Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes":

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

The Ledes

Thursday, November 20, 2014.

New York Times: "Mike Nichols, one of America’s most celebrated directors, whose long, protean résumé of critic- and crowd-pleasing work earned him adulation both on Broadway and in Hollywood, died on Wednesday. He was 83." CW Note: as of 7:40 am ET, the Times had not yet published Nichols' obituary but will do so at this link....


Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
November 21

7:30 am ET: Vice President Biden and President Poroshenko of Ukraine deliver joint statements in Kyiv, Ukraine (audio only)

8:30 am ET: Vice President Biden attends a roundtable discussion on anti-corruption & reform efforts in Kyiv (audio only)
3:55 pm ET:President Obama speaks at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada

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


Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:

Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.


Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

Washington Post: "They have spawned parodies from 'Ellen' to 'South Park' to 'Saturday Night Live,' but Lincoln is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to its commercials starring Matthew McConaughey. There was more from the Hollywood Reporter: 'Lincoln announced that its overall sales were up 25 percent last month, the strongest October for the beleaguered marque since 2007.'" ...

... Here's one of the McConaughey ads:

Jim Carrey nails it in an SNL skit:

... AND Ellen Degeneres takes the bull by the horns in another:

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The Commentariat -- May 25, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Krugman's response(s) to Brooks. It's titled "'The Conversation' -- 'A Fairy Tale"' The NYTX front page is here.

** Jim Fallows of The Atlantic on Barack Obama & John Roberts, ca. 2005, each predicting what kind of chief justice Roberts would be: "We have two men who now sit atop two of the three branches of the government. They both laid down markers seven years ago on how one of those men was likely to perform once in office. One of the predictions seems a lot more prescient than the other."

New York Times Editors: "The Obama administration has added to its string of victories in a tawdry pursuit -- making overly expansive claims of secrecy and executive power to deny full disclosure of torture and other abuses of prisoners committed during the George W. Bush administration. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York has upheld the administration's claim that cables describing the Central Intelligence Agency's use of waterboarding and a photograph of a 'high value' detainee, Abu Zubaydah, taken during the time he was subjected to repeated waterboarding, are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.... The judges should have given the government's overwrought claims of national security and secrecy special scrutiny, not extreme deference."

Our Educational Racket. Floyd Norris of the New York Times: "The volume of federally guaranteed student loans to students at so-called proprietary colleges — the ones that intend to operate at a profit and get nearly all their revenue from the government -- continues to grow. At the same time, state and local governments across the country are slashing spending on higher education, and community colleges -- the ones most likely to offer alternatives to the students recruited by the far more expensive proprietary schools -- are suffering some of the largest reductions."

Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "Though the Chinese economy continues to expand, construction workers are losing jobs in droves and retail sales grew last month at the slowest pace in more than three years. Investments in fixed assets have increased more slowly this year than in any year since 2001."

** Paul Krugman: "In the wake of a devastating financial crisis, President Obama has enacted some modest and obviously needed regulation; he has proposed closing a few outrageous tax loopholes; and he has suggested that Mitt Romney's history of buying and selling companies, often firing workers and gutting their pensions along the way, doesn't make him the right man to run America's economy. Wall Street has responded -- predictably, I suppose -- by whining and throwing temper tantrums." Krugman then takes a delightful detour to whack David Brooks' phony paean to vulture capitalists (published Tuesday)! He hits Cory Booker, too. ...

... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "The Facebook affair provides one more bit of confirmation -- not that any should be needed -- that our economic system, when left to its own devices and when regulated by rules that powerful interests have shaped, tilts grotesquely toward the rich and their institutions.... The dysfunction of American capitalism has become the backdrop before which this year's elections are playing out." Read the whole column. ...

... Gene Robinson: "Suppose a company is failing and appears beyond rescue. Suppose a private-equity firm buys the company with borrowed money, burdens it with more debt, and then spends the next few years firing workers, selling assets, eliminating pension plans — all while collecting handsome 'management fees.' Then the company fails anyway, as it was fated to do. What higher economic purpose has been served? Why is this not what [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry memorably called 'vulture capitalism'?

Presidential Race

I heard Governor Romney here called me an economic lightweight because I wasn't a Wall Street financier like he was. Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as the president of the United States? Do you think that's the kind of experience we need? Someone who';s going to take and look after, as he did, his friends on Wall Street and bail them out at the expense of Main Street America? -- Rick Santorum, March 2012

Peter Baker of the New York Times: In Iowa yesterday, "the president attacked Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat whose prescriptions for the economy would reverse the fragile gains of the last couple of years. 'There may be value in that kind of experience, but it's not in the White House,' Mr. Obama told supporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Thursday night. He used the setting to needle Mr. Romney about a controversial comment he made here during the primaries. 'The world view that Governor Romney gained' in private finance, he said, 'explains why the last time he visited these very same fairgrounds he famously declared that corporations are people.' Encouraged by the partisan audience, Mr. Obama then mimicked Mr. Romney. '"Human beings, my friend" -- that's what he called them.' Then, he called Mr. Romney's speech here last week warning of a 'prairie fire of debt' more like 'a cow pie of distortion.' He added, 'I don't know whose record he twisted the most, mine or his.'" ABC News story by Devin Dwyer here. Des Moines Register story by Jennifer Jacobs here.

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "When Mitt Romney came to an inner-city charter school [in West Philadelphia, Penn.,] Thursday to promote his new education agenda, he received something of a history lecture about the persecution of blacks in America and the struggles of African American children to meet the academic achievements of their white counterparts.... Romney was venturing for his first time in this campaign into an impoverished black neighborhood to hear the concerns of local educators and community leaders. But here in the streets of West Philadelphia, the emotion surrounding his contest with the nation's first black president was raw, as dozens of neighborhood residents shouted, 'Get out, Romney, get out!'"

The Haunting of Williard Romney. Emily Friedman of ABC News: "It's not just the media that won't forget Mitt Romney saying in New Hampshire earlier this year that he likes 'being able to fire people.' The candidate revealed in a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan that the remark ... is one that has stuck with him -- and haunted him -- ever since. CW: The Noonan opinion piece, which -- in my never-ending search for the truth I have declined to read -- is here.

Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo! News: "Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker ... has been under fire since a Sunday appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" during which he said Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital were 'nauseating,' Having endured days of excoriating criticism, and having tried to explain his comments on multiple talk shows and via a self-produced web video, Booker took to [Twitter].... Booker lashed out at his critics Thursday night: 'Sorry I make u sick. And sorry I made a mistake. I'm sorry that 15 seconds on MTP erodes my 20 yrs of work in inner cities around our nation.' That was almost immediately followed up by another tweet to his more than 1,150,000 followers, reading, in part: 'In the end we are all imperfect. Best we can do is learn from our mistakes, not let them stop u but make u stronger.'" The New York Times' David Brooks criticized Booker for "collapsing under a bit of pressure."

Eric Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota: Forget the Wisconsin recall; "looking at the state's 2012 U.S. Senate race to replace the retiring Herb Kohl may just give an indication of where the presidential race will ultimately end up in Wisconsin."

Local News

Dan Kaufman, writing in the New York Times Magazine, on the political divisiveness in Wisconsin.

Tim Egan: "There’s no mystery what a nation run by the Tea Party and talk-radio zealots who’ve taken over the G.O.P. would look like. It would be Arizona."

Political Hack. Tim Mak of Politico: "A New Jersey mayor and his son were arrested Thursday by the FBI for allegedly hacking into an email account and website tied to a recall effort -- and then intimidating those associated with the site. Felix Roque, 55, the Democratic mayor of West New York, N.J., and his son Joseph, 22, allegedly accessed and cancelled the domain registration for Recallroque.com, a website that was critical of the mayor and associated with a movement to recall him in early February."

Gross News

Denise Lavoie of the AP: "Harvard University alumni attending their 50th class reunion this week are getting updates on classmates -- including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski graduated in 1962 and is locked up in the federal Supermax prison in Colorado for killing three people and injuring 23 during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995. In an alumni directory, he lists his occupation as 'prisoner' and says his awards are 'Eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998.' Harvard's alumni association said ... it regrets including his references to his convictions."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Senate Ethics Committee has smacked the hand of Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, for his minor role in the sordid scandal that ended the career of John Ensign, the former Republican senator from Nevada. The committee on Friday issued a public letter of qualified admonition that mildly rebuked Mr. Coburn for arranging a meeting about potential lobbying work for a former aide to Mr. Ensign -- Doug Hampton, the husband of Mr. Ensign’s paramour. Mr. Hampton was precluded from lobbying at that time under federal law."

AP: "The private company SpaceX made history Friday with the docking of its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, the most impressive feat yet in turning routine spaceflight over to the commercial sector. It marked the first time a business enterprise delivered a supply ship to the space station."

New York Times: "Spain's banking crisis worsened Friday as the board of Bankia, the country's biggest mortgage lender, warned that it would need an additional 19 billion euros ($23.88 billion), far beyond what the government estimated when it seized the bank and its portfolio of delinquent real estate loans earlier this month."

The Butler Did It. New York Times: "An on-again-off-again scandal that the Italian press has called VatiLeaks burst into the open on Friday with the arrest by Vatican gendarmes of a man, identified in news reports as Paolo Gabriele, the pope's butler, who the Vatican said was in possession of confidential documents and was suspected of leaking private letters, some of which were addressed to Pope Benedict XVI."

New York Times: 'International atomic inspectors in Iran have detected traces of uranium enriched to levels of purity higher than the Iranians have previously disclosed, according to a new report on Tehran’s nuclear program made public on Friday."

Washington Post: "Vice President Biden, speaking Friday to families and friends of military personnel killed in action, gave a powerful retelling of the death of his wife and daughter 40 years ago -- saying he'd realized then how grief might push a person to suicide."

Reuters: "Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill aimed at keeping state courts and agencies from using Islamic or other non-U.S. laws when making decisions, his office said on Friday, drawing criticism from a national Muslim group."

Washington Post: "The controversial auction of a vial that contained President Ronald Reagan's blood has been halted, and the valuable glass tube is being donated to the former president's foundation."

Yahoo! News: "A new Amnesty International report paints a gruesome picture of summary executions, torture and ill-treatment in North Korea as Kim Jong Un succeeded his late father, Kim Jong Il, as the country's ruler last December. The country used firing squads or staged traffic accidents to execute 30 officials involved in talks to unite North and South Korea, according to the 2012 Amnesty International report released Thursday."

Ah, Democracy! New York Times: "The Islamist candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood will face former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister in a runoff to become Egypt's first freely elected president, several independent vote counts concluded Friday morning. Out of a broad field of more than a dozen candidates, the runoff will pit the two most polarizing figures against each other in a reversion to the decades-old power struggle between Egypt's secular-minded military elite and its longstanding Islamist opposition." Al Jazeera's liveblog is here.

Washington Post: "President Obama on Thursday nominated Allison M. Macfarlane, a professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University, to be the next chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Macfarlane, a geologist by training, served as a member of the White House Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, which examined nuclear waste disposal."

Al Jazeera: "US senators outraged by Pakistan's jailing of a doctor for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden have voted to cut aid to Islamabad by $33mn -- one million for each year in the doctor's sentence. 'It's arbitrary, but the hope is that Pakistan will realise we are serious,' said Senator Richard Durbin after the unanimous 30-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday."

New York Times: "French President François Hollande made a surprise visit to French troops in Kapisa Province, [Afghanistan,] on Friday, assuring them that their mission in Afghanistan would be over this year."

New York Times: "The investigations editor [of the Albany, New York, Times Union], J. Robert Port, said he believed that the city's mayor and local law enforcement agencies targeted his wife's business in retaliation for critical coverage in his newspaper, including a series of articles questioning the practices of an undercover unit of the sheriff's office that investigated drug cases, prostitution and gambling.


The Commentariat -- May 24, 2012

White House photo.CW: I loved this photo when the White House first published it, & I reproduced it here. Now Jackie Calmes of the New York Times writes about it.

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Jay Carney's lecture to the White House press corps on their "slothful, lazy" reporting. the NYTX front page is here.

Harry Reid Gets Tough. David Rogers of Politico: "In an interview with Politico, [Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry] Reid said he was open to a compromise that would salvage about four-fifths of the Bush-era tax cuts. But absent some concession on revenues, the $110 billion in spending cuts ordered by the debt agreement last August would go into effect."

Peter Orszag, who couldn't wait to publicly contradict Obama administration policies he felt failed to deal with "an unsustainable budget deficit" the minute he left his job as Obama's director of the Office of Management & Budget, now writes a column in Bloomberg News urging -- get ready -- more stimulus spending. (To be fair, Orszag is not being entirely inconsistent; he always embraced the Domenici-Rivlin deficit-reduction plan, which called for more stimulus.)

Irin Carmon of Salon on the Roman Catholic lawsuits re: contraceptive coverage: "Because the words 'abortifacient' or 'abortion inducing' sound so scary, the Notre Dame lawsuit makes sure to claim over and over again that, despite a political compromise and executive order specifically exempting abortion coverage from Affordable Care Act provisions, they are being forced to pay for abortion. It claims that 'many contraceptives approved by the FDA that qualify under these guidelines cause abortions,' which is false on multiple levels.... This struggle is part of a larger crackdown by the conservative hierarchy against liberal elements within it -- chiefly, women, including nuns." ...

... Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect: "Given the way the [Obama] program is structured, the religious freedom arguments being advanced by the lawsuits is not just wrong but Orwellian. As a federal judge recently pointed out with respect to a similar claim, the petitioners are asking for 'the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).' ... I wouldn't rule out the possibility that what should be considered frivolous arguments will be accepted by a bare majority of the Supreme Court." ...

... Angela Bonavoglia of The Nation: the reason the Vatican is cracking down on American nuns is that they really are liberal feminists who are challenging the patriarchy. CW: if I were a believing Roman Catholic, I would fast become a believing Episcopalian. The masses & belief systems are nearly identical, & Anglicans have religious orders, too. ...

... E. J. Dionne: "It turns out that many bishops, notably the church leadership in California, saw the litigation as premature. They are upset that the lawsuits were brought without a broader discussion among the entire membership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and wanted to delay action until the conference's June meeting.... Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., ... expressed concern that some groups 'very far to the right' are turning the controversy over the contraception rules into 'an anti-Obama campaign.'"

"The Secret Circus." Dana Milbank: "... Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan sees no cause for alarm. On Wednesday, he went before a Senate committee looking into the scandal and announced unequivocally that what happened in Cartagena was a one-of-a-kind event.... Not a single member of the panel, Democrat or Republican, accepted Sullivan's blithe and categorical dismissals. Yet no amount of bipartisan incredulity, and no piece of evidence the senators presented, would budge the ringmaster from his breezy insistence that the Cartagena Dozen were the only clowns in his circus.

Frances Robles of the Miami Herald: "A year before George Zimmerman killed a Miami Gardens teenager, he stood before a City Hall community forum with a grievance: Sanford cops are lazy, he told the then-mayor elect. The community college criminal justice major said he knew, because he went on ride-alongs with the Sanford police."

David Catanese of Politico: "Elizabeth Warren is largely unscathed by the weeks-long controversy surrounding her ancestry, according to a new Suffolk University poll released Wednesday evening. The survey shows the Massachusetts Democrat trailing GOP Sen. Scott Brown by a single percentage point, with Brown netting 48 percent to Warren's 47 percent. The result marks a measurable shift toward Warren since the last Suffolk poll in February, which had Brown up 9 points, 49 percent to 40 percent."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/22/v-fullstory/2813681/zimmerman-rode-with-cops-ripped.html#storylink=cpy

Democratic Primaries Can Be as Weird as GOP Primaries. These two candidates -- running in the Texas Congressional District that includes El Paso -- are apparently neck-in-neck:

     ... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones writes, "I'm fairly certain this is the first-ever attack ad to feature the phrase 'he was recently videoed publicly intoxicated being spanked.'"

Eli Lake in the Daily Beast: the Obama administration gave "Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the Oscar-winning pair who wrote and directed The Hurt Locker," extraordinary access to top-level individuals & to documents "for their forthcoming film about the SEAL Team Six raid that killed Osama bin Laden," a film originally scheduled to come out right before the November election. Reporters & journalists organizations, who say "trained reporters" don't get the same level of access, are livid. AND the controversy is one more great vehicle for Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) to "investigate."

Contributor P. D. Pepe wonders why people with different views don't sit down & talk civilly about their differences. Well, here's Al Sharpton trying to chat politely with Joe the Plumber, who is running for Congress based on the idea that "regular people like him" should be running the country:

    ... I think this answers her question.

Presidential Race

Mitt Romney Promises Not to Reduce Unemployment. Steve Benen: although Romney earlier criticized President Obama for not being able to bring the unemployment level down to 4 percent, in an interview yesterday, Romney promised that his policies would bring the unemployment rate down to about 6 percent by the end of his first term if he is elected president. But the CBO already predicts that unemployment will average 6.3 percent in 2016 & the OMB puts the figure at below 6 percent by the end of 2016. "In other words, Romney is promising to deliver results we're likely to get anyway. The myth of this guy's competence has been greatly exaggerated."

Right Wing World *

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic explains racism to white people. He's right. ...

... Dave Weigel of Slate: "Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake spend around 1100 words teasing out the uncomfortable questions about Barack Obama's piss-poor Kentucky/Arkansas primary results." Yes, Obama's blackness is probably something that causes a few white voters to shudder.... 'No poll or election result can divine voters' motivations,' [Cillizza & Blake write]. Really? No poll? How about the exit polls from Appalachian states that were conducted at the end of the 2008 Democratic primary? ... Long before they knew anything about how Obama would govern..., a sizable number of Appalachian whites ... confirmed that they would vote against the guy because they didn't like his skin color." ...

... On an unrelated note, Jonathan Chait reports on a new conservative attempt to rewrite history to -- preposterously -- credit modern Republicans with championing the civil rights movement. This incredible fantasy is not the product of a crazy guy in his basement, either; the revisionist "history" is the cover story of the National Review. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein on the same subject. ...

... AND Ed Kilgore on the same subject; especially read his last graf, which helps explains why conservatives can get their heads around absolutely crazy notions. ...

... CW: I would add there's a tribal thing that facilitates this kind of nuttiness. It goes like this: (1) A prominent conservative writes something totally untrue but the lie makes conservatives look good; (2) Everybody -- left, right & center -- knows it's a lie; (3) Liberals ridicule the liar and the lie; (4) Conservatives react by defending the liar; (5) Then they defend the lie; (6) They are all invested in the lie, so they cannot ever admit it is a lie; (6) The lie becomes a Right Wing World "fact." ...

... Finally, here's Al Sharpton on the topic:

     ... CW: The one good thing about the National Review story -- we need to be reminded again & again how acceptable it was among conservative white "intellectuals" & other elites to openly express the same repugnant racist views that shock us today when we hear them mimicked by backwoods buffoons. 

* Where fantasies pass for facts, so no wonder everyone is INSANE.

News Ledes

In Iowa, President Obama urged Congress to invest in clean energy:

New York Times: "The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a criminal defendant may be retried even though the jury in his first trial had unanimously rejected the most serious charges against him. The vote was 6 to 3, with the justices split over whether the constitutional protection against double jeopardy barred such reprosecutions."

New York Times: "The Senate passed a major bipartisan bill on Thursday to prevent drug shortages and to speed federal approval of lifesaving medicines, including lower-cost generic versions of biotechnology products. A similar bill is on a fast track to approval in the House, perhaps as early as next week. President Obama, consumer groups and pharmaceutical companies strongly support the legislation."

Washington Post: "The Senate held two votes Thursday on measures to ensure that student loan rates for millions of college students do not double in July -- and at the conclusion of the legislative action, the issue remained exactly where it began: stuck. The measures, one offered by Democrats and the other by Republicans, each failed to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to move forward, as the parties remain at loggerheads over how to pay for the $6 billion loan subsidy."

Washington Post: "Jeffrey E. Neely, the embattled General Services Administration regional commissioner who planned a lavish Las Vegas employee conference that cost more than $800,000, has left the agency, a GSA spokesman said."

Washington Post: "As Egyptians turned out to vote on the second day of a landmark presidential election Thursday, early indicators showed the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate taking the lead among the presumed front-runners. The Brotherhood is the most organized and efficient political force in Egypt, and Mohammed Morsi's campaign team went so far as to predict a possible outright victory...."

Think Progress: "Senate Democrats are advancing legislation to beef up equal pay protections for women, the latest salvo in the election-year battle for women voters. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is set to file cloture Thursday on the Paycheck Protection Act, which would strengthen protections for women who sue for pay discrimination. The move puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position...."

New York Times: "At a summit meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, regional leaders failed to signal any significant new steps to stimulate the sputtering regional economy or resolve the competing agendas of President François Hollande of France, who favors stronger action to spur growth, and his German counterpart, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has opposed aggressive moves to ease the pressure on Europe's weakest economies." The Guardian is liveblogging the summit. Their latest headline: new data show the current (2nd dip) U.K. recession is worse than predicted.

New York Times: "A brother of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng ... has himself slipped through the security cordon around his village and made his way to the capital.... The brother, Chen Guangfu, said he came to Beijing to advocate on behalf of his son, who has been in police custody since fighting off a group of plainclothes officers who broke into the family home last month in their search for the escaped dissident."

AFP: "Egyptians swarmed polling stations< on the second day Thursday of a gripping presidential election in which candidates are pitting stability against the ideals of the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's rule."

ABC News: "During her keynote speech at the Special Operations Command gala dinner in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that State Department specialists attacked sites tied to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that were trying to recruit new members by 'bragging about killing Americans.'"

AFP: "Iran's navy said Thursday it saved an American-flagged cargo ship that was being attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Oman. An Iranian warship responded to a distress signal from the US-flagged Maersk Texas, a cargo ship of 150 metres (500 feet) and 14,000 tonnes, which was besieged by 'several pirate boats,' the navy said in a statement reported by the official IRNA news agency.... It was the first time the Iranian navy protected a US ship from pirates."


The Commentariat -- May 23, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer today is a brief word on Brother Ross. The NYTX front page is here.

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "Tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect in January would suck $607 billion out of the economy next year, plunging the nation at least briefly back into recession, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday." ...

... Stan Collender of Capital Gains & Games in Roll Call: Speaker John Boehner is "exceptionally irresponsible."

Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic tells you more than everything you ever wanted to know about Elizabeth Warren's totally Caucasian heritage: "If there's no easily located evidence that Warren has Native American ancestry, there's also no evidence Warren used her family story to boost herself into a Harvard job.... But the longer the questions about Warren linger, the harder it will be for voters to feel like they know who she really is."

Natasha Lennard of Salon: "The [Chicago Police Department] has been congratulated for handling NATO protests.... However..., the ongoing persecution of anarchists and activists with entrapment, intimidation and trumped-up charges [may remain]."

Charles Pierce on the lawsuits brought by Roman Catholic organizations against the Obama administration's ruling on contraceptive coverage (see also Tuesday's News Ledes): "... the University of Notre Dame, has gone to the lawyers to avoid having to cover medicines for their Prebyterian charwomen of which the Roman Catholic Church does not approve because those medicines might help ladies exercise their ladyparts in ways that the Roman Catholic Church does not authorize. As always, of course, this has required some recreational prevarication, and some muted weeping over how Holy Mother Church has been the real victim in all of this.... I find it damned interesting that Holy Mother Church is so ready to appeal to the secular courts in this matter when it spent the better part of three decades arguing that the secular courts had no business investigating the various illegal fondlings and rapings that passed for sexy sexytime among the Church's richly upholstered middle management officials." ...

... Maureen Dowd: "The church insists it's an argument about religious freedom, not birth control. But, really, it's about birth control, and women's lower caste in the church. It's about conservative bishops targeting Democratic candidates who support contraception and abortion rights as a matter of public policy. And it's about a church that is obsessed with sex in ways it shouldn't be, and not obsessed with sex in ways it should be.... The lawsuit reminds [us] that what the bishops portray as an attack on religion by the president is really an attack on women by the bishops."

Wrong: any religion that a guy who looks like this to be celibate, even if he is a jerk.... Celibacy Is Such an Excellent Idea. Nicole Winfield of the AP: "The Legion of Christ religious order, already discredited for concealing the crimes of its pedophile founder, suffered another blow to its credibility Tuesday after its superior admitted he knew in 2005 that his most prominent priest had fathered a child, yet allowed him to keep teaching and preaching about morality.... The Rev. Thomas Williams, the public face of the Legion in America, admitted last week that he had violated his vow of celibacy and fathered a child several years ago, going public with a statement after The Associated Press presented the Legion with the accusation."



Right: anybody who tells this guy to STFU.AND There Must Be Some Reason Rand Paul Reminds Me of an 8th-Grader. Lee Drutman of the Sunlight Foundation. "Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago, with the most conservative members of Congress speaking on average at the lowest grade level, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis of the Congressional Record.... Today’s Congress collectively speaks at a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level." The high-falutinest: Rep. Dan Lundgren (R-CA) (grade 16); the simpletoniest: Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) (grade 7.95), & a close third was our favorite simpleton, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (grade 8.03).

This tribute to former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, which took place at the end of April, was a discussion among all of the women on the Court. It was quite delightful to hear. The discussion begins about 4:15 min. in:

Weird Politicians' Tricks. Apparently Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), in the throes of a tough primary battle, thinks Jewish people love their moms a lot more than do non-Jews. He sent the original family photo -- at left -- to people with "non-Jewish" name; the version at right, with his mother photoshopped in, went to voters with Jewish surnames:

Via Buzzfeed.     ... But wait, wait, there's more! BuzzFeed: "Today, he claimed it was a clever scheme aimed at forcing the press to print pictures of his family. He doesn't seem to be joking." With video.

Presidential Race

Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn't mean the private equity guys are bad guys. They are not. But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there are a lot of awful smart plumbers. -- Joe Biden, at a campaign stop in Keene, New Hampshire

You Must Remember Bush. Steve Kornacki of Salon: "... the Obama campaign has been a little too quiet in reminding voters exactly what kind of economic catastrophe Obama inherited, whom he inherited it from, and how closely Romney's economic program resembles what was in place just before the meltdown that started this all."

Tim Noah of The New Republic: "Private Equity Ain't No Reform Movement." See also, if you missed it, my related NYTX column, published yesterday. ...

... Bain Capital? What's That? Mark Murray of NBC News: "... regarding Romney's past work at the private-equity firm Bain Capital, [an NBC/Wall Street Journal] poll shows that 9 percent have a positive view of the firm and 19 percent have a negative view; 53 percent either weren't sure or weren't familiar with it. In the last two weeks, the Obama campaign has pointed to examples where Bain -- under Romney's leadership -- took over companies, saddled them with debt, laid off workers, all while making big profits for the investors."

Jamelle Bouie has a very good post in the WashPo on Obama's spending habits: Obama has slowed government spending more than any president since the 1950s, and "a President Romney would finance massive tax cuts with soaring deficits. Instead of trying to stop the 'prairie fire of debt,' as promised in his speech [last week], he would spark it."

Friends of Mitt. Alex Pareene of Salon: Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio sends deputies to Hawaii in search of the real birth certificate. "But yes a completely crazy person who is in charge of law enforcement for the most populous county in Arizona is probably going to attempt to arrest Barack Obama at some point. I guess at least he's not directly involved with the Mitt Romney campaign, like Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Romney’s Arizona campaign co-chair who's currently leading a separate investigation into proving the president's secret foreignness. (Though Arpaio was honorary campaign co-chair in 2008, when he was still a stalwart harasser of Hispanics, but before birtherism had been properly invented.)" ...

... Hawaii Is Tired of Trying to Reason with You Birthers. Nick Martin of TPM: Hawaii gives Ken Bennett a taste of his own medicine. You want Obama's birth certificate? Prove you're qualified. Jill Nagamine, a Hawaii Deputy Secretary of State, to Bennett & an associate: "My client stands willing to provide you with the verification you seek as soon as you are able to show that you are entitled to it." ...

     ... AP Update: "The state of Hawaii has verified President Barack Obama's birth records to Arizona's elections chief after a nearly three-month back and forth that Arizona officials said could have ended without the incumbent's name on its November ballot.... It's not immediately clear whether the information will satisfy Bennett. A spokesman says he received the verification and will comment Wednesday."

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Mr. Bennett ... is co-chairman of the Mitt Romney campaign in Arizona. Mr. Romney should disavow this 'investigation.' Or make Mr. Bennett stop it. Or kick him off the campaign. Or better yet, disavow the investigation, make Mr. Bennett stop it – and then kick him off the campaign."

Former Governor, Former DNC Chair, Former Obama Booster Ed Rendell. Part 1. Part 2. With friends like these....

... BUT Obama's former car czar, the ethically-challenged Steve Rattner, embraced by the right for his remarks about Bain Capital, is definitely in Obama's camp. He writes quite a good explanation of Romney's Bain business in today's New York Times. His remarks do not help Willard. ...

... Ana Marie Cox, in the Guardian, has the best commentary yet on Cory Booker's apostasy.

Local News

Dr. Marvin Schwalb tells off the Star-Ledger. (See also Comments to today's Commentariat.)

Charles Pierce, who used to write for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on the paper's endorsements of "Scott Walker, the google-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The director of the U.S. Secret Service publicly apologized for the first time Wednesday for a prostitution scandal that has rocked his agency as senior lawmakers strongly disputed his insistence that what unfolded last month in Cartagena, Colombia, occurred in isolation."

New York Times: "At least three shareholder lawsuits have so far been brought against Facebook and the three leading underwriters of the I.P.O., Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, alleging that Facebook failed to disclose material information about its growth prospects."

Washington Post: "President Obama sent 1,000 Air Force Academy cadets into active duty Wednesday by laying out his vision for a postwar America in which the United States leads beyond the battlefield and defiantly challenging his critics' notion of waning American influence."

AP: "Regulators are examining whether Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that shepherded Facebook through its highly publicized stock offering last week, selectively informed clients of an analyst's negative report about the company before the stock started trading." New York Times story here.

New York Times: "After weeks of fevered debate, speculation and argument, Egyptians went to the polls on Wednesday in the Arab world's first competitive presidential election, choosing between a dozen candidates spanning the nation’s secular and Islamist traditions after decades of authoritarian rule."

New York Times: "Six global powers including the United State resumed negotiations with Iran [in Baghdad] on Wednesday a day after Tehran signaled willingness to allow potentially intrusive international inspections of secret military facilities, raising expectations that it was searching for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over its nuclear program."

AP: "Several small groups of Secret Service employees separately visited clubs, bars and brothels in Colombia prior to a visit by President Barack Obama last month and engaged in reckless, 'morally repugnant' behavior, Sen. Susan Collins says.... In remarks prepared for the first congressional hearing on the matter Wednesday, Collins, R-Maine, also challenged early assurances that the scandal in Colombia appeared to be an isolated incident." ...

... Washington Post: "Four Secret Service employees have decided to fight their dismissals for engaging in inappropriate conduct in Colombia last month, a development that could unravel what has been a swift and tidy resolution to an embarrassing scandal over agents' hiring of prostitutes."

Washington Post: "Public opinion continues to shift in favor of same-sex marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which also finds initial signs that President Obama's support for the idea may have changed a few minds. Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal...."

Washington Post: "President Obama won his 34th and 35th consecutive Democratic primary contests on Tuesday night, claiming victories in Arkansas and Kentucky. But his margin was surprisingly small in Arkansas — a state in which he was opposed by Tennessee lawyer John Wolfe, who had previously been on the presidential primary ballot in Louisiana, Missouri and New Hampshire and will be on the ballot in Texas next week. Wolfe has also run unsuccessfully for Congress four times." CW: Surprisingly? Not really. Maybe it should have dawned on the reporters that Arkansas has an open primary; i.e., Republicans can vote in the Democratic primary.

Blood Money. AFP: "The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation said Tuesday it is taking legal action to stop an online auction of a vial said to contain the late US president's blood, condemning the sale as 'craven.' ... The vial was accompanied by a laboratory report and a letter from the seller -- who claims he offered it to the Reagan National Library, but was turned down."

AP: "Court records show a Miami college student intends to plead guilty to making threatening posts against President Barack Obama on Facebook.... Federal prosecutors say Serrapio posted threats on Facebook in February coinciding with a speech Obama gave at the University of Miami. Serrapio attends a different school, Miami-Dade College."


The Commentariat -- May 22, 2012

My NYTX column is on David Brooks' latest. (I thought I had written a horrible column because I wrote it hurriedly on the way to another eye surgery. But I'm back, I can see, and -- after I corrected some typos -- I think the column is more-or-less worth your reading.) The NYTX front page is here.

Gene Robinson: "With its support for gay marriage, the NAACP has done more than strike a blow for fairness and equality. The nation's most venerable civil rights organization has made itself relevant again. The NAACP's 64-member board approved a resolution Saturday supporting 'marriage equality' not as a matter of empathy or compassion but as a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment."

Stephanie Saul of the New York Times: Publicly-funded "scholarship programs have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children. Spreading at a time of deep cutbacks in public schools, the programs are operating in eight states and represent one of the fastest-growing components of the school choice movement.... The money has also been used to attract star football players, expand the payrolls of the nonprofit scholarship groups and spread the theology of creationism.... Most of the private schools are religious.... The programs are insulated from provisions requiring church-state separation because the donations are collected and distributed by the nonprofit scholarship groups."

Laurie Penny gives a first-person account in The Independent on her bus ride from New York to Chicago to protest against politicians who exacerbated the financial crisis. Thanks to Dave S. for the link.

Norimitsu Onishi of the New York Times: "Facing opposition to a new studio in Lucas Valley, George Lucas said he would bring low-income housing there instead, inflaming wealthy neighbors in Marin County."

Frank Bruni's patronizing column in which he writes that politicians' wives would make good politicians, too, is interesting in that it highlights Christie Vilsack, the wife of Ag Secretary & former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Christie is running for Congress against the deplorable Steve King.

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: RomneyCare is working well, & the Affordable Care Act -- if it had been in full force since 2001 -- would have saved Americans money. CW: let's see what the Supremes have done. They have certainly made their final decisions by now & are merely crossing the t's & dotting the i's at this point.

Presidential Race

CW: If you missed President Obama's response to Cory Booker's criticism of the Obama campaign's Bain ads, do check out the video & link in yesterday's Commentariat, which I posted late Monday. ...

... Paul Krugman: "... apparently [Cory] Booker is so close to his Wall Street donors that it never occurred to him that echoing their over-the-top reactions to Obama's very mild populism would destroy his own political future (which I believe it has)." ...

... It is not just Booker's political donors who influenced his thinking. As David Dayen of Firedoglake explains, cities like Newark have a symbiotic relationship with vulture capitalists. "... practically every state in the union uses private equity, particularly through their large pension funds. This creates a symbiotic relationship between state and local governments and vulture capitalists. The pension funds then invest in local economies, fattened by the higher returns they get from their entrusting of funds to private equity. This allows these firms, which specialize in stripping down companies and turning over profits, without regard for the workers they leave behind, to get inoculated by the political class, who want to keep this game going." ...

... Booker continues his apology tour. Booker said he had "good conversations" with members of the Obama campaign, which evidently cured his nausea:

... NEW. Tim Mak of Politico has a summary of left-leaning bloggers' reactions to Booker. ...

... Here's the campaign's latest Bain video:

Daniel Drezner of Foreign Policy: "... with Romney's NATO Chicago Tribune op-ed this past weekend, I fear he and his campaign have crossed the line from really stupid foreign policy pronouncements to logically contradictory ones.... I don't like it when a guy with a 50/50 chance of being president in January 2013 has abandoned the Logic Train." Romney's op-ed is here. ...

... AND from the right. Daniel Larison of the American Conservative: "It will not come as a shock that Romney doesn’t seem to know much about NATO." (CW: Evidently, Romney is getting his foreign policy advice from Campbell Brown's husband Dan Senor.) ...

...CW: well, thanks to Romney, I learned a new word: "revanchism."

Nicholas Confessore, et al., of the New York Times: "President Obama's once-commanding fund-raising advantage is declining as major Republican donors rally for Mitt Romney, conservative 'super PACs' far outpace their liberal counterparts and tax-exempt issue-advocacy groups swarm the political landscape."

Paul Waldman of American Prospect: four years and running, thousands of articles about Barack Obama's early life, and conservatives still think he hasn't been "vetted." They're still looking for that "horrible secret."

Right Wing World

I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the '70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German. -- Grover Norquist, on Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) bill to penalize Americans who renounce their citizenship to evade taxes

There is nothing quite as classy as calling a Jewish person a Nazi. -- Constant Weader

News Ledes

New York Times: "Katie Beckett, who was 3 years old and had been hospitalized almost since birth when President Ronald Reagan invoked her case as an example of irrational federal regulation in 1981 -- a key moment in the movement toward government support for home health care — died on Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the hospital where she was born. She was 34, more than three times the age her doctors had predicted she would reach."

New York Times: 'The leading American diplomat in Afghanistan, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, will leave his post this summer for health reasons after serving here less than a year, a State Department official said Tuesday."

New York Times: "A passenger flight from Paris to Charlotte, N.C., was diverted on Tuesday to Bangor, Maine, because of security concerns set off when a passenger told the crew that she had a surgically implanted device.... There was no indication that a bomb or any such device was involved in the case."

New York Times: "In an apparent breakthrough, the leader of the United Nations nuclear monitoring arm said on Tuesday that despite unspecified differences, he expects to sign a deal with Iran 'quite soon' on the arrangements for an investigation into potential military applications of Tehran's disputed nuclear program."

New York Times: "Global stocks rose on Tuesday, even as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development cut its growth forecast for the euro zone and said Europe risked creating a self-sustaining cycle of decline that could have dire effects for the world economy."

New York Times: "A private cargo rocket headed to the International Space Station blasted off early Tuesday morning. Built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif. -- commonly known as SpaceX -- this rocket is carrying only about 1,000 pounds of cargo, and nothing of great value.... If the cargo capsule makes it all the way to the space station, it would be the first commercial, rather than government-operated, spacecraft to dock at the space station, and it would mark an important step in NASA's efforts to turn over basic transportation to low-Earth orbit to the private sector."

Washington Post: President Obama spoke at the commencement of Joplin, Missouri, High School one year after a tornado devastated the town.

Washington Post: "The Air Force said Monday that it had fined the former commander of the Dover Air Force Base mortuary $7,000 and suspended his top deputy for 20 days without pay for retaliating against whistleblowers, but it allowed both men to keep their jobs."

HealthDay: "In a highly anticipated move sure to unleash heated debate, a prominent U.S. government advisory panel is recommending that men of all ages no longer be screened for prostate cancer by undergoing the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of medical experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, said PSA screening results in overdiagnosis of prostate cancer and unnecessary treatment that can leave men impotent and incontinent."

Guardian: "Facebook shares have fallen sharply on a second day of trading, leading to questions about the valuation of its IPO and the handling of the sale by its bankers."

ABC News: "A month after the Secret Service was rocked by allegations that agents brought prostitutes to a Colombia hotel where they were preparing for a visit by President Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that at least three of its agents are also under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena."

NEW. Washington Post: "The nation's chief of nuclear safety announced his resignation Monday after a three-year tenure marked by debates over regulatory guidelines, praise for the U.S. response to the Japanese nuclear disaster and complaints that he had verbally abused women in the workplace. The departure of Gregory B. Jaczko, an advocate of tough safety standards at nuclear reactor sites during eight years on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, caps almost a year of concerns about his leadership of the NRC...."

NEW. New York Times: "In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration's rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies." CW: sorry, thought I linked this yesterday.