Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman (1925-2008)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Paul Newman, one of the finest actors of his generation (and one of our most generous philanthropists), died today at the age of 83.

I cannot do justice to his film career. It spanned decades, from 1954 to just last year, and he was in some of the defining movies of that time, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), which earned him his first Oscar nomination, starring opposite Elizabeth Taylor, to The Color of Money (1986), which won him his only Oscar, reprising the role of Fast Eddie Felson from The Hustler (1961) and starring opposite Tom Cruise.

It was a joy today, in a way, joy marked by sadness, to look back over Newman's long career and to remember the great roles and the great films. Here are my Top 5 Paul Newman movies:

1) Hud (1963)
2) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
3) The Sting (1973)
4) The Verdict (1982)
5) Cool Hand Luke (1967)

To me, Hud is one of the greatest American films of the '60s, a film that captured the rebellious '60s ethos long before the '60s had become the '60s. Where most of the definitive '60s films are rooted firmly in socio-political context -- the Vietnam War, civil rights, sexual liberation -- Hud was more existential, more universal. It isn't as famous, perhaps, as the other four movies on my list, nor as famous as The Color of Money, nor even as Slap Shot (the over-the-top hockey movie), but it is an incredible film with one of his very best performances.

Here's a clip from Hud. It includes one of the, if not the, greatest line in the movie: "Well, I always say the law was meant to be interpreted in a lenient manner. And that's what I try to do. Sometimes I lean to one side of it, sometimes I lean to the other."

Now that's the rebellious individualism of the '60s. And that's Paul Newman at his finest.

I think tomorrow, in his memory, I shall eat a hard-boiled egg -- just one or two, though, not fifty.

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Angry John McCain

By Creature

This pretty much sums up the whole presidential debate experience for me [h/t Jed].

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Goodbye, old friend

By Carl

Eulogies are hard to write. I know, that sounds like a whine.

Saying goodbye is hard. Saying goodbye to someone or something you've known all your life is harder, but I suppose we all must do it.

I grew up a Mets fan, which by definition means I grew up enjoying losing. From the lovable laughable team of Casey Stengel to the current crop of underachieving fuckheads (Scott
Schoenweiss Schoe-n-tell is forever etched in my memory as the second worst reliever the Mets have ever had, second only to Doug Sisk Risk), a Mets fan learns to live with losing.

We also learn to live outside the spotlight, in the shadow of the bigger older brother across the Hellgate, the Yankees.

And so here we come to the nub of Shea Stadium. Mets fans love Shea, precisely because like us, it sits in the shadows of its older bigger famous sibling, Yankee Stadium.

Shea Stadium is the city. Yankee Stadium is a suburb. Shea Stadium sits across a small channel from the second busiest airport in the region, LaGuardia. Yankee Stadium rises up out of a park. At Shea, the smell of decaying fish and seaweed drifts and hangs over a game like a shroud. At Yankee Stadium, you might get a whiff of a nearby apartment building's cooking.

Shea sits amidst junkyards and hubcap dealers. Yankee Stadium sits amongst people, but somehow seems disconnected from them, like the dandy who brings his Bugatti to the local gas station because it broke down there on 161st Street.

Shea is of the people. Yankee Stadium is near the people.

Shea is undoubtedly one of the ugliest stadiums ever built. Conceived for two sports, designed for neither, and hurriedly built to open in time with the 1964 World's Fair, Shea exuded the early Sixties optimism for technology and minimalist architecture: get it up and get it built.

My dad was on the project that tore down the old Polo Grounds, the Mets first home. I remember walking that field as a young boy: it was cavernous and loud and echoed with the ghosts of crowds past, who watched the New York Giants play there, and Willie Mays and Ralph Branca.

I've had many opportunities to be on the field at Shea, both as a would-be player scouted for the organization, as a competitive athlete whose races often ended at home plate, and as a fan. It was always, always quiet in those dank mornings by the bay, as if God himself napped in the loge level.

And yet, so many of my memories these past 44 years have been loud ones. I even
live-blogged a game in 2006 (sadly, the audio is a dead link) when the Mets captured the Eastern Division title, one of the few years where they achieved something, where they truly were contenders. I remember sitting for The Police concert in 1983, and watching the entire stadium bounce up and down as ninety thousand people stood and danced during "Don't Stand So Close To Me".

Like any good friend, I've seen Shea at her best and her worst. I've sat everywhere in the stadium, from the far reaches of the upper deck to the cushioned comfortable corporate seats just behind home plate at field level, and everywhere in between, including the press level. I've been to miserable Jets games there, when it was cold and rainy and windy...oh, the wind off Flushing bay! There is no wind that cuts you quite as deeply, since no other wind can combine with watching Pat Leahy miss three field goals or Sid Fernandez blow out his knee and the Mets get knocked out of the pennant race in May.

I've been to bright sunny games where the Mets lost by ten runs or were no-hit, but who cared? It was Shea, there was beer (or soda) and friends, and we just sat back and made fun of them.

Today, it is rainy and muggy and gray. Today, I go to wake my old friend ahead of tomorrow's funeral. A particular pall looms over the game today, as the Mets all but played themselves out of contention last night.

No matter. I go. I will wrap my arms around as much of the stadium as I can, and kiss her and say goodbye. And probably cry a little, just as I am now.

See, it's not a monument to urgency, or a house for a second class ballclub, or a buttugly-piece-of-barely-functioning arena.

It is my childhood. It is my life marching down the path in the woods that I have chosen. I mourn the path least taken, the one I should have, could have, been on.

It is my innocence. It is school day field trips to watch Bob Moose no-hit the Mets. It is the memory of watching John Milner, Rusty Staub and Wayne Garrett crank out home runs in a game in 1973 when the Mets made the most historic climb in history, from fourteen games out in last place to the top of the division in a month and a half. It is the memory of my unborn daughter kicking to root for Gary Carter trying once more for home run 300. It is sitting in the miserable cold October rain as Keith Hernandez pulls his hamstring trying to go first to third when the Mets desperately needed a run in a championship series against the Dodgers. It is Steve Trachsel bringing long-delayed relief to beleaguered Mets fans in 2006. It is heartache and it is unbridled joy and it is, simply, what love is.

It is a book and it is closing now. Goodbye, old friend!

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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The debate: Morning after analysis

By Libby Spencer

I liveblogged the debate and put up my initial analysis and roundups at the Detroit News last night. Of course, I was spinning hard for Obama but here's my unspun morning after thoughts. Obama did a good job of drawing a pretty bright line between himself and McCain on the issues. I would have liked him to challenge McCain harder on the maverick reformer meme. I thought Obama missed a lot of opportunities to do so.

The best moment was when Obama brought up his actual voting record and McCain almost boiled over. I think if he had pressed harder, we would have seen a McCain meltdown. I'm hoping he's just saving that strategy for the last debate so it will be fresh on the voters' minds when they get to the ballot box.

I've always hated that Obama is adopting the "surge worked" and "Iran is teh big scary evil" themes but I don't really see how he can avoid that and still win over the low info voters. We can only hope that reflects political expedience and not so much his mindset. Not that it's a dealbreaker in comparison with bomb, bomb, bomb McCain.

Biased as I am, I tried to be a neutral observer and I thought McCain came off as mean, cranky, evasive and lost in the past. I don't know how much his inability to make eye contact is going to hurt him. I suspect not much with the low info voters but it was widely criticized in the high info crowd. Obama came off as cool, collected, knowledgeable and ready to lead into the future.

As for who "won" I'm not sure it makes any difference since there weren't any dramatic moments for the punderati to obsess over for the next few weeks. In the immediate response they were pretty much calling it for McCain with the exception of KO and I assume Rachel, although I never caught her response. Tweety was kind of the fence. Initially he was saying McCain but then I saw him later and he was leaning more towards Obama. I read this morning the media are now calling it for Obama. I suspect that's in reponse to the voter polling which overwhelming was going to him.

For myself, I'd say it was Obama's night. He didn't hit it out of the ballpark but McCain didn't score either and this was supposed to be his night to prove his superior foreign policy creds. Obama was a little too wonky but he demonstrated his creds well enough and goes into the next debate on the economy with the advantage. It will be interesting to see if he gets a bump in the election polls from it.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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The Reaction in Review (Sept. 27, 2008)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

This week's "round-up" is slightly delayed in order to accommodate our best presidential debate reactions.


By J. Thomas Duffy: "Debate results: The Flintstones vs. The Jetsons" -- Duffy's creative, inimitable style, along with great out-takes and tons of good links, enriches this post -- well worth the read.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Initial reflections on the first Obama-McCain debate'" -- Excellent summary of the debate includes the author's insightful reflections, along with those of other highly respected bloggers (includes an interesting comment thread).

By LindaBeth: "LA Representative wants the poor sterilized, rich to procreate more" -- " . . . he's going to racistly assume that it's because they're voluntarily having "too many" children "they can't afford," . . . we should encourage, not free contraception and education, but sterilization. . . ?"


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "On CNN's appalling coverage of Obama, McCain, and the bailout negotiations" -- "McCain is playing leader, and the media are playing along, but he isn't actually leading anything."

By Carol Gee: "Will it always be about conflict?" -- "The word that best describes the United States' role in the world under the Bush administration . . . is "versus, " U.S. vs. mid-east, right vs. wrong, etc."

By J. Thomas Duffy: "Top Ten Cloves: Things John McCain will do Friday evening, instead of debating Barack Obama" -- Duffy's famous countdown list, plus bonus photo of McCain and Rick Davis.


By Grace: "Stephen Harper vs. The Arts" -- "The true wealth of the arts community is our talent and enthusiasm for sharing it - by trying to stifle it, Harper has proven himself to be a cultural pauper."

By Carl: "Politics stops at the border, right?" -- Carl predicts the classified Afghanistan National Intelligence Estimate will be leaked Nov. 5. . . Adm. Mullen: "I'm not convinced we're not winning it in Afghanistan."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Crisis" -- A very well-reasoned argument that is skeptical about the administration's Wall Street bail-out plan.


By Libby Spencer: "Obama offers specifics -- media isn't there" -- Libby laments that Obama's media coverage is only about the "horse race" and the polls, leaves out the substance.

By Creature: "For old times' sake" -- Revelations about the real reasons for the agreement to withdraw troops from Iraq in 2011.

By Capt. Fogg: "It's my party and I'll lie if I want to" -- Dead-on post about Sarah's silly New York coming out party; "but she won't be coming out and we won't be coming in," The Press.


By Carl: "Risky business" -- Very thoughtful analysis of the Wall Street banking bail-out options - with hat tips to Paul Krugman and George Will.

By Dan Tobin: Rock-throwing McCain's (seven) houses made of glass? -- Clever post about the presidential candidates' vehicle fleets.

By Capt. Fogg: "From lie to shining lie" -- A searing post key to an electorate that is too easily swayed by Palin's prevarications.

Special free bonus -- By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Painful Palin" series -- "Free Sarah Palin," "Not to belabor the point," "Palin and the press," "Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah."

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Quick take-aways

By Carol Gee

If you have an interest in my "take" on the first presidential debate of 2008, here are a few preliminary thoughts:
  • Economic and foreign policy: rather unspecific about the Wall Street bailout, but starkly differing on foreign policy. McCain tended to use slogans, Obama was more specific. Obama reminded people that it is still McCain who "wants to give more and more to those with the most," proposing $300 billion in tax cuts for the rich. Understandably, neither wanted to be very specific about the current economic crisis, however.

  • Personal interactions: to McCain Obama was the enemy to defeat; to Obama McCain was "John." Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS soon gave up trying to get the two men to actually engage with each other, however. Obama was quite willing and did so on occasion, but McCain refused coming across as rude and dismissive.

  • Behavior-wise: the contrasts were pronounced with Obama erect and looking around the room, and McCain crouched in his fighting stance. Obama was engaged and firm, but with the ability to smile, even laugh, and meet McCain's eyes (as Chris Matthews pointed out). McCain was combative, disrespectful and agitated throughout, though he did smile often. It seemed to be a sarcastic and angry smile about Obama, however.

  • Now vs. then: Obama projected the present and future; McCain seemed stuck in the past. For example McCain's proposal for a "League of Democracies" resembled the old League of Nations. Obama pledged to restore U.S. standing in the world, and shift our major military efforts to confronting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  • Where in the world: The two men would seem to have contrasting arenas of day to day focus. The United States people would not get much of McCain's attention, except for corporate leaders. Obama wants to refocus some of the nation's attention to here at home. McCain used heroic occasions to impress his listeners -- Eisenhower's two letters before Normandy, for example -- and then resorted to name-dropping of world leaders, though he cannot say Ahmadinejad. Obama used specific policies, stating where he would reset the balance between military and domestic spending, "investing" in America's crucial needs. McCain would deeply slash most federal non-military spending to restore fiscal balance.

  • It is still about Iraq: to McCain it is all about Iraq, to Obama it is about a wider world. The war in Iraq was their dividing line, with McCain expecting "victory" and Obama signaling an end to the U.S. occupation. McCain revealed himself to be thoroughly Neocon. Obama came across as firm and willing to engage militarily, but preferring to try much more diplomacy first.

  • Who won the debate: the instant polls seemed to show Obama "winning" the highest approval from listeners, though traditionally there were probably more Democrats tuned in to the debate. If foreign policy was once considered Obama's "short suit," that is no longer the case. McCain desperately needed to win this debate and that did not happen; his chances diminish as time passes.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Debate results: The Flintstones vs. The Jetsons

By J. Thomas Duffy

I gotta say, and without the valid excuse of a hearing aid problem, for about the first 30-minutes, or more, Stumblin' Bumblin' John McCain looked like he was going to go down Admiral Stockdale Avenue.

He looked like a third grader, called to the front of the class to do a reading, with each question asked.

And, while Barack Obama was laying out his views and vision as to the economy, Stumblin' Bumblin' Johnny, fairly often, ignored the substance of the question (or what Obama had to say), and repeatedly prattled on about spending and earmarks, like he was hitting slow pitches in a batting cage (and quite proud of himself for hitting a lot of singles).

This carried on in the area of Foreign Policy and Iraq.

Stumblin' Bumblin' Johnny turned into Cranky John, swatting away the barbs and ties to the Bush Grindhouse, with attempting to belittle Obama with "You don't understand ..."

Obama's best moment, likely, came, when he showered Cranky Johnny with a litany of "You Were Wrong" about the various issues around Iraq.

Oh yeah, Obama also reminded Cranky Johnny, that the war in Iraq had been going on for near five-years - BEFORE THE SURGE - which Cranky John seemed to be staking his territory on.

Cranky John, looking to dig himself out of the hole, went not to his POW-POW-POW super ring, but bored through stories of seeing 650 soldiers re-up in Iraq (and telling him all they wanted to do was win), and how he got a bracelet from some soldier.

Obama, with all the coolness of someone who knows they are right, simply held up his wrist, and informed Cranky John that he had one also.

On the international stuff, Cranky John got all full of himself, on how Obama is going to meet with Wicked Witch of the West, and all her Flying Monkeys, without preconditions and didn't appreciate Obama pointing back to him how, 1) The Bush Grindhouse, in a reversal, adopted some diplomacy and 2) Cranky John's own advisor, Dr. Death, aka Henry Kissinger, said exactly the same thing Obama has said.

Cranky John waited until the final moment to pull out his POW-POW-POW super ring, and he only said "My Friends" once.

Both candidates exasperated moderator Jim Leher, by not answering (and he asked it four times) what they would cut out of their plans, if elected, due to the Wall Street Meltdown and Hank's Heist Plan.

In summing it up, I peg it as no knockouts, no major gaffes.

But it was The Flintstones versus The Jetsons.

While you could hear, ringing throughout the evening Stumblin' Bumblin' Johnny (and Cranky John) often saying how he has been in Congress forever and he knows how to do things, over-and-over, and that came out on the Super Titles and Closed Caption as "Trust Me", while Obama articulated substantive answers, depicting vision and plans, and a commitment to restoring the country's place in the world.

If this debate was supposed to be in Stumblin' Bumblin' Johnny's wheelhouse (a much over-used phrase on the cable this evening), then it's going to be all downhill in the rest of the debates.

Next up -- Palin vs. Biden (hey, hey, hey, no laughing out loud, yet).

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Initial reflections on the first Obama-McCain debate

By Michael J.W. Stickings


I agree with Creature. McCain looked and sounded bitter, vindictive, and small. While Obama was presidential throughout, agreeing with McCain on occasion, exuding generosity and expansiveness and, above all, presenting a substantive articulation of his policies and positions, McCain dismissed him repeatedly as "naive," turning much of the debate into an ad hominem assault. He never even looked at Obama.

Which is not to say that Obama won, let alone won easily. I'd say it was roughly a draw, with McCain doing well at times, notably in presenting himself, however inaccurately, as a long-time maverick with tons of experience. As well, Obama could have done better connecting McCain to Bush on issues like tax cuts for the wealthy and Iraq, and stressing just how wrong McCain has been on those and other issues. (Obama didn't, perhaps because he couldn't, suggest, even implicitly, that McCain's volatile temperament makes him unfit for the Oval Office.) I'd also add that McCain did well on Russia and on support for veterans. Yes, I'll admit it, there were a few moments when McCain seemed fairly commanding, or at least fairly sure of himself, but he also seemed annoyed and angry. Contrary to Obama, who seemed frustrated with McCain's deceptions and misrepresentations.

Overall, though, I think Candy Crowley's right that it was all rather flat, especially the beginning.

Using the ubiquitous boxing metaphor, there was no knock-out punch from either side -- but, then, these debates don't lend themselves to such punches. (Although McCain's inability to pronounce the names Ahmadinejad (Iran) and Zardari (Pakistan) was pretty embarrassing.)

On the merits, though, I do think Obama won. He did well early on discussing the financial crisis, he did well on Iraq, he did well defending his position on talking to foreign leaders without preconditions (but with preparation), he did well on (alternative) energy, he did well on Russia and nuclear proliferation, and he did well on most other issues as well. Specifically, I thought his call for the restoration of America's image around the world was strong.

There are too many other points to mention here. We'll have more to come, but, in the meantime, make sure to check out the live-blogging over at Think Progress. Basically, McCain was full of it throughout the debate, and the good people at TP point out where and how.

But I'm not sure it matters much. The pundits are more or less split, from what I can tell. Chris Matthews at least pointed out McCain's meanness and smallness. But the rest of them are divided according to partisanship. David Gergen, somewhere in the un-partisan middle, seems to think it was more or less a draw, or at least that McCain needed to do better, given that foreign policy is his strength, or so it is assumed.

And of course it's not about the substance, it's about the perception. And the perception will be, I think, that both of them did okay.

UPDATE 1: My TMV colleague Elyas Bakhtiari notes that the early post-debate polls suggest that Obama won. I heard the same think on CNN not too long ago.

UPDATE 2: More on the post-debate polls:

-- CBS News: Poll Results Suggest More Uncommitted Voters Saw Obama As Debate Winner.

-- Time: What Sayeth the Undecideds?

-- TNR: Focus Groups, Undecideds For Obama (the Frank Luntz and Stanley Greenberg focus groups, along with a CNN poll).

Obama won "overwhelmingly," it seems, at least among undecideds.

UPDATE 3: Some additional reaction:

-- Kos: "The consensus seems clear: This was McCain's turf. He needed a solid victory, and he didn't get it. At best, it was a tie. And with the next debates focusing on economic issues, McCain will be in hostile territory. My interpretation of all of this is that Obama won via the expectations game, but was a draw on the substantive issues." (I still think Obama won on substance. It was a draw in terms of expectations and media perception.)

-- Marshall: "My take on this debate was that both candidates made their basic arguments clearly. They stuck to the points they're making on the campaign trail. Neither of these guys are powerful debaters but both held up well. I didn't see many real gaffes or mistakes... McCain didn't have any freak-out moments. But he did have that sneer and there did seem to be this thing where he was so contemptuous and angry at Obama that he couldn't get himself to make eye contact. I think we'll hear more about that. Angry, angry, angry. Part of the key here is that McCain is clearly miffed that he even has to debate or run again Obama. He thinks it's an insult."

-- Benen: "[I]f I were giving letter grades, I'd say Obama deserves an A-, while McCain might get a generous B." Overall, Obama won "on points."

-- Digby is blunt: "It's very hard for me to gauge this debate because to me John McCain is quite obviously a crazy, intemperate, nasty old bastard. He was sarcastic, contemptuous and patronizing."

-- Klein: Obama Wins Debate On Tactics and Strategies.

-- Ambinder: "The press will probably conclude that McCain did not fundamentally change impressions tonight. And that Obama held his own."

-- Todd: "[C]ount me impressed by both candidates... I wouldn't be surprised if the polls don't move much in either direction because neither candidate gave a reason why voters ought to stop listening and make their decision now."

-- Halperin calls it A- to B- for Obama.

UPDATE 4: CNN has the full transcript here.

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The rambling man

By Creature

John McCain is a one trick pony with his rambling stories and stump speech rehashing. He's an angry, bitter old man and extremely painful to listen to. I don't know how this debate will be spun, but I can't see it as anything other than a loss for John McCain.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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To kill a bailout deal

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I want to stress Creature's point from earlier today:

In its statement announcing that McCain would show up for tonight's debate, the McCain campaign not only (and predictably) attacked Obama but defended McCain's actions (i.e., his desperate political stunt, his interference in the bailout negotiations) by blaming everyone else for not getting a deal done:

John McCain's decision to suspend his campaign was made in the hopes that politics could be set aside to address our economic crisis.

In response, Americans saw a familiar spectacle in Washington. At a moment of crisis that threatened the economic security of American families, Washington played the blame game rather than work together to find a solution that would avert a collapse of financial markets without squandering hundreds of billions of taxpayers' money to bailout bankers and brokers who bet their fortunes on unsafe lending practices.

Both parties in both houses of Congress and the administration needed to come together to find a solution that would deserve the trust of the American people. And while there were attempts to do that, much of yesterday was spent fighting over who would get the credit for a deal and who would get the blame for failure. There was no deal or offer yesterday that had a majority of support in Congress. There was no deal yesterday that included adequate protections for the taxpayers. It is not enough to cut deals behind closed doors and then try to force it on the rest of Congress -- especially when it amounts to thousands of dollars for every American family.

Note: It's Washington's fault. "Washington played the blame game rather than work together to find a solution..." Yet it is the McCain campaign -- and hence McCain himself -- playing the blame game, blaming both the House and the Senate, as well as the Bush Administration, and presumably also both parties.

The message: McCain tried, he really did, hard, going up against "Washington" all by himself, the maverick above the fray, fighting the good fight on behalf of the American people but ultimately coming up short.

In other words, the McCain spin is all about feeding the Myth of McCain.

In other words, it's all a lie.

For in actual fact, there was a tentative deal in place before McCain arrived and interfered. Indeed, according to House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, the only positive purpose McCain served, from the perspective of the right-wing Republican renegades, was to contribute to killing the deal: "Clearly, yesterday, his position in that discussion yesterday was one that stopped a deal from, uh, finalizing..."

McCain, as usual, will take the credit but never the blame. And yet, on this, there is no one to blame but McCain himself. Which means he is either a right-wing renegade who genuinely opposed the deal or, more likely, he failed (because all he did was interfere), the deal fell through, at least for the time being, and he's rushing to get the hell out of town -- evil "Washington" -- leaving nothing but unfounded yet politically opportune accusations of blame in his wake.

There's your "maverick" for you.

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The debate must go on

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, big surprise, McCain will show up at the debate after all. You know, because he never really suspended his campaign in the first place. It was all a desperate political stunt -- and one that badly backfired (he seems to have done more harm than good back in Washington) -- and now he has no excuse left. But I'm sure his campaign will plead low expectations and declare victory no matter what happens this evening...

But why wait? It seems that victory has already been declared. (Yes, that's a McCain-Palin ad that came out before the debate.)

"They really do believe they 'create their own reality,' don't they?" notes Sullivan. And of course they do. The big problem is that the media often buy into that McCain-manufactured reality and make it their own.

(Kyle Moore has more.)


HuffPo's Sam Stein notes that "the McCain campaign has gone back on its word." First calling for the debate to be postponed, now debating. "The whole episode left even conservatives admitting that the McCain campaign looked erratic and a bit foolish with no apparent direction or guiding principle."

But that's McCain for you: arrogant and erratic.

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LA Representative wants the poor sterilized, rich to procreate more

By LindaBeth

I just heard on CNN that Louisiana's Rep. John LaBruzzo (R) is looking into a plan to pay poor women to have their tubes tied. This is based on his concern that poor people reproduce at a higher rate than more economically privileged people do, who pay more in taxes. Folks, this is his guess--he has no data to this effect. Mark Waller from The Times-Picayune reports on that "He said he is gathering statistics now." instead of looking at the actual range of factors that affect poverty and aiming to solve those, he's going to racistly assume that it's because they're voluntarily having "too many" children "they can't afford," and if they can't afford them, we should encourage, not free contraception and education, but sterilization, so he's then going to try to find data to support this?

It also could include tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income people to have more children, he said.

Now we're at the meat-and-potatoes. It's not really about "helping" people to avoid welfare (as if having kids is the prime reason people are on welfare in the first place), but also ensuring that the "right" kind of people reproduce--those who are wealthy and educated.

The idea here is that poor citizens receive social welfare and therefore do not have the "right" to have families. This is bullshit in and of itself. On top of that, LaBruzzo is essentially hoping for the "extinction" of the poor on account of his faulty logic that that would reduce or eliminate poverty, as if poverty were a function of people, not of societies and economic systems. Even more, well-educated, wealthier people should have even more children to make more educated, wealthy people! Who knew economic privilege was genetic!

OK, I know he's not saying that. But if he really thought about the implications of poverty begetting poverty, he might realize that helping people out of poverty is not at all accomplished by telling them not to have children (and since when should we coerce the poor with money to do invasive, irreversible, medical procedures on their bodies?--and for the record, he's sure not suggesting that we pay for or demand that poor women have abortions), but to help change the environmental circumstances and social structures that perpetuate economic inequality.

And never mind that the rhetoric that children and families are the "foundation" of our society that justifies a slew of tax advantages given to middle and upper class families. Forget the college tuition credits given, and deductions for homeowners' mortgages that partially subsidize the middle-class American life. The right consistently talks about tax breaks to help families out, but those breaks are for people who owe taxes to begin with: they are tax breaks for the middle class, not the poor. But folks like Rep. LaBruzzo seem appalled that folks on welfare would dare to be free citizens and have children, who allegedly are the reason for their poverty. Meanwhile, middle and upper class families benefit from their own share of social welfare in the form of tax deductions and government-guaranteed education (as well as partially taxpayer-funded state universities), and this welfare is completely invisible to them. I don't have kids, and I am forced, through taxation, to pay for the education of other people's children--even the wealthy.

In one way or another, aren't most of us social welfare recipients?

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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Spinning victory out of utter defeat

By Creature

I guess we all had it wrong. John McCain didn't blow the bailout deal, he paved the way for a new better one. Except not.

Here's the positive spin from House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) [via AMERICAblog]:

"I do think that John McCain was very helpful in what he did. I saw him this morning, we've been talking with his staff. Clearly, yesterday, his position in that discussion yesterday was one that stopped a deal from, uh, finalizing that no House Republican, in my view, would've been for. Which means it probably wouldn't have passed the House. Now, Democrats are in the majority, they can pass anything they want to without a single Republican vote. But they don't seem to be willing to do that. I'm please we can have negotiations now that guess us back to things that we think can protect the taxpayers better, create more options, are, frankly, be better understood in the country than the plan, than the path that we were on just a couple of days ago."

And here's the McCain campaign's spin on how John McCain didn't blow the whole damn deal up [via TwoGlasses]:

"The difference between Barack Obama and John McCain was apparent during the White House meeting yesterday where Barack Obama's priority was political posturing in his opening monologue defending the package as it stands. John McCain listened to all sides so he could help focus the debate on finding a bipartisan resolution that is in the interest of taxpayers and homeowners. The Democratic interests stood together in opposition to an agreement that would accommodate additional taxpayer protections."

No. No. No. Up is down all over again. I really can't take much more of this.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Squaring off

By Carol Gee

We are in a box. The United States' current economic crisis has four corners, just like any regular box.

1) "Regular" Democrats and "Regular" Republicans are leading the reform effort targeting Bush's original 3-page bailout plan. They see the effort as representing their Main Street constituents' interests at the same time as Wall Street's. Barack Obama is trying not to get in the way of this process. We do not exactly know where Blue Dog Democrats would come down.

2) "Conservative" Republicans are in direct opposition to the Regulars' proposals and are not negotiating, but offering wholesale substitution of different ideas. Rebellious and bewildered,# these legislators feel that the proposed bailout is socialism. John McCain# may or may not be on their side. He cannot or will not say where he stands, but his presence is certainly having an effect.

3) "Regular Americans" -- we citizens are angry, dazed, confused and skeptical of Congress' and the Administration's proposals, due to Bush's history of raising last minute crises and deliberate escalation of fears based on lies and deception. We need a whole lot more information. Some of us want the culprits punished. Bush takes no responsibility# for the failures.

4) "The Experts" in economics, constitutional law and political theory disagree on the solutions needed to mitigate the banking frozen credit crisis; wise leaders do not necessarily trust the Secretary of the Treasury, due to his previous corporate history.

The regulars have their hands full today. Last night the House Republicans Scuttle[d] Economic Rescue Talks. And what about tonight's debate? Friday's Debate: Commander-in-Chief Test for McCain & Obama# -- Senator McCain has said he will attend tonight's Presidential Debate at "Ole Miss." Tonight's discussion was planned to be about foreign policy.# The moderator will inevitably have to pose questions about the economic crisis. At the very least, McCain's tactics for the past few days have convinced me that, by his behavior alone, he is not ever going to be the one we can trust to be in charge.

The people of the United States, regular Americans are not just sitting around in a stupor. They are protesting. In the streets and Online, Bailout Outrage Jumps to Streets, and Into Lawmakers' Inboxes." The post is at Wired-Threat Level. It says, "An e-mail that began as a rallying cry from a lone journalist to an influential circle of friends to protest the U.S. government bailout of Wall Street has ignited a national day of street protests." Also, this from reminded us all about some key ideas regarding the proposed wall Street bailout. To quote:

$700 billion of our tax dollars - $2,333 for every man, woman, and child - to bail out his greedy rich friends on Wall Street. . . So make no mistake: every penny we give Bush now will be used to greatly overpay for securities that will lose most of their value. We will pay the price for decades, which is why dozens of economists oppose Bush's fraud. . . . And call your Senators and Representative right now to say "No $700 Billion Bailout for Wall Street" - dial the Capitol switchboard at 800-473-6711 or 202-224-3121 or dial direct using the instant phone lookup on the right side of And if you have not e-mailed your Senators and Representative, please do it now:

And we need not fear, the FBI Is on the Case, OK?" -- from ProPublica (9/24/08) is by Paul Kiel. Kiel's main point is that the FBI is under pressure to assist with settling corporate accountability for fraud, though there does not seem to be a good indication that a crime has been committed. The FBI reported that the number of investigations has gone from 18 to 26 since July. The recently begun investigation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and the American International Group is preliminary. To quote:

. . . The FBI is probing four of the stricken companies at the center of the current financial crisis, reports the AP, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg. All outlets cite anonymous law enforcement sources who, naturally, are not named because they “aren’t authorized” to speak publicly. . . Most news sources mention “possible” or “potential” fraud. Only Bloomberg approaches specifics, reporting that investigators are reviewing “possible accounting misstatements.”

. . . A “government official” speaking to the New York Times provides the most candid explanation of the FBI’s interest, telling the Times that it was “logical to assume” that those four companies would come under investigation because of the many questions surrounding their recent collapse

. . . But as the Wall Street Journal notes, investigators have yet to bag a dealmaker who symbolizes the current crisis the way Charles Keating, convicted for fraud related to the collapse of American Financial Corp., came to be the face of the S&L crisis. (Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo has at times seemed a likely candidate.) Until investigators land a big fish, the pressure is likely to continue.

Experts, thank goodness, are squaring off in ways that surely will help America do the right thing. They also help the rest of us understand. For that I turn to one of my most trustworthy gurus. On Tuesday and Wednesday,'s Glenn Greenwald interviewed a couple of people who know a lot about the economic crisis. Glenn and "Digby" had a very informative discussion about the bailout on Wednesday. Glenn explained, "My discussion with Digby is about the reasons why all of this is happening, the political considerations driving it, and whether there is any prospect for stopping it." And Glenn interviewed Notre Dame finance professor Richard Sheehan on Tuesday. To quote,

University of Notre Dame Professor of Finance Richard Sheehan has been one of the most incisive economist-critics of the Paulson plan since it was unveiled, and he's my guest today on Salon Radio. We discuss the ways in which the key fear-mongering claims of Paulson have been both misleading and exaggerated; the reasons the bailout plan won't work even if the best case scenario occurs; where and how the Federal Government will get $700 billion to fund it; and the role Paulson himself has played in the events that have caused this crisis.

Congressional Democrats are surely worried about their own campaigns as this crisis drags on. At the same time, these are exciting and terrifying times. Today the cost of the Iraq war mounts to $557,371,700,000+, our current president has 115 more days in the White House, and 39 days remain until the elections. Dems are not all guaranteed a win this fall and some of the most courageous will need our help. Meanwhile, Peace to all.

References regarding the crisis and the election --

  • From ProPublica (9/24/08): Breaking on the Web: Wall Street Crisis Edition.

  • History of U.S. Gov’t Bailouts, Updated" -- This further background comes from ProPublica - by Jesse Nankin, posted: 22 Sep 2008.

  • Fom CQ Behind the Lines newsletter (9/24/08):

    McBama: While John McCain and other Republican leaders support the terror-inspired Real ID Act, Sarah Palin has said she has “great concerns” about the “ill-conceived policy,” The Juneau Empire’s Alan Suderman spotlights. “The evidence that Obama is tacking a bit toward a more powerful presidency comes from his reversal on warrantless wiretapping,” Slate’s Emily Bazelon observes in a look at the future of the Bush team’s terror-era executive power grab. Ex-White House terror expert Richard Clarke was in Virginia last weekend arguing that Obama has been right on recent key national security issues — issues in which McCain ostensibly showed a lack of judgment, The Rocktown Weekly’s Jeremy Hunt reports. “At Friday’s debate, McCain should make a pivot, connecting foreign policy, national security, and domestic policy — and thus get back to illegal immigration,” James Pinkerton proposes on The FOX Forum. A man was arrested Tuesday near the Chicago home of Barack Obama for allegedly “getting too close” to the security perimeter, ABC 7 News notes.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Self first: McCain and the financial crisis

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In a column published yesterday on McCain's "fundamentals," the NYT's David Brooks delved into the myth of McCain and came out with all the usual drivel. "I still think of him first in the real world of governing, not in the show-business world of the election," Brooks wrote. McCain is "a humble man," "an unfailingly candid man," a man of far too many accomplishments to list in a single column.

Oh, sure, Brooks isn't at all happy with "the foolish decision to run a traditional right-left campaign against Obama," but he understands that "in this media-circus environment, you simply cannot run for president as a candid, normal person." Brooks is also disappointed that "the McCain campaign... has no central argument," with the candidate stuck in "the contradiction between the Barry Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt sides of his worldview." But, no matter, McCain is "a good judge of character," "a practiced legislative craftsman," "a serious man prone to serious things."

Partly in response to this drivel -- and I encourage you all to read Free Ride: John McCain and the Media, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, to get a better sense of the real McCain (hint: it's not at all Brooks's McCain) -- TNR's John Judis, once a key liberal admirer of and apologist for McCain, argues that, in terms of the financial crisis, McCain is putting country last, not first. Like Brooks, Judis also delves into the myth and regurgitates some of the old drivel, but, overall, I think his main point is right:

[I]t is simply unpatriotic -- it's an insult to flag, country, and all the things that McCain claims to hold dear -- for McCain to hold this financial crisis hostage to his political ambitions. McCain doesn't know a thing about finance and is no position to help work out an agreement. If we do suffer a serious bank run, or a run on the dollar, it can be laid directly at his feet. As I said to friends last night, if McCain had been president at this point, I would have wanted to impeach him.

That brings me back to David Brooks' column. David thinks that beneath the surface of McCain the craven campaigner, that the man who nominated an ill-prepared Sarah Palin as his possible successor and has lent his energies to blocking a financial bailout, there still sits a "real McCain" who could govern fairly and effectively as president. I doubt it. I really doubt it. Whether because of age or overreaching ambition, McCain has become the kind of man he earlier railed against. He has become the Bush of 2000 against whom he campaigned or the Senate and House Republicans whom he despised. His defeat is now imperative.

I would argue that the "real" McCain was always the self-made myth, the image of the maverick / moderate / reformer -- just look at his record -- but, regardless, it is indeed imperative that he (and Palin) be defeated.

It has been all along, but it is now more than ever.

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"Anonymous Liberal" gets it right

By Carl

When I watched the highlights of yesterday's twin train wrecks in the McCain campaign yesterday, I said to myself, "well, the only reason that John McCain cut out of the David Letterman taping (video at link) was to do damage control for the earlier massacred Couric-Palin interview.

In the course of that interview, Sarah Palin all but signaled John McCain's intention to vote for the bailout package. And if it wasn't his intention, it is now. She equated not voting for it to initiating a new Great Depression, and you can almost hear the one-liner from Obama: "He voted FOR the Great Depression, before he was against it!"

Not that he couldn't use this line anyway.

Too, Palin's "I'll get back to you" comment regarding whether McCain had ever passed a single piece of legislation that increased regulations was pretty much butchered, and showed her to be totally lost at sea when it comes to answering questions she doesn't know the answer to.

Anonymous Liberal posts a brief transcript of this exchange (video at link):

COURIC: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

PALIN: He's also known as the maverick, though. Taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about — the need to reform government.

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?

PALIN: I'll try to find you some, and I'll bring them to you.

Now, I'm no Republican, but I can think off the top of my head of at least two bills that McCain supported that increased regulations on education (No Child Left Behind) and homeland security (the Patriot Act). I can't say that he *pushed* for passage of either of those, but I do know that the McCain-Feingold bill set new regulations regarding money in political campaigns and is indeed his signature bill in the Senate!

It's OK to draw a blank in an interview and say "I'll get back to you," but your damned handlers ought to be on a phone in another room, getting those answers to you. And if they can't get to you during the taping, they ought to get you as you walk out and hand you a slip of paper, so you can turn around and go back to Couric and say "McCain-Feingold" for her to add later.

So The Anonymous Liberal gets it right that McCain's stunt was damage control, to appear on Couric in the next news cycle... yes, news cycles can now be measured in hours, not shore up his credentials. And kudos to Couric for asking a tough question.

But McCain suffers far more from his obfuscation to Letterman than he does from the stunt. If Senator McCain had been honest with Letterman, and said "Listen, I have to do damage control today, and if you'll keep it under your hat, I promise to drop by at the earliest opportunity to appear," Letterman would have been fine with that, and the endless replay of "Hey Senator, I have a question! Can I drive you to the airport?" wouldn't be getting more airplay than Sarah Palin's gaffes would.

Indeed, McCain could have called Letterman during the taping (both The Late Show and The CBS Evening News tape around the same time) and perhaps made a surprise appearance. This would have salvaged the day, and truly mitigated the unmitigated disaster that was the Palin interview.

As it is, McCain managed to limit its exposure, first by "cancelling" campaigning, and then by cancelling on Letterman, both dishonest acts of cowardice. And now, CNN is reporting that McCain wants to delay the VP debate! I wonder if he's thinking of replacing her with someone who's a bit more.. .seasoned. After this story, it's possible.

Letterman said it best last night: "What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"

Presidents are supposed to multi-task.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Painful Palin: "Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, there was more disturbing hilarity last night during Palin-Couric II, with Couric trying to be nice and Palin getting lost here, there, and everywhere. (For my comments on some of Palin-Couric I, see here.)

It's so bizarre, in a way.

Here's Palin, running for vice president, on the national stage, saying silly and stupid things and at times unable even to answer Couric's questions in any coherent, let alone meaningful, way, and showing a complete lack of experience, engagement, expertise, and even basic understanding of the issues.

She said, for example, that the U.S. should never second-guess Israel with respect to Iran. (See first video below.) Couric pressed her softly, exposing her incoherence and double-speak, but all Palin could do was fumble around with, and become entangled in, her verbiage.

She also responded with incoherence (and cluelessness) to Couric's question about the bailout. (See second video below.) She clearly looked uncomfortable, if not somewhat embarrassed. As Melissa McEwan puts it, "Palin's answer is just a rambling mess of jumbled talking points haphazardly strung together in a way that makes no sense, while she glances down at her notes. 'Not ready for primetime' doesn't begin to cover it."

And then there were her comments about Alaska's proximity to Russia and how that geographic fact somehow gives her valuable foreign policy experience. (See third video below.) Here's the exchange:

COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land-- boundary that we have with-- Canada. It-- it's funny that a comment like that was-- kind of made to-- cari-- I don't know, you know? Reporters--


PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our-- our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia--

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

In other words... nothing.

Her claim is being mocked because it's mockable. Being the governor of the state next to Russia, to the remotest part of Russia, doesn't provide her with any foreign policy experience at all. She mentioned "trade missions" but was unable to give any specifics. Instead, she suggested that she's been monitoring Putin and watching out for a Russian invasion. Which is just plain stupid.

There is no way this woman should be anywhere near the vice presidency. Watch the videos -- and laugh -- but remember that she is the Republican nominee and that the race is close.

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Corruption, Palin-style

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From WaPo:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has made a crackdown on gift-giving to state officials a centerpiece of her ethics reform agenda, has accepted gifts valued at $25,367 from industry executives, municipalities and a cultural center whose board includes officials from some of the largest mining interests in the state, a review of state records shows.

The 41 gifts Palin accepted during her 20 months as governor include honorific tributes, expensive artwork and free travel for a family member. They also include more than $2,500 in personal items from Calista, a large Alaska native corporation with a variety of pending state regulatory and budgetary issues, and a gold-nugget pin valued at $1,200 from the city of Nome, which lobbies on municipal, local and capital budget matters, documents show.

Once again, see that the image of Palin as a government cleaner-upper is completely bogus.


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

On CNN's appalling coverage of Obama, McCain, and the bailout negotiations

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The coverage of McCain's desperate stunt just now on Anderson Cooper was just atrocious. Although the word "stunt" was used, the overall tone was positive. McCain is risking everything, it seems, to suspend his campaign, a huge "gamble" that is well worth taking. There was no mention of what he actually contributed to the proceedings, if anything, and much of the segment showed McCain walking determinedly through the Capitol, playing to the cameras by trying to look like a leader on a mission, refusing to take questions, flanked by pals Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham. And all we learned from Dana Bash is that McCain's position is not to have a position -- which may or may not be true.

After a break, it was time for Obama, but the focus wasn't really on Obama, it was on contrasting Obama and McCain, with yet more time given to positive coverage of McCain's stunt/gamble. Candy Crowley referred to Obama as "cool" and "above the fray," but she did so implying that such coolness may not be a positive trait at this time (or any time). So while McCain was the leader, Obama was his usual detached self -- or so we were being led to believe. Obama was not shown walking determinedly, just hanging about. And then it was all about how Obama and the Democrats are attacking McCain, as if somehow it is Obama who is playing politics during this crisis, not McCain.

(Lousy, lousy coverage. A terrible job by CNN. Anderson Cooper should be ashamed of himself.)

What is clear, though, is that it is McCain who is playing politics by supposedly suspending his campaign (he is actually doing nothing of the sort) and who is needlessly and counter-productively injecting presidential politics into these delicate negotiations.

And yet it seems that McCain actually contributed very little -- indeed, next to nothing.

ABC News: "[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said McCain was 'not helpful' by suspending his campaign and heading to Washington, claiming it was difficult to 'understand what John McCain said at the [White House] meeting.' He said McCain spoke last and only for several moments, and did not contribute anything. 'McCain only hurt this process,' Reid said. Asked if McCain expressed interest in taking part in negotiations on Capitol Hill, Reid said, 'No.'"

Politico: "Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said that 'nobody mentioned McCain' during the several-hour-long meeting on the $700 billion market rescue plan, other than Frank and that his Republican colleagues 'winced' when he did. 'He's been irrelevant to the process. He remains to be,' said Frank."

Tonight, the deal is in trouble.

McCain is playing leader, and the media are playing along, but he isn't actually leading anything. And it is unlikely that he'll be the one to bring the revolting House Republicans, the free-market extremists of the right, into the fold. (Though he seems to be doing his best to cozy up to them and represent their interests. He's such a maverick!)

He's just a distraction, and a nuisance, and, in desperation, he's brought his run for the presidency to Washington to capitalize on the crisis.

If anything actually gets done, it will be in spite of McCain, not because of him, but look for him to take the credit anyway, just as he always does. His stunt isn't a gamble, it's a calculated strategy, and all he's risking is the bailout itself.

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Anti anti-intellectualism

By LindaBeth

Satirical pundit Steven Colbert critiques right-wing anti-intellectualism:

(In Canada)

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