The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

New York Times: "The stock market began the week burdened by geopolitical worries, but by the close of trading on Thursday it had bounced back to achieve one of its biggest upswings in recent years. Soothing words from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, saying that it would be 'patient' on raising interest rates, drove the surge, analysts said. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index jumped 2.4 percent on Thursday, to 2,061.23 — its biggest one-day gain since January 2013. That came on the back of a 2 percent rise on Wednesday."

CNN: "U.S. airstrikes have killed two top-level and one mid-level ISIS leader, a senior U.S. military official tells CNN. Haji Mutazz was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's deputy in Iraq; Abd al Basit was his military emir in Iraq; and Radwan Talib was his Mosul emir. Their deaths resulted from multiple strikes going back to mid-November -- it has taken until now to determine conclusively they were killed."

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 18

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

... BUT ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is quite cool:

 

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

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

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Tuesday
Jul242012

The Commentariat -- July 25, 2012

Fed Thinks about Thinking about Doing Something. Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "A growing number of officials have concluded that the Federal Reserve needs to expand its stimulus campaign unless the economy soon shows signs of improvement." ...

... Ezra Klein: for one thing, the Fed could "begin buying huge numbers of mortgage-backed securities with the simple intention of bringing the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage down to about 2.5 percent and holding it there for one year, and one year only. The message would be clear: If you have any intention of ever buying a house, the next 12 months is the time to do it."

... Fire Tim Geithner. Jia Lynn Yang & Danielle Douglas of the Washington Post: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said that he sounded the alarm four years ago to regulators about problems with the benchmark interest rate known as Libor. But Geithner, who was then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, did not communicate in key meetings with top regulators that British bank Barclays had admitted to Fed staffers that it was rigging Libor, according to people familiar with the matter. Instead, regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Justice Department worked largely without the Fed’s help to build a case against Barclays. That work has culminated in a massive scandal rocking the banking industry on both sides of the Atlantic." ...

... CNBC: "Former Citigroup Chairman & CEO Sanford I. Weill, the man who invented the financial supermarket, called for the breakup of big banks in an interview on CNBC Wednesday.... He essentially called for the return of the Glass-Steagall Act, which imposed banking reforms that split banks from other financial institutions such as insurance companies."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that the Supreme Court decision on President Obama's health care overhaul would probably lead to an increase in the number of uninsured and a modest reduction in the cost to the federal government when compared with estimates before the court ruling. Of the 33 million people who had been expected to gain coverage under the law, 3 million fewer are now predicted to get insurance, the budget office said...." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic, once again: "The [Affordable Care Act], when fully implemented, will dramatically reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. It will also reduce the deficit. This last part remains a big deal, if only because so many conservatives -- and, yes, so many members of the public -- refuse to believe it. Over and over again, you hear people saying that Obamacare will run up the deficit. The CBO, which is our most reliable guide on such matters, begs to differ."

Charles Lane of the Washington Post: Europeans tut-tut about the U.S.'s lax gun laws, but "All told, European Union members shipped just under a million handguns to the United States in 2010. Their domestic markets may be limited by gun control, but Europe's small-arms makers can still get rich, and create jobs, thanks to the Second Amendment." Among those are the Glock, the Walther P22 & the Sig Sauer P232, mass-murders' weapons of choice.

New York Times Editors on companies in the business of background-checking: "The federal government clearly needs to step in. It should require companies to be federally registered, outline standards for accuracy, make sure that job applicants have a reasonable time to respond to erroneous reports and seek monetary and other penalties from companies that flout the law."

Rod Nordland of the New York Times: "... Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned, and Iraqi officials next door openly alarmed. While leaders of the Syrian political and military opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, Al Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting the weapon it perfected in Iraq -- suicide bombings — into the battle against President Bashar al-Assad with growing frequency."

Stupid Voter Tricks. Larry Bartels in the Monkey Cage: the hot, dry summer could hurt President Obama at the polls because voters punish the party in power when the weather is bad. CW: Bartels is right. I've been more worried about the weather's effect on the election than on the price of corn.

Another Illegitimate GOP Presidency. Harold Meyerson: "If voter suppression goes forward and Romney narrowly prevails, consider the consequences. An overwhelmingly and increasingly white Republican Party, based in the South, will owe its power to discrimination against black and Latino voters, much like the old segregationist Dixiecrats. It's not that Republicans haven't run voter suppression operations before, but they've been under-the-table dirty tricks, such as calling minority voters with misinformation about polling-place locations and hours. By contrast, this year's suppression would be the intended outcome of laws that Republicans publicly supported, just as the denial of the franchise to Southern blacks before 1965 was the intended result of laws such as poll taxes."

Kate Nocera of Politico: "It’s not exactly the Ron Paul revolution in full. But on Wednesday afternoon, a small piece of his grand vision will hit prime time, when a great majority of the House will vote to pass his Audit the Fed bill. To understand how remarkable this moment is -- coming near the end of Paul's congressional career -- consider this: When Paul first introduced his bill a decade ago, it was written off as another piece of his far-flung libertarian worldview."

Just Wow! ("a surprising move since the seat could be in play for Republicans.") --

Presidential Race

Horserace. Mark Murray of NBC News: "In the presidential horserace, Obama leads Romney by six percentage points among registered voters, 49 percent to 43 percent. That's a slight change -- within the margin of error – from last month’s poll, which showed Obama ahead by three points, 47 percent to 44 percent." But both men's negatives are up. "Romney would be the first GOP presumptive presidential nominee since 1996 to head into his nominating convention with a net-negative favorable/unfavorable score." ...

... Nate Silver: "... as of Tuesday afternoon, President Obama's lead in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls was 1.3 percentage points over Mitt Romney. But Mr. Obama led by a mean of 3.5 points in the RealClearPolitics averages for the 10 states (Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin) that are most likely to determine the election outcome."

     ... Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "President Obama is pushing back on ... Mitt Romney's 'You didn't build that' attacks in a new ad. It's a sign that the White House is worried that the quote, while taken out of context, is doing the president real damage." ...

... Adam Serwer or Mother Jones: "The problem [with Romney's 'you didn't build that' meme] is that the real-world examples Romney keeps seizing on include people who got help from the government. As ABC News' Jake Tapper reported Monday, the star of a recent Romney ad hitting Obama over 'you didn't build that' had received millions in government loans and contracts. Romney stopped in Costa Mesa, California Monday to meet with a 'roundtable' of small business leaders, held in front of a sign that says 'We did build it!' Naturally, it turned out that at least two of the companies represented ... had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in government contracts." Ditto at a Boston Romney event."

Secret Mitt, Con'd. Maureen Dowd: "Mitt's casting a shadowy silhouette, hiding his fortune in foreign tax havens, hiding tax returns, destroying and hiding records as head of the Olympics and as governor, hiding a specific sense of where he would take the country."

New York Times Editors: "Mitt Romney [had a chance] to show that he could be a better international leader than President Obama, who has already proved himself in that field. He fell far short." ...

... Michael Crowley of Time: "Mitt Romney has a commander-in-chief problem." ...

... Daniel Drezner of Foreign Policy: "After the [Romney VFW] speech, Chuck Todd tweeted that 'The Romney VFW speech felt like it was aimed at GOP voters, not swing voters.' I'd agree. Foreign policy doesn't matter that much to swing voters, but rhetoric like this is a great way to appeal to and energize the base. If Romney were to actually follow through on this speech, then the consequences would range from insignificant to quite serious. But it could be that Romney simply doesn't care about foreign policy all that much, and is using these kind of speeches strictly as a tool to cater to key political constituencies."

... Heather Hurlburt of Democracy Arsenal pulls five big lies from Mitt's VFW speech. Via Greg Sargent.

We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have. -- Romney Adviser. CW Translation: he's black.

... Same batch of advisers, still on the same topic: "The advisers, who 'spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr Romney's campaign requested that they not criticise the President to foreign media,' were unable to provide the Telegraph with 'detailed examples of how policy towards Britain would differ under Romney,' other than restoring the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office." CW: Excellent foreign policy initiative, and a reminder that Obama replaced the Churchill bust with a bust of Abraham Lincoln -- associated with freeing American slaves (wow, they were black, too!). So, um, would Romney ditch the bust of Lincoln, the first Republican president, & replace it with a representation of a "foreigner" (okay, Churchill's mother was American, but still)?? ...

... AND as Judd Legum of Think Progress reminds us, "The comments were the latest attack by the Romney campaign on Obama's multi-cultural heritage. Last week, Romney campaign co-chair John Sununu said Obama didn’t understand the 'American system' because he 'spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia.' Sununu also said Obama needed to 'learn how to be an American.' (Sununu later apologized for that remark.) Later that day Romney called Obama's policies 'extraordinarily foreign.'" CW: clearly, Team Romney has decided that racism is a winning campaign tactic, & they are keeping at it.

Go for the Gold, Mitt. Priorities USA has a new anti-Romney ad that will run in swing states. It's Olympics-oriented, and it's funny:

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "A Republican group backed by the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is starting a new effort in battleground states to win over Jewish voters who could be persuaded to turn away from President Obama and support Mitt Romney. The group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, plans to begin a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in the coming weeks called 'My Buyer's Remorse,' targeting voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, aides said. The campaign uses testimonials from people who say they regret supporting Mr. Obama because of his economic policies and his posture toward Israel...."

Wells Tower's GQ piece is mostly about a journalist's life on the road with Mitt. It's inconsequential really, but an enjoyable read. "I'm thinking how emotionally fatiguing it would be to spend all day, every day telling America it can be rescued by rich men and hymns and keeping secret for the quiet room his real worries for the land he wants to govern. Secrets are exhausting."

Right Wing World

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "The mountain of idiocy building up around 'you didn't build that' has just about reached wrist-slitting proportions, both because of the sheer rapturous levels of dishonesty surrounding the quote itself and because of the ensuing, more intellectually-minded dishonesty that's now dedicated to proving that the government has never done anything for anybody -- not no how, not no way. The latest is Gordon Crovitz, who has decided to see if he can con the Wall Street Journal's readership into believing that government research dollars had virtually nothing to do with the invention of the internet."

CW: I haven't followed the Mike Huckabee Chick-fil-A to-do, but Dana Milbank has the particulars. Well, I don't eat at Chick-fil-A anyway, and Huckabee -- along with Chick-fil-A's president Dan Cathy -- have provided me with a few more good reasons to stay away.

Local News

Stupid Democrat Tricks. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "State Sen. Tim Cullen quit the Senate Democratic caucus Tuesday, saying Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller had snubbed him by refusing to give him a meaningful committee chairmanship.... The flap comes just a week after Democrats took control of the Senate after winning a recall election last month in Racine County. Miller then ascended to majority leader and restructured the committees."

News Ledes

Politico: "Timothy Geithner came under fire Wednesday from lawmakers who wanted to know what he did to head off the now-emerging Libor manipulation scandal when he was president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in 2008 -- when red flags were first going up. Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee to present the Financial Stability Oversight Council's annual economic report, Geithner told members of the panel that he had taken the 'fully appropriate' actions by alerting regulators in both the U.S. and the U.K." Uh-huh.

Washington Post: "Greenland's surface ice cover experienced a broader thaw during a three-day period this month than in nearly four decades of satellite record-keeping.... About half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet melts on average each summer. But between July 11 and 13, roughly 97 percent of the the sheet -- from its coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick center -- experienced some thawing."

AP: "Britain is suffering a far deeper recession than thought, official figures showed Wednesday in a development that is likely to increase the pressure on the government to ease up on its tough austerity approach."

Washington Post: "Japan posted its biggest first-half trade deficit on record, according to government figures released Wednesday, highlighting the economic consequences as this nuclear-averse country imports fossil fuels to meet its energy needs."

Reuters: "Protesters broke windows of least a half-dozen storefronts in Anaheim on Tuesday and five people were arrested in the second major clash between police and demonstrators since an officer shot dead an apparently unarmed man. Tom Tait, mayor of the southern California city, had called on Monday for a state and federal review of the shooting of the man, a suspected gang member."

Guardian: "Ghana's president, John Evans Atta Mills, has died suddenly, aged 68."

AP: "North Korea state TV is reporting for the first time that leader Kim Jong Un is married."

Monday
Jul232012

The Commentariat -- July 24, 2012

** "Mayberry, R.I.P." Frank Rich looks over the apocalyptic literature heralding the End of American Exceptionalism & does a very nice job of demonstrating how his old colleagues Tom Friedman & David Brooks -- among many other Very Serious People -- are evah-so-polite racists. "That [Obama's] unlikely rise has somehow been twisted into a synonym for America's supposed collapse over the past four years may be the most disturbing and intractable evidence of our decline of all." ...

... Helene Cooper & Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "President Obama directed a sharp assault on Mitt Romney's foreign policy credentials on Monday, as the weekend political truce that followed the shooting rampage in Colorado dissolved into the more familiar political punch and counterpunch. President Obama directed a sharp assault on Mitt Romney's foreign policy credentials on Monday, as the weekend political truce that followed the shooting rampage in Colorado dissolved into the more familiar political punch and counterpunch."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Senate Republicans will press this week to extend tax cuts for affluent families scheduled to expire Jan. 1, but the same Republican tax plan would allow a series of tax cuts for the working poor and the middle class to end next year.... About 13 million families would see their tax refunds reduced, and some would see their taxes increase.... In all, the Republican plan would extend tax cuts for 2.7 million affluent families while allowing tax breaks to expire for 13 million on the bottom of the income spectrum, tax analysts say. ...

     ... AP Update: "A standoff with Congress that results in the January expiration of wide-ranging tax cuts would mean 114 million families would see average tax increases of $1,600 next year, the White House says."

The GAO on More Stupid Republican Tricks. Report (pdf): "GAO estimated that delays in raising the debt limit in 2011 led to an increase in Treasury's borrowing costs of about $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2011. However, this does not account for the multiyear effects on increased costs for Treasury securities that will remain outstanding after fiscal year 2011. Further, according to Treasury officials, the increased focus on debt limit-related operations as such delays occurred required more time and Treasury resources and diverted Treasury's staff away from other important cash and debt management responsibilities." CW: those Tea Party jerks wasted a lot of your money with their grandstanding obstructionism. Via Adam Sorensen of Time.

Hope Yen of the AP: "The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net. Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections." CW: One thing nostalia crowd forgets about Mayberry: folks were dirt poor. Another thing: they could get out of Mayberry by attending low- and no-tuition state colleges that made them eligible for good jobs. Not any more.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The Justice Department is investigating Pennsylvania's new voter identification law, a letter sent to the state government Monday indicates.... It's the first sign of interest by the federal government recently in a voter ID law in a state that is not covered by the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act."

Greedy Bastards. Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "... in what has become a test case in American labor relations, Caterpillar is ... seeking steep concessions from its workers even when business is booming. Despite earning a record $4.9 billion profit last year and projecting even better results for 2012, the company is insisting on a six-year wage freeze and a pension freeze for most of the 780 production workers at its factory [in Joliet, Illinois]. Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness. The company's stance has angered the workers, who went on strike 12 weeks ago." CW: as I recall, President Obama has pointed to Caterpillar as a big success story. Let's hear him weigh in on the side of the workers. Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

Quote of the Day. Politicians go to the N.R.A., Democrats and Republicans, and they basically read a script, which is not much different from a hostage video. -- Steve Schmidt, GOP strategist

Ron Brownstein of the National Journal: "... gun control is now overwhelmingly unpopular among the portions of the white electorate Obama is least likely to win anyway -- and maintains solid majority support among the Americans most likely to actually vote for him." ...

... CREDO has a petition asking Obama & Romney to urge Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban. You can sign it here. ...

... OR, forget gun control. How about bullet control? Via Andrew Rosenthal, who has a good post on the subject:

Juan Cole, who is an actual expert on Middle East politics: "There is a figure in the Federal government that has suspicious ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim fundamentalist movement that began in Egypt in 1928. It is Michele Bachmann." Cole makes the connections.

Presidential Race

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mitt Romney will set the stage on Tuesday for a weeklong trip abroad with a tough speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in which he accuses President Obama of allowing devastating defense cuts and of failing to stop leaks of classified national security secrets."

     ... Story has been updated; new lede: "Mitt Romney set the stage on Tuesday for a weeklong trip abroad with a tough speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in which he accused President Obama of allowing devastating defense cuts and of failing to stop leaks of classified national security secrets."

Obama's latest appeal to undecided voters:

... BUT. Susan Page of USA Today: "Despite concerted Democratic attacks on his business record, Republican challenger Mitt Romney scores a significant advantage over President Obama when it comes to managing the economy, reducing the federal budget deficit and creating jobs, a national USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. By more than 2-1, 63%-29%, those surveyed say Romney's background in business, including his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital, would cause him to make good decisions, not bad ones, in dealing with the nation's economic problems...."

Christopher Rowland & Callum Borchers of the Boston Globe: "Mitt Romney promised 'complete transparency' when he took charge of the scandal-plagued Salt Lake City Olympics, a pledge that included access to his own correspondence and plans for an extensive public archive of documents related to the Games. But some who worked with Romney describe a close-to-the-vest chief executive unwilling to share so much as a budget with a state board responsible for spending oversight. Archivists now say most key records about the Games' internal workings were destroyed under the supervision of a staffer shortly after ... Romney had returned to Massachusetts." ...

... CW: NOW watch Maggie Haberman of Politico make a positive out of "Secret Mitt." He's just so darned modest & reserved, he would never boast about himself. Aw, shucks. Or how about, people think his religion is weird, he did a lot of ruthless stuff at Bain, he spents lots of tax money on his secret Olympics, he did librul stuff as governor & he's a tax dodger whose main policy position today is a bigger tax dodge for him & his. What's not to like?

"You Didn't Build That." John Distaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader: "In the Mitt Romney campaign web and television ads that received national attention last week, a blunt Jack Gilchrist of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating in Hudson [N.H.] tells President Barack Obama that he, his father and his son -- and not the government -- built his company. But as it turns out, Gilchrist did receive some government help for his business, albeit a long time ago."...

     ... Via Greg Sargent. Sargent notes this remark from Gilchrist: "Defense business is a good way to help the economy. But the President wants to cut the crap out of the defense budget." "That," says Sargent, "would appear to mean that the star of Romney's ad believes federal spending -- on defense, at least -- is good for the economy. That would make him a 'weaponized Keynesian,' i.e., someone that does believe federal spending creates jobs and is good for businesses, but will only say so when it concerns defense." In talking to Gilchrist, Sargent learned that the guys also acknowledges roads & bridges help the economy, but, um, he just doesn't think we should spend any more on them. CW: What's this? I've got mine? When you parse the GOP "philosophy," it almost always turns out to be nonsensical. ...

     ... Jake Tapper of ABC News has more in a post titled, "Star of Romney 'My Hands Didn't Build This' Ad Received Millions in Government Loans and Contracts." Here again, you see the perversity of the GOP "philosophy." Gilchrist says of the government largesse: "As far as I'm concerned, I'm getting some of my tax money back." It's never "welfare" or "socialism" when they're getting government assistance, because they deserve it. It is bad when somebody else -- especially if the somebody else is a person of color -- is getting aid. ...

     (... AND when they flame out spectacularly, upending their employees' lives and costing the taxpayers millions, well, it's the government's fault. I'll bet Martha Coakley knows who Curt Schilling is now. Via Adam Sorensen.) ...

... Greg Sargent: "Senator Scott Brown has just released a new Web video ... tying Obama's remarks to [Brown's Democratic rival Elizabeth] Warren's and painting them as vaguely anti-American.... Brown, apparently taken with the plaudits Romney has earned from the right for lying relentlessly about Obama's quote, has now done the same.... The Republican argument -- Romney's argument -- is partly that Obama's active ill will towards business owners and entrepreneurs is helping stall the recovery, so you should replace him with a president who wants people to succeed." ...

... Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly on Romney's blackmail campaign. CW: as Kilgore illustrates, this is an old trick: the GOP claims that business leaders will purposely kill the economy if Democrats take the White House & Congress. ...

... Steve Benen: "If President Obama and Elizabeth Warren genuine oppose the free market -- they don't, but if they did -- why do Mitt Romney and Scott Brown have to lie [by editing Obama's words to change their meaning]? Shouldn't the truth be enough?" ...

... Stephanie Cutter of the Obama campaign:

     ... Here are Obama's original remarks:

BUT with talented, informed supporters like this, how can Romney lose? --

      Keep your wig trimmed!

Local News

Danny Hakim of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration, already drawing attention for its focus on secrecy, has now begun editing his record as New York attorney general, sending aides to the state archives to remove key documents from public view." CW: President Cuomo? No, thank you.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision, was sentenced to three to six years in prison on Tuesday." Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

New York Times: "The New Orleans Police Department and the United States Department of Justice on Tuesday are expected to announce a sweeping agreement to reform the city’s scandal-ridden police force." Times-Picayune story here.

Reuters: "Prime Minister David Cameron's ex-media chief and Rupert Murdoch's former UK newspaper boss are to be charged with phone-hacking offences in the most significant development in a scandal that has rocked Britain's establishment. Prosecutors said on Tuesday Andy Coulson, who was Cameron's communications chief from 2007 until January 2011, and Rebekah Brooks, who was courted by a succession of prime ministers including Cameron in her role as Murdoch's UK newspaper chief, would be charged with offences linked to the hacking." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "After a year of furious controversy over the widespread phone hacking by one of Rupert Murdoch's tabloid newspapers, British prosecutors brought criminal charges on Tuesday against eight of the most prominent figures in the scandal, including Andy Coulson, who was Prime Minister David Cameron's communications chief at 10 Downing Street until the scandal forced his resignation last year."

AP: Dianne Feinstein, "the Democratic leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Monday that the White House appears to be responsible for some leaks of classified information.... The California lawmaker said she was certain that President Barack Obama, who receives a daily intelligence briefing, isn't disclosing secret information, but she was uncertain about others at the White House."

Sunday
Jul222012

The Commentariat -- July 23, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is seriously unimportant. But it is a good example of why reporters should know what they're writing about. The NYTX front page is here.

Arms Control, American-Style. Jack Healy of the New York Times: "Unhindered by federal background checks or government oversight, the 24-year-old man accused of killing a dozen people inside a Colorado movie theater was able to build what the police called a 6,000-round arsenal legally and easily over the Internet, exploiting what critics call a virtual absence of any laws regulating ammunition sales." ...

... First, Ignore the Problem. Donovan Slack of Politico: "White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One on Sunday that the Obama administration has no plans to push new gun control measures in the wake of the deadly shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater. Carney said that includes a reauthorization of the Clinton-era assault-weapon ban that lapsed during the George W. Bush administration." ...

... I posted a link to Jill Lepore's excellent New Yorker piece on the history of gun control at the time of its publication in April, but if you missed it, here it is again. ...

... Helen Lewis of the New Statesman posts this 2009 video of forensic psychiatrist presenter Charlie Brooker, who features a forensic psychiatrist advising how to report a mass murder, "assuming your aim is to prevent further ones:

Don't start the story with sirens blaring.
Don't have photographs of the killer.Don't make this 24/7 coverage.
Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.
Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.
Do localise this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.

     ... CW Oops! Thanks to reader David D. for suggesting the correction above. The psychiatrist, David D. says, is "Park Dietz (whom, if I recall correctly, defense attorneys call Dr. Death because he has been so successful in testifying against the insanity defense in capital murder cases)." Lewis posts shots of the front pages of British dailies; none took Brooker's advice.

New York Times Editors: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is implicated in the LIBOR scandal & should recuse himself from participating in any inquiries. CW: thank you for saying so. Obama should fire that twerp today. ...

"Too Big to Regulate." Prof. Gar Alperovitz in a New York Times op-ed: the only way to control the big banks is to nationalize them -- an idea first proposed by the conservative Chicago school of economics during the Great Depression. ...

... Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times interviews Neil Barofsky, the former TARP inspector general. Bottom line: regulators are corrupt, Treasury officials are corrupt. They purposely don't do their jobs so they can get good jobs at the banks they supposedly oversee. This is not a surprise, of course, but Barofsky's confirmation, as Morgenson writes, is "depressing." ...

... Yves Smith lists "Six Reasons the Obama Administration Will Hate Neil Barofsky's Book." ...

... ** Barofsky himself sounds off at Bloomberg News. He lets both Geithner & Holder have it. P.S. taxpayers gets stuck again & the banks walk off with more of your cash. ...

More from Heather Stewart of the Guardian on the super-rich & their super tax avoidance: "A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore -- as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together -- according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network. James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited...."

Economist Nouriel Roubini, in Slate, outlines five reasons the U.S. "isn't even close to a robust recovery.... For several reasons, growth will slow further in the second half of 2012 and be even lower in 2013 -- close to stall speed."

Paul Krugman: "Climate change denial is a major industry, lavishly financed by Exxon, the Koch brothers and others with a financial stake in the continued burning of fossil fuels.... Large-scale damage from climate change is no longer a disaster waiting to happen. It’s happening now." ...

AND Krugman shoots down David Brooks -- again. After posting a graph that shows the U.S. as the most violent among advanced countries but also dramatically demonstrates that violence is in steep decline here, Krugman writes, "I find all these laments about declining values among non-elite Americans hard to take seriously. If things like single parenthood were as bad as they say, how can social pathologies have declined so much?"

Felix Salmon of Reuters: "There's still room for the [U.S.] Postal Service to reorient itself and become a successful 21st-century utility -- but there's no way that's going to happen if ... Congress prevents it from entering new businesses.... The Post Office is broken, in large part thanks to unhelpful meddling by Congress."

President George W. Bush in a Washington Post op-ed: "Laura and I, along with the Bush Institute and partners from the public and private sectors, started Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon to save women from breast and cervical cancer, two of the leading causes of cancer death in Africa. Like PEPFAR [the AIDS relief program], the success of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon depends on a broad alliance of private companies, nonprofit organizations and governments."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "National Journal said it would ban the use of quotations that had been massaged or manipulated by its sources, joining a growing chorus of news organizations that are objecting to a practice that has become increasingly common in political journalism."

The Charlatan Experience. Nitwits on parade -- sometimes burn their feet. Carol Pogash of the New York Times talks to some of the people who attended motivational charlatan Tony Robbins' multi-million-dollar hoax -- I mean seminar -- and burned their feet on a fire walk. But, hey, they admit it was their own fault for not being sufficiently motivated.

Presidential Race

Julie Pace & Steven Peoples of the AP: "The acrimonious presidential campaign eases back into action Monday after a weekend pause.... Romney made a low-key return to political activity Sunday night in northern California, where he courted Republican donors at three campaign fundraisers.... From Colorado, Obama flew to San Francisco to start a previously scheduled three-day trip that includes a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., campaign fundraisers in California, Oregon and Washington state, and a speech to the National Urban League convention in New Orleans. But the campaign cancelled a rally planned for Portland, Ore."

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: At an average 46.8 percent, President Obama's approval rating this quarter is still significantly below the 50 percent that nearly guarantees re-election -- but "Obama appears in much better shape now than the two recently elected presidents who were denied a second term -- Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush -- both of whom averaged below 40% approval their 14th quarters in office."

Tom Edsall of the New York Times on Obama's voter-suppression strategy -- discourage white working-class men from voting by exploiting their suspicions of Romney.

Jacob Weisberg of Slate: "Romney is accusing Obama of practicing 'Chicago-style politics.' Apparently, he has no idea what that means."

The Travels of Willard. On the eve of Romney's overseas trip, Jason Horowitz of the Washington Post recounts Romney's earlier international exploits. CW: instead of going to England, Israel & Poland, Romney should travel to the Caymans & Bahamas & such to visit his money.

"Lazy Mendacity." Jonathan Bernstein in Salon: why do Romney & other Republicans repeatedly tell lies that are so easily disproved? "My guess is that it has to do with the growth of the partisan press, and especially the role of the Republican-aligned media – Fox News and conservative blogs and talk radio. ...

... Glenn Kessler on Romney's "didn't build that" ad: "Obama certainly could take from lessons from [Elizabeth] Warren or [Franklin] Roosevelt on how to frame this argument in a way that is less susceptible for quote-snipping. And Romney certainly could answer Obama's argument by engaging in a serious discussion.... But instead, by focusing on one ill-phrased sentence, Romney and his campaign have decided to pretend that Obama is talking about something different -- and then further extrapolated it so that it becomes ridiculous." Read Kessler's whole post; it's interesting.

Lisa Miller of the Washington Post: "I wonder how the presumptive Republican nominee reconciles his great, secret stores of wealth with the principles of his Mormon faith.... Romney, it seems, has missed the spirit of his faith -- or, as evidenced by his offshore stash, is selectively interpreting it. Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism, taught that there is no shame in money earned through industry.... But Smith, like Jesus, had a profound loathing of income inequality. The earliest LDS communities, in fact, embarked on an experiment they called The United Order, in which they shared all goods, property and profits, according to their needs."

Right Wing World

David Edwards of Raw Story: "Tea party-backed Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) says that the right to own high-capacity ammunitions magazines like the 100-round drum that was used to kill at least a dozen people in Colorado last week is a 'basic freedom' that is protected by the U.S. Constitution." Includes video. ...

... CW: Johnson argues that semi-automatic weapons "are used in hunting." I don't doubt it. But if hunters are so fucking lazy they can't be bothered to pull the trigger more than once & so fucking incompetent they can't hit their prey with a single shot -- and the aid of a sight & all the other hunting folderol they use to get the best of Bambi, they should find some other "sport" in which to showcase their incompetence. Jerks.

Local News

The institution of the California Republican Party, I would argue, has effectively collapsed. It doesn't do any of the things that a political party should do. It doesn't register voters. It doesn't recruit candidates. It doesn't raise money. The Republican Party in the state institutionally has become a small ideological club that is basically in the business of hunting out heretics. -- Steve Schmidt, Republican consultant ...

... Adam Nagourney of the New York Times on the Republican party in California: "... the state party -- once a symbol of Republican hope and geographical reach and which gave the nation Ronald Reagan (and Richard M. Nixon) -- is caught in a cycle of relentless decline, and appears in danger of shrinking to the rank of a minor party.... Registered Republicans now account for just 30 percent of the California electorate, and are on a path that analysts predict could drop them to No. 3 in six years, behind Democrats, who currently make up 43 percent, and independent voters, with 21 percent."

News Ledes

... New York Times: "Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died on Monday at her home in San Diego. She was 61."

President Obama speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars:

New York Times: "His hair a frizz of neon orange, his hands shackled, James E. Holmes sat wordlessly through his first court appearance on Monday, a starkly different figure from the once-promising student recalled by acquaintances or the black-clad gunman accused of striding into a crowded movie theater and fatally shooting 12 people."

Reuters: "U.S. prosecutors and European regulators are close to arresting individual traders and charging them with colluding to manipulate global benchmark interest rates, according to people familiar with a sweeping investigation into the rigging scandal."

New York Times: "In a coordinated display intended to show they remain a viable force, Iraqi insurgents launched at least 29 separate attacks on Monday morning that killed at least 70 people, setting off car bombs, storming a military base and ambushing checkpoints, Iraqi authorities said."

New York Times: "With street battles still flaring in Syria's two main cities, the Syrian government said on Monday that its forces would never use chemical weapons in its domestic conflict, describing them as outside the bounds of the kind of guerrilla warfare they are fighting." ...

... AP: "A new rebel group boasting some 1,000 fighters launched an operation Sunday to capture Syria's largest city, Aleppo, while government troops using helicopter gunships and heavy artillery rolled back opposition gains in the capital Damascus. The spread of fighting into a second major metropolis displayed the rebels' growing confidence even though they still can't hold ground against the government's heavy weapons, pushing Syria's civil war toward a new phase of destructive urban combat."

CNN: "Penn State University will be hit with fines in excess of $30 million as part of 'significant, unprecedented penalties'" expected to be announced Monday by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a source familiar with the case told CNN on Sunday." ...

     ... ** NBC Sports News Update: "The NCAA handed down severe punishments to Penn State on Monday in the wake of a sex abuse scandal, including a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and the vacating of all football wins from 1998-2011. Also, the football program's scholarship allowance have been reduced from 25 to 15 per year for four years."

New York Times: "The powerful men accused of responsibility for [atrocities in Afghanistan] -- some said to be directly at their orders, others carried out by men in their chain of command -- are named in the pages of a monumental 800-page report on human rights abuses in Afghanistan from the Soviet era in the '80s to the fall of the Taliban in 2001, according to researchers and officials who helped compile the study over the past six years."

AP: "Jury selection is to begin Monday in Drew Peterson's long-delayed murder trial, where prosecutors want the former suburban Chicago police officer's wives -- one he's charged with slaying and another who has disappeared -- to effectively testify from their graves through friends and relatives about his threatening to kill them."

Saturday
Jul212012

The Commentariat -- July 22, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "The Meaning of Tragedy." The NYTX front page is here.

Jordy Yager & Mike Lillis of The Hill: "A handful of Democrats are pressing for tougher gun laws in the wake of the Colorado movie theater shootings that left 12 people dead." ...

... "Blood on Their Hands." New York Daily News Editors: "Through their inaction and their silence, Obama and Romney have fallen into line with all those who enabled Holmes to take hold of that AR-15 and will enable others to do so in the future unless America's political leaders develop the courage to fight to save lives."

... The Onion: "Americans across the nation confirmed today that, unfortunately, due to their extreme familiarity with the type of tragedy that occurred in a Colorado movie theater last night, they sadly know exactly how the events following the horrific shooting of 12 people will unfold. While admitting they 'absolutely hate' the fact they have this knowledge, the nation's 300 million citizens told reporters they can pinpoint down to the hour when the first candlelight vigil will be held, roughly how many people will attend, how many times the county sheriff will address the media in the coming weeks, and when the town-wide memorial service will be held."

James Asher of McClatchy News: "... reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg and others are agreeing to give government sources the right to clear and alter quotes as a prerequisite to granting an interview. To be clear, it is the bureau's policy that we do not alter accurate quotes from any source. And to the fullest extent possible, we do not make deals that we will clear quotes as a condition of interviews."

New York Times Editors: "A health care system owned and managed by Alaska's native people has achieved astonishing results in improving the health of its enrollees while cutting the costs of treating them."

Pam Martens of AlterNet: "As the U.S. grapples with intractable wealth disparity and the related ills of unemployment and recession, we need to understand that [the LIBOR scandal] was not merely a few rascals rigging some esoteric index in London. This was an institutionalized wealth transfer system on an almost unimaginable scale." CW: what's important about Martens' piece -- which I found a bit difficult to follow -- is not how they did it but to whom they did it.

Matt Taibbi writes favorably about "a plan to allow local governments to take on the problem of neighborhoods blighted by toxic home loans and foreclosures through the use of eminent domain." CW: when Joe Nocera wrote a column backing the plan, I was immediately skeptical. Taibbi raises the same questions I had, but ultimately decides that since Barack Obama is no FDR, the plan at hand might be the best solution available.

Jeremy Roebuck of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "The iconic statue of late Pennsylvania State University head football coach Joe Paterno will be removed from its spot outside of the campus' football stadium, university president Rodney Erickson said in a statement Sunday." AP story here. ...

... CW: Erickson showed no sensitivity whatsoever to the advice of Maureen Dowd, who writes in today's Times, "... I’d leave it up. But I'd put up another darkly alluring statue behind Paterno, whispering in his ear: Mephistopheles."

Andrew Goldman of the New York Times interviews Terry Gross. Short & funny. Includes penis joke.

Presidential Race

Who's "Un-American" Now? Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "... the patriotism party nominated a man who has for a quarter-century practiced a brand of capitalism that respects no known flag or borders. He ran a company that created some jobs but sent others overseas, he finagled himself a way to get paid a lot of money for doing (by his own admission) no work for a few years, and he appears to have retained a battery of lawyers to help ensure that he pays a far lower tax rate than the working people he's trying to whip into a state of fear about Obama. And there's only one reason people have Swiss bank accounts, and it's to avoid making their otherwise mandated contributions to the national treasury." ...

... Why Those Offshore Accounts of Mitt's Matter. John McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal: "The Tax Justice Network's report estimates that unreported offshore wealth held in tax havens has reached at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32 trillion. [CW: as far as I can tell, the estimate represents wealth from all countries, not just the U.S.] That wealth means that the problem of inequality in wealth and income is actually worse than suspected, the group says. It also means that many countries are losing out on tax revenue that could go a long way toward alleviating their national fiscal problems, the report's authors suggest. The largest previous estimate of the problem -- also by Tax Justice Network, in 2005 -- was about $11.5 trillion, the report says."

Matea Gold & Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama's sharp turn to the offensive against GOP challenger Mitt Romney last month came at a steep cost: nearly $58 million."

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: Although the Romney campaign denies it, it appears it is buying Twitter followers. At any rate, the graph of followers for his feed "looks like a hockey stick," with a huge uptick over the past few days. "If you look at all these [new] followers, they seem to have major trouble with spelling simple English words, have names that sometimes seem to be random assortments of syllables, and have no (or very few) followers themselves. At the current rate, he's adding about 10,000 followers every hour." Some fairly hilarious commentary @ #MoreFakeMitt

Right Wing World

Godless Thugs! Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "Fred Jackson, the American Family Association's news director, while discussing the Colorado movie theater shooting today said that liberal Christian churches and liberal media helped contribute to violent incidents by supposedly deemphasizing the fear of God and the Bible."

News Ledes

Washington Post: 'Herbert Vogel, a retired New York postal worker who, with his wife, Dorothy, created one of the world's most unlikely -- and most significant -- collections of modern art, then bequeathed much of it to the National Gallery of Art, died July 22 at a nursing home in New York City. He was 89." CW: a remarkable story.

CBS News: "CBS News has learned that the NCAA will announce what a high-ranking association source called 'unprecedented' penalties against both the Penn State University football team and the school.... NCAA President Mark Emmert will make the announcement Monday morning at 9 a.m. at the organization's headquarters in Indianapolis."

Denver Post: "Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper [D] Sunday expressed skepticism that tougher gun laws would have stopped suspected gunman James Eagan Holmes from unleashing 'terrorist' acts against 70 people in an Aurora movie-theater."

AP: "A federal law enforcement official says the semi-automatic assault rifle used in the deadly Colorado movie theater shooting jammed during the attack." ...

... AP: "The shooting suspect accused in a deadly rampage inside a Colorado theater planned the attack with 'calculation and deliberation,' police said Saturday, receiving deliveries by mail that authorities believe armed him for battle and were used to rig his apartment with dozens of bombs. Meanwhile, new details about 24-year-old James Holmes emerged, including summer jobs the suspect held in Southern California as a camp counselor and as an intern at a prominent research institute." ...

... AP: "... President Barack Obama will travel Sunday to Colorado to comfort distraught families of those gunned down in a minute and a half of real-life horror at a midnight movie showing."

Washington Post: "Heavy clashes rocked Aleppo, Syria's largest city and commercial capital, for a second day on Saturday as thousands streamed across the border into neighboring Lebanon to escape widespread fighting in the country." ...

... Guardian: "An activist group claims that more than 2,750 people have been killed in Syria so far this month, bringing the death toll since the conflict began to more than 19,000."