Saturday, March 31, 2012

News Nuggets 924

DAYLEE PICTURE: Salt, mud and potash ramparts in the Dallol Crater in Ethiopia.  From National Geographic. 

For Pennsylvania's Doctors, a Gag Order on Fracking Chemicals from the Atlantic
"A new provision could forbid the state's doctors from sharing information with patients exposed to toxic—and proprietary—fracking solutions."

On the Run, Bin Laden Lived in 5 Houses from the Associated Press via ABC News
"Osama bin Laden lived in five safe houses while on the run in Pakistan and fathered four children — two of them born in government hospitals, his youngest widow has told investigators. The details of bin Laden's life as a fugitive in Pakistan are contained in the interrogation report of Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, bin Laden's 30-year-old Yemeni widow. They appear to raise fresh questions over how bin Laden was able to remain undetected for so long in Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, despite being the subject of a massive international manhunt."
The New York Times has a lot more detail HERE.

Arab States Redraw the Map of Alliances After Revolutions (Jamal Khashoggi) from the National [of the United Arab Emirates in English] 
"While Syria's army cruelly and stupidly shells its own people and storms its cities, the so-called "axis of resistance" stretching from Tehran to Damascus is falling apart. Said axis spent the last decade waging a cold war against the "bloc of moderates" led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt in partnership with Jordan, the UAE and Morocco."

The Revenge of Wen Jiabao (John Garnaut) from Foreign Policy Magazine 
"The ouster of Chongqing boss Bo Xilai was 30 years in the making -- a long, sordid tale of elite families and factions vying for the soul of the Chinese Communist Party."

China Communist Party Scandal Triggered by British Man's Death: Source from Reuters
"The scandal shaking China's ruling Communist Party just as it readies for leadership change was triggered by claims that the wife of one ambitious candidate was involved in the death of a British businessman, said a source with close ties to key individuals involved."

UK is Back in Recession, OECD says from the Guardian [of the UK]
"The OECD says UK output will decline 0.4% in the first three months of 2012 on an annualised basis."
Ah, the wonders of an austerity budget before a recovery takes hold.

Britain on Course for Third Warmest March on Record as Nation Enjoys the EIGHTH Straight Day of Wall-to-Wall Sunshine from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Only 1938 and 1957 have seen higher March averages as temperature set to hit 21C today.  Also on course to be the fifth driest March since records began."

Natural Gas, Fueling an Economic Revolution from (Fareed Zakaria) from the Washington Post
"The United States now has, at current consumption rates, at least 75 years’ worth of recoverable natural gas. More important, the United States has become the world’s low-cost producer of natural gas. That fact is already changing the future of U.S. manufacturing. Companies such as Dow Chemical and Westlake Chemical are finding that low U.S. energy costs can mitigate the lower cost of labor in Asia..."

Jobless Rates Fall in 29 States from CNN Money
"Unemployment fell in 29 states in February and rose in only eight, the government reported Friday, in another sign of broad improvement in the U.S. labor market. The improvement means there are only three states with unemployment above the 10% mark -- Nevada with a 12.3% unemployment rate, Rhode Island, which has 11% unemployment, and California, where unemployment stood at 10.9%."

The Court Can’t Stop the Health-Care Revolution (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"Listening to the lawyers talking nonstop last week about health care gave me a headache, so I decided to consult one of the nation’s top doctors. He offered a real-world diagnosis of what’s happening in health care — and a reminder of how much it’s changing, regardless of what the Supreme Court decides about Obamacare."

Why Health Care Is a Losing Issue for Republicans (Conor Friedersdorf) from the Atlantic
Win or lose at the Supreme Court, the GOP is likely to suffer at the ballot box as long as health is a central issue in future campaigns.

Will a Tea Party Supreme Court Guarantee Obama a Second Term? (Robert Shrum) from The Week
"The court's conservative wing appears ready to engage in some despicable judicial activism on ObamaCare. Politically, at least, the justices are doing Obama a favor."

On Health Care, Are Republicans Ready for Victory? (Dan Balz) from the Washington Post
"First, a party that has built its health-care message on the phrase “repeal and replace” would immediately come under pressure to reach consensus on how to reform the health-care system. Second, Republicans, who benefited from a sizable enthusiasm gap in the 2010 midterm elections, could face a Democratic opposition deeply angered and newly motivated by its setback in the high court."

Witness Interviewed by CNN's Anderson Cooper Adds to Doubts on George Zimmerman's Claims from Daily Kos
"An anonymous seemingly credible witness raises more doubts in George Zimmerman's claims to have defended himself ...  Combined with the police surveillance video of Zimmerman released Wednesday, the story of self-defense that supposedly resulted in head lacerations and a broken nose seems unlikely. A 6-minute version of that video is here. UPDATE: Zimmerman's lawyer, who was eager to talk to the media previously, changed his tune and had nothing to say about the police video:..."

Trayvon Martin Case: George Zimmerman Was 'Jekyll And Hyde,' Former Co-Worker Says from the Huffington Post
"“Usually he was just a cool guy,” said the former co-worker, who the newspaper didn't name. “But it was like Jekyll and Hyde. When dude snapped, he snapped.” The Daily News said Zimmerman earned $50 to $100 a night for the parties. He was fired for being too aggressive with patrons."

Santorum and Romney Play to Wisconsin Conservatives at their Peril from the Los Angeles Times
"The top GOP presidential hopefuls are emphasizing traditional social positions in a state that has come to symbolize the danger of lurching too far to the right."

Mitt Romney’s Local Panders Generate National Mockery from Talking Points Memo
"Mitt Romney, respectful of this practice, has done his best to win over primary voters by invoking a personal connection to various states. But many of the stories and anecdotes Romney tells to endear him to local constituencies often fall flat — or worse, earn him mockery on the national stage."

The Early Line on Mitt Romney’s ‘Veepstakes’ (Philip Rucker) from the New York Times
"Although they are careful to note that the campaign is far from putting together a short list, key supporters and strategists say they are beginning to see the outlines of the kind of person he might choose as a potential running mate — and the kind he would avoid."

WI-GOV: WI-Gov: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to Challenge Scott Walker in Recall Election from Daily Kos
"Great news: Democrats have landed their strongest candidate to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett."

The World’s 15 Happiest Countries from the Washington Post
"In 2010, Gallup asked people around the world to rate, on a scale of 0 to 10, their current life situation and what they believe the quality of their lives will be in five years. Survey respondents who rated their lives a 7 or higher and their future lives an 8 or higher were considered to have a thriving well-being, meaning that they had positive views on their current and future lives."

Friday, March 30, 2012

News Nuggets 923

DAYLEE PICTURE: A black-browed albatross pair at West Point in southern Georgia.  From National Geographic.

The Triumphal Rise of Aung San Suu Kyi (Thilo Thielke) from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"A newfound optimism has infected much of Burma. The government has relaxed controls and might even make room for pro-democracy advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in the cabinet after this Sunday's by-elections. But government clashes with ethnic minorities in the north of the country have tarnished these hopes for some."

Is a Dangerous Divide Opening Between Beijing Leaders? from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"For weeks, China's communist leaders have been embroiled in a bitter power struggle that could jeopardize a carefully planned transition in the national leadership and the course charted by more moderate reformers. Although the state has tried to keep the feuding under wraps, the Internet is awash with rumors -- including those of a possible coup."

Richard Clarke on Who Was Behind the Stuxnet Attack (Ron Rosenbaum) from Smithsonian Magazine
"America's longtime counterterrorism czar warns that the cyberwars have already begun—and that we might be losing."

Pushing Back: President Barack Obama's Advisors Fire Back at Mitt Romney from Foreign Policy Magazine
"What specifically would you do to address the Iranian threat that is different from what President Obama is already doing? Do you believe there are still viable options for dealing with the Iranian threat short of war? What would your proposed military action against Iran involve, and how would you deal with its potentially destabilizing consequences?"

George Zimmerman Video Outrage: Where Are Injuries From Travyon Fight? (Jesse Singal) from the Daily Beast
"Newly released police video of George Zimmerman reveals none of the injuries he said he received from Trayvon Martin. Jesse Singal on how the footage lays bare the worst, most dangerous tendencies of the Internet—and ourselves."

Trayvon Martin Killing: Witness Says He Saw Zimmerman Walk Away Uninjured from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Account contradicts allegation from Zimmerman's father that Trayvon Martin left his son with injuries including a broken nose."

Sanford Frets About Prospect of Riots Over Trayvon Martin Killing (Allison Samuels) from the Daily Beast
"Residents and authorities fear angry and frustrated citizens may explode into the streets as more conflicting information about Trayvon Martin’s slaying surfaces and the investigation drags on without an arrest."
The more I read about Sanford, the more it strikes me as a place where the race relations are really messed up.  I suspect that there is a really bad history here that has yet to be discussed but that is coloring this entire episode.  Whites are really paranoid (thus producing folks like Zimmerman) while blacks are deeply alienated.  

Zimmerman’s Father Says ‘So Much Hate’ Coming from Obama from Raw Story 
"“In an interview with WOFL on Wednesday, George Zimmerman’s father, who did not wish to reveal his first name, said that people who think that Trayvon Martin should never have been shot “would have preferred my son being beaten to death.” ... "I never foresaw so much hate coming from the president, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP,” Zimmerman’s father insisted."
The father is a former judge in this community.

The Real Boundaries of the Bible Belt (Richard Florida) from the Atlantic 
"Religiosity is higher in lower income states where poverty is prevalent. The share of state residents who say religion is very important to their daily lives is correlated with the poverty rate (.60) and negatively associated with state income levels (-.56). Education plays a role. Religiosity is higher in less educated states, and negatively associated with the share of state residents that are college grads (-.55)."

A Clinic’s Landlord Turns the Tables on Anti-abortion Protesters (Petula Dvorak) from the Washington Post
"In some cases, the family of a protester who called Stave’s home could get up to 5,000 calls in return."

Obama 2012: Built to Broadcast (Tim Dickinson) from Rolling Stone Magazine 
"When Obama 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe likened the campaign's email list to a television network in his campaign memoir, it was a rough analogy. But for the revamped Obama 2012 campaign, the meaning is quite literal. ... The Road We've Traveled is remarkable for its glitz and directorial pedigree—the filmmaker is Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim, who directed Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. But the same media strategy is evident throughout the 2012 campaign."
The Obama network ... I love it!

Republicans Offer Only Theater of Absurd (Maureen Gill) from the Journal Tribune [of Maine]
"Aren’t we getting tired of nothing coming out of the Republicans but a bunch of nonsensical and mendacious huff and puff? America is drowning in serious issues requiring intelligent discourse, political compromise and reasonable resolution, but what’s coming out of the right is pure Theater of the Absurd. ... If President Obama found a cure for cancer, his opponents would scream “Obama’s warring on your God-given right to die and go to heaven!”"

Obama Pollster: Romney Can't Etch-A-Sketch His Way To The General Election (Benjy Sarlin) from Talking Points Memo
"Voters are tuning in to the presidential race much earlier than usual, giving Mitt Romney much less leeway to pull an "Etch A Sketch" and reinvent himself in the general election."

WI-GOV: GAB Throws Out Few Petition Signatures; Recommends Walker Recall Proceed from the Wisconsin State Journal
"Despite conservatives' fears of an army of Mickey Mouses and Adolf Hitlers signing recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker, elections officials found only five fake names and nearly 901,000 valid signatures collected to recall the Republican governor — far more than enough needed for the election to go forward. ... If the board orders elections on Friday as expected, recall primary elections — if necessary — are expected to be held on May 8, followed by a June 5 general election."

SC-GOV: Haley Indictment Imminent? Stay Tuned… from the Palmetto Public Record [of South Carolina]
"Two well-placed legal experts have independently told Palmetto Public Record they expect the U.S. Department of Justice to issue an indictment against South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on charges of tax fraud as early as this week."

How War Came Home to Stay: ‘Drift’ by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC Traces American Militarism (Janet Maslin) from the New York Times
"A book by the host of a political talk show is often an ancillary product or marketing tool. But “Drift,” by Rachel Maddow, whose show is on MSNBC, is much more. It is an argument — a sustained, lucid case in which points are made logically and backed by evidence and reason. ... Ms. Maddow’s point is that the way we go to war has changed: that there has been an expansion of presidential power, a corresponding collapse of Congressional backbone and a diminution of public attention."

Gingrich Says No Deal After a Secret Talk with Romney (Ralph Z. Hallow) from the Washington Times
"Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich met secretly with GOP rival Mitt Romney on Saturday, according to a source close to the campaign, but the former House speaker says he has made no deal to end his bid for the GOP nomination."
The wording here is too clever by half.  If you're Romney, you WANT Gingrich to stay in the race, not to LEAVE it.  Fifty-fifty says there was a deal -- for Gingrich to stay in the race.

Dear Sugar: Beauty and the Beast (from 2010) from The Rumpus
"Confronting a letter writer who fears he may be too ugly for a romantic relationship:"

Thursday, March 29, 2012

News Nuggets 922

DAYLEE PICTURE: A camel trek across the bed of the Shaksgam River near the border of Pakistan and China.  From National Geographic.

Murdoch Hacking Scandal Could Go Global, Threaten News Corp.’s Core TV Business (Peter Jukes) from the Daily Beast
"Allegations that a News Corp. subsidiary hacked pay-TV access codes of a rival broadcaster and that a hacker in the pay of the company pirated rival satellite channels in Italy could threaten the conglomerate’s core business of broadcasting, satellite, and pay television."

The Afghan girls who live as boys (Tahir Qadiry) from the BBC
"For economic and social reasons, many Afghan parents want to have a son. This preference has led to some of them practising the long-standing tradition of Bacha Posh - disguising girls as boys."

Komen Kills Major Lobbying Day, Urges People Not to Abandon Women (Abigail Pesta) from the Daily Beast
The charity encourages people to refocus on fighting cancer as it is forced to cancel one of its most important events—lobbying Congress to increase funding for key government programs."

Stealing Christianity (Ed Kilgore) from Washington Monthly
"TNR’s Tim Noah wrote yesterday about one of my all-time biggest pet peeves: the constant appropriation of the word “Christian” by conservative evangelicals as exclusive to their distinctive and hardly uncontested point of view. What sent Noah off was an NPR story on “Christian films,” which, of course, turned out to be films by a very particular and not at all representative type of Christians..."

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Did Not Do Well. Does It Matter? (Ben Jacobs) from the Daily Beast
The Supreme Court is a tough place to have a rotten day, but in the end, writes Ben Jacobs, Donald Verrilli’s poor performance won’t decide the outcome of the health-care battle."

Our Pundit-of-the-Day!!
Supremes Won't Save GOP From Itself on Obamacare (David Frum) from the Daily Beast
"Now conservative challengers are hoping the Supreme Court will step in. And who knows? Maybe the justices are feeling bold. Maybe they are ready to expose themselves again to the fiercest partisan criticism since Bush v. Gore, or even fiercer.  I'm not a Court-watcher, and have no expertise to offer, but just going with my gut: I doubt it."

A Supreme Election? (Charlie Cooke) from the National Journal
"Nope. The high court won’t determine the outcome of this presidential election no matter how it rules on health care."

Obama vs. Boehner: Who Killed the Debt Deal? (Matt Bai) from the New York Times
"What emerged from these conversations is a clearer and often surprising picture of exactly how close Obama and Boehner came to finalizing a historic agreement, what exactly was in it and why it ultimately fell apart — including a revelation that illuminates Boehner’s thinking in those final hours and directly contradicts a core element of the version he has told, even to some in his own leadership. The truth here matters for more than its historical value."

Zimmerman’s Twin Lakes Community Was on Edge Before Trayvon Shooting (Amy Green) from the Daily Beast
"George Zimmerman called police 46 times in the years before he shot Trayvon Martin. As far as the cops were concerned, that wasn’t excessive in a neighborhood fighting petty crime, reports Amy Green."

Report: Investigator Had Wanted Manslaughter Charge For Zimmerman from Slate
"The latest development comes as leaks from both sides attempt to reshape the public narrative of Trayvon Martin's death."

What if Trayvon Martin Was the One Acting in Self-Defense? (Emily Bazelon) from Slate
"... you can flip the premise and see Martin, not Zimmerman, as the person who was acting in self-defense. Jeff writes: “Trayvon saw someone following him, felt threatened, retreated, was still followed, and then was approached by an armed man who had 100 lbs on him. … Because Zimmerman was acting as an aggressor, Trayvon had the right to defend himself by punching, kicking, tackling, etc. Because Zimmerman was acting as the aggressor, his actions cannot be considered self-defense..."

Republican nightmare: Oil futures dip as supplies grow and Obama, others hint at releasing reserves (Meteor Blades) from Daily Kos
"Two elements driving speculation on futures down were a higher than expected increase in supplies announced Wednesday and the spreading view among analysts and traders than President Obama and the British and French are serious about throwing some of their oil reserves on the market."

Record Number See Romney Negatively; Obama Outpaces Him in Popularity from ABC News
"Mitt Romney trails Barack Obama by 19 points in basic popularity as the 2012 presidential contest inches closer to the main event, with a record 50 percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll now rating Romney unfavorably overall."

Rubio: 'I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee' (Justin Sink) from The Hill
Popular freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) again denied interest in his party's vice presidential nomination Wednesday despite wide-spread speculation his political team was gearing up for a national campaign.  "I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee, but I'm always flattered when people bring it up, I think they mean it as a compliment," Rubio said on MSNBC."

Harry the Hungry Hippo from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"The pygmy hippo - who will not grow to more than three feet tall - requires 125ml of milk around every three hours. His parents have been returned to an external enclosure, while Harry lives like a monarch in a special suite at the sanctuary."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

News Nuggets 921

DAYLEE PICTURE: The beach on Fraser Island in Australia.  From National Geographic.

Syria Accepts Peace Plan Offered By U.N. Envoy Kofi Annan from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post
"Syria has accepted a peace plan by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan that includes a government cease-fire, but the bloodshed persisted Tuesday as intense clashes between soldiers and rebels spilled across the border into Lebanon, officials said."
I guess the "accepts" part needs to be in quotes.  

Etching a Foreign Policy (Paul R. Pillar) from the National Interest 
"The choice between Romney and Obama comes down to the choice between a populist and a realist foreign policy."

Bin Laden's Family to be Indicted from United Press International
"A Pakistani court is preparing to indict Osama bin Laden's three widows and two children for illegal entry into the country, officials say."
Indicted for illegal entry ... and what else?  These three women will be quietly put away some where.  They know too much about Pakistan's complicity in Bin Laden's hiding out in the country.

EPA Introduces First Greenhouse-Gas Limits for Power Plants from Bloomberg News Service
"The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from U.S. power plants, the largest source of carbon dioxide linked to climate change. The rules will permit emissions from new power plants at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, about the level for a modern natural-gas plant, the EPA said today in an e-mailed statement. The limit would effectively preclude construction of new coal-fired plants, which are struggling to compete with decade-low natural gas prices."

George Zimmerman’s Account of Fight With Trayvon Martin Questioned from the Daily Beast
"Supporters of Trayvon Martin say 911 tapes contradict Zimmerman’s claim that the teenager followed him—and wonder why the shooter didn’t need prompt medical attention for his injuries. Allison Samuels reports."
There are emerging some aspects of this case that make Zimmerman's general claims of self-defense appear plausible -- but the details he has provided create an incident that is just not credible.

Why Conservatives Are Smearing Trayvon Martin’s Reputation (Michelle Goldberg) from the Daily Beast
"Conservatives are focusing on Trayvon’s tweets, appearance, school suspension over marijuana traces, and the hoodie he was wearing to blame him for his own death—and to show that his killing had nothing to do with racism."

Fugitive Slave Mentality (Robert Gooding-Williams) from the New York Times 
"In the Trayvon Martin murder case, there are echoes of the Fugitive Slave Act."

Supreme Court Health Reform Law: Obama Administration Finds Optimism (Sam Stein) from the Huffington Post
"When the dust settled, defenders of the law still maintained some (albeit limited) reason for optimism. As noted by several administration officials, similarly adversarial questions had been offered by lower court judges, who went on to rule that the mandate should be upheld."

Is the Health-Care Act Really on the Ropes? (Andrew Cohen) from the Atlantic
"The justices asked some harsh questions this morning. But when it comes time to make a decision, most of the issues they raised won't matter."

If the Mandate Fails, Single Payer Awaits (George Zornick) from the Nation 
"I tend to give more credence to the accounts that things weren’t actually that bad—the questioning during these proceedings is not predictive of the final outcome, and Justice Anthony Kennedy has plenty of room to side with the government—but it’s worth considering what would happen if, indeed, the individual mandate is junked."

In the Presidential Race, it's the '60s All Over Again (Robin Abcarian) from the McClatchy News Service
This isn't just a battle over contraception and sexual mores. Every four years, it seems, presidential contests turn up the heat on long-simmering tensions that have their origins in the last century's social and political upheavals. "Every four years, it seems, the country is fated to litigate anew "the '60s" - an era that historians generally agree extended beyond the decade's literal 10-year window by a few years on both sides."

Evangelicals Seek Positive Change (Tom Krattenmaker) from USA Today 
"In a refreshing departure from the culture war mind-set that has come to characterize this and other recent elections, some of evangelicalism's leading thinkers and spokespeople are trumpeting an important insight: Christians too fixated on politics are bound to end up frustrated and tarnished. And politics is not the only way to create positive change."

A Daunting Obama Ground Game Awaits Romney from the Los Angeles Times 
"A GOP primary fight devours time and money while the president's campaign pours millions into a national field effort."

Who Else for Vice President but Marco Rubio? (Stuart Rothenberg) from the National Journal
"... if and when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney becomes his party’s standard-bearer, he’ll need to look for the right running mate to help him unify the party and breathe some excitement into the Republican ticket. In other words, he’ll need Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio, of course, isn’t the only Republican who could enhance a Romney ticket."

Fiona's Amazing Story from YouTube via Americablog
"Fiona's amazing story - please share on Facebook & Twitter. Thanks!"
More on Fiona can be seen here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

News Nuggets 920

DAYLEE PICTURE: Jökulsárlón lagoon in southeastern Iceland.  From National Geographic.

The False Debate About Attacking Iran (Nicholas Kristof) from the New York Times
"I WONDER if we in the news media aren’t inadvertently leaving the impression that there is a genuine debate among experts about whether an Israeli military strike on Iran makes sense this year. There really isn’t such a debate. Or rather, it’s the same kind of debate as the one about climate change — credible experts are overwhelmingly on one side. Here’s what a few of them told me:..."

Similar topic, different take:
The False Iran Debate (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times
"In this sense, the whole Iran debate — with its receding “red lines,” its shifting “zones of immunity,” its threats and counter-threats, its bad metaphors and worse similes — is false. We know what will trigger a war and what won’t. At least we should. As the United States has learned this past decade, mistakes can happen in the form of politically driven irrational choices."

Bo Xilai and Coming Changes in China (Dan Blumenthal, Lara Crouch) from Foreign Policy Magazine
Something's up in China at the highest levels.
"In the last couple of days, Western media has been abuzz with rumors sourced from Chinese social media websites, Falun Gong-sponsored news outlets, and analysts in Hong Kong of an attempted coup in Beijing. The only thing lending credence to these rumors is the seeming existence of a power struggle that resulted in the sacking of Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai."

Crisis Closes in on China's Inner Circle (Chris Stewart) from the Asia Times [of Hong Kong in English]
"Zhou Yongkang, a member of China's ruling Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) and head of the country's 1.5 million-strong police force, is the latest and most senior leader to fall in the battle for control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) if rumors of his downfall have any
substance. It was certainly a fall foretold. "

Strauss-Kahn Charged in Alleged Prostitution Ring from CNN
"Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was charged in France on Monday with "aggravated pimping" for his alleged participation in a prostitution ring, prosecutors said."
Does anyone still doubt this guy assaulted the Sofotel maid?

Stag Party: The GOP’s Woman Problem (Frank Rich) from New York Magazine 
"But the problem wasn’t that Limbaugh confused the issue. His real transgression was that he had given away the GOP game, crystallizing an issue that had been in full view for weeks. That’s why his behavior resonated with and angered so many Americans who otherwise might have tuned out his rant as just another sloppy helping of his aging shtick. It’s precisely because there is a Republican war on women that he hit a nerve. "

President Obama Embraces ‘Obamacare’ Label. But Why? (Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake) from the Washington Post
"What the White House and the Obama reelection team in Chicago clearly believe is that the Supreme Court case amounts to the opening of a new front of the message wars surrounding the health care law. ... 'Obamacare' currently stands for everything people don't like about the law. The White House has to make it stand for all the good things in the law."
I'm not at all surprised that he has embraced the term -- I believe he and his team will use it with pride in the decades to come.

Did John Roberts Throw A Wrench In Major Argument Against ‘Obamacare’? from Talking Points Memo
"In a little-noticed exchange Monday, conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts may have tipped his hand that he’s entertaining the possibility that the health care law’s individual mandate can be upheld on a constitutional basis that’s different from the one supporters and opponents have made central to their arguments."

Obama’s Health Law Proving Successful (Juan Williams) from The Hill 
"In my world of people and politics there are two relevant issues. First, does the law provide better medical care for Americans? And is it reducing the cost of healthcare?"

Democrats Have No Fear Of Romney (Zeke Miller) from Buzzfeed
"They are afraid of everything from a spike in gas prices to the possibility of war with Iran; from unemployment to the Supreme Court’s striking down the health care law. But one thing Barack Obama’s expensive war machine isn’t afraid of right now is Mitt Romney."
If they have no fear, they need to get some.  Complacency is the last thing the Dems need right now.  They and Democratic voters generally MUST bring their focused A-game to this election!

GOP’s 2012 Primary Plan Creates a Colossal Mess (Joseph Curl) from the Washington Times
"t doesn’t have a dynamic out-of-the-blue-first-black-man-for-president citizen of the world with ties to every part of it versus a former first lady/senator who works 70 hours a week and is destined - destined - to smash the glass ceiling. No, instead, Republicans have a dog strapped to the roof of a car and two mutts chasing him down the highway - and the two mutts have no idea what they’d do if they actually caught the car."
What Curl misses is that the primary plan the GOP copied from the Dems was one that created a RIGOROUS primary season that would expose weak, problematic and otherwise unprepared-for-the-presidency types of candidates.  I have the growing suspicion that if ANY of the other A-list GOP candidates (Bush, Christie, Barbour et al.,) had thrown in their hats they would soon have seen their stature substantially reduced in the face of a hard-right primary electorate.  What they would face is the same thing that Romney is facing: any candidate who came close to giving that hard-right constituency what they wanted would (In short order) be shown to be manifestly unqualified for the presidency.  Romney is barely hanging on to the "qualified" part of his ingredients label.

Santorum's Alternate Reality (Molly Ball) from the Atlantic
"Everyone is telling the GOP presidential candidate the contest is over and he can't win it. But he's not quitting."

Seven Furniture Pieces and Home Accessories That Are Becoming Obsolete from
"In light of the possible extinction of the coffee table, I've rounded up a few other home items that seem to be on their way out."

Friday, March 23, 2012

News Nuggets 919

DAYLEE PICTURE: Quiver trees in Namibia.  From National Geographic.

Santorum: Might As Well Have Obama Over Romney from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post
Yes, we might as well.  This may be the FIRST things Santorum has ever said with which I whole-heartedly agree!  From a GOP perspective, though, what a dumb statement!
"Presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday said Republicans should give President Barack Obama another term if Santorum isn't the GOP nominee and for a second day compared rival Mitt Romney to an Etch A Sketch toy."

Chinese Coup Watching (Isaac Stone Fish) from Foreign Policy Magazine 
"Last week, controversial politician Bo Xilai, whose relatively open campaigning for a seat on China's top ruling council shocked China watchers (and possibly his elite peers, as well), was removed from his post as Chongqing's party secretary. He hasn't been seen since. Rumors of a coup, possibly coordinated by Bo's apparent ally Zhou Yongkang, are in the air. Western media has extensively covered the political turmoil"

An Exchange With Jeffrey Goldberg on 'Bluffing,' Israel, and Iran (James Fallows) from the Atlantic
"I sent him a very long opening "question" a few hours ago, and he has now sent back his first-round reply. With his approval, I'm putting this round up now. Tomorrow I will follow up with more questions, and I'll post those and his reply when they're ready. For now, here is the initial round."

To Stop Iran, the G.O.P. Should Back Obama (Mark Dubowitz) from the New York Times
"To prevent a nuclear Iran, Republicans should do the unthinkable: get behind Obama and double down on sanctions."

FACT CHECK: More US Drilling Didn't Drop Gas Price from the Associated Press
"It's the political cure-all for high gas prices: Drill here, drill now. But more U.S. drilling has not changed how deeply the gas pump drills into your wallet, math and history show. A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump."

U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence from the New York Times 
"Declining oil consumption and new energy production have brought the United States closer to a goal that has tantalized presidents since Richard Nixon.

America’s ‘Right’ Makes the French Right Seem ‘Left’ (Pierre-Yves Dugua) from Le Figaro [of France in English]
“As a journalist, what interests me most is the need to impress upon my readers that they must abandon their instinctive desire to use the United States as a benchmark for France. Ron Paul is nothing like Le Pen. Barack Obama is more right-wing than Nicolas Sarkozy. We must stop treating the Americans like fools just because they aren’t like the French. … I say the same to Americans: 'stop believing that the world wants to be like you.'”

Please Stop Apologizing (Bill Maher) from the New York Times
"I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who never say anything but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney."

Etch A Sketch Shakes Campaign, Rattles Romney from NBC 4 [in Washington DC]
"A Rick Santorum spokeswoman was handing out Etch A Sketches before a Mitt Romney town hall Wednesday in Arbutus, Md., furthering the goading of the GOP front runner after a gaffe by his campaign earlier in the day. And it apparently worked. After the event, Romney shot back at reporters who quizzed him about it."

Media Matters Launches Radio Campaign Against Rush Limbaugh from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post
"The liberal Media Matters for America is using a past campaign against Glenn Beck as a template. In Limbaugh, however, they're going after bigger game. He's already fighting back and the group's stance has provoked concerns that an effort to silence someone for objectionable talk is in itself objectionable. Media Matters is spending at least $100,000 for two advertisements that will run in eight cities."

Obama's Romney Smackdown (Eleanor Clift) from the Daily Beast
"The Obama campaign wants to be sure general-election voters remember the picture Romney is drawing now."

Mitt Romney’s Etch A Sketch Disaster (Joe Klein) from Time Magazine 
"Eric Fehrnstrom’s Etch A Sketch gaffe yesterday may go well beyond a momentary embarrassment and become a campaign-defining disaster, much as John Kerry’s “I voted for it before I voted against it” gaffe — which came at almost exactly the same point in that campaign, as Kerry locked down the nomination — was in 2004. This is true for several reasons:"

A review of other pundits on this terrible gaffe:
Etch a Sketch: The Trend that Can’t be Erased (and Other Metaphors) (Natalie Jennings) from the Washington Post
"Several Washington Post reporters and columnists offered their takes on the sentence that dominated the headlines, supplanting news about Romney’s momentum after his Illinois primary win Tuesday and the two big endorsements he received on Wednesday."
My view on the Etch-a-sketch debacle: not that he'll take any advice from me -- but Romney needs to start firing people.  He has been running for president for FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS and yet his campaign would be a legless centipede, it has shot itself in the feet so many times!

For Romney, No Getting the Benefit of the Doubt from MSNBC
"He gets almost no benefit of the doubt. Every gaffe becomes a story; every mistake become fodder for late-night comedians. And more importantly, this is what happens when you don't have a solid base of support that can serve as a cocoon of protection during the toughest of times."

After a Couple Of Weeks Of His Party Getting Beat Up On Women’s Issues, Romney Faces Huge Gender Gap (Thom Riehle) from the Economist
"Among women, President Barack Obama leads Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney by 55%-38% in the Economist/YouGov poll (Week of 3/17/2012). That 17-point deficit among women right now."

Rick Santorum 1994 Campaign: The Opposition File (Jason Cherkis) from the Huffington Post
In 1994, as he was making his first successful run for the U.S. Senate, Rick Santorum was followed by a trackers, who were hired by the state Democratic party and equipped with video cameras. The trackers trailed Santorum into public events at municipal buildings, on factory floors and inside community centers across Pennsylvania. They recorded how many people were in the room, whether or not media was on hand and Santorum's every word."

Obama's "Thank You" Goes Viral from NBC 4 [in Washington DC]
"Instead of just shaking his hand, Stephon told the president he was proud of him, but not out loud. Stephon is deaf, so he did so in sign language. That’s a moment that could stump a politician. But to Stephon’s surprise, Obama responded with a sign of his own -- hand to chin, arm straight out back at Stephon. A simple, “Thank you.”"

It's great having a 21st century president!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

News Nuggets 918

DAYLEE PICTURE: Waves glowing with bioluminescent ocean life on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives.  From National Geographic

Good News for the Rich: New GOP Budget vs. Jesus of Nazareth (Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite) from the Washington Post
I've really been looking at the contradictions noted here between the teachings of Jesus and the views of evangelicals when it comes to taxes and social programs.  How do these things get reconciled?  
"...more than any other shift in recent decades, the strong redefinition of the core of the Gospel message away from Jesus’ explicit announcement that his ministry was about “good news for the poor” toward merging biblical values with so-called “family values” defined as anti-gay, anti-abortion, and now, even anti-contraception, is the key to explaining this support. Conservatives have managed to merge conservative fiscal ideas with ‘support for the family.’"

Top 10 Lessons of the Iraq War (Stephen Walt) from Foreign Policy Magazine 
"Now that the war is officially over and most U.S. forces have withdrawn, what are the most important takeaways?"
One can only hope that our defense establishment takes in EVERY ONE of the lessons laid out here.  

The Loneliest Superpower (Minxin Pei) from Foreign Policy Magazine 
How did China end up with only rogue states as its real friends?"

On China's Great Leap Backward (Niall Ferguson) from the Daily Beast 
"Beijing purges one of its own—the Cultural Revolution isn’t over."

Oil Under Our Noses (Stephen Kelly) from the New York Times
"Thanks in part to surging oil imports from our continental neighbors, Persian Gulf oil now constitutes a significantly smaller share of American oil imports than it did just 20 years ago. At the same time, domestic oil production is actually increasing after decades of decline, meaning we have to import less than before. Taken together, these trends suggest that the oil weapon, at least in the hands of Persian Gulf producers, may no longer have the same edge for the United States."

Obama's Plan to Win Reelection (David Corn) from Mother Jones Magazine 
"The word from the White House: No more Mr. Nice Guy. For real this time."

Paul Ryan, Helping the Poor by Hurting Them (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post
"Ryan’s justification was straight out of Dickens. He wants to improve the moral fiber of the poor. There is, he told the audience at the conservative American Enterprise Institute later Tuesday, an “insidious moral tipping point, and I think the president is accelerating this.” Too many Americans, he said, are receiving more from the government than they pay in taxes."
Yes -- and they are disproportionately from Red States.  As we have posted and discussed here before, statistically it is the Blue States who pay in more than they get out in terms of social spending.  Red States take out more than they put in.

For Democrats, GOP Budget is Christmas in March (Seung Min Kim) from Politico
"To Democrats, the release of the House GOP budget is like Christmas in March. And they’re planning a celebration of sorts. Democrats are organizing media blitzes, House floor speeches and town halls back home to seize on the changes to Medicare that Republicans are expected to propose Tuesday. To blunt GOP talking points that only Republicans are willing to confront the debt, Democrats intend to unveil their own budget next week calling for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes on the rich."

The GOP Rides Paul Ryan’s Road to Ruin (Joan Walsh) from Salon
"His snake oil-castor oil budget is a gift to Dems, but only if they give up on "grand bargains" with extremists."

GOP Releases Plan to Save America From the Poor (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"The House Republicans unveiled their new budget today, complete with a spooky video pressing home the point that only the House Republicans and their leader Paul Ryan stand between us and CIVILIZATIONAL COLLAPSE. ... All in all, we have a standard mix of specific benefits for the rich, specific pain for the poor, and a lot of vague promises that would entail pain for the middle class, without committing themselves in a way that could hurt politically."

Illinois Verdict: The Race Goes On With Divided GOP (Ronald Brownstein) from National Journal
" reaffirming the basic patterns of demographic and ideological support for the two men, the Illinois result is unlikely to significantly dent the expectation that the Republican race could careen all the way to June."

Voter Turnout Extremely Low For Illinois Primary from CBS 2 [of Chicago] 
"Turnout for Tuesday’s Illinois primary in Chicago was a meager 24 percent, officials said. It was the lowest turnout for a presidential primary in the past 70 years."
Say again? "... the lowest turnout ... in the past 70 years."!?  WOW!

A New Candidate Might Be The Best Option For An Increasingly Dispirited And Divided GOP (Doug Schoen) from Forbes
"... while the Republican presidential primary may be Romney’s to win, that has more to do with arithmetic and delegates than it does with voters."

Polarization, the Next Step (Jonathan Bernstein) from the Washington Post 
"The biggest continuing story in Congress has been the ability of Tea Partyers and other movement conservatives to keep relatively moderate Republicans from defecting from their version of the party line, no matter what that line might be."

Chuck Winder, Idaho Lawmaker, Suggests Women Use Rape As Excuse For Abortions (Laura Bassett) from the Huffington Post
"The sponsor of an Idaho mandatory ultrasound bill, state Sen. Chuck Winder, made some highly controversial comments Monday during his closing arguments, suggesting women might falsely use rape as an excuse to obtain an abortion. Just before the Idaho's Senate passed the bill, which requires woman to have an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion, opponents of the bill pointed out that it makes no exception for rape victims, incest victims or women in medical emergencies."

In Talk Radio, Ad Exodus Dooms Limbaugh's Model (David Brock) from Politico
"Media Matters, along with numerous other groups, have begun to educate advertisers about the damage their financial support of Limbaugh’s program can do to their brands. There is a myth that advertiser actions, like those now targeted at Limbaugh, impinge on his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. The truth is just the opposite: They are a demonstration of the power of the First Amendment."

Amazing 3D Printer in Action: Watch a Working Wrench Being Made from Powder from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"We’re going to need a lot of tools as we expand into space – to build and maintain space stations and craft. However, the problem of how to replace tools should they break has always been a worry. After all, it’s quite an undertaking to fly them into orbit. But now scientists believe astronauts will be able to build unlimited replacements – simply by printing them."

Drawing “Pinocchio” from Salon
"A fascinating book traces the work of an early Disney sketch artist."

Jack Kerouac’s “The Sea is My Brother” and Other Lost Novels (Sarah Stodola) from the Daily Beast
"From Jack Kerouac’s newly published first novel to Irene Nemirovsky and Truman Capote’s forgotten work, 10 novels that were thought lost but then found."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

News Nuggets 917

DAYLEE PICTURE: Shadow Creek in California. From National Geographic.

Check out this post-Fluke look at the talk radio business.  VERY interesting developments in a short period of time!
A Conundrum for Conservative Talk Radio (Paul Farhi) from the Washington Post
"Dan Sileo just got a taste of what might be called the Rush Limbaugh Effect. On his sports-talk radio program in Tampa last week, Sileo enthusiastically endorsed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ interest in a trio of free-agent players. Maybe a bit too enthusiastically. “If they got those three monkeys, I’m good,” Sileo said about the players, all of whom are African American. ... That was Monday. By Tuesday, Sileo was gone..."

A related subject:
Why Mainstream Media Ignores Conservative Bestsellers (Conor Friedersdorf) from the Atlantic
"Ameritopia debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The right embraced it. Why didn't anyone else? ... The resulting discrepancy between how good a book is and how good conservative fellow travelers say it is was evident to me when I read Levin's last book, Liberty and Tyranny."

A New Challenge for Our Military: Honest Introspection (David Rothkopf) from the Foreign Policy Magazine
"It's time to hold the generals accountable for Afghanistan and Iraq. ... We have lost more than lives in our wars in the Middle East, more than money, more than precious elements of our national reputation. We have also lost our ability to judge our actions or their consequences with a critical eye."

U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran from the New York Times
"A classified war simulation held this month to assess the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran forecasts that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials."

Hurray for Health Reform (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"It’s said that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies. If the same principle applies to legislation, the Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law two years ago, but for the most part has yet to take effect — sits in a place of high honor."

Why President Obama Is Doubling Down On Health Care (Zeke Miller) from BuzzFeed
"The Supreme Court is forcing his hand, and the contraception debate offers a political opening. But the legislation is still unpopular, and Republicans say they welcome the debate."

Ob-Gyn Doc: Republican Posturing Over Ultrasound "Doesn't Make Any Sense" (Chris Potter) from the Pittsburgh City Paper
"Corbett did have one caveat, however: He only favored an ultrasound requirement "as long as it's exterior, not interior." It's the "close your eyes" line that has set up a howl of protest, one so loud that it almost conceals the sound of Democratic hands rubbing together with glee."

Protect Pregnant Women: Free Bei Bei Shuai (Katha Pollitt) from the Nation 
"On March 14, Bei Bei Shuai will have spent one full year in jail in Marion County, Indiana. Her crime? The prosecutor calls it attempted feticide and murder. What it really is: attempting suicide while

Many Kinds of Catholic (Frank Bruni) from the New York Times
"If Catholicism is measured by obeisance to the pope, his cardinals and the letter of Vatican law, then Rick Santorum is the best Catholic to ever get this far in presidential politics. ... for this he has been rewarded with a truly noteworthy level of Catholic support. Noteworthy because it’s so underwhelming."

Barack Obama Raises $45 Million For Re-Election Campaign In February from Huffington Post
"Picking up the pace, President Barack Obama raised $45 million for his re-election bid in February, bringing his total to about $300 million for this election cycle, his campaign said Monday."

Welcome to the Sweet 2016! (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post 
"In our bracket we have seeded the top eight Democrats and top eight Republicans considered — by us — to be their party’s leading presidential candidates in 2016."

The Prepared Politician Can Still be Authentic (Michael Gerson) from the Washington Post
"On this issue, Santorum cannot be accused of hypocrisy. His Super Tuesday victory speech, delivered in Steubenville, Ohio, did not make use of a teleprompter -- or any other form of rhetorical discipline. It was a 20-minute ramble of lame jokes, patriotic platitudes and half-developed campaign themes. On the evidence of these remarks, Santorum's guiding philosophy is "free enterprise" and "free people" held together by free association."

Paul Ryan’s Budget is Bad Politics. Just Ask Republicans (Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake) from the Washington Post
"The debut of the House Budget Committee chairman’s vision for what conservative governance could and should look like might win him kudos from the conservative policy class, but it elicits only groans from GOP political professionals."

Throwdown: How The GOP Budget Will Overwhelm Politics In 2012 from Talking Points Memo
"The GOP is being driven, for the moment, by a vocal and ideological faction that’s unwilling to retreat from the controversial tax and spending plan they endorsed last year. This year’s Republican budget is expected to include similar plans to roll back popular programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and comes as the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about the constitutionality of “Obamacare.”"

Is Mitt Romney the Most Unpopular Likely Presidential Nominee Ever? (Andrew Romano) from Newsweek
"Romney would have to overcome a larger favorability deficit than any other modern presidential candidate, and currently boasts the worst primary-season favorable-unfavorable split of any major-party nominee of at least the last 36 years."

Romney and the Right-Wing Shakedown (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast 
"Santorum for AG? Newt at the UN? John Bolton for State? The far right has presented mealy-mouthed Mitt with a stunningly long list of demands."

Rick Santorum Goes Off the Rails (Joan Walsh) from Salon
"He dismisses contraception -- and unemployment. He cheers religious bigotry, then doesn't. A campaign unravels."

Dog and River Otter Play (VIDEO) from the Huffington Post
"According to its YouTube description, this river otter and dog have been slowly building a friendship over several months, and now they play together like this every evening."

The Most Corrupt States from the State Integrity Investigation
Check out this cool inter-active map!!
"Your state: Click a state on the map or in the rank list to see its corruption risk report card."

Monday, March 19, 2012

News Nuggets 916

DAYLEE PICTURE: A Peacock Tree Frog during a night time rain in Tanzania.  From National Geographic.

Bin Laden: A Lion in Winter (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"What’s riveting about the documents taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound, beyond the headline items about plots to kill American leaders, is the way they allow the reader to get inside the terrorist mastermind’s head."

A Gift of True Communion at My Mother’s Catholic Funeral (Anne Monahan) from the Washington Post
"As my mother’s congestive heart failure approached its end stage, she and Dad informed their pastor that they wanted me to participate “up front” at her funeral. When she told me that the priest had agreed, I cynically thought, “The Second Coming will arrive first.” But I said I would ask about funeral participation when the time came. ... "You can do anything you want,” Father responded. “Anything?” “Anything,” he repeated."
FINALLY -- a story about a Catholic priest whose heart and head are in the right place!!

Chevron Executives Barred from Leaving Brazil Over Spill from Reuters 
"Seventeen executives from Chevron and Transocean have been barred from leaving Brazil pending criminal charges related to a high-profile oil spill last November."
Oil executives being held responsible for spilling oil and creating a natural disaster? What a novel idea.

Health Care Reform: Why It's Safe from the Supreme Court (Mike Sacks) from the Huffington Post
"The battle this time is likely to be an intra-conservative conflict between the economic libertarianism underlying the mandate's challenge and the traditional principles of judicial restraint that have defined right-wing jurisprudence for more than a half-century."

Housing Ready to Rebound (Jonathan Laing) from Barron's
"... there are signs that the long nightmare for American homeowners is in its terminal stage, and that, maybe, just maybe, home prices will bottom and begin to turn by the spring of 2013—if not before."
I think he's wrong about housing but hope that he's right.

The Story of a Suicide: Two College Roommates, a Webcam, and a Tragedy (Ian Parker) from the New Yorker [from February]
With the verdict on Dharun Ravi, I have felt the desire to revisit some of the details of the case.  This is the best long-form examination I've found.  You so often hear about how there needs to be a big public debate about this or that controversial issue.  For cyber-bullying [as it comes out in this case], I think the country is going to have one of those big conversations.  This case is so saturated with tragedy, I think it will be hard to ignore.
"Dharun Ravi grew up in Plainsboro, New Jersey, in a large, modern house with wide expanses of wood flooring and a swimming pool out back. Assertive and athletic, he used “DHARUNISAWESOME” as a computer password and played on an Ultimate Frisbee team."

Mitt Romney Doesn't Have Enough Information To 'Take A Stand' On Afghanistan (Ryan Grim) from the Huffington Post
Romney says this:
"Said Romney: "[Obama] likewise failed in the way we left Iraq, and this is a president who simply does not have experience in tough situations, no negotiating or leadership experience [and more in this vein]."
But then there is this:
"More than a decade into the war in Afghanistan, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney does not have enough information to "take a stand" on whether troops should remain or continue to withdraw on the timetable set by President Obama.  "Before I take a stand, I want to get input [from military leaders] that are there," "
Do you think in 2008 Obama would have gotten away with this lame-a#$ response!? Within the hour, HRC and her team would have been all over this!  Are Romney's GOP rivals going to say anything?  Don't hold your breath. They don't want to get any closer to this topic than Romney has. As a related observation: frankly, I am rather surprised that Romney wasn't more prepared for this question. Read the whole article and Romney is actually all over the place on Afghanistan.  For the first time, I wonder if Romney really has anything close to the foreign policy chops that I had assumed.

Which brings me to this item:
McCain says Romney is 'Improving Dramatically' from Politico
""Obviously, Mitt Romney will tell you first of all, he's got to do a better job," the Republican senator said. "He's working on doing a better job. He's got to focus more on the economy. He’s been giving major speeches on the economy and jobs. And I think he is improving dramatically as a candidate.""
"Improving dramatically..."?  Oh, really?  I have actually been surprised at the extent to which (1) he has NOT improved as a candidate; and (2) he keeps making basically the same mistakes over and over.  It's very much an open question for me how much more capacity Romney has for real growth -- because he will NEED to be "bigger" and more adroit than he has shown so far if he's going to have any chance of winning in November.  One of the additional problems he faces (which I haven't really heard anyone mention yet) is the growing media consensus that Romney is not only not a real strong candidate but that he is (a) hapless; (b) inauthentic; and (c) so painfully disconnected from average voters that he, all of these things put together, comes off as (I don't know how else to say it) almost a pathetic figure.  Pity is rarely a quality a presidential candidate wants to excite in a voter.  What is most striking to me is that this consensus completely crosses the ideological spectrum.  From his harshest left-wing critics at Mother Jones to the mavens of MSM conventional media wisdom to the disenchanted right-wing talkers at, you hear consistent notes of ... pity for the GOP front-runner.  Now -- I say this confident that the election will be close and that Obama will have to bring his A-game to have any chance for a second term.  But, if I were on Mitt Romney's team right now, I'd be concerned about the basic memes that are emerging out there about my candidate.  Doubt what I'm saying?  Look at the next three stories from (respectively) the left, right, and center.

Is Elvis a Mormon? (Maureen Dowd) from the New York Times
"There’s a certain pathos to Romney. His manner is so inauthentic, you can’t find him anywhere. Is he the guy he was on Wednesday or the guy he was on Thursday? He has the same problem that diminished the equally animatronic Al Gore. Gore kept mum on the one thing that made him come alive..."

Mitt Romney’s Lust for Presidency (Peter Galzinis) from the Boston Herald  
"Everything in the batch of emails unearthed from Mitt Romney’s time as governor tells us what we already knew: There isn’t a genuinely spontaneous bone anywhere in this guy’s body. It’s like searching for a soul in your computer’s hard drive."

Will Romney be the GOP's Dukakis? (Doyle McManus) from the Los Angeles Times
"Romney's beginning to look a bit like a Republican version of Dukakis: a Massachusetts governor who might win the nomination by outlasting weak opponents but who may never quite win his party's heart — or the nation's. That's partly because, as Dukakis did, Romney is selling himself as a better manager for the federal government, not as the leader of a grand crusade." He may prove the Republican Party's Massachusetts rule."

Capping off this trio, is this item.  Over the top in several places -- but the author makes some interesting points:
Sarah Palin's Legacy is Mitt Romney's Problem from Daily Kos
"If Palin were running in the primary election for president, there is no doubt that she would be winning it, probably handily. This, in a nutshell, is why Mitt Romney, the only plausibly qualified candidate running for president in the GOP, is having such a hard time winning what should be a cakewalk primary. This party is no longer the party of the country club or even of Ronald Reagan. This is a party unhinged from reality. This is the party of Palin."

More from McCain here:
McCain: GOP Needs To Give Up On Contraception from Talking Points Memo 
"The comments reflect deep unease that has settled in the GOP over their push for the Blunt Amendment to roll back the Obama administration’s birth control rule, which McCain and all but one Senate Republican voted for."

Missouri Caucuses Marked by Contention, with No Clear Victor Yet from the Kansas City Star
"Missouri Republicans met in more than 100 counties Saturday to begin picking their presidential nominee at party caucuses marked in some places by crowded rooms, loud disagreements — and no clear victor."
WHAT IS IT with the GOP caucusing this year!?  Have any of these state caucuses gone off without a hitch?! I can easily see both parties looking to dump them in 2016 -- they are simply way too squirrelly.