Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rick Santorum still hopeful in Iowa -- and why is that again?

My favorite headline of the day is "Rick Santorum predicts last minute surge." You almost never see headlines that read, like, "Rick Santorum says he's 'whistling past the graveyard in Iowa' and may drop out soon," although Pawlenty's wife pretty much said that kind of thing about Tim's campaign just before he went away. I thought that was refreshing at the time.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Santorum and Huntsman, who are the only two candidates not yet to have actually had a national breakout moment. Even undeclared posers like Trump and Palin have had those. (You might say that Ron Paul has also languished, but his consistent group of true believers at least gives him something to work with).

It's true that Santorum got the best news of his campaign a few days ago when Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz endorsed him. Speaking of his preferred candidate, Schultz said, "I tend to like underdogs, and slow and steady wins the race." If Schultz likes slow, he's got to love Santorum, whose campaign has also been steadily weak.

Just to pick one survey for the sake of illustration, The Washington Post and ABC News conducted a poll between November 30 and December 4, with a random sample of 858 potential Iowa Republican caucus-goers.

Among likely caucus-goers, Gringrich leads with 33%; Romney and Paul are tied for second with 18%; Perry is at 11%; Bachmann is at 8% -- and then comes Rick Santorum at 7%. He is ahead of Huntsman, but only Huntsman, who is trailing the pack at 2%. Huntsman does beat "none of the above" (barely) but trails "no opinion" by a point.

As I've commented previously, there are many reasons candidates with no realistic chance of getting a presidential nomination choose to run. It's always interesting to guess when each might drop out, or who is going to be next. Just guessing, but are Bachmann and Santorum out after Iowa and Huntsman after New Hampshire? Paul will stay in because he is a zealot with a message, and I have no idea what to make of Perry. They say he can always find money, so maybe that keeps him in past his due date.

Then again, they are all so addicted to seeing their names in the paper, there is no telling how long we'll have to suffer the larger pack.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Rand Paul slams Newt, says he's "not even a conservative"

Writing today at The Des Moines Register, extreme Teabagging Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, son of renegade libertarian Republican Ron Paul, pulls no punches in going after GOP presidential frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich:

Unfortunately, while all Republican candidates would be an improvement over the present administration, two of the current frontrunners simply do not represent the tea party, the conservative movement, or the type of change our country desperately needs in 2012. 

Let me begin with the most obvious reasons:

Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich supported the outrageous $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, bailouts — "one of the most unpopular government programs in American history," even according to President Obama's own Treasury Department.

Both Romney and Gingrich have been outspoken and unapologetic supporters of the individual mandate. This is the heart and soul of ObamaCare.

Since the tea party started as a reaction to Republicans who voted for TARP, and was strengthened into a national political force during the fight over ObamaCare, I believe this disqualifies both Romney and Gingrich from tea party support.

And then he specifically targets Gingrich, who "began his career as a Rockefeller Republican from the liberal wing of the party" and whose "heart is still there," who was a lobbyist for Freddie Mac, and... well, you get the picture. Basically, "Gingrich is not from the tea party" and "is not even a conservative." He's a member of "the Washington establishment" and "has been wrong on many of the major issues of the day."

Most of this is ridiculous. As a long-time lawmaker, Gingrich certainly has a more nuanced record than an ideologue like Paul, who just arrived on a scene a few years ago. And, sure, Gingrich has been pragmatic, allying with Democrats at times and also taking positions out of line with right-wing Republican orthodoxy, and particularly out of line with Tea Party extremism. But he's still a conservative, whatever his occasional lapses on issues such as climate change and immigration.

What's interesting here is, first, how Rand characterizes himself. He describes himself as "a U.S. senator elected from and by the tea party," not as a Republican. But what's also interesting is the severe litmus test Paul, one of the most influential Teabaggers, is applying to the GOP presidential race. If even Gingrich isn't conservative enough, and he's certainly more conservative than Romney, then what? Or, rather, who? Rick Perry is more theocrat than Teabagger. Michele Bachmann probably qualifies, but she's an also-ran at this point. So who else could there be?

Ah, yes, Papa Paul.

While the race has turned into a Gingrich-vs.-Romney battle, with Newt now pushing back against Mitt's attacks, Ron Paul is lingering as a solid third-place candidate. He won't win the nomination, but he has a loyal and intense following of libertarian Republicans and could do well enough in some states, including Iowa, to influence the outcome. Indeed, the latest RCP averages have him tied for second with Romney in Iowa at 17.4 (well back of Gingrich at 29.8) and running a solid third in New Hampshire (though also well back in South Carolina).

So perhaps Rand is just shilling for Ron, trying to make the case that Newt's not the right Tea Party choice. Perhaps he even understands, as Conor Friedersdorf does, that a Gingrich win would be a disaster for the Tea Party.

Whatever the case, there's no denying the ongoing influence of the Tea Party in the GOP and how unsettled the situation remains. Gingrich has emerged at just the right time, and a big win in Iowa followed by a strong showing in New Hampshire and a win in South Carolina and then Florida could very well propel him too far into the lead for anyone to catch up. But it's clear that a lot of Republicans, Rand Paul included, aren't happy with Gingrich, while the alternative, Romney, is even worse.

So what can they do? Keep promoting Ron Paul, perhaps, though Paul would be even less likely to be able to unite the party, regardless of what his fanatics think.

Really, though, is it any wonder Republicans are already in a state of near-panic? Denial may be holding them back, but reality is about to take over.

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"The Weight" by The Band

This is just a cheap excuse to post a tune by The Band, one of my favourite all-time groups. Yes, Rick Danko was a member of this mostly Canadian group. He played bass, Garth Hudson was on keys, Richard Manuel was on piano and drums, and Robbie Robertson was on guitar. Levon Helm, the only non-Canadian, played drums, mandolin, and guitar. And with the exception of Hudson, they all sang. Many of them also played different instruments, which I'm neglecting to list.

The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked them #50 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and in 200, they received the Grammys' Lifetime Achievement Award.

I guess you would call them a roots music-influenced rock group. Close enough.

artwork, Music from Big Pink
Their 1968 debut album, Music from Big Pink, contained the single "The Weight," which was ranked in 2004 as the 41st best song of all time in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

I have no idea what the Rolling Stone lists are worth, but it's a great song, with a chorus that makes it incredible to sing with other people. 

The clip below of "The Weight" is taken from the film The Last Waltz. Just because it's getting late, I'll rip the Wiki entry the on movie, which states: 

The Last Waltz was a concert by the The Band, held on American Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976, at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The Last Waltz was advertised as the end of The Band's illustrious touring career, and the concert saw The Band joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood, Bobby Charles, and Neil Young.

Yes, that's all true. Here's "The Weight":

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Obama goes all Dirty Harry in response to Republican charge of appeasement

Asked at a press conference yesterday about Republican accusations that he's an appeaser, President Obama shot back with this, calmly but firmly:

Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever's left out there, ask them about that.

Boom. Just try standing up to that, Newt and Mitt. Your lies and smears are nothing next to the truth.

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The World is the Battlefield

By Capt. Fogg

I find it remarkable that the proposed provision of the Defense Authorization act enabling a President to detain anyone suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization indefinitely and without trial, can be presented as one of those bits of "evidence" that Barack Obama is trashing the constitution. Obama's Indefinite Detention Powers is the title of more than one article. Remarkable indeed since he's threatening to veto the abomination if it passes.

I do recognize that since the Authorization for Use of Military forces (AUMF) that Congress approved after the September 11 terrorist attacks was used to bolster somewhat unfair arguments that Bush was trashing the revered document, an equal and more ridiculous counter charge has to be leveled against his Democratic successor. That is a principle we had beat into our consciousness when Bill Clinton had to face charges, some contrived and some with marginal merit that were so like unto those Nixon was glaringly guilty of.

But I digress. I'm not surprised to hear such things slithering in the murky Senatorial cistern, but I'm surprised at the bipartisan support of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) bill and the astonishing lack of debate over this shocking redaction of the Bill of Rights. I was however surprised and pleased to hear Rand Paul declare opposition is heatedly as I would do, given the chance.

I was nauseated and enraged to hear our former Presidential contender, John McCain rail about how dangerous "these people" were without regard to how we determine fairly whether or not the accusations are true. I have been raised to think that justice demanded a fair trial and no decent civilization has failed to provide a process to determine the truth of an
accusation, sometimes made under duress or torture or out of jealousy or greed or worse. A less stuffy writer might simply ask: how the hell do we know the charges are true without a trial?

Senator McCain doesn't seem to care, although with his history, he might just give the opposite position tomorrow and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seems proud of his shiny new black boots, claiming that now we can jail any American citizen because "it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland." Did he mean to say Vaterland?
"The FBI publishes characteristics of people you should report as possible terrorists. The list includes the possession of “Meals Ready to Eat,” weatherproofed ammunition, and high-capacity magazines; missing fingers; brightly colored stains on clothing; paying for products in cash; and changes in hair color. I fear that such suspicions might one day be used to imprison a U.S. citizen indefinitely without trial. Just this year, the vice president referred to the Tea Party as a bunch of terrorists. So, I think we should be cautious in granting the power to detain without trial."
writes Senator Paul in the National Review.

Yes, I think our legislators have earned their 8% approval rating and can only wonder why it isn't lower. John McCain, you're a goddamn terrorist yourself, attempting to make Americans afraid for political purposes. Rand Paul: you may be far right, but you're damn right too!

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Just how ridiculous is Donald Trump?

So ridiculous even Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann want no part of his "debate."

Which means the "debate," really just an excuse for The Donald and his megalomania to be in the spotlight again, will be a Gingrich-Santorum affair (Paul and Huntsman won't be there either), to the extent they aren't overshadowed by Trump, that is, a "debate" between the frontrunner and an afterthought.

And yet people will still watch (assuming it's actually held). And why? Because Trump is crazy, and because you never know what he'll do or say, and because morbid curiosity rules the day in our popular and political culture.

Even the generally unreasonable Perry and Bachmann are staying away. That tells you all you need to know.

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Yes, Rick Perry is still running -- bet you forgot

(Ed. note: As HuffPo's Sam Stein is reporting, this ridiculous and bigoted ad has caused division in the Perry campaign. I would also note that in this ad Perry says that "our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas." That's remarkably stupid even for Perry. Just where are these kids? But, then, he would apparently like America to be a Christian theocracy that disrespects any and all difference. -- MJWS)

Have you seen Rick Perry's new ad criticizing President Obama for his "war on religion"? Oh yeah, you might have forgotten. Perry is still running for the GOP presidential nomination, despite the fact that most people stopped paying attention a while ago.

It's an ad designed to appeal to Christian conservatives in Iowa. It's one of those dog whistle things meant to suggest that Obama is not a Christian and not an American, because to be a true American, in Perry's world, you have to be a Christian. Yes, he is still going with the "Obama as Muslim socialist" thing. So clever, and so original.

You know, I don't even have the strength to make fun of Rick Perry anymore. Watch and roll your own eyes.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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David Frum thinks it may be too late to stop Newt

Say what you will about David Frum, he's one of the few conservatives these days willing to tell it like it is. And he's not terribly happy about what he sees coming for the GOP:

Today's question is: will the Gingrich balloon deflate like all the previous Not Mitt balloons?

The answer is: yes of course – but given that these balloons take typically 6-8 weeks to shrivel, the impending Gingrich bust may not arrive soon enough to save Romney. No question though, it will arrive in time to freak out the Republican party.

The most important thing to remember about Gingrich is not the three marriages, not the dubious financial practices, not the abrupt reversals on healthcare mandates and climate change. It's not the grandiosity of language, not the habit of casting opponents as un-American, not the lack of self-awareness that allowed him to impeach a president for lying under oath about an extramarital affair while engaged in an extramarital affair of his own.

The most important thing to remember about Newt Gingrich is that his colleagues in the House of Representatives effectively fired him as their leader even before the impeachment crisis, shifting power instead into the more competent hands of Tom DeLay. It was Tom DeLay who ran the caucus while Newt Gingrich was traveling the country giving speeches about Total Quality Management and the Struggle for Western Civilization.

Gingrich was not pushed aside by his caucus for any of the offenses listed above. He was pushed aside because he plunged the caucus into chaos, because he lost fights that he himself had chosen, because he could not control his mouth, because he wanted to be a star more than he wanted to get things done. There's a reason Gingrich is fascinated by management gurus: he needs the help.

That weakness in Gingrich will not now abruptly change. The chaos that surrounded him as Speaker, the chaos that engulfed his presidential campaign earlier this year – that chaos will replicate itself again. But when? It's less than 5 weeks to the New Hampshire primary. Perhaps Gingrich can behave himself till then, in which case Mitt Romney has a big problem on his hands. But it's more than 8 full months to the Republican convention in Tampa.

Prediction: if Gingrich has emerged as the nominee by then, the mood of that convention will be full unconcealed panic.

That very faint sound you hear is a lot of us rubbing our hands in anticipatory glee.


I would just add that Gingrich would appear to have quite a bit more staying power than the earlier not-Mitts: Bachmann, Perry, and Cain. He will likely behave himself until Iowa, particularly with the holidays coming, but a win there could unleash the megalomania that has been his undoing in the past. And then a good showing in New Hampshire... and a win in South Carolina... well, you get the point.

Still, he's a more known commodity than those other three and Republicans who pay attention generally know what they're getting with him. And it would appear that, right now, a solid plurality of them are willing to get behind him, massive flaws and all. That may not last, but he could stay in favour longer than Frum expects, particularly given his ability to channel the anti-Obama rage that is the major driver of Republican politics these days.

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 14 Thursday Night Football

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Update: Okay, well, what can I say? Seeing Ben go down made me sick. He means so much to this team, and Batch, while a really great guy, just isn't a good QB at this late point of his career. But a Ben who can't move is better than Batch, and Ben shockingly came out to start the third quarter, even leading the Steelers down the field before a dropped pass forced them to punt. We shall see. They should be up 14-3, at least, but those two fumbles deep in Cleveland territory are keeping this game close. Too close. I'm not sure the Steelers can score much more, and the Browns are actually moving the ball fairly well. I have a bad feeling about this. It won't end well. (Not with a stupid 15-yard personal foul penalty on Farrior, the leader of the D. Seriously. WTF?!)

Update 2: Call me a homer, call me a Big Ben apologist, call me whatever you want. That was one of the most remarkable performances I've ever seen. You'll hear the word "gutsy" thrown around a lot, you'll hear the word "tough." Well, it didn't look like there was any chance Roethlisberger would come back and play. When I saw the injury, when I saw him limp off in pain, I thought... "well, that's the season." Or at least the next few weeks. And then he comes out and plays? He couldn't step into his throws, he could barely even make some of his handoffs. He was in obvious pain. Not just the usual discomfort, pain. Yes, he threw a bad interception, and the Steelers were terrible in the red zone, but most of the bad play wasn't his fault. If Mendenhall had been able to knock it in from the one (or if Wallace had scored on the long pass play prior to their failed attempts to run it in), if Brown hadn't dropped a key pass, if Ward and Miller hadn't fumbled early on, his numbers would have been even better and the game wouldn't have been close. But to put up 280 yards and 2 TDs? Simply amazing.

And when he threw that brilliant back-shoulder pass to Brown, and when Brown deked and dodged and sprinted his way to a TD, I almost lost it. For me, this is one of the most emotional Steelers wins I've ever witnessed.

I love Pittsburgh. I love the Steelers. And I love Ben Roethlisberger, who appears to have put his past behind him and become a true leader to go along with being one of the best QBs in the league.



Yes, we're all taking the Steelers tonight at home against the Browns -- that would be Richard, The Kid, and I.

(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. We get one point for each correct pick, along with two bonus points if we get our Upset of the Week right. If we get our Lock of the Week wrong, we lose two points as a penalty.)

I'm tempted to take the Steelers as my lock, but my beloved Black 'n' Gold tend to play down to their opponents, and this might just be one of those games. (I'll probably end up taking the Ravens over the Colts as my lock. No way that game is close, even if Baltimore's had some trouble this year with weaker teams, losing to both the Jags and the Seahawks.)

Regardless, I'm hoping Big Ben & Co. play some no-huddle, spread the field, and prove once again that Steelers football, at least on offence, isn't what idiots like Jon Gruden think it is, namely, a power running game. It hasn't been like that since Bettis was the feature back, before Fast Willie Parker took over, and even then it was evident the team was changing, partly because of the emergence of Roethlisberger as the team's best QB since Bradshaw (and now maybe the best ever?) and partly because the game itself was changing, with the league cutting down on the clutching and grabbing (to borrow from the NHL) and basically allowing receivers to run their routes completely unchallenged by handcuffed DBs who for the most part could barely keep up. It's not that the rushing game doesn't matter anymore, either for the Steelers or for any other team, it's that the passing game has been unleashed, and teams like the Packers, Saints, Patriots, Colts (prior to this non-Peyton season), and Steelers, that is, the dominant teams of the era, have taken full advantage.

Anyway, this has all the makings of a stressful game. I just want the Steelers to come out and dominate, to show they're an elite team that can crush weaker teams without much trouble. It hasn't been that way so far this year, with way-too-close games against the Colts and Jags, though last week's outstanding performance against the rival and perhaps playoff-bound Bengals certainly boosted my confidence. We'll see what happens tonight, but, with the playoffs approaching, it's time for the Steelers to show they're truly for real. Last week was a start, and we'll see how they do in a tough prime-time matchup next Monday in San Francisco, a long 11 days from now, but we need to beat the Browns at home and we need to do it convincingly.

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This day in music - December 8, 1980: John Lennon is shot outside the Dakota building in New York City

As we all know, John Lennon died of his wounds at 11:30 that evening. I was walking into a kitchen/commons room at a student co-op housing unit I shared with about a dozen others in Toronto when I was told. I arrived in the city three months earlier from New York to begin graduate school.

I remember it as a sad event, not necessarily life altering, but sad. Maybe by 1980 we were starting to think it wasn't all that remarkable that famous people sometimes get shot.

Not to make light, just trying to remember what I was thinking at the time. Perhaps if I had actually been a child of the '60s, I'd have felt it differently. It did feel like the end of something. Not sure what.

Maybe my mood was influenced by the fact that Ronald Reagan was elected president a month before.

John Lennon's "Imagine" is still probably my favourite of his.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The good boss: Harry Morgan, Col. Sherman Potter of M*A*S*H, dies at 96

Harry Morgan died Wednesday morning. He was 96 years old. Many would remember him as Colonel Potter from the long-running television series M*A*S*H.  Of course, there were many other roles for Morgan, including Officer Bill Gannon, partner to Sgt. Joe Friday, on the updated Dragnet series that aired from 1967 to 1970.

And then, as the obit in The New York Times put it:

In more than 100 movies, Mr. Morgan played Western bad guys, characters names Rocky and Shorty, loyal sidekicks, judges, sheriffs, soldiers, thugs and police chiefs. 

But to a generation or two, starting in 1975 and running to 1983, and then in reruns forever after, he was Colonel Sherman Potter, commander of the 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit in Korea.

It's a very corny thing, I know, but there are certain television shows that feel like they are a part of our lives. Watching Bonanza on Sunday nights at my grandparent's house in the 60s when I almost inevitably fell asleep lying on the floor in front of the television; the entire family gathering together to watch All in the Family in the early '70s; and M*A*S*H seemed to be around for all sorts of life's changes.

Given that it premiered on September 17, 1972 and ended on February 28, 1983, it was there from the beginning of my high school years to my mid-20s -- a fairly good stretch of time.

As circumstances would have it, though, the most significant experience watching the show that I recall is gathering with half my college dorm every day at 4:00 p.m. to catch reruns in the late '70s. That this stands out as a significant memory from my undergraduate days might make you think I wasted some time at Oswego State University, and you wouldn't be wrong, but there it is.

After a while shows like this are comfort food, you watch them because they are familiar and we gravitate towards the familiar. Colonel Potter was always a cool character, though. Serious, because somebody had to make sure the important things got done. But he wasn't an asshole. Maybe we hoped that, in our final days of university, before having to get a job, it was possible we might have a boss who was serious enough to make sure things got done but who could also be cool about it.

That was Colonel Sherman Potter.

I suppose a lot of people will post the clip from the final episode of M*A*S*H in which the Colonel rides his horse off into the sunset. And so will I. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Nasty Newt, the choice of the Republican Party

Here's an entirely unscientific thought about Newt Gingrich's chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination. Up until now I really thought Romney could not lose it, but he has proven himself so consistently unpopular as the Republican base has tried out just about every other credible option. We know this, which begs the question, what are they looking for? It's not simply an aversion to Romney. It's a quest for something specific that Romney lacks.

We know that Gingrich has massive negatives, even for conservatives. But Republicans are running out of time and they know it. Gingrich's past is no secret. It's out there. GOP voters understand the problem with him. I am just starting to think they won't care.

They want someone they think vicious enough to take on Obama and see Gingrich as the person who can get in the President's face. I think this is the key. In the first instance, there is no one else left. In the second, having a pit bull for a candidate who will, they think, be able to tear at Obama, is more important than all of the transgressions that dot Newt's past.

They are looking for someone to embody their anger, holding aside for now precisely what the object of their anger is.

I guess part of what I'm saying is that it isn't just that Romney is perceived as too much of a centrist, though he is, but that he is perceived as too milquetoast. Conservatives want blood and they have run out of options as to how to get it, so they are turning to Gingrich.

In a way, he was always the best option if this is what is being sought. They think he is smart and they think he is nasty, and they are half right.

If they go with him, they will surely lose the general election. But they are blinded by hatred, and are not thinking clearly.

At this point, I still call it even odds between Gingrich and Romney, but I'm starting to think the momentum is with Newt and that the Republican power brokers won't be able to do anything about it. The very thing that makes Romney attractive to the GOP establishment, his perceived reasonableness, is the thing that damns him with the rank-and-file. 

(As a footnote, it's what knocked Pawlenty out so early.)

Okay, I'm just riffing here, but I could be right.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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In Russia, Election Fixes You

By Carl
Needless to say, on the heels of the Arab Spring and the American Occupied Fall comes yet another tyrannical regime under scrutiny by its own people. Naturally, that scrutiny is causing dismay among the entrenched elite:
President Dmitry Medvedev says alleged vote fraud in Russian parliamentary elections that led to major protests will be investigated .

Medvedev told reporters Thursday — after meeting Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus — that the law may have been violated during Sunday's vote, because "our electoral law is not ideal."

He called for Russians to remain calm during any inquiry, adding that "experts, not ordinary people" would investigate.

Stalin once famously observed that its not who votes that counts, its who counts the votes. "Experts," my ass.

This statement by Medvedev comes on the heels of, well, almost neo-con-like charges from once and future Russian President Vladimir Putin that the US and in particular, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were fomenting unrest among the populace:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strongly criticized U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday, accusing her of encouraging and funding Russians protesting election fraud, and warned of a wider Russian crackdown on dissent.

By describing Russia's parliamentary election as rigged, Putin said Clinton "gave a signal" to his opponents.

"They heard this signal and with the support of the U.S. State Department began their active work," Putin said in televised remarks. He said the United States is spending "hundreds of millions" of dollars to influence Russian politics with the aim of weakening a rival nuclear power.

I speak fluent Russopolispeak too, so let me translate: "The sheeple noticed? Holy crap! Who can I blame?"

Let me sum up events for you quickly, to comprehend what happened here: the United Russian party (basically, the former KGB-sponsored political arm) held something like 70 percent of the seats in the Russian Duma after the 2007 elections. After the 2011 elections, the margin was narrowed considerably, and the actual results, discounting any fraud as claimed, may show Putin losing the Duma completely.

Since he planned on running for President in 2012, this would effectively scuttle his presidency, win, lose, or draw.

And so now you understand why there's some resistance to the official results, despite Medvedev's claim that the results are in line with polling done before the election (which you might expect...indeed, it's how closely the results hew to that polling that make me sit up and take notice.)

There is to be a rally in Moscow on Saturday, for which the Moscow police have issued a permit for 300 people. More than 17,000 have pledged on Facebook to attend.

Muscovite officials have said strong police action will be triggered if more than 300 show up. If 17,000 show up, then I would imagine all bets are off.

It will be interesting, over the next few days, to watch the rabid anti-Occupy forces spin trying to reconcile support for what may be violent Russian dissidence while mocking and deriding peaceful, non-violent domestic protests.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Is Ron Paul, Newt's "opposite," a serious contender for the GOP nomination?

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

"rickklein: Ron Paul on Gingrich: 'He may be the opposite of what I’ve been doing for 30 years.'" (link)

If Paul has been the opposite of Newt, and Newt has been utterly loathsome in pretty much all ways, shouldn't it follow that I'm a huge Paul fan?


No, because each is just a variation of right-wing extremism, though, to be fair, Paul, while less politically pragmatic and ideologically flexible than Newt, is certainly admirable in his opposition to militarism and empire-building, as well as in his passionate support for civil liberties, willing to take renegade positions in the GOP while remaining philosophically consistent and often finding himself on the outside of the party looking in.

But can he win? Is he ready a serious contender for the Republican throne? Is he poised for a surge?

I continue to say no, though, sure, he may do well in Iowa, tease his intensely loyal  followers, and make the talking heads sputter in disbelief. But that would be all. He's way to much of a renegade, not just for the party "establishment" but for the Rush-led counter-establishment. Even if he secures more Tea Party support, he just isn't Republican enough to be the GOP standard-bearer in 2012.

Or ever.

Sorry, Ron Paul fanatics. The truth hurts. And denying it will just bring more disappointment.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

This day in music - December 7, 1987: Harry Chapin is posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work

In addition to his successful music career, Harry Chapin was engaged in humanitarian efforts to end world hunger. In 1977, he played a key role in establishing the Presidential Commission on World Hunger.

In 1987, he was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for that work.

Chapin is best known for songs like "Cat's in the Cradle," "Taxi," "Circle," and "W*O*L*D."

He died in a traffic accident on July 16, 1981 at the age of 38 having dedicated much of his life to various philanthropic endeavours. The title of the Washington Post obituary at the time was "Harry Chapin's Riches: The Troubadour Who Laughed at Fame & Gave Away His Fortune

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Newt the Neocon calls for military action against Iran

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

"lrozen: Gingrich calls for regime replacement in Iran, block its imports of petrol, sabotage their refinery, support all dissident grps"

Because, of course, this has worked so well in the past, particularly in the Middle East.

Newt calls himself a student of history, but he hasn't got a fucking clue. Engaging Iran militarily would be a disaster.

Newt's a right-wing militarist, and here he's just sucking up to the neocons, and more specifically to the right-wing Israel lobby that is at the core of neoconservatism, hoping no doubt to secure some Jewish votes (with the early primary in Florida and an opportunity to crush Romney front of mind).

And, of course, he's also a shameless and largely unprincipled partisan. Remember when he was against President Obama's military engagement in Libya?

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Save the Fed

By Capt. Fogg

Doomed to repeat history? Of course we are, but the fate I fear isn't the sort of doom that descends upon us from above unless you consider the cesspit of "Conservative" rhetoric to be a higher plane of thought. No, I'm not talking about the market bubble of the late 1920's that was brought about by slashing the top marginal tax rate or the deregulation of the markets that gave us the 1929 crash; I'm talking about where we were fourscore years ago in 1931 when the European banks began to fail and nobody was able or willing to do anything about it. Then as now, we had "Conservative" rhetoric attempting to blame the mess on the usual suspects, like lazy American workers and in Europe: the Jews. We had calls around the world for even more austerity, as if the world could save itself by saving money.

" Instead of easing monetary policy by cutting interest rates and buying bonds, the Fed tightened. The result was a catastrophic chain reaction of bank failures, which caused the money supply to contract by approximately a third, and economic output with it"

writes Niall Ferguson at the Daily Beast, lamenting the gross lack of knowledge of bankers, investors, fund managers, regulators, policymakers, and economists. Ferguson cites Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz’s Monetary History of the United States, which argues that

"the stock-market panic of 1929 turned into a depression because of avoidable errors by the Fed. Instead of easing monetary policy by cutting interest rates and buying bonds, the Fed tightened. The result was a catastrophic chain reaction of bank failures, which caused the money supply to contract by approximately a third, and economic output with it."

The Gold Standard, the massive debt from The Great War, the partisan inability to compromise brought on the disaster we know as the Great Depression and only those countries that dropped that standard and began hiring while gearing up for war, began to recover. Germany led the way and the US followed.

With some Republican spokesmen demanding the return of the gold standard, demanding an end to the Fed, demanding more austerity, demanding that more capital be tied up in the hands of a tiny minority, the money supply diminished and the demand for goods and services curtailed, the few who understand what needs to be done are being shouted down by politicians who insist that the only solution is a bigger cut in the marginal rate, and the angry mob they feed.
"We are indeed fortunate that at least the world’s leading central bankers have studied this history: not only Ben Bernanke but also the heads of the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, and the European Central Bank. The bad news is that so few politicians and voters understand what they are trying to do, or why. The even worse news is that central bankers by themselves may not be able to stop our depression from turning great."

Worse news even than that, is the fact that people like Dr. Ferguson, a professor of history at Harvard University, a senior research fellow at Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University do not inform the Cains, Bachmanns, Palins or Gingrichs or the rabble who support them, nor would the public trust any "elitist" "Libtard" "pinhead" over the kind of small minded moral abomination now stumbling toward Washington.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Ron Paul goes negative on Newt in Iowa

By Richard K. Barry

Well, this is fun. Ron Paul is the first of the GOP contenders to go negative on Newt in Iowa with an ad purporting to show what Paul's team is calling Gingrich's "serial hypocrisy."

Jesse Benton, a Ron Paul advisor, had this to say about the ad:

We wanted to ensure this ad reached as many voters as possible, to debunk the myth that the Newt we are seeing on the 2012 campaign trail is the conservative he has been touted to be all along.

The voters are looking for authentic conservatives who are able to show a decades-long career of consistently walking the walk of Constitutional principles, limited government, and promoting sound economic policies. Ron Paul is the only Republican presidential candidate with that record.
Ron Paul may be whack job libertarian, but he's not going to be pushed around by some poser like Gingrich. No, sir.

You know, politicians are just like other people. Some of them are generally well liked, even by their opponents, and others not so much. Which camp do you supposed Newt fits in?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Romney's fair warning that his campaign will continue to lie

By Richard K. Barry

You'll recall the recent Romney campaign ad that so obviously took President Obama's words out of context that nearly everyone in the media called them on it.

New York Times describes the backstory like this:

On October 16, 2008, campaigning in Londonderry, New Hampshire, Obama cast his opponent, John McCain, as out of touch with the problems facing the country – a month after the financial collapse that saw the American economy crater. Obama was expressing his incredulity at McCain’s lack of understanding of the full import of the world-engulfing fiscal crisis: “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’ ”
Romney's ad was constructed on the lie that the words actually spoken by the McCain campaign were spoken by Obama. It is in fact an old trick, but no less disgusting for that fact. When you draw attention to what someone else said, it doesn't mean you said it yourself, or that you hold the same views. Pretty clear, right? 

It got a lot of press at the time, so no need to go into it again.

What's new is the Romney campaign defending the tactic. Here is what a top Romney operative had to say about it:
First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business…. Ads are agitprop…. Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It’s ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context…. All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.
Chew on that for a moment. Romney's team is saying that in politics everyone lies so it's not a big deal, in fact, we should expect it. 

Apparently, whenever Romney or his campaign says something, we should assume that we are being manipulated. We should have no expectation that they have any respect for the truth. By their own admission, we should expect that their statements are hyperbolic and out of context. 

This is what they are telling us about how they are and will continue to run their campaign.

Thanks for the heads up, Mitt.

As Greg Sargent writes:
Between this new quote and their boast that the ad’s mangling of context was strategically brilliant because it won reams of media attention, it almost seems as if Romney advisers are trying to persuade political reporters and commentators to abandon any standards they might use to judge tactics and rhetoric throughout this campaign. Of course, one would hope this will have the opposite effect.
Let's hope. 

Final word on this is that as Gingrich continues to surge, we can expect Romney to get more and more desperate. Much as we were all being told that, among the GOP presidential hopefuls, Romney was the adult in the room, it seems that he is also a lying and manipulative adult. Isn't that wonderful?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Throwing His Balls In

By Carl
In the great Pokemon battle that has become the Teabaggers v. Mitt Romney, competitor after competitor has been laughed off the pitch: MickeyMousemann, Perryoopsie, Caintrain. The Teabaggers might finally have thrown a Pokeball that might have an effect against Mittman: Newtiechoo

Mitt Romney vows to make his "closing argument" for the GOP presidential nomination, including drawing some sharp distinctions with new front-runner Newt Gingrich.

Romney has led or been near the top of national public opinion polls this year, only to lose ground to Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry., Herman Cain and now Gingrich. They have been viewed as more conservative than Romney, who has drawn the ire of some in the GOP for the health care law he signed as Massachusetts governor.

Newtiechoo has taken a pretty commanding lead in Iowa polling, has pulled ahead in New Hampshire and has a strong lead in South Carolina, all states now critical to a Romney victory. Until now, Mittman had been able to rise above the crowd, confining his direct confrontation to the endless debates.

The two combatants find themselves in similar straits, with similar weapons and similar strengths and weaknesses (save for Newtiechoo's immoral behavior all his life.) This creates a distinct problem for Romney since the "Anyone But Romney" vote is almost three times as big as Romney's poll numbers.

Romney's saving grace is that Gingrich has his own baggage as far as the rank-and-file Teabaggers go. For example, his comments on Paul Ryan's "conservative social engineering" healthcare proposal could not have sat well, nor his flip-flop on an individual health insurance mandate. Both seem to support Obamacare. Both seem to support Romneycare. The debate on the far right will be about the lesser of two weasels.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Dear Leader Rush defends Dear Speaker Newt

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

"pwire: Rush Limbaugh defends Newt Gingrich against GOP Establishment attacks..." (link)

And this is why the so-called "establishment" doesn't mean what it used to. Karl Rove still has a great deal of influence in the Republican Party, as do some of Romney's more high-profile surrogates (e.g., Chris Christie, various figures on Capitol Hill), but Dear Leader Rush? Now there's some serious influence.

To whom do you think the base will listen? To whom do you think the base will turn for its marching orders?

If you think it's the "establishment," you don't understand how the GOP works these days.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Why Rick Perry is against gay rights

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

"MacMcClelland: Rick Perry says human rights for gays are 'not in America's interests,' because he's a fucking idiot."

Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is.

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This day in music - December 6, 1975: Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years goes to No. 1 on the U.S. album chart

Still Crazy After All These Years was Simon's fourth studio album. It was a great effort that produced four U.S. top 40 hits: "Gone at Last" (#23), "My Little Town" (#9, credited to Simon and Garfunkel), "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" (#1), and the title track (#40).

It won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1976.

As a saxophone player, I have a special place in my heart for recording artists who know how to make use of the horn. David Sanborn, Michael Brecker, and Phil Woods played on the album, which is a pretty serious bunch of people to be wielding Antoine-Joseph "Adolphe" Sax's invention on one recording.

This is really a good record. The title track is fabulous, but I've always been partial to "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Great use of percussion. And it did get to No. 1 as a single, arriving on February 7, 1976.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Jon Huntsman, sensing an opening and trying to show some Republican bona fides, suddenly becomes a climate change skeptic

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

"joshtpm: Huntsman gets wobbly on climate change -- now says scientists need to provide more evidence" (link)

Et tu, Jon? But of course.

And why is he doing this, why is he destroying whatever shred of integrity and credibility he had left (after saying nice things about Cain reduced him to basically zero on both counts anyway)?

Because he thinks it may be his turn for a surge, because Romney appears to be on the decline and because Newt is, well, Newt (with the party "establishment" against him and with his history of self-destructive buffoonery), and because he actually has a shot, however remote, to do surprisingly well in New Hampshire.

And because this -- being a climate change denialist (or at least skeptic) and otherwise embracing the right-wing denial of reality -- is what you have to do to get anywhere in the Republican Party.

Just ask Mitt.

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Newt and Mitt: a sad choice for the GOP

Politico ran a post recenly by John Bresnahan, Jonathan Allen, and Jonathan Martin with the title "GOP's anti-Newt chorus holds its tongue":

Newt Gingrich's critics within the GOP are legion, but for the moment they're something else: quiet.

They all remember the last time Gingrich held power, as House speaker: the bombast, the reckless personal life, the arrogance and lack of discipline that bordered on dangerous.


But in the face of Gingrich's surge in the polls, most Gingrich critics are keeping it to themselves. Part of it is because, recognizing that Gingrich is connecting with the GOP base better than anyone else in the field, they have little desire to get cross-wise with their own party. Put more bluntly, there is a dawning realization they might have to make peace with Newt the nominee.

Newt and Mitt
There are at least two takeaways here that fascinate. The first is the sense among some very serious conservative political insiders that Gingrich could win the nomination, and the second the recognition that there is so much out there with which to attack him that it would be a disaster if he did.

According to Guy Molinari, a former congressman who had a falling out with Gingrich in the 1980s:

There are so very many stories out there about his failings, moral failings, that he certainly would be a bad pick to bear the title of the president of the United States...I think there is a huge element of risk involved.

Up until very recently, Gingrich was widely considered a joke. It hardly seemed worth the effort to regurgitate so much of the sordid past of the guy who was just on the stage to generate profile for his personal brand. But now he's leading in the polls, it's getting very close to the Iowa caucuses and all this stuff about Newt is going to be coming out piece by piece in the short and long term because there is so much there.

On one level, I am truly amazed that the best the GOP can do is come up with only two realistic options for the nomination: Romney, who is disliked by broad cross-sections of his own party, and Gingrich, whose own "failings" are so very well-known by anyone who cares to pay attention.

And, here's the thing, people will start to pay attention. In our current 24-hour news cycle and blog-soaked universe, Newt Gingrich can't survive this. There's just no way. Certainly not in the general election.

He's gotten a relatively free ride in the short term, but this gets very ugly, very quickly.  

The story of the 2012 campaign, when the books are written, will be about how the Republican Party failed to present a reasonable alternative to an incumbent president who should have been easy to knock off given, if nothing else, how badly the economy was performing.

Even if Gingrich fails to win the nomination, the fact that he is doing this well so late in the process tells us all we need to know. The split between the radical-right and the pragmatic right is going to yield a candidate no one wants: "the immoral-arrogant-prick candidate" or "the guy-nobody-is-passionate-about-but-will-have-to-support-anyway-because-there-is-no-other-choice candidate."

Talk about unintended consequences.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Is Nancy Pelosi waiting to unleash the dirt on Newt?

ABC News reports:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi now says she is not sitting on a trove of opposition research on former House Speaker-turned-GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

In an interview conducted Friday and published Monday, Pelosi hinted that once the time is right she has some juicy stories to tell about her former colleague.

"One of these days we'll have a conversation about Newt Gingrich," Pelosi, D-Calif., told Talking Points Memo. "I know a lot about him. I served on the investigative committee that investigated him. Four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of his stuff."

But this afternoon, Pelosi's spokesman, Drew Hammill, suggested that her comments have been misconstrued beyond the leader's intent.

"Leader Pelosi was clearly referring to the extensive amount of information that is in the public record, including the comprehensive committee report with which the public may not be fully aware," Hammill wrote in a statement.

Yeah, right.

Pelosi and others, not just Democrats but many anti-Newt Republicans as well, have a ton of dirt on Gingrich and will use is as needed over the coming weeks and months, depending on how he does. But, right now, the Democrats, at least, don't need to use it. Because they don't want to knock Newt off his perch as frontrunner and (gasp!) possible (probable?) nominee? No, they want him to win.

Win the GOP nomination, that is, because he'd be much less of a threat to beat Obama in the general election than Romney, who, for all his faults and unpopularity with the GOP base, is fairly appealing to moderates and independents given his reputation as a moderate technocrat who understands business and the economy (that this isn't what he actually is, or is no longer, could eventually turn moderates and independents against him, but at least for now he can ride the perception and avoid the reality).

By "one of these days," then, Pelosi either misspoke, revealing too much when she should have kept quiet, or meant "after Newt wins the nomination, if it comes to that." Or both. As TPM's Brian Beutler put it:

There's no better illustration of how ecstatic Democrats are about Newt Gingrich leading the GOP primary pack than Nancy Pelosi's strategic silence.

Though she wasn't so silent as to avoid providing that glimpse into the future:

Pressed for more detail she wouldn't go further.

"Not right here," Pelosi joked. "When the time's right."

Which is to say that if Gingrich somehow clinches the nomination, there's one hell of an oppo dump coming. 

Pardon me, and so many others, for salivating.


Actually, though, I'm not sure the dirt would matter. The media would dig up the old Newt anyway, and the new Newt really isn't new at all. He's still an arrogant egomaniac who says (and believes) insane things, like how poor (i.e., black) children should be forced to work because all they're good for is criminality.

And if that weren't enough, he's been rather eccentric in his conservatism, promoting relatively humane views on undocumented immigration and even -- yes, even -- responsible views on energy and climate change, two absolute no-nos in today's GOP.

Hey, he even did an ad on climate change with... Nancy Pelosi. And this could be as damaging to him as any oppo research dirt.

How do you think the Republican base will react when this little nugget makes its way around the right-wing insanitarium? The dirt would turn off moderates and independents, to the extent he'd have any such support, but his heterodox positions, past and present, would surely turn off conservatives. He's managing to weather any such criticism now largely because he's seen as much preferable to Romney (and because most people still aren't paying attention), but his record speaks for itself.

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