2012 - %3, November

Benghazi Coverup Goes Even Deeper Than Anyone Imagined

| Tue Nov. 20, 2012 2:23 AM EST

All right, dammit, who was it that doctored those Benghazi talking points? Who was it that changed "terrorists" to "extremists"? It was somebody in the White House, wasn't it? Probably Barack "I killed bin Laden" Obama himself, who just couldn't bear to admit that terrorism still exists after four years of his glorious reign.

Then again, maybe not:

The intelligence community — not the White House, State Department or Justice Department — was responsible for the substantive changes made to the talking points distributed for government officials who spoke publicly about the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the spokesman for the director of national intelligence said Monday.

....The initial version included information linking individuals involved in the attack to al Qaeda, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the drafting of the talking points. But when the document was sent to the rest of the intelligence community for review, there was a decision to change "al Qaeda" to "extremists." The official said the change was made for legitimate intelligence and legal reasons, not for political purposes.

"First, the information about individuals linked to al Qaeda was derived from classified sources," the official said. "Second, when links were so tenuous — as they still are — it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers so you don't set off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions. Third, it is important to be careful not to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages."

You'll be unsurprised to learn that Republicans weren't satisfied with this rather prosaic explanation. Their dissatisfaction stems, apparently, from the fact that last week witnesses told them they didn't know who changed the words. But this week, after further investigation, they suddenly do know. That simply makes no sense. No sense, I tell you! It's inexplicable that when they ask people questions and then give them time to investigate, those people return with with additional information.

Besides, it had to have been that rascally Obama. It just had to have been. After all, we all know that it was critical to his reelection effort that the American public believe it was "extremists" who killed our diplomats, not "terrorists." Why? Because....um, come on, that's just obvious. I don't have to spell it out for you, do I? This whole affair has Saul Alinsky written all over it.

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Mitt Romney's Surprisingly Unbusinesslike Campaign

| Tue Nov. 20, 2012 1:22 AM EST

I've read several election postmortems that claim Mitt Romney paid a whole lot more for his TV ads than Barack Obama did. Today, Matt Lewis confirms this. His source tells him that Romney typically paid a big premium for non-preemptable ads even in early September, when ads are rarely preempted. Why?

According to our source, Team Obama simply did the “due diligence to find where the lowest unit rate was,” a tedious process which “takes manpower.” Conversely, it appears Team Romney simply didn’t want bother with the hassle. So they threw money at the problem — and walked away.

In other words, Obama ran his campaign like a business, outsourcing specialized tasks like media buys to outside firms and keeping a tight rein on costs. Conversely, Romney ran his campaign like a millionaire's personal fiefdom, figuring that his buddies could do the job as well as anyone else. But although they were pretty deft at making excuses for their inefficiency, it turned out they couldn't. What's more, outside the world of TV ads, he directed a tremendous amount of campaign money to his friends:

Mitt Romney's campaign has directed $134.2 million to political firms with business ties to his senior staff, spotlighting the tightknit nature of his second presidential bid and the staggering sums being spent in this election....Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman, said payments to firms with connections to staff members were not only for consulting, but also were used to purchase a variety of services, including "polling, video production, political mail, get-out-the-vote phones, online advertising, website development, and budget and compliance management, among other things."

His longtime business cronies did well out of the campaign, but Romney apparently didn't know how to manage them very well (cf. Orca, failure of). This isn't surprising. Romney portrays himself as a successful manager, but there's a big difference between heading up a private equity firm and heading up an actual business. Live and learn.

Kevin's Handy Tax Table for Innumerate Rich People

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 10:47 PM EST

Dave Weigel complains today that too many rich people have no idea how income taxes work. They've heard that Obama wants to raise tax rates on people who make more than $250,000, so they're working on ways to keep their income right at $249,000. After all, if they go over the threshold, they'd suddenly have to pay the higher rate, and it would be a net loss.

This isn't true, of course. Obama is only proposing to raise tax rates on income over $250,000, so if your income goes up to $251,000, you only pay the higher rate on the extra $1,000. The tax bill on your first $250,000 stays exactly the same.

But that's hard to explain, and we're all about solutions here, not petty griping. So I have the answer: an EZ-to-Read table that compares total taxes paid under the old Bush rates and the proposed Obama rates. It starts at $241,900 because that's $250,000 minus the standard deduction, and it's for married couples filing jointly.

Example: under the current Bush tax rates, a couple making $300,000 pays $75,802, or 25.27% of their total income. Under Obama's plan, the rate goes up on the amount over $241,900, so they pay a whopping $2,000 more, or 25.85% of total income. Millionaires will pay $32,000 more. Raw data here. Share this with all your rich friends!

World Bank: "4°C Warming Simply Must Not Be Allowed To Occur"

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 7:13 PM EST

The noted tree-hugging hippies at the World Bank have a new report out warning of the dangers of 4 degrees Celsius—or 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit—of global warming.

In an introduction, World Bank president Dr. Jim Yong Kim writes that he hopes the report "shocks us into action." The impacts of 4-degree warming cited in the report include:

 

  • By the end of the century, sea-levels will rise by one meter or more as the ice sheets in Greenland and the West Antarctic.
  • Drought and extreme temperatures will increase in areas like Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, Australia, and Southeast Asia.
  • Ocean acidity will increase 150 percent.
  • Agricultural production will decrease in many areas.
  • Water resources will be strained.
  • Major ecosystems like coral reefs and the Amazon rainforest will be destroyed.

Of course an average of 4 degrees warming across the globe doesn't look the same everywhere. Some areas are wetter. Some are drier. Some will actually be 6 degrees warmer. Some get cyclones. Some get floods. All together, the report finds that it will be very bad, particular for the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

Here's why the World Bank cares:

It seems clear that climate change in a 4°C world could seriously undermine poverty alleviation in many regions. This is supported by past observations of the negative effects of climate change on economic growth in developing countries. While developed countries have been and are projected to be adversely affected by impacts resulting from climate change, adaptive capacities in developing regions are weaker. The burden of climate change in the future will very likely be borne differentially by those in regions already highly vulnerable to climate change and variability. Given that it remains uncertain whether adaptation and further progress toward development goals will be possible at this level of climate change, the projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.

The report comes just ahead of the 18th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which begins on Nov. 26. Three years ago, leaders agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees as part of a non-binding political accord. But that plan is really just on paper; the science shows that the world is on path to churn right past 2 degrees and hit 4 degrees by 2100. Nations don't seem likely to take the much-more aggressive measures necessary to hit that target any time soon.

Meningitis Pharmacy Update: Live Bird, Bugs Found in Sister Facility That Packaged Sterile Drugs

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 6:51 PM EST

Water dripping from leaks, bugs, and a flying bird are just a few of the troubling things discovered in an FDA inspection of Ameridose's sterile drug manufacturing facility, which has been shut down since October 10 after its sister company, the New England Compounding Center (NECC), was implicated in the meningistis outbreak that has since killed 32 people. (Read our explainer to get up to speed on the outbreak.) Ameridose and NECC are both owned by the members of the Conigliaro familiy of Massachusetts.

Investigations in the wake of the meningistis outbreak revealed sterility problems at the NECC facility that made the tainted steroid injections. As scrutiny turned to its larger sister company, Ameridose followed NECC in shutting down production and recalling all of its products.

Campaign Coverage 2012: It's All About the Horse Race, Baby

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 6:39 PM EST

Pew Research has some great news for those of you who loathe mainstream media campaign coverage. In their study of how the press reported on the 2012 presidential campaign, they say that Obama's media coverage turned around dramatically during the final week of the campaign, moving from a net 13 points negative to a net 10 points positive. It must have been Hurricane Sandy, right? Guess again:

Much of that surge in positive coverage, the data suggest, was tied to Obama's strategic position, including improving opinion polls and electoral math, rather than directly to positive assessments of Obama's response to Superstorm Sandy.

....When it came to mainstream news coverage, a leading cause of Obama's more upbeat narrative in the last week was that the horse-race coverage about his campaign-stories focused on strategy, polls and the question of who is winning-became more positive: 37% were clearly favorable in tone while 16% were unfavorable. That is considerably more upbeat than it had been for most of the final two months of the campaign....During the final week, 46% of all press coverage of the campaign focused on horse-race and strategy stories, larger than the 39% that was devoted to such issues throughout the entire race.

So there you have it. In the final week, the press finally figured out that Obama was leading in the polls, and the press always writes more glowingly of winners than losers. Yay press corps!

In other news, Pew also charted the coverage of Romney and Obama on Fox News and MSNBC. Their conclusion: both networks had favorites, but "in the final week of the campaign, both Fox News and MSNBC became even more extreme in how they differed from the rest of the press in coverage of the two candidates." Italics mine. Which network was the most extreme, though? Anyone who thinks that MSNBC hasn't yet become fully Foxified might be surprised at the answer, but Pew found that in the final week MSNBC aired precisely zero stories that were either positive about Romney or negative about Obama. Welcome to the 21st century news bubble.

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Jerry Falwell-Linked Lawyer: It's Romney's Fault Gay Marriage Won in 2012

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 4:35 PM EST

Mat Staver, an influential evangelical lawyer closely linked with the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University, has named an unlikely culprit for the passage of four pro-gay marriage measures this year: Mitt Romney.

Staver said Monday on the Christian radio program "Faith and Freedom" that Romney's refusal to talk about social issues led to voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State approving ballot measures backing gay marriage. Romney should've campaigned in those four states, Staver insisted, and played up the importance of defining marriage as being between a man and a woman only.

But because Romney's message focused primarily on jobs and the economy, "he could not speak about life or marriage and so he didn't campaign in those states speaking about those issues and associating himself with marriage," Staver said, adding, "had he done so, his numbers would've gone up and I bet the marriage polls would've gone up."

Staver called Romney "mealy" and a "one-note" candidate, and disparaged him for lacking true social values. "If you'd had a candidate that had social values, you'd have higher voter turnout," he said. "If you had Romney, you had lower voter turnout. What ultimately happened in the general election is you had lower voter turnout."

Watch the clip of Staver's comments above, captured and edited by Right Wing Watch. Here's the transcript:

"If you'd had a candidate that had social values, you had a higher voter turnout. If you had Romney, you had lower voter turnout. What ultimately happened in the general election is you had lower voter turnout.

And look at Maryland, for example: 36.6 percent voted for Romney, but 48.1 percent voted for marriage as a union between one man, one woman. Minnesota: 45 percent voted for Romney, 47.4 percent voted for marriage. In Washington, 41.8 percent voted for Romney, 46.8 percent voted for marriage. Each one of those states, more people voted for marriage than Romney. They had a contradictory vote: They voted for marriage and they voted for Barack Obama in great measure. Those are contradictory votes.

Why? Because Romney was a one-note candidate. Jobs and the economy. You'd ask him a question on what's he going to do on immigration: jobs and the economy. Benghazi: jobs and the economy. How did he all of sudden switch it back to jobs and the economy when we're talking about foreign affairs? He could not speak about life or marriage and so he didn't campaign in those states speaking about those issues and associating himself with marriage. Had he done so, his numbers would've gone up and I bet the marriage polls would've gone up.

Every time we get these mealy candidates like Romney or McCain, we have this problem and then Republican pundits come up and say, 'Oh, we need to change our position on marriage and abortion.'"

Quote of the Day: "I'm Not a Scientist, Man."

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 3:52 PM EST

From Sen. Marco Rubio, asked how old the Earth is:

I’m not a scientist, man.

Yeah, I think we knew that. Here's the rest of the quote:

I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

As it happens, both Rubio's church and the secular god Google agree on this question, so there's not much excuse for him to pretend he doesn't know. Still, for the record, I have no objection to anything Rubio says here. I agree that the age of the Earth has nothing to do with economic growth and I agree that parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says. It would be nice if Rubio had added that science classes should teach kids science, but he managed to dodge that bullet—barely. Maybe next time someone will follow up on this.

Besides, all the fuss over this quote has obscured the real quote of the day from Rubio, about his love of hip hop:

The only guy that speaks at any sort of depth is, in my mind, Eminem.

Okey dokey. My favorite Eminem song, by the way, is "The Way I Am." I'll bet you're surprised I even have a favorite Eminem song, aren't you? So am I.

Thanks for the Memories, Rep. Allen West

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 3:13 PM EST

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.)

Predictably, the last person to realize that Rep. Allen West's political career is over—for now, anyway—seems to be Allen West himself. 

The Florida congressman famous for instructing a Muslim Republican to quit trying to "blow sunshine up my butt," asking his supporters to "grab your muskets," and suggesting that the Bureau of Labor statistics had fabricated the October jobs report, trailed Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by 2,500 votes when the dust settled on November 7. For two weeks, though, West challenged the results, refusing to concede while charging that there had been "a willful attempt to steal the election" by St. Lucie County elections supervisor Gertrude Walker.

West's request for a full recount in St. Lucie County was officially rejected by a judge, and because his margin of defeat exceeded 0.5 percent, he had no grounds to demand a recount under Florida law. But the county went along with one anyway, and over the course of two days, double-checked their math, after which point West found himself trailing by an additional 274 votes. Womp womp. Despite conservative howls of voter fraud and West's pledge to fight on, it's almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which Murphy isn't seated come January.

Here are some of the highlights from West's one term in Congress:

The good news for West is that 2,500 votes is not an especially large margin in a presidential election year in which Democrats dominated the ground game in the Sunshine State. So maybe he'll be back in two years to take back the seat.

Well, that or he'll land a cushy job at Fox News.

Public Service Announcement: What 10 Years Means

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 2:35 PM EST

Whenever you hear tax or budget forecasts, they're (almost) always made over a 10-year timeframe. For example, letting the high-end Bush tax cuts expire will raise about $800 billion over ten years. Last year's debt ceiling deal reduces discretionary spending by $1.5 trillion over ten years. Etc.

But how big are these numbers? You can't get a sense for that unless you know how big the budget and the deficit are projected to be over ten years, and those aren't numbers most of us have at our fingertips. So here they are, courtesy of the CBO:

  • 10-Year Spending: $46 trillion.
  • 10-Year Deficit: $10 trillion

These numbers are based on CBO's "alternative fiscal scenario," which accounts for their best guess about what policies are likely to be in place over the next decade. Now you know.

(For the record: The CBO's alternative fiscal scenario assumes that the Bush tax cuts are extended; the payroll tax holiday expires; the AMT is indexed for inflation after 2011; Medicare payment rates for physicians’ services are held constant at their current level; and that Congress overturns the sequestration cuts that were part of the debt ceiling agreement last year.)