Saturday, December 31, 2011

The ugly truth about Ron Paul

One of the good things about the craziness that has been, and remains, the race to be the Republican nominee for president is the fact that with each new surging anti-Romney, and with each new "frontrunner," the media have finally been required to do their jobs and look into what these leading Republicans, and indeed much of their party, are actually all about.

For example, while many of us knew full well (and had known for a long time) that Michele Bachmann was insane, her high-profile opposition to the HPV vaccine, wrapped up in her usual conspiracy-theorizing, pushed her insanity further into public view. Similarly, her (and her "cure 'em" husband's) anti-gay views revealed her to be an unabashed bigot. And because she was, for a time, the hottest Republican candidate going, the media could not help but do some probing.

The same has been true of the others, and we're seeing this now with Ron Paul, who has long been seen as a principled libertarian who speaks truth to power in the GOP (and who even has his admirers on the left) but who, while certainly a sort of libertarian, has throughout his long political career held and advanced despicable views and revealed himself to be an ugly racist. Put on the spot, Paul has responded with denials and general "no comment"s. But again, and to their credit, the media are doing what they ought to be doing and digging a little deeper than usual (in this case encouraged and cheered on by Republicans appalled with Paul and fearful of the damage he's doing to their party). And more and more ugliness is coming out:

Texas Rep. Ron Paul has distanced himself from a series of controversial newsletters from the 1980s and 1990s that bore his name and included inflammatory and racially charged language.

As the newsletters burst into view, first during his 2008 presidential bid and again in recent weeks after he climbed to the front of the Republican race in Iowa, Paul has blamed the writings on ghostwriters. He said he was not aware of the "bad stuff," as he described it.

But one of Paul's own books, published solely under his name, contains several passages that could be problematic as he attempts to push his libertarian message into the political mainstream.

In his 1987 manifesto "Freedom Under Siege: The U.S. Constitution after 200-Plus Years," Paul wrote that AIDS patients were victims of their own lifestyle, questioned the rights of minorities and argued that people who are sexually harassed at work should quit their jobs.

The slim, 157-page volume was published ahead of Paul's 1988 Libertarian Party presidential bid and touches on many of the themes he continues to hammer on the stump.

Returning again and again to the of concept of "liberty," he hails the virtues of the gold standard, attacks the Federal Reserve and defends the rights of gun-owners.

But the book, re-issued in 2007 during Paul's last presidential bid with a cover photograph of an ominous SWAT Team, has so far escaped scrutiny amid the latest furor over his newsletters.

Well, now that he's doing so well in Iowa, with a strong showing expected, that scrutiny is happening. Now. And not a moment too soon.


What's interesting is that Romney has, for the most part, escaped such scrutiny. Sure, his opponents have brought up his various inconsistencies and tried to focus (the media's and Republican voters') attention on Romneycare, but no one has been able to stay on top long enough to keep up a sustained attack -- in part because the pro-Romney Republican elites have been knocking them off one by one. And so we've basically spent most of our time tracking the dramatic rises and falls of these anti-Romneys while Romney himself has been able to skate by largely untarnished.

That will change if and when Romney really does solidify himself as the frontrunner and likely winner. Then, one hopes, the media will do to him what they've done to his Republican competitors (helped along by those Republican elites, of course) and what they always do to Democrats (with Republicans driving the dominant media narratives, as always).

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Friday, December 30, 2011

This day in music - December 30, 1942: Frank Sinatra performs solo for the first time

Apparently, for the first time as a solo act, Frank Sinatra stepped out at the Paramount Theatre in New York City on this date in 1942 to throngs of screaming bobby soxers, no doubt. Follow the link if you don't know what bobby soxers were. I'm not making this up. What, you think this started with The Beatles or Elvis?

I must admit, I didn't exactly grow up listening to the music of Frank Sinatra. A bit before my time. But I like him. And love that jazz standards / Great American Songbook stuff.

My favourite of his has always been "It Was a Very Good Year," though I couldn't find a great YouTube clip, not one that was in sync anyway. I always thought this one was interesting because it was originally recorded by Bob Shane of the Kingston Trio, having been composed by Ervin Drake in 1961. In fact, I discovered one performance in which Sinatra refers to it as a folk song.

So many great songs to choose from, though.

Here's a nice version of "Fly Me To The Moon," a song written in 1954 by Bart Howard. It seems that the Apollo 10 astronauts played Sinatra's 1964 recording of the song on their lunar-orbital mission and Buzz Aldrin played it again on the Moon itself during the Apollo 11 landing. I guess we could have seen that one coming.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The Great Santorum Surge of December 2011

Don't laugh.

Well, fine, go ahead.

Done? Okay.

Last week, I wrote that Rick Santorum will be the 2012 Republican nominee for president. I wasn't being serious, of course, but there's no denying Santorum's upward momentum, at least in Iowa, where he's left Perry and Bachmann behind and is now challenging Gingrich for third. (One poll, from Rasmussen (not the most credible pollster, but still), has him ahead of Newt.) And he's revving up the attacks on those ahead of him, particularly Ron Paul. For Santorum and his supporters, it's an exciting time indeed.

Who knows? Maybe he can win the damn thing. Or come damn close.

Yes, with Newt collapsing, Santorum could well finish third in Iowa, where what matters is appealing to (and turning out) a tiny fraction of the electorate (with even the vast majority of Republicans staying home from the caucuses), but even with a bit of a boost coming from such a relatively strong showing, that would be the end of the line for him. While he has understandably focused almost exclusively on Iowa, he has little to no organization anywhere else and remains for the most part a fringe candidate even in the right-wing Republican Party. He certainly has the conservative bona fides to appeal to much of the primary-voting base, but he's just too deranged for the establishment and too unelectable for the elites. Which is why he's never been taken seriously as a possible nominee. And why in national polls he remains a distant sixth.

So why is he surging? Obviously, he's benefitting from Newt's sudden fall and from a field that is, as we keep saying, embarassingly weak. And in Iowa, where he's got a fairly big name (prominent campaign, a couple of big-time endorsements), where else at this point are conservatives, and especially the social conservatives so prevalent in that state, to turn?

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So is Ron Paul a racist, or what?

If his long history of bigotry doesn't sway you, including those racist newsletters, how about the fact that white supremacists thought he was "one of us":

Ron Paul was a hot topic this week on the talk radio show hosted by prominent white supremacist Don Black and his son Derek. Mr. Black said he received Mr. Paul's controversial newsletters when they were first published about two decades ago and described how the publications were perceived by members of the white supremacist movement. Former KKK Grand Wizard and Louisiana Congressman David Duke also phoned in to explain why he’s voting for Mr. Paul.

"Everybody, all of us back in the 80's and 90's, felt Ron Paul was, you know, unusual in that he had actually been a Congressman, that he was one of us and now, of course, that he has this broad demographic -- broad base of support," Mr. Black said on his broadcast yesterday.

Mr. Black is a former Klansman and member of the American Nazi Party who founded the "white nationalist" website Stormfront in 1995. He donated to Mr. Paul in 2007 and has been photographed with the candidate. Mr. Paul has vocal supporters in Stormfront's online forum. Mr. Black has repeatedly said he doesn't currently think Mr. Paul is a "white nationalist."

Mr. Paul's newsletters contained threats of a "coming race war," worries about America's "disappearing white majority" and warning [sic] against "the federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS." He has since denied writing the newsletters, which appeared under his own name.

"I didn't write them, I disavow them, that's it," Mr. Paul said in a tense CNN interview.

On Monday, Mr. Black said he originally believed the newsletters were written by Mr. Paul.

"They went out under his name in the first person and most people receiving these newsletters, including me, thought he really did write them," Mr. Black said.

Ba-zoom. (Or, as they say in the tennis world: game... set... match.)


Lesson for today:

Not all bigots come dancing around a burning cross wearing silly white hoods or marching down the Champs-Elysees waving swastika flags. Some of them are leading figures in the Republican Party, enjoying long and successful political careers, poised to do extremely well in Iowa (whether the GOP "mainstream" likes it or not).


For more on Paul's bigotry and conspiracy-theorizing craziness, see this piece by James Kirchick (who wrote the first piece linked above) at the Times.

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Robert Reich says it will be Obama-Clinton in 2012

Okay, my break is over. Back to politics.

Robert Reich, former Secretary or Labor under President Bill Clinton, says that the Democratic ticket in 2012 will have Hillary Clinton as the vice presidential candidate. He's quick to point out that it's based on absolutely nothing, which reminds me that, also based on absolutely nothing, I suggested many months ago that Hillary would run for the top job in 2016. Hey, why not? It's all idle speculation, though, to be fair, there is some logic to Reich's musings.

Here's his thinking:

Obama needs to stir the passions and enthusiasms of a Democratic base that's been disillusioned with his cave-ins to regressive Republicans. Hillary Clinton on the ticket can do that.

Moreover, the economy won't be in superb shape in the months leading up to Election Day. Indeed, if the European debt crisis grows worse and if China's economy continues to slow, there's a better than even chance we'll be back in a recession. Clinton would help deflect attention from the bad economy and put it on foreign policy, where she and Obama have shined.

The deal would also make Clinton the obvious Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 — offering the Democrats a shot at twelve (or more) years in the White House, something the Republicans had with Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush but which the Democrats haven't had since FDR. Twelve years gives the party in power a chance to reshape the Supreme Court as well as put an indelible stamp on America.

I think we have all heard it said that Joe Biden covets the Secretary of State gig. I'm not sure where that comes from, but we've heard it, which means a job swap could work. And no matter what Hillary Clinton says, if offered an opportunity to position herself to become President of the United States of America, she won't say no.

Robert Reich is not the kind of guy who just says stuff. I think he may have a point. Bottom line is that this will all hinge on the extent to which Obama and his team think they need the help. If this is the only way they can get themselves comfortable with their re-election chances, I see no reason to dismiss the possibility.

And now that the GOP has finally stopped fooling around with the idea of nominating the gift to Obama that would have been Newt Gingrich, it does look like Mitt Romney. And if it's Romney, it will be a race. And if it's a race, all hands will be on deck for Democrats, maybe even Mrs. Clinton's.

Could happen.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why no blogging?

Family visiting + nasty stomach bug + catching up on movies (Margin Call: outstanding) + busy waging war on "Christ"mas = no blogging lately.

But I'll be back at it soon. Stay tuned.

-- Michael


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out

By Carl
So Senator Ben Nelson (nominal D from Nebraska) has decided to retire from the Senate, not seeking re-election in 2012.
Good riddance.
Look, I can live with Blue Dog Democrats, people who would under any other circumstance rightly be labeled "Republican" but for party affiliation. The Blue Dog breed is necessary in order to keep a hand in the poker game that is electoral politics in the heartland, and besides, a little dissent is a good thing. It keeps ideas refreshed by challenging their underpinnings regularly.
What I'm having a problem with is the strategy of how to deploy them, and Nelson is a prime example of the kind of obstructionist Democrat that we can do without.
For example, his vote on the Bush administration's godawful bankruptcy reform bill was a signal to debt-holders everywhere they were fucked for life. His insertion of a measure into healthcare reform guaranteeing that Federal healthcare funds would not be used for abortions was a tricky little device that ultimately had no impact on the final measure as enacted, since his "60th vote" would no longer be needed, but it flew in the face of progressive orthodoxy and cost him support in his own state of Nebraska.
Ironically, the measure he finally agreed to would have allowed for abortions, just not for a Federal mandate imposed on the states or for public funding thru healthcare reform. I'm not sure I oppose that too strenuously, altho I can see why iy would offend people who do.
The question now becomes, who in this very red state of Nebraska can the Democrats run for a seat held for decades by Democrats (the preceding Senator was Bob Kerrey.)
And the obvious choice to replace Nelson would be the aforementioned Kerrey.
So as I said, don't let the door hit you on the way out, Ben. We can get someone better.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Republican Party Gave Us Gifts

By Carl
A couple of odd items cropped up over the weekend that are like little Christmas presents...left by the cat in the litter box.
Item 1 -- Ron Paul "Uncomfortable" Around Gay People -- According to a former campaign aid, Eric Dondero, Ron Paul has a problem being around gay people. He doesn't want to deny them equal opportunity under the law, anymore than he wants to deny equal opportunity to blacks and Hispanics, other groups he seems uncomfortable around.
Look, all of us have squidgy feelings about some group or other, based on our prejudices, biases and perhaps even past experiences. We learn to set those feelings aside when confronted with a person of that group, we'd like to think. Personally, I'd like to think that this is how Ron Paul feels when he sits across the table from a minority representative.
I have my doubts, tho.
And we've all had that friend, man or woman, who spews some pretty neaderthalic sentiments about "them," and forced ourselves to swallow hard and keep quiet about it because we had some reason to. 
The difference here is, none of us is running for public office and if we were, the last thing we'd do is condone hatred of any sort. Here's where Dondero's defense of his boss as "not racist because he's never said a racist word" rings hollow. As was pointed out last week, Paul had ample opportunity-- opportunity he still has available-- to address the hurtful and hateful things in his newsletter. He has not.
And that negates all of Dondero's weak-ass defense.
Item 2 -- Newt Divorced His First Wife Because She Wasn't Pretty Enough -- Um, think he'd recognize that before he even got married, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say that she didn't age well.
Hey! It happens. Look at Barbara Bush, the wife of Bush 41. It's a bit hard to believe he's actually older than she is.
This was, you may recall, the same Jackie who had cancer and on whose recovery bed he raised terms of the divorce (if indeed he didn't tell her at that time for the first time he wanted out.)  He then married Marrianne, and had an affair with Callista (his current wife, about whom rumour has it that she can suck the chrome off a tailpipe.)
Presumably, he's finally found the wife he wants to be by his side in the White House. Of course, he's blown any legitimate chance at the office with all these machinations.
Personally, her appearance and make up remind me of Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Y'know, Newt, marrying Jack Nicholson would have made more sense, if you ask me.
Sort of makes you wonder that, if Newt was somehow elected through a combination of dirty pool and evil luck, he wouldn't resign for the Presidency of some Polynesian island where the women walk around topless.
But I digress...
Meanwhile, the Republicans are in deep trouble. Here's my thought about the Iowa primary: it does not matter who wins, what matters is the turnout figure.
The entire Republican 2012 strategy hinges on enthusiasm. If the Republicans cannot present a candidate with enough charisma and energy to solidify the base of both economic royalists AND Teabaggers, ballgame over. Iowa is the first and most important test of that enthusiasm.  
My guess is they fail. Epically.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Christmas is almost over. Almost everything that's supposed to happen has happened: presents, trees, music, children, etc., etc. My wife and I had a quiet dinner for just the two of us, the family having been here earlier in the day. And so it's over for another year.

I said a few days ago that I would post my three favourite Christmas songs, and have already put up Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" and Nat King Cole singing "The Christmas Song."

So, number one in my book is Judy Garland performing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." As you may know, it's from the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis.

It was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, and is undoubtedly one of the most performed Christmas songs each season.

I was able to catch the movie last night on the American Movie Channel and thoroughly enjoyed it. The host of the presentation cited the old story about the original lyrics being rewritten because they were deemed too depressing by Garland and the director of the film, Vincente Minnelli. They were probably right when you consider that the original words included these gems: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last. Next year we may all be living in the past." Yeah, thank you for that. Okay, in the context of the movie I guess it worked. But it sure wouldn't have become a Christmas classic if it remained as it was.

Anyway, beautiful song in its final version, and over the years recorded by everyone under the sun, including Kermit the Frog.

Hope you had a great Christmas, or whatever it is you celebrate, if you celebrate. And if you don't, that's fine too.

Back to politics tomorrow.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Un-Christmas 2011: Get this kid off me before he pisses on me

Sorry, I've been so busy waging war on Jesus and Santa today that I'm only now getting to the blog. It's tough out there, what with all the Christianists shoving their bullshit down our throats.

Isn't that we liberals are supposed to say?

Actually, no. There's no war on Christmas. We just happen to respect difference and diversity enough not to be a bunch of arrogant pricks when it comes to our dominant religious holidays.

And, personally, I like Christmas a lot, even if my Christmas has zero Christ in it. It's a wonderful time for my family, and the traditions I grew up with I'm now passing on to my own children.

And if I'm at "war" with anyone -- hyperbole, to be sure -- it's with the right-wing fanatics, like the morons at Fox News, who seek to impose their (usually hypocritical) moralism on everyone and who make up all this "war on Christmas" bullshit to begin with.

Anyway, enough of that. I really do wish all my friends and family, including my wonderful co-bloggers here at The Reaction and all my friends throughout the blogosphere, as well as all of you, our readers (I cannot thank you enough for visiting us, and I hope you keep coming back), a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Be safe, and be good to one another.


A few weeks ago, we posted a clip from what one of our contributors thinks is the best Christmas movie ever, Christmas Vacation. Well, my own pick for that title is Bad Santa, or rather the extended version of that hilarious movie, Badder Santa. Okay, it's not exactly the most sentimental pick. I suppose if sentiment were involved I'd go with, oh, say, Die Hard, or maybe Home Alone. But it's the funniest and best. (Sorry, the highly-overrated It's a Wonderful Life. I like Capra a lot, but not this one. I much prefer another Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie, The Shop Around the Corner. Lovely and charming. Actually, Elf is pretty funny, too. I'm watching it as I write.)

Here are a few clips. Enjoy.

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