Saturday, October 29, 2011

Asleep at the Wheel, Western Swing, and Route 66

By Richard K. Barry

Music on Saturday @ The Reaction

It would be easy to post music clips quickly recognizable to everyone. Nothing wrong with the stuff everyone knows. But there is so much music out there less well known, obviously. And it's not that my musical interests are necessarily broader than anyone else's, but I've come upon a few things in my life that you won't likely hear on the radio, unless it's public radio as part of a themed program late one weekend evening. I can almost hear some breathless NPR announcer telling us all about the anthropology of southern music.

One group I was introduced to over twenty years ago, while driving through Texas to attend the annual Kerrville Folk Festival near Austin, was Asleep at the Wheel. They'd probably be categorized as a country music group, but they also play some stuff in the tradition of Western Swing or Texas Swing, most usually associated with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys.

What little I know of Western Swing I like.

The closest Asleep at the Wheel came to a hit was with "The Letter that Johnny Walker Read," which peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard country charts in 1975. Lest you think they are not heavy hitters, though, they have won nine Grammy awards since their inception in 1970.

Here's a nice performance of Route 66 by the group. And it really swings.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Mitt Romney would let Israel control U.S. foreign policy

Republicans love to accuse President Obama of weakening America, of not believing in so-called American exceptionalism, of being too much of an internationalist -- all of which is to say, of not being an imperialist bully pushing its weight around without regard for anyone else.

This is the opposite of the truth, of course. Obama has worked to restore America's standing in the world, as well as its credibility and influence, after his predecessor worked to ruin it with his cowboyish, us-versus-them unilateralism. He is certainly an internationalist in the sense that he respects international institutions such as the UN, and in the sense that he values diplomacy and not just brute force, but there is nothing to suggest that he doesn't believe in, or accept as one of the foundations of his foreign policy, America's supposed exceptionalism, to the point that he often sounds like a Republican, spouting the same old flag-waving nonsense that is de rigeur in U.S. politics regardless of which party you belong to. And then there's his war on al Qaeda and other terrorist threats and his ramping up of the war in Afghanistan, both of which have shown him to be anything but what Republicans say he is.

Anyway, if you're looking for someone who would actually sell out America, you need look no further than Mitt Romney, who may well be the Republican standard-bearer next year. Like many Republicans, he would allow Israel to dictate U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation:

The free daily newspaper Israel Hayom — a media outlet closely associated with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — asked Romney if, as president, he would ever consider moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In his answer, Romney made some astonishing claims. First, that his policy toward Israel will be guided by Israeli leaders; second, on the Jerusalem issue, he'd do whatever Israel tells him to do; and third, he does not think the United States should take a leadership role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

ROMNEY: The actions that I will take will be actions recommended and supported by Israeli leaders. I don't seek to take actions independent of what our allies think is best, and if Israel's leaders thought that a move of that nature would be helpful to their efforts, then that’s something I'll be inclined to do. But again, that's a decision which I would look to the Israeli leadership to help guide. I don't think America should play the role of the leader of the peace process, instead we should stand by our ally. Again, my inclination is to follow the guidance of our ally Israel, as to where our facilities and embassies would exist.

He was referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but of course Israel has views on the Middle East generally. Where would Romney stop letting Israel dictate U.S. policy? Where would he draw the line? Or would he always follow Israel wherever Israel determines its interests are at stake?

Once again, we see Romney playing to the Republican base, which is extremist in its support for Israel's right wing, while also trying to score some cheap political points with an important constituency, in this case Jews in swing states like Florida. What he actually believes, if he actually believes anything at all, is irrelevant. This is all about self-promotional politics, as seems always to be the case with Romney.

Now, I get why Romney is taking this position, given what currently plays in the Republican Party, as well as the demands of electoral politics, but of course Republicans are only extremist like this in their support for Israel when Israel is being governed by the right-wing likes of Netanyahu. Would Romney be saying such things if Labor or even Kadima or Yisrael Beiteinu were in power instead of Likud? Well, maybe, given how shameless he is, but certainly Republican support for Israel would be significantly less absolutist.

Romney titled his self-promotional campaign book No Apology: Believe in America. The implication, of course, is that Obama doesn't believe in America and apologizes for it. (Again, this is standard Republican fare.) And yet it's Romney who would put Israel's interests before America's (and, no, they're not the same even they occasionally overlap), and who would allow a foreign country to dicate U.S. policy. Imagine what Republicans would say if, say, Obama were to allow the EU to dictate U.S. monetary policy. Think that would go over well?

Well, it's the man who might very well be the Republican presidential candidate next year, not the president, who would weaken America by taking the exceptional step of selling out the country, and abdicating responsibility over one of the most important areas of foreign policy, for ideological purposes. (Or at least that's what he's saying to try to win votes. Who knows what he'd actually do.) That's just the sort of "leadership" Romney would bring to the Oval Office.

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Mitt Romney wasn't a global warming denier before he was

Mitt Romney in June (similar to the Mitt Romney of the past, if more wishy-washy):

I don't speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world's getting warmer. I can't prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don't know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you're seeing.

Mitt Romney on Thursday:

My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us...

I think the EPA, acting in concert with the president, really doesn't like oil, gas, coal, and nuclear... I really do believe that the EPA wants to get its hands on all of energy and be able to crush it to cause prices to go through the roof... [T]he EPA should not be regulating carbon dioxide.

Which is the real Mitt Romney? Does it matter anymore? Does he even know who he is anymore?

How does he have any credibility left (even within his own party)? Because he certainly doesn't have any integrity. He's basically a business-oriented center-right technocrat who's now selling out to the far right (aka the GOP base). And he's completely shameless about it, now going so far as to embrace global warming denialism, rejecting the overwhelming scientific consensus and taking unsubstantiated partisan shots at the EPA, which of course one must do to get anywhere in the GOP.

What was that Jon Huntsman was saying about Romney being "a perfectly lubricated weathervane"?

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Quote of the Day: Huntsman calls Romney "a perfectly lubricated weathervane"

Jon Huntsman the Formidable (as I have called him, even if he has been anything but formidable on the campaign trail -- not that he ever had a chance) called out Mitt Romney today on CNN:

Huntsman continued popular criticism of Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, by accusing him of changing his positions on issues including Libya, the debt ceiling and Ohio's bill to limit the collective bargaining rights of union workers.

"You can't be a perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day," Huntsman said. "Romney has been missing in action in terms of showing any kind of leadership."

"I do believe that the electorate this go around will be looking for clearly defined presidential leadership and I'm not sure we're seeing that," Huntsman added.

We're not seeing any of that on the Republican side (not really even from Huntsman himself, though he may come closer than any of them). And while I'm not sure Romney is any worse than, say, Perry, Cain, or Bachmann in terms of leadership, or lack thereof, Huntsman's assessment of him is spot on.

Of course, there's nothing new in calling Romney some variation of a flip-flopping opportunist who says whatever he thinks he needs to say to score political points, and this view of Romney is pretty much standard conservative fare.

But "perfectly lubricated weathervane" is just so poetic. Nicely done.

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Rush Limbaugh refuses to back down from support for the Lord's Resistance Army

Following up on Nicholas's post on McCain, Limbaugh, and the Lord's Resistance Army, a reprehensible "Christian" terrorist organization engaging in mass murder in central Africa, I would note that Limbaugh is steadfastly refusing to back down from his support for the LRA (and his opposition to U.S. intervention against it).

His position may be motivated by opposition to anything and everything Obama does, but his (anti-Muslim) Christian zealotry is also part of it (the LRA claims to be Christian, struggling to establish a Christian theocratic state, and Limbaugh has said that U.S. intervention means killing Christians). As is his abject ignorance. He obviously doesn't have a fucking clue what the LRA is all about and what's going on in central Africa. (Many Republicans have joined the president to support intervention, including Sen. James Inhofe.)

Here's TPM with more -- and with a video you all should watch:

At no point did Limbaugh address the fact that he had in effect defended a reviled group first listed as terrorists by President George W. Bush.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this wasn't enough to stop the story from spreading. On Monday the Times of London ran an article about a young woman, Evelyn Apoko, who it said had been "horribly mutilated while working as a human 'mule' for the LRA." The paper wrote that the 22 year-old "demanded an apology" from Limbaugh, but that none had so far been forthcoming.

A group representing Ms. Apoko also wrote to TPM with a link to the video where she asked for that apology, while also detailing what she suffered at the hands of the LRA.

Limbaugh has not yet responded to that. You can watch her video below.

Dear Mr. Limbaugh: Evelyn's Appeal from Strongheart on Vimeo.

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Does John McCain take his orders from Rush Limbaugh?

Sen. John McCain supported the intervention in Libya. He heralded the killing of Osama bin Laden. He supports continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he believes Syria should be the next target of a military intervention.

Not. Worth. It.

After President Obama announced that he would be sending 100 military advisors into Central Africa, McCain had this to say:

I worry that with the best of intentions, that somehow we get engaged in a commitment that we can't get out of. That's happened before in our history and we need an explanation, and I’m very disappointed, again, that the administration has not consulted with members of Congress before taking such action.

Here's the explanation: The Lord's Resistance Army, "a notorious renegade group that has terrorized villagers in at least four countries with marauding bands that kill, rape, maim and kidnap with impunity," is currently killing, raping, maiming, and kidnapping with impunity.

Here are the facts about the Obama administration consulting Congress: In May 2010, the United States Congress sent the "Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act" to President Obama to sign into law, which he did, on May 24. The bill passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and by a voice vote in the House. 

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a lead sponsor of the Senate measure, recently told The Hill, "We had 64 co-sponsors. That's the most in the history of the Senate on an Africa-related bill."

"I would have been disappointed" had Obama opted against sending U.S. troops there, Inhofe said, according to The Hill. "It's not that we mandated the president to act; we requested him to do it. I take full responsibility for that. I don't hang that on the president at all."

Got that? Congress already approved this mission – to the tune of $10 million a year through FY2013.

We know Rush Limbaugh thinks the Lord's Resistance Army is a group of "Christians" fighting to "remove dictatorships and stop the oppression of our people." But what Limbaugh thinks just so happens to be wrong.

What's your excuse, John?    

You supported liberating the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. You supported liberating the people of Libya. Now you want to liberate the people of Syria and possibly even Iran.

Why not the people of Uganda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic?

Are you taking orders from conservative pundits, or is the mass murder of black people just not that big of a concern? As I recall, you were against military interventions in Somalia in 1993 and Haiti in 1994, as well...

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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Could Herman Cain actually win the nomination?

Recently, Nate Silver had a post arguing that it has never really happened before that a candidate like Herman Cain with such incredibly weak fundamentals has polled so strongly.

By "fundamentals," Silver means the laundry list of factors that would be considered important by any qualified observer of politics for a successful campaign. For example:

Cain has no endorsements from Republican members of Congress or Republican governors, and very few from officials in key early voting states. He has raised very little money. He has not hired well-known names for his campaign staff. He does not have traditional credentials. He has run for elected office just once before. He has begun to get a fair amount of media coverage, but the tenor has been fairly skeptical.

Silver's point, or a good part of it, is that there is no precedent for a candidate like Herman Cain. We don't really have any way to judge whether or not he could be successful, that is to say, whether or not he could win the nomination.

So, while many of us are going around saying that Cain has no chance, Silver is saying that he is not so sure. This may not mean that Cain's chances are any better than slim, it's just that it would be hard to make a reasonable case as to why he could not possibly win. The normal indicators are not helpful. The way we typically analyze things is not available to us.

To put it in more common language, this guy has so little going for him and he's doing so well that we have no idea what is going on and therefore can't discount the possibility that he might win.

One point made by Silver is particularly hard to dismiss:

[I]t would be arrogant to say that the man leading the polls two months before Iowa has no chance, especially given that there is a long history in politics and other fields of experts being overconfident when they make predictions.

As I have said many times, my first political prediction came when I was in my early teens. I swore and would tell anyone who would listen that President Richard Nixon would never resign.

Ever since, I have had a hard time taking my own best guesses about political outcomes seriously. But guess I will and I don't think Cain can win anything, but I do agree that his popularity is in fact such a mystery that I wouldn't bet a lot of money on this one.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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When up means down

By Capt. Fogg

The Mayans were far less pessimistic about 2012 than the people who fill my inbox with prophecies of economic doom every day. Actually doom is too mild a word and so is apocalypse if one is trying to set a mood so terrifyingly descriptive of what is happening now and is about to happen, thanks to that Obama. Of course these people are selling investment strategies which I'm sure include buying things they're desperate to get rid of like the gold they bought at $1900 an ounce, but any way the market wind is blowing, they make money from the seminars and newsletters and from screaming like Chicken Little. There's a lot of money in the doom business.

Most of the people I talk to seem convinced that everything is getting worse and won't get better until we "get rid of" Obama in 2012; replacing him no doubt with someone who thinks managing a worldwide economy is an easy task for someone who once managed to save a pizza business by firing everyone, and yet has the nerve to talk about being able to "create jobs." Not to change the subject, but it's truly stunning to see the seamless segue from "government can't create jobs" to "elect me and I'll create jobs, jobs, jobs."

I guess it's no less stunning than Fox News' and John McCain's embarrassing assertions that the 2008 economy was "robust" as we all marched unwittingly off the cliff like a certain cartoon coyote -- and of course, that because "Liberals" were warning us about the inevitable collapse, they "hated America." Not like those forward thinking optimists that modern conservatives are.

We can expect, now that the next presidential election is a year away, that the howling and wailing and rending of garments will grow louder and angrier and numbers will appear proving that calamity awaits us all, no matter what actually happens. It's far too soon to be sure, but this chronic pessimist and a few others with more credible credentials are noticing that our Gross Domestic Product After adjusting for inflation, climbed to $13.35 trillion last quarter, topping the $13.33 trillion peak reached in the last three months of 2007.

I hate to make too much of it, particularly with the Filibustering Vandals doing everything they can to sabotage the economy until November 8th, 2012, but the reality is not quite what the pseudo-conservative chorus is chanting. At least for the moment, things are looking less down. Unemployment is still high, of course -- just a bit above Ronald Reagan levels and we can expect the screamers to keep screaming about that while refusing to do anything about it. We can expect Tea Pissers like Tom "Looney" Rooney (R-Florida) to keep meeting with "Job Creators" and telling us that business owners will hire more employees, irrespective of demand, if we cut their marginal rates even more -- and we can expect that if things do recover steadily and noticeably, he'll find a way to take credit for it because after all, they kept that O-BAH-ma from doing anything for four years while lambasting him for doing nothing. If there is anything these Doomsters are optimistic about it's that they'll always have someone to blame.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top Ten Cloves: Things to look forward to with Apple's TV

By J. Thomas Duffy 

News Item: Analysts: Apple likely to release television set within two years.

10.  Vegas taking bets first prototype television will be found in bar in Redwood City. 

9.  In nod to early television, instead of rabbit ears, it will have two Apple stems.

8.  Nano version of Apple television only lets you watch three channels.

7.  Receive discount if if wearing black turtleneck when purchasing television.

6.  Extra commercials programmed in, pitching the Steve Jobs bio. 

5.  Power source on television runs low, must lug into Apple Store for new power sources.

4.  Any music in TV programming will be automatically loaded, and billed, to your iPod.

3.  Must purchase all your programs via Apple Apps Store.

2.  Siri will refuse to let you watch Fox News Channel.

1.  Kids' finger smudges on television screen will drive you crazy.

Bonus Riffs

Dan Frommer: Here’s how Apple could finally put the “TV” in Apple TV

Slash Lane: NYT: Apple expected to release Siri-powered television by 2013

Adam Satariano: Apple TV Project Is Said to Be Led By ITunes Creator Robbin

Steve Jobs Announces "Klaatu barada nikto!", New iBuilding

Apple, Belatedly, Launches New iLocater


(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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This day in history - October 27, 1904: The first underground New York City Subway line opens

By Richard K. Barry

The New York City Subway is one of the oldest and most extensive public transportation systems in the world, with 468 stations in operation and 209 miles of routes. In 2010, the subway delivered 1.604 billion rides.

It is the fourth-busiest rapid transit rail system in the world in annual ridership, after Tokyo's, Moscow's, and Seoul's rapid transit systems, and the busiest in the Western Hemisphere.

Just thought you might like to know.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Is Rick Santorum "the next flavor of the month"?

Between Rick Perry's dip in the birther pond and Herman Cain's smoking advertisement, this has a been a relatively entertaining week in the Republican presidential race.

But not entertaining enough, apparently.

Christian Heinze asks in an article published yesterday at The Hill, is Rick Santorum "the next flavor of the month"?

The obvious answer is no, Santorum isn't "the next flavor of the month," and Heinze gets to that point pretty quickly in a list of legislative votes and public statements that have isolated the former senator from the very Tea Party base he's so desperately trying to woo. (Santorum, smartly, gave up any hope of impressing establishment Republicans months ago.)

But just in case you were curious, or hopeful, or worried sick, here is Heinze:

As Herman Cain's star appears to be declining, there is already media speculation on who will be the next "it flavor" of the 2012 race. Their conclusion: It might be former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) – the only major presidential candidate who hasn't experienced a polling boomlet.

First of all, Cain's star – to the surprise of many, including myself – actually isn't declining. There's no evidence that it's even dimming. Recent public opinion polls show Cain tied or ahead of frontrunner Mitt Romney, and the respondents to these polls don't seem bothered that the media and his fellow candidates have spent weeks ripping Cain's amateurish 9-9-9 plan to pieces. (For the record, I'm not ready to eat crow on this one yet, as I do still firmly believe that Cain's quirkiness, and his economic plan to raise taxes on 84 percent of Americans, will eventually take its toll on the pizza executive's poll numbers.)

Secondly, "media speculation" isn't a source, which explains why Heinze didn't actually cite anyone. Even had he cited the people in the media who are allegedly doing this speculating, that alone wouldn't give their claims validity. This "conclusion" seems to lie somewhere between a hunch or a rumor, and that assumes it's not a story planted by the Santorum campaign itself, which is possible. Wherever this idea originated, it's not likely to manifest beyond the hypothetical. Santorum's poll numbers – even in Iowa, where he is campaigning the hardest – haven't moved above 4 percent.

Thirdly, just because a candidate hasn't "experienced a polling boomlet" doesn't mean it's his turn. Newt Gingrich hasn't experienced such a boomlet either. Neither has Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, or Gary Johnson. Outside of Iowa, where Michele Bachmann won the presidential straw poll in August, she too has been deprived of such a "boomlet."

A dismal polling record does not a boomlet make.

The fact that certain candidates are widely unpopular doesn't mean voters or poll respondents will suddenly have a change of heart, muster up a dose of sympathy, and give the undesirables a golden star merely for participating.

Which brings us to the point: Santorum is not the next shining star of the GOP presidential race, mainly because he's not the anti-Romney candidate. He's a nervous, stuttering, angry homophobe who wouldn't last a day as a frontrunner, if only because people would suddenly know his name. And they'd Google it. The end.

Heinze may have a quota, and given that there are no debates this week, it would be understandable if he were forced to meet that quota by making up fantasy-fictions about the potential of a come-from-behind anti-sodomy candidate rising to the top of the field, but I just want to make sure people aren't taking everything they read seriously.

Oh wait, Cain is leading in the polls. Too late.

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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James Carville is right, Dems should worry first then fight to win

By Richard K. Barry 

In a recent radio interview, legendary Democratic strategist James Carville said what any thinking politico in the Democratic ranks should be thinking:

Everything worries me in this environment. Nobody's gotten elected with these kinds of numbers. So, I'm worried about the general election. I profoundly admit that. Again, Romney's just making a technocratic kind of confidence argument, and he's really a windsock kind of guy. If you don't like his position on something, give it a day and he'll change it.

Carville then went on to take predictable shots at Perry and Cain, but the point is that being worried is a rational response from Democrats right now. Still, as a strategist, Carville knows that you want to get your Democratic base worried and motivated in part, I think, because the GOP presidential hopefuls are so pathetic that it's hard to take them seriously.

As Carville surely implies, however, in this economy all challengers have to be taken seriously.

Perhaps the more we watch the GOP field, the more comfortable, even complacent, Democrats are becoming with their expectations of re-election for Obama.

Bottom line is that this would be a mistake. Yes, they are a pathetic bunch, the GOP presidential candidates, but the state of the country now and likely leading up to the general election is not good for incumbents. And Democrats are going to have to fight with everything they have to retain the White House.

Along with Mr. Carville, let's be worried, very worried, and then get to work.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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What is Herman Cain's game?

I almost feel sorry for Herman Cain. Is it possible he is really as stupid as he appears, that he doesn't understand the meaning of words?

In an interview with The Des Moines Register, he attempted to clarify any confusion he might have created in a previous interview about his stance on reproductive rights.

Question: Part of your 2004 Senate campaign focused on your stance against abortion, something you've struggled in recent days to articulate after an interview with Piers Morgan. What do you need to clarify in that interview?

Answer: I am pro-life from conception. Abortions, no exceptions. That has been my official stance from the beginning. What Piers Morgan was trying to do was to pigeonhole me on, "Well, what if this was your granddaughter?" You know what? If it's my granddaughter? Yes, this is my official position, and it's always been that. If it's my granddaughter? I used the word "choice." And that's where they jumped all over it. A family will make that choice. I was not talking about the whole big issue.

What!!!!!? So, Cain is against abortion in general when it comes to the "whole big issue" but a family has the right to make that decision for themselves, that choice, when it comes to their particular case.

Is there anything about this that makes sense? Is there anything about Cain's candidacy that makes sense if it's not just an attempt to raise his own profile for the sake of a lucrative media career when this is all over?

I don't care what this guy thinks about reproductive rights. I'm sure as hell not voting for him. It's just an embarrassment for the political process that someone so devoid an understanding of basic logic is being touted as a credible candidate for a major political party in America.

Please, Republicans. Get your act together. It's so far beyond cringe-making that it's hard to watch.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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I Have A Question For The 53%ers

By Carl
I see a lot of comments and rebuttals to Occupy Wall Street that boil down to this, no doubt spurred on by the Koch brothers and their minions:
I work three jobs. I own a house. I have a family to support. I am the 53%.
My question is this: why?
Almost everything we know about wages and prices tells us that the typical household has suffered a Lost Decade for market wages. Just as important, the price of necessities -- such as health care, a college education, a house, and energy to heat your home and run your car engine -- is growing faster than our incomes. [...]

CBO found that in the three decades between 1979 and the beginning of the Great Recession, real household income grew 60 percent overall. But it didn't grow evenly.

Among the poorest fifth of households, income grew 18 percent. For the next three quintiles, it grew just shy of 40 percent. For the richest fifth, it grew 65 percent. And for the top percentile, it grew by a whopping 275 percent, which means it nearly tripled. Bottom line: Income inequality exists.

Inflation for the period Jan. 1980 through Dec. 2007 was 170%, and that staggering figure excludes energy and food (which, if included would add roughly another 40% or so to the figure.)

By the way, those inequalities get worse once you account for taxes paid.

In other words, the 53% still made out better than the 47%, even after you account for the fact that the 47% paid no income taxes!

And the only reason the 53% made out better is because the top 1% made out like bandits.

So I ask again, why?

Why are you working three jobs just to keep up? Why wouldn't you rather work one job at a living wage and have more time to enjoy the finer things that wage provides.

Finer things, like kids, and family time, instead of rushing off to job number two or three.

Why are you angry at the people who have it even worse than you? Why aren't you angry at the people who have sucked up every spare bit of money lying around like a vaccuum cleaner and stuck it in their pockets, rather than provide a decent wage that allows you to work to live, not live to work?

Why aren't you mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)


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Apparently, Birtherism is too crazy/extreme even for Rick Perry

Remember Rick Perry's flirtation with Birtherism the other day after a meeting with Donald Trump? Seems, as he tells the St. Petersburg Times's Adam Smith, he was only kidding:

Smith: Jeb Bush the other day said, the Republican candidates for president should categorically reject the notion that Barack Obama was not born in America. This came after you expressed doubts about that.. what would you say to him? 
Perry: Oh, I don't think I was expressing doubts. I was having some fun with Donald Trump. So I... 

Smith: Are you comfortable that he's an American citizen? 

Perry: Oh yeah. It's fun to... ya know, lighten up a little bit...

Adam: So you have no doubt he's an American citizen? 

Smith: I have no doubt about it.

Oh, yeah, right. Haha. What fun.

But, you see, there's a bit of wiggle room here. The issue, for Birthers, isn't whether Obama is a citizen but whether he was born in the U.S. (and is therefore eligible to be president). All Perry says here is that he has no doubt Obama is a citizen. Now, he was just answering the question posed to him. It's not his fault that the question wasn't the one that consumers the Birthers. Still, it was conveniently posed, and it gives him an out should he wish to get back into the Birther game at some later date.

Otherwise, I highly doubt he was just "having some fun." More likely, he was told by his handlers that Birtherism doesn't fly anymore, except on the outer fringe of a party that is already well out on the fringe, or at least isn't something he should be pushing at the moment. It just makes him look even more unready and unserious than his embarrassingly bad debate performances do.

It's all about political calculation, stupid. Even Rick Perry gets that.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mitt Romney flips and flops on Ohio's anti-union law

(UPDATE: Romney clarified his position on Wednesday. He's "110 percent" anti-union. "I fully support Gov. Kasich's Question 2 in Ohio," he said. "I'm sorry if I created any confusion there." Sure, except that his refusal to be clear was clearly intentional. He likely only clarified his position because he was called out on it. He's going against the majority of Ohioans on this, but pandering to the right-wing GOP base -- and to the party's new mainstream -- would appear to be more important.)

Mitt Romney appeared to depart from the Republican race to the bottom yesterday by refusing to endorse Ohio Gov. John Kasich's law (SB 5) that denies collective bargaining rights to unionized public sector workers. (The law will be put to a state-wide vote in two weeks, and polls show a solid majority (57% according to a poll released yesterday) of Ohioans favoring repeal.) The thing is, Romney endorsed the law back in June. This, of course, is typical Romney. He says one thing when he wants to appeal to the right, another when he wants to appeal to public opinion. As Steve Benen writes:

Think about what transpired: the Republican presidential frontrunner visited with a Republican phone bank to offer support for the Republican campaign to curtail collective bargaining rights. But Romney refuses to take a position on the issue? He's "supportive" of their efforts, but he won't say whether or not he agrees with their efforts? 


Putting aside party and ideology, it's hard to shake the realization that Mitt Romney lacks a certain political courage. He's so desperate to calculate how every decision might affect his ambitions that he struggles to remember what he believes, and either ends up cowardly ducking issues or taking both sides of nearly every fight. It can be hard to watch, and even harder to respect.

Basically, Romney just says whatever he thinks he needs to say to maximize his political appeal, and that means flipping and flopping all over the place. Unlike Perry and Bachmann, he may not always be racing to the bottom in terms of ideology (it's hard to know what he really thinks about SB 5), but he's certainly leading the way, well ahead of Newt Gingrich, in terms of shameless pandering and self-promotional opportunism. This is one of the major reasons why so many Republicans are suspicious of him, or outright loathe him, and why even as the frontrunner with divided and often embarrassing conservative opposition he can barely crack 25% percent support in polls. He's just so transparent, and it's just so obvious what he's up to.

What else is new?

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Hey! 53 Percenters!

By Carl
Still think Occupy Wall Street is wrong?

When the federal income tax was first imposed in 1913, the richest 0.1 percent of households reaped 8.6 percent of the nation’s income. In 2007, as the recession began, the share going to that sliver of megarich Americans was 12.3 percent.

Those numbers suggest that the Occupy Wall Street protesters can make a compelling case when they complain that the economic scales are unfairly tilted toward the wealthy. The megarich hold more of the nation’s wealth and collect more of the overall income today than at any time since right before the Great Depression.

You remember the Great Depression, right? A time of massive famine in the land, of 25% unemployment, people selling moldy apples to try to make a buck to feed a family of four for a week (they needed to sell 20.)

Back then, it was massive dust storms that sent people packing from their homes, the Great Foreclosure by Mother Nature as her home was raped and pillaged by farmers who only knew how to grow, but not conserve. Today, it's foreclosures by banks, who only know how to lose money, not nurture family fortunes.

You say that you pay the taxes that the 47% do not, and to a degree, you have a point. Most of those people earn so little that they are exempt from income taxes, but not Social Security, Medicare, and other payroll taxes. Nor are they exempt from sales taxes, gas taxes (because, you know, they have to get to their shithole jobs that barely keep them afloat,) or any number of myriad ways that governments reach into our pockets without us even thinking twice.

Many of those people earn enough to pay income taxes, but get to take advantage of deductions and credits that society as a whole deem appropriate: dependent care credits, tuition credits, mortgage interest deductions, and so they don't get taxed twice on the same money, state and local income tax deductions.

So it's really disingenuous for you to imply that you resent "paying" their freight when millions of people are struggling with a kid in college and a mortgage and making money in a state that is deprived of a fair return on the money it fronts to the Federal government just so some mega-rich corn farming conglomerate in Kansas-- you know? The 1%?-- can get subsidies for growing what amounts to an almost nutritionally useless junk food.

Yet you defend that corporation, its board and managers, for taking even more out of the nation than the corn subsidy. You want them to be wealthier, and that's a noble cause, to be sure, IF they're going to give back to the community.

Give back not in the form of a cancer wing to the local hospital that amazingly treats precisely the kind of cancer they've just been diagnosed with, but in jobs and infrastructure improvements that can benefit everyone who works the shithole jobs that allow that corporation to make money hand over fist AND THEN grab enough subisidies and credits to offset ALL their tax liabilities.

It's funny how you'll whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine about the 47%ers who take advantage of the "small beer" tax credits and deductions to reduce a four of five figure tax bill, but you won't raise an alarm about the seven-, eight-, and nine-figure tax bills that are *poof* gone with a blow on the magician's hands.

You want to understand what Occupy is about? Get your head out of your ass. It ain't that hard to get.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Even extremist Pat Robertson thinks the GOP presidential candidates are too extreme

Well, too extreme to win the election, not necessarily too extreme in purely ideological terms (where he surely agrees with their extremist views).

But, as ThinkProgress puts it, "[y]ou know you've hit rock bottom when one of the most radical, hate-spewing figures in America calls you 'extreme.'" (Watch the clip below.)

My one quibble: I'm not sure this is rock bottom. Perry, Cain, Bachmann, and, yes, even Romney can still go much lower in their efforts to out-extreme each other. (Consider, for example, Perry's recent flirtation with Birtherism. Haley Barbour, occasionally known for being sensible, or at least pragmatic, is smart enough to know this is bad move.)

And it will likely get much, much worse as we head into 2012.

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Michele Bachmann says "charitable organizations" can pay for health care for poor

Is there any point paying attention to Michele Bachmann's various utterings? No.

But I suppose it's worth mentioning -- because on this as on so many other things she speaks for many in her party -- that she thinks "charitable organizations or hospitals who have enough left over... can pick up the cost for the indigent who can't afford it."

Spoken by someone who apparently knows nothing about the cost of health care.

Charitable organizations? Which ones? How would they decide whom to pay for? And how would they do it?

And hospitals? Again, which ones? And what exactly do they have left over? Should they not make profits? Is Bachmann saying they should operate as non-profits, charging enormous amounts to those who can pay (or who have adequate insurance) so as to subsidize care for those who can't?

Ah, what's the point? It's yet another insane statement from a woman with a long history of such insanity.

But this is how Republicans soothe their consciences, to the extent they have any. This is how they try to make themselves feel better about advancing their ideology of greed and cruelty.

Tax cuts for the wealthy? Check. Huge cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, if not the end of those programs as we know them? Check. A health-care system that leaves tens of millions of Americans, including children, without adequate insurance, or any at all? Check.

American society crumbling under the unbridled rapaciousness of the plutocratic 1%? Of course.

But, hey, at least there are those charities, which many, many more Americans will need if Republicans get their way.

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Bachmann's New Hampshire team quits

Have you heard the one about the GOP presidential hopeful whose entire state- level primary campaign team quit and then released a scathing letter denouncing the candidate's national staff team? No, it's not a joke. It happened to Michele Bachmann in New Hampshire.
The letter stated in part:

The manner in which some in the national team conducted themselves towards Team-N.H. was rude, unprofessional, dishonest, and at times cruel.

Team members were repeatedly ignored regarding simple requests, sometimes going weeks with little or no contact from the national team.

Sadly, they were deceived, constantly left out of the loop regarding key decisions, and relegated to second-class citizens within a campaign in which they were the original members.

The truth is that staff come and go in long campaigns, but an entire contingent pissed off enough to go public means that Bachmann and her national team lack the most basic political organizing skills.

Yes, politics can be a very nasty business, but you should do your best to keep your team motivated, included and happy if you want to win anything. The scale of effort required of campaign team members can be massive. And it is so easy to forget to go that extra mile if some dick in an office hundreds of miles away goes out of his or her way to make you feel small or unappreciated.

It's true that I've seen dysfunctional campaigns win and well-run, happy campaigns lose, but you shouldn't chance annoying your own folks if you can at all help it. It's common sense some people just can't wrap their heads around.

Bush league bullshit is all it is.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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