The Ledes

Monday, July 21, 2014.

Governor Grandstand. New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was expected to announce on Monday the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to bolster security as the Border Patrol faces an influx of Central American immigrants."

Guardian: "As Dutch forensic experts arrived at the scene of the Malaysia Airlines crash on Monday and promised that the train being loaded with the victims' bodies would be moved before the end of the day, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian army and rebels on the outskirts of Donetsk, the main regional city and the hub of the insurgency." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "After days of obstruction, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine permitted Dutch forensics experts on Monday to search the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a surface-to-air missile, allowed bodies of the victims to be evacuated by train and agreed to give the plane’s flight recorder boxes to the Malaysian government."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moves from the battlefield to the negotiating table, and he again said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site. He also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of 'mercenary political goals.' The statement posted on the Kremlin website came a day after mounting international criticism and anger against Russia and specifically Mr. Putin for the chaotic, unsecured condition of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and what some nations said was the desecration of the victims’ bodies."

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, July 20, 2014.

New York Times: "After weeks of escalating conflict in Gaza, both sides reported death tolls that made clear Sunday was the deadliest day so far in the war. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that 87 Palestinians had died, and the Israeli military said 13 soldiers were dead.... President Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that he had 'serious concern' about the growing number of casualties on both sides in Gaza."

Los Angeles Times: "Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western 'Maverick' led to a stellar career in TV and films such as 'The Rockford Files' and his Oscar-nominated 'Murphy's Romance,' has died, police said. He was 86." ...

     ... UPDATE: The New York Times obituary is here.

New York Times: "Pro-Russian separatist militiamen have seized custody of the bodies of about 200 victims of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday, and rebels continued to limit access to the crash site in eastern Ukraine, blocking the work of experts even as hundreds of untrained local volunteers were picking through the wreckage with sticks." ...

... Washington Post: "The United States has confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border after the Thursday shoot-down of a Malaysian jet liner, a U.S. official said Saturday." ...

... Washington Post: "Russia said Saturday it supports a transparent international investigation of the downing of a Malaysian airliner, but U.S. and other Western officials said they saw no evidence Moscow was seeking to impose that message on its eastern Ukrainian allies who still control the site of the crash.... In a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Secretary of State John F. Kerry 'underscored that the United States remains deeply concerned' that international investigators were denied access, and that victims and debris were reportedly being 'tampered with or inappropriately removed from the site,' a State Department statement said." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging developments.

New York Times: "The Israeli military said on Sunday that it had expanded its ground activities in Gaza, increasing the number of forces and the areas in which they were operating, as eastern Gaza came under heavy shelling and as resistance from Hamas fighters appeared to intensify. Casualties grew on both sides...."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 21

10:00 am ET: President Obama signs an executive order to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination

11:45 am ET: President Obama participates in a town hall focusing on the importance of the My Brother's Keeper initiative

11:45 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in St. Louis, Mo. (audio only)

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

3:10 pm ET: President Obama awards Ryan M. Pitt, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor (CW: Here's some background on Pitt.)

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


New Yorker illustration.

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


CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:


Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

Whole Food Business Model: We Cheat You, But Not so Much You'll Notice. Shan Li of the Los Angeles Times: "Whole Foods Market is paying $800,000 in penalties after an investigation found the supermarket chain overcharged customers throughout California. During a yearlong investigation, state and local inspectors found the Austin, Texas, grocer charged more than advertised for a wide range of food products, according to a statement from the Santa Monica city attorney's office. Problems included failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up fresh food, putting smaller amounts into packages than the weight stated on the label, and selling items by the piece instead of by the pound, as required by law, the statement said.... 'Based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports .... our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98% of the time,' the company said in a Tuesday statement." ...

... CW: Besides, if you shop at Whole Foods -- at no charge to you -- you can learn that unions are like herpes, ObamaCare is a form of fascism & climate change is "perfectly natural."

Teenaged curiosity about sex is quite natural, but it can be a bummer.The Vagina Dialog. Turned out to Require a Large Cast of Supporting Characters. Jen Kirby of New York: "An American student studying abroad in Germany captured the world's attention yesterday by achieving the remarkable feat of getting himself stuck in a giant vagina sculpture and needing 22 firefighters to rescue him. But Fernando de la Jara, the artist behind the now-infamous work, took it all in stride.... 'It's participatory art,' de la Jara said. 'It should be entered.'"


President Obama meets a robotic giraffe at the White House Makers' Faire:

Rebecca Schuman of Slate claims Aldi is "the best grocery store in America." CW: I never heard of Aldi, but I believe I'll give one a try. I already know how to grocery-shop German. Schuman's piece is interesting reading, whether or not there's an Aldi near you.

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Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.


Comment "Approval"

My site host Squarespace has a new forced feature which automatically throws some comments into an "awaiting approval" bin. I have no facility to disable this feature (actually, it IS disabled, but Squarespace has installed an override). I have asked Squarespace to change this. I don't think they will.

This is an equal-opportunity site, and I don't bar anyone from commenting. I apologize for this annoying, discriminatory "feature." I will "approve" comments as soon as I'm aware of them and before reading them. With the exception of some ad spam, I can count on one hand the number of comments I've had to remove in the past six months for offensive content. This approval system is a real pain for commenters, readers and me.

I do, BTW, read all the comments, though not necessarily timely. If I ever remove a comment for what I deem cause, the writer will know it & know why.

Update: a commenter has suggested that "the best solution is just not to comment." That's was not my goal in making readers & contributors aware of the approval process imposed by my host. Since I'm not going to read the comments as I "approve" them, it takes me only seconds to release the comments for publication. The delay is what is unfair to commenters: I don't sit at my computer waiting for comments to come in, so any comments that trigger the approval algorithm will be delayed, sometimes by hours if I'm not around. This delay severely limits commenters' ability to engage in an exchange of ideas, which is one of the purposes of the comments facility. Not only that, I think the approval process itself is insulting to contributors, who 999 times out of 1,000, write comments which falls within my so-called standards.

So keep on commenting, please. What annoys me is the approval requirement, not the comments.


The Commentariat -- January 26, 2012

Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post: "Google ... announced Tuesday that it plans to follow the activities of users across nearly all of its ubiquitous sites, including YouTube, Gmail and its leading search engine. Google has already been collecting some of this information. But for the first time, it is combining data across its Web sites to stitch together a fuller portrait of users. Consumers who are logged into Google services won’t be able to opt out of the changes, which take effect March 1. And experts say the policy shift will invite greater scrutiny from federal regulators of the company’s privacy and competitive practices." ...

... More from Hayley Tsukayama of the Washington Post. ...

... CW: Here are instructions on how to close your Google account. Unfortunately for me, and I'm sure for millions of others, I'm kind of locked in to Google. They know that, of course. ...

... Update: In today's comments section, contributor Dave S. has a couple of suggestions on how to evade Google and protect your privacy: bills itself as "the world's most private search engine." Details here. I tried it out, and it seems okay. In addition, the  Tor browser bundle claims it "protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked."

Most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from. -- Former Apple executive ...

CW: I linked this New York Times story by Charles Duhigg & Keith Bradsher about Apple's Chinese slave-labor factories in yesterday's NYTX column on Tom Friedman's latest pile of crap, but I don't think I linked it here.

... Duhigg & Bradsher's follow-up article is even more disturbing: "... the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions.... Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems. Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records.... Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.... 'We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,' said one former Apple executive.... Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice. If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?'”

... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "After decades of our leaders and sages assuring us that the United States would thrive as we moved beyond manufacturing, President Obama used his State of the Union address to officially declare post-industrial America an unqualified bust. Ours has become, he said, a land of 'outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits.' Reconstructing 'an economy that’s built to last,' by contrast, means revitalizing manufacturing, he said.... Obama has discovered his inner economic nationalist, just in time for the election.... Turning manufacturing jobs into middle-class jobs will require establishing the kind of advanced, ongoing vocational education that’s made German industry so successful, as well as reestablishing the right of U.S. workers to join unions."

Quote of the Day. Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us. We have failed to learn the lessons from the financial crisis of 2009. -- Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum; i.e., Davos. Pretty astounding, considering the source.

Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker writes an excellent short piece on campaign finance law. He ends it with what we all know: "Most politicians who have been bought tend to stay that way." Thanks to Dave S. for the link.

E. J. Dionne on the SOTU address: "It is plain that, in the historic argument that will engage the country for the rest of the year, Obama, no less than the Republicans, is rooting himself in old American values. But in his case, they are the values of solidarity and fairness. And lest anyone miss his point, Obama ended his speech by referring to a flag he was given bearing the names of the SEAL team that undertook the bin Laden mission [CW: and I'll add, yesterday's rescue in Somalia]. The lesson Obama drew: 'No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together.... This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.' It was a long way from the imperatives of the private-equity market." CW: it was also ungrammatical ("No one .... their own."). But never mind. As we learned yesterday, the speechwriters wrote this one for 8th-graders.

Paul Krugman recommends this post by John Quiggin, who takes down right/libertarian economist Tyler Cowen's argument that social mobility isn't too important after all (yup, the right is teeing up defenses of aristocracy): "To sum up, Cowen’s post is an exercise in defending the indefensible, and its weaknesses reflect that. As Mitt Romney’s tax returns show, wealthy Americans have the rules rigged in their favor from day one. And that’s assuming they obey the rules. Unlike the poor, they can mostly cheat with impunity.... The only surprise is the suddenness with which the facts have become common knowledge." Thank you, Occupy; thank you, Willard; thank you, intransigent Republican-Tea Party Members of Congress.

David Dayen has a very good post on what he surmises is President Obama's means of neutering New York AG Eric Schneiderman, who has been the most penetrating thorn in the side of the coalition of AGs negotiating a sweetheart settlement favorable to big mortgage lenders: Obama made Schneiderman co-chair of a federal committee that is part of "a three year-old Financial Fraud Task Force which has done approximately nothing on Wall Street accountability outside of a few insider trading arrests.... Schneiderman may be trying to work from within, but he’s saddled with a panel full of co-chairs tied to banks with a history of obstructing accountability." ...

... Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism has a similar take, & a bit more info....  

... CW: This is how the guys who are supposed to be on "your side" do you in. See Elizabeth Warren videos below. As Jeff Toobin says (linked above), "Most politicians who have been bought tend to stay that way." ...

... The New York Times editors are a little less skeptical about the Schneiderman appointment than are Dayen & Smith, but they are not naive: "President Obama’s credibility is on the line. To restore public faith in the financial system, nothing less than a full investigation and full accountability will do."

Everybody in our office is paying a higher tax rate than Warren. -- Debbie Bosanek, Warren Buffett's secretary (linked page includes video)

If this is a war, my side has the nuclear bomb We have K Street.… We have Wall Street. Debbie doesn’t have anybody. I want a government that is responsive to the people who got the short straw in life. -- Warren Buffett, on Republican charges that the "Buffett Rule" represents class warfare

Washington does work! For drug companies, big oil & hedge fund operators. "Thirty of the largest companies in the United State are now paying more for lobbying than they are in federal taxes":

Jared Bernstein demonstrates why PolitiFact "just can't be trusted." ...

     ... Paul Krugman: "The criterion, according to Politifact, seems to be that a fact isn’t a fact if it helps a Democratic narrative." ...

     ... Krugman: "Politifact has lost sight of what it was supposed to be doing.... Fact-checking should be about checking facts — not about trying to impose some sort of Marquess of Queensbury rules on how you’re allowed to use facts. Aside from undermining the mission, this makes the whole thing subjective.... Politifact wasn’t even analyzing what Obama said, they were analyzing their impression about what he might have been trying to imply."

Compassionate Conservatives. Linda Greenhouse: the Supremes, curiously, render a humane decision. Except Thomas & Scalia -- what did you expect? They are two nasty bastards.

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: President Obama got into a verbal sparring match on the tarmac at Phoenix with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R). It seems to have been over her characterization of him and of a meeting she had with him. Obama walked away from Brewer while she was mid-sentence. ...

     ... Devin Dwyer of ABC News has more. ...

... Dana Milbank: Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, a Republican, blows off criticisms by GOP presidential candidatess: "'I’m not going to get involved in political rhetoric,' he said. 'I have a job to do.' In a sense, Bernanke didn’t need to rebut his critics; the facts already have."

Right Wing World

Bonus Quote. ... it’s an odd thing when a leading Republican candidate has the children of his first wife attacking his second wife for things she said about his third wife and this candidate is the one getting social conservative support. -- David Brooks

Bonus Quote. I was attacked the other night for being grandiose. I would just want you to note: Lincoln standing at Council Bluffs was grandiose. The Wright Brothers standing at Kitty Hawk were grandiose. John F. Kennedy was grandiose. I accept the charge that I am grandiose and that Americans are instinctively grandiose. -- Newt Gingrich. CW: Either Gingrich has no idea what "grandiose" means or he has a low opinion of Americans' "instincts." And of Lincoln, the Wright brothers & JFK. Jerk.

Bonus Quote. By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American. -- Newt Gingrich. CW: Grand. E. Ose.

Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner: "When he claimed victory in South Carolina on Saturday, Newt Gingrich declared that, 'The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky.' But if any candidate is using Saul Alinsky's playbook in this campaign, it's Gingrich himself. In his seminal 1971 work, 'Rules for Radicals,' left-wing community organizer Alinsky laid out his method for instigating change. Many of the tactics he spoke about -- such as exploiting resentment and pitting oneself against the establishment -- have become a central part of Gingrich's strategy for securing the Republican presidential nomination."

Adios, Mofo. Chuck Lindell of the Austin, Texas American-Statesman: "Gov. Rick Perry's ill-fated presidential campaign left a sour taste with many Texans and damaged his standing with Republican voters, according to a new poll commissioned by the American-Statesman and other state newspapers. Almost 1 in 3 Texas Republicans said Perry's performance on the national stage dimmed their view of the governor, and 40 percent said he should not seek re-election in 2014.... The drop left Perry with a lower approval rating than President Barack Obama's 43 percent — in a state Obama lost by 11 percentage points in 2008 — though Perry did have a slim lead among registered voters, with 42 percent to Obama's 41."

Jack Sherman of Politico reports that some GOP House members are not satisfied with going home to campaign as representatives of the Do-Nothing Congress. I wonder who coule possibly be to blame for their predicament?

CW: I know racial discrimination is a serious, terrible thing, but I cannot help laughing at the bigoted mayor of East Haven, Connecticut, who, "being of Italian descent, is sometimes thought to be of ethnic background." Mayor Maturo (R) -- that's his real name, tho in no way a characterization of his views or demeanor -- criticizes the press for the camera, then takes a question about what he would do to help the Latino community in the wake of the arrests of four of his police officers for discrimination against & harassment of Latinos. His response: "I might have tacos when I go home. I'm not quite sure yet." Although he doubles down on his "taco" comment in the linked video, he later apologized for the "off-collar comment." (No, that's no typo. I believe "off-collar" is the short form for "off-the-cuff, off-color," especially when "color" refers to, you know, "ethnic background.")

Local News

Mary Spicuzza of the (Madison,) Wisconsin State Journal: "Two more former aides to Gov. Scott Walker have been charged in the ongoing John Doe investigation, and face charges linked to political fundraising while working on county time. Both worked for Walker while he was serving as Milwaukee County Executive, and both are accused of fundraising activities while at their taxpayer-funded day jobs." Thanks to Kate M. for the link. CW: when you read what the employees did, you'll have a hard time believing Walker had no idea they were campaigning onthe job.

News Ledes

There's another GOP presidential debate tonight, this one from Florida & hosted by CNN. CW: I find the New York Times live updates the least stomach-churning way to "watch" the GOP debates.

New York Times: "Bev Perdue, a Democrat who made history when she became North Carolina’s first female governor in 2009, will not seek re-election this year, a Democratic source with knowledge of her decision said on Thursday." Raleigh News & Observer story here.

He’s not going to ask me to stay on, I’m pretty confident. I’m confident he’ll be president. But I’m also confident he’s going to have the privilege of having another secretary of the Treasury. -- Tim Geithner ...

... Bloomberg News: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the last member of the Obama administration’s original economic team, said he doesn’t expect to remain in office if the president is re-elected.”

AP: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran is ready for nuclear talks with the world powers amid toughening sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to sharply scale back its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad, however, says sanctions won't force Iran to capitulate to Western demands."

Washington Post: "Two decades after evicting U.S. forces from their biggest base in the Pacific, the Philippines is in talks with the Obama administration about expanding the American military presence in the island nation, the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at China."

New York Times: "The Egyptian authorities have blocked the son of a United States cabinet member and several other American employees of a Washington-backed nongovernmental organization from leaving Egypt in an apparent escalation of a politically charged criminal investigation into foreign-funded groups promoting democracy. Officials of the group, the International Republican Institute, said the Egyptian authorities had blocked its Cairo chief, Sam LaHood, from boarding a flight at the airport last week. His father is Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary and a former Republican congressman from Illinois."

Reuters: "Greece resumes tortuous negotiations on a debt swap with private creditors in Athens on Thursday, with the European Central Bank thrown into the mix after IMF chief Christine Lagarde said public sector holders of Greek debt may need to take losses too."

AFP: "French police on Thursday arrested Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of the PIP breast implant company that sparked a global health scare by using substandard silicone, as part of a manslaughter probe.... The arrest was made in connection with a manslaughter investigation opened by prosecutors in the southern port city of Marseille in December...; Mas could be held in custody for up to 48 hours."


The Commentariat -- January 25, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Tom Friedman's continued spreading of disinformation about how globalization and technology are killing American jobs. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

... The text of the State of the Union address is here. The New York Times' interactive analysis is here. ...

... ABC News fact-checks the SOTU. ...

... So Simple Even a Child Could Get It. Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics: "For the third consecutive State of the Union Address, Barack Obama spoke in clear, plain terms.And for the third straight Address, the President's speech was written at an eighth-grade level. In Obama's own words: 'My message is simple.'" ...

... Charles Pierce credits the Occupy movement for the SOTU: "Without all the hell-raising, and all the shouting at the right buildings, and all the drum circles, we would have heard a very different State of the Union speech last night." And he has a few things to say about Ohio Gov. Mitch Union-Bustin' Daniels' response. Pierce is right on all counts, I think. ...

... NEW. Paul Krugman: Mitch Daniels is fact-challenged. ...

... Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "The president’s address Tuesday served far more as a roadmap for how Obama intends to capi­tal­ize on his built-in advantages than a governing blueprint for the next year. Thanks to a gift of timing, Obama was able to draw a stark contrast with Romney." ...

... Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama did not mention Mitt Romney on Tuesday evening, but he didn’t need to. Mr. Romney, whom the president’s aides still view as his most likely opponent in the fall, was the unspoken adversary in Mr. Obama’s call for a more equitable society — the natural foil for his proposals to level the playing field for middle-class Americans, from taxes to trade policy."

... Lori Montgomery & Jia Lynn Yang of the Washington Post: "With the release of his tax returns Tuesday, Mitt Romney has emerged as Exhibit A in a political battle likely to define the 2012 election: how to tax the rich. To Democrats, Romney is benefiting from an unfair tax code that permits a man who made nearly $21 million last year to pay just 15 percent in federal taxes.... To Republicans, Romney is an exemplar of the capitalist system, a wealthy man who propels the economy through successful investments. Many of them think he should pay even less to the federal government. Indeed, Newt Gingrich, Romney’s chief rival for the GOP presidential nomination, has proposed eliminating taxes on investment income altogether — a move that would push Romney’s tax rate near zero."

Vice President Biden speaks to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News about the Somalia rescue and about the SOTU & Newt:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Right Wing World

Quote of the Day. Banks aren't bad people. -- Mitt Romney, not ten miles from my house, in Lehigh Acres, a mostly lower-middle-class community and one of the nation's areas hardest hit by foreclosures

NEW. Ralph Vartabedian, et al., of the Los Angeles Times write a very worthwhile column on Mitt Romney's tax returns. ...

Traditionally, Republicans say invest in America and buy American. It doesn't bother me in theory, but it suggests something about his view of the tax code or his diversification or his confidence in the U.S. If the president doesn't have confidence in the U.S., how can everybody else? -- Prof. Steven Bank

On Romney's claim that he is barred from communicating with his investment trustee: He could say, 'I want the investments in the U.S.' -- Prof. Edward Kleinbard

Dana Milbank demonstrates why Newt Gingrich is "Obama's best surrogate.... Obama strategist David Axelrod couldn’t have arranged it better: On the very day the president tried to turn the campaign into a contest between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, the Republicans launched an all-out war between the Gingrich haves and the Romney ­have-mores."

Local News

Scott Bauer of the AP: "Wisconsin's polarizing governor is fighting attempts to recall him with money from out-of-state donors, who helped him bring in more than $12 million since last year. An Associated Press analysis of campaign finance reports Republican Gov. Scott Walker filed Monday showed 61 percent of the $4.1 million he raised during the five-week reporting period came from out of state. Many of the contributions came from big donors...." ...

... Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Memo has more here.

News Ledes

President Obama spoke today in Iowa:

AP: "In another blow to organized labor in the traditionally union heavy Midwest, Indiana is poised to become the first right-to-work state in more than a decade after Republican lawmakers cleared the way on Wednesday to ban unions from collecting mandatory fees from workers.... [The House] vote came after weeks of protest by minority Democrats who tried various tactics to stop the bill. They refused to show up to debate despite the threat of fines that totaled $1,000 per day and introduced dozens of amendments aimed at delaying a vote. But conceding their tactics could not last forever because they were outnumbered, they finally agreed to allow the vote to take place.

Al Jazeera: "Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to commemorate the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that toppled their long-time ruler, Hosni Mubarak. It is a year since Egyptians, inspired by an uprising in Tunisia, took to the streets to call for reform and to demand the resignation of Mubarak, Egypt's president for 30 years."

New York Times: "The House bade a tearful farewell to Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona on Wednesday as she submitted her resignation and was praised by members of both parties as an inspiring symbol of courage in the aftermath of an assassination attempt against her last year."

New York Times: "The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that it was likely to raise interest rates at the end of 2014, but not until then, adding another 18 months to the expected duration of its most basic and longest-running response to the financial crisis."

Miami Herald: "Sen. Marco Rubio scolded Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign over a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses rival Mitt Romney of being 'anti-immigrant.' 'This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign,' Rubio told The Miami Herald when asked about the ad.... By mid-day, Gingrich’s campaign said it would pull the radio ad out of 'respect for the senator’s wishes.'"

New York Times: "The White House plans to propose legislation that could allow a few million homeowners to reduce monthly mortgage payments by refinancing their current loans into new ones guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration."

New York Times: "American commandos raced into Somalia on Wednesday morning and rescued two aid workers, including an American woman, after a shootout with Somali pirates who had been holding them captive for months." Los Angeles Times story here. ...

... ABC News: "Vice President Joe Biden said American worker Jessica Buchanan's failing health was the reason President Obama authorized last night's special operations rescue operation in Somalia." (See video in today's Commentariat.) ...

... AP: "A U.S. official says the Navy SEAL team that rescued two hostages in Somalia was the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden."

Yahoo! News: "President Obama may have delivered the big speech on Tuesday night. But all attention early in the night was focused on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who survived an assassination attempt more than a year ago. Giffords entered the House chamber to a standing ovation that was unmatched the entire evening. She was accompanied by Rep. Raul Grijalva, a liberal Democrat, on her left, and Rep. Jeff Flake, a conservative Republican, on her right. As she approached her seat, the crowd continued to roar."


The Commentariat -- January 24, 2012

President Obama & his staff develop the State of the Union address:

My column at the New York Times eXaminer is titled, "He Said/He Said -- Fact-Free Reporting at the New York Times." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute to NYTX here.

William Galston of the Brookings Institution & The New Republic on "five things to watch for in the State of the Union address." CW: P.S. Ignore what he says about globalization and technology. For more on this, see ...

... Dean Baker in the New York Times eXaminer, who writes that "David Brooks' ignorance is showing again." Brooks makes the same error Galston does. Baker, an economist, explains why "it was not globalization and technology that led to the upward redistribution of income, it was conscious policy." Think, for instance, "free trade" agreements.

... Michael Scherer of Time: "Warren Buffet’s [sic.] secretary will sit nearby Michelle Obama at tonight’s State of The Union Address.... Buffet has famously said that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does, since he benefits from a lower tax rate on investments, while she makes her money as regular salary. He finds this unjust. Mitt Romney wants to maintain this system, even as his top Republican rival now fights to lower Romney and Buffet’s effective tax rate to zero by eliminating all federal tax on investment income. Barack Obama, by contrast, wants to raise tax rates on those who make a lot of money from investments...." CW: See also the link to Greg Sargent's post in today's Right Wing World.

Nelson Schwartz & Shaila Dewan of the New York Times: "About one million homeowners facing foreclosure could have their mortgage burden cut by about $20,000 each as part of a long-awaited deal taking shape among state attorneys general, federal officials and the nation’s largest mortgage servicers. But a final agreement remained out of reach Monday despite political pressure from the White House, which had been trying to have a deal in hand that President Obama could highlight in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.... But ... Democrats in Congress, advocacy groups like and several crucial attorneys general said the deal might be too lenient on the banks."

Sen. Rand Paul's skirmish with the TSA was a Constitutional moment! Sunlen Miller & Matt Hosford of ABC News: "The U.S. Constitution actually protects federal lawmakers from detention while they’re on the way to the capital. 'The Senators and Representatives … shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same….' according to Article I, Section 6." Thank you, Sen. Paul, for inadvertently teaching me something I didn't know. Also, I like your conspiracy theory. (See video.)

Prof. Jonathan Laurence, in a New York Times op-ed, on how to integrate Muslims into European culture. CW: I found myself in disagreement with many of his suggestions, but Laurence is an expert and I'm not, so it's worth considering his viewpoint.

Low-Income White People Don't Like Any of the Top 2012 Presidential Contenders. Jon Cohan of the Washington Post: "One group that continues to elude Obama in his moderate resurgence on favorability is whites with annual household incomes under $50,000. Since December, whites with higher incomes are up eight points in favorable impressions of the president; those under the $50K threshold are basically unmoved at 40 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable. This is also a group — whites with incomes under $50K — that’s moved away from Romney over the past two weeks, with his unfavorable numbers jumping from 29 to 49 percent (exactly where Gingrich is as well)."

Right Wing World

Lori Montgomery, et al., of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney offered a partial snapshot of his vast personal fortune late Monday, disclosing income of $21.7 million in 2010 and $20.9 million last year — virtually all of it profits, dividends or interest from investments.... According to his 2010 return, Romney paid about $3 million to the IRS, for an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent. For 2011, Romney estimates that he will pay about $3.2 million, for an effective rate of 15.4 percent. That’s in line with his earlier estimates, but sharply lower than the rates paid by President Obama and Romney’s closest Republican rival, Newt Gingrich." The New York Times story is here. ...

     ... Update: If you like reading Tax Returns of the Very Rich and Famous, Mitt Romney's are here.

... Greg Sargent: "I’m not sure the Obama campaign could have scripted this more perfectly. In a remarkable bit of good timing, President Obama is set to deliver a State of the Union speech focused on income inequality and tax unfairness on exactly the same day that Mitt Romney will reveal that he made over $40 million in the last two years — all of it taxed at a lower rate than that paid by middle class taxpayers.... Romney doesn’t just disagree with Obama on these fundamental issues; he personally symbolizes virtually the entire 2012 Democratic message. He is the walking embodiment of everything Dems allege is wrong with our system and the ways it’s rigged in favor of the wealthy and against the middle class."

... Meanwhile, the New York Times editors take a dim view of what is revealed by the one year's tax return Gingrich released: "He’s a shrewd broker of Washington influence, and about as 'establishment' — and cynical — as you can get." Here's a related Times news story with links to the Gingrich tax returns.

Nate Silver: Two polls of Florida GOP voters, the first "from Rasmussen Reports, puts Mr. Gingrich ahead [of Romney] by 9 points, 41 to 32. The second poll, from Insider Advantage, pegs Mr. Gingrich’s lead at 8 points. Both polls conducted all their interviews on Sunday in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Gingrich’s South Carolina victory."

"Newt Gingrich Was Deflated." Prof. Jonathan Bernstein, in the Washington Post: "Monday, without a hooting and hollering crowd, and with a moderator who mostly didn’t choose to get in a fight, the disgraced former speaker [Newt Gingrich] showed once again what a poor job he does when he engages with other candidates." CW: An interesting analysis of how little impact Gingrich's supposed debating skills would have in a general election. Also, on Sunday, a blimp flew low over my house, so low the passengers & I could wave to each other. It's the first blimp I've seen in Fort Myers in the nearly 12 years I've lived here. Since Newt Gingrich had just come to the vicinity, I immediately thought of him. But the blimp wasn't Gingrich. It was Democratic blue. ...

... Applause! Applause! So now Newt says he won't allow future debate moderators to instruct the audience to hold their applause:

In Florida, the Romney campaign is running this ad against Gingrich:

CW: quite a few readers have recommended Michael Moore's 1994 video "Newt and Mike Save America," which is a poem to Newt's hypocrisy:

News Ledes

President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address at 9 pm ET. U.S. News has a story here. ...

     ... Update. Politico: "President Barack Obama on Tuesday will urge Americans to come together on 'the defining issue of our time,' using his State of the Union address to emphasize economic fairness and set the agenda for his reelection campaign." Excerpts are here. ...

     ... Update 2. The Washington Post report on the SOTU address is here. New York Times story here.

Reuters: "Saudi Arabia's Gulf allies joined Riyadh on Tuesday in pulling out of an Arab League monitoring team to Syria, risking the collapse of a mission whose presence has not halted more than 10 months of violence. Envoys to the Cairo-based League will meet later in the day to discuss whether to call off the whole mission, Sudan's ambassador to the 22-member body said."

AP: "Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois could lose full use of his left arm and experience facial paralysis after a weekend stroke that required emergency surgery, but his physician said Monday the prospects for a complete mental recovery are strong. Dr. Richard Fessler said it likely would be 'very difficult' for the first-term Republican senator to regain movement in his left arm, and that his left leg and face also may be affected. Kirk was in intensive care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he appeared to recognize those around him and was responding to verbal commands, Fessler said." The Chicago Tribune story is here.

AP: "The White House said Monday that it's delaying for one week the release of President Barack Obama's budget for the 2013 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The budget is traditionally released on the first Monday in February — which is Feb. 6 — but the administration has pushed the release to Feb. 13. An administration official said the later date was 'determined based on the need to finalize decisions and technical details of the document.'"