The Ledes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States economy rebounded heartily in the spring after a dismal winter, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, growing at an annual rate of 4 percent from April through June and surpassing economists’ expecations. In its initial estimate for the second quarter, the government cited a major advance in inventories for private businesses, higher government spending at the state and local level and personal consumption spending as chief contributors to growth."

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes." ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict. Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Jesse Ventura won his defamation case against the estate of author Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who said he punched out the former Minnesota governor for criticizing the SEALs’ role in the Iraq war. The jury awarded a total of $1.845 million: $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for 'unjust enrichment' — or to be specific, $1,345,477.25. Jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, as instructed. Instead, with the consent of both sides, they voted 8 to 2 in Ventura’s favor."

AP: "A senior PLO official has called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza war, saying he is also speaking in the name of Hamas."

Guardian: "Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive. Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours."

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 29

10:10 am ET: White House Agricultural Champions of Change meet

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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


Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."


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:

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The Commentariat -- February 1, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "God, Sex and Money -- the 'Bizarre' Views of Ross Douthat." The NYTX front page is here. Make a contribution here. ...

... If you feel guilty that you're not doing enough to save the world when you read a Nicholas Kristof column, this takedown by Laura Agustín, on "the soft side of imperialism," might make you feel better.

Maureen Dowd contrasts Obama's & Romney's spines, and Romney comes out looking like a jellyfish wrapped in a mean streak.

The New York Times Editorial Board is three for three today:

     ... For one thing, they listen to their resident economist: "A leader wiser than [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel would build a stronger European Union by helping her neighbors grow their way out of debt, not squeeze them to the breaking point." ...

     ... The Board likes both the bill Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) will introduce in the Senate today & the Buffett Rule which President Obama favors -- for starters. "Republicans are certain to filibuster Mr. Whitehouse’s bill in the Senate or try to ignore it in the House. But explaining a tax code that allows the wealthiest to escape their responsibility is getting much harder to do." ...

    ... AND the Board applauds Jessica Ahlquist, the "11th grader at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, [who] has endured verbal abuse because, as an atheist, she objected to the 'School Prayer' that has been on the school’s auditorium wall since 1963."

Greg Sargent: "Senator [Sherrod] Brown [D-Ohio] ... is introducing a measure in the Senate today that would require all Senators to divest themselves of any stocks in companies that are impacted by their actions as a Senator.... This proposal is the first legislative vehicle to accomplish what Obama called for in his State of Union speech, in which he said: 'Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.' ... This will also become an issue in the Massachusetts Senate race: Elizabeth Warren has already vowed to divest in the stock she owns if elected to the Senate. So Massachusetts Dems will likely demand that Scott Brown take a stand on this latest proposal." Scott Brown has owned stocks in companies with legislation before the Senate.

Dan Eggen & T. W. Farnam of the Washington Post: "Conservative super PACs and other outside groups are helping Republicans close a yawning fundraising gap with President Obama, giving the eventual GOP presidential nominee a better chance at winning the money race by November, according to new disclosures Tuesday. Obama’s fundraising has continued to outpace that of his Republican challengers, amassing four times as much cash on hand at the end of December as front-runner Mitt Romney, records show.... But fresh disclosures ... reveal a key advantage now available to Republicans: a constellation of conservative groups that can raise unlimited money to help make up the difference with Obama’s campaign, which must abide by federal contribution limits." ...

... Nicholas Confessore & Michael Luo of the New York Times: "Close to 60 corporations and wealthy individuals gave checks of $100,000 or more to a 'super PAC' supporting Mitt Romney in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, according to documents released on Tuesday, underwriting a $17 million blitz of advertising that has swamped his Republican rivals in the early primary states." A related graphic of superPac donors, also linked in yesterday's Ledes is here. ...

... Reuters: "Stephen Colbert's presidential aspirations may not be serious, but his fundraising is. The late-night television comedian's Super PAC announced on Tuesday that it has raised more than $1 million. Shauna Polk, treasurer of Colbert's Super Political Action Committee 'Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,' said in a filing with the Federal Election Commission that, as of January 30, the group's donations totaled $1,023,121.24."

Ezra Klein on why the debt clock Mitt Romney carries around with him is wrong. But the right answer as to how much President Obama has contributed to the national deficit is hard to come by -- and also pretty meaningless when you try to compare it with other additions to the national debt created in different economic times.

Right Wing World

David Firestone of the New York Times does a nice job of parsing the Florida GOP primary: "Mr. Gingrich leaves the state a greatly diminished candidate, revealed as a man who would say virtually anything, no matter how absurd, to gain a slight advantage among groups of voters.... But Florida cost Mr. Romney some standing as well."

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Why did Newt Gingrich win South Carolina? According to Romneyworld, it's largely because Republican voters there are a bunch of racists who can't tell the difference between Juan Williams and President Obama."

The White House has been trying to pretend like the President just showed up yesterday, just got sworn in and started fresh. In fact, he’s been in office for three years. He got everything he wanted from a completely compliant Congress for two of those three years…. We are living in the Obama economy. -- Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) on CNN Sunday ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: McConnell's argument is "intended as a counterpoint to the President’s re-election strategy of attacking the congressional GOP as do-nothing obstructionists. But it’s also a revisionist history of the 111th Congress, during which McConnell more than any other Republican in Washington stood athwart Obama’s agenda to great effect.... By forcing Democrats to find 60 votes to nearly every action, McConnell and his members were able to block major initiatives including climate change and immigration reform bills, various appropriations bills, myriad presidential appointments, and arguably also a Democratic effort to let the Bush tax cuts expire for high incomes. Meanwhile, big legislative items that did pass, such as health care reform and the economic stimulus package, were notably scaled back as a result of the GOP filibusters."

CW: It's sort of fun to watch conservative "deep thinkers" think up reasons why rich people should pay taxes at a lower rate than do many in the middle class. Here's Jonathan Bernstein making mincemeat of Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who is one of the top economist-apologists for the right.

News Ledes

The Hill: "The House voted Wednesday to freeze federal workers' pay until the end of 2013. The 309-117 vote ... gave the GOP political momentum for the first time since the fall. The Democratic defections [72 voted with the majority] came in defiance of opposition from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Obama, who has proposed a 0.5 percent federal raise for 2012. The legislation came in a blitz of GOP fiscal bills designed to regain the upper hand Republicans lost when Obama and the Democrats handed them a heavy defeat last year on extending the payroll tax holiday."

NBC News: "Senate Democrats decried the influx of millions in unregulated dollars in the 2012 elections, announcing Wednesday that they will hold hearings looking into the impact of super PACs. New York Sen. Charles Schumer ... announced that the Rules committee will begin hearings this month on super PACs.... Schumer pointed to Mitt Romney's victory in Florida's Republican primary as evidence of the outsize influence of super PACs."

New York Times: "At least 73 people were killed in a brawl between rival groups of soccer fans after a match in the city of Port Said, [Egypt,] on Wednesday, the bloodiest outbreak of lawlessness since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak one year ago. The riot refocused attention on the failure of the transitional government to re-establish a sense of order and stability in the streets and threatened to provoke a new crisis for Egypt’s halting political transition."

New York Times: "Wislawa Szymborska, a gentle and reclusive Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Wednesday in Krakow, Poland. She was 88."

New York Times: "Facebook, the vast online social network, is poised to file for a public stock offering on Wednesday that will ultimately value the company at $75 billion to $100 billion, cashing in on the fuel that powers the engine of Internet commerce: personal data." ...

     ... Update: "Facebook ... took its first step toward becoming a publicly traded company on Wednesday as it filed to sell shares on the stock market. The service ... is on track to be the largest Internet initial public offering ever — trumping Google’s in 2004 or Netscape’s nearly a decade before that. In its filing, Facebook, which has more than 845 million users worldwide, said it was seeking to raise $5 billion, according to a figure used to calculate the registration fee."

Reuters: "The U.S. military said in a secret report that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are set to retake control of Afghanistan after NATO-led forces withdraw, raising the prospect of a major failure of Western policy after a costly war. Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, confirmed the existence of the document, reported on Wednesday by Britain's Times newspaper and the BBC." ...

     ... New York Times Update: The report, which Times reporters have seen, "abounds with accounts of cooperation between the insurgents and local government officials or security forces, as well as accounts from Taliban detainees who claim that in areas where coalition soldiers are withdrawing, the Afghan military is cooperating with the insurgents."

New York Times: "Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, went before Britain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday in the latest chapter of a long-running battle to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer accusations of sexual misconduct." The Guardian is liveblogging the proceedings.

Guardian: James Clapper, "the head of US intelligence, has warned that there is an increasing likelihood that Iran could carry out attacks in America or against US and allied targets around the world. The warning ... reflects rapidly rising tensions over Iran's nuclear programme after the US and EU announced embargoes on the Iranian oil trade in the past few weeks, Israel leaked details of its preparation for a possible conflict and both the west and Iran boosted their military readiness in the Gulf."

** NBC News: "Pfizer said on Tuesday it was recalling about a million packets of birth control pills in the United States because they may not contain enough contraceptive to prevent pregnancy." With video report. ...

Los Angeles Times: "Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leader in fundraising for breast cancer research and famous worldwide for its iconic pink ribbon, said Tuesday that it was halting all partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates because of recently adopted criteria that forbid it from funding any organization under government investigation." ...

... New York Times: "Nearly half of women who had lumpectomies for breast cancer had second operations they may not have needed because surgeons have been unable to agree on guidelines for the most common operation for breast cancer, a new study finds. It also hints that some women who might benefit from further surgery may be missing out on it."

Guardian: "A federal judge in Washington DC has ruled that the National Park Service must give Occupy protesters camped out in two of the US capital's parks 24 hours' notice before clearing out their encampments. District judge James Boasberg upheld the anti-camping regulations at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza – but ruled that park police must give the occupiers a full day's notice before any clearout." ...

... Washington Post: "Occupy D.C. protesters spent Monday night huddled under the celestial sweep of a blue tarp they had erected in McPherson Square, talking, singing and, yes, sleeping — in defiance of rules that prohibit overnight camping in the park."

New York Times: NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Börse of Germany said on Wednesday that they are in talks to call off their planned merger, after European antitrust regulators formally opposed the deal."

AFP: "Long-lost audio recordings of the aftermath of president John F. Kennedy's assassination have been made public, captivating historians and stirring fascination about that fateful day. Almost 50 years after the November 22, 1963 assassination, a two hour and 22 minute reel was found among the personal effects of JFK's senior military aide, Major General Chester Clifton, who died in 1991." You can download the MP3 files from this Government Printing Office page.


The Commentariat -- January 31, 2012

The Commentariat, as usual, is open for comments. I've brought these three links forward from yesterday, as I posted them fairly late in the day:

     ... My column, "Tom Friedman on How the 99 Percent Can Best Serve the One Percent, Corporate Edition," is now up on NYTX. That twerp is really starting to irritate me. ...

     ... Prof. William Black: "Apple overwhelmingly purchases components from Asian suppliers that are criminal enterprises." P.S. You'd never know this from reading the New York Times. ...

      ... CW: This article by Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism on Apple's use of Chinese slave labor is excellent, but then she agrees with me, so I would think so.

Zeke Emanuel & Jeffrey Liebman in the New York Times: "Here’s a bold prediction for the new year. By 2020, the American health insurance industry will be extinct. Insurance companies will be replaced by accountable care organizations — groups of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers who come together to provide the full range of medical care for patients."

Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "As the White House prepares for a Washington visit by the man who is expected to run China for the coming decade..., a coalition of big American labor unions, Democratic politicians and trade advocacy groups plans to start campaigning for the Obama administration to file a series of trade cases against China in the auto industry. They accuse Beijing of unfairly subsidizing Chinese auto parts makers and illegally restricting the exports of crucial raw materials that foreign parts makers need to stay competitive. The group says a 900 percent increase in auto parts imports from China over the last decade, to nearly $12 billion a year, is to blame for job losses in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — three swing states that the administration cannot easily ignore in a presidential election year."

Greg Sargent: key unions are unhappy with a Senate Democratic "compromise" with House Republicans on the FAA reauthorization bill and are demanding Democrats pull out of the deal

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Democrat Suzanne Bonamici holds a comfortable lead over Republican Rob Cornilles in public polling heading into the last day of balloting in the vote-by-mail special election to replace disgraced former Democratic Rep. David Wu [D-Oregon]. Republicans glumly acknowledge there’s little reason to expect the kind of upset the GOP scored last fall.... If Bonamici does come out on top, it will be largely thanks to a Democratic Party-led onslaught targeting Cornilles. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent more than $1.2 million on TV ads slamming the Republican as a tea-party-aligned conservative who is far out of step with the liberal-leaning, northwest Oregon-based 1st District, which has sent only Democrats to Congress since 1974."

Right Wing World

The New York Times Editors Love Those Debates: "... the [GOP presidential] debates have shown the complete lack of interest by all the Republican candidates in the issues of economic fairness. While the candidates argue over their investments and their complex tax returns and who can cut taxes for the rich the most, the contrast to Mr. Obama’s newfound voice on shared responsibility could not be more clear. The long series of debates are an open window onto the failed policies and dubious values of the Republican Party. No wonder some people want to close it."

Sam Youngman of Reuters: "A confident Mitt Romney solidified his lead in Florida polls and ridiculed Republican rival Newt Gingrich on Monday, calling his opponent's attacks 'sad' and 'painfully revealing' the day before the state's crucial presidential primary." ...

... Philip Rucker & Amy Gardner of the Washington Post: "With Mitt Romney appearing poised to win a commanding victory in Florida’s GOP presidential primary on Tuesday, the candidates repositioned themselves on Monday for a series of unpredictable contests to follow, with no end in sight to the rift within the Republican Party. Romney and his chief rival, Newt Gingrich, hurled personal barbs at each other in a final burst of campaigning here, signaling that they will remain at their battle stations as the nomination fight quickly pivots to Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri...." ...

... But if this makes you think Romney is really, really popular with Florida wingnuts and Gingrich is not, consider this report from the Wesleyan Media Project: "Romney ... and [his] allies have dominated the airwaves in Florida, airing almost 13,000 ads on broadcast television across the state, as of Wednesday, the 25th (Table 3). Gingrich and his interest-group allies have aired only about 200 spots, with Paul and Santorum out of the broadcast television game." That would be 65 Romney ads running for every Gingrich ad (and zero for Paul & Santorum). Thank you, Citizens United. You guys on the Supremes are geniuses.

Greg Sargent: "... a new partisan breakdown of some numbers from the new NBC/WSJ poll ... [shows] Romney’s unfavorability rating among independents has spiked 20 points in the last two months.... Pollster Peter Hart, a Democrat, tells me Romney’s multiple gaffes and revelations about his taxes and Bain background have led independents to start making a choice between Romney and Obama, rather than merely looking at Romney as a generic opponent of the President."

Michael Cooper of the New York Times: "A year after a coterie of new Republican governors swept into the statehouses and put in place aggressive agendas to cut spending and curb union powers, sparking strong backlashes in many places, many of them are adopting decidedly more moderate tones as they begin their sophomore year in office."

Michael Gerson, former Bush II speechwriter & Washington Post columnist, writes a column which is slugged on the front page, "Obama declares war on religion." Yeah, right. The Post editorial page remains manned by radical loons. ...

     ... Update: here's Andy Rosenthal David Firestone of the New York Times ridiculing the Newt for "reaching deep into his bag of bizarre accusations" to make charge against President Obama that Gerson makes, then leveling a similar charge against Romney. And Newt didn't even accuse Obama of "war"; only a mere "attack on religion." Michael Gerson is insane. ...

     ... AND consider this: could Rosenthal Firestone be pushing back against the views his own columnist -- one Ross Douthat -- expressed just this weekend? I think maybe so.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Mitt Romney rolled to victory in the Florida primary on Tuesday evening, according to early returns and exit polls, dispatching an insurgent threat from Newt Gingrich and reclaiming his dominant position in the race for the Republican presidential nomination." Page includes updated Florida totals. The Times has live, updated coverage here. ...

... The New York Times has a page here where they are updating superPAC disclosures. The deadline for filing is midnight.

New York Times: "The battle over Syria moved to the United Nations on Tuesday as Western powers and much of the Arab world confronted Russia and its allies in the Security Council over their refusal to condemn the Syrian government for its violent suppression of popular protests."

New York Times: "In an effort to regain public trust, the Senate voted Monday to take up a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they receive as lawmakers. The vote was 93 to 2.... At the same time, Democratic senators moved to tap into concerns about comparatively low tax rates paid by some of the nation’s top earners, introducing a bill that would require households with more than $1 million of adjusted gross income to pay at least 30 percent of it in taxes." Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced the bill, known as the "Buffett Rule"; for billionaire Warren Buffett. Republicans are not interested.

New York Times: "President Obama on Monday defended the use of drones to strike suspected terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere, saying the clandestine program ... enabled the United States to use 'pinpoint' targeting to avoid more intrusive military action. Mr. Obama, in an unusually candid public discussion of the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert program, said the drone strikes had not inflicted huge civilian casualties. 'We are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,' he said. 'It is important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash.' The president made the remarks in answer to questions posed by people during a live Web interview sponsored by Google Plus...." See video in yesterday's Commentariat.

New York Times: "Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday are expected to publish a report on the disputed gun trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious, concluding that agents in Arizona — not Obama administration officials — were responsible for the tactics used in the inquiry and for providing misleading information relayed to Congress."

AP: "... for the first time since they started shaping this campaign in earnest, many ... 'super' political action committees are set to disclose just who is financing their pseudo-campaign operations. Many took advantage of a change in federal rules that essentially let them shield their donors' identities until after key primary elections in January. But they still must submit their financial reports to the Federal Election Commission by Tuesday."

Reuters: "A retired general who portrayed the U.S. fight against Muslim radicals as a battle with Satan has withdrawn from speaking to the West Point military academy after a veterans' advocacy group objected, the military academy said on Monday. Retired three-star general William Boykin was invited to speak at a February 8 West Point prayer breakfast."


The Commentariat -- January 30, 2012

My column on David Brooks' last effort is up on the New York Times eXaminer front page. I ran it on Reality Chex last Friday, so you may already have seen it. I will have a column on Tom Friedman's latest malarkey up later this morning. The NYTX front page, which features my columns today, is here. You can contribute here.

Eric Schmitt & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "A month after the last American troops left Iraq, the State Department is operating a small fleet of surveillance drones here to help protect the United States Embassy and consulates, as well as American personnel. Some senior Iraqi officials expressed outrage at the program, saying the unarmed aircraft are an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.... [A State Department report] foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency."

E. J. Dionne, a Roman Catholic, thinks the Obama Administration "threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus" when Health & Human Services issued a rule -- which is the same as an interim ruling it made last August -- that "required contraceptive services to be covered by the insurance policies that will be supported under the Affordable Care Act." The ruling essentially exempts churches but not RC hospitals & universities. CW: I disagree with Dionne, who also writes about an alternative policy that he thought should have been applied.

Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker: quite a few Mormons have run for POTUS, including Joseph Smith, the founder of the faith. Here's how that worked out: "As mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois (his only political office), Smith ordered the destruction of an opponent’s newspaper. For that, he was jailed and ordered to stand trial. Before that could happen, a mob burst into the jail and killed him."

Right Wing World

In a New York Times post, Prof. Tom Edsall argues that the country is turning more liberal, so Newt Gingrich and the desperate, angry loons he appeals to are going the way of the Studebaker (well, he couldn't write, "Edsel"). Or something like that.

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) said that her Republican counterpart Reince Priebus showed a 'dramatic level of insensitivity' in comparing President Barack Obama to the disgraced captain of the Italian cruise ship that ran aground earlier this year, killing at least 16 people." CW: I could not agree more with Wasserman Schultz. Priebus said, in part, "... we're going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama...." I am positive this is a further attempt to characterize Obama as "foreign" and a foreign coward, to boot. Even the name "Schettino" sounds to an English-speaker like a derogatory foreign word -- "little scooter," or something, tho my husband -- who is an Italian-born linguist -- says the name has no meaning; it's just a name.

Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post: "As the Republican establishment mounts attacks denouncing him as too erratic to be president, [Newt] Gingrich has seemed only more energized. Despite slipping in Florida’s polls, he has vowed a 'wild and woolly' primary battle that will end with his victory. And on Sunday, he and Mitt Romney traded their harshest attacks yet, with Romney telling Gingrich to 'look in the mirror' if he wants to understand his slide in the polls, and Gingrich slugging back, calling Romney a 'pro-abortion, ­pro-gun-control, pro-tax-increase moderate.'” ...

... Sam Youngman & Steve Holland of Reuters: "Republican Newt Gingrich struggled to halt surging rival Mitt Romney's momentum on Sunday, accusing him of launching false attacks as polls showed Romney widening his lead two days before Florida's presidential primary. Romney, who has battered Gingrich in a flood of television ads and two debates in Florida last week, opened a double-digit lead over the former House of Representatives speaker in four polls released on Sunday." ...

... Nate Silver seems to think Gingrich is a dead duck in Florida. ...

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: Mitt Romney & his allies are outspending Newt Gingrich & Co. five-to-one in Florida. "The Dems think ... it’s not Romney who’s winning votes in Florida, but the size of his wallet." Thanks to Kate M. for the link. ...

... So it appears Gingrich is threatening a brokered convention. Oh, the fun of a nasty GOP free-for-all.

** "Existential Otherness." Frank Rich sees Mitt Romney as "the white shadow," someone nobody -- even his close associates -- know nothing about.

James Surowiecki of the New Yorker: A "curious reality of this year’s election: ... the same party that loves to inveigh against the dangers of excessive borrowing is now likely to nominate for President a man whose entire career, and entire fortune, was built on debt. Leveraged-buyout firms like Bain Capital, which Mitt Romney ran between 1984 and 1999, routinely borrow massive sums in order to make their acquisitions, leaving companies with debt loads equal to twice their annual sales or more.... The implicit message [the Republican party will' send by nominating Romney is ...: Debt for me, but not for thee."

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: Romney has grabbed some of Newt's far-right language about President Obama. Also, in Right Wing World, the proletariat truly believe that Obama is an idiot who can't speak in full sentences without a teleprompter.

Buh-bye, Voting Rights Act; Adios, Latinos. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "As Republican primary voters head to the polls in Florida on Tuesday, both GOP front-runners have endorsed a policy that would contradict existing law and could disenfranchise millions of voters across the country. During a recent debate, both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney supported getting rid of bilingual ballots when the topic was brought up by the moderator."

The deficit hawks that are the Washington Post editorial board are still on the warpath, but they're right about this much: "The Republican presidential candidates claim to abhor debt, yet propose tax cuts that would add trillions more.... It makes no sense to further benefit the wealthiest taxpayers at a time when spending programs for the most vulnerable would be on the chopping block — of necessity, given the candidates’ pledges to cap spending. In their fiscal consequences these cuts would be disastrous; as a matter of fairness, even more so.

CW: Steve Benen, who is now a producer on the Rachel Maddow show, blogs that my very senator, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) doesn't understand the economy. inasmuch as Marco claims jobs growth & economic growth are "worse" than jobs losses & economic contraction. Actually, I think Marco is just a liar. Don't know which is worse, especially if I try to apply Marco's definition of "worse."

News Ledes

President Obama answered questions at a Google Plus event this afternoon:

New York Times: "All but two European Union countries agreed Monday to new and tougher measures to enforce budget discipline in the euro zone, but the bloc still showed few signs of producing a comprehensive solution for the sovereign debt crisis or a credible plan to revive fragile economies across Europe's weakened Mediterranean tier."

New York Times: "As Syrian forces pushed rebels back from strongholds near Damascus on Monday, some of the world’s top diplomats converged on the United Nations to try to press President Bashar al-Assad to leave office through a Security Council resolution." ...

... Washington Post: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned 'in the strongest possible terms' the escalation of Syrian government attacks on opposition protesters and said she would voice American concerns at a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject Tuesday."

Washington Post: the Park Police sort of closed down the Occupy Washington encampment at McPherson Square today, allowing tents to stay up -- as symbols of protest -- but forcing protesters to remove camping equipment & stuff. The ban is the result of "pressure from Republican congressmen."

Reuters: "House Republicans will propose legislation on Tuesday calling for $260 billion in spending on transportation infrastructure for up to five years, an election-year proposal touted as a job creator in a tough economy.... Additional elements could be tacked on by other committees in coming days, including a plan to authorize the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline despite the refusal of President Barack Obama to advance the project."

Reuters: "Ratings agency Standard & Poor's warned it may downgrade 'a number of highly rated' Group of 20 countries as of 2015 if their governments fail to enact reforms to curb rising health-care spending and other costs related to aging populations. Developed nations in Europe, as well as Japan and the United States, are likely to suffer the largest deterioration in their public finances in the next four decades...."

New York Times: "Claremont McKenna College, a small, prestigious California school, said Monday that for the past six years, it has submitted false SAT scores to publications like U.S. News & World Report that use the data in widely followed college rankings."

Reuters: "Crews cleaned up Oakland's historic City Hall on Sunday from damage inflicted overnight during violent anti-Wall Street protests that resulted in about 400 arrests, marking one of the largest mass arrests since nationwide protests began last year." The San Francisco Chronicle story is here.

Reuters: "Republican lawmakers will try to force the Obama administration to approve the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline by attaching it to a highway bill that Congress will consider next month, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday."

AFP: "Iran could develop a nuclear bomb in about a year and create the means for delivery in a further two to three years, the US defense chief [Leon Panetta] said Sunday, reiterating President Barack Obama's determination to halt the effort." ...

... New York Times: "Iran’s foreign minister was reported on Monday to have offered to extend a three-day visit to his country by United Nations inspectors in what seemed a further attempt to lower the strident tone of a crisis with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program following the imposition of new economic sanctions."

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration secretly monitored the personal e-mail of a group of its own scientists and doctors after they warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that posed unacceptable risks to patients, government documents show. The surveillance — detailed in e-mails and memos unearthed by the scientists and doctors, who filed a lawsuit against the FDA in U.S. District Court in Washington this week — took place over two years as the plaintiffs accessed their personal Gmail accounts from government computers. Information garnered this way eventually contributed to the harassment or dismissal of all six of the FDA employees, the suit alleges."

Reuters: "China intends to establish Shanghai as the global centre for yuan trading, clearing and pricing over the next three years as part of broader plans to make the commercial hub an international financial centre by 2020."

<>AP: In Kingston, Ontario, Canada, "a jury on Sunday found three members of an Afghan family guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another woman in what the judge described as 'cold-blooded, shameful murders' resulting from a 'twisted concept of honor,' ending a case that shocked and riveted Canadians. Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet."


Two Rights Don't Make a Wrong

In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. -- President Obama, SOTU

Last Week PolitiFact rated these statements "half-true" because they decided that the President was "crediting his policies for the jobs increase." After an uproar -- I linked Paul Krugman's rebuttal -- PolitiFact backed down and deemed the statements "'mostly true' ... because [President Obama] was not making the linkage as strongly as we initially believed." Akhilleus wrote a good philosophical rebuttal to PolitiFact in comments to the Commentariat. Here's a letter I wrote to Bill Adair, the editor of PolitiFact, which is way less esoteric than Akhilleus' discourse but is something I think maybe a logic-challenged newspaperman can comprehend:

Shortly after we started PolitiFact, the housing bubble burst. -- Bill Adair

I would rate that statement as "true."

Whatever inference I derive from such a remark would be my doing, not yours. I may think that you are holding PolitiFact responsible for tanking the economy, that you are simply noting a coincidence, or that you are complaining that the mortgage on the house you bought in 2007 is underwater.

Two proximate true statements don't "merge" to constitute a "half-true" or "mostly true" statement. They remain two true statements. So if the president says, "When my stimulus program kicked in, the economy started creating jobs," each of those statements is true. Economists will argue whether or not there was a causal relationship, but the president would merely be making two proximate accurate observations.

What President Obama actually said was this: "In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005." There is nothing even slightly untruthful about either of those statements. I may infer President Obama single-handedly saved the economy, or I may infer that market forces independent of any government (or Federal Reserve) action caused the slight improvement in the jobs figures. It's not for PolitiFact to tell me what's on my mind -- or to impugn the President for what you infer is on his mind. That's what your rating does, whether you make it "half-true" or "mostly true." Get real. The statements are true. Period.

Time for another upgrade. And time for you to do some Reality Chex there at PolitiFact. Not for the first time, you're letting your success undermine your mission. When you become less truthful than the politicians you "fact-check," you become part of the problem, not part of the solution.