Saturday, December 03, 2011

Cain quits, denying everything, Republican playbook in hand

Well, by now you've no doubt heard the news (if you pay any attention at all to U.S. politics): Herman Cain has "suspended" his campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination:

An unapologetic and defiant Herman Cain suspended his presidential campaign on Saturday, pledging that he "would not go away," even as he abandoned hope of winning the Republican nomination. Instead, Mr. Cain announced what he called a "Plan B," continued advocacy of his tax and foreign policy plans.

"As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign," Mr. Cain said. "Because of the continued distractions, the continued hurt caused on me and my family, not because we are not fighters. Not because I'm not a fighter."

First, by suspending his campaign he's not ending it. Which means he still wants money. Let's get that straight. As Marc Ambinder writes in a very good requiem for Cain, "Cain is not ENDING his campaign because he needs to raise money and will get federal matching funds (taxpayer money!) to help him with any debts in January." Is there anyone who still thinks he's a man of integrity?

Second, while he may not be going away, he's pretty much done as any sort of major public figure. He was a joke, most people knew he was a joke, his 9-9-9 tax reform plan was a joke, his foreign policy "views" are a joke, and no one with any sense is going to pay him any attention. (Unless he gets, say, a Fox News or other high-profile right-wing media gig, which remains a possibility -- though I supsect he'll ultimately fade back into obscurity, and sooner rather than later.) It's like when American Idol contestants say they have bright futures, even after they've been voted off the show. (Because the stupid judges unfairly keep telling them they're going far, because they've become celebrities, because their 15 minutes aren't quite over yet.) They don't. With only a few exceptions, they're done.

Third, this all played out so predictably. I actually thought he'd quit after all the harassment stories came out -- and after his numbers declined. Well, his numbers have certainly declined, but it took the Ginger White affair story to be the final straw. No, let me rephrase that. It was in a way the final straw but what it really was was the excuse he needed to get out of the race. He was never going to win the nomination, not with Karl Rove and others pointing out repeatedly that wasn't (and isn't) up to the job, and with his rivals (and even some of his friends) basically treating him like a moron with silly ideas and waiting for his time to be up (which they all knew was coming, which is why they never really bothered to go negative on him), and he was really only a contender for a brief time, but he had become a major figure in the GOP and needed the right time to get out with at least some of his credibility (at least among conservatives) still intact. That right time was today.

Fourth, please note that, like countless Republicans before him, he played the victimization card while blaming others for his troubles and refusing once again to take any responsibility for his actions. He keeps denying any and all wrongdoing regarding the multiple allegations of harassment and Ms. White's 13-year affair claim, and, again using the Republican playbook, lashes out at the media (i.e., the messenger), just like his pal Newt does.

So he talks about "continued distractions," though of course the only distraction has been the truth coming out and revealing just what sort of a person he is. And he talks about his and his family's "continued hurt" caused by others, but the real hurt isn't the revelation of the truth, the reporting of it in the media, but what he himself has done over the years to others. You want hurt? How about the women he mistreated, including Ms. White, whom he presumably kicked to the curb when she was no longer useful to him (i.e., when he decided to run for president)? How about the hurt he caused to his wife? How about the hurt he caused to his supporters, to all those people who took him at his word and actually believed he was a good man worthy of their support? Oh, no matter, it seems. Cain apparently thinks he's done nothing wrong. And that makes him a pathologically self-righteous thug.

The slow self-destruction of Herman Cain had been playing out for a long time.


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The Cain campaign is apparently over. So long, Herm.

(Ed. note: See also my post on Cain's announcement here. -- MJWS)

Unlike some people, I have a lot of respect for the political process and for politicians. I would prefer that good candidates make themselves available. I recognize that the task is a difficult one, but I am pleased that so many good people still present themselves to the American public for approval.

It saddens me when so many fools show up, when so many unqualified candidates insist on embarrassing themselves and us by their antics and shameful pasts. 

Herman Cain, one of the bigger fools to grace the national stage in a long time, seems to have had enough, as The New York Times reports:

An unapologetic and defiant Herman Cain suspended his presidential campaign on Saturday, pledging that he "would not go away," even as he abandoned hope of winning the Republican nomination. Instead, Mr. Cain announced what he called a "Plan B," continued advocacy of his tax and foreign policy plans.

"As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign," Mr. Cain said. "Because of the continued distractions, the continued hurt caused on me and my family, not because we are not fighters. Not because I'm not a fighter."

Herman, what happened here was done by you to yourself. What hurt came to your family is of your own doing. And I think Americans everywhere have heard enough about your tax policy an uninformed views on foreign affairs. Hell, I think you've proven yourself too stupid for Fox, and that's saying something.

It's over. Please don't come back.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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This day in music - December 3, 1966: The Monkees make their stage debut in Honolulu, HI

By Richard K. Barry 

I was a kid when The Monkees were big. I had no idea what good music was then. So, of course, I loved them. I watched the weekly television show when it originally aired and then on Saturdays when it went into re-runs. I apologize. I really do. 

As the story goes, the group was created for an NBC television show. 437 young men auditioned for the roles, mostly struggling musicians and actors. Steven Stills and John Sebastian both auditioned and were turned down.

Tork, Nesmith, Dolenz, Jones
The Monkees were: Mickey Dolenz, Peter Nesmith, Davey Jones, and Peter Tork. And I can assure you that I did not have to look those names up. I still remember them.

Fifty-eight episodes were made and it lasted only two seasons from 1966-1968. It's not hard to imagine that the idea for the fictional group came from the 1965 Beatles' movie A Hard Day's Night.

At first, the group did not play their own instruments -- their vocals were recorded over tracks recorded by a group of session musicians who played on many hits from the '60s. A turning point of sorts came in 1967 when they insisted on playing their own material and getting producer credit as well.

The Monkees were the object of scorn among some music fans who felt they were a product of deceptive corporate entertainment, taking up airspace that would be better suited to more authentic musicians. And they also kind of sucked.

I can't remember if they were called the "Prefab Four" back then or if that came latter with The Rutles. Good joke, in any case. 

Still, I loved them when I was eight years old. "Day Dream Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Mary, Mary." On the last one, and this always struck me as strange, I'm pretty sure the Paul Butterfield Blues Band recorded it.

Okay, to be absolutely fair, Monkees band member Michael Nesmith wrote "Mary, Mary," but mostly they didn't play their own instruments or write their own songs. Now we just call that American Idol.

In truth, I can still listen to The Monkees. Must be nostalgia blinding or deafening me. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Huntsman praises Cain, sacrifices last shred of credibility

Michael Stickings (@mjwstickings) has shared a Tweet with you:

"stevebruskCNN: Huntsman on Cain: unique and valuable voice to the debate over how to reform our country's uncompetitive tax code & turn around the economy"

I realize he's just trying to say nice things, but... seriously? Is he trying to win over a few Cain supporters? Or just trying to take the high road?

Whatever the case, it's pretty pathetic.

I thought better of Huntsman, the only relatively sane voice in the GOP field. So much for his credibility.

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Show me your papers!

By Capt. Fogg

" People are trying to use this to make the law look bad"
said the mayor of Leeds, Alabama, responding to the arrests of a Mercedes Benz director and a Honda manager for having only international drivers licenses rather than their German or Japanese cards in their pockets.

Well people won't have to try very hard, because Alabama looks bad enough without any help.
The demand that anyone looking or sounding 'foreign' carry certain papers, looks to me too much like those "racial origin" cards the Third Reich made people carry, but even if you disagree or think I'm being hyperbolic, it still looks paranoid, it looks stupid, it stinks of a very ugly past and it surely isn't going to help the state of Alabama attract the kind of foreign investment and employment opportunities it needs.

"We are the Show Me State, not the Show Me Your Papers State," writes the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
"You've got two choices. Either ask your executives to carry their immigration papers at all times, or move to a state that understands gemütlichkeit."

" We’re going to enforce the laws of state of Alabama”
says the mayor of Leeds, like a character from a Victor Hugo novel. Well you go ahead Javert. Crops are already rotting in the fields of Alabama because if you're of a racial or ethnic minority, it just ain't worth it and the construction industry is falling apart too. Other states would be happy to have those billions of dollars and thousands of jobs pack up and move elsewhere in Free America.

(Cr0ss posted from Human Voices)


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Republicans against Newt: The emerging campaign to destroy the Gingrich campaign

Well, you had to know it was coming...

With Newt Gingrich actually threatening to take the Republican presidential nomination, the establishment, led by the likes of Karl Rove (who has previously taking it upon himself to destroy Rick Perry), is all set to do whatever it takes to knock him down. It'll be a trickle at first, a mild criticism here and there, a couple of harsh words, but then it will broaden into an all-out effort to make sure he doesn't win.

When Representative Peter King called me between votes on Thursday afternoon to talk about his party's current presidential front-runner, Newt Gingrich, he joked that the conversation would ruin his day, but that he would "try to be even-handed."

He duly started out with the nice stuff.

"First of all, we would not have won the House back if it weren't for Newt," King said. "He did have a vision. We had that first 100 days with the Contract with America. We got through at least ten pieces of legislation. He certainly provided direction at the start."

But, King said, "The problem was, over a period of time, he couldn't stay focused. He was undisciplined. Too often, he made it about himself."

Whatever else you want to call King (supporter of terrorism, anti-Muslim bigot), there's no denying that he's a GOP establishmentarian, an old-school northeasterner with connections to the various moneyed interests that run the party -- or at least used to. And in going after Newt, giving him a warm embrace (he once did great things for the GOP) but then sticking the knife in (he's an egomaniacal maniac with no shot of winning the general election), he's clearly playing the role of establishment surrogate. Mitt Romney must have smiled when he heard this, if he wasn't in on it. He is, after all, the establishment pick.

As long as the Newt surge continues, as long as Newt remains a real threat to take the nomination, look for much more of this in the days and weeks ahead. (It's one thing for Ron Paul to run an anti-Newt ad, quite another, and much more dangerous for Gingrich, for the establishment to launch an anti-Newt campaign.)

The establishment is clearly scared shitless, and Newt's recent meteoric rise has made it piss its pants.

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Donald Trump to "moderate" Republican debate

Crazy, you say? Yes. No doubt.

I'm not sure Trump can moderate anything, because anything Trump is involved with is, by definition, about Trump, and it's hard to see how he doesn't completely dominate this event and overwhelm the candidates.

So what is it all about? As usual, Jon Huntsman proves to be the lone voice of sense in the GOP wilderness of madness:

The conservative news magazine Newsmax announced Friday that it would co-sponsor a Republican presidential debate moderated by media personality and real estate tycoon Donald Trump on Dec. 27th in Des Moines, Ia., but they may have trouble convincing candidates to show up.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is the first to send his regrets.

"We look forward to watching Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich suck up to Trump with a big bowl of popcorn," Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller told Yahoo News. 

It's not going to be pretty. But I suppose train wrecks like this do indeed have some morbid appeal.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

This day in music - December 2, 1957: Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" hits #1

Cooke had 29 Top-40 hits in the U.S. between 1957 and 1964. Major hits like "A Change is Gonna Come," "Cupid," "Chain Gang," "Wonderful World," and "Twistin' the Night Away" are some of his most popular songs.

Cooke died at the age of 33 on December 11, 1964, at a motel in Los Angeles. Bertha Franklin, manager of the motel, told police that she shot and killed Cooke in self-defense because he had attacked her. Police found Cooke's body in Franklin's apartment-office, clad only in a sports jacket and shoes, but no shirt, pants or underwear. The shooting was ultimately ruled a justifiable homicide.

A strange death of one of the great talents in popular music. 

"You Send Me" was one of his best. 

(Cross-posted Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Un-Christmas 2011: When the shitter was full

It feels like I'm under assault. It's only December 2 today, but already Christmas is upon us. In fact, it's been upon us for some time now, and it seems to be getting earlier and earlier every year.

Our local Santa parade was almost three weeks ago.

My kids are all about their advent calendars and counting down the days.

Our tree will likely go up this weekend. Try as I might, I just can't hold out much longer.

The Starbucks I go to downtown has been decked out in holiday decorations, adult-contemporary Christmas music polluting our ears, for a while now. I assume this is true of all Starbuckses. (Yes, I caved and got myself a gingerbread latte last week. It was okay.)

Black Friday was last Friday. Even more rampant and irresponsible consumerism than usual was unleashed. TV ads are telling you you're a bad person if you don't spend rampantly and irresponsibly on various things you surely don't need.

And Richard informs us that he's going heavy on the Christmas-related posts this holiday season.

Look, don't get me wrong, I like Christmas. Or, rather, I like Christmas without the Christ in it, the traditions that we have developed without any religion in them at all. Which is to say, I like the holiday season. It's nice. Especially when you have kids. And I'll get in the spirit eventually.

But let's push back a little. Let's respond to all this way-too-early Christmasification of our lives with some blatant irreverence.

I happen to think that the best Christmas movie ever is Bad Santa (specifically the unrated version, Badder Santa). My buddy Robert (also known as our occasional International Sports Reporter) argues that it might just be Christmas Vacation (which I find amusing but generally mediocre). They're both certainly irreverent, including this admittedly amusing (Robert finds it absolutely hilarious) scene from the latter -- watch it below.

I'll post something from Bad Santa soon. Let's keep the irreverence coming. We need an antidote to all the Christmas spirit.


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Gingrich says "really poor children" don't know how to make money unless "it's illegal"

You'll recall that Newt Gingrich came out a couple of weeks ago in support of child labor as a way to deal with poverty. Well, now he's making gross generalizations about poor children that feed right into the right-wing view of poverty not as a systemic problem implicating a greed-oriented socio-economic structure and those on the top (the 1%, including Newt himself) but as individual and community failure (particularly when "poor children" is just another way of saying black children):

"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday," Gingrich said.

"They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of 'I do this and you give me cash' unless it's illegal."

Gingrich said every successful person he knows started working at an early age in explaining his position that schools should hire poor children in their neighborhoods for part-time jobs as assistant librarians or assistant janitors. 

Again, there's a difference between saying all young people benefit from working part-time jobs, like having a paper route or something, and picking on poor children and saying they should be forced to work. And what Newt, supposedly the GOP's in-house intellectual, is saying about poor children isn't just misguided, it's utterly despicable. He probably believes it, but of course he's also playing right to the conservative prejudice against the poor, the deeply entrenched conservative view, dominant throughout the GOP, that the poor are a bunch of violent criminals out to take your stuff -- and that the poor are deservedly poor for not being better people, people like Newt and his ilk. Here's the WaPo's Jonathan Capehart:

A lot can be said about the plight of families unlucky enough not to make $60,000 for a half-hour of bloviation or about their equally unlucky children who are deprived delightful cruises through the Greek isles. But Gingrich's blanket condemnation of "really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods" is unbelievably disgusting. And it's disrespectful of the overwhelming majority of those children and their families who live their lives with far more integrity and far less cash than Gingrich ever will. 

Newt is all about the 1% and against the 99%. And especially against those on the very bottom who usually through no fault of their own are struggling just to find food and a roof over their heads.

Truly disgusting, indeed. But all too believable coming from such a "know-it-all" piece of plutocratic shit.

And so very telling, as Laura Clawson writes at Kos, that "[t]his is what a Republican presidential candidate on the upswing chooses to help him continue his ascent." In the Republican Party, after all, race-baiting and pissing on the poor can take you right to the top.

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Iowa high school students debate Michele Bachmann over same-sex marriage

Two Iowa high school students, Jane Schmidt and Ella Newell, admirably challenged Michele Bachmann on same-sex marriage (and her opposition to it) at a campaign event yesterday:

BACHMANN: Well, No. 1, all of us as Americans have the same rights. The same civil rights. And so that's really what government's role is, to protect our civil rights. There shouldn't be any special rights or special set of criteria based upon people's preferences. We all have the same civil rights.

JANE SCHMIDT: Then, why can't same-sex couples get married?

BACHMANN: They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they're a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they're a man.

JANE SCHMIDT: Why can't a man marry a man?

BACHMANN: Because that's not the law of the land.

Bachmann's legalistic opposition to same-sex marriage is silly. Is the law always right? What if the law says, for example, that Jews are not allowed to own property. Would Jews not being allowed to own property be right just because that's what the law is? Of course not. Law is convention. It is made by human beings and is therefore imperfect, and often wrong.

Now, same-sex marriage is actually legal in some states now, including Iowa. Does this mean that Bachmann is fine with it in Iowa but not in a state that forbids it? Of course not. She was being either ignorant, dishonest, or some combination of the two. In truth, she opposes it everywhere. Because she's a bigot. And all her talk of "tolerance," by which of course she means tolerance for "religious-based values" (i.e., bigotry), is bullshit.

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Herman Cain says his wife didn't know about the whole Ginger White thing

And the lies keep spewing:

Herman Cain acknowledged Thursday that he repeatedly gave Ginger White money to help her with "month-to-month bills and expenses" without telling his wife of more than 40 years.

In fact, the embattled presidential candidate said, his wife, Gloria, "did not know that we were friends until she (White) came out with this story" alleging that the two had a 13-year extramarital affair.

In his most candid interview since the latest allegations emerged, Cain adamantly maintained that he and White were no more than friends.

Who gives money for "month-to-month bills and expenses" (whatever the latter even means) to someone who is just a friend? Is it really likely that Cain kept this from his wife even though, as he claims, it wasn't an affair? Then just what was he hiding? An innocent friendship with a woman? That hardly seems likely.

And, really, no more than friends? Isn't it possible that she came forward not so much because she "felt bad" for the women Cain had sexually harassed and was now attacking, as she initially claimed, but because Cain had cut off the affair and, with it, the financial support? (The AJC is reporting that "[j]ust days before coming forward with allegations of a 13-year affair with Herman Cain, Ginger White was repeatedly having contact with the presidential candidate, according to her cellphone records.)

I don't mean to suggest that White has done anything wrong. Perhaps she just felt hurt after years of playing Cain's mistress. Cain does, after all, seem to have a long history of using and abusing women. The issue here isn't about her but about him. He has presented himself as a "family values" candidate, as morally upstanding along religious right lines. But all we seem to be getting from him is dishonesty, a covering up of his past (his recent past included). Normally I'd say such matters should remain private, that an affair like this is no one's business (whether it was sexual or not), but such hypocrisy and dishonesty shouldn't be excused.

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Newt Gingrich and the new Camelot

Michael Stickings (@mjwstickings) has shared a Tweet with you:

"jaketapper: On @GMA this morning - Gingrich on a First Lady Calista: Nancy Reagan + Laura Bush, with a Dash of Jackie Kennedy"

Wow, he's a self-aggrandizing twit even when it comes to his (third) wife.

Jackie? Really? I had no idea Callista had so much... grace.

(Is it possible to have just a dash of grace? What do you think, Mr. Pitt?)

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

World AIDS Day

In August 1994, when I was living and working in Petoskey, Michigan, I received a phone call from Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood, asking me if I would write a short play for their Troupe Teen Theatre group for World AIDS Day 1994. The troupe, made up of local high school students, would perform the play on World AIDS Day and then take it on the road to high schools around northern Michigan. The theme was AIDS education and awareness. I replied, "Sure," and promptly forgot about it.

At the end of October, I received another phone call from the troupe's director, telling me that the first rehearsal would be the next afternoon and that the troupe was really looking forward to reading the play. I gulped, got the time of the rehearsal, and booted up my reliable old Apple IIc. Within an hour I batted out a twenty-page manuscript, proofed it, and ran to the copy center next door.

I have a reputation in my writing -- deserved or otherwise -- for being able to get it right the first time. I got through college and both grad schools turning in first drafts, and the only research paper I remember doing in more than one draft was my doctoral thesis. This play, which I titled Here's Hoping, was the same. The kids read it the next day and loved it, and other than some minor changes for scientific accuracy, the play went on pretty much as I wrote it that October afternoon.

It's the story of an AIDS support group meeting in a church basement, not unlike an Al-Anon meeting (with which I had recent experience at the time). All of the participants are supporting AIDS victims, including a college student with an HIV-positive boyfriend, a young couple with a child infected by a blood transfusion, and a widow of AIDS.  Into this mix comes a straight-laced couple pushed into the group by the illness of a son they cast out several years ago. The group meets their challenge and their needs.

All of the people in the group are based on people I knew -- and still know. Some are gone, but most are still with us. The play is dedicated to them and their memories.

The play was well-received, and, as far as I know, the Troupe Teen Theatre is still using it. I gave them permission to use the play for as long as they want to without paying royalties. Ironically, it's the only play of mine that is in regular production, but it's the least I could do.

Today I remember the friends who I've lost to this scourge: childhood friends like Mark, colleagues like Stephen, Matt, David, and Scott, and those who keep fighting, growing ever stronger in their resolve to win.


If you would like a free copy of Here's Hoping in PDF format, drop me a note via e-mail (mustangbobby (at) barkbarkwoofwoof (dot) com).  If you would like to use it for a production, I will waive royalties as long as the performance is conducted under standard contract terms of The Dramatists Guild and as long as the proceeds go to your local AIDS charity.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Gingrich likes what he sees

Michael Stickings (@mjwstickings) has shared a Tweet with you:

"fivethirtyeight: Newt: 'It's very hard not to look at the recent polls... the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee'"

Self-aggrandizing arrogance has never been in short supply for The Newt, has it?

But you know what? He may be right. Things are looking very good for him at the moment.

In related news, yes, the world does indeed appear to have gone completely mad.

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This day in music - December 1, 1987: The Supreme Court upholds the sacking of a Kentucky teacher for showing her class Pink Floyd's The Wall

Sometimes you come across these little bits of information on the web, and you really have to make sure it's not an Onion-type send up. But, no, this appears to be real.

In December of 1987, a Kentucky teacher lost her appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court over her sacking after showing Pink Floyd's film The Wall to her class. The court decided that the film was not suitable for minors with its bad language and sexual content.

I found a very interesting discussion of the case at a website called The First Amendment Center. This concerned the Sixth Circuit ruling on the case, but the same legal principles no doubt applied for the Supreme Court.

The comment below was in response to a question asking if a teacher could be punished for teaching subjects school officials or parents deem unsuitable:

Probably. Teachers must remember that most courts consistently rule that teachers do not have a First Amendment right to trump the curriculum mandated by the school board. Furthermore, some courts take a narrow view of what constitutes "communicative conduct" that implicates the First Amendment.

For example, the Sixth Circuit ruled that school officials did not violate the First Amendment rights of a teacher when they fired her for showing the R-rated movie Pink Floyd -- The Wall in her classroom. Even though the Supreme Court has determined since the 1950s that movies are a form of expression protected by the First Amendment, the Sixth Circuit determined that the teacher's conduct in showing the R-rated movie was not "expressive or communicative, under the circumstances presented."

And besides all that, we wouldn't want students exposed to themes like alienation, social isolation, drug use, marital infidelity, and violence. Best to keep shit like that out of the classroom and leave it on the street where it belongs. Better they should muddle their way through the really big questions in life without any help. They don't need no education like that. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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President Obama's match-up vs. Romney and Gingrich

At The Hedgehog Report, a site dedicated to political polls, David Wissing took a shot at what a general election match-up would look like between Romney and Obama, and then between Gingrich and Obama.

Based on the most recent state-by-state polling data, Electoral College tallies look like this (it takes 270 to win):

Romney – 256
Obama – 256
Tie – 26

Obama – 451
Gingrich – 76
Tie – 11

As the website Race for 2012 warns:

Of course, the usual caveats apply: most of these polls are from PPP, since they are the only outfit polling a lot of these states, and so the results should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, some of the polls are older (Obama v Gingrich in Colorado hasn't been polled since February, for instance).

Still, it does give us a sense of how difficult it will be for the GOP if Gingrich somehow prevails.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Target Newt: Ron Paul airs ad slamming Gingrich as a serial hypocrite

When you're on top, people try to bring you down.

Actually, while this may be a general rule, it hasn't really applied to the 2012 Republican presidential race. Romney has been at or near the top more or less throughout the campaign so far, but he has, interestingly enough, avoided the vicious attacks one might have expected. Even Romneycare, his (deeply unpopular among Republicans) proto-Obamacare health reform in Massachusetts, has been spared. Sure, Rick Perry went after it in a TV ad aired in October, but people didn't seem to care, and it continues to be one of the surprises of this campaign that it hasn't been a dominant issue, the main target of the various anti-Romneys who have alternated as Romney's main rival.

But there's a reason for this, and it's that the anti-Romneys have all been incredibly weak, rising and falling quickly: Michele Bachmann, Perry, Herman Cain. They've been struggling so much either to get to the top or to stay there that they haven't had the comfort of launching a sustained attack on Romney from a position of security.

Plus, they've all been so incredibly incompetent. Bachmann is the best communicator of the three, I suppose, she wasn't Romney's main rival for long, and it certainly wasn't long before her message imploded, her campaign right along with it. Perry is a terrible communicator whose campaign has been a string of gaffes and embarrassments. Cain can only communicate simple things and has no political capacity whatsoever for anything other than self-aggrandizing inanity, and of course his campaign, ever since he gained some notoriety as a possibly serious contender, has been plagued by scandal, stupidity, and ineptitude. All of this has allowed Romney to remain above the fray, deeply unpopular with Republicans but on top because the anti-Romney constituency that dominates the GOP has been fractured, unable and unwilling to get behind a credible alternative.

Until now.

Until Newt.

And it looks like he might just pull this off.

(And, yes, I still can't believe it's come to this. Like many others, I'd written him off long ago.)

The way things are going, the race will come down to Romney and Gingrich, with Ron Paul likely still around as the libertarian alternative with a small but enthusiastic base in the party. At some point, that is, Romney will have to join the fray. He'll be pulled in, regardless. And once he's secure as the anti-Romney, Gingrich will no doubt turn his attention to trying to bring down Romney. But that's down the road, perhaps after Gingrich firmly establishes his position by doing well in Iowa, the the next battlefield in Romney's backyard of New Hampshire. Then things could get nasty.

For now, though, it's the others with no hope at all of winning who are aiming their sights at those at the top. We've seen Jon Huntsman do it in presenting himself as the only reasonable alternative to the extremism that dominates the Republican presidential field, but now it's Paul taking the initiative with a blistering assault on... Newt Gingrich:

Texas Rep. Ron Paul is tearing into Republican presidential rival Newt Gingrich with a new web ad that ranks among the most scathing of the year.

Hitting similar themes that the Democrats used earlier this week with a video highlighting Mitt Romney's litany of flip-flops, the Paul campaign blasts the former House speaker in a video entitled: "Newt Gingrich: Serial Hypocrisy."

Largely using news clips from recent weeks, the ad seeks to paint Mr. Gingrich as a paid hatchet man for the health-care industry and the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. It is also heavy with clips of conservative icons such as Rush Limbaugh and Rep. Paul Ryan taking swipes at Mr. Gingrich’s positions.

The video will not run on television. But the Paul campaign is promising to send it "to a far-reaching email list of conservative voters nationally, including in key early voting states."

Newt has certainly provided a lot of material over the years. He used to care about climate change, for example, and he actually has somewhat humane views on immigration, and earlier this year he even went after Republican wunderkind Paul Ryan, calling Ryan's budget plan "radical" and "right-wing social engineering" before ultimately caving in, apologizing, and betting for forgiveness. He may not have quite the unacceptable past that Romney does (he's certainly never been a moderate, not even close; a good term for him might be "eccentric conservative"), and he may not be quite as shameless a political opportunist as Romney is (though he certainly is one, flipping and flopping on a wide variety of issues, including notably the military campaign in Libya this year), but there's a lot for his opponents to exploit.

And now that he's the co-frontrunner with Romney, and even on top in some states, building his campaign as quickly as possible now that he's actually got a shot, he's an obvious target. Maybe Paul thinks it will soon be his turn at the top and is only trying to expedite Gingrich's inevitable collapse. Whatever the case, it will never be Paul, and a Gingrich collapse would only mean an easier Romney win, but nonetheless Paul's efforts to go after Gingrich are significant. They indicate that Gingrich is indeed a genuine contender to be reckoned with, that Gingrich will have to start playing defence, and that the race, with the voting set to start just over a month from now, is about to get a whole lot uglier.

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Cain's support would go to Gingrich

Public Policy Polling (PPP) has just gone into the field in Florida and Montana, and early indications are that New Gingrich is likely going to have a double-digit lead in both states. The polling firm also says that his support has not peaked.

Significantly, PPP indicates that with Herman Cain perhaps poised to drop out of the race, Gingrich's surge should continue for a while, assuming he doesn't shoot himself in the foot, which is a big assumption.

A key piece of information from their polling is that Cain supporters love Newt and hate Mitt:

Our last national survey found that Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters was 73/21. Meanwhile Romney's was 33/55. That's the same basic trend we've seen in every Republican primary poll we've done in the month of November. On average in 7 polls we've done this month Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters is 69/22. Romney's average is 31/57. In other words Gingrich's net favorability is 73 points better with Cain supporters than Romney's.

This gets us into that all-important second choice dynamic so essential in nomination battles. Not only is Romney stuck at fairly mediocre levels of support, but his opportunity for growth, once lesser candidates either bail out or become less viable, is limited.

Gingrich is coming on anyway, and if Cain goes away Newt will get much of that support.

I know many of us have been beating this point to death for months, but this Republican nomination race is not political business-as-usual. Voter preference does not appear to be motivated by a rational calculation of who can best take on Obama. The level of ideological fervor in this election may mean that many right-wing voters will be incapable of supporting a relative centrist like Romney.

And, after shopping around for months, they could be coming around to Gingrich, a candidate they believe to be consistently on the right who doesn't misspeak every second time he opens his mouth.

Once again, we are seeing evidence that Romney could be in more trouble than most of us thought.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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No One Could Have Forseen This Coming

By Carl
Dispossessed families, foreclosed from too-big homes, living in their next largest asset: the family car.

Never has unemployment been so high for so long. And as a result, more than 16 million kids are living in poverty - the most since 1962. It's worst where the construction industry collapsed. And one of those places is central Florida.

We went there eight months ago to meet families who'd become homeless for the first time in their lives. So many were living day-to-day that school buses changed their routes to pick up all the kids living in cheap motels. We called the story "Hard Times Generation."

Now, we've gone back to see how things have changed. It turns out some families are losing their grip on the motels and discovering the homeless shelters are full. Where do they go then? They keep up appearances by day and try to stay out of sight at night - holding on to one another in a hidden America - a place you wouldn't notice unless you ran into the people that we met in the moments before dawn.

But hey, those one-percenters, they have their yachts and second and third homes to live in if by some queer freak chance, they were foreclosed on by the banks, right?

Look, I don't want to sound alarmist, but I think the country...the in deeper trouble than anyone realistically wants to admit. We seem to be devolving from a middle class society, with strong middle class values and an economy dependent on our middle class for both production and consumption, into an almost feudal serfdom, with itinerant workers grabbing scraps of work where they can and putting down their heads wherever they can.

Desperation sets in and pretty soon all sorts of behavior becomes the norm in places where there is no security, no safety net. Right whingers complain about the Occupy movement, claiming it's just a bunch of shiftless, spoiled kids who ought to take a bath and get a job. But as the people in the linked piece demonstrate, nearly all of them want to work, want to be productive members of society, but society has been slowly closing the gates on productive work paying a living wage that anyone can do in favor of the affluent and their minions.

It's going to stop, to be sure. and if the Right Whingers think Occupy is a sham movement fronting for socialism, well, they ain't seen nothing yet. The hungry, the destitute, the desperate, once they begin to march, they won't be polite. They won't be respectful. They won't merely shout and obstuct, they will be violent and raging, and tearing things up and down.

Once those folks no longer have homes and jobs and prospects for work, they will turn their attention on those who do. Human survival, ultimately, comes down to ensuring your own personal survival first. This is what I would call "the capitalism of the cave."

If economic capitalism is defined as each individual acting in his own self-interest contributing to the greater good, the cave-capitalism will be equally cold-blooded. If economic competition is defined as being that much better than your rival, cave-competition is going to incorporate that, but on a scale that will not be limited to lawful means of satisfying your self-interest.

There will be no safe places. I don't care how carefully guarded your gated community is, or how many security cameras you have or attack dogs. At the end of the day, if fifty starving people swarm your walls, maybe five or ten will be caught. That still leaves forty to ransack your home, steal your car and things, and eat your food.

The Statue of Liberty has a line in its commemoration plaque:

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Translated to 21st Century language, it says "We were kicked out of all the cool countries because we didn't fit in with their notion of proper society."

You really expect their descendants to be any different?

The great liberal, John F. Kennedy, wrote in Profiles In Courage, "A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality."

But he also said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

This is not a war the 99% choose to wage, but we are willing to battle.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)


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Gingrich surges in Florida

In Florida, a new poll from The Florida Times-Union shows Gingrich outpacing the Republican presidential field in that state with 41% support. Mitt Romney is well back with 17%:

Newt Gingrich is the current favorite in Florida's Jan. 31 Republican presidential primary, picking up supporters who fled Herman Cain to claim 41 percent in a poll conducted Tuesday night for The Florida Times-Union.

Gingrich has as much support as the next four candidates combined in the telephone survey of 513 registered voters who say they're likely to cast ballots in the primary. The poll, conducted by InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research, has a margin of error of 4 percent.

As I've noted, Cain's loss is Gingrich's gain. And Romney continues to stumble.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cain says it's everyone else's fault

Michael Stickings (@mjwstickings) has shared a Tweet with you: "jaketapper: Cain email: 'It's no secret that the Democrat Party + their surrogates in the mainstream media are out to derail Herman Cain's candidacy...'"

Yes, I'll admit it. We all conspired to persuade Cain to harass, grope, and generally disrespect women, to have a long-term affair, and to wallow in shameless hypocrisy, not to mention to look like a fool throughout this entire campaign. We devised that whole 9-9-9 idiocy and held his tongue while he struggled to remember what Libya was all about.

Once more, we see that Cain refuses to take responsibility for anything and everything. It's always someone else's fault. And this will be his bullshit narrative when he quits the race.

He's as unpresidential as he is stupid.

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This day in music - November 30, 1977: Big Crosby and David Bowie perform "Little Drummer Boy" and "Peace on Earth" on Crosby's Christmas special

I am well aware of the danger of getting totally sick of Christmas before we even get into December, but please indulge me on this one. I love that Bing Crosby-David Bowie duet that we have all seen so many times. For the record, this unusual performance was part of Bing Crosby's annual Christmas special in November of 1977 and, I'm sure you would agree, has become a classic.

I'll try to keep the Christmas music posts to a minimum -- or maybe I won't. I haven't decided.

(Ed. note: I'll do my best to keep things under control. -- MJWS)

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Christie calls Obama "bystander" on supercommittee failure, displays characteristic idiocy

In case you missed it, New Jersey Governor (and all-around bully and blowhard) Chris Christie slammed President Obama on Monday:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ripped President Obama for the failure of the debt supercommittee, calling the president "a bystander in the Oval Office" in comments Monday.

"I was angry this weekend, listening to the spin coming out of the administration, about the failure of the supercommittee, and that the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn't get involved. Well, then what the hell are we paying you for?" Christie said in Camden, N.J. "It's doomed for failure, so I'm not getting involved'? Well, what have you been doing, exactly?"

This is complete and utter bullshit, as Steve Benen explained yesterday:

The New Jersey governor added that he's "astonished" that the president "refuses" to just call people into a room and solve problems. This is the kind of criticism the media finds compelling, but which is nevertheless idiotic.

The president has tried every negotiating tactic that exists to get congressional Republicans to work on finding solutions. Obama has tried hands-on talks; he's tried keeping his distance. The president has tried hard sells and soft sells, directly and indirectly. He's made private appeals and public appeals. He's made arguments based on policy, polls, and principles. He's tried charm offensives, combativeness, and everything in between. He's made partisan, bipartisan, tripartisan, and nonpartisan arguments, all in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, GOP leaders will be open to good-faith compromise.

And yet, nothing has worked. Nothing. 

Obama isn't blameless, to be sure, but he should be blamed for being so willing not just to compromise with Republicans but to agree to a deal that leans heavily Republican. He should not be blamed for not trying to reach a deal. If anything, he's gone out of his way, much to the ongoing chagrin of progressives, to get a deal done. (Actually, he hasn't really gone out of his way. It's more that his way isn't the progressive way.)

If there is blame to be assigned here, and there most certainly is, it is the Republicans who must be blamed. There hasn't been a deal only because, being anti-tax absolutists, they have been absolutely unwilling to budge on revenue increases even when the president, with Democratic support, has offered them massive spending cuts even to major entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

The president has been anything but a bystander throughout this whole mad exercise, from the debt ceiling talks through to the supercommittee (which was never going to reach a deal, let's be honest; it was just for show). And for Christie to call him that is just plain ignorant.

(Yes, let's make him our Craziest Republican of the Day.)


Nice location for some gubernatorial remarks. What is that behind his right shoulder, a big jar of garlic powder?

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Apple's Siri for iPhone is anti-abortion (and not terribly supportive of women's reproductive health generally)

I realize that Siri, the much-ballyhooed AI "personal assistant" for the iPhone is a work-in-progress and, from what I understand, produces some, er, interesting results when you ask it something, but it would appear that, with respect to women's reproductive health at least, it has a decidedly right-wing bent:

Ask the Siri, the new iPhone 4 assistant, where to get an abortion, and, if you happen to be in Washington, D.C., she won't direct you to the Planned Parenthood on 16th St, NW. Instead, she'll suggest you pay a visit to the 1st Choice Women's Health Center, an anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) in Landsdowne, Virginia, or Human Life Services, a CPC in York, Pennsylvania. Ask Google the same question, and you'll get ads for no less than 7 metro-area abortion clinics, 2 CPCs and a nationwide abortion referral service.

Ask in New York City, and Siri will tell you "I didn't find any abortion clinics."

It's an experience that's being replicated by women around the country: despite plentiful online information about actual places to get an abortion, Siri doesn't seem to provide it. It's a similar experience for women seeking emergency contraception: in New York City, Siri doesn't know what Plan B is and, asked for emergency contraception, offers up a Google results page of definitions.

Was this intentional? It's hard to see how it could not be -- how could Planned Parenthood not be Siri's first answer? -- and it reminds me that I was probably right to get a new Android phone last week instead of an iPhone (though I do have an iPod and use iTunes).

It could be that Siri was programmed so as not to be seen to be an enabler of abortion (though of course this would also mean it was programmed to be extremely conservative on women's health and "opposed," if it can be understood that way, to abortion rights. I really don't know. Maybe there's some other reason for it. But it looks awfully suspicious.


Apparently Siri doesn't know much about gay marriage or mammograms either.


Now, while Siri may be on the right on women's health, it is decidedly libertarian on other matters. Apparently it will direct you to find Viagra, pot, strippers, and a blow job. All you have to do is ask.

Good times.


Yes, I realize that 2001's HAL 9000 is supposed to represent IBM, which is decidedly not Apple. But of course there wasn't Apple at the time and, well, the connection between HAL and Siri is just too obvious to ignore.

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Cain: "Stupid people are ruining America."

Michael Stickings (@mjwstickings) has shared a Tweet with you: "TheFix: 'Stupid people are ruining America.' -- Herman Cain."

He's right, of course. He just doesn't quite grasp the irony.

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Mitt Romney: To know, know, know him is to dislike him

Professional politicos will say that polls come and go and that the only poll that counts is the one on election day. Yes, we've all heard them say that. But what really matters in polling is trending. I'm no expert in the dismal science of public opinion surveys, but I know what tracking polls are. They plot performance over time. And that tells you where things are likely headed, which is a very useful piece of information in politics.

On that point, Public Policy Polling (PPP) released an analysis of polling they have done over time on Mitt Romney's favourability rating, which is basically the extent to which people like him. Here's what they had to say:

You want to know the biggest reason Mitt Romney hasn't surged at any point in the Republican Presidential race this year? It's because the more GOP primary voters across the country have been exposed to him, the less they like him.

There are 13 places PPP has polled the Republican race in October or November where it also did a poll sometime between January and March. In those places Romney's net favourability has dropped by an average of 15 points over the course of the year.

Mitt Romney waving goodbye
PPP also notes that as all the other pretenders have risen and fallen over time, Romney hasn't seen any increase in his support. In fact, just the opposite. When GOP voters have gotten tired of Trump or Bachmann or Perry or Cain, they have not shifted their support to Romney, as one would assume given how often most of us talk about the fact that he simply has to be the nominee. The Republican segment of the electorate, it seems, disagrees.

Romney's support has been moving away from him and then moving to a variety of candidates over time never to return to the former Governor of Massachusetts.

Does this mean he won't win the nomination? I don't know. I still can't imagine Newt Gingrich as the nominee, although I'd like to because Obama would kick his ass. For Romney to win, Republicans will have to hold their noses and vote for him anyway, though they have made it clear they would rather not.

In any case, when the most remarkable feature of your so-called front-running candidate is in the fact that the more voters see of him the less they like him, it's time to make a change. Of course, Republicans have done nothing but change horses and to no avail.

It remains to be seen where Gingrich's votes will go when his support tanks, as it inevitably will. Odds are it won't be to Romney.

My favourite  pastime of the past several weeks has been to game scenarios in which Romney fails to win the GOP nomination. Guess it could happen.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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