* A must read from Steve Benen detailing how truly messed up the conventions of political commentary are these days, and how the Beltway “winners and losers” game is, at bottom, rigged.

* Eric Cantor distributes a memo claiming Republicans will attempt to extort more spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit this fall. But there’s also this:

Cantor indicated in the memo that simply passing a “clean” continuing resolution that continues funding at sequester levels would constitute a win of sorts.

And it’s true that current spending levels are a win of sorts for the GOP. But instead of accepting victory, they will demand more cuts in exchange for not unleashing economic havoc, anyway, because conservatives must have their hostage crisis.

* Another tidbit from the memo Cantor distributed to Republicans:

The memo separately discusses the House Republican plan to systematically dismantle ObamaCare, but makes no mention of whether it could be tied to the debt limit. Delaying some of its key provisions have been discussed, according to aides.

So, after punting on the push for a government shutdown to defund Obamacare, the GOP leadership still isn’t prepared to use the debt limit to block the law, either. Surrender!!!

* Still, the defund-Obamacare pipe dream lives! A conservative group airs ads attacking Mitch McConnell for failing to “lead” the charge in the defunding push. Pressure on McConnell from the right could make chaos more likely this fall.

* One last tidbit from the Cantor memo: Republicans may take up immigration reform this fall. Yes, border security stuff will come first, but as long as there’s an outside shot of a vote on something, getting to conference is not impossible.

* Good point from Jason Linkins: If Congress says No on Syria, and Assad murders a few thousand more civilians, Obama will almost certainly prod Congress to try again. Read the whole thing for a full gaming out of what could happen if Congress says No.

* Ryan Cooper on why you should not underestimate the pressure a genuine public outcry, such as the one developing on Syria, can bring to bear on elected officials.

* The New York Times reports on GOP voters in Tom Cole’s district who are expressing strong opposition to intervention in Syria — in between calling for the defunding of the Affordable Care Act and the impeachment of Obama.

* David Fahrenthold and Paul Kane have an interesting piece on the alliance between Tea Party non-interventionists and anti-war Dems that is coming together against Syria, with this surprisingly blunt description of it:

The Democrats in the group have lost faith in war. The Republicans have lost faith (or never had it) in Obama.

It’s a bit more complicated than this, but have we ever seen Tea Partyers allying with the left on anything that doesn’t put them in opposition to Obama?

* Nancy Pelosi continues to push reluctant Dems hard on Syria, but will it really be effective? Maybe not:

Democrats are also likely to hear about more intelligence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons. But that point does not appear to be the rub for most Democrats, who generally agree Assad used chemical weapons.

Correct. As I keep telling you, until Dems are persuaded of the underlying premise of Obama’s argument for intervention — on why strikes will improve things and won’t create more problems than they’d solve — Dems won’t come aboard.

* Indeed, if National Journal’s preview of the six things Obama will say when he addresses the nation next week is accurate, that core problem won’t be addressed.

* Neil Irwin on how the underbelly of today’s jobs numbers may show an economy getting worse, not better. A debt limit and government shutdown crisis — combined with still more austerity — should help matters.

* Right in sync with the jobs numbers, Paul Krugman’s column lays it out in depressing detail: “by any objective standard, U.S. economic policy since Lehman has been an astonishing, horrifying failure.”

* And this, from David Drucker, probably gets closest to the truth of what’s going on with House Republicans: They are deeply divided over what to try to extort and how to get away with it.

What else?