... 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.
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, . 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 on Wednesday in the latest chapter of a long-running battle to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer accusations of sexual misconduct." The Guardian ’s Supreme Courtis 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.