My column in today's New York Times eXaminer will not be a favorite with sports fans. But maybe you sports fans who don't care for David Brooks will enjoy it anyway. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...
The NYT eXaminer represents an essential dimension of any hope for the renewal of democracy in this country. -- Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur
"Government Moochers Against Welfare." Paul Krugman: "... pundits who describe America as a fundamentally conservative country are wrong. Yes, voters sent some severe conservatives to Washington. But those voters would be both shocked and angry if such politicians actually imposed their small-government agenda." CW: Krugman highlights an issue contributor Trish Ramey reminded us of in the February 15 Commentariat -- that people who get Social Security & Medicare have no idea they are recipients of "government handouts." Democrats would get a lot more votes if they educated these yahoos.
Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "On Friday, President Obama is slated to tour a Boeing factory in Everett, Wash. ... and press his plan for building a stronger economy. Key elements include tax breaks to spur domestic manufacturing and a drive to increase exports — in part by helping foreign companies buy American products. But, experts say, Obama’s activist approach to the economy could put him in the position of picking winners and losers." Goldfarb cites as a prime example the U.S.'s making "cheap loans backed by American taxpayers" to Air India to purchase Boeing 777s. The planes allowed Air India to launch nonstop service between New York City & Mumbai, a move that forced out the only other nonstop carrier on the route: U.S.-owned Delta Airlines.
The only problem was that the competition on that route was Delta, which says it was forced to abandon the nonstop daily service it had pioneered two years earlier.
They're Still Doing It. And You're Still Paying for It. Bob Ivry, et al., of Bloomberg News: "Four years after rotten mortgages helped trigger a global financial crisis, Sherry Hunt said her Citigroup Inc. quality-control team was still finding flaws in new loans that included altered tax forms, straw buyers and borrowers who listed fictitious employers. Instead of reporting the defects to the Federal Housing Administration, the bank saddled the agency with losses by falsely declaring the loans fit for its federal insurance program, according to a complaint filed yesterday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Citigroup agreed to pay $158.3 million to settle the claims, and admitted that it certified loans for FHA backing that didn’t qualify. Hunt, who filed a sealed lawsuit against ... Citigroup in August that the government joined, will collect $31 million of that sum -- before taxes and attorney’s fees -- as a whistle-blower...."
Quit Looking for the "Real Romney." Brendan Nyhan in the Columbia Journalism Review: "... the idea that reporters or commentators can discover a candidate’s 'true' self is deeply flawed. This approach falsely privileges hidden or private information as especially revealing of a person’s true nature or motivations. More fundamentally..., people do not have one true self but instead behave differently in different social contexts — a human tendency that is likely to be especially strong in any successful politician.... When a candidate acquires a reputation for inauthenticity, journalists often engage in a pathological search for further evidence of his of her phoniness." ...
... Paul Waldman of the American Prospect: "... what they often value more than anything else is not authenticity itself, but the most convincing portrayal of the authentic (see Bush, George W.). All this isn't to say Mitt isn't a phony. But we should be careful about what we take as proof that he is, and how much importance we place on that judgment."
CW: I finally found something about Tim Geithner to like. Damien Paletta of the Wall Street Journal: "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner seemed to enjoy the back-and-forth with Republicans more than he has in recent hearings.... 'You can smile and laugh about it all you want,' Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) bristled at Mr. Geithner during a House Budget Committee hearing. Mr. Chaffetz then intoned he was getting sick of the Treasury secretary’s 'silly little smirk.' ... At one point, he suggested that Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.) had an 'adolescent perspective' on how the economy worked."
Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "While Republicans failed to overturn Obama's executive order banning torture, [the] arrest [of "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] led to a bipartisan effort in Congress to force federal agents to ask permission from the military to investigate terrorism cases where the suspect is believed to be a member of Al Qaeda. While the administration managed to force changes to last year's National Defense Authorization Act that make its provisions 'mandating' the military detention of noncitizen terror suspects apprehended on US soil almost meaningless, there is now a presumption in the law that the military has a domestic role in counterterrorism."
Adele Stan of AlterNet: "In offering the bishops an 'accommodation' they refused to accept on a contraception provision of the new healthcare law, the Obama administration effectively exposed the powerlessness of the bishops when the rest of the church rose to accept the offer.... The bishops, who now stand marginalized in their own church, as major Catholic organizations, most of them led by clergy -- the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Catholic Health Association (which represents Catholic hospitals), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Sisters of Mercy -- signed onto the administration's plan over the bishops' objections."
Peter Nicholas of the Wall Street Journal: "President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has begun discussing whether to attack Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum and try to define him for a general-election audience, potentially breaking from its focus on Mitt Romney."
Right Wing World
New York Times Editors: Rick "Santorum’s solution for all of the country’s problems, from manufacturing to its moral climate, boils down to one very small idea: get government out of the way.... He says the nation’s civil laws must comport with God’s laws. But not the laws of all religions.... Unlike his main rivals for the nomination, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Mr. Santorum has held these kinds of views for many years, and is a far more authentic representative of the Republican Party’s angry base. But he does not represent the American mainstream, or its tradition of confronting big problems with big ideas."
Rick Santorum's sugar daddy Foster Freiss on the efficacy of Bayer aspirin as a contraceptive device:
... Update. Liz Goodwin of Yahoo! News: "Rick Santorum's billionaire backer Foster Friess wrote on his blog Friday morning that he 'deeply' apologizes to anyone who thought he was telling women to use aspirin instead of birth control in a Thursday segment on MSNBC. Meanwhile, Santorum was on the defensive Friday, calling his supporter's joke 'stupid.'" ...
... Republican presidential candidates sure have nasty backers. Glenn Greenwald profiles billionaire Romney finance co-chair Frank VanderSloot, a Idaho businessman who got rich on an Amway-style pyramid operation whose "chronic bullying threats to bring patently frivolous lawsuits against his political critics — magazines, journalists, and bloggers — that makes him particularly pernicious."
Sarah Posner, in Religious Dispatches, on Darrell Issa's congressional hearing featuring old men opposed to contraception: "Issa's committee elevated certain religious groups — meaning those who oppose the requirement that insurance cover birth control — to a status above everyone else's religious beliefs, including people of different religions who praised the requirement." ...
... "Where are the women?":
The testimony Sandra Fluke would have given had committee chairman Darrell Issa allowed her to speak. Via Steve Benen:
"I'm Running for President, for Pete's Sake." Anne Barnard of the New York Times: "distanced itself on Thursday from Representative Michael G. Grimm of Staten Island, a charismatic freshman Republican who has stumped for Mr. Romney but is now facing scrutiny over his business dealings and campaign fund-raising." See also yesterday's Right Wing World.’s presidential campaign
For your listening pleasure, the Ballad of Seamus:
... Katy Waldman in Slate: "According to a piece on Politicker yesterday, Romney’s sons told reporters in an off-record conversation that the dog ran away when the family got to Ontario."
CNN: "Mitt Romney and Ron Paul told the Georgia Republican Party, Ohio Republican Party and CNN Thursday that they will not participate in the March 1 Republican presidential primary debate." So CNN is cancelling the debate, which means there will be only one debate, on February 22, before Super Tuesday, March 6. ...
... Romney, Dumber than Dubya. Steve Kornacki of Salon: "By any reasonable standard, the federal government’s auto industry bailout has been a smashing success, but to admit this Romney would be admitting that he was wrong in a big way. And not just on any issue. After all, Romney grew up in Michigan as the son of the president of American Motors, and he presents himself to voters as a turnaround specialist whose unique insight into the world of business and industry will translate into a booming economy if he’s elected president. But now it looks like Barack Obama (and George W. Bush, for that matter) knew better than him."
... DNC to Romney: "Don't Bet Against America"; intimations of an Obama-Romney contest:
** AND Jonathan Chait of New York magazine out-Borotwitzes Andy Borowitz in this post titled "Romney Straining to Get to the Right of Genghis Kahn."
Um, maybe the reason Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is backing Roy Blunt's draconian bill which would allow any employer to deny insurance coverage of any type of medical care is that he has no idea what's in the bill. You can watch Brown screwing up here; I can't embed the video because it plays automatically. Steve Benen has more. ...
... AND, as Charles Pierce puts it, "The one nagging problem Brown always has had is that he's basically a state legislator who won a fluke of an election and is now fighting well above his weight class. He'd largely put that behind him. Not any more."
AP: A Republican supermajority has muscled two of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in years through the Virginia House, including one that would all but outlaw the procedure in the state by declaring that the rights of persons apply from the moment sperm and egg unite. The bills passed over bitter yet futile objections from Democrats. And one GOP delegate caused the House to ripple when he said most abortions come as 'matters of lifestyle convenience.' The bills now go to the Senate." ...
... Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "This week, the Virginia state Legislature passed a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound before they may have an abortion. Because the great majority of abortions occur during the first 12 weeks, that means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure, in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Since a proposed amendment to the bill — a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound — failed on 64-34 vote, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason.... That would constitute rape under state law."
CNN: "The Supreme Court has blocked enforcement of a ruling by Montana's highest court that upholds the state's century-long restrictions on independent political spending by outside groups in election campaigns. An order was issued late Friday."
New York Times: prosecutors dropped charges against 14 defendants charged in the Brooklyn Bridge Occupy protest of October 1. "So far, 174 of the 686 cases in which charges were brought have resulted in dismissals."
TPM: "To illustrate his frustration at the GOP's pattern of obstructing President Obama's executive branch nominees, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on the Senate floor Friday that he'll ask President Obama to provide all of the nearly 100 stalled bureaucrats-in-waiting with recess appointments."
TPM: "The Obama Justice Department has concluded that legislation banning same-sex couples from receiving military and veterans benefits violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment and will no longer defend the statute in court, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders on Friday."
New York Times: "The Maryland House narrowly passed a law legalizing on Friday, delivering a major victory to Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, who had proposed it. But its implementation remained uncertain as its opponents promised to take it to voters in November.... The measure still faces a vote in the Senate, where it is expected to pass...." CW: actually, no; they passed a bill.
New York Times: "Gov. vetoed a newly passed bill on Friday that would legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey, setting a difficult path for advocates who vowed to fight 'with every last breath' to override him. The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide gay and lesbian couples the same protections that marriage would. Mr. Christie also affirmed his call for the Legislature to put a referendum on same-sex marriage on the ballot in November."
Washington Post: "The FBI and the U.S. Capitol Police arrested a Moroccan man Friday in downtown Washington after a lengthy investigation into an alleged plot to carry out a suicide attack on the Capitol. Amine el-Khalifi, 29, was picked up while carrying an inoperable gun and a fake suicide vest provided to him by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaeda associates, U.S. officials said. They said he entered the United States when he was 16 and was living as an illegal immigrant in Arlington, Va., having reportedly overstayed his visitor’s visa for years."
New York Times: "The need for revenue to partly cover the extension of the the auction of public airwaves now used for television broadcasts to create more wireless Internet systems. If a compromise bill completed Thursday by Congress is approved as expected by this weekend, the result will eventually be faster connections for smartphones, iPads and other data-hungry mobile devices. Their explosive popularity has overwhelmed the ability, particularly in big cities, for systems to quickly download maps, video games and movies." ...cut and long-term unemployment benefits has pushed Congress to embrace a generational shift in the country’s media landscape:
... Update: "With members of both parties expressing distaste at some of the particulars, Congress on Friday voted to extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits and sent the legislation to President Obama, ending a contentious political and policy fight. The vote in the House was 293 to 132 with Democrats, who are in the minority, carrying the proposal over the top with the acquiescence of almost as many Republicans. The Senate followed within minutes and approved the measure on a vote of 60 to 36."
New York Times: "Anthony Shadid, a gifted foreign correspondent whose graceful dispatches for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Associated Press covered nearly two decades of Middle East conflict and turmoil, died, apparently of an asthma attack, on Thursday while on a reporting assignment in Syria. Tyler Hicks, a Times photographer who was with Mr. Shadid, carried his body across the border to Turkey." The Times' obituary is here. Read this interview of Shadid by Adam Ross of Mother Jones, published just last month. Tributes from colleagues.
New York Times: "Next week, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will recommend whether the agency should approve the first new prescription diet pill in 13 years. The F.D.A. rejected the drug under review, Qnexa, in 2010, amid safety concerns, and the drug’s manufacturer is now presenting additional data to argue its case. But thousands of people ... in central California, where Qnexa’s inventor ran a weight-loss clinic, and others across the country have not had to wait for the drug’s approval. Through a regulatory loophole of sorts, many obesity doctors prescribe two separate drugs that, when taken together, are essentially the same medicine."
New York Times: "President Obamaraised a total of $29.1 million for his re-election campaign and for the Democratic National Committee in January, he told supporters over Twitter early Friday morning, with most contributions coming in checks of $250 or less." ...
ABC News: "Before a backdrop of the newest American-made Boeing passenger jets, President Obama Friday will announce a series of steps aimed at boosting U.S. manufacturers, while harnessing their momentum for political gain. Obama, on the final stop of his three-day swing through California and Washington, will tour a Boeing production facility and speak to a crowd of several hundred workers inside the final assembly building for the company's new 787 Dreamliner."
New York Times: "Germany’s beleaguered president, Christian Wulff, announced his resignation on Friday after prosecutors asked Parliament to strip him of his immunity from prosecution over accusations of improper ties to businessmen."
Los Angeles Times: "A confrontation between federal law enforcement agents erupted in gunfire Thursday evening in Long Beach, leaving one dead and another seriously injured.... The incident was sparked by an unspecified dispute between Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building near the city's oceanfront, according to law enforcement authorities."
New York Times: "... is scheduled to visit the London headquarters of his British newspaper arm, News International, where reporters and editors are said to be in a state of civil war against Mr. Murdoch and his executives." The Guardian is liveblogging the meeting and reactions. ......
... AP Update: "News Corp. chief executive Rupert Murdoch on Friday told staff at his scandal-hit British tabloid The Sun that executives will continue to give police any evidence of wrongdoing and won't protect reporters found to have broken the law."
Flying High. CBS News/AP: "Two Air Force F-16 fighters intercepted a privately owned Cessna airplane that entered the same Los Angeles airspace as Marine One on Thursday as the helicopter was ferrying President Barack Obama. Police discovered about 40 pounds of marijuana inside the plane after it landed at Long Beach Airport, a law enforcement official said. The official was not authorized to comment publicly on the drug investigation and spoke under condition of anonymity. The Secret Service said the president was never in any danger."