Tuesday Reads: Romney and Zingers, Environmental Activism, and A Bit of Schadenfreude

Good Morning!!

I have some interesting links today–some of them a couple of days old, but even if you’ve seen them, they bear repeating.

First up, there’s just one more day until the first presidential debate. I just can’t wait to hear those “zingers” Mitt Romney’s advisers told the NYT he has been practicing for months.

Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.

Since August? I hope they haven’t gotten stale. Apparently they’re hoping Obama will have another “likable enough” moment. I doubt that will happen, but we’ll see.

Frankly, as Ezra Klein writes at HuffPo, Romney would be better off to forget the zingers and develop more popular policies.

Behind in the polls and facing mounting panic among his donors, Mitt Romney is readying his secret weapon for the debates: Zingers….Pro tip: If your strategy to turn the presidential election around relies on Romney’s sense of comic timing, you might want to prepare a Plan B, as well.

The idea that this election can be reshaped by a zinger speaks to a deeper problem in the Romney campaign’s fundamental view of the race. As they see it, Obama’s record is an obvious disaster and their job entails little more than pointing that out over and over again. That the polls haven’t seemed responsive to this theory hasn’t dissuaded them. The new explanation for Romney’s difficulties is that the media are in the tank for Obama and that’s why the Romney campaign’s message isn’t breaking through.

But, Klein says, Americans know the economy is bad, but they also think it would have been worse if John McCain had been elected, rather than Barack Obama. Check out the chart.

Anna Marie Cox also addressed the “zingers” story at the Guardian.

The Romney campaign, having already proven able to discover impressive new ways for a nomination to blunder (my jaw still involuntarily drops a little when I hear the phrase “47%”), they have now added yet another type of podiatric wound to their catalogue. According to a report in the New York Times on Saturday, Romney’s staff “has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August.”

Already an awkward presence, Romney seems particularly susceptible to the tense stillness and deathless pathos that accompanies a dud punchline. Picturing the forced jocularity around the campaign headquarters has its pleasures, specifically the idea of Mitt trotting out well-worn jokes with the panache of a Catskills stand-up:

“Take my economic policy … please!”

“How lazy is half America? So lazy …”

“Any car-elevator owners in the audience tonight?”

But there’s an awful flipside: my God, what if he actually tries one of them?

Whether you wince or guffaw at the image of Romney attempting and failing to “zing” the president, probably says more about your tolerance for the humiliation of others than your political sensibilities. You’d think covering politics would have inured me to it by now, but in real life, I can’t even watch “American Idol”. I will view the debate on Wednesday through the spaces between my fingers, with a desk nearby to bang my head against.

What I really wish is that Romney would follow Donald Trump’s advice. According to TPM, Trump tweeted that Romney “should ask Obama why autobiography states “born in Kenya, raised in Indonesia.”

Romney will definitely have to watch his tone though, based on the results of a focus group study that TPM reported today. And Republicans will have a hard time saying this one is biased, because it was done by Haley Barbour’s company.

Barbour’s firm Resurgent Republic conducted focus groups of blue collar voters in Ohio and suburban women in Virginia who supported Obama in 2008 but are now undecided. Both are swing demographics that Romney is working to win over in order to flip each state from blue to red.

Their findings? Voters are a lot more willing to believe attacks based around Romney quotes than they are on Obama quotes.

“Whenever we showed direct quotes from President Obama over the last few years, voters consistently say that this is probably taken out of context and they don’t seem to hold that same standard with Governor Romney,” pollster Linda DiVall, who conducted the Virginia focus groups, said in a conference call announcing the findings Monday.

She added that while their reaction struck her as “a little bit unfair,” it was nonetheless “American voters’ right to do that.”

Pollster Ed Goeas said his own Ohio focus groups elicited similar responses, which could make things harder for Romney as he seeks to reverse his comments that 47 percent of Americans consider themselves “victims.”

It sounds like these swing state voters have figured out that Romney is a lying liar who only cares about the needs of the top .01 percent. Voters just aren’t as stupid as the Romney campaign thinks.

Did you see the tough op-ed Harry Reid wrote for the Las Vegas Sun on Sunday? He really ripped Romney a new one.

We learn the most about someone’s character not from what he does when he knows others are watching but from what he does when he thinks they aren’t.

We’ve learned an awful lot of troubling things about Mitt Romney recently. First, his sweeping, closed-door condemnation of President Barack Obama’s supporters revealed the disdain he has for half the population he hopes to serve. Then, the limited tax returns Romney selectively released confirmed that he’s willing to share information about the time he’s been in the public eye and running for president, but not the time he was running the corporation he touts as his sole qualifying credential for the highest office in the land.

When he thought no one was listening, Romney accused 47 percent of Americans of not taking responsibility for their lives, painting them as lounging in government dependency — a conclusion he reached because, for various legitimate reasons, they are exempt from paying federal income taxes.

Romney stands not only on shaky ethical grounds in making that indiscriminate generalization — he’s also on flimsy factual footing. The 47 percent Romney derides as self-pitying “victims” includes seniors who live on a fixed income thanks to the Social Security they paid into and earned over a lifetime of hard work, our troops in combat zones and veterans who have fought for our country. It includes students studying to get the skills that will win them the jobs of the future and decent Americans actively looking for work because their jobs were outsourced by companies such as those Romney specialized in developing. Most of them pay plenty of payroll, property, local and state taxes.

Reid goes on to beat Romney over the head with his secret tax returns one more time. Go read the whole thing if you haven’t already. Reid is turning out to be the Democratic attack dog of the 2012 campaign season.

Just one more Romney link: Romney would put states in charge of federal lands. James Bruggers, a Kentucky reporter who covers environmental issues full-time writes:

Our public lands are a birthright, held in trust for each one of us and managed by a set of laws that were worked out through compromise by Congress and various presidential administrations going back generations.

They provide places for us to hike, ride our mountain bikes, horses, camp, hunt and fish. Many are managed for multiple uses, and they also allow for cattle grazing, timber harvesting, oil and gas development, mining and skiing.

Romney, however, has said he would change all this, putting states in control of lands now under the stewardship of such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, who are charged with making sure all Americans have a say in their management. Often this gets reported simply as an expansion of oil and gas development on public lands, a simplification that fails to acknowledge just how radical of a shift in public policy it would be to turn over federal lands to state control.

From a Romney white paper:

States will be empowered to establish processes to oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, excluding only lands specially designated off-limits;
• State regulatory processes and permitting programs for all forms of energy development will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law;
• Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad, to afford the states maximum flexibility to ascertain what is
most appropriate.

I still remember how shocked I was when I heard Romney say this in the Nevada primary debate. This is a huge issue as far as I’m concerned. American is still a beautiful country with many unspoiled wilderness areas. It is vital that we protect those public lands–they belong to all Americans, not to individual state governments.

Here’s another environmental story on the attempts to block the Keystone XL pipeline: BREAKING: Blockader Locks to Underground Capsule to Protect a Family Farm. It’s a live blog of the “Tar Sands blockade.” Here’s their Facebook page.

From Firedoglake blogger Kevin Gosztola:

A Tar Sands Blockader, Alejandro de la Torre, locked his body in a concrete capsule buried in the path of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to stop a small family farm in East Texas from being destroyed by construction. He blocked demolition for at least six hours before police were able to break off a chunk of concrete is arm was in and arrest him.

Police confiscated cameras of Blockaders that were there to film for Torre’s safety. Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ramsey Sprague reported they wanted to keep cameras on him as long as possible but police intimidated observers and took the cameras.

Last week, TransCanada supervisors encouraged police to use torture tactics on protesters to stop their nonviolent direct action.

Sprague recounted the brutality, which was “astounding.” Shannon “Rain” Beebe and Benjamin Franklin locked themselves to TransCanada machinery to stop clear-cutting. The police hung them with their arms behind their backs. They put pressure on their shoulder with their arms twisted. They pepper sprayed a tube connecting their arms. They twisted a tube cutting off circulation to their hands. (One protester is seeking medical attention for nerve damage.)

The police used tasers and planned to keep using tasers on Beebe and Franklin until they released. Cameras were supposed to be on the scene to film the action, but police were directed by TransCanada supervisors to run off those with cameras so they could commit brutality without people seeing video evidence on the evening news.

Continuing the environmental theme, pioneering environmental activist Barry Commoner died on Sunday.

Scientist and activist Barry Commoner, who raised early concerns about the effects of radioactive fallout and was one of the pioneers of the environmental movement, has died at age 95.
Commoner died Sunday afternoon at a Manhattan hospital, where he had been since Friday, said his wife, Lisa Feiner. He lived in Brooklyn.

Commoner was an outspoken advocate for environmental issues. He was one of the founders of a well-known survey of baby teeth in St. Louis that started in the late 1950s. The survey assessed the levels of strontium-90 in the teeth and showed how children were absorbing radioactive fallout from nuclear bombs that were being tested.

The survey helped persuade government officials to partially ban some kinds of nuclear testing.
Feiner said Commoner had “a very strong belief that scientists had a social responsibility, that the discoveries would be used for social good and that scientists also had an obligation to educate the public about scientific issues so that the public could make informed political decisions.”

Commoner took on that role of educating the public, writing books on environmental issues. Among his works were “Making Peace with the Planet” and “Science and Survival.” He made the cover of Time magazine in early 1970 and ran for president as a third-party candidate in 1980.

Finally, here’s a little bit of schadenfreude for you. Bloomberg reports that New York is “suing JP Morgan for fraud over mortgages securities.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. bank, was sued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over claims that the Bear Stearns business the bank took over in 2008 defrauded mortgage-bond investors.

Investors were deceived about the defective loans backing securities they bought, leading to “monumental losses,” Schneiderman said in a complaint filed today in New York State Supreme Court.

“Defendants systematically failed to fully evaluate the loans, largely ignored the defects that their limited review did uncover, and kept investors in the dark about both the inadequacy of their review procedures and the defects in the underlying loans,” Schneiderman’s office said.

Schneiderman in January was named co-chairman of a state- federal group formed to investigate misconduct in bundling of mortgage loans into securities leading up to the financial crisis. The group includes officials from the U.S. Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI and other federal and state officials.

Poor Jamie Dimon. Why don’t people respect his “success?”

Those are my suggestions for today. What are you reading and blogging about?