* Calling out Trump’s “ugly strain of racism”: It’s good to see that a network figure like CBS’s Bob Schieffer is flatly denouncing Donald Trump’s reprehensible claim about Obama’s alleged lack of Ivy League qualifications for what it is:

“That’s just code for saying he got into law school because he’s black. This is an ugly strain of racism that’s running through this whole thing.”

If you think that Trump’s birther flirtation has GOP strategists nervous, just wait until this narrative picks up steam. Haley Barbour’s since-aborted candidacy already had some on edge, due to his problems on racial issues; Trump’s questioning of the first African American president’s academic qualifications could get way, way worse.

* Debt ceiling negotiations inch forward behind the scenes: Never mind all the public brinkmanship. The real action is taking place backstage, where Republicans and Democrats are quietly feeling their way towards some sort of deal that would attach spending cuts and reforms to a debt ceiling hike.

Key takeaway: There isn’t going to be any “clean” vote to raise the debt ceiling.

* What to watch in debt ceiling fight: Bob Cusack has a useful roadmap to what’s ahead.

* How Washington really works: Take a moment to dig into HuffPo’s big, well-reported piece on the epic behind-the-scenes Capitol Hill battle over “swipe fees” — which are paid for debit card transations and are passed to consumers — that’s raging between major retailers and card companies. The battle, which has enaged over 200 lobbyists, gives you a glimpse into how D.C. and the Hill really work — and how D.C. doesn’t work for you.

* Dems keep hammering GOP over Big Oil subsidies: The DCCC is rolling out a new Web site today linking the contributions House GOP leaders take from oil companies to the GOP’s continued support for tax breaks for the industry.

The move comes as the White House and Senate Dems are trying to harnass public anger over rising gas prices by calling on Republicans to end the subsidies the industry continues to enjoy. With gas prices clearly damaging President Obama, Dems badly need to deflect damage, so the stakes are very high here.

* Keep an eye on Mitch Daniels: This is interesting: The Indiana governor needs to decide whether to support or oppose a state bill tightening abortion restrictions and cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood, a national cause for conservatives. His decision will provide a hint on whether he’ll run for president, and it’s likely to gin up national attention and anger on both sides.

* Republican strategists fear rise of birtherism: GOP strategists are worried that birtherism’s increasingly high profile risks doing the party serious damage in 2012 by alienating moderates and independents, and want the issue put to bed permanently. Okay, then, so why won’t more leading Republican officials call for an end to this once and for all?

* Bloggers keep poking holes in Paul Ryan’s talking points: Kevin Drum on the latest: That the Ryan plan would give seniors the same kind of health coverage that members of Congress enjoy.

* History lesson of the day: A fascinating find by David Frum: Birthers are now basing the “ineligibility” argument on the notion that Obama’s father was foreign born, a line of attack that already failed in the presidential elections of 1916 and 1928.

* Debunking of the day: As John Cole points out, the notion that Obama should have released his long form birth certificate sooner has been rendered rather ridiculous by the fact that leading birthers have already dismissed even this move — which they themselves had been requesting — as insufficient.

* Liberal talk show host arrested at Allen West town hall: Someone should get to the bottom of this.

* And no end to Trump’s hucksterism: The Donald tells ABC News that now that Obama has released his long-form certificate, he will in fact release his tax returns. Yes, but when? “At the appropriate time.”

What else is happening?