— A stunning ad jointly produced by the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) accuses Mitt Romney of being an equal opportunity hater of the working class.” Rachel Weiner at The Fix explains:

The…ad highlights Romney’s comment that he’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” with a man adding in Spanish, “He’s a person without feelings who doesn’t care about people whether they be Hispanic, Latino, white, who are below him.”

He isn’t a racist, just a feelings-free robot. The Priorities-SEIU partnership produced three spots, and as Weiner explains, all are “very negative and use truncated clips to put Romney’s words in the worst possible light.” But is Romney concerned about America’s poor? Here is the full quote:

“I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor — we have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich — they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

Not a terribly smooth delivery, but in the very next sentence Romney specifically discusses, to borrow the clumsy phrasing of Priorities USA and SEIU, his concern for the people “below him.”

— As pressure mounts from within his own party, Jesse Jackson Jr. still isn’t revealing details about his month-long absence from Congress. After rumors spread that the Illinois congressman was seeking treatment for alcoholism, Jackson’s office emphatically denied the charge (“Not true!”) to TPM reporter Ryan J. Reilly. Early Wednesday evening, an unnamed Jackson family doctor said he was undergoing “intensive medical treatment” for an unnamed “mood disorder.” When the Rev. Jesse Jackson was asked by a reporter to elaborate on his son’s mystery condition, he responded that the question was “inappropriate.” Because Jackson doesn’t believe his constituents are entitled to information regarding his condition, journalists are forced to read tea leaves, traffic in rumor and speculate on which “mood disorder” the congressman suffers from. And Jackson’s latest enigmatic epistle begins by reminding noisy journalists that “information regarding the Congressman’s treatment is protected by federal law under the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA).” Well yes, but Jackson is an elected official, not the quarry of TMZ. And the HIPPA statute will apply six months from now, too. So when, if ever, do voters of Illinois’s 2nd District have a right to know what is ailing their representative?

Michael Kinsley points out that most economists believe free trade is a good thing and that “that a nation cannot prosper by denying its citizens the benefit of cheap foreign labor.” (I posted a video yesterday of a debate between Paul Krugman and Spanish economist Pedro Schwartz. During the question period, Krugman reaffirmed that he was a supporter of free trade.) Kinsley writes:

Obama apparently intends to skewer Romney as a businessman. His campaign carefully conflates being a businessman with being a crooked businessman, and many other variations on the theme: being a ruthless businessman, a businessman who engages in outsourcing, a businessman who doesn’t pay enough taxes and so on.

Kinsley says that “instead of a full-throated defense of these principles and his practice of them as advantages he would bring, as a businessman, to the presidency, he says merely that nothing he did was illegal.” I’m not sure it’s the correct strategy, but the calculation is pretty simple. Shipping jobs overseas results in lost jobs for Americans, who often require higher wages and thus drive up production costs. There are a number of economic benefits in this arrangement, for both Americans and citizens of the country that gets a new factory or call center. Most voters don’t care about the latter and explaining the former — that trade isn’t zero sum— is rather complicated. I, too, would like a full-throated defense of economic principles from Romney, but I’m not sure, even if smoothly articulated, it would do much good.

— William McGowan, author of two books on the influence of political correctness in American newsrooms, both published by the conservative imprint Encounter, has a fascinating piece in Slate on a long-forgotten extortion ring targeting gay men in 1960s New York:

[T]he NYPD and the FBI, working in parallel (and sometimes at odds), would uncover and break a massive gay extortion ring whose viciousness and criminal flair was without precedent. Impersonating corrupt vice-squad detectives, members of this ring, known in police parlance as bulls, had used young, often underage men known as chickens to successfully blackmail closeted pillars of the establishment, among them a navy admiral, two generals, a U.S. congressman, a prominent surgeon, an Ivy League professor, a prep school headmaster, and several well-known actors, singers, and television personalities. The ring had operated for almost a decade, had victimized thousands, and had taken in at least $2 million.

It’s a harrowing, brilliantly reported piece. Read the whole thing.