Saturday, November 12, 2011

Huntsman exposes Republican ignorance and irresponsibility on foreign policy

Hours before the first Republican presidential debate to focus on foreign policy, Jon Huntsman released a web video to capitalize on the only issue where he has the clear advantage over his competitors.

The video starts with a montage of Huntsman's opponents making inaccurate or contradictory statements about other countries, while melancholy piano music plays in a minor key.

(You can watch it below.)

Of course, Huntsman's right. The video captures many of the greatest hits of abject ignorance and utter irresponsibility on foreign policy that characterize the GOP presidential field from top to bottom. And Huntsman is indeed a giant compared to his rivals -- and fairly impressive in his own right.

The problem is, no one cares -- and no one's listening, not with Huntsman way down in the polls.

The 2012 election won't be about foreign policy, and in today's GOP it's actually to his detriment that he's knowledgeable about the world and about America's place in it. Ignorance and irresponsibility play well in the GOP, after all, particularly with the party's right-wing base. Think back to Donald Trump's bullying talk on China -- that was hugely popular on the right. Or consider now how all the "foreign policy" talk, such as there is any, among the candidates amounts to oneupmanship on "American exceptionalism" while painting President Obama, who is also knowledgeable about the world and about America's place in it, as a traitor, a threat to the simplistic hegemonic worldview that passes for foreign policy in the GOP.

I could go on and on.

I credit Huntsman for trying. While I may not agree with him on most issues, he's an admirable man trying to speak some sense to a senseless party.

It just won't get him anywhere, at least not in 2012. Republicans have no use for such intelligence.

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Ex-porn star Sasha Grey reads to children. And?

And, predictably, some parents are freaking out:

Porn legend Sasha Grey -- winner of the 2010 AVN award for best anal sex scene -- was invited to read books to 1st graders at an L.A.-area elementary school last week ... but the school tried to cover it all up ... after parents pitched a fit.

TMZ has obtained photos of Sasha reading children's books at Emerson Elementary School in Compton on November 2nd ... participating in the Read Across America program. Grey, who hasn't done porn in 2 years, may have been invited because she's mainstream now, with credits which include "Entourage."

Sasha tweeted about the experience -- calling the students the "sweetest" ever. However, not everyone saw it that way ... some angry parents complained to the PTA -- who then contacted the school's principal ... but there's one problem.

A rep for the school district is flatly denying Sasha was ever inside one of its classrooms -- telling TMZ, "We have several celebrities who read to our students each year. The actress you have indicated [Sasha] was not present."

Clearly, the photos we obtained show otherwise.

That's right -- assuming TMV is right about this -- parents complained and school is trying to cover it all up. Fantastic.

Look, there's nothing wrong with Grey reading to schoolchildren. She doesn't do porn anymore (although I'm not sure that should be an automatic disqualification), she's a mainstream actress now (The Girlfriend Experience, Entourage), she seems to be a smart, socially and politically engaged woman (including her work with PETA), and, besides, how would first-graders have any idea about her pornographic past? The fact that she takes the time to participate in a program encouraging reading, Read Across America, is to her credit. I applaud her.

As far as I'm concerned, the moralizing parents (and all it takes is one or two) should just shut the fuck up and appreciate her efforts. (We could use a lot more people trying to get children to read.) And as for the school, well, there's no excuse for what it's doing. Cowardice, dishonesty, and caving in to moralizers are hardly the sorts of things educational should be about.

Thankfully, Grey isn't backing down. You can read her statement here:

I am proud to have participated in the "Read Across America" program at Emerson Elementary School in Compton, CA. I read "Dog Breath" by Dav Pilkey to the sweetest 1st and 3rd grade children.

"Read Across America" is a program that was designed to promote literacy and instill a lifelong love of reading in elementary school students. Promoting education is an effort that is close to my heart. Illiteracy contributes to poverty; encouraging children to pick up a book is fundamental.

I believe education is a universal right. I committed to this program with the understanding that people would have their own opinions about what I have done, who I am and what I represent.

I am an actor. I am an artist. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a partner. I have a past that some people may not agree with, but it does not define who I am.

I will not live in fear of it. To challenge non-profit education programs is an exercise in futility, counter-productive and anti-educational.

I cannot thank my fans and "Read Across America" enough for supporting my decision. Your support and kind words continue to inspire me. I believe in the future of our children, and I will remain an active supporter and participant in education-focused initiatives.

Very well put.

(h/t: Drudge Retort)

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It's a Tax!

By Capt. Fogg

The War on Christmas, like the 'Black Friday' sales, began early this year. Faced with the growing difficulty of explaining how paying the Bush Administrations bills makes Obama a spendthrift and how asking for a smaller stimulus package makes him more reckless than Bush while all the time being a communist, Mau-Mau, Fascist, do-nothing tyrant, the need for ever more idiotic distraction generates the need to elevate even more mole-hills to Himalayan proportions. So this year, it's no longer about how that Muslim Obama and those damned Jews and atheists are at war with Christmas, it's about how that damned tax-tyrant Obama is making us pay more for it ( and costing us jobs. ) Welcome to the new act in the Republican circus: the Christmas Tree Tax.

The Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order, which was first proposed during the administration of President George W. Bush in response to the yapping of agricultural lobbyist Christmas Tree Promotion Now, gave the President authority to add a 15 cent charge to every tree to be used to advertise and promote Christmas trees. The government will not use these funds, the Christmas tree growers will use the money collected from retailers to promote further sales with the intention, or excuse that increased sales will more than offset the cost. It's kind of a capitalist idea, Republican style -- you know, like the $80 million-a-year beef promotion order imposed during the Reagan administration, or the $8 million-a-year peanut promotion order imposed during the Bush administration. But we're not talking about St Ronald or St George, we're talking about that anti-colonial Kenyan/Indonesian killer of African Christians who hates Christmas and white people.

It's a TAX! scream the headlines and the banshee bloggers. How can we expect anyone to hear the whisper of "it's capitalism" from the rational rest of us? Obama Couldn’t Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax, howls the headline at The Foundry, the blustery blog of the Heritage Foundation hammering out their daily dumps of hammered, beaten, twisted and red hot baloney. Will there be another headline informing us that the President reconsidered the Bush program and cancelled it?

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day / Veterans Day 2011

Today is a day to remember those who served, those who fought, those who gave their lives. But it is also -- and we must not lose sight of this -- a day to remember the horror of war. While many of those who served did so nobly, war itself is not noble, even when somehow justifiable, and undeniably necessary, as was World War II.

Even if we should remember today not just the so-called "Greatest Generation" (a made-up American concept/conceit) that fought that war but also the countless innocent civilians who suffered and died (in that war as in all wars), as well as the incredible devastation of that war, not just on "our" side but on "their" side as well, from Dresden to Hiroshima. There may be ideals of good and evil, but there is an awful lot in between.

But World War I, the "Great War," the specific war this day commemorates? That was a pointless, generation-destroying abomination that resulted in nothing but another war, a continuation of the war, 20 years later. It was a war of dying empires, heavily militarized after a century of relative peace following the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the generals and their political masters moving pieces around on their gameboard, the lines moving a bit this way, a bit that way, all for some greater glory that existed only in their illusions and delusions, while thousands upon thousands were dying for nothing at all on the fields and in the trenches. Think of the Battle of the Somme, one of the Great War's key turning points, with a death toll over a million. It was one of the worst, but it was also one of many such devastations. It is impossible, I think, to come fully to terms with such horror.

Let us, then, think not of the usual red poppy but of the white one, which symbolizes peace (and not so much military valour and certainly not the "nobility" of war).

Here, one of the greatest of the Great War poems, is the very moving "Break of Day in the Trenches" by Isaac Rosenberg, a somewhat lesser-known Great War poet (compared to the likes of Owen or Sassoon) but still a very fine one:

The darkness crumbles away.
It is the same old Druid Time as ever.
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems, odd thing, you grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurl'd through still heavens?
What quaver -- what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping,
But mine in my ear is safe --
Just a little white with the dust.

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This day in music - November 11, 1998: Paddy Clancy of the Clancy Brothers dies at age 76

Okay, I just have to do this one. I grew up a huge Clancy Brothers fan. Tommy Makem along with Paddy, Tom, and Liam Clancy were responsible for a lot of the music I listened to growing up and for my continuing love of Irish music and folk music in general.

The group had their heyday in the 1960s, but got together in various configurations thereafter, including with younger family members, as you'll see below.

I know this will sound defensive, but I can talk classic rock, blues, R&B, and jazz with the best of them, but Irish traditional music is right up there with my other favourites.

And for the purists in the crowd, whatever you may think of them, you can't deny that the Clancy Brothers popularized Irish music in the United States in their early days to an incredible extent. It is also sometimes forgotten what at important influence they were on a young Bob Dylan.

Paddy was the eldest of the brothers and was often the spokesperson for the group.

Here he is with a version of "Mountain Dew," with brothers Tom and Bobby and nephew Robbie, recorded in 1988.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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It's time to fold 'em, Governor Perry

Politico ran a story yesterday about Rick Perry again trying to turn his inarticulateness into a virtue. They posted a fundraising e-mail that Perry's team sent to supporters. The goal of it was to explain himself by drawing attention to other presidents who had, in their long careers, misspoken or did foolish things now and again. Here it is: 

Friend & Supporter, 

We've all had human moments. President Obama is still trying to find all 57 states. Ronald Reagan got lost somewhere on the Pacific Highway in an answer to a debate question. Gerald Ford ate a tamale without removing the husk. And tonight Rick Perry forgot the third agency he wants to eliminate. Just goes to show there are too damn many federal agencies. The governor said it best afterwards: "I'm glad I had my boots on, because I sure stepped in it tonight." While the media froths over this all too human moment, we thought we would take this opportunity to ask your help in doing something much more constructive: write us to let us know what federal agency you would most like to forget. Is it the EPA and its job-killing zealots? The NLRB and its czar-like dictates? The edu-crats at the Department of Education who aim to control your local curriculum? Send your answer to, and if you are on twitter join us in using a new twitter hashtag: #forgetmenot. And, if you could, throw in a $5 contribution for every agency you would like to forget. We hope you have a long list. And we promise we will write down every last idea. So we don't forget. Still standing in our Boots, 

Team Perry 

I love the fine art of political communications, especially in the heat of a campaign. I even like it when it's on the other side, as long as it's good. And just as a matter of objective analysis, this is not a bad approach.

I mean, sure. We all misspeak. We have all forgotten important facts in the heat of the moment. A lot of famous, but otherwise articulate, people, have tripped over their tongues. And the "agencies you'd like to forget" thing is cute. No doubt.

I guess the problem comes when you become identified with being inarticulate or with getting facts wrong or just forgetting too many things that someone in your position really should not forget.

Perry's message is that "I screwed up, this one time, so give me a break." Of course, it wasn't just this one time. It is no longer a thing he does, it is now who he is.

Anyway, I get it. His communications advisors are just playing the hand they were dealt. But in keeping with the card playing motif, and in the immortal word of Kenny Rogers, you got to "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."

Governor, isn't it time you put those cards down, put your boots on, and high tailed it out of there before things get any worse. Don't ya reckon?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 10 Thursday Night Football

As you may know, my associate editor Richard, a friend of ours nicknamed Comfortable Kid, and I are tracking our picks this year, with posts going up each Sunday at 11 am. (You can see our Week 9 picks, along with an explanation of our scoring system, here.)

Well, Thursday night football begins today, and so, in addition to our usual Sunday posts, we'll be putting up a post with our pick each Thursday at around this time.

(I'm feel somewhat mixed about Thursday football. On the one hand, it just seems wrong, and it's one less game for the weekend. And I don't like having any of my fantasy players going on Thursdays, preferring to have them all go Sunday and Monday. It's just too early in the week, if you will. (For example, I took San Diego's Mike Tolbert out of my lineup this week, though that's also partly to do with the fact that he'll be splitting carries with Ryan Mathews and isn't in my view a great start even against the terrible Raiders.) On the other hand, it's football!!!!! And it's nice to be able to watch a game on its own, as with the Sunday and Monday night games, without the competition of other games. When the Steelers are playing, I'm focused on that game, but otherwise I'm flipping around from game to game Sunday afternoons.)

Here are our picks for tonight's Oakland at San Diego game:


San Diego.

San Diego (4-4) has been wildly inconsistent this year: won one, lost one, won three, lost three. They've beaten all bad teams (Minnesota, Kansas City, Miami, Denver) and lost to all good ones (New England, N.Y. Jets, Kansas City, Green Bay). (KC was a bad team but is now a fairly good one. Maybe. But San Diego really should have won that second game against the Chiefs. Remember Rivers's awful fumble?) Oakland is a bad team. And, to make matters worse, the Raiders won't have RB Darren McFadden tonight. Oh, and Carson Palmer is not a good QB and hasn't been one for years. The Raiders gave up a ton for him, which only tells us there's badness in the front office to go along with badness on the field. There's no way the Chargers lose this game at home.

Unless Rivers throws 3+ interceptions and Norv Turner coaches like, well, Norv Turner, both of which are distinct possibilities.

Still, I'll say San Diego 34-16. (Which would mean a breakout. With the exception of the Patriots game, a 35-21 loss, all San Diego games this year have been decided by 10 points or fewer, including last week's crazy 45-38 shootout loss to the Packers. In other words, they haven't been outmatched in any game, with one exception, but nor have they been dominant, or at least not dominant on both sides of the ball. (Their offence last week was certainly dominant, even if Rivers helped the Pack with a couple of pick-6s.) And even the Pats game seems weird. How did New England, with what we now know is a horrible secondary, slow down the Chargers' passing game? Oh, right, Belichick completely outcoached Turner. That's much less likely to happen tonight. Oakland's Hue Jackson is no Bill Belichick.

Enjoy the game. If you can. I must say, I'm not terribly enthused by this matchup. But... football!!!!!


San Diego.

San Diego played Green Bay remarkably tough, and might have won with fewer mistakes. And Carson Palmer is just not ready to play QB for Oakland, not yet, maybe never. What a strange year it has been.

Just one comment on last week: Can everybody stop trying to name the second-best team in the NFC behind Green Bay? Last week it was the Eagles. Next week, who knows? I guess they need something to fill up an entire week on the NFL Network. Let's all just admit that after the Packers there is no clear answer. Let's let 'em play and see how things go. End of rant. 

Comfortable Kid

San Diego.

Please, Chargers: Don't make me look bad for the umpteenth time this season. I can't take it. This has to be a win. And it has to be a win by at least 10 points. Give me a break. Lord pass me by. Serenity now.

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This day in music - November 10, 1970: David Bowie is at No. 1 on the UK singles chart with "Space Oddity"

If you spend enough time, you will find some very interesting things on YouTube. The clip below would appear to be an awards show of some kind, featuring a performance by a very young David Bowie of "Space Oddity."

The song was on Bowie's 1969 album called "David Bowie," and was, of course, inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 2001, A Space Odyssey. At some point the album was renamed "Space Oddity," but then reverted back to its original title years later. These marketing guys are brilliant and not at all fickle.

I'm also pretty sure the Lawrence Welk Orchestra is backing him up in this performance. By the way, the chatter in the comments section of the YouTube clip would suggest that this might not have been his first television gig, as the title suggests. I really wouldn't know.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Breaking News! ... Vatican dispatching Cardinal Bernard Law to Penn State

By J. Thomas Duffy

Sources tell 'The Garlic', that after an all-night session, Pope Benedict XVI  is dispatching  Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major Bernard Law  to Penn State, to offer The Vatican's assistance in the burgeoning sexual abuse scandal.


Last night , Pennsylvania State University President Graham Spanier, and the school's legendary football coach Joe Paterno were fired by the Board of Trustees, over their handling of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of, at least, eight young boys.

"Lights were burning all night ... Cars coming-and-going," offered one observer.

In a brief statement, Pope Benedict XVI said he "sympathized" with the Penn State officials, and is offering the Vatican's "complete playbook" on how to obfuscate and deny any knowledge or responsibility for sexual abuse.

"We know, and especially with this happening at a university, the Hippie Culture of the 1960's is to blame ."

The Pope added that "Bernie Law is just the guy they need at this time."


Unconfirmed reports say that Law is authorized to offer any, and all, Penn State officials caught up in the sexual abuse scandal, sanctuary at The Vatican, where they can benefit from the lack of Extradition, from any criminal charges that may come from this case.

More, as this story develops.

Bonus Riffs

Alyssa Rosenberg: The Shame Of Joe Paterno 

John Cole: Paterno Out 

Bob Ryan: Immediate removal was the correct step 

Eric Wilbur: State of idiocy 

My Boy Lollipop 

Beyond Repugnant 

Retro Garlic: "We Got An Eight-Page Layout With Viceroy ... The New Pope Is A Thinking Man ..."

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

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Latino voters are still with Obama

Maybe not surprising, but a Univision News/Latino Decisions poll released recently made clear the strength President Obama continues to have with Latino voters.
According to the poll released Tuesday - one year before Election day 2012 - registered Latino voters in the 21 states with the largest Latino populations prefer Obama over the top three GOP presidential candidates, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry by a two-to-one margin. The president is up 65 percent to 22 percent on Cain, 67 percent to 24 on Romney, and a whopping 68 percent to 21 on Perry.

That is certainly good news for Obama, and this is good news too:
If demographic trends are an indication, Latinos could play an even greater roll in 2012 than they did in the 2008. Last election, 6.6 million Latinos voted, but next year a record 12.2 Latinos are set to vole, a 26 percent increase from 2008, according to projections from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. Simply put, they are the fastest-growing voting group in the nation.

One other number worth noting is the very high percentage of Latino voters who are not blaming Obama for the struggling economy.

Sixty-seven percent believe that President George W. Bush is most responsible for the nation's economic woes (including 25 percent of Latino Republicans) and only 19 percent say Obama shoulders most of the blame. Those numbers track significantly higher than the sample of the general population, which split 50-33 percent between Bush and Obama.

Clearly the president will not want to take any constituency for granted, but this is a pretty good point from which to start making a pitch with this particular voting community.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

This day in music - November 9, 1974: BTO reaches No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"

"You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" was Bachmann-Turner Overdrive's only No. 1 hit, despite the fact that they had some other great songs like "Let it Ride," "Takin' Care of Business," and "Roll On Down the Highway."

The Canadian Rock Group from Winnipeg, Manitoba sold over 7 million albums in the '70s alone. Their 1970s catalogue included five Top 40 albums and six Top 40 singles.

The original lineup included Randy Bachmann (lead vocals, lead guitar); C. Fred Turner (lead vocals, bass); Tim Bachmann (rhythm guitar, backing vocals); and Robbie Bachmann (drums, percussion, backing vocals).

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Are Herman Cain's right-wing defenders exempt from the journalism code of ethics?

Sharon Bialek, the fourth woman to come forward alleging that Cain sexually harassed her (and the first to report what sounds like assault) is not only the latest "alleged" victim of Cain, she's the latest victim of Cain's conservative apologists.

To be fair to Cain, it's possible that this sexual harassment scandal (or four) is nothing more than the usual blowback any politically powerful man should expect from a disgruntled former co-worker (or four), and that the claims (all four of them) are indeed, as Cain believes, nothing more than the political handiwork of a disgruntled fellow presidential candidate – Rick Perry.

At this point, it doesn't really matter. Cain has no intentions of admitting publicly that any of this took place. It does not appear likely that he will apologize to these women, let alone acknowledge their claims. (And why should he? It was the '90s, after all. Everybody was doing it!)

The media circus surrounding this scandal isn't likely to fade. More women are likely to come forward, and Cain will likely continue to protest how journalists do their jobs. But Cain and the (four) victims of his extra-marital sexual proclivities, his advances, harassment, and apparent assault, are not the only story.

As disgusting as these accusations are (that is, what Cain "allegedly" did), the conservative media's response is almost worse.

The card-carrying character assassins of the Republican sound machine are already jumping into their expected roles as contract-obligated defenders of the misogynists within the Republican Party, and they're hard at work painting the "alleged" victims as nothing more than two-dollar whores looking to make a name for themselves and to get their picture in National Enquirer.

The counter-assault is now in full swing.

Sean Hannity said after the news story broke (in Politico) that it is "baseless," a "hit piece," and a "smear." Dick Morris, himself no virgin to sex scandals, called Bialek "a gold-digger" who's looking for a book deal, a film deal or "a spread in Playboy" magazine. And Cal Thomas seems convinced this is part of a larger Democratic Party conspiracy to "drive a stake" through the hearts of anyone who challenges President Obama.

But perhaps even more offensive than that, if that's possible, was Rush Limbaugh, who instantly turned the accuser into a porn star simply based on his chosen pronunciation of her name: "Gloria Allred says her name is Bialek, as in (slurp, slurp) – buy a lick. There's no 'R' in the name so you can't say it's 'Rent-a-lick'... I don't know if Ms. Buy-a-lick likes scented candles or not. I don't know. How's that relevant? That hasn't been mentioned. We don't know if she's been to Happy Valley…we're still waiting for all of these details to be forthcoming."

If a little girl comes forward and tells school administrators that she was grabbed and groped on several occasions in inappropriate places by a boy in her class; if she says, in a voice so soft and so quiet it's almost inaudible, that she only recently came forward to report it because she was scared and embarrassed, and because she thought she would get into trouble, should the school administrators brush it off, make fun of the little girl, mock her name, tell her she dresses too provocatively (at 11 years old), and defend the "alleged" perpetrator as the victim of some liberal feminist smear campaign? Should this girl be called a gold-digger, a publicity whore? 
Would it at all be appropriate if the media, upon reporting this story, were to make any of these claims?

I ask only because the story of the little girl is true. It's true every day in every city across the country. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, molestation... these things actually happen, daily. In this girl's case, she's a minor, and therefore safe from the punditry wolves.

But isn't it nice to know that if the same thing were to happen to her as an adult, she would be mocked, undermined, and attacked in the media, on television and the radio as a con artist and a liar without a shred of evidence to disprove anything she said.

On Sunday, Cain's campaign sent out passages from the Society of Professional Journalists's Code of Ethics. I wonder, did he send it to Limbaugh and Morris, Hannity and Fox News? Particularly the parts about showing good taste and compassion for those adversely affected by news coverage? 

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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Suck It, Teabaggers*

By Carl
A really good off-year election for Democrats, who are normally the party of "I don't give a rat's ass," but this year showed motivation and commitment to the causes.
Collective bargaining was upheld in Ohio (because, really, who wants to vote against the guy who might save your life in a fire?), Mississippi's "personhood" initiative-- that basically says life begins at ovulation-- was defeated, and Dems held legislative majorities and office across the South.
But most important? Gov. Chris Christie (R-Obesity) was repudiated in his attempts to steal the New Jersey legislature for the Republicans. He put his personal reputation on the line for several candidates, appearing in television and radio commercials that were so expensive, many candidates pooled campaign resources to get them on the air...AND FAILED!
Every Democrat (indeed, every incumbent) was re-elected.
It was just one year ago that conservatives were crowing about the Teabaggers and a movement, and the long-sought permanent conservative majority. It was just one year ago that the fantasy of a Christie Presidency was floated.
And now, like a Macy's Thanksgiving balloon impaled on a spike of reality, that's gone. Deflated. The man couldn't even steal one seat in his own state where he allegedly has broad support of the voters. So much for being Mitt Romney's running mate. Indeed, so much for making campaign appearances for Romney in a general election.
The Sidney Greenstreet wannabe earned it. He's bullied, hectored and rancored his way to the governor's office, taking advantage of yet another incumbent NJ governor embroiled in scandal, and proven yet again that Republicans don't have the werewithal to lead without clubbing people. I have no doubt that, had Christie negotiated in good faith in the past ten months, he would have been more successful in accomplishing his goal yesterday.
In small, we've seen the evolution of the Teabagger movement play out in New Jersey: meteoric rise based on the "squeaky wheel" theory, only to find out that giving them a little grease didn't solve the problems, but only made them worse.
* I mean, of course, suck the teabag.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

This day in music - November 8, 1971: Led Zeppelin releases Led Zeppelin IV, which includes "Stairway to Heaven"

(Ed. note: You may know that we regularly do a "This day in history" post. Actually, Richard regularly does. Well, how about "This day in music"? We already blog a lot about music. So it makes sense, no? Look for more of this new series, in the days ahead, and beyond. -- MJWS)

Okay, "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin is a great song, and I typically take everything I read on Wikipedia as Gospel Truth, but I'm not sure about their reference to the "fact" that the song is widely considered the best rock song ever recorded. Really? That's an awfully big statement. Could be true. I don't know. Not sure who they asked. I would have found it more credible if they had said it was widely considered "one of" the best rock songs of all time. That's a no-brainer.

Great song, though.

Seems as well that Led Zeppelin IV became the third-best-selling album ever in the U.S.

Have at it:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Independents and moderates get it, Republicans are trying to sabotage the economy for partisan gain


Independents and moderates are often wishy-washy and clueless, but it seems they actually see, and obviously disapprove of, what Republicans are up to:

Ever since Obama began aggressively calling out the GOP for obstructing his jobs policies, insisting that Republicans are "putting party before country," pundits have ominously warned that he risks alienating the middle of the country with such a stark, partisan and finger-pointing message.

But the new Post poll finds that independents and moderates essentially accept Obama's diagnosis of what's going on — majorities of both groups agree that Republicans are blocking Obama's good faith efforts to fix the economy for political reasons.

Greg Sargent concludes:

And so, a question. We now know that Americans — particularly the middle of the road ones voters who are supposed to be alienated by this kind of talk — are receptive to the argument that Republicans are blocking Obama's efforts at fixing the economy for political reasons. For all their very real disapproval of Obama, they think one party is acting in good faith to fix the economy, and the other isn't. So when is the national political press going to start seriously covering this aspect of the debate?

Ummm... never? Because that would actually mean reporting what's going on and being honest about the GOP. If you expect that from the national media, otherwise known as the conduit of Republican-approved narratives, you might as well put all your money on the Colts to win the Super Bowl.

(Benen has more: "It's easy to imagine the sabotage question undermining Republican support in 2012, but it's clearly not automatic. The more Democrats push the question into the public bloodstream, and get voters thinking about the impact of GOP tactics, the better it will be for Dems' electoral efforts.)

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Hey Mitt, your potential voter base just isn't that into you

According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has a significant advantage over his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in only one area. And what area do you suppose that would be? Yes, that's right: electability.

Apparently, most of those polled think he could be the one to beat Obama.

But before Mitt breaks out the Champagne, consider the following:

Some Republican leaders think that primary and caucus voters will be looking for the most electable candidate, which would play to Romney's one clear advantage. But [the poll] found that more than seven in ten Republicans said it was more important to support a candidate who shared their views on the issues rather than one who is considered most likely to win next November.

And, as we know, many conservatives have a problem with Romney because of his Massachusetts health care initiative, his religion, his occasionally rational views on climate change and evolution, and just the general sense that he is not a real right-winger - all of this, no doubt, contributing to the fact that he is stuck at 24 percent in the WaPo-ABC survey.

Wow, Romney can't win for trying. He's the one they think can beat Obama, and they still don't want him.

On the positive side, he is first or second choice of more than four in 10, higher than any other candidate. Without Cain in the race, Romney would be at 31 percent. And now that a fourth woman has come out publicly with charges of sexual harassment against Cain, which, judging from her press conference, sounds more like sexual assault, we may soon be dealing with a Herm-less political universe.

The kicker for me, though, was the finding that only 9 percent of those polled say they are "very satisfied" with their choices for the Republican nomination.

Yeah, it is becoming increasingly clear that Romney will be the Republican nominee and few will be very excited about it.

How frustrating it must for Republicans. All the conditions are right for a return to the White House, they just haven't got a horse to get them there.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Elective Dictatorship or Leadership?

By Capt. Fogg

Ron Paul, I like you - I really do. I like it when you denounce our military adventurism and imperial urges. I share your distaste for prosecuting harmless, consensual acts and I don't think either of us like having a government dictate morality according to some chosen religious standards.

I couldn't agree more that we need to keep the governmental nose out of our personal choices that don't infringe on other people's rights. I think we have an inherent right to be left alone too, but when you assert that that same government can force a woman to continue a pregnancy I find it inconsistent. When you proclaim that President Obama is overstepping his presidential powers by taking action to end a dangerous drug shortage, I'm confused. I'm disappointed. Market forces alone aren't going to induce drug companies to make unprofitable products that some people need to stay alive and if they eventually do, it won't be soon enough for someone's mother or sister or child. There are times when the the noli me tangere market approach does not serve the public interest and times when human life is more important than the sanctity of inflexible doctrine.

Yes, I agree that our government was designed to move slowly, for inaction to be the default action as you said yesterday. I even agree that there is an invisible hand in the market, but I cannot understand how you can ignore the sometimes dire consequences of such slow moving or inert systems in a world that moves at a rate inconceivable in 1789.

Sure, eventually drug shortages will tend to rectify because of market forces. 'Tend to' and 'eventually' are expensive words however and the price is often paid in death and suffering. A car tends to steer itself in a straight line, but you know, sometimes someone has to grab the wheel if staying alive is a consideration.

I have to ask you how much needless death and suffering are you willing to force us all to endure to gild the vision of a withered and minimal state where things move only by themselves and the making of money is the only test of righteousness?

Dictatorship? Seriously? Isn't that a bit like calling the guy who pulls your kid out of a well a kidnapper because he didn't apply to Congress in advance through proper channels?

I believe in Democracy as much as you do and perhaps more. I mistrust radical change and I lean toward Libertarianism in many things, but unlike you, I do not belief in faith over fact. If there is a plague, if a dam breaks -- if that asteroid that passed close to us this morning had landed in Texas, I want someone to grab the steering wheel without having his hands tied by doctrines soaked in the tea of Utopian visions.

I have to ask "why now?" Were you as firm in protest of our previous president's extra-legal activities? The signing statements, the treaty breaking, the torture, the illegal search and seizure and surveillance? The wars that have killed hundreds of thousands, destroyed millions of lives and wasted trillions of dollars? Of course you didn't approve and neither did I, but there is a difference between an asteroid and a sand grain. Are we really confusing necessary course corrections with wanton disrespect for law, due process and freedom?

Why now? Or are you just jumping on the Obama Bashing Band Wagon because you're more of a loyal Republican and less interested in doing what needs to be done before too many people die than you'd like to admit?

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Steve King

Let's welcome back our CRD series with an old CRD favourite, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, one the GOP's most awesome congressmen. By my quick count, it's his sixth appearance as CRD. The previous for were for:

-- Introducing legislation recognizing the "importance of Christmas and the Christian faith";
-- Saying that same-sex marriage is part of "a push for a socialist society" in America;
-- Saying that he "empathized" with the suicide bomber who attacked an IRS office in Texas;
-- Saying that Obama "favors the black person"; and
-- Saying that there are babies "in garbage cans around this country" that don't receive health care.

And then there was the time we noted his bigoted idiocy.

What lands King in this spot again today?

Appearing at the Values Voters bus tour in Iowa yesterday, King said that it would be okay to ask people in hospital about their immigration status, that is, to determine if patients are undocumented (or "illegal," as the likes of King prefer):

I don't know why that would be too far. It depends on who is doing the asking. But I have walked through the hospitals down along the border, and I know what goes on. Tucson University Hospital, for example, is the most southerly trauma center in Arizona. The reason for that is all the rest of them had to close because they've been required to provide free medical care to people who are in the United States illegally.

So basically, even if you're a patient at a trauma center (which is pretty serious), you should be required to account for your status.

And then... what? Would King actually deny treatment to an undocumented immigrant? Or would he or she (perhaps even if he or she is a child) get some treatment and then promptly be deported?

Apparently nothing is "too far" for Steve King. Think Progress, which reported on this, provides the ugly context:

In his eight years in Congress, King has amassed a long record of castigating immigrants and Latinos in general. Last year, he declared that Rep. Raúl Grijalva's (D-AZ) southern Arizona district may have been "ceded... to Mexico." Prior to that, King called immigration a "slow-motion Holocaust." And while discussing a border fence on the House floor in 2006, King proposed electrifying it, noting that "we do this with livestock all the time."

That's right, livestock. And if undocumented immigrants (who, lest we forget, are human beings) are like livestock, then why bother giving them any medical care? However sick they may be, just throw 'em back over the electrified fence.

Once more, we see just how the Republican Party is the party of cruelty. 

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Note To Sarko

By Carl

The remarks were part of what the American and French leaders believed to be a private chat after a news conference in Cannes last week, during the G20 economic conference. The pair were still wearing microphones, and some journalists who still had their headphones on for translation caught the remarks, which were first reported by the French photo agency Arret Sur Images.

A Reuters news agency reporter who was also present has since confirmed the exchange.

As the two leaders discussion turns to Israel and the Palestinians, Sarkozy is first to express his distaste for the conservative Israeli Prime Minister.

"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," the French president was heard to say.

In response, according to the account by Arret Sur Images, Mr. Obama sympathizes with Sarkozy's frustration, saying, "you're fed up, but I have to deal with him every day."

There is no immediate indication as to whether a recording of the private conversation exists.

I have no doubt it does. Journalists-- not the sheepish kind we have here in America who bleat whatever their corporatist overlords tell them, but the real ones that report overseas-- tend to be sticklers for on the record accuracy, and on-the-fly translations are not always the most accurate available. Someone's dictaphone was running.

Netanyahu seems to have an issue when it comes to honesty. At least once, he's had to drop out of politics due to a scandal involving corruption, including charges of infidelity. In 1997, Israeli police recommended his indictment for influence peddling, and again in 1999, on charges that he accepted $100,000 in free personal services from a government contractor. Neither time was an indictment handed up.

But it seems clear that Netanyahu has some familiarity with lying.

So now we have an influential European leader, president Sarkozy, calling Netanyahu out for his lies, and the most powerful leader in the free world, President Obama, sort of off-handedly agreeing with him.

I'm not completely convinced there isn't some political theatre involved here. As recently as September, Sarkozy offered up a proposal to grant the Palestinians observer status in the United Nations, a sort of half-hearted, ham-handed proposal that marked Sarkozy as the de facto mediator in that Middle East dispute.

It's conceivable that Obama has ceded the traditional American leadership role with respect to Israel to the French, and that Sarkozy was merely commenting on his frustrations with Netanyahu. It's also conceivable that Obama has Sarkozy acting as a figurehead in the dialogue to remove himself as a target of the right wing neo-con yammerheads for whom Israel = God.

After all, although raised strictly Catholic, Sarkozy can claim Jewish heritage (his mother is a Greek Jew by birth, which automatically confers Jewish status on Sarkozy by Talmudic law,) which gives him some credibility in these matters.

And as a conservative politician, for whatever that means in terms of French politics as opposed to American, he quiets the right wing who are too quick to defend him after his attempts to remake the French labor force more in the image of America.

So a part of me believes this was staged diplomatic theatre of the kind that Netanyahu cannot ignore but also cannot overreact to, which explains the mysterious silence with regards to the matter from Jerusalem. He's trying to figure out the correct response.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Romney and Cain tied for lead: Another look at the sad state of the Republican presidential race

So far, it doesn't seem all that sexual harassment is hurting Herman Cain. According to the latest Gallup poll, Cain is tied for the lead with Romney at 21 percent, nine points ahead of Newt Gingrich and ten points ahead of Rick Perry. Ron Paul is fifth with 8 percent, while Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman round out the field with 3, 2, and 1 percent respectively.

Based on the Gallup numbers, I provided some thoughts on the sad state of the Republican presidential race last month. Here I go again:

-- I wrote last week that 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.

I stand by that, but, needless to say, he's hanging around and still doing (i.e., polling) quite well. This may be because most Republicans don't care about the allegations. (Apparently sexual harassment isn't a big deal to them. Which tells you a lot about them. Not good things, I might add.) But it may also be because the other right-wing alternatives to Romney, specifically Perry and Bachmann, have fallen badly out of favour. And that's really all Cain is: a protest candidate. The question is how far he can go as such. If Perry ever gets his act together, he may well rise again, consolidate conservative support, and pose the toughest challenge for Romney, but, as of right now, Perry's act is a joke.

Over time, as more and more comes out (about groping, for example), I suspect that Cain's support will drop. If he stays around, though, his lack of seriousness (as Chait has argued, he's not even running a real campaign) will ultimately hurt him, as will his policy superficiality and abject ignorance of world affairs and pretty much everything else. I realize that the Republican base prides itself on anti-intellectualism, if not abject ignorance, but some of Cain's support will surely slip away as, like Perry thus far, he is further deemed unfit for the presidency even by some of his current supporters.

-- I have written numerous times about Romney's generally poor showing in polls, poor by the standards of anyone supposedly a frontrunner, and about how low his ceiling seems to be. And what do we see here? Just 21 percent. Need we say it again? Conservatives, who make up the bulk of the GOP, do.... not... like... Mitt Romney. Actually, that's putting it nicely. Here's what Dear Leader Rush said about Romney a while back:

Romney is not a conservative. He's not, folks. You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn't. What he has going for him is that he's not Obama and that he is doing incredibly well in the debates because he's done it a long time. He's very seasoned. He never makes a mistake, and he's going to keep winning these things if he never makes a mistake. It's that simple. But I'm not personally ready to settle on anybody yet -- and I know that neither are most of you, and I also know that most of you do not want this over now, before we've even had a single primary! All we've had are straw votes. You know that the Republican establishment's trying to nail this down and end it. You know that that's happening, and I know that you don't want that to happen, and neither do I.

And then there's Huntsman, easily the most sensible candidate the Republicans have, who called Romney "a perfectly lubricated weathervane." 

Look, Romney may win the nomination. He's got great ground campaigns all across the country; he's been planning for this ever since '08, and so effectively has been running for president for at least six years (as he ran for the '08 nomination as well and so started that campaign long before that); he has a solid national profile; the media seem to like him; he's widely considered to be, among the leading candidates, the only sensible choice; he's generally considered to be "electable"; and, while he may not have the momentum of the true frontrunner, let alone the air of invincibility and inevitability that comes with being a consistent frontrunner, there is a certain sense that the nomination is his to lose, that he's probably the best choice, however imperfect.

But if he does win, it will only be by default -- that is, only because the rest of the part, the anti-Romney majority, imploded, failing to vomit up a legitimate contender. (Again, it was thought to be Perry, but, no, not so far.)

-- Gingrich is hanging around, too, and showing signs of improvement. He was way back at 4 percent in August. Now he's up at 12. Is this sustainable? Well, sure. There's no reason he can't poll 8-12 percent nationally. He likely won't do as well on a state-by-state basis in the primaries, when it's about awarding delegates as opposed to expressing general preference, but it would appear that he's well-positioned to be a kingmaker. And I suspect that's what he wants to be. He'll see how things play out, then throw his weight behind Romney or Perry (or, yes, Cain). Basically, Gingrich knows he won't be president. His campaign all along has been largely about expanding the multi-million-dollar Gingrich brand, to profit off politics, but it's also been about influence. Gingrich wants to be the "ideas" man of the GOP. He wants to go on the Sunday-morning talk shows and spew his usual partisan bullshit. He wants to be... influential. I thought he'd be out of the race early, not least after much of his campaign staff left him, but the weakness of the field has kept him alive.

-- Perry, oh Perry. I really thought he'd get his act together and return at least to Romney-level support, if not to the lead once again. Let's just say I'm having my doubts. (Though I still think he can do it.)

-- Paul? Whatever. He'll get his 8-15 percent support, likely closer to 8 than to 15. He's a renegade in the GOP, occasionally to his credit. Those who love him really, really love him. But he's more thorn than rose to Republicans.

-- Bachmann. Santorum. What's the point?

-- Huntsman. Alas.

-- Let me just end how I ended that post a month ago: If things don't go well for Republicans next year... Rubio-Haley 2016? You read it here first.

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