's massacre of children and other villagers -- has put Mr. Obama in a deeply uncomfortable position."

New York Times Editors: "Mr. Obama ... is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield -- depriving Americans of their due-process rights -- without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.... To provide real assurance, President Obama should publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list. And it should release the legal briefs upon which the targeted killing was based."

Nicholas Kristof: "Michael Sandel, the Harvard political theorist..., argues that in \recent years we have been slipping without much reflection into relying upon markets in ways that undermine the fairness of our society.... 'The marketization of everything means that people of affluence and people of modest means lead increasingly separate lives,' Sandel writes. 'We live and work and shop and play in different places. Our children go to different schools. You might call it the skyboxification of American life. It's not good for democracy, nor is it a satisfying way to live.'"

Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times: "Race is the project of the Roberts court – more than enhancing corporate welfare, more than lowering the barrier between church and state, more than redefining the boundary between state and federal authority." CW: no longer the court of last resort, the U.S. Supreme Court has become instead the last refuge of scoundrels, not to mention a sinecure for a few of those scoundrels.

Charles Pierce has concluded the jurors in the John Edwards trial -- who have come to no conclusion after eight days of deliberation -- don't know what they're doing, for which they can be forgiven inasmuch as almost nobody understands U.S. campaign finance law. "John Edwards ... will go down in political history as a joke and a knave and a hypocrite, even by American political standards."

As part of the White House's summer jobs program, Jimmy Fallon describes his first job. Very inspirational:

Ticks! Gail Collins: "I cannot tell you what a relief it was when I discovered that the multibillion-dollar trading loss at JPMorgan was because of deer." CW: this was my first thought, too.

Mary Carmichael & Stephanie Ebbert of the Boston Globe: "Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren acknowledged for the first time late Wednesday night that she told Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania that she was Native American, but she continued to insist that race played no role in her recruitment....While she has said she identified herself as a minority in a legal directory, she has carefully avoided any suggestion during the last month that she took further actions to promote her purported heritage."

Presidential Race

Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Obama called Mitt Romney on Wednesday to offer his congratulations to the former Massachusetts governor on securing the Republican presidential nomination after Tuesday night's GOP primary."

Stephen Colbert on Romney's brilliant new campaign tool (watch to the end):

Andy Sullivan of Reuters: "Romney is hammering President Barack Obama for playing favorites with green-tech companies rather than letting businesses succeed or fail on their own.... It's a powerful line of attack....But it might invite unfavorable comparison with Romney's tenure as governor of Massachusetts.... During that time, Romney pursued a hands-on approach to economic development that favored some industries over others and, in some instances, singled out individual firms for special favors.... Sometimes ... Romney's efforts panned out. Other times they did not."

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos on Mitt Romney's brilliant jobs plan: "Mitt Romney on Tuesday morning, tell[s] the people of Craig, Colorado that he wants to put them back to work by firing 145,000 Americans for the simple crime of working in the public sector." Lewison explains why the Romney plan is (a) based on inaccuracies and (b) nonsensical.

Hmmm. Could this be a case of NPD? What's Good for Me Is Bad for Thee. Steve Benen: A Romney camp press release: "Governor Romney Inherited An Economy That Was Losing Jobs Each Month And Left Office With An Economy That Was Adding Jobs Each Month." Benen writes, "... if Romney's to be congratulated for inheriting an economy that was losing jobs and then turning things around, by that identical standard, he ought to be patting Obama on the back for a job well done.... Romney has spent two years arguing that this standard isn't good enough for the president, but apparently it is good enough for himself." CW: See also the Mike Tomasky's post, linked in yesterday's Commentariat, in which Tomasky did the math & found that percentage-wise, Obama has been a better jobs creator than Romney. ...

... Memo from David Axelrod (pdf): "Ten years ago, Mitt Romney told the people of Massachusetts that his experience in business uniquely qualified him to strengthen the state's economy. Foreshadowing the message of his current campaign, Romney presented himself as a 'job creator,' whose experience as a corporate buyout specialist had given him special insight into how to grow the economy.... It was a false representation.... When he left office, however, state debt had increased, the size of government had grown, and over his four years, Massachusetts' record of job creation was among the worst in the nation." ...

... AND now, here's the video:

     ... Amy Gardner of the Washington Post has a brief story on the Obama campaign's new Massachusetts front.

Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly has a nice post on Romney's "big, historic moment..., as Texas officially put him over the 1144 delegates needed to win the GOP presidential nomination. With precision timing, his team unleashed a barrage of attacks on Barack Obama's stewardship of the economy and the federal budget. But at the moment of his triumph, Mitt was in Las Vegas grubbing for money with Donald Trump at Donald Trump's hotel, with Newt Gingrich appearing as a sort of ragged supporting act." ...

... John Sununu, former New Hampshire governor, former Bush Pere Chief of Staff, really does not want to talk about the First Birther:

     ... CW: This kind of attack is what the media can expect when they ask principals of the Romney camp hard questions. Teevee "journalists" should buck up & take the verbal flak. It's nothing compared to what war correspondents endure.

Justin Berrier of Media Matters: "While Fox & Friends has long been a home for some of the most vicious, misleading, petty, and dishonest attacks on President Obama, they crossed a new ethical line [Wednesday] by producing and airing what is essentially a four-minute anti-Obama attack ad. The video -- opening with the text 'Fox & Friends Presents' -- played lines from Obama's past speeches mixed with commentary from unidentified speakers and graphics purporting to show that Obama has broken the promises he's made since his 2008 campaign":

     ... Oliver Willis, also in Media Matters: "The four minute long anti-Obama attack ad presented on Fox & Friends this morning not only crossed the ethical line but it may violate News Corp.'s own internal policy for ethical behavior."

     ... Joe Coscarelli of New York magazine: "The bajillion dollars Republican super-PACs plan to spend to take down Barack Obama does not include compensating Fox News for its services, but maybe it should. On Fox and Friends this morning, the cable news network debuted a four-minute, um, documentary looking back on the last four years of 'hope and change.' Cue foreboding music! Break out the apocalyptic video filters! Prepare for mayhem.... We can't wait to see what they come up with for Mitt Romney!" ...

     ... David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun: "Today's version of the [Fox "News"] morning show featured an anti-Obama video that resembled propaganda films from 1930's Europe more than it did responsible TV politics of today. And the remarkable thing was the witless crew on the couch that serves as hosts for this show had the audacity to present it as journalism and congratulate the producer who put it together." ...

     ... Even winger Ed Morrissey of Hot Air is squeamish: "The video starts with 'Fox and Friends Presents' on the screen, making this an explicit argument from the news channel itself. Should a news organization produce and publish attack ads like this?" ...

     ... Adam Peck of Think Progress: "Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has long defended his network from charges of bias, explaining -- incorrectly -- that only the network's primetime hosts are explicitly partisan."

     ... Guardian Update: "Bill Shine, the executive vice president for programming at Fox News, has released a statement denouncing the video. 'The package that aired on "Fox & Friends" was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network,' Shine said." CW: how ya gonna put that genie back int the bottle, Shiny Bill? ...

     ... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Shine's "statement answers one question — whether Fox News is standing by the video -- even as it raises many others." ...

     ... CW Update: Just checked in with Media Matters to see how "Fox & Friends" walked back their "unauthorized" airing of the video "package" on Obama's epic failures. They didn't: "Fox & Friends this morning did not address the widespread criticism of the 4-minute anti-Obama attack video it aired twice on Wednesday."

"How Do You Say Brouhaha in Polish?" Alec MacGillis of The New Republic: "In the case of the upset over President Obama's reference last night to 'Polish death camps,' I'm left with more mystification than dismay, because the uproar of sensible people like David Frum and Michael Tomasky is genuine.... And for this we fly into high dudgeon? Sorry, this is ridiculous." ...

     ... CW: MacGillis makes an important point: he distinguishes between gaffes that inadvertently betray the speaker's real thinking -- "cling to their guns & religion" -- and poor wording or a flubbed line that does not reflect the speaker's thinking -- "Polish death camps." (The poor wording here, BTW, certainly was the work product of a staffer, not of Obama. You have to think that Obama believes Polish people were responsible for the death camps for this to matter. It's ironic that wingers who think Obama is completely dependent upon a teleprompter because he's too dumb to speak for himself now claim Obama's reading the teleprompter speaks to his deepest, darkest hatred of the Polish people.) ..

     ... Here's Frum: "... this administration bungled everything: past, present, and future."

Quirky Economics. Catalina Carnia of USA Today reports that Ron Paul (remember that guy?) puts his money where his mouth is -- an advocate of returning to the gold standard, Paul has much of his net worth tied up in gold and silver mining stocks.

Right Wing World

Dana Milbank: Rep. Trent Frank (RTP-Arizona) brings racism to his anti-abortion crusade -- and not for the first time.

Local News

E. J. Dionne: Gov. Scott Walker (RTP-Wisc.) is being challenged not because he pursued conservative policies but because Wisconsin has become the most glaring example of a new and genuinely alarming approach to politics on the right. It seeks to use incumbency to alter the rules and tilt the legal and electoral playing field decisively toward the interests of those in power.

News Ledes

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday ordered Florida to stop enforcing several 'onerous' requirements on voter registration groups that were part of a law passed last year in an effort to tighten election rules.... But Judge Hinkle left most of the 2011 election law intact, a decision that pleased Gov. Rick Scott, who pushed for the changes last year."

Raleigh News & Observer: "The jury in the John Edwards trial on Thursday found the former presidential candidate not guilty on one of six counts in his campaign finance trial and announced it could not agree on the five remaining counts. Judge Catherine Eagles declared a mistrial on the five counts and dismissed the jurors. It was unclear whether the government will seek another trial." New York Times story here.

The Hill: "The House on Thursday rejected a Republican bill that would impose fines and prison terms on doctors who perform abortions for the sole purpose of controlling the gender of the child, a practice known as sex-selective abortion. The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), H.R. 3541, was defeated in a 246-168 vote. While that's a clear majority of the House, Republicans called up the bill under a suspension of House rules, which limits debate and requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass."

The Hill: "Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod was shouted down Thursday at an event in Boston that was staged to attack Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts. Axelrod called the press conference to hammer home the Obama campaign's critique of Romney's time as governor, and brought along officials from around the state to reinforce the message." With video.

Washington Post: "Former President Bill Clinton has decided to go to Wisconsin to campaign against Scott Walker...."

New York Times: "Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan< of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee. Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a 'payoff' to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was 'false, preposterous and unjust.'" CW: I just checked with Dante Alighieri. Dolan is slated for the 8th circle of hell, which has a special liars ditch.

AP: "A federal appeals court Thursday declared that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples, a ruling all but certain to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. In its unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman discriminates against gay couples because it doesn't give them the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples." Boston Globe report here. You can read the court's opinion here.

New York Times: "President Barack Obama is putting increasing pressure on European officials to resolve the euro crisis, talking with the leaders of Germany, France and Italy to help lay the groundwork for action before a Group of 20 summit meeting to be held in June in Mexico. Mr. Obama discussed the recent developments in Europe in video conference calls with the European leaders on Wednesday." ...

... New York Times: "Greece's four largest banks have regained access to normal credit lines from the European Central Bank after they received fresh capital from the European Union, Mario Draghi, the E.C.B. president, said Thursday." ...

Washington Post: "... the Irish go to the polls Thursday in a referendum on a regionwide fiscal treaty inked in January that would impose strict limits on budget deficits and debt. European governments that ratify the treaty will effectively surrender a measure of sovereignty over two of their most sacred economic rights -- how much they can borrow and how much they can spend -- to the bureaucrats in the region's administrative capital of Brussels. The referendum, in many ways, is shaping up as a litmus test of the willingness of Europeans to more deeply link their economic fortunes."

New York Times: "With his career in the balance, Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt told a judicial inquiry into the British media on Thursday that he had been personally sympathetic to a bid by Rupert Murdoch to take over Britain's most lucrative pay-television network but that he did not act with any favorable bias." The Guardian has a liveblog here, which includes a livefeed of the testimony.

Washington Post: "On Wednesday, Judge Catherine Eagles sent home the alternate jurors in the John Edwards case. Among them, the "Lady in Red" who had been flirting with Edwards. "They could still be recalled to replace a regular juror."

Reuters: "Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer and biggest seller of firearms in the United States, is dropping out of a conservative advocacy group in the United States that has been criticized for promoting 'Stand Your Ground' gun laws. Wal-Mart was suspending its membership in the American Legislative Council (ALEC), which the retailer joined in 1993, the company said late on Wednesday."

ABC News: "Eagle Scout Zach Wahls challenged the Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay policy today when he delivered three boxes of petitions demanding change, signed by more than 275,000 people. Wahls, 20, presented the petitions during the Boy Scouts' National Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla., on behalf of Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio mom who was removed as the den leader of her 7-year-old son's Cub Scout troop in April because of her sexual orientation.... Wahls is the author of 'My Two Moms' and a video of his three-minute speech before Iowa legislators urging them not to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions went viral in February." CW: if you've never seen Wahls' statement before the Iowa legislators, do watch it. Send it to your friends who may oppose gay marriage. It could change their minds.

Reuters: "Bruce Springsteen touched on a nerve of widespread discontent with the financiers and bankers at a Berlin concert on Wednesday, railing against them as 'greedy thieves' and 'robber barons.'"

ABC News: "The 43rd president and his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, will be back at their former home for the official unveiling of their portraits, an often uncomfortable presidential tradition.... This time, the gathering will be a family affair. In addition to his wife, Bush will also be joined by his father, former President George H.W. Bush and his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush."

AP: "The SpaceX Dragon capsule left the International Space Station on Thursday and aimed for a Pacific splashdown to end its historic flight."

New York Times: "New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity."


The Commentariat -- May 30, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is a short piece on today's New York Times op-ed entertainment page. Contributor Akhilleus has whetted my appetite for Douthat's "pious baloney," so I may grind out another column later. ...

... The NYTX front page has quite a few critical pieces on President Obama's "kill list." ...

... Glenn Greenwald on President Obama's "normalization of right-wing policies": "Obama ... has converted what were just recently highly divisive and controversial right-wing Assaults on Our Values into fully entrenched bipartisan consensus. But worse than that, he has put a prettier and more palatable face on extremely ugly policies.... That's the Obama legacy. And it's all justified by this definitively warped premise: we have to keep doing things we know will result in large-scale civilian deaths in order to stop the Terrorists, who are really terrible because they keep killing civilians." ...

... Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post: "Across ... southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States. After recent U.S. missile strikes, mostly from unmanned aircraft, the Yemeni government and the United States have reported that the attacks killed only suspected al-Qaeda members. But civilians have also died in the attacks, said tribal leaders, victims' relatives and human rights activists."

Roger Lowenstein explains in a Bloomberg News op-ed why hedging is bad for the economy: "The plasticity of modern finance -- the ease with which institutions can transfer risk -- is a major cause of the heightened frequency of meltdowns and increased volatility." Lowenstein's prescription: "Shut down the credit-default swap pits. Let bankers ply their trade without the deceptive safety of hedging." His piece is pretty easy to understand and provides a good description of what hedging is.

CW: I don't fully agree with Gary Younge of the Guardian, who writes about why poor whites vote Republican, but his column contains some nuggets of truth like this one: "It was Bill Clinton who cut welfare, introduced the North American Free Trade Agreement and repealed the Glass-Steagall Act -- which helped make the recent crisis possible. If you were going to trade your religious beliefs for economic gain, you could be forgiven for demanding a better deal than that."

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "The press is obsessed with Elizabeth Warren's Cherokee heritage. Too bad it's the biggest media-manufactured story since the Lewinsky scandal nearly brought down a president." ...

... Katharine Seelye of the New York Times on Scott Brown's new "homey...., upbeat..., warm and fuzzy" campaign ad: In typical he-said/she-said journalese, Seelye writes, "The Warren campaign says that the ad is misleading when Mr. Brown says, 'I was the tie-breaking vote on Wall Street reform,' noting that he voted for the bill only after he weakened it to Wall Street’s advantage." CW: I wonder how Willard likes Brown's boasting about his crucial 60th vote for Dodd-Frank; after all, an important element of the Mittster's campaign is his promise to repeal the act:

Charles Pierce on David Brooks' historical tour de farce: "... the primary forces that 'destroyed the balanced government philosophy' gradually over the 20th century did most of their work in the last quarter of it, when the Republican party guzzled snake-oil economics and got drunk and wrecked the place, to the polite applause of, among other people, David Brooks. You gotta love a guy without the guts to defend the policies that made him wealthy while blaming their effects on everyone from Bob LaFollette to Kathleen Sebelius. Actually, you don't have to do that at all."

News from the Greatest Nation on Earth: U.S.A. -- Better than Romania! Pat Garofalo of Think Progress: "According to a new report from the Office of Research at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. Of the 35 wealthy countries studied by UNICEF, only Romania has a child poverty rate higher than the 23 percent rate in the U.S." CW: That's right -- Romania, the former Iron Curtain country where children were dying of starvation & neglect in state-run orphanages. And Mitt Romney is "not concerned about the very poor."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: Louisiana monks who build caskets go to federal court when the state demands they "either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room." CW: the story has another ramification, though, as libertarians/conservatives are using it as a vehicle to curtail government regulation. If this case gets to the Supremes & they rule in favor of the monks (as I suspect they will), it may turn out that scads of federal regulations designed to actually protect people will be held unconstitutional because of a law designed by lobbyists for the funeral industry to protect that industry.

Presidential Race

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "In the next few weeks, we will get important news on several economic fronts. And what we learn will largely determine the shape of the campaign."

Nate Silver: "Economically, Obama is no Jimmy Carter.... The [economic] data this year is [sic.] mediocre, but nowhere near" as terrible as they were in 1980. CW: but the big question here is how the New York Times' statistician can possibly be unaware that the word "data" is plural! Sorry, one of my pet peeves. And let me just add that the media are the message. I just heard the CNN anchor say, "The media is talking about Wolf Blitzer...."

Carolands Chateau, "a 65,000 square foot mansion in Hillsborough, California. Its 75 foot-high atrium holds the record as the largest enclosed space in an American private residence." -- Wikipedia.... NEW. Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle: "With Democrats portraying Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire and 'vulture capitalist' from his years at Bain Capital, the GOP presidential candidate may be handing opponents some ammunition when he holds a fundraiser Wednesday at a 65,000-square-foot estate that's opulent, even for upscale Hillsborough.... [Romney's] fundraiser is co-chaired by billionaire Meg Whitman, his former employee at Bain Capital and the 2010 Republican candidate for California governor who promised to produce 2 million new jobs if elected. Now Whitman is CEO of Hewlett-Packard, which said last week it plans to lay off 25,000 workers."

Backfire! Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "It was supposed to be a day of triumph for Mitt Romney, when he would at last formally claim the Republican presidential nomination with a victory in the Texas primary. And Mr. Romney was to focus attention on an aggressive new attack on President Obama, highlighting the White House's role in backing failed companies like Solyndra. Instead, Tuesday was hijacked by Donald J. Trump. Inexplicably to many in his party, Mr. Romney had scheduled an appearance at a fund-raiser in Las Vegas on Tuesday night with Mr. Trump. And Mr. Trump, ever ready to seize the spotlight and toss rhetorical grenades, played to type in several interviews, repeating his doubts about the president's Hawaiian birth certificate." ...

... Wolf Blitzer & Trump get into it:

     ... CW: Ah, I think I'm beginning to understand that "narcissistic personality disorder" that has been a subject of commentary over the past few days here.

Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "Yes, Republican Mitt Romney appears eligible to be president, according to a copy of Romney's birth certificate released to Reuters by his campaign. Willard Mitt Romney, the certificate says, was born in Detroit on March 12, 1947. His mother, Lenore, was born in Utah and his father, former Michigan governor and one-time Republican presidential candidate George Romney, was born in Mexico. So on a day when real estate and media mogul Donald Trump was trying to help Mitt Romney by stirring up a new round of questions about whether Democratic President Barack Obama was born in the United States, Romney's own birth record became a reminder that in the 1968 presidential campaign, his father had faced his own 'birther' controversy." CW: the Reuters story reproduces the copy of Willard's birth certificate the campaign provided to the news service. It was issued in 2012. Very suspicious. What with his excellent knowledge of French & his father's company American Motors having built so many vehicles in Canada, I'm beginning to suspect Willard is actually a Canadian. Somebody get the Donald on the case. ...

... CW: sure wonder why Romney released his birth certificate at the same time he is appearing with Trump & the Donald is upping his birther rhetoric. Could Romney, who says Obama is a "natural-born" American, possibly be catering to his birther constituency? Nah, never.

Mike Allen of Politico: "Mitt Romney's campaign events and the firepower of American Crossroads will both focus this week on President Barack Obama's jobs record as a way to fight off charges about the Republican candidate's private-sector experience, with a Romney aide attacking the stimulus as 'the mother of all earmarks.'" ...

... Greg Sargent: "The Romney camp's claim is that we can calculate that the stimulus destroyed jobs overall with a metric that factors in all the jobs destroyed before the stimulus took effect. That's not an exaggeration. It really is the Romney campaign's position. It's time to ask Romney himself to justify it." ...

Zach Roth of NBC News: "... even if you set that issue aside, the attack still doesn't hold up. It's impossible to say definitively exactly how many jobs a piece of legislation ... created or subtracted -- and the Romney campaign's claim is designed to take advantage of that uncertainty. But there have in fact been numerous studies of the issue, and by surveying the best of them, we can get reasonably close to an answer.... Rather than simply reporting Team Romney's charge and the Obama campaign's response, reporters should be ready to say clearly that the claim that the stimulus subtracted jobs is belied by the evidence." ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: "It's beginning to become apparent that Team Mitt will throw vast amounts of chum into the water to avoid the fundamental reality that its candidate's own Economic Plan is basically deregulation plus the Ryan Budget. Perhaps if Romney is going to traipse around the country mocking individual federally-funded projects, someone should follow him around pointing out what the Ryan Budget would do to the same locales. It would not look pretty." ...

... Jamelle Bouie of American Prospect: "... if there's anything remarkable about the Romney campaign, it's the extent to which the core arguments for his candidacy are either false or impossible to substantiate. The claim that Obama is responsible for net job loss? False. The claim that Obama has gone on an unprecedented spending spree? False. And the claim that Romney created 100,000 jobs at Bain Capital? Impossible to prove." ...

... ** Mike Tomasky: "by Bartels’s rules [the first year doesn't count], Obama has created a net 3.635 million jobs. Applying the same rules to Romney's numbers [in Massachusetts] through the same time period ... we credit Romney with 64,500 jobs. So he grew jobs by 1.9 percent [in a state with an excellent level of education]. Obama's job-growth rate is 2.35 percent.... Romney clearly can make no claim whatsoever that he has access to some magic tonic that grows jobs. Combining his record as governor with the plans he insists he;ll inflict on us as president -- gargantuan tax cuts for the rich, a gaping deficit, severe cuts to all manner of government investment in research and innovation and environmental protection ... adds up to a lurid scenario of a society becoming both more unequal and more stagnant, and a picture of a man who seemingly cannot under any circumstance utter an unfalse word about himself." ...

... NEW. Jake Tapper & Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "The Obama campaign is opening a new front in its war against GOP rival Mitt Romney, ABC News has learned, with planned attacks to begin this week on Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts and the campaign promises Democrats say he left unfulfilled."

The Democratic National Committee puts it all together:

The teachers unions are the clearest example of a group that has lost its way. Whenever anyone dares to offer a new idea, the unions protest the loudest. Their attitude was memorably expressed by a longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers: He said, quote, 'When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of children. -- Mitt Romney , in an education speech at the Latino Coalition's Annual Economic Summit in Washington, D.C, May 23, 2012

Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "... the evidence suggests that the quote didn't come from Shanker and that someone with an agenda probably twisted his words.... The claim relies exclusively on biased sources that never attributed the union leader's remark to a particular time or event...."

Julie Beck of the Hairpin: Many of the subject lines in the Obama campaign's e-mails sound as if they were written by a stalker. Via of Adam Sorensen of Time

Right Wing World

Yoni Brenner of GQ: "These are hard times for birthers.... But salvation awaits! David Maraniss's exhaustive biography, Barack Obama: The Story, stretching from before his birth to the start of his political career, is out this month -- and sure to inspire a new wave of conspiracy theories about our Kenyan Muslim commie in chief. We put on our tinfoil hat to predict the paranoias to come."

Local News

Monica Davey of the New York Times: "Gov. Scott Walker ... raised more than $5 million in the last month alone, his campaign announced on Tuesday, a day when new fund-raising reports have to be filed to state officials. That brings Mr. Walker's total fund-raising since the start of 2011 to more than $30 million...." ...

... Perjury! Greg Sargent: "... video recently surfaced of a private conversation between [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker and a Wisconsin billionaire, in which Walker vowed a 'divide and conquer' strategy against unions, as his 'first step.' Now ... Dem Reps. Elijah Cummings, Gerry Connolly, and Chris Murphy ... are pointing out that the 'divide and conquer' quote seems to contradict testimony Walker gave before their committee in August of 2011.... In that testimony, Rep. Connolly asked Walker whether he had even had any conversation in which he had alluded to his 'actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their donor base.' Walker's response: 'No.' 'Do you now wish to withdraw your sworn testimony?' the three Dem members have asked Walker in a letter." ...

... Greg Sargent: "A new poll taken by pollster Celinda Lake — who is a Democrat but is well respected by polling professionals -- has found that the battle between Scott Walker and challenger Tom Barrett is now deadlocked, at 49 percent each."

News Ledes

New York Times: "United Nations cease-fire monitors, still grappling with the massacre of more than 100 villagers in western Syria over the weekend, which ignited world outrage, reported a new atrocity on Wednesday, saying 13 people had been discovered shot to death execution-style in eastern Syria, with hands bound behind their backs. Antigovernment activists said the victims, found Tuesday night in the Assukar area of Deir Ezzor Province, were electricity workers who had refused to end a protest strike."

AP: "Jerry Sandusky lost another bid to delay his child sexual abuse trial on Wednesday and, in what could be the last pretrial hearing before jury selection begins next week, the presiding judge heard defense lawyers and prosecutors debate whether charges should be thrown out."

TMZ: "Jim Paratore -- the man who founded TMZ and created a slew of hit shows including 'Ellen' and 'Rosie' -- died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday during a bike trip in France."

AP: "Judges at an international war crimes court sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison Wednesday, saying he was responsible for 'some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.' The 64-year-old warlord-turned-president is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II and judges said they had no precedent when deciding his sentence."

AP: "Britain's Supreme Court has endorsed the extradition of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange to Sweden, an important turning point in the Internet activist's controversial career.... The U.K. end of that struggle appeared to come to a messy conclusion Wednesday, with the nation's highest court ruling five to two that the warrant seeking his arrest was properly issued...." The Guardian has live coverage here.

Guardian: "Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former director of communications, has been detained by police investigating alleged perjury at the trial of the Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan." CW: Coulson is also implicated -- & has implicated Cameron -- in the Rupert Murdoch News Corp. scandal.


The Commentariat -- May 29, 2012

David Brooks channels Alexander Hamilton. Homemade art.... My column at NYTX is on David Brooks' latest tour de farce. The NYTX front page is here.

President Obama honoring Medal of Freedom winners:

CW: We all know this one: "If the president does it, it's legal." -- Richard Nixon. But here's one I had not heard before, and considering the source, I've got to make it my

Quote of the Day: If I decide to do it, by definition it’s good policy. -- George W. Bush, in response to aides who told him his tax rebates were bad economic policy ...

... Former Reagan & Bush I aide Bruce Bartlett with more on Republicans as Keynesians.

NEW. How much does a CAT scan cost? Avik Roy of Forbes: it depends. The same facility can charge 20 times as much as its cash price for the same procedure, depending upon who pays & when. And legislators -- thanks to the healthcare lobby -- want to keep costs a secret.

Profs. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers in Bloomberg News: "... the data tell us that a debt-ceiling standoff is an act of economic sabotage.... The next debt-ceiling battle could be worse, because the stakes are even higher. In addition to the threat of default, the U.S. is facing the so-called fiscal cliff: a raft of spending cuts and tax increases that will happen at the end of this year unless Congress acts to postpone them. Another stalemate would almost certainly plunge the economy into a deep recession."

Shaila Dewan of the New York Times: "Hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Americans are receiving their final unemployment checks sooner than they expected, even though Congress renewed extended benefits until the end of the year. The checks are stopping for the people who have the most difficulty finding work: the long-term unemployed.... In February, when the program was set to expire, Congress renewed it, but also phased in a reduction of the number of weeks of extended aid and effectively made it more difficult for states to qualify for the maximum aid. Since then, the jobless in 23 states have lost up to five months' worth of benefits." ...

... Brett Smiley of New York magazine: "... many of those individuals [who lost or are losing benefits] live in key battleground states including North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and Florida.... Romney believes that jobless benefits incentivize laziness and discourage some people from taking jobs. He wrote in an op-ed in December 2010, "To remedy such problems we need a very different model, perhaps establishing individual unemployment savings accounts....'" CW Note: Smiley writes that Romney has said he can reduce the unemployment rate to about 6 percent by the end of his first term. What Smiley doesn't tell you is that the 6 percent figure is right in the ballpark of what the CBO & OMB project will be the unemployment rate at that time if nobody does anything about it. That is, Romney promises to do absolutely nothing.

Jo Becker & Scott Shane of the New York Times: President "Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding 'kill list,' poring over terrorist suspects' biographies on what one official calls the macabre 'baseball cards' of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises -- but his family is with him -- it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation."

President Obama penned an op-ed in yesterday's Stars & Stripes on "keeping faith with Vietnam veterans." ...

... AND Digby highlights "Arlington West" at Santa Monica beach: "Each Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection." The Arlington West Website is here. ...

... Joe Biden's Memorial Day tribute plans went awry. Details from the Onion.

The John Edwards of Illinois. Katherine Skiba & Todd Lighty of the Chicago Tribune: "Soon after Mark Kirk's [R-Illinois] ex-wife announced she would no longer support his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, he brought her onto his campaign team, then quietly paid her after his victory. But Kimberly Vertolli, a lawyer who received $40,000 from the campaign, again is at odds with her ex-husband, filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Kirk and his then-girlfriend may have broken campaign finance law. The girlfriend, Dodie McCracken, who works in public relations, has acknowledged receiving more than $143,000 in fees and expenses for her campaign work. A former live-in girlfriend, she is no longer romantically involved with Kirk

Presidential Race 

Gene Robinson doesn't say anything others haven't said, but at least he's saying it in a major newspaper: "Not to put too fine a point on it, [Mitt Romney] lies. Quite a bit."

Got Milk? Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: read this story of a Romney gaffe all the way through.

Michael Crowley of Time: Republican governors contradict Romney on his doom-and-gloom claims about the state of the economy.

Jamelle Bouie has more on the Gallup poll (linked in yesterday's Commentariat) that shows Romney's huge lead over Obama among veterans. Bouie doesn't mention what I see as the big story here: Obama has made a three-year effort to expand aid to veterans; Romney suggested privatizing veterans' benefits would be a swell idea; plus, he thinks we should go to war with everybody except England, which really is not a good thing for the people who actually have to fight them, even if it does expand available military "jobs." What is the matter with these people? ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly also notes that Congressional Republicans demanded "during the debt-limit negotiations to expose veterans programs to the 'defense sequester' to lessen the impact on current Pentagon spending"; i.e., one more way to cut veterans' benefits.

CNN: "Mitt Romney said Monday he wasn't concerned about Donald Trump's commitment to the 'birther' conspiracy, one day before the GOP presidential candidate hosts a fund-raiser alongside the celebrity business magnate."

Local News

Disenfranchisement, Florida-Style. Judd Legum of Think Progress: "Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has ordered the state to purge all 'non-citizens' from the voting rolls prior to November’s election. But that list compiled by the Scott administration is ... riddled with errors...." Hundreds, probably thousands of people whom Scott will disenfranchise are citizens eligible to vote. "An analysis of the state-wide list by the Miami Herald found that 'Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted' as ineligible by the list. Conversely, 'whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal.'" CW: What a surprise.

News Ledes

New York Times: Mitt "Romney, who formally secured the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday by winning delegates in the Texas primary, introduced a new line of criticism: accusing the president of squandering taxpayer money on companies like Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy last year after receiving $528 million in federal loan guarantees. It amounted to a counterpunch to the White House&'s assault on Mr. Romney's tenure as head of Bain Capital...."

AP: "Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and tea-party backed former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz are heading to a runoff in the state's Republican primary for U.S. Senate."

CW: this is surely going to cause a big flap in Right Wing World. AP: "The White House said President Barack Obama misspoke on Tuesday when he referred to a 'Polish death camp' while honoring a Polish war hero."

AP: "Americans confidence in the economy fell the most in eight months as worries about the weak jobs, housing and stock markets continue to rattle them."

AP: "The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan killed al-Qaida's second highest leader in the country in an airstrike in eastern Kunar province, the coalition said Tuesday. Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Mushtaq and Nasim, was responsible for commanding foreign insurgents in Afghanistan and directing attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, the alliance said." (See also today's Commentariat.)

New York Times: "International efforts to pressure Syria intensified on Tuesday, as the United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan began talks with President Bashar al-Assad in the capital, Damascus, after the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that continued atrocities could make military intervention more likely." ...

     ... Reuters Update: "France and Australia threw out Syrian diplomats from their capitals on Tuesday and other countries were due to follow suit as revulsion over the killing of more than 100 civilians in a Syrian town spurred them to act against President Bashar al-Assad." ...

     ... The Times story has been updated to reflect that the U.S. & other nations have ejected Syrian diplomats.

Washington Post: "With Tuesday's Texas primary, [Mitt Romney] is poised to secure the 1,144 delegates required to clinch the Republican presidential nomination at the party's August convention."

New York Times: "Dewey & LeBoeuf, the law firm crippled by financial miscues and partner defections, filed for bankruptcy on Monday night, punctuating the largest law firm collapse in United States history."


The Commentariat -- Memorial Day 2012

National Cemetery at Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Michael S. Lewis.

CW Note 1: My parents are buried in the Santa Fe cemetery. My father was a bombardier in the European theater during World War II. Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker pointed me to Loudon Wainwright III's song below, the title of which has just become true for me, too. (The intro to the song included in the audio on the New Yorker site is excellent.) So Wainwright's observation -- something I have thought of in the abstract and must now shift to the concrete -- gives me a new way to remember my father:

CW Note 2: Thank you to everyone who joined yesterday's Comments thread. I was only able to skim the comments as they came in, but late yesterday I made time to read them through. Your remarks were a pleasure to read, and it's an honor to have such astute commentary appearing here. There are few -- if any -- sites on the Web where the writers match you.

CW Note 3: My column for NYTX on Friedman, which wasn't posted till late yesterday afternoon, is still there.

Marilynn Marchione of the AP: "A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press."

On this Memorial Day, a salute to the 101st Chairborne Division. Many thanks to Max Blumenthal for reporting this story back in 2007, & to Driftglass for highlighting it yesterday:

     ... Driftglass: "So that we might never forget that, before they put on tri-corner hats and pretended they had never heard [of] George W. Bush, the members of the 101st Republican Chairborne division were the most loyal members of Commander Cuckoobananas' Amen chorus."

A Bully AND a Phony. Paul Krugman: "For the modern American right doesn't care about deficits, and never did. All that talk about debt was just an excuse for attacking Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps. And as for [Gov. Chris] Christie [R-N.J.], well, he's just another fiscal phony, distinguished only by his fondness for invective.For the modern American right doesn't care about deficits, and never did. All that talk about debt was just an excuse for attacking Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps. And as for Mr. Christie, well, he's just another fiscal phony, distinguished only by his fondness for invective."

"A" Is for "Average." If you wonder why students r dum, here's one answer -- grade inflation. Remember those "Easy A" classes? Now they're all Easy A classes, so grades provide no motivation to excel. This also helps explain why prestigious schools are relatively more prestigious: since a potential employer can't tell squat from a grades transcript, she feels safer in taking the Harvard grad over the Miami-Dade College grad. Mark Perry of the University of Michigan: "National studies and surveys suggest that college students now get more A's than any other grade even though they spend less time studying." ...

... AND David Catanese & Dylan Byers of Politico: the Boston dailies, especially the Herald, are deeply invested in the Brown-Warren race.

"69 acres of waterfront land on the west shore of Staten Island, complete with a two-story gymnasium, a baseball diamond and an open-air pavilion...." Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "After cutting costs through traditional means like freezing wages of state workers and consolidating government offices, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is embarking on a less conventional effort: trying to sell New York's old prisons."

Stupid Zombie Story. Now the Boston Globe is promoting it. Mary Carmichael of the Globe (May 25): "US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has said she was unaware that Harvard Law School had been promoting her purported Native American heritage until she read about it in a newspaper several weeks ago. But for at least six straight years during Warren's tenure, Harvard University reported in federally mandated diversity statistics that it had a Native American woman in its senior ranks at the law school. According to both Harvard officials and federal guidelines, those statistics are almost always based on the way employees describe themselves."

Presidential Race

Frank Newport of Gallup: "U.S. veterans, about 13% of the adult population and consisting mostly of older men, support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama for president by 58% to 34%, while nonveterans give Obama a four-percentage-point edge."

John Heilemann of New York magazine has a long article on Obama's campaign strategy. I've read at it (I'll go back to it later); it looks mildly interesting.

Reid Epstein & Ginger Gibson of Politico: "Mitt Romney has made it clear what he's against. What he'd be for as president is another question. The presumptive GOP nominee has some Republicans worried he lacks the 'vision thing' that has hurt previous presidential candidates and haunted George H.W. Bush in his quest to succeed Ronald Reagan."

Sometimes Even George Will Is Right. Jake Tapper of ABC News: "On 'This Week,' ABC News' George Will called Donald Trump a 'bloviating ignoramus,' questioning why presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is associating with the real estate mogul, who once again falsely questioned President Obama's birthplace this week." ...

... Adele Stan in Washington Monthly: "I'm still waiting for the uproar. Any day now, hordes of reporters will pummel Romney relentlessly with questions about his use of a hate-monger to bring him some dough, right? Yeah, right."

News Ledes

ABC News: "In his second address this Memorial Day, President Obama paid specific tribute to those perished during the Vietnam War on the 50th anniversary of its beginning. He recalled the sacrifice of the troops who served there and the unjust blame that was heaped on them upon their return. 'It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. That's why here today we resolve that it will not happen again,' Obama told vets and their families gathered at the Vietnam War Memorial on the national mall." Washington Post story here.

President Obama commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery:

New York Times: "Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, arrived Monday in Damascus, where he expressed horror at the massacre of more than 100 villagers in Houla and urged both sides to stop fighting."

AP: "American missiles killed five suspected Islamist militants close to the Afghan border, the latest in a barrage of attacks that show Washington is ignoring Islamabad's demands it halt the strikes, Pakistani officials said Monday."

Guardian: "Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being behind the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, is being denied a fair trial because the army is withholding from him crucial information that might prove his innocence or reduce his sentence, his defence team is arguing. With Manning's court-martial approaching in September, his legal team has released details of what they claim is a shocking lack of diligence on the part of the military prosecutors in affording him his basic constitutional rights." CW: I'd link to the New York Times story on this -- but there isn't one.

AP: "Former Prime Minister Tony Blair testified Monday he never challenged the influential British press because doing so would have plunged his administration in a drawn-out and politically damaging fight." ...

... New York Times: "An antiwar protester broke into Britain's long-running judicial inquiry into press ethics through a supposedly secure corridor on Monday as former Prime Minister Tony Blair was giving evidence, accusing him of being in the pay of JPMorgan Chase bank when he sent British soldiers in support of American troops during the 2003 invasion of Iraq."

Washington Post: 'In recent weeks, investigators working in four countries have amassed new evidence tying the disparate assassination attempts [on U.S. officials] to one another and linking all of them to either Iran-backed Hezbollah militants or operatives based inside Iran, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern security officials. An official report last month summarizing the evidence cited phone records, forensic tests, coordinated travel arrangements and even cellphone SIM cards purchased in Iran and used by several of the would-be assailants, said two officials who have seen the six-page document."

AP: "One of the Vatican's biggest scandals in decades appears to be widening with reports that an Italian cardinal may be involved in a power struggle involving leaked documents, corruption and intrigue. The pope's butler, who has been arrested in the scandal, has pledged to cooperate in the probe."