The Politics of Grave Dancing: Issa and Romney


The more the Republicans push for some kind of October Surprise on the Benghazi attacks, the more mortified we should all be about the politics of grave dancing. More information is coming out on the damage to US intelligence in Benghazi and the Middle East by Issa’s public hearings. Issa’s document dump has exposed safe houses and Libyans working for the US. He’s actually exposed US intelligence assets and put their lives in danger. This is yet another –ala Cheney–of the ways Republicans will actually kill US interests and people in an effort to put their political power and aims above everything else.

“The American people deserve nothing less than a full explanation from this administration about these events, including why the repeated warnings about a worsening security situation appear to have been ignored by this administration. Americans also deserve a complete explanation about your administration’s decision to accelerate a normalized presence in Libya at what now appears to be at the cost of endangering American lives,” Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) wrote today in a letter to President Barack Obama.

But Issa didn’t bother to redact the names of Libyan civilians and local leaders mentioned in the cables, and just as with the WikiLeaks dump of State Department cables last year, the administration says that Issa has done damage to U.S. efforts to work with those Libyans and exposed them to physical danger from the very groups that had an interest in attacking the U.S. consulate.

“Much like WikiLeaks, when you dump a bunch of documents into the ether, there are a lot of unintended consequences,” an administration official told The Cable Friday afternoon. “This does damage to the individuals because they are named, danger to security cooperation because these are militias and groups that we work with and that is now well known, and danger to the investigation, because these people could help us down the road.”

One of the cables released by Issa names a woman human rights activist who was leading a campaign against violence and was detained in Benghazi. She expressed fear for her safety to U.S. officials and criticized the Libyan government.

“This woman is trying to raise an anti-violence campaign on her own and came to the United States for help. She isn’t publicly associated with the U.S. in any other way but she’s now named in this cable. It’s a danger to her life,” the administration official said.

Another cable names a Benghazi port manager who is working with the United States on an infrastructure project.

“When you’re in a situation where Ansar al-Sharia is a risk to Americans, an individual like this guy, who is an innocent civilian who’s trying to reopen the port and is doing so in conjunction with Americans, could be at risk now because he’s publicly affiliated with America,” the official said, referring to the group thought to have led the Benghazi attack.

Emptywheel lays it out even more clearly: ‘Darrell Issa Exposes the CIA as a Foreign Policy Debate Stunt”.  Here’s  a sample.  (H/T to RalphB).

Darrell Issa just released a bunch of documents so as to seed the Sunday shows in time for Monday’s foreign policy debate. [Update: See Josh Rogin’s reported description of some of the sensitivities Issa exposed.]

Here’s a running explication of what he released, all in the name of “national security.”

PDF 1: In December, Jeffrey Feltman asked Patrick Kennedy to approve “a combined footprint of 35 U.S. government personnel in Benghazi.” That would include 10 people identified as State: 8 State Department and USAID, and 2 temporary duty personnel.

Which leaves 25 people unaccounted for.

As it happens, the Libyans say there were 29 people they hadn’t expected when they came to evacuate the Americans. They complained afterwards that the Americans hadn’t told them about all the spooks they’d have onsite.

Well, now, Issa just confirmed they were not State or even USAID personnel. He has confirmed the Libyans’ claims–that they were spooks.

And then there’s this:

Because of budget considerations and the reduced footprint, Diplomatic Security’s current presence consists of two Special Agents…

As far back as December 2011, budget considerations were driving the small security footprint in Benghazi.

The budget considerations put into place by the GOP cuts to State’s budget.

.

We’ve heard many times over now that  CIA information was the basis of Susan Rice’s discussions with the press.  CIA documents back this up.

The Romney campaign may have misfired with its suggestion that statements by President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice about the Benghazi attack last month weren’t supported by intelligence, according to documents provided by a senior U.S. intelligence official.

“Talking points” prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15, the same day that Rice taped three television appearances, support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States. According to the CIA account, “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

The CIA document went on: “This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.” This may sound like self-protective boilerplate, but it reflects the analysts’ genuine problem interpreting fragments of intercepted conversation, video surveillance and source reports.

The senior intelligence official said the analysts’ judgment was based in part on monitoring of some of the Benghazi attackers, which showed they had been watching the Cairo protests live on television and talking about them before they assaulted the consulate.

“We believe the timing of the attack was influenced by events in Cairo,” the senior official said, reaffirming the Cairo-Benghazi link. He said that judgment is repeated in a new report prepared this week for the House intelligence committee.

The latest information is that there is now no evidence of an Al Qaeda role in the attack on the Benghazi consulate. This is also something falsely bandied around by Republicans like Sununu who insists the Libyan attack showed the President is lying about the strength of Al-Qaeda in the region.  Another shameless attempt to portray on foreign policy in the area as misguided and most likely another attempt to justify more military intervention and the Romney platform of $2 trillion increases in military spending.  It should also be emphasized that the attack did not occur on the US embassy in Libya because there’s also been this Republican inference that embassy security was weak and so allowed the attack.  Consulates are not embassies.

The assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last month appears to have been an opportunistic attack rather than a long-planned operation, and intelligence agencies have found no evidence that it was ordered by Al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials and witnesses interviewed in Libya.

The circumstances of the Sept. 11 attack have become a matter of heated political debate, with President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney clashing in their debate Tuesday about when Obama termed the assault an act of terrorism. But the emerging picture painted by intelligence officials and witnesses differs from the assertions of both sides.

Republicans have zeroed in on possible Al Qaeda ties to the Sept. 11 attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and have criticized the Obama administration for not saying early on that it was an act of terrorism. But after five weeks of investigation, U.S. intelligence agencies say they have found no evidence of Al Qaeda participation.

The attack was “carried out following a minimum amount of planning,” said a U.S. intelligence official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter still under investigation. “The attackers exhibited a high degree of disorganization. Some joined the attack in progress, some did not have weapons and others just seemed interested in looting.”

A second U.S. official added, “There isn’t any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance.” Most of the evidence so far suggests that “the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” earlier that day, the official said.

The lack of a firm Al Qaeda link could constrain U.S. military options. The administration believes it has the right under international law to use lethal force against Al Qaeda operatives who kill Americans, but that case would be harder to make against members of a Libyan militia.

You may recall the Sununu meltdown on Soledad O’Brien’s CNN interview the other day. He should really look stupid and hyperpolitical now.

Republicans are continuing the Cheney-Bush policy of misleading people to further their own political and NeoCon agendas.  It is more important than ever that the press continue to ignore their grave dancing and follow the actual process of getting to the facts.   We’re basically seeing the same sort of crap that lead us into Iraq repeating. It’s nothing but basic Republican propaganda in support of NeoCon Lies.  Let’s hope that more of this comes to the surface during the Monday night presidential debates on foreign policy.  We don’t need any more unnecessary wars.

Advertisements

Saturday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’ve been pretty sanguine about the chances of President Obama being reelected, but I have to admit I’m getting to the point that I could start panicking. I can’t understand why Mitt Romney seems to be doing so well in the polls right now. Seriously? Just because he managed to roll over Jim Lehrer and lie his ass off in a debate? I simply cannot understand why anyone would vote for the policies that Romney and Ryan are running on or why there would be such a sudden reversal in the polls based on outright lies and deception. What exactly is going on here?

Nate Silver, who throughout the campaign has been forecasting an Obama victory, is beginning to reverse course. Yesterday afternoon Silver wrote: Obama’s Swing State ‘Firewall’ Has Brittle Foundation.

President Obama’s position has been stronger in state polls than in national surveys on recent days, a streak that extended itself in Thursday’s polling.

Although Mr. Obama got a distinctly poor poll in Florida, which showed him seven points behind there, the rest of Thursday’s state-level data, like a series of polls by Quinnipiac University and Marist College, were reasonably good for him. In surveys of competitive states that were released over the course of the day, he held the lead with 11 polls to Mitt Romney’s 6.

However, four of the six national tracking polls moved toward Mr. Romney, who also led by one point in a national poll published by Monmouth University.

The case that Mr. Romney’s bounce is evaporating after his debate last week in Denver continues to look a bit thin. The tracking polls aren’t perfect by any means. Some are better than others, but they are a below-average group of polls on the whole. But they do provide useful information about the day-to-day trend in the race, and so far they haven’t shown the sort of reversal that Democrats might have hoped for.

What the hell is going on here? Then last night Silver published another piece: Romney Debate Gains Show Staying Power

Mitt Romney continues to surge in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, and Friday may have featured his best set of polls all year.

The best way to track a change in the polls is to look for instances in which the same firm has surveyed the same state (or the national race) multiple times. The FiveThirtyEight forecast model relies on a procedure very much like this to calculate the overall trend in the race.

Fifteen polls were released on Friday that provided a comparison with another survey conducted between the Democratic convention and last week’s debate in Denver. Mr. Romney gained an average of 4.6 percentage points in these surveys.

The scariest thing is that Romney is gaining in the swing states. Silver admits that many of the polls released on Friday were from Republican leaning firms, but still, it’s frightening.

The only really good news for Democrats is that Mr. Obama had built up a large enough cushion that he could withstand a lot of damage without becoming the underdog. The forecast model still has him clinging to narrow leads in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nevada, states that in some combination would give him 270 electoral votes.

Mr. Obama may also be just slightly underperforming the fundamentals in the election. His approval ratings remain near 50 percent, which would ordinarily predict a narrow re-election victory.

But for the first time, it’s really looking like Romney/Ryan could win. For those of us who believe that there will be a gigantic difference in outcomes–especially for women–if Romney becomes president, that is a terrifying prospect. Some liberals have argued that there is little difference between these two candidates. I simply can’t agree. I think the only hope for democracy is to get Obama reelected and then push him to enact policies that will reduce economic inequality and increase individual rights.

Can Obama turn this around? I have to believe he can, but it will obviously take a dramatic improvement in his performance in next Tuesday’s debate. Both candidates are prepping for the debate over the next three days.

In other news, Think Progress pushes back on Paul Ryan’s lies about the Libya situation during the vice presidential debate Thursday night. Ryan claimed that embassy officials had requested increased security for the Benghazi consulate, but that was not true. The requests were for security at the embassy in Tripoli.

Ryan also claimed there were requests for Marines to protect the ambassador, but that is not true either. TP quotes Foreign Policy:

At Thursday night’s debate, Rep. Paul Ryan seemed to suggest that the requests were for Marines to go to Libya, which was not the case. The requests were to extend the tours of a Mobile Security Detachments [MSD] and the Site Security Team [SST] at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, which are teams of military personnel, not Marines, who can help protect an embassy and its personnel.

There’s more at the link, but pretty much everything Ryan said about Libya during the debate was a lie. So why was it wrong for Biden to laugh at him again?

At HuffPo, Sam Stein writes that Ryan actually requested more stimulus funds from the Obama administration that has previously been known.

During Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden attacked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for criticizing the president’s stimulus act despite having sent two separate requests for stimulus funds for his district.

Biden was wrong. Ryan sent at least four requests.

A Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence between Ryan’s office and the Environmental Protection Agency, filed by The Huffington Post, unearthed two additional instances in which the Wisconsin Republican petitioned for American Recovery Act funds. In addition, there were many other occasions in which the GOP vice presidential nominee asked the EPA for grant money for projects in Wisconsin’s 1st District, which encompasses Ryan’s hometown of Janesville and has a slight Democratic lean. Combined, the letters muddy Ryan’s claim that the stimulus wasn’t helpful and that government spending, more broadly, doesn’t assist small businesses.

Stein notes that the EPA request could be embarrassing for Republicans:

…the letters’ language reveals a congressman who was involved in reviewing the applications and determining that taxpayer money could be useful economically. Moreover, the direct petitioning of the EPA could prove awkward for the Republican ticket, owing to the insistence among many in the GOP that the agency is a hindrance and should be eliminated.

You can see the original letters at the link.

Horrible, ugly troll and Romney surrogate John Sununu has struck again: Sununu Says Obama Imitating Biden Would Fail. From the Bloomberg TV unofficial transcript:

AL HUNT: Welcome back. We are now joined by former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate. John, let me ask you. Last night, the Democrats were ecstatic. They say Joe Biden energized us again. Give me your take on the VP debate.

JOHN SUNUNU: If they’re energized by that grotesque display, all the better for it. I thought Joe Biden was on steroids last night. He looked like the Cheshire cat at times and then he looked like the gawker and the stalker. But worse than that was his substance.

“Grotesque display?” Well, I guess it takes one to know one.

HUNT: John, second presidential debate next Tuesday in Hofstra. Do you expect a different Barack Obama, a different Mitt Romney?

SUNUNU: I expect the same Mitt Romney. Mitt is pretty consistent. But I think you’ll probably see a different Barack Obama. They’re probably showing him tapes of Biden’s disgraceful performance and suggesting to him he ought to get wired like that. So I suspect you’ll see a little bit of Joe Biden not only in Joe Biden, as we saw last night, but a little Joe Biden in Barack Obama.

Well that was insightful.

Sorry I don’t have more positive news. I guess we have to hang on until Tuesday night while the media continues to fawn over Romney and Ryan.

What are you reading and blogging about today?


Mitt Romney’s “Emotional” Story about Navy Seal Not Well Received by Friend, Mother

Glen Doherty was killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012

Yesterday, while campaigning in Iowa, Mitt Romney told a story about a chance meeting he had several years ago with Glen Doherty, a former Navy Seal who originally came from Winchester, Massachusetts.

Except Romney didn’t use the man’s name. I was immediately struck by that last night when I saw video of Romney telling the story and supposedly getting choked up when he revealed how “heartbroken” he was when he learned that Doherty had been killed in the consulate attack in Libya. I figured Romney probably didn’t even remember the Doherty’s name.

The way Romney told the story was that he and Ann had been at their home in San Diego and had been invited to a neighborhood Christmas Party. They got the address wrong and ended up at a different party–at Glen Doherty’s home.

Romney said he and his wife, Ann, walked to the house, joined the other guests for dinner and pictures, then had an epiphany: “Turns out this wasn’t the neighborhood party,” Romney said, drawing laughs. “This was a family having a party with their friends. So we were a little embarrassed, but they treated us well nonetheless, and I got to meet some really interesting people.”

“One of them was a guy from my home state of Massachusetts,” Romney continued, referring to Doherty, “a relatively young guy, compared to me. He was a former Navy SEAL. He was living in San Diego. Learned about him, he talked about his life, he also skied a lot. He’d skied in some of the places I had, and we had a lot of things in common. He told me he keeps going back to the Middle East. He cares very deeply about the people there. He served in the military there, went back from time to time to offer security services and so forth to people there.”

And then the “punch line”:

“You can imagine how I felt when I found out that he was one of the two former Navy SEALs killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11,….And it touched me, obviously, as I recognized that this young man that I thought was so impressive had lost his life in the service of his fellow men and women.”

The audience oohed and ahhed. Here’s the video:

As usual, the real story is a little different than one Romney has been telling recently in hopes of appearing more compassionate and empathetic. One of Glen Doherty’s close friends, Elf Ellefsen heard about the party in question directly from Doherty. Ellefsen told his version of the story on a radio show on KIRO FM in Seattle.

Ellefsen said Doherty recalled meeting Mitt Romney years ago, but the account was much different from what the Presidential candidate retold in Iowa.

According to Ellefsen, Romney introduced himself to Doherty four separate times during the gathering.

“He said it was very comical,” Ellefsen said, “Mitt Romney approached him ultimately four times, using this private gathering as a political venture to further his image. He kept introducing himself as Mitt Romney, a political figure. The same introduction, the same opening line. Glen believed it to be very insincere and stale.”

Ellefsen said Doherty remembered Romney as robotic.

“He said it was pathetic and comical to have the same person come up to you within only a half hour, have this person reintroduce himself to you, having absolutely no idea whatsoever that he just did this 20 minutes ago, and did not even recognize Glen’s face.”

In response to a question, Ellefsen said he didn’t care for Romney exploiting his friend’s life and death for political reasons.

“Honestly it does make me sick. Glen would definitely not approve of it. He probably wouldn’t do much about it. He probably wouldn’t say a whole lot about it. I think Glen would feel, more than anything, almost embarrassed for Romney. I think he would feel pity for him.”

Back in Massachusetts, Romney was chided by Barbara Doherty, Glen Doherty’s mother, who told Boston NBC affiliate WHDH:

“I don’t trust Romney. He shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda. It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama,” said Barbara Doherty, Glen’s mother.


Saturday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

The political news this past week has been so strange and disturbing that I’ve begun to feel as if I’ve gone through the looking glass into some alternate reality. For years we’ve dealt with a press corps that refuses to deal in facts and will only report what one group of politicians say on the one hand, and contrast it with what another group of politicians say on the other hand, refusing to evaluate the truth value of what they are reporting.

But suddenly in 2012, we are dealing with a presidential candidate who seemingly has no scruples whatsoever. Mitt Romney lies blatantly and constantly, believing that he can get away with it in this media culture of false equivalency. And his running mate, Paul Ryan, also has a troubled relationship with the truth, although he isn’t quite as practiced a liar as Romney is.

James Fallows has been chronicling the way the media deals with what he calls the “post truth” era in politics. A few mainstream reporters have also begun trying to confront the blatant lying head on. Surprisingly, Norah O’Donnell, whom lefties have often mocked in the past, has been a standout. She successfully confronted Paul Ryan on blaming President Obama for spending cuts that Ryan voted for. And yesterday, she did it again with Romney surrogate Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.

Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: Norah O’Donnell Teaches TV Journos Another Lesson With Rob Portman Stuffage

Former Chief White House Correspondent and newly-minted CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell has been on fire lately, holding a veritable clinic on how to interview dishonest politicians that her mainstream media colleagues would do well to study. In the latest example of this, O’Donnell abandoned the current media fashion of ignoring lies (or presenting the truth as just another counter-argument), and pursued Sen. Rob Portman‘s (R-OH) disinformation on the recent violence in Libya like a Terminator with OCD.

What O’Donnell has been doing recently shouldn’t seem as remarkable as it is, but good old-fashioned feet to the fire followup is a sadly dying art, especially in television news. Interviewers either let lies and misinformation slip by because they need to hit all their prepared questions before time’s up, or because they’re numb to post-truth politics, or they present the facts in asterisk fashion before moving on to allow more lies to spew forth.

Portman completely twisted the timeline of events surrounding attacks on the embassy in Cairo and on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He actually claimed that Romney had made his statement the U.S. embassy in Cairo had issued a statement after the attacks saying “We apologize,” and that Romney’s Tuesday night statement had been made before the violent attacks in Libya. O’Donnell point out the falsehoods, and Portman attempted to continue lying. O’Donnell kept at it, and Portman came out looking the fool. You can watch the video at the link.

After describing O’Donnell’s performance, Christopher concludes:

O’Donnell’s performance here should be in network news training videos, because the only way to get these people to stop lying is to put up a lie stop sign. For awhile, of course, every interview would look like this one, with the subject being stuck on the one lie for the whole interview, but eventually, they’d have to either start fessing up when they’re busted, or (heaven forbid) just start telling the truth.

Clearly, Republicans have learned they can blatantly lie to the media a get away with it; now Romney and Ryan have raised the lying to a new level. Will other reporters begin to point it out, as O’Donnell has? For the sake of our democracy, I hope so.

In contrast, I urge you to read the full transcript of George Stephanopoulos’ interview with Mitt Romney yesterday. Stephanopoulos half-heartedly pushed back on some of Romney’s lies, Romney just ran right over Stephanopoulos’ weak protests. There are points in this interview where Romney makes long rambling statements that make absolutely no sense, and gets away with it!

Romney actually claims that the White House agreed with his his initial statement on Tuesday night, that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo had apologized to terrorists for a muslim-bashing internet video!

Here is the Embassy’s statement, posted on its website hours before any protests began.

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Now Romney’s Tuesday night statement, released after it was known that there was an ongoing violent attack on the Consulate in Benghazi with one American death already reported.

“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi,” Romney said in the statement. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

And of course Romney doubled down the next day at his infamous smirk-filled Wednesday morning press conference, by attacking and lying about President Obama even after it was known that four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stephens, had been murdered. Now let’s look at how Romney tried to wriggle out of responsibility for his ugly remarks in his ABC interview:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, there has been quite a controversy in the last couple of days, since those killings in Libya, the chaos in the Middle East. And we heard some of that at your event today. President Obama has stepped in as well. He said your comments on Tuesday night displayed a tendency of yours to “shoot first and aim later.” What’s your response?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, early on, with the developments in Egypt, the embassy there put out a statement which stayed up on their website for, I think, 14-15 hours.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But before the protestors had breached the wall.

MITT ROMNEY: Well, it first went up before they breached the wall. But it stayed up. And they reiterated the statement after they breached the wall, even after some of the tragedy in Libya, the statement stayed up. And I thought the statement was inappropriate and pointed that out. And of course, the White House also thought it was inappropriate. But of course, now our attention is focused on the loss of life and the tragedy of having a remarkable ambassador and diplomatic members, have their lives taken. This is a great sadness and tragedy for America.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You said the statement showed a tendency to sympathize with those who waged the attacks. And what the statement seems to be is condemning the continuing efforts of individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims. Where do they show sympathy for those who waged the attacks? It was done before the attacks happened.

MITT ROMNEY: Well, the statement as I indicated stayed on the website for some 14-15 hours. The statement was reiterated after they had breached the sovereignty of the embassy.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Coupled with a condemnation–

MITT ROMNEY: Even– and even–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –of the attacks, though.
MITT ROMNEY: And even after the killing in Libya. And by the way what I said was exactly the same conclusion the White House reached, which was that the statement was inappropriate. That’s why they backed away from it as well.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn’t say that it was showing sympathy for the attackers.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I think the statement was an inappropriate statement. I think it was not directly applicable and appropriate for the setting. I think it should have been taken down. And apparently the White House felt the same way.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So no regrets?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, I indicated, at the time, and continue to that what was said at that time was not appropriate, that they continued to have that. They reiterated the statement after the then breaching of the grounds. And I think that was wrong. And by the way my statement was the same point, which was that the White House said they distanced themself from the statement. I also thought it was an inappropriate statement. I made the statement– my point at the same time, I think, the White House did. So I think we said about the same thing there. I just thought the statement was wrong.

Is it just me, or does Mitt Romney sound like a gibbering idiot? Yet the Stephanopoulos allows him to spew his nonsense at will after a few weak efforts to point out fallacies. Seriously, does Romney expect people to believe this garbage?  Stephanopoulos should have said something like that–slightly more tactfully, of course, but emphatically.  Please read the entire disgusting thing, if you can stand it. And then cleanse your palate with this hilarious post by Sarah Proud and Tall at Balloon Juice.

Here are a few more links to get you started on your weekend reading:

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Judge throws out Walker’s union bargaining law.

LA Times: Christian charity, ex-con linked to film on Islam

BBC News: Seven dead as anti-Islam film protests widen

Danger Room: ‘Muslims’ Movie Producer Was Arrested for PCP, Snitched for Feds

Smoking Gun: Producer Of Anti-Islam Film Was Fed Snitch

Houston Chronicle: US scrambles to rush spies, drones to Libya

Don’t miss this one! Wayne Barrett at The Nation: Mitt Romney, Monsanto Man

Politico: Pennsylvania poll: Obama up by 11

ABC News: The Early Voting Factor: Mitt Better Hurry

ABC News: Jennifer Granholm, DNC Firebrand, ‘Cute’ on ’78 ‘Dating Game’

Now what are you reading and blogging about this fine Saturday morning?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! It is just me, or is the news getting weirder with each passing day?

Last night Jerry Sandusky who, with a little help from his friends, has destroyed the reputation of a large university and created the worst scandal in sports history, appeared on the new NBC show Rock Center. Sandusky told Bob Costas he didn’t sexually abuse little boys–he just “horsed around” with them in the showers.

When asked by Costas, “Are you a pedophile,” Sandusky responded “No.”

Joe Paterno’s one time defensive coordinator was charged earlier this month with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys. He is currently free on a $100,000 bond and has denied any wrongdoing. The allegations date back to 1994, according to a grand jury report. A grand jury report detailed claims of alleged sexual encounters with young boys in Sandusky’s home, hotels and Penn State locker rooms.

“I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact,” said Sandusky.

When pressed by Costas about what Sandusky was willing to concede that he’d done was wrong, Sandusky said, “I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.”

He touched their legs? Talk about a non sequitur. Sandusky’s lawyer should have told him not to talk to the media.

NPR’s Morning Edition is running a three-part series on Ayn Rand’s influence on U.S. politics. The first episode was on yesterday. They reported on an interview that Mike Wallace did with Rand in 1959.

Wallace is in a chair, on a stark set, holding his notes and a cigarette. Across from him sits Rand, a native Russian, small and sharp and a little nervous. Wallace asks her to outline the idea she calls “objectivism.”

It is, she says, a system of morality “not based on faith” or emotion, “but on reason.”

Rand wholly rejected religion. She called it a weakness, even a parasite — one that convinces people their purpose is to work for the betterment of others. In fact, she says, for man, the truth is just the opposite.

“His highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness,” she says.

Wallace asks Rand about politics and about government programs and regulations that have improved many people’s lives.

“I feel that it is terrible that you see destruction all around you, and that you are moving toward disaster until and unless all those welfare state conceptions have been reversed and rejected,” Rand answers.

These programs are destroying individual liberties, Rand says, especially the freedom of producers, entrepreneurs, businessmen. The government has no right to take their property, she says….

“I am opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute, laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy.”

I still don’t understand how Republicans can buy into Rand’s philosophy and then claim the right to control women’s lives based on their fundamentalist nonsensical religious beliefs. If you really think about it, what they’ve done is taken Rand’s gospel of selfishness and pretended that was Jesus’ message too.

Yesterday, President Obama went golfing with a friend who was recently caught in a prostitution sting.

“The president’s fourball at the Mamala Bay Golf Course includes his long-time friend Robert “Bobby” Titcomb who was arrested and plead no contest in May to soliciting a prostitute, Marvin Nicholson, and White House advance man Pete Selfridge,” the report read.

In April, Titcomb was arrested in Honolulu and charged with a misdemeanor for soliciting a prostitute after he approached an undercover police officer. Titcomb’s attorney, William Harrison, said at the time that Titcomb did not fully agree with the facts of the case, but plead no contest because he wanted to take responsibility.

He was fined $500 and the conviction was expunged from his record in October, following six months without further incident.

Obama and Titcomb have been friends since attending the Punahou School together in Honolulu, according to Hawaii News Now.

That should give the Republican candidates something to be outraged about in the next debate. Why are there so many of those debates, anyway?

King Abdullah II of Jordan has called on Syria’s President Bashar Assad to resign.

Syrian President Bashar Assad faced heightened economic and political pressures Monday, as Europe imposed a new round of financial sanctions and King Abdullah II of Jordan called on the embattled autocrat to step down.

Meanwhile, the Arab League, which on Saturday moved to suspend Syria because of its failure to implement a league-brokered peace deal, said it was preparing to send a delegation of up to 500 observers into Syria. Details were still being worked out with Damascus, the league’s secretary-general, Nabil Elaraby, told reporters in Cairo.

Syria has said it would welcome Arab League observers, but the Assad regime has remained defiant in the face of Arab demands that it halt violence against civilian protesters.

[….]

The Syrian uprising began in March near the Jordanian border in the southwestern provincial city of Dara. Opposition activists reported that at least 28 people were killed Monday in that area, some in clashes between armed rebels and security forces at the city’s northern entrance. The official government news agency said at least two law enforcement officers were killed and an unspecified number wounded in clashes with a “terrorist group” in the vicinity of Dara.

The opposition reported at least 50 killed nationwide Monday. The death toll could not be independently confirmed.

Herman Cain had a serious case of brain freeze yesterday when he was asked if he agreed with President Obama’s position on Libya. From the NY Daily News:

The GOP presidential hopeful looked hungry for a cheat sheet when the editorial board of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel asked him if he supported Obama’s backing of the revolution that toppled Moammar Khadafy.

“Okay … Libya,” Cain responded haltingly, according to a video of the interview.

He stared at the ceiling, fiddled with his blazer, blinked a bunch of times and pushed his water bottle away from him on the table.

Eleven seconds later, he spoke:

“President Obama supported the uprising, correct?” said the normally chatty former head of the Godfather’s Pizza chain.

“President Obama called for the removal of Khadafy — just wanted to make sure we are talking about the same thing,” he added, as if trying to goad his interviewers into confirming what he said was true.

More staring at the ceiling. “Nope, that’s a different one,” he blurted out, waving his hand, adjusting his chair and crossing his legs.

And so on. There’s lots more. Watch it:

What a dope!!

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads: S & P, the New Madrid Fault, the Gaddafis, and Obama in the Eye of Hurricane Irene

Good Morning!! I think I have some interesting reading for you today, so let’s get right to it.

Last night I wrote about Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein possibly being in trouble with the feds. Interestingly, on Monday another high-profile exec announced he’ll be stepping down. I’m referring to S&P president Deven Sharma. From The New York Times:

The ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said late on Monday that its president, Deven Sharma, who has become the public face of the firm in the wake of its historic downgrade on the United States’ long-term debt rating, will step down and leave the company by the end of the year….

The management change had been in the works for months and was unrelated to either the Justice Department’s inquiry or to the emergence of the activist investors, Jana Partners and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, according to people briefed on the matter.

Oh really? Kind of a strange coinky-dink, then, isn’t it?

The ratings agency’s decision to downgrade the United States’ long-term credit rating to AA+ from AAA on Aug. 5 set off a storm of controversy, including criticism by President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. The decision contributed heavily to the worst drop in American stocks since the financial crisis three years ago, as well as volatility that continues to whipsaw the markets weeks later. The other big ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, maintained their top-tier rating on United States debt.

At the same time, the agency is being investigated over whether it improperly rated mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis. Standard & Poor’s, along with the other major ratings agencies, gave their highest ratings to bundles of troubled loans that appeared less risky during the housing boom, but have since collapsed in value.

Since the financial crisis, the agencies’ business practices and models have been scrutinized by Congress, and Standard & Poor’s is also being investigated by the Justice Department, people briefed on the matter have previously said. At issue is whether the agency’s independent analysis was driven by profits. The Justice Department inquiry, which began before the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the United States’ debt, is centered on whether analysts’ decisions to assign securities a low credit rating on subprime mortgage loans were overruled by business managers.

Right. I’m sure none of that had anything to do with the president of the troubled company stepping down. /snark

The Financial Times has a piece on the incoming president, Douglas Peterson.

As head of Citigroup’s Japanese operations in 2004, Mr Peterson dramatically bowed in apology before Tokyo regulators after they shut down Citi’s private banking operations there.

Now, as he takes over the embattled ratings agency just weeks after its unprecedented downgrade of US credit, Mr Peterson is likely to find himself before regulators in the US, who are looking into the downgrade and reportedly investigating S&P’s ratings of mortgages before the financial crisis.

Yet, it is Mr Peterson’s experience in Japan, and his more recent turn running Citibank, the retail banking arm of Citigroup, that has given S&P’s owner McGraw-Hill confidence that he is the right man for the job.

Seven years ago, Mr Peterson was given the tricky task of mending relations with Japanese regulators and rebuilding Citi’s tarnished reputation after the US bank’s private banking unit was found to have illegally amassed large profits and was ordered to close down.

By all accounts, the affable Mr Peterson, who is widely described in Tokyo as “nice” and “sincere”, succeeded in reassuring the Financial Service Agency and the Japanese public alike that Citi could once again be trusted with the considerable financial assets of one of the largest economies in the world.

IOW, Peterson has been hired because of his pleasing personality and his ability to make friends and influence people.

But Sean Gregory at Time argues that “A New Leader Won’t Save S&P.”

It’s tempting to read the resignation of Deven Sharma, who stepped down as president of S&P Monday night, as an admission that the rating agency goofed in downgrading the United States’ sovereign rating from AAA to AA+, even as Fitch and Moody’s maintained America’s top grade. Warren Buffett said the U.S. should be rated “quadruple A.” The Treasury department complained that S&P overestimated the nation’s future debt by $2 trillion. Timothy Geithner said that the S&P decision shows “a stunning lack of knowledge about basic U.S. fiscal budget math. And I think they drew exactly the wrong conclusion from this budget agreement.”

Guess Sharma and Geithner won’t be hanging out at any holiday parties. If the S&P downgrade was indeed a mistake, it was an expensive one. In the week after the Aug. 5 S&P downgrade, according to Bloomberg, the market value of global stocks tumbled by $7.6 trillion. Sharma, a former Booz Allen Hamilton consultant who has headed S&P for the past four years, might not be trumping this fact on his newly-polished resume. So you’re the guy who cost the world $7.6 trillion in wealth? You’re hired!

Like FT, Gregory points out that S&P has been shopping for a new leader for months, mostly because Sharma has failed the company in a number of ways. So will a new president make a difference? No, because the ratings agencies simply aren’t qualified to evaluate the credit of sovereign states.

There’s a frightening earthquake story at The Daily Beast: The Quake We Should Fear. Apparently it’s the Midwest that is due for a big one–not the east coast.

Early in the morning of May 16, while most of America was being titillated and transfixed by the appearance in court of the then-suspect Dominique Strauss-Kahn, an urgent message was suddenly received at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, D.C.

Reports were streaming in of a catastrophic earthquake, magnitude 7.7, that had struck the Midwest near the town of Marked Tree, Ark. First reports were alarming: phenomenal property damage; casualty figures were unprecedented; transportation links were severed; and cities like St. Louis, Memphis, Little Rock, and Cincinnati had been thrown into utter turmoil. Eight states were believed to have been directly affected, and it was thought the death toll would be in the thousands.

A gigantic federal relief mission swung into action. Nine thousand National Guardsmen were ordered to be deployed. Triage centers were opened in all the affected cities—a list that grew longer as a secondary magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck close to the city of Mt. Carmel, Ill. The Red Cross deployed emergency teams. Power companies were given priority to restore electricity and gas supplies. Heavy equipment was sent in to clear highways and railway tracks.

Within 72 hours some kind of order was restored. Hospitals found themselves more able to cope with the vast number of patients suffering injuries. Refugees fleeing in panic were being assembled into special camps. Temporary tent cities were set up along the main refugee routes.

Huh? Oh wait. That was a FEMA exercise. But it was based on the real possibility of a major earthquake on the Madrid fault. It’s happened before and is due to happen again.

This year marks the bicentennial of the great swarm of earthquakes that afflicted New Madrid between December 1811 and February 1812—hundreds of them, day after day, but punctuated by four enormous ruptures, two occurring on Dec. 16, and one each on Jan. 23 and Feb. 7. These caused spectacular effects all across the then young, sparsely settled United States—toppling church steeples in South Carolina, ringing church bells in Boston, causing the Mississippi to reverse it course, and sinking numerous properties deep into the liquefied earths of the prairies.

Yikes! But I’m still worried that Boston hasn’t had a major earthquake since 1755–so we’re probably due also.

Yesterday I came across a couple of interesting stories on Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif that you might want to check out.

From Scientific American: Egotist Rex: Are a Dictator’s Defiant Statements Indicative of Self-Delusion? It’s an interview with George Washington University Professor of Psychiatry Jerrold Post.

The interviewer asks Post about the many bizarre statements that Gaddafi has made since the rebellion began. He seems out of touch with reality. Is he delusional? Post discusses the circles of sycophants that surround every world leader–this may make it difficult for the leader to see what is really happening outside this protective bubble of supporters.

They can have a very unrealistic understanding and believe, as Qadhafi stated again and again, “My people, they all love me.”

I found this language of his quite remarkable. And with Qadhafi as an exaggerated example, this is true of any of the other leaders, too—namely, they believe they have widespread support. If there are public demonstrations against them, that must reflect outside agitators. This was true with [ousted Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak as well. He spoke of outside conspiracies.

But it is particularly true of Qadhafi. There is an interesting kind of almost syllogism for him: “My people all love me, and therefore if there is anyone protesting against me, they are not really my people, and that must be a consequence of outside provocation.” And one of the points that he made early on was that this was crazed youth who were on hallucinogens with which their Nescafe had been laced, which I thought was rather creative, really.

I found Qadhafi’s language in general very striking. And what is most interesting about it is it is entirely in the first person singular: “My people all love me. They will support me. My people, they love me.” It was very “me” centered.

Next the interviewer asks whether narcissism is a characteristic of many national leaders? The response could perhaps be applied to someone a little closer to home, if you know what I mean. Check it out.

Vanity Fair has a new article up about Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi. It’s rather long, but here’s the introductory paragraph:

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi—son of Muammar, and long regarded as his heir—was subjected to an arrest warrant months ago by the Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Libyan rebels in Tripoli reported that he was in custody, but Saif soon appeared in public, rallying what’s left of pro-Qaddafi forces. As NATO bombs fell on Libya, the distinguished international lawyer Philippe Sands sat down with those who know Saif Qaddafi best—a London professor, his Libyan mentor, and the prosecutor who may decide his fate. Saif Qaddafi may claim that he was merely an intermediary, or a force for moderation, or perhaps even a victim. But whatever the claims, according to the prosecutor, he was deeply complicit in his father’s crackdown this year.

Hurricane Irene could become a category 3 sometime today. It’s still predicted to go right up the coast to New England. States all along the east coast are preparing for the worst. Will it hit the Cape and islands? The LA Times suggests President Obama might have to be evacuated.

First, President Obama’s golf game was interrupted by an earthquake. Now, it appears that Hurricane Irene is beating a path toward Martha’s Vineyard, where the president is vacationing with his wife and two daughters.

The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast shows Hurricane Irene reaching landfall in the Carolinas late Friday and early Saturday before raking its way up the East Coast and into New England. Coastal areas are urged to keep tabs on the storm’s path and remain alert for possible evacuation orders as the hurricane continues to grow in intensity.

It swelled to a Category 3 storm overnight with winds that could exceed 110 mph, and remains on track to gain in strength and ferocity to become a Category 4 hurricane.

Obama is supposed to be in Washington on Sunday to speak at the opening of the Martin Luther King Memorial and then return to the Vineyard. The storm is supposed to hit DC before moving up to Massachusetts.

The eye of the storm appears to be sticking to the coastal outlines, which could spell trouble for Martha’s Vineyard, an island accessible only by boat or plane. As it has done throughout the storm, the National Hurricane Center stresses that the projected path could change dramatically as weather projections come into sharper focus over the next several days.

Hmmm…. Perhaps Mother Nature is trying to send a message to our obtuse leader: Americans need jobs!! Or maybe not.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Live Blog: Breaking News in Libya

You may not have heard the news from Libya, but it appears that Rebel and NATO forces have entered Tripoli and it may mean the end for Ghaddafi.  Most of the sources I’ve found are coming from the foreign press and are being tweeted.  CNN and Fox have yet to switch to the story although I just read a tweet from Don Lemon that he’s excited the story is breaking on his shift because he gets to cover it.

Here’s some coverage for you to check out.  I’ll try to keep some of the links updates through out the evening.   You can find similar news on twitter at #Libya.

Libya Live Blog from AJ:

Sounds of gunfire and explosions are becoming more intense in the Libyan capital Tripoli, according to a witness who spoke to the Reuters news agency.

Residents reported fighting in several neighbourhoods and said opponents of Muammar Gaddafi were in the streets.

From CBS News:

Heavy gunfire and explosions rattled the Libyan capital Saturday after rebels seized control of a major coastal city just west of Tripoli. Rebel commanders said the firing in the capital signaled the start of an attack on Muammar Qaddafi’s main stronghold.

Gun battles and rounds of mortar shelling were heard clearly at the hotel where foreign correspondents stay in the capital. Explosions were heard in the area as NATO aircraft carried out heavy bombing runs after nightfall.

Col. Fadlallah Haroun, a rebel military commander in their stronghold of Benghazi said this marks the beginning of Operation Mermaid – a nickname for the capital city – an assault on Tripoli coordinated with NATO.

Haroun told The Associated Press that weapons were assembled and sent by tugboats to Tripoli on Friday night.

“The fighters in Tripoli are rising up in two places at the moment – some are in the Tajoura neighborhood and the other is near the Matiga (international) airport,” he told the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera.

Alarabiaya English

In his announcement on Libyan state TV, government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim also said the rebels that entered Tripoli on Saturday night will be “pardoned if they surrender,” adding a message to the Libyan audience: “Qaddafi is your leader … Tripoli is surrounded by thousands to defend it,” suggesting the rebel advance on Tripoli has not shaken the regime.

Rebels are continuing to battle for the government-controlled Mitiga airbase in Tripoli in the early hours of Sunday. Fighting has left an unknown number of insurgents dead in the suburb of Qadah and elsewhere, an opposition activist in Tripoli told Reuters.

“The rebels have surrounded a military airbase called Mitiga in the Tajourah district. The rebels there are telling the brigades that they come in peace to avoid bloodshed. There are areas where electricity has been cut off,” he said.

Report to watch from AJ on the damage from the bombing.

Interesting Tweets:

BrianWildeCTV BrianWilde
When you have to announce it, the end is near. “@Reuters: Gaddafi remains #Libya’s leader: spokesman reut.rs/qrPdQ8”

pedroelrey pedroelrey
Is Now-ism killing news? : Gadhafi likely wounded and has fled Tripoli haaretz.com/news/internati… #Italy #Libya

Henrique Henrique
amazing to see that only Al Jazeera English is broadcasting what is happening in #Libya right now…Nothing on CNN, FOX, MSNBC or even BBC!

richardengelnbc Richard Engel
#libya US sources say revolt seems to have ‘certainly turned a corner’

iyad_elbaghdadi Iyad El-Baghdadi
Fresh #Libya map with overview of all action; shows clearly how Gaddafi is cornered: bit.ly/nK2fKK @acarvin

OmarAlMukhtar Omar Al Mukhtar
Our war is not with U Gaddafi fighters, but w/ a family who destroyed #Libya for 42 years. Lay down ur weapons & join ur brothers. #Unite

MabusharkhMahmoud Abu Sharkh

Mosques all over #Tripoli now chanting Allahu Akbar after they knew the revolutionaries entered the city #Libya

Hanzabonanza Hana Tuhami
Wouldn’t it be really ironic if Gaddafi fell on the day of his Al-Fateh revolution? #Libya #Feb17

evaottesmith evaottesmith
RT “@PeterClifford1: #Libya Former #Gaddafi PM, Jalloud, defects to Opposition & now believed to be in Europe. tinyurl.com/PCOLibya”

There appear to be Tweets coming from within Libya which is really interesting to follow. The #Libya channel is now overwhelmed with Tweets just from the last few minutes.

Watch Al Jzazeera English here. 

There’s a live report coming from Tripoli now and the reporters are saying that it’s getting close to ‘zero hour’.