Saturday, November 19, 2011

This day in music - November 19, 2007: Neil Diamond reveals that "Sweet Caroline" was written for Caroline Kennedy

Performing at Caroline Kennedy's 50th birthday party on this day in 2007, Neil Diamond let it be known that "Sweet Caroline" was actually written about her or, perhaps more accurately, she was the inspiration for it.

The song was officially released on September 16, 1969 as a single and eventually went as high as #4 on the Billboard charts.

It is a well-covered tune, having been recorded by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Buffet, and the Dave Matthews Band, among many others.

Diamond said that he got the idea when he came upon an "innocent, wonderful" picture of Caroline in a magazine.

As for admitting the source of his inspiration, he said he was happy to have gotten it off his chest and to have expressed it to Caroline. "I thought she might be embarrassed, but she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy."

There are many versions of the song on YouTube. This one is from The Shirley Bassey Show in the mid '70s. Check out the bright red jumpsuit on Neil. Some fashion statements really are better left in the past.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Rick Santorum says Americans should "suffer"

Santorum is an also-ran in the 2012 GOP presidential race, but it's worth paying some attention to him because he still speaks for a significant Republican constituency, specifically the theocratic evangelical Christianist right, and because he often says explicitly what passes for dogma in the GOP but what many other Republicans realize is politically dangerous to say.

During a town hall meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa Friday afternoon, Rick Santorum argued that Americans receive too many government benefits and ought to "suffer" in the Christian tradition. If "you're lower income, you can qualify for Medicaid, you can qualify for food stamps, you can qualify for housing assistance," Santorum complained, before adding, "suffering is part of life and it's not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life."

Generally, what we hear from Republicans at this time of economic difficulty -- when they're not just attacking Obama and grossly misrepresenting his views -- is that taxes should be lowered (especially for the wealthy "job creators"), that government spending needs to be cut drastically (specifically spending on entitlement programs or other social programs that Republicans object to ideologically, not spending on the military or other things they like), and that the unregulated free market (with the likes of Paul Ryan channeling Ayn Rand) is the key to eternal prosperity.

Behind all this is a sense that Republicans actually want the economy to tank for partisan reasons and are sabotaging recovery efforts, not to mention a sense that Republicans really don't care about the poor at all, or even the middle class, and are focused mostly on expanding the wealth of the super-wealthy, individual and corporate alike -- but of course Republicans rarely admit any of this openly.

Enter Rick Santorum, who welcomes suffering because, apparently, it's Christian to suffer at the hands of an economic and political system that rewards the wealthy and punishes everyone else.

Feel better, all you people having difficulty putting food on the table, paying your bills, and taking care of your children? Just keep suffering. Santorum and the GOP won't be there to help you one bit.

Credit Santorum for being honest, I suppose. This is what many Republicans believe, based on their "Christian" faith. But of course he's just giving explicit voice to the assholish, don't-give-a-shit conservatism that dominates the Party of Cruelty and Brutality that is today's GOP.

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Rick Perry's "dog whistle" and a campaign that is nearing its end

Code language in politics is an interesting thing. Candidates will sometimes say something in a way that is intended to appeal to the biases of a certain constituency, without explicitly saying the thing they are implying. In politics, this is a called a "dog whistle," which is to say that only those listening for it will hear it clearly. Only those open to the message will understand.

And even if others understand what is really being suggested, the politician in question can deny his or her true intention.

A couple of days ago, presidential candidate Rick Perry (R-TX) appeared on the Hannity program and said that President Obama grew up "privileged" and "never had to go through what Americans [are now] going through."

Jonathan Capeheart, Washington Post writer, apparently well attuned to all frequencies used by GOP politicos, understood the game being played:

That's the dog whistle that Rick Perry is going for. The president was not raised privileged. He wasn't handed anything. He absolutely had to work for everything he got. But for Rick Perry to say that President Obama was privileged and didn't have to work for what he got, that code is, he got into Columbia University, he got into Harvard University not through merit, not because he is smart, but because he took the place of someone else through affirmative action, that someone else being someone white.

If there is one thing that Herman's Cain's short-lived rise as a potential GOP candidate has given Republicans, it has been the ability to deny that race has anything to do with radical-right disdain for President Obama. And perhaps it has obscured that. Leave it to Rick Perry, now a desperate candidate, to start going there again, if only in code language.

Rick Perry likes to say that he is a man of action, not of words. But in this case, his use of words is almost clever. Perhaps he should be a little less clever, and tell us more directly what he intends by calling Obama privileged. Just this once, Governor Perry, please do a better job of saying precisely what you mean.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, November 18, 2011

This day in music - November 18, 1968: Glen Campbell's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Gentle on My Mind" are certified Gold

There are just a few television shows from my youth that stand out as cross-generational family favourites. The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour was one of them. A major draw was a weekly segment in which an impossibly young Glen Campbell would appear on stage with an equally young John Hartford and other musical guests.

As I recall, somewhere in the middle of each show, Campbell would sit down with Hartford and engage in a bit of banter before a song would be played, Campbell on guitar and Hartford on banjo.

The show was originally a summer replacement for the The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968, then continued in its own time slot from January of 1969 to June of 1972 on CBS.

Hartford was a virtuoso musician, on fiddle and banjo, and a songwriter who also happened to write "Gentle On My Mind," one of Campbell's biggest hits, which, incidentally, won two Grammy Awards in 1968.

As I remember it, there was something about the ease of the on-stage relationship between the two that was simply fun to watch.

Here is a wonderful clip of the two singing "Gentle On My Mind" from one of the episodes. Hartford has been gone for just over ten years; Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer's not long ago, but in their day, the boys could make some music. Sweet.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Ann Coulter throws Newt Gingrich under the bus

I can't believe I'm actually pushing an Ann Coulter column, but I am, sort of. Coulter is a fool who says outrageous things to get noticed. I generally have no interest in what she has to say because she is about nothing but generating publicity for her own brand so she can make a good living.

She is a waste of time.

Today, however, there was something desperate in her post about the recent rise of Newt Gingrich as a potential GOP nominee. It's not so much what she said, which was basically that focusing on Gingrich was pointless because Romney would be the eventual nominee. It was how she said it.

Ann Coulter actually came across, as least to me, as someone who is genuinely terrified that conservatives are screwing around with a bunch of also-rans when what they need to do is get behind the only guy who, apparently, can beat Obama.

It was fascinating to see this miserable women, right-wing hack that she is, argue as a serious apologist for Mitt Romney, even for Romneycare.

She thoroughly trashed Gingrich while anointing Mitt the virtual second coming of Ronald Reagan because she can feel the lack of conservative solidarity as it tries on yet another frontrunner. She knows it's poison for any serious hope of regaining the White House and it's frightening the crap out of her.

By any objective measure, Gingrich should be a candidate to her liking and Romney a disaster, but for Coulter and, very soon, a great many like her, to use the old football cliche, "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

Looks to me like they're starting to panic.

Check it out. Finally something Ann Coulter has written that's worth reading.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Herman Cain gets Secret Service protection


Presidential candidate Herman Cain will receive protection from the United States Secret Service, the agency confirms to CNN.

Cain will be the first candidate in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2012 election cycle to be placed under the protection of this federal law enforcement agency.

It is not yet clear why Cain is getting Secret Service protection.

This is very early for any presidential candidate -- more specifically, for any candidate for a party's nomination for president -- to get such protection. Apparently "the Cain campaign requested coverage, and the review found that it met the criteria."

But... why? Perhaps he has received credible threats. Or perhaps, if we may apply a rather more cynical lens to it, he wants to appear to be the target of credible threats, which would feed his phony narrative of how the (racist) left is out to get him because he's a black conservative.

Or perhaps he just wants to be taken more seriously -- and you're taken pretty seriously if you have a Secret Service detail.

Anyway, there's something odd going on here.

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Herman Cain embraces his own stupidity

If you've been following the GOP presidential nomination race, I'll bet you think there is little that would surprise you. I'll wager you believe the stupidity of this group of candidates has gone as far as it is humanly possible to go, that there might be a nuance here and there, but we have seen and heard most of what there is to see and hear.

If you think this, I am willing to put down good money that I can convince you otherwise.

Yes, today candidate Herman Cain actually said this: "We need a leader, not a reader." Okay? Do I win my bet?

He really said that. Responding, in essence, to charges that he is a moron, he has decided that the best approach is to fully embrace his imbecility, as if to say, "sure I'm an idiot, which is exactly what America needs."

I have joined others in pointing out that the current wave of conservative politics is up to its Neanderthal brow in anti-intellectualism. Obama's Ivy League education is held against him. Rick Perry's inarticulateness is promoted as a sign that he is a man of action. Profession of a belief in scientific principles is considered dangerous for would-be GOP nominees.

We've seen all that and more. But I did not think we would see a candidate, a front-running candidate, declare that knowledge, and the reading required to obtain it, is something a president would be better off without.

I did not see that coming, which begs the question, how much sadder can this get?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Patriotic Millionaires demand higher taxes on the wealthy

Very often, patriotism is indeed the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson said. But sometimes it's genuine -- and sometimes these genuine patriots really do know what their country needs and how they can help.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 11 Thursday Night Football

I'm a bit late getting this post up tonight. (Parent-teacher interview.) The Broncos have the ball for the second time with about six and a half minutes left in the first quarter. I did pick the Jets to win the game well before the game started, however, and while they looked awful on their three-and-out (with a horribly bad punt) I still think they'll win.

Let's get to our picks.

(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.) For the rest of the season, we'll have a post up before each Thursday night game as well.)

Field goal. 3-0 Denver.


N.Y. Jets.

Here's the thing. I loathe Tim Tebow. Maybe he's a nice guy, but his sanctimonious right-wing religiosity annoys me enormously. Maybe I loathe the whole "Tim Tebow" thing more than Tebow himself, but it's hard to separate the two. But, then, I also consider the Jets one of the most loathsome teams in the NFL. Rex Ryan (a pompous, egotistical loudmouth), Santonio (a sulking egotist) and Plaxico (a prima donna), LT (an arrogant me-first guy even with declining skills), Jets fans and that annoying chant (J-E-T-S... Jets, Jets, Jets!). Ugh. I like linebacker David Harris and offensive lineman D'Brickashaw Ferguson, but that's about it. I don't dislike them as much as I do the Cowboys, but they're down with my most detested teams: Dallas, Washington, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Jets (in some order). There are other teams I dislike for rivalry reasons, notably the Ravens, but I still generally respect them. Other teams I dislike because of certain players and/or coaches, like San Diego (because of Rivers and Turner). But the Jets... I just hate them. And it doesn't help that they're a Steelers rival in the AFC. I should want them to lose. And I do.

But, then, I don't want Tebow to win. So how about this? I hope Tebow goes down with a minor injury (nothing career- or even just season-threatening) after sucking. Kyle Orton, who I think is underrated and generally disrespected, comes in and turns in a stud performance like he often did last year, leading the Broncos to a crushing win.

Will that happen? No. But one can dream.

Seriously, I'm picking the Jets because the simplistic college football offence Denver is running with Tebow has its limits and the Broncos are fast approaching them. A good defence -- and presumably the Jets' D is good enough -- should be able to stop it. Tebow has struggled even against bad teams like Miami and Kansas City, even if Denver won those games. He sucked against Detroit, a team with a better D, and they lost. The Jets have the corners, Revis and Cromartie, to handle Denver's receivers one-on-one, leaving the safeties to play near the line and help shut down the Broncos' running game. And all it should take to beat Tebow is to have a safety or fast linebacker (like Harris) shadow him. If I were Dick Lebeau and calling Pittsburgh's D against Denver, I'd just have Polamalu key on him. Let him try to beat you with his arm. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Missed FG by the Jets. Jets recover a McGahee fumble. Ugly game so far.

The point is, if you're an NFL defence, not matter how good you are you basically have to decide who to let beat you. Because you can't do everything. (There are exceptions, but I'd say this is the rule.) And when you're playing Tebow and its silly offence, you should just stack the line and force Tebow to the air. That may work against weak secondaries, but the Jets have the talent back there to blanket Tebow's downfield threats. Hey, if he makes some perfect passes, fine. What can you do? He want 2 for 8 last week but still made that one great pass to Decker for the winning TD. But Tebow has thus far in his (admittedly young) NFL career proven to be a terrible passer. As long as the Jets play a smart game and Sanchez doesn't make too many mistakes, they should win this fairly easily.

And, yes, I say that even though it's still 3-0 Broncos and we're already in the second quarter.


N.Y. Jets.

I'm going with the Jets for tonight's game. Yes, Tebow has had some success, and he's very new at being a QB in the NFL, so I should take it easy on him. What I will say is that he can be, and has already proven himself to be, a very exciting player. In that sense, he reminds me of Romo. Just like Romo, he'll probably win some games in heart-pumping fashion and then lose others because of a fundamental lack of consistency.

For the most part, the NFL is all about drop-back quarterbacks with great passing accuracy, presence in the pocket, and the ability to deliver game in and game out. I don't see Tebow as that guy.

Having said that, because he's so unpredictable, he'll win games against the odds.

Having hedged enough, I'll still say Jets.

Comfortable Kid


A few Sundays back, I selected a few teams that I thought would win some football games that week. Within those picks were the New Orleans Saints, who I figured would beat the winless Rams. Obviously, right? Nope.

Moral of the story, weird things happen, and with Michael and Richard putting on a "pick 'em" clinic here I figured this is an opportunity (a Hail Mary one at that) to make-up some ground. I'm taking Denver. I'm hoping Sanchez offers up some pick-sixes so that Tebow doesn't have to do it all... Yes, I'm working to maintain a straight face here.

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This day in music - November 17, 1962: The Four Seasons start a five-week run at No. 1 on the U.S. singles charts with "Big Girls Don't Cry"

Always liked The Four Seasons, but I was blown away by a production of Jersey Boys I saw a couple of years ago. Enjoyed it immensely. I really did gain a whole new perspective on the group, as trite as that sounds.

Sometimes music is just fun, and that's not a bad thing.

Here's "Big Girls Don't Cry," from a 1962 performance.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Vote Bachmann off the island

Michele Bachmann needs help.

She needs a grammar tutor, a history lesson, and maybe some diversity sensitivity training. But more than anything else, she needs a tour guide who can lead her to the exit doors of this Republican presidential race.

She's a bigoted, right-wing, anti-government evangelical extremist, and her campaign, despite the early guidance of Ed Rollins, still has yet to recognize the inherent philosophical conflict of having a candidate who boasts, simultaneously but without irony, of being a Constitutionalist and a stalwart Creationist.

She's running as a Tea Party candidate despite the Tea Party's embarrassing approval rating, and though she benefits from the same mocking media attention that made Sarah Palin a national icon, the majority of Americans can't take her seriously, as her five percent polling numbers very clearly demonstrate.

We pay attention, Democrats at least, not because we're concerned, patriotic, and open-minded Americans and she's a viable candidate whose opinions elevate the foreign and domestic policy debates of this presidential election, but because, at heart, we're all blood-thirsty sadists who cackle in response to her gaffes and cheer like stoned frat kids at a football game whenever she steps forward claiming to represent the Republican Party.

It's not just her falsifications that are despicable, it's the desperation in her shrieking voice whenever she's on stage attempting to debate with domestic policy wonks like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, or true evangelicals like Rick Santorum, or foreign relations geeks like Jon Huntsman. She's out of her league, and everybody but Bachmann knows it.

It's time for the GOP field to start shedding its third-string candidates, and for that five percent of Republicans who consistently tell pollsters that Bachmann is their favorite presidential contender, the straw that ought to break their backs came on November 12 during the CBS News/National Journal debate on foreign policy.

In response to a question asking whether or not she would allow the use of torture if she were miraculously elected commander in chief, Bachmann responded with an unequivocal "Yes."

"If I was president, I would use waterboarding because it was effective," she said. "Barack Obama is using the ACLU to run the CIA. We have no CIA interrogation anymore. It's as though Obama has decided to lose the War on Terror."

I'm not one so quickly to forgive those who shamelessly butcher the English language, but in this instance her usage of the past-tense conjugation "was" where she should have used a past tense subjective "were" in conjunction with the future-tense auxiliary "would" is secondary to the grave offenses and utter falsehoods of this statement.

The entire response is bullshit.

1) Waterboarding isn't effective, and there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest otherwise.

2) The crack on the ACLU is commonplace among Republicans but not necessarily logical. The GOP's criticism and skepticism of the ACLU is akin to McCarthyism, and yet no conservative would ever acknowledge the utter hypocrisy of demagoguing an organization that represents Americans whose civil liberties, as guaranteed in the Constitution, have been violated. As a factual statement, this is absurd.

3) Remember the big media blitz following President Obama's executive order banning all guns of every kind in every city in America? Really? You missed it? It was front-page news in every paper in the country! It ran as a split banner story next to the other big news item of the year – the story about how the United States has stopped interrogating prisoners of war. It was a good article. Look it up on Google by typing "CIA ends interrogation."

4) On this one, Bachmann has a point. If Barack Obama's decision to end the United States's egregious violation of international law by discontinuing the Bush Administration's uses of "cruel and unusual punishment" isn't proof that Obama has "decided to lose the War on Terror," then the sky isn't blue and the earth is a one-dimensional triangle. Never mind that Obama killed Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki. Never mind that he facilitated the emancipation of the Libyan people from a murderous dictator. The fact that Obama has given an emphatic thumbs down to waterboarding is evidence that he's a secret Muslim spy who's aiding future terrorist attacks on American soil.

Stupid people barking anti-government bromides are entertaining in the short term, but when it comes time to elect a president, or a vice president, intelligence matters. Michele Bachmann has none.

She's more than a slow-motion car accident. She's an eccentric, talent-devoid sideshow performer competing for the lead role in the psychobabble routine in an already overcrowded and unpopular Republican presidential political circus.

Being on the Intelligence Committee obviously doesn't require intelligence, because if it did Bachmann would know that practically drowning prisoners of war is significantly less effective in extracting useful information than promising virgins in heaven. And being a mother of 28 – which Bachmann has made the core of her candidacy – obviously isn't seen by the majority of Americans as a prerequisite for being the leader of the free world, as public opinion polls made clear a week after Bachmann won the Ames, Iowa straw poll and (very, very) briefly spurred national speculation of her possible-but-never-realized frontrunner potential.

There's a reason she's polling near the bottom of the pack, but there's no reason for her to continue this crusade. She should drop out of the race and go back to doing what good evangelical conservative Constitutionalist Creationist bigots do when they're not vying for the presidency – introducing obsolete bills in Congress reaffirming the dollar as the official U.S. currency, spreading conspiracies about how Sharia law might one day "usurp" the U.S. Constitution, and helping her husband cure gay people of their affliction.

Bachmann is an embarrassment to all who have ever taken pride in calling themselves Republican. It's time she gets voted off the island, and it's past time the voters in the sixth congressional district of Minnesota get a grammar tutor, a history lesson, and some diversity sensitivity training so they can vote this pock mark on the American government out of office.

The world would be a better place.
(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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Things aren't going well for Mitt Romney: weak support with a low ceiling, intense conservative opposition, and, yes, Romneycare

That seems like a pretty stupid statement, doesn't it?

I mean, he's by far the most "electable" of the GOP candidates for president.

He's got solid ground campaigns all across the country.

Rove and the moneyed establishment seems to be behind him.

His rivals on the right have proven to be embarrassing disasters, either rising quickly to the top and burning out almost as quickly (Bachmann, Perry) or never standing a chance (Santorum).

A fairly sensible middle-ground candidate never caught on and dropped out early (Pawlenty).

By far the best of the bunch, a remarkably sensible and genuinely impressive old-school Republican, hasn't caught on at all, as the party is both too extreme and too stupid to nominate him (Huntsman).

There's almost an inevitability about him, a sense that he'll prevail if only because his rivals are all so weak.

Unlike most of his rivals, he hasn't embarrassed himself badly on the campaign trail or in debates.

And he's managed to stay at or near the top in the polls without moving too far to the right, meaning that there's still a chance he could win some moderates and independents should he win the nomination.

Things are great! Right? Wrong.

First, if he wins, it will be largely by default, that is, only because the rest of the party, the anti-Romney majority, imploded, failing to vomit up a legitimate contender. The opposition to Romney in the GOP is extremely strong, while excitement for him is extremely small. Republicans will mostly still prefer him to Obama, if it comes to that, but what will Republican turnout be? Will conservatives stay home instead of voting for Romney?

Second, if he moves to the right to try to secure more conservative support, which he may have to do at some point, he'll lose moderate and independent support. But if he moves to the left, or even just stays where he is, he'll fail to arouse the GOP base, which, again, may stay home in droves next November. It may not matter, of course. No matter what he does, it's unlikely he'll ever be popular on the right, and it's hard to see a Republican winning without the Tea Party and social conservatives voting in big numbers.

Third, he would appear to have a low ceiling of potential support, and what support he does have is hardly intense. And while he has on occasion been called the frontrunner, even if at different times he has been surpassed by Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and now Gingrich, his poll numbers have remains consistent -- and consistently weak given his high profile and standing. Consider his Gallup numbers for the six months from June to November: 27, 23, 17, 24, 20, 21. His current RCP average is just 21.2. That puts him in first, ahead of Gingrich by a point and Cain by two, but, again, that's remarkably weak for someone who has been widely considered a frontrunner throughout the campaign so far, someone who has essentially been campaigning for president aggressively since 2007 (given that he ran for the 2008 GOP nomination as well). And if you add up the RCP averages of Gingrich, Cain, Perry, Paul, Bachmann, and Santorum, the non-Romney options, you get 62. Some of that support would certainly go to Romney, if without all that much enthusiasm, but regardless that's a sign of massive anti-Romneyism among Republicans. The clear message: conservatives do not like Mitt Romney and are looking desperately for an alternative.

Fourth, the party "elite," led these days it would seem by Karl Rove, may actually not have as much clout as you might think. It may very well want Romney to have the nomination, but the rest of the party, which in the past has usually fallen into line when it mattered, may not play along in 2012.

Fifth, at some point his rivals are going to go after Romney with greater focus and intensity than have so far. Perry has proven incapable so far, as has Cain, but what about Gingrich? He can certainly hold his own against Romney on policy, the media generally respect him as a man of ideas (however silly this may be), and he's got the rhetorical ability to challenge Romney on any number of issues, including, most notably, health-care reform. Indeed, what's amazing is that Romney's poll numbers are so relatively low despite the fact that he's been able to avoid, mostly because of the various weaknesses of his major rivals, significant criticism of his record, and specificially of his moderate and at times liberal past. Many Republicans know him as a flip-flopper and opportunist, as someone who will say anything to get elected, who will suck up to conservatives to try to win them over, but just think what they'd make of him if they actually knew what he was really all about. It's hard to imagine anyone like Romney cracking 10 percent in today's GOP.

On this last point, and specifically on health-care reform, Romney remains particularly vulnerable. That goes without say, I suppose, and yet his opponents haven't really gone after him yet on Romneycare, his reforms in Massachusetts. Pawlenty started but quickly retreated, pulling his punches, seemingly unable to rise to the occasion, and no one else has really made a big issue of it, preferring to try to out-extreme each other. It makes you wonder what the hell's wrong with them, until you realize what awful candidates they are, particularly Perry and Cain, neither of whom can seem to put a coherent thought together.

But the time may be coming, assuming that one of his rivals actually decides to focus on trying to take down Romney instead of wallowing in navel-gazing extremism. As Greg Sargent reported yesterday at WaPo:

Jonathan Gruber, the M.I.T. professor whose ideas were central to Mitt Romney's health reform law as governor of Massachusetts, has pilloried Romney in the past for seeming to distance himself from his signature accomplishment. But I'm not sure he's ever gone quite as far as he did in this interview with Capital New York, in which he said Romney is flat out "lying" when he tries to make a distinction between Romneycare and Obamacare.

This is a massive invitation to Gingrich or Perry or someone at long last to make Romney's record the issue of the campaign. And it's easy to do. Here's the man behind both Romneycare and Obamacare, the man with the undeniable credibility to connect Romney directly to Obama on perhaps the top issue that arouses intense opposition among conservatives, calling Romney a liar. Sargent again:

I'm with Steve Benen and Jonathan Bernstein: Why aren't Romney's GOP rivals attacking him more aggressively over this? A recent Bloomberg poll found that more than half of likely Iowa caucus goers would "rule out" supporting Romney because of Romneycare's individual mandate. Why aren't Romney's rivals hitting him harder over Romneycare, day in and day out?

Why isn't this an absolutely dominant issue in the GOP primary?

Maybe it's because Romney's rivals know that attacking him on this issue and others will only weaken him for the general election, assuming he wins the nomination. But at least a couple of his rivals are actually trying to win the nomination. Someone like Perry wouldn't hold back just because he thinks he's going to lose and wants to make sure Romney gets through this unscathed.

Maybe it's because his rivals are just so terrible. Cain can't even formulate an opinion about Libya. What is he to say about something as complicated policy-wise as health care? Perry's a bit better, but not much. So maybe it falls to Gingrich, not the leading anti-Romney candidate, to do the dirty work.

Regardless, things are obviously not great for Romney. He may still win the nomination, but right now, if you strip away the facade, he's weak and vulnerable. Conservatives already loathe him and want desperately to throw their weight behind a viable alternative (which is why they're going through his rivals one by one, hoping one of them will stick). All it may take is for one of his rivals to knock him out. The question is, is any of them up to it?

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Elizabeth Warren hits back against Karl Rove and company

Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has a new ad called "Who I am," which responds to an attack ad put together by Karl Rove and his merry band of scumbags over at American Crossroads. If Rove's ad wasn't so silly, it might really piss me off.

Holy shit, the right is back to red-baiting in an even bigger way. What year is this again? And I think we know what Glenn Beck has been doing lately, writing copy for Karl Rove. I guess good help is impossible to find if you spend most of your time hanging out with conservatives.

Anyway, Warren has quickly responded to the attack with an ad of her own talking about exactly who she is and what she stands for. I think Rove is losing it, if he ever had it. What a bunch of dicks.

Good on Warren for getting this out quickly. As master Democratic political strategic James Carville likes to say, "let no charge or attack go unanswered for even a day." And its corollary: "Don't let your enemies define you."

Here's the new Warren ad, followed by the Rove thing, just so you know what we're up against.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Good Timing

By Carl
This could not happen at a better time.

NEW YORK - Two days after the encampment that sparked the global Occupy movement was cleared by authorities, demonstrators in New York City and around the country were promising mass gatherings Thursday in support of the cause.

In San Francisco Wednesday, anti-Wall Street activists swarmed into a Bank of America branch and tried to set up camp in the lobby. About 100 demonstrators rushed into the bank, chanting "money for schools and education, not for banks and corporations."

Thursday's day of action had been planned before New York City and park owners cracked down on the encampment in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, but took on added importance to the protesters after tents, tarps and sleeping bags were cleared out early Tuesday and the granite plaza was cleaned for the first time since the group arrived more than two months ago.

"We will get boots on the ground again," said Rory Simpson, 29, who described himself as an itinerant activist as he made signs Wednesday evening. "This is not over yet."

So long as it's not boots to asses, everything should be OK. The idea is to take the message where it matters: to the people, and to the bankers.

The bankers won't care, but they must be challenged. The people will care, and they will listen-- most of them. It wouldn't surprise me if a counterprotest shows up, but so what?

This is all happening against the backdrop of two events. First, the attempt two nights ago to shut down OWS by throwing them out of Zuccotti Park, and second...

U.S. banks face a “serious risk” that their creditworthiness will deteriorate if Europe’s debt crisis deepens and spreads beyond the five most-troubled nations, Fitch Ratings said.

“Unless the euro zone debt crisis is resolved in a timely and orderly manner, the broad credit outlook for the U.S. banking industry could worsen,” the New York-based rating company said yesterday in a statement. Even as U.S. banks have “manageable” exposure to stressed European markets, “further contagion poses a serious risk,” Fitch said, without explaining what it meant by contagion.

The “exposures” of U.S. lenders to major European banks and the stressed nations of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, known as the GIIPS, are smaller than those to some of the continent’s larger countries, Fitch said.

I respect Fitch Ratings, and have oftened referred to them on some matters. This time, however, I think they may be understating the case a bit.

The "GIIPS" problem is deeper than the European Union has admitted.

Think about it this way: who is holding the debt of those nations, about to default? Mostly, it's European banks. Some of those banks are on fairly stable ground, to be sure, but many are not. Indeed, some received bailout packages from the US in 2008 and 2009. And now, we're directly bailing out the EU.

Let me rephrase that: our debt is holding together their debt.

So if you went to the bank and mortgaged your house, then your neighbor came to you and said "Listen, I'm tapped, and I need to get my house fixed. Can you lend me a few?" Now you're not only in danger if you run into trouble, but if your neighbor loses his house, you've lost that money, as well. Yea, you can pay it back over time, but that's income you won't have later on.

Now, five nations are on the hook. Italy and Greece have had a minor crisis already. Of those five, while it's not likely all five will fold, it's also unlikely that none will.

If one does, it's conceivable the EU can survive. If two go, all bets are off. And two are already on the brink, barring a sudden influx of discipline and growth.

Meanwhile, Occupy will be keeping a public face for those who did not get a Fed-approved bailout two or three years ago. Occupy will humanize for the dishuman right wingers the face of the 99%. And Occupy will remind Bernanke and Obama that there is a more pressing need than bailing out Goldman Sachs or Citibank: bailing out people who have fallen through the cracks.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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University of Texas Republican calls killing Obama "tempting"

I realize that this is just one person, and one tweet, but the problem is much larger than this one nitwit. There's a streak of dangerous craziness on the right, and at the core of the Republican Party:

Hours after Pennsylvania State Police arrested a 21-year-old Idaho man for allegedly firing a semi-automatic rifle at the White House, the top student official for the College Republicans at the University of Texas tweeted that the idea of assassinating President Obama was "tempting."

At 2:29 p.m. ET, UT's Lauren E. Pierce wrote: "Y'all as tempting as it may be, don't shoot Obama. We need him to go down in history as the WORST president we've EVER had! #2012."

Pierce, the president of the College Republicans at UT Austin, told ABC News the comment was a "joke" and that the "whole [shooting incident] was stupid." Giggling, she said that an attempted assassination would "only make the situation worse."

"Insofar as she's a representative [of the College Republicans], maybe it shouldn't be said, but she's made a positive statement in a way," said Cassie Wright, the group's vice president.

"I don't really see anything wrong with it," Wright added. "It's just a personal comment, not representative of any group. Just freedom of speech, you know?"

Oh, right, freedom of speech. Sure.

Oh, and it was just a joke. Hilarious. 

Bullshit. Maybe Pierce was trying to be funny, but she just exposed herself to the world as a fucking idiot with a warped sense of humor, a warped sense of politics, and a warped sense of reality.

I'm sure there are many on the right who also find it "tempting" to kill the president, but not jokingly at all. Even if this was a joke, there was a hell of a lot of truth behind it.

As ABL writes at Balloon Juice: "Only in the addled-Republican mind could a tweet calling for other similarly-addled minds not to assassinate the President be interpreted as a positive statement."

It's a sick, sick mind, indeed.


As Think Progress notes, Pierce has since apologized: "I apologize for my previous tweet. It was in poor taste and and should never have been written."

But such poor taste (if not much worse) was hardly a first for her: "Earlier this month, she tweeted a picture of a sign that read, 'zoo has African lion, White House has a lyin' African.'"



And, by the way, her Twitter feed now appears to be private. One wonders what she's hiding.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This day in music - November 16, 1970: Anne Murray's "Snowbird" is certified a Gold record

I remember very well when Anne Murray's "Snowbird" was released. My clearest recollection is of being in a junior high school art class in which we had to pick a favourite song to render as a drawing.

I have some talents, but none of the visual arts are among them. I recall creating a hideous blue and white thing coloured in with pieces of what I think we called pastels. It was terrible, but I've never held it against Anne Murray or "Snowbird."

It's a good song, written by Canadian songwriter Gene MacLellan. Gene was from Prince Edward Island, one of the prettier places in Canada. Anne Murray hailed from Nova Scotia, so they were both native to what we call the Atlantic Provinces in Canada.

MacLellan also wrote a song with which many might be familiar called "Put Your Hand in the Hand," and although it was first recorded by Murray, the Canadian group Ocean had a hit with it in 1971.

But back to Anne. She has received four Grammy Awards, 24 Junos (the Canadian Grammys), three American Music Awards, and three Country Music Association Awards.

She was also the first Canadian female solo singer to reach #1 on the U.S. charts, and also the first to earn a Gold record for a signature song, "Snowbird."

I'll bet you didn't know that "Snowbird" was recorded by both Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley. I didn't.

Here's a performance of the song by Ms. Murray from 1973:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Michele Bachmann, cervical cancer's BFF

Michele Bachmann is still defending her opposition to the vaccine that prevents HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer. At a campaign event in Sheldon, Iowa on Monday night, she sympathized with a mother who believes her daughter Jessica, now 16, has been debilitated by headaches, pains and seizures brought on by the vaccine three years ago and can no longer attend school.

"Michele, on behalf of myself and a lot of other mothers that have a child that’s sick from the Gardasil vaccine, I would like to thank you for the attention that you brought to it," Julie Wepple said, according to the Des Moines Register.

Bachmann thanked Wepple for bringing up the vaccine issue. "Parents have to make that decision for their kids because it isn't the schools that are going to follow up with Jessica," she said. "It isn’t the schools that live with Jessica every day. It’s Jessica who’s having to have her body live with the ravages of this vaccine."

I sympathize with Ms. Wepple, but... please. This is all Bachmannesque conspiracy theory. Here's what I wrote after Bachmann raised the issue back in September:

After the debate, she sent out "a fundraising appeal," as the WaPo reports, claiming that the HPV vaccine, already opposed on the right for supposedly promoting promiscuity, can lead to "mental retardation." There is good reason to call out Perry, who mandated the vaccine in Texas, for his connections to the vaccine's maker, the pharmaceutical giant Merck, but Bachmann's claim is completely unfounded, just the sort of claim you can expect from a rampant conspiracy theorist like her. Even if you're suspicious of Big Pharma (as I am), even if you think that some vaccines are unnecessary and possibly worse (as I do, though I'm hardly anti-pharma and consider most vaccines to be essential to good health), it takes a leap into the chasm of craziness to think that this particular vaccine, Gardisil, causes "mental retardation." There may be side effects, of course, as there are with all drugs, but Gardisil would appear to be safe. My conservative friend Ed Morrissey acknowledges this, and Dear Leader Rush actually said that Bachmann had jumped the shark (as if this was finally the last straw).

Of course in Bachmann's view, there is no shark.

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Giving Smokin' Joe Frazier his due

I've never been much of a boxing fan. My father watched it on television when I was a kid. I remember the big names from back then like Ali, Frazier, Forman, Spinks, and Holmes, and even some of the lesser lights like the Quarry brothers.

Actually, as recently as the 1970s boxing was fairly mainstream. Most would have been aware of the "Thrilla in Manila," which was one of the marquee bouts between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975. And though I am no boxing historian, going back even further into the '50s, '40s, and '30s, there was a certain, I don't know, perceived nobility to the fight game.

It's all crap, of course, grown men beating the snot out of each other for sport and illicit gambling purposes is as despicable as it sounds. And though professional boxing has long since fallen off the radar screen for a great many serious sports fans, I guess it still goes on. I certainly pay no attention to it.

Having said that, I was intrigued by Jessie Jackson's eulogy for boxing icon Joe Frazier, who died last week of liver cancer at the age of 67. Actually, what grabbed my attention was Jackson's comment that Philadelphia, Frazier's base of operations, had long ago erected a statue in honour of Rocky Balboa, a fictional movie character made up by Sylvester Stallone, but never bothered to do anything to honour Frazier, a real flesh-and-blood former Olympic and heavyweight champion of the world.

As The New York Times reported:

In his familiar, incantatory style, Jackson said that if Rocky, a fighter that existed only on the movie screen, deserved a statue in downtown Philadelphia, so did Frazier, a somewhat forgotten figure whose former gym in north Philadelphia is now a store that sells furniture and mattresses.

Apparently struck by the absurdity of it all, Michael A. Nutter, Philadelphia's mayor, has said he is working with the Frazier family to build a memorial, an idea, the Times indicated, "that seemed to gain momentum with the rhythm of Jackson's eulogy."

As Jackson continued:

Rocky is fictitious; Joe was reality. Rocky's fists are frozen in stone. Joe's fists were smokin'. Rocky never faced Ali or Holmes or Norton or Foreman. Rocky never tasted his own blood. Champions are made in the ring, not in the movies.

Okay, Jessie. Take a deep breath. But you do have a point. It's true that I really cannot imagine how anyone can justify boxing, a sport the goal of which is to literally incapacitate one's opponent to the point that he cannot go on, with bonus points if rendered unconscious.

But if Philadelphia insists on glorifying a well-known practitioner of the sport, better they should choose one who did the thing instead of one who pretended to do the thing.

The pugilistic arts are surely beyond redemption as an activity for civilized people, but fair is fair.

Not sure what all of this says about our culture, that we would rather honour make-believe, but it's nothing good.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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