Saturday, November 05, 2011

Karen Carpenter -- one of the best voices of all time

Music on Saturday @ The Reaction
I have a lot of fun kibitzing with younger colleagues about the fact that I apparently haven't listened to any new music for the past 30 years.

Now, of course, it's not really true, but my musical sensibilities are older, to say the least.

Just for fun, I've decided to post a video to make my "critics" crazy. Certainly there will be no shortage of razzing, but who cares? Bring it on.

In my defence, my choice was voted #94 on Rolling Stone's list of greatest all-time singers. Hard to believe, but we are talking here about Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters.

Crazy, I know. But the girl could flat out sing.

The Rolling Stone article about this is fascinating. You can find it here.

Among those providing testimonies are Elton John, Madonna, and John Fogarty, although Fogarty admits that as great as her sound was, you might not want to say so in public -- just wouldn't be cool.

Sorry, John. I'm going to publicly admit that I have always been a Carpenters fan. Lucky for me, I have no cool to lose.

The song below is "We've Only Just Begun," from 1970. I guess you'd have to call it their signature hit. Her voice is incredible; the harmonies exquisite.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Possible new fees banks will start charging

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item:  Banks likely to try range of new fees

10.  The Kardashian Charge - Get divorced after 72-days, fees, fees, fees ...

  9.  Don't have your own Deposit or Withdrawal Slips? ... Just rent one of the banks, for a fee

  8.  ATM's will have "Coin Slots" (like old public pay phones) if you want to use them

  7.  HuffPo Model:  You can work at the bank, not get paid salary - and get charged with a fee

  6.  Need to speak to the Bank Manager? ... You can book time with him, for a fee ...

  5.  Fee for just walking into the bank

  4.  Don't have a pen to write out deposit/withdrawal slip? ... Bank has one, for a fee ...

  3.  The Jeopardy Fee; You didn't phrase your transaction request in the form of a question

  2. Car loans, instead of based on amount/time/years/, will be based on cars' weight

  1.  Groucho Marx Fee - Don't know the Secret Word, it will cost you a $100 fee

(Image courtesy of Tom Priest at "In a Nutshell")

Bonus Riffs

Will Oremus: Fee-Market Capitalism - Bank of America learns it has to be more subtle about screwing its customers.

Lauri Apple: More Banks Scrap Debit Card Fee Idea

Even The S.E.C Thinks Goldman Sucks!

Cross posted on The Garlic: All The Cloves Fit To Peel

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Does the Tea Party want its Wall Street back?

I hadn't thought much about this small piece of the political dynamic around Occupy Wall Street (OWS), but I think it is true that the Tea Party movement is frustrated that their earlier criticism of high finance in America is being taken over by OWS (as different as those critiques are).

As Ryan Grim at The Huffington Post writes:

The Tea Party was founded on a sense that something ephemeral had been stolen by someone and that a movement was needed to "take the country back." Occupy Wall Street is now getting the media attention the Tea Party believes is rightfully theirs, and the perceived slight can only inflame the movement's sense of victimhood. They didn't just lose a country as they knew it. Now they've lost coverage on CNN too.

But the idea that the Tea Party, aligning itself with Republicans and fiercely critical of Democrats and the Obama Administration, could also think that its critique of Wall Street makes sense is bizarre.

How could they fail to understand that creating conditions for Gordon Gekko levels of greed and wealth accumulation is what the Republican Party has always been about? Do they really think that Democrats are the party of privilege?

Conservatism in America is at the best of times confusing, as it combines populist elements with theoretical rationalizations for great concentrations of wealth and power, but Tea Party anger at OWS really forces us to unpack some of this.

As I understand it, there is a perception on the part of the right that the American capitalist system, suffering as little regulation as possible, is a thing of beauty, providing fair and equal access to prosperity, and that its occasional failure is only the result of the nefarious activities of the few as well as the unhelpful interventions of liberal politicians.

I sometimes think, in this context, of the support 18th-century British parliamentarian Edmund Burke gave to the grievances of the American revolutionaries. It was not, he argued, a revolution at all but rather an attempt to bring things back to a previous condition of fairness. The system, he might have said, was fine. Bad actors had interfered with the goodness of the natural flow of things.

But, for the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and those who support their goals, the system is most certainly not fine. Gross inequalities are a built-in feature of the way we currently allocate resources and, for those of us who think it is important that we live in a society where everyone has enough, some pretty big things would have to change.

To put a fine point on it, the Tea Party movement would seem to be saying, "We want our Wall Street back," implying that we need only go back to a time when there were no bad men and women profiting from subprime mortgage crises and government regulation didn't gum up the works. But of course there will always be bad men and women who wish only to line their pockets in spectacular ways, and without government regulation things would only be worse.

Let's face it, whatever the Tea Party movement's critique of Wall Street, it was always incoherent and few paid attention to it. Even if only at an intuitive level, the OWS position seems to make sense to a lot of people. On its face the mere fact that so much of the wealth in our country is controlled by so few is not acceptable. If the reply from the super wealthy is that those are the rules of the game, then the rules should be changed. Why is that so hard to understand?

Note to the Tea Party: Wall Street has always been corrupt and, just as with all those other vaguely articulated notions of an America that once was, the good Wall Street is not real.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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"Moondance" and the coolness of autumn

In the late 1970s, I was working at an NPR radio station in Oswego, New York, writing and reading the news on the hour. It was something I did while attending university, more or less for the hell of it. There was certainly no money in it. 

Late one night, about this time of year, the DJ and I got talking about songs that reminded us of autumn. We realized pretty quickly we couldn't think of many.

For some reason, Van Morrison's "Moondance" was all that came to mind. It's a little spooky, a little haunting. Halloween-like. A very cool tune. Cool enough to make you feel the season change. I don't know. Anyway, that's what I thought of and that's what the DJ put on the air during the late night shift on that particular evening at WRVO - 89.9 Oswego, New York.

Here's a clip of Van the Man doing the song at the 1980 Montreux Jazz Festival.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Friday, November 04, 2011

Photo of the Day: Bay de Verde, Newfoundland and Labrador

By Richard K. Barry

It is hard to explain Newfoundland and Labrador to Americans. Hell, it's hard to explain it to Canadians if they've never been there.

It's a beautiful place, though historically a very poor place until more recently, as offshore oil revenues have pumped significant money into the region.

Part of its previous economic decline can be traced to the overfishing of the cod stocks in the surrounding Atlantic Ocean. A long and complicated story, a part of which has to do with the decline of what are called the outports, which are any ports not St. John's, the provincial capital and principal city.

As an American, I've come upon my knowledge of Newfoundland and Labrador through my wife, who was born and raised there. We go back as often as we can for so many reasons: the people, the scenery, the music, the incredible local culture in general.

One of the aforementioned outports is a place called Bay de Verde, a small community up the coast from St. John's, where my wife's mother was born.

The picture above is of this place taken very recently by my sister-in-law. By the look of things, you wouldn't think much has changed over time.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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A post on the Kardashian-Humphries divorce, the saddest event in American history

Looking for something really good to read this afternoon? I highly recommend Molly Lambert's "The Kardashian Divorce Fiasco: Blame Mom" at Grantland's Hollywood Prospectus blog.

No, I don't care about the Kardashian-Humphries split, seemingly part of a grotesque money grab on the part of the Kardashian Klan, but I do care about what it says about American culture. Not good things -- not good at all. And Lambert provides some astute observations:

People will get sick of Kim Kardashian eventually, because her career is predicated on novelty and her primary talent (being hot, which she is) is transitory. After one possibly staged marriage fails, she becomes the Kim who cried wolf. E! is not exactly in the business of building lasting careers. Rumors that Kris H. was "cast" in order to ensure Kim underwent her first marriage before the dreaded age of 30 have yet to prove true or false, but faked relationships are as old as Hollywood itself (they are as old as 1853). The endless Kardashian family spectacle serves to take focus off the real issues by distracting us with shiny ass-shaped lures. And as long as we continue to pay attention, we lose. Because we all tuned in to her stupid wedding special and allowed her to be a star, Kim Kardashian is the 1 percent and we are all bottom-feeders.

The problem is, there are many, many Kim Kardashians -- with lesser asses, perhaps, but with the same "talent" for achieving and maintaining superficial celebrity status, making shitloads of money, and, if only for a brief time, dominating popular culture.

Which means that the bottom-feeding will continue, and worsen, without an end in sight short of cultural and perhaps civilizational apocalypse.

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Shame on Cain

By Capt. Fogg

That's right, Mr. Cain, you're a victim, but I doubt we can agree about what you're the victim of. If you bumble and fumble and contradict yourself about political stances in some strange pantomime of someone who might have reasonable solutions to real problems rather than doggy treats thrown to the barking mob: if you elected to join the minstrel show hoping to win over the racists and rednecks with a little soft shoe and a big grin: if you thought slashing jobs at a pizza chain made you eligible to tell us how to run the world, why sure, you're your own victim but most of us are too tired of it to be saintly and forgive you.

But a "high tech lynching?" Don't make me laugh, and besides Clarance Thomas made that trope a dopey joke a long time ago. You're just the rude, crude and blatantly phoney burlesque of a candidate to dress up accusations of sexual harassment in stylish credibility and denying things we know that you know or breaking into a song isn't going to convince mama that those porn mags under your mattress belonged to someone else. Talking about lynching in this context is like digging up all the real victims and lynching them again.


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Why so pessimistic, Nate Silver? Isn't Obama still the favorite?

Political numbers guru Nate Silver wrote yesterday (in a long but interesting piece) at the Times that "Obama has gone from a modest favorite to win re-election to, probably, a slight underdog." He bases this on the fact that the president's approval rates are fairly low, as well as on the fact that the economy is in terrible shape. I encourage you to read the whole piece, but he concludes:

It is early, and almost no matter what, the election will be a losable one for Republicans. But Obama's position is tenuous enough that it might not be a winnable one for him. 

The numbers are certainly not in Obama's favour at this point, and the economy does indeed suck, but there's more to this than Silver suggests, and there are other variables at work. As Jon Chait writes:

Silver's key assumption is that Obama's approval rating is likely to hover around 43 percent, where it currently stands. Obama is an incumbent presiding over a terrible economy. That is typically a recipe for doom. On the other hand, the terrible economy started under his predecessor, whom large numbers of Americans continue to blame. What's more, the opposition party remains wildly unpopular, with a majority of Floridians recently saying they believe Republicans are deliberately sabotaging the economy...

Obama has a chance to have his approval rating rise simply by drawing a sharp contrast against the Republican nominee. In other words, incumbent approval rating isn't something that's independent of the opposing candidate. Voters may shape their view of the incumbent by making a comparison.

I think that's right. Basically, approval ratings consider Obama in a vacuum -- do you approve or not? But an election isn't a vacuum. An election provides a choice. If next year's election were a pure referendum on Obama, then maybe, just maybe, he'd lose (though I suspect not). But it won't be. Instead, it will pit the president against a Republican. That Republican may have some centrist appeal, like Romney, or may not, like Perry. Either way, the Republican alternative to Obama will be deeply flawed, either an extremist or, in Romney's case, an ex-moderate posing as a conservative and playing to the GOP's right-wing base who is widely loathed in his own party and who has little credibility given his long history of flips and flops.

Simply put, "Obama: Yes or No" is much different than "Obama or Romney/Perry." In the latter case, that is, in the election, the president will have an enormous advantage given the unpopularity of the Republican Party and its extremism and the lack of strong appeal of the Republican candidate to any constituency outside a certain part of the GOP -- for Perry, the right-wing base; for Romney, the somewhat more moderate but still deeply conservative establishment.

As well, Obama is an outstanding campaigner. He will draw sharp distinctions between himself and his Republican challenger, shaping the election's dominant narratives, and will likely energize voters much as he did in '08 -- perhaps not to that degree, but I suspect more than his detractors expect. He's got appeal that no one on the Republican side can even approach.

For more on this, I highly recommend this post by our friend Zandar:

I'm going to say the selection of any single Republican makes him the favorite again.

Yes, that sounds about right.

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Romney says he's been "as consistent as human beings can be"

Seriously. Apparently without a trace of irony:

"I've been as consistent as human beings can be," the presidential candidate said in a meeting with the editorial board of New Hampshire's Seacoast Media Group. "I cannot state every single issue in exactly the same words every single time, and so there are some folks who, obviously, for various political and campaign purposes will try and find some change and try to draw great attention to something which looks like a change which in fact is entirely consistent."

In a long line of bullshit statements, this may be Romney's bullshittiest.

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Herman Cain threatens legal action even as sexual harassment story gets bigger and bigger

I think it's hilarious that, according to WaPo, the Herman Cain campaign is "considering legal action" against Politico over its report of sexual harassment allegations.

Obviously, it's just a lot of bluster, a way to try to deflect attention from the story that is sinking Cain.

And that story is getting bigger and bigger:

Herman Cain flatly denies the most serious allegation facing him – that he made an unwanted sexual advance toward a female employee at a work event – but POLITICO has learned new details making clear there were urgent discussions of the woman's accusations at top levels of the National Restaurant Association within hours of when the incident was alleged to have occurred.

The new details – which come from multiple sources independently familiar with the incident at a hotel during a restaurant association event in the late 1990s – put the woman's account even more sharply at odds with Cain's emphatic insistence in news media interviews this week that nothing inappropriate happened between the two.

And this is just one of the allegations. There are at least three -- and, one imagines, there could be many more.

And there's more:
POLITICO has learned that one of the women who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s received a payout of about $45,000 as part of her settlement – significantly more than the two or three months' salary Cain initially recalled the woman obtained.

You don't get a settlement like that for nothing. And, once more, it would appear that Cain was lying.

How are you enjoying the implosion of Herman Cain?

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

This day in history - November 3, 1913: The United States introduces an income tax

The 16th Amendment to the Constitution made the income tax a permanent fixture of the U.S. tax system. The amendment gave Congress legal authority to tax income and resulted in a revenue law that taxed incomes of both individuals and corporations.

On November 3, 1913, the first American citizens received information about the new national income tax including the fact that a married man living with his wife, who is in receipt of an income of $5,000 pays $10 a year and if his income is $10,000 he pays $60 a year.

Not much to say about this. I'm surprised Republicans don't have plans to wear black arm bands on Capitol Hill. Maybe they do.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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11/02/2011 -- The Great Palindrome

In case you weren't aware, and not many were, yesterday was a hugely significant day... for palindrome enthusiasts:

Today might not seem any more special than yesterday or the day before, but it is a once-in-10,000-years event. Nov. 2, 2011, written out numerically, is 11/02/2011, which on its own makes it a very rare eight-digit palindrome date, meaning that it can be read the same way frontward and backward.

But, as one scientist has found, there's much more to this date that makes it truly one of a kind.

This century features a relative wealth of eight-digit palindrome dates; today is the third date so far, and there will be nine more. In fact, we live in a relative golden age of palindrome dates: Before 10/02/2001, the last eight-digit palindrome date was Aug. 31, 1380 (08/31/1380).

"Eight-digit palindrome dates are very rare, and are clustered in the first three or so centuries at the beginning of a millennial, and then don't show up for 600 to 700 years, until they appear as a cluster in the next millennium," said Aziz Inan, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Portland who crunches palindrome dates in his spare time.

Wait... there's more:

"If you look at the date as a number, 11022011, it has very special properties," Inan explained. "It is the product of 7 squared times 11 cubed times 13 squared. That is impressive because those are three consecutive prime numbers. No other palindrome date, up to A.D. 10,000, is like that.

"Not only that, if you write it out as 72 x 113 x 132, you'll notice that even the superscript power numbers – 232 – are a palindrome."

I don't mean to come across as sarcastic. This is actually quite interesting -- from a purely mathematical perspective.

Although, what if you write it 11/2/11? That's a palindrome, but not nearly as rare. (Hey, today's 11/3/11!)

Or what if you write it 11/2/2001, which isn't a palindrome?

Or if you write it the British (and often Canadian) way: 02.11.2011. Now that's not interesting at all. (Or am I missing something?)

Anyway, just thought I'd mention it.


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What's behind the improving polling results for President Obama?

President Obama hasn't had a lot of good polling news lately, but things might be changing.

According to a new poll by Quinnipiac University, Obama's approval / disapproval rating is running almost even nationally, up from a negative 41-55 split just a month ago. And perhaps even more important, his matchup numbers with potential GOP opponents is stronger as well.

As TPM reports:

President Barack Obama seems to be improving in voters' eyes almost across-the-board," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in a release. "He scores big gains among the group with whom he has had the most problems - whites and men. Women also shift from a five-point negative to a four-point positive."

He also leads all GOP challengers outside the poll's margin of error, beating Romney by a 47-42 margin and Perry by a 52-36 margin, and leading Cain and Gingrich by double digits.

TPM speculates that the improvement may have something to do with Obama's "heavy travel schedule" of the past month, during which he promoted his "major jobs package" in key swing states in the Midwest, South, and Mountain West:

When Congress stalled on the jobs package, the President moved on to “We Can’t Wait,” a series of executive orders that he says will help alleviate some of the economic hardship, from new rules on foreclosures to helping with student loan debt.

Okay, that could be a part of it. It's also true that the more America sees of the clowns running for the GOP nomination, the less impressed they are likely to be. Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street income inequality message is starting to resonate with more and more people. Maybe the President's foreign policy success in Libya is part of it -- or some not totally discouraging recent job numbers. Hard to say.

Whatever it is, it's good news for the Democrats, and I'm sure David Plouffe and company will take it. (If you don't know, Plouffe was the chief campaign manager for Obama in 2008, and he's back on the job. That's him pictured above).

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Rick Perry is certainly not a talker, on this much we agree

Who didn't see this coming? I'll take some credit for predicting it shortly after we all began to realize that Rick Perry was an idiot who couldn't string more than a couple of sentences together. But, again, it wasn't hard to predict.

My previous comment was, "Don't worry, Gov. Perry, John Wayne wasn't much for them fancy words neither."

So here he is trying to make that weakness into a strength in a new campaign ad that will air in New Hampshire after having previously run in Iowa.

Senior Perry advisor Paul Young called this move a "significant statewide buy," though he wouldn't say how much they were spending.

It's worth noting that Perry is polling in the single digits in the Granite State.

I know some people might take issue with this statement, but I've always believed that if you can't make yourself understood, you are not thinking clearly. And if you are not capable of thinking clearly, I do not want you as president of my country, aside from the hundreds of other reasons I don't want Rick Perry as my president.

Here's the ad. Hey Rick, how many takes did it require to get this one in the can? Smarmy bastard.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Sex, lies, and Herman Cain

A lot is being written about the Herman Cain sexual harassment... scandal? I'm not sure what it is. Basically, as you probably know, allegations of sexual harassment recently came to light. He denied there was ever a settlement, then, oh, he started remembering again, it must have just slipped his mind after all these years, and if you believe that you're an idiot. He lied, plain and simply, and now he's trying to distinguish between settlement and agreement -- Stewart had great fun with this last night.

Some thoughts:

1) Cain is accusing the Perry campaign of being behind the leak:

This is one of the actions in America that is the reason why people don't get involved in politics," Mark Block, Cain's campaign chief of staff, said in an exclusive interview with Fox News' "Special Report." "The actions of the Perry campaign are despicable."

"Rick Perry and his campaign owe Herman Cain and his family an apology," Block added.

Sure, maybe. Maybe Perry's people did leak the story. But that's hardly the point. We all know how politics works. The point is whether Cain did what he is alleged to have done, and obviously the Cain campaign doesn't want to talk about that. Much better to try to make it a story not of sexual harassment but of political negativity.

2) Cain is claiming that it's all about racism:

Herman Cain is pretty sure that the attacks on him coming this week are racist. But he can't prove it.

It's just a sense he has. And it's a growing theme from his friends.

On Fox [Tuesday] night, Cain sat for yet another interview following the Politico story that threatens to upend his candidacy. And he seemed more than willing to stand behind his PAC, which called the sexual harassment allegations a "high-tech lynching" Tuesday.

Race has been a big part of the conservative pushback to the Cain story — yesterday, Ann Coulter summarized that response with her "our blacks are better then their blacks" line.

And then it fell to Cain to pick up the torch and accuse his opponents of racism. So he did, though he made it clear that he couldn't prove a word of what he was saying.

This is what Republicans do, claiming that the only real racism in American today is anti-white racism of the left, and certainly there are many conservatives rallying around Cain and making just this point, a core aspect of Cain's appeal (basically, he acts as a shield and allows conservatives to claim that they aren't racist). Of course, it's an utterly ridiculous claim -- and, again, one that Stewart tore apart last night. It's hardly the case that only blacks are subject to such negative politics (though, of course, this is just about revealing the facts of sexual harassment allegations, not making the allegations themselves). You need look no further than Anthony Weiner. As Jon Chait wrote:

Trying to understand the Cain phenomenon as an expression either of racism or of anti-racism is a dead end. Cain's appeal is the expression of a particular variant of white racial victimization. In this world view, color-blind conservatives are endlessly smeared as racists, while liberals are actually violating the true precepts of the civil rights movement. Obama won election largely or entirely because of his race, through explicit or implicit blackmail against whites, who either voted for him to prove they weren't racist, or shied away from attacking him for fear of being called racist. Cain's candidacy offers the promise of upending this dynamic, or even reversing it.

What's interesting, though, is not so much that Cain has his defenders on the right (Coulter, Limbaugh, Gingrich, etc.), which is what you'd expect, but that more establishmentarian Republicans are rejecting this line of anti-reasoning altogether. Take the WaPo's Jennifer Rubin, for example, who is generally tuned into and speaks for (often because she's leaked to) party-line GOP conservatism. She wrote yesterday that Cain's "racial inflammation" is "reprehensible":

Cain and his defenders, like actors in a theatrical tragedy, are falling prey to the very evil they labored against: the propensity to assign political identity by race and to invoke race to shield one from personal responsibility. Cain is in trouble because he didn’t handle a past claim that even a political novice would know would come to light.

She goes on to slam Cain on other grounds, including his embarrassingly ignorant comments about China "trying to develop nuclear capability," which of course it has had for several decades.

I suspect there are many in the GOP who agree with Rubin (and who may have encouraged Rubin to write this). But for now they're keeping quiet, letting Cain self-destruct right before our eyes. Why expend the energy trying to take him down when he's doing such a good job of it himself?

3) This story isn't going away. Not only because Cain's ridiculous response to it has only encouraged the media to delve further into it but because more evidence is coming to light. The AP is reporting that a third woman has come forward with allegations of sexual harassment while Cain was at the National Restaurant Association. And if Cain sexually harassed women at that organization, what else has he done at other times of his life? You can't tell me he only behaved badly at the NRA (not that one, this one).

4) Cain is done. He'll continue to poll well, for a time, but support for Cain is really nothing more than protest support from conservatives who don't like the other alternatives to Romney (Perry, mainly), and, as more and more about Cain comes out (these sexual harassment claims, the abject ignorance of world affairs, etc.), even most of conservatives who make up the GOP base (those who don't care about sexual harassment and who take pride in their ignorance of world affairs, etc.) will abandon him. Where they go is another matter. Perry? Maybe. (If he can get it together, which is hardly a sure thing.) It's just hard to see Cain remaining not just on top but anywhere near the top for much longer.

5) Even if Cain's campaign fails, he wins. He may not even want to win. As Chait also wrote:

The question of whether the Herman Cain sexual harassment story will hurt his presidential campaign sort of misses the point that there is no Herman Cain presidential campaign. There are certain things you do when you run for president. You try to raise a lot of money. Cain is not doing that. If you can't raise a lot of money, you campaign heavily in early primary states, trying to get some early success that can snowball into later primaries. Cain isn't doing that, either. You hire a staff of political operatives. You at least pretend to know something about world affairs. You try to attract as many people as possible to your events. Cain, by contrast, frequently charges admission.

Cain is executing a business plan. It's an excellent plan. The plan involves Cain raising his profile as a conservative personality, which he can monetize through motivational speaking, book sales, talk shows, and other media. Cain's selling point is that he's a black conservative who can capitalize on the sense of white racial victimization that has mushroomed during the Obama era.

And so the scandal won't really hurt him: "Since he is instead campaigning to boost his profile, it will help him."

Cain's time on the campaign trail, where is not actually campaigning, may be running out, but his self-aggrandizing strategy could allow him to remain a significant figure in the GOP, and in conservative media circles, for a long time to come.

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That Depends On What The Meaning Of "Is" Is

By Carl
I sort of see Herman Cain "Canegate" going down the twists and turns of legalese in short order.
I mean, really, when FOX's best defenses of the candidate are to point out that two of the accusers work for the government-- like tens of millions Americans nationwide and around the world do--  and also what words were exchanged, things are pained in Cain's campaign.
This, ahead of new allegations, admittedly even more unsubstantiated and hearsay than the original two, that Cain's straining cane plain changed the game for him in this campaign.
And amid countercharges, further unsubstantiated, that Rick Perry and Mitt Romney may have each independently (or worse, in collusion) planted these stories. Ironic that Cain's initial attempts to smooth the ruffles down amounted to "these tales are unsubstantiated," yet he had no problem flinging poo.
It really does come down to "he said, she said." Which is bad news for Cain, since he's running for an actual office, no matter how fictitious his campaign may be. He will really need to make some decisions here: run or quit, reveal or cover-up, confront or deflect.
If history is any guide, and in these matters, it should be, Cain's best move is to either quit, or reveal. The truth will out, even if that truth looks nothing like the original question made public. As an example, Bill Clinton was originally investigated for an affair with Gennifer Flowers, confronted that, and still ended up in court over Paula Jones, who ended up the person most exploited in her own law suit.
In politics, the cover-up is almost always worse than the crime. Had Clinton fessed up to serial affairs, gotten them out of the way, he probably would have gotten a pass in office on any future affairs, and the whole Lewinski matter probably doesn't come up (pardon the pun.)
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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More right-wing terrorism: Four men arrested in Georgia plotting to kill government officials

From the Times:

Four Georgia men who were part of a fringe militia group were arrested on Tuesday in what the Justice Department described as a plot to use guns, bombs and the toxin ricin to kill federal and state officials and spread terror.

The men, all aged 65 and over, were recorded telling an F.B.I. informant that they wanted to kill federal judges, Internal Revenue Service employees and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to court documents.

We hear all the time, from conservatives and their various mouthpieces in the media, that it's not the right but the left that is the source of terrorism, including of the domestic variety. And yet the evidence points to the right and not to the left, whether it's the KKK or right-wing militias or renegade loners, whether it's killing civil rights workers, the attack in Oklahoma City, or any number of other incidents, large and small, that make up America's history of domestic, homegrown terrorism. As Blue Girl writes:

Remember how Ann Coulter proclaimed, with a straight face, that all political violence in this country "comes from the left"?

Yeah, I spit seltzer all over my screen when I saw that, too.

That's total bullshit. Violence in this country has always come from the right wing and 'twas ever thus. Well, except for that Revolution we had back in the late eighteenth century. That was a left-wing production. Something that a lot of people forget about that time -- even back then the south was a problem, and it was prone to employing terrorism to further it's aims. Read up on the Revolution in the Carolinas and Georgia. They had a treasonous history before they fired on Ft. Sumter, and those strains of Confederate treason still run deep. 

The evidence just keeps piling up.

(For more, see David Neiwert at C&L, who earlier this year also posted this map showing the various instances of terrorism directed at "liberal" and "government" targets since 2008.)

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So you wanted proof that Republican priorities are all out of whack?

Consider this:

President Obama invoked God on Wednesday as he criticized Congress for voting on commemorative coins and a resolution reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the national motto in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions.

"That's not putting people back to work," Obama said. "I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people to work."

Obama called on Congress to approve his jobs package.

"There's no excuse for 100 percent of Washington Republicans to say no," Obama said. "That means Republicans in Washington are out of touch with Republican voters."

Obama continued: "The American people are with me on this."

I don't share Obama's religiosity, but otherwise he's right about this. The country is in trouble. People are out of work and struggling to make ends meet, if they even have enough to struggle with. Obama is trying to do something about that. The overwhelming majority of the American people are with him, as are many Republicans. 

But Republicans on Capitol Hill, extremists and obstructionists the lot of them, are too busy trying to score cheap political points by playing up their theocratic "patriotism" -- the last refuge of the right-wing scoundrel.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Finding Keith Olbermann

By Richard K. Barry

For a brief moment, I thought I might post today on how little attention we pay to Glenn Beck since he left Fox. For a while there, we wrote about him, we howled about his stupidity and obnoxious behaviour, we basically invested far too much in the endeavour. I was actually going to go to his website to see what foolishness he was up to. I even had a great title for the post. It was going to be called: "Glenn Beck, Still Crazy After All These Months."

And then sanity overcame me and I realized I no longer cared. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to pay any more attention to the creepy little man.

But all of this reminded me that I haven't heard much at all from Keith Olbermann for some time, as I remembered that Keith used to be one of my favourites when he was on MSNBC every night. Always a little over the top was K.O., but these times are not normal times, and a little excitement coming from the left has always been okay by me.

I think it's possible that I am unable to get my fix of Olbermann because the particular cable channel on which he now broadcasts is unavailable in my local viewing area (as they say). No, I don't think we get Current TV in these parts (these parts being Toronto).

I take it that one can watch a fair bit of Olbermann's show, still called Countdown, on the web here. I guess I'll have to settle for the occasional clip and maybe scan the transcripts from time to time until my service provider wises up.

Of course, it's entirely possible that my general incompetence with audio visual technology is the only thing keeping me from watching the show, and not my service provider at all. That's possible too.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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2012 presidential debate schedule is released

Here's an exciting bit of news for all you political junkies out there: The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Monday where the four debates will take place.

Be still my heart.

For the presidential debates, the three meetings will be in Colorado, New York and Florida. The vice presidential debate will take place in Kentucky.

As the New York Times reports:
The first presidential debate will be Oct. 3 at the University of Denver, followed by one on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The final debate is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. The vice presidential debate is set for Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

I am still having a very hard time imagining that the Republican nominee will be anyone but Mitt Romney. Democrats everywhere can certainly hope that some damn fool like Rick Perry or Herman Cain will be going up against President Obama. Even I don't think Republicans are that stupid, but stranger things have happened.

Hey, it's actually starting to get a little exciting, for those of us who get excited about stuff like this.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Doubling Down On The Silly

By Carl
Well, Rick Perry said he "felt great" when he gave the already infamous Cornerstone Action speech over the weekend.
Psychoactive drugs can do that.
Errrr, so I've heard.
Seriously, if your excuse for putting on that kind of performance is simply that you "feel great," this raises all kinds of questions about your emotional and mental state.
It seems more likely that he ingested something that took him off his feed, in which case, the easier solution is simply to fess up and move on. Hell, President Obama admitted to doing cocaine, so it's not like prescription meds or even marijuana is going to put people off by now.
My guess is he smoked a doob, probably for the first time since high school (maybe college in his case. Or with his last hooker. Or last week.)
Hell, I half expected to see him demand Twinkies, a bag of Cheetos and some Gatorade.
So now we get down to the nitty gritty about this candidate: is he a stoner or a psycho? Either way, he and his staff have opened a door they may wanted to keep shut. Whichever of his handlers let him get out on stage like that, who couldn't come up with a "I'm sorry, the governor is under the weather," deserves to be fired.
Look at this from a realist perspective: here's a man who stood a snowball's chance in New Hampshire. He might have placed third (could still do that, by the way,) but fourth is a more likely finish for him. He didn't need to give this speech, particularly in light of his inability to come up with a coherent sentence at the past debates he has participated in.
Indeed, he's now set a standard where he pretty much has to recreate this behavior each and every time he appears in front of an audience or camera, else how will he explain to those voters why he's not in such a "feel great" state of mind.
People notice these things. Cornerstone is a family values organization, you see, so if you felt comfortable cutting it up in front of those bluenoses, why won't you poke some fun at yourself at, say, the Manchester Guardian or on the stump? Rick Perry hasn't exactly established his comedic or even his sardonic credentials. It's not like this is Robin Williams doing twenty at a steamfitters' convention.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Before Stewart, there was Carlin

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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No money, no ideas: Ed Rollins on Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann has "run out of money and ideas" and can no longer expect to win in Iowa, her former campaign manager told ABC News on Monday.

Ed Rollins, who left the campaign in September, said the Minnesota congresswoman had backed off earlier comments by her campaign that Iowa was a "must-win" state because she lacked the finances, campaign structure, and ideas to win the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

"She's still saying the same things she said in the first the debate. There's no substance. She says, 'I'm going to repeal Obamacare.' But she's been saying that from Day 1. I told her: That's your Tea Party speech, now you have to say what you’re going to do next."

Rollins saw the writing on the wall a long time ago and was quick to get the hell out while the gettin' was good. But didn't he see this coming all along? Did he really think Bachmann had potential, that she actually had serious ideas? Perhaps he thought he could mold her -- and perhaps all he's doing now is saying that she's nothing without him.

And yet, doesn't he sell her short? She's not just about repealing the Affordable Care Act, after all. What about converting gays? She and her husband are really into that. What about that anti-gay, anti-porn pledge? Was she not serious about that? What about her affinity for "intelligent design"? And all of her conspiracy theories, like the one about the dollar giving way to some international currency and about the U.S. giving way to the nefarious global economy? And what about her various crazy right-wing views generally? And her radical fundamentalist theocratism?

Hey, you can't say there aren't ideas there. Crazy, extreme ones, yes, if also fairly mainstream Republican ones.

It seems to me that Rollins, who obviously made an embarrassingly bad move going to work for her, is just trying to excuse himself of any and all responsibility for the pointless mess her campaign has become.

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