I know this is of keen interest to everyone, so here's the scoop on President Obama's August vacation at Martha's Vineyard:

How does the number of vacation days the president has spent compare to his predecessors? CBS Radio's Mark Knoller has kept track of presidential vacations for years and supplied the data.

So far, President Obama has taken 61 vacation days after 31 months in office. At this point in their presidencies, George W. Bush had spent 180 days at his ranch where his staff often joined him for meetings. And Ronald Reagan had taken 112 vacation days at his ranch. Among recent presidents, Bill Clinton took the least time off — 28 days.

Does this mean we can knock off our idiotic annual whining about Obama's vacations? No? I guess I didn't think so. Carry on then. And don't forget to complain about how elitist Martha's Vineyard is compared to a multi-million-dollar ranch that was purpose built to be a presidential backdrop. It wouldn't be the same without that.

Seriously? Republicans are continuing to pine for another white knight? Rick Perry has only been in the race for five days, but his run of flaky off-the-cuff remarks already has the rumor mills rekindling over Paul Ryan and Chris Christie. (Though not for Rudy Giuliani, if you can believe that.) Come on, folks. If you can't win with any of the folks already running, you can't win.

A special ed girl in a Missouri middle school reported that she was raped a couple of years ago. But school officials insisted that her story was made up and badgered her into recanting:

Following instructions from the school, the girl wrote an apology to the boy she accused of raping her and had to personally give it to him, according to the lawsuit. She was then expelled for the remainder of the 2008-09 school year....The girl returned to the middle school for the 2009-10 school year and tried to avoid the boy, according to the lawsuit. It didn't work. She was sexually assaulted again [in the school library] but didn't tell anyone because she was afraid of being expelled again.

....School officials were notified of the incident and allegedly doubted the girl's claim, saying they'd "already been through this," according to the lawsuit. The girl was also examined and found to have been sexually assaulted. However, she was suspended from school for "disrespectful conduct" and "public display of affection," her lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

I'll grant that it's impossible to know for sure what happened based on just one side of the story. Still, a forensic exam after the second rape showed that the girl had indeed been sexually assaulted, a DNA match was made to the boy she had accused of raping her, and the boy then pleaded guilty to charges in juvenile court. But the school district continues to say that it bears no responsibility for any of this. WTF?

You know how conservatives don't really care much about the deficit when a Republican is president, but it becomes something close to Armageddon-in-waiting whenever a Democrat is in the White House? Yesterday Matt Yglesias pointed out that the same thing is true about conservative reaction to the value of the dollar: when it plummets for years at a time under Republicans, they don't care. But when it so much as wobbles slightly for a few months under a Democrat, suddenly it's a sign that we've lost our moral backbone and our place as leaders of the free world. This is illustrated in text form here and in handy chart form below. For some reason I felt the urge to redraw Matt's version, but you can see the original here if you like.

From Will Wilkinson, who scored a front-row Iowa diner seat to an encounter between Rick Perry and a libertarian critic who thinks he's just another big-spendin' liberal:

I enjoyed witnessing this fleeting, close-up moment of flesh-pressing campaign politicking. Mr Perry's skillful exit from the exchange, his calmly assertive demeanour (note the way his initially attentive eyes narrow into a challenging "kiss off" grin, the way he presses his index finger softly into Mr Hjelm's chest) and the folksy leavening of his denigrating parting shot, all suggest to me a seriously skilled retail politician whose swagger remains mostly charming even when he's being an impatient prick.

Video at the link. Wilkinson also points out that Sarah Palin has taken up this particular line of attack, retweeting the chart on the right that takes direct aim at Perry's debt-loving ways. Did she call attention to this because it makes her look good or because it makes Perry look bad? With Palin, it's hard to say. But luckily for her, it does both.

Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, is running for president.

So what's the real skinny on the "Texas Miracle"? Without diving into every last detail (I'll provide some links for that), here are the main bullet points:

I think it's obvious that there are lots of openings to criticize both Texas' economic performance and Rick Perry's role in it. For one thing, the Texas virtues that Perry likes to emphasize are actually common to lots of low-tax, low-service states in the Sun Belt and the South. As Ed Kilgore says, "Eventually, someone will draw attention to the fact that if Perry’s low-tax, low-services, corporate-subsidizing policies really were an economic cure-all, similar conditions should have made states like Alabama and Mississippi world-beating dynamos years ago." This is going to make it hard for Perry to make a convincing case that taxes and regulation and general business friendliness are really behind his state's performance. What's more, there are lots of obvious chinks in the Texas armor: its poor rate of health care coverage, its high poverty rate, its weak educational system, and so forth.

And yet…jobs! It's still the case that Texas has created lots and lots of jobs and has attracted a huge influx of new residents thanks to those jobs. No one's putting a gun to their heads and forcing them to move to Houston, after all. No matter how many hits Perry takes over his simplistic explanations, and no matter how many sophisticated arguments his opponents make about the emperor's lack of clothes, it's still the case that Texas has created lots of jobs. All Perry has to do is repeat that until his face turns red while tossing out some folksy mockery of the eggheads and bureaucrats and their ivory-tower Harvard counterarguments. After all, who are you going to believe, all those East Coast twerps who have never run a company in their lives, or your own eyes?

This is going to be a tough row to hoe for Perry's detractors. It's worth going after it, but in the end, Texas' record on jobs is good enough and real enough that Perry will probably be able to brush off most of the criticism. The Texas Miracle is going to be one of his strongest calling cards.

His weakness for Texas-style crony capitalism, however, might be a real problem. I suspect we're going to be hearing a lot more about that as the oppo teams start to seriously gear up.

Here's a lovely story worth a few minutes of your time today: a pair of rich assholes move into one of the most popular ballooning spots in the country, build a gigantic and secretive "Moorish fortress castle" catering to "ultra high net worth individuals," and then start suing the balloonists out of existence because they don't like people flying over their exclusive getaway property. Not so lovely after all. But today they finally caved in thanks to a pro bono lawyer who finally fought back. Lovely again!

In my piece last year about America's periodic upheavals of right-wing activism, I noted that one of the common tropes about these uprisings is "a myth that the movement is composed entirely of fed-up grassroots amateurs." Today, David Campbell and Robert Putnam report on the results of a detailed survey of political attitudes they did in 2006. A recent followup allows them to figure out what kind of people were most likely to become members of the latest right-wing fluorescence, the tea party:

Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

No surprise there. What else? The recession didn't really play much of a role in prompting people to join the tea party, they report, but other things did:

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

And this, say Campbell and Putnam, is most likely why public opinion has lately turned so sharply against the tea party movement. Lots of Americans can sympathize with a disgust toward Wall Street or a desire for small government, but their tolerance for Christian Right fervor and retrograde social attitudes is pretty low. As it's become clearer that this is what truly unites the tea partiers, more and more Americans are getting off the bus.

This particular bus, of course, is the campaign vehicle of choice for Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. The Republican Party nominates either one of them at its peril.

Dylan Matthews says that Eliot Spitzer's list of things Obama could do to help the economy is one of the more plausible he's seen. I love me some plausible ideas, so I clicked. Turns out Spitzer only has two suggestions for Obama:

First, he should act dramatically to help the American homeowner....The administration, in conjunction with the Federal Reserve, should insist that banks, in return for all the taxpayer subsidies they have gotten and continue to receive, reduce any mortgage that exceeds the value of the house....Borrowers with reduced mortgages would have more money to spend, thus boosting the economy etc. etc.

....Second, the president should do more to help the American worker. He should establish a jobs program. Do the simple math: We are spending more than $110 billion annually in Afghanistan. Stop it. Or scale it back to the sort of covert operations and drone war that is warranted. Savings? Perhaps about $100 billion—per year. Use that money to create up to 5 million jobs at $20,000 each....Just as FDR did during the Great Depression, put these Americans to work in states, counties, schools, parks.

I have two questions. First: Under what plausible legal authority can the president unilaterally demand that banks — along with all of the assorted other note holders who would have to buy into this plan — reduce the principal of underwater mortgages? Second: Under what plausible political scenario will House Republicans agree to spend $100 billion on federal makework jobs even if Obama is willing to offset the cost by bailing out of Afghanistan?

I'm pretty sure the answers are (a) None and (b) None. At some point everyone needs to accept the plain political fact that on the jobs front Obama can do very little on his own and can't do anything that requires cooperation from House Republicans. There are a few small-bore things he can do, and he can certainly mount a major PR campaign for his favorite employment ideas if he thinks it will help him politically. But actual, effective jobs programs? He's a president, not a king. Republicans don't want any jobs programs and that means we aren't going to get any. End of story.

Not all of these qualify as gaffes, exactly, but considering that his campaign is only three days old, doesn't it seem as if Rick Perry has been doing a pretty remarkable job of confirming his reputation as a Texas league chucklehead?

On a federal rule that doesn't actually exist: “If you’re a tractor driver, if you drive your tractor across a public road, you’re gonna have to have a commercial driver’s license. Now how idiotic is that? What were they thinkin’?”

On the possibility of Ben Bernanke helping the economic recovery via looser monetary policy: "If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in history is almost treasonous in my opinion."

On Obama's love of country: At a Republican Party event Monday night, a reporter asked Perry whether he was suggesting that President Obama does not love America. “You need to ask him,” Perry responded. “I’m saying, you’re a good reporter, go ask him”

On drone aircraft that have been used to patrol Texas borders for the past six years: "I mean, we know that there are Predator drones being flown for practice every day because we're seeing them....Why not be flying those missions and using (that) real-time information to help our law-enforcement? Because if we will commit to that, I will suggest to you that we will be able to drive the drug cartels away from our border."

On military unease with a civilian commander-in-chief: "I think they would really like to see a person who wore a uniform in that office and I think that's just a true statement....Experience matters, having walked in a person's shoes, having done what these young men and women in the military are doing matters to them. I don't want somebody sitting in the front left seat of that airliner who just got their pilot's license."

This list probably isn't complete. They're just the ones I remembered off the top of my head. All in three days!