Saturday, March 10, 2012

Live-blogging Super Saturday 2012: Kansas, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands


8:49 pm - Oh, what a Super Saturday indeed!

8:51 pm - Kidding.

8:52 pm - After Super Tuesday, the next big day of contests is next Tuesday, with Alabama, Mississippi, and Hawaii voting -- and American Samoa, too. Let's not forget that it's not just the 50 states that vote. But today saw some voting as well, with one somewhat significant (at least in terms of media attention) vote in Kansas, a binding caucus, and three others, non-binding caucuses, on the periphery of the American Empire. I'm kidding about actually live-blogging the results, but let's take a look at what happened...

8:55 pm - Romney cruised to a ridiculously easy win in the Marianas, 87 to 6 over Santorum, with Gingrich and Paul each at 3. Given that no in-person campaigning went on there, it was all about name recognition and establishment cred. Romney has both, of course.

9:01 pm - Romney won Guam as well. Unanimously: "All 251 delegates from the island's 19 villages backed Romney, who sent his son Matt to Guam and the nearby Northern Marianas to campaign on his behalf." Well, there. Looks like there was some in-person campaign, just by one of the sons instead of the father. No wonder Mitt won. At least he had a presence way out near the International Date Line.

9:05 pm - One wonders what Matt promised the islanders. A free Cadillac for every delegate? Or maybe the residents share the Romney penchant for plutocratic douchebaggery?

9:06 pm - No word yet on the Virgin Islands. One suspects another landslide Romney win.

9:07 pm - Okay, enough. There are all non-binding and it was pretty clear Romney was going to take them. The key Republican battle today was in Kansas, a prelude to more social conservative voting on Tuesday in the Deep South. And, no surprise, it's Santorum who has prevailed (results here). Maybe not unanimously -- but easily: 51 to 21 over Romney, with Gingrich at 14 and Paul at 13 (with 99% reporting). In delegate terms, it's 33 for Santorum and just 7 for Romney. Yes, Romney won more delegates this weekend, considering his wins way out in the Pacific, but Santorum's win in Kansas means he "won" the day, to the extent that a win in Kansas can give him a bit of momentum heading into next Tuesday and cement the narrative -- based in fact -- that Romney's appeal is seriously limited.

9:17 pm - Does momentum even matter? Maybe not. It's a heavily overused term. Whatever gain Santorum made today will be reversed if he struggles in Alabama and Mississippi, two right-wing states where, were it not for Newt (from nearby Georgia), he should do well. And, of course, it's not momentum that matters, nor moral victories, but actual delegates, and by that count Romney isn't just winning but is more or less assured of the nomination (barring some massive collapse).

9:20 pm - Indeed, what we learned today, if anything, is that Romney is still the establishment favorite, while Santorum can continue to do well in certain states with heavily right-wing electorates -- unless Newt is around to suck up some of that conservative support, as he will do on Tuesday, perhaps enough to hand some wins to Romney or at least to divide Republican support to the point where no clear victor can be declared, which would be fine for Romney but bad for Santorum, who needs to win wherever he can, particularly in the Deep South, to make the case that Romney is just too out of touch with the GOP to be its nominee.

9:25 pm - Anyway, that's pretty much it. Enjoy the rest of the evening.

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Major advertisers finally pulling out of right-wing talk-radio hate

Here's The Daily Beast's John Avlon

Rush Limbaugh made the right-wing talk-radio industry, and he just might break it.

Because now the fallout from the "slut" slurs against Sandra Fluke is extending to the entire political shock-jock genre.

Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on "programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity)."

This is big. According to the radio-industry website, which first posted excerpts of the Premiere memo, among the 98 companies that have decided to no longer sponsor these programs are "carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm), and restaurants (McDonald's, Subway)." Together, these talk-radio advertising staples represent millions of dollars in revenue.

It's about time.

But, the question must be asked, why now? Was Dear Leader Rush's assault on Sandra Fluke just the final straw? Here's Digby:

I don't think they care about hyperpartisanship. They just don't need the backlash that comes from creepy middle aged men behaving like barbarians and insulting half their customers. It's not exactly an advertiser's favorite image.

Of course the perennial question is what's changed, since they've all been spewing hatred for ages. In my view, it's mainly a combination of a weakly recovering economy and feminists, both men and women, who were able to mobilize via social media to stage an effective boycott. But there's probably more to it than that. These things don't just spring up out of nowhere. In this case, we had a series of events over the course of a few months that were staggeringly insulting to women so maybe it just reached critical mass. Or maybe it's something else, some kind of a historical turning point that we can't see since we're in the middle of it. Or maybe not -- it's entirely possible that it's another in the series of fits and starts that mark women's progress in this world.

It remains to be seen if this will have any long term effect. But if it manages to break the two decade stranglehold of the right wing propagandists on radio, it will be a huge moment. These horrible people are a blight on the American political system and the path to a more civilized, decent society will be much clearer if their particular brand of rhetorically violent political "entertainment" is relegated to the past. The sentiments won't go away, of course, but there's no reason it has to dominate the airwaves of one whole media format.

Very well put.

I'm not sure what it is, whether it's just the culmination of a series of recent incendiary events or whether it really is something more historic, but I do think there is simply less toleration in the culture at large for the right's hateful bigotry, for the hate-fueled propaganda that characterizes so much of conservative talk radio, and so much of conservatism period these days.

Just as you can't get away with being a racist anymore, at least in decent, non-conservative society, you can't spew anti-gay bigotry and certainly not this sort of misogynistic bullying without being called on it, and without suffering the consequences.

This isn't a matter of free speech, though, which is what the right makes it out to be. No one is saying that you shouldn't have the right to say whatever you want, within broad parameters, including the sort of offensiveness Rush and his ilk traffic in all the time.

Rather, this is about the expansion of toleration and inclusiveness, about respect and dignity, about American society maturing.

And if you defend Rush and these purveyors of bigotry now, then you probably would have defended the bigots of the past as well, the racists and sexists and homophobes and others who are more and more being marginalized by a society that has had enough of the hatred that was so prominent for so long, that has been nothing but an ugly blight on a country that fashions itself a beacon of hope.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I think these companies are motivated by common decency or an objection to such bigotry. Perhaps they are to some extent, but it's really the bottom line that matters. And with society changing for the good, it looks like they're finally getting the message and taking action.

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Photo of the Day: Spring melt in Ontario

Photo by James Kelley

A couple of years ago a friend came up to visit me in Toronto. He took some pictures in provincial parkland a few hours north of the city probably either in or around Algonquin Park. It would have been almost exactly this time of year. The ice and snow was starting to melt and spring was just around the corner. 

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What progressives can learn from Andrew Breitbart

Guest post by Marc McDonald 

(Ed. note: Along with his post earlier today on how to take action against Dear Leader Rush, this is Marc's fifth guest post at The Reaction. His first, on how Steve Jobs represented much of what's wrong with the U.S. economy today, can be found here. His second, on how Ronald Reagan laid the groundwork for the death of capitalism, can be found here. This third, on the top mysteries surrounding The Beatles, can be found here. For more of his writing, check out his great blog, Beggars Can Be Choosers. -- MJWS)


Marc McDonald is a Texas journalist who runs the progressive political blog Beggars Can Be Choosers.

Normally, when someone passes away, everyone tries to think of something kind to say about them. But I can't do that with Andrew Breitbart. I absolutely despised him while he was alive. And his death doesn't change my feelings one bit.

However, I do think that we progressives can learn a thing or two from Breitbart.

By that, I don't mean resorting to using dirty tactics and twisting the facts around to attack opponents, as Breitbart did. No, what I'm talking about is learning a thing or two from his hard-core, take-no-prisoners attacking style to get what we want.

Democrats (and progressives in general) are just too goddamn timid and polite these days. We let conservatives steamroll right over us again and again. On the other hand, cons know exactly what they want and they'll do whatever it takes to win. And that is why they've pretty much gotten everything they've wanted for the past three decades.

Breitbart nearly always got what he wanted. It didn't matter if his tactics were questionable or slimy. They got the job done. A good example was when he posted video of Shirley Sherrod that made it appear that she'd made racist remarks. (Of course, she'd done no such thing, as was clear when the full video was released). But Breitbart still "won" in the end. After all, Sherrod was forced to resign, apparently with the White House's approval.

The Sherrod case involved a despicable tactic by Breitbart that summed up his approach to politics: attack, attack, attack -- and worry about the facts later, if at all.

Once again, I'm not suggesting we progressives copy this sort of slimy technique. But we do need some of the fire and conviction that Breitbart had in spades.

We need to fight tooth and claw for what we want, instead of timidly sitting around letting the GOP steamroll over us again and again.

Take the 2000 election, for example. The GOP fought ferociously on behalf of George W. Bush, even to the point of bringing in a rent-a-mob to bang on doors and intimidate Florida election officials. Meanwhile, the Gore team sat around politely, waiting for the phone to ring.

Yes, what the GOP did was despicable and it dealt a severe setback to democracy in America. But I get the feeling they didn't lose one second's worth of sleep over their sleazy tactics. And what's more, their guy got into the White House, despite losing the popular vote by 539,000 votes. In the end, they got everything they wanted: their war for oil, their tax breaks for the rich, and their billions of dollars in no-bid contracts for Halliburton.

Modern day politics is like a back alley switchblade fight. The GOP has known this for the past 30 years. And so they always come equipped with a switchblade, and whatever else they need to win the fight.

Meanwhile, the Dems have a bizarre fixation on using a polite, timid approach to politics. Unlike the GOP, they fail to grasp that the game has changed and that sometimes, you've got to use brute force and have a willingness to fight fire with fire.

After all, simply having the facts on his side didn't help John Kerry in 2004. On the other hand, the Swift Boat Liars' willingness to lie and use vicious, sleazy attacks sank Kerry's presidential bid.

The worst part of it was that, unlike the GOP, Kerry didn't need to lie. But he did need to use brute force (and a very loud megaphone) to get the truth out. He needed to get into the liars' faces and scream at the top of his voice that they were lying. In the end, his timid, polite approach failed. He failed to realize that, in modern day politics, politeness and being a gentleman and even having the truth on your side often isn't enough to win elections.

It's a lesson that the Dems have yet to grasp. In modern politics, if you want to win, you've got to have the fire, the hunger, and determination of people like Breitbart. Unlike Breitbart, you don't need to lie -- but you do need to learn to bring a switchblade to a street fight.

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Is there anything Romney won't flip-flop about?

Guest post by Comrade Misfit 

Ed. note: This is Comrade Misfit's second guest post at The Reaction. Her first looked back at when Romney was pro-choice, which wasn't all that long ago. For more of her writing, head over to her very fine blog Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I, which I highly recommend. -- MJWS


Comrade Misfit is a lawyer and cat-owner in upstate New York. You can find her at her blog, Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I.

It didn't get much notice amid the buildup to Super Tuesday. But after conservative outcry over his support for raising the minimum wage, Mitt Romney quietly reversed his position this week.

"There's probably not a need to raise the minimum wage," the Republican front-runner told CNBC's Larry Kudlow on Monday.

As recently as January, Romney said he was in favor of a hike in the minimum wage. "My view has been to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI [Consumer Price Index] or with another index so that it adjusts automatically over time," he told a staffer for a labor-backed group that supports a raise. And he confirmed that stance last month, telling reporters: "I haven't changed my thoughts on that."

Romney took the same position as governor of Massachusetts, an office he held from 2003 to 2007, and as a candidate for president in 2008.

Romney is shaping up to be the Incredible Plastic Candidate. There seems to be no outer limit to what he will say or do to achieve his goals.

Which means, for you folks in the GOP who are supporting him, that Romney will sell all of you out in an attosecond if he sees any advantage to doing so.

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Are you fed up with Rush Limbaugh? How to take action

Guest post by Marc McDonald 

Marc McDonald is a Texas journalist who runs the progressive political blog Beggars Can Be Choosers.

Rush Limbaugh got a lot of attention lately with his mean-spirited, vicious attack on Sandra Fluke, in which he called her a "slut" and a "prostitute" and suggested she post video tapes of herself online having sex. But really, Limbaugh has been doing this sort of thing for many years. Remember in 2006, when Limbaugh mocked Michael J. Fox's symptoms of Parkinson's disease?

If you're fed up with Limbaugh and the daily toxic nonsense he spews on the nation's public airwaves, I urge you to take action.

Go here to sign a petition to Clear Channel to discontinue Rush Limbaugh's show.

Go here to add your voice to a group of female veterans who are calling for the Armed Forces Network to drop Rush Limbaugh from its programming. (Armed Forces Network by the way, is funded with your tax dollars.

Go to and join the more than 100,00 people who've signed the petition there using Limbaugh's advertisers to drop him. Note: this site also includes an up-to-date list of Limbaugh's advertisers, along with contact information.

At this site, you can access the #StopRush Limbaugh Campaign, which rounds up news, info, and resources on the various efforts across the Internet to pressure Clear Channel and advertisers to stop supporting Limbaugh.

Go here to file a complaint with the FCC about Limbaugh's show. (Remember, his program is aired on the public airwaves that are owned by We The People. Note: Left Leaning Liberal Lady offers a good suggestion: "contact the FCC to file a complaint against Rush Limbaugh for soliciting pornography via public airwaves.")

At this site, you can find detailed information about the companies that are still advertising on Rush's show, as well as updates on those companies who've dropped their ads. Be sure to add your voice to those who are contacting these companies, asking them to stop sponsoring Limbaugh. (And until these companies do so, we should boycott their products and services).

Add your name to this Facebook page which is coordinating a boycott-Limbaugh effort (and which already has over 30,000 "Likes"). (Note: Twitter users can add their voices here at #boycottrush).

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

This day in music - March 8, 1930: "Happy Days Are Here Again" by Ben Selvin and His Orchestra is at No. 1 on the charts

"Happy Days Are Here Again" is likely best remembered as the campaign song for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's successful 1932 presidential campaign and has, ever since, been associated with the Democratic Party.

It was copyrighted in 1929 by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics). The song seems first to have been recorded by Leo Reisman and his Orchestra in 1929, with Lou Levin on vocals, and featured in a 1930 film called Chasing Rainbows.

Someone by the name of Ben Selvin recorded it in 1930 and had a number one hit with it. Although I am not sure, my guess is that these rankings would have been based on sheet music sales. If anyone has better information than that, let me know.

The interesting thing about Ben Selvin is that, according to The Guinness Book of World Records, he recorded more musical sides on 78-rpm discs that any another person. As the Wikipedia entry reports:

One reason for this prolific output is that he recorded for dozens of different labels during this high-growth time in the industry, using a different name (or slightly different name) for each label. Selvin's output has been estimated at 13,000 to 20,000 song titles.

Mr. Selvin lived from 1898 to 1980 and was a musician, bandleader, record producer, and innovator in recorded music. He was known as "The Dean of Recorded Music."

Anyway, back to the song: With the economy perhaps, hopefully, turning the corner, it's as good a time as any to dust off "Happy Days Are Here Again," much as the thought would pain our friends in the Republican Party, who dream of economic apocalypse, at least leading up to November.

Here it is by Ben Selvin & His Orchestra, expressing the hope of any sane person:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Lee Atwater: Romney can't win in November 2012

Master political tactician Lee Atwater once said that "anyone who gets more than a 35-percent negative factor can't win an election."

In the 2012 Republican presidential contest, Mitt Romney is that person.

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 39 percent of adults in America view Romney very or somewhat negatively, compared to 28 percent who view the former Massachusetts governor very or somewhat positively.

"If his negatives are 35 percent and his positives aren't at least 5 percent higher," Atwater believed, "it's politically fatal."(1)

Far from a polling fluke, the NBC/WSJ survey has remained fairly consistent over the past six months. In fact, the only significant difference between this year's results and the same poll's findings in 2008 is that Romney is disliked more now, as the frontrunner and presumed nominee, than he was in '08 as a third-place finisher in the GOP primary.

In January, 2008, Romney earned a 28 percent positive review from poll respondents -- the exact same positivity rating recorded in this month's poll. His negative responses, however, have jumped 7 percentage points since 2008, from 32 percent to 39 percent.

The question is, will Atwater's axiom hold true? Is Romney's political fate doomed?

What the GOP primaries forecast

The only thing standing between Romney and the 2012 nomination is Rick Santorum. Unfortunately, the only thing that has kept Santorum from securing permanent frontrunner status is Romney's 28-to-1 fundraising advantage.

Santorum has survived Romney's attacks with an authentically grassroots-style campaign -- shaking hands with constituents, sitting down for hours-long chats with meager-sized crowds, and, in Iowa, driving a truck through each of the Hawkeye State's 99 counties.

Romney, in contrast, has done little more than throw money into (mostly negative) advertising.

For a man with a $50-million fundraising advantage over Santorum (per the Jan. 31 disclosure reports), Romney doesn't have much to show for it.

The single most important takeaway from Super Tuesday -- other than the obvious observation that Romney is still very much disliked -- it's that the "presumed nominee," a title now requiring quotation marks, has no Southern Strategy whatsoever. He has lost South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, and he's on track to lose Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas, and Alabama -- all of which will be decided this month. (Florida, though technically in "the South," is neither ideologically or demographically "southern," and in the panhandle of Florida, the more conservative, "southern" part of the state, Romney lost 27 of 33 counties to Newt Gingrich.) In Texas, a February poll showed Santorum with a 29-point lead over Romney.

Romney managed to eke out an eight-tenths-of-one-percent victory over Santorum in the must-win Ohio primary on March 6, but considering the paper-thin margin, the four in ten Republicans who expressed reservations about their options, and the "weak field" of Republican candidates, David Frum called the win "deeply, deeply ominous."

Perhaps more ominous, Romney's primary victories have come mostly in states Obama carried with ease in 2008: New Hampshire, where Obama won by 10 percent; Massachusetts (26 percent); Vermont (37 percent); Maine (17 percent); Washington state (17 percent); Nevada (12 percent); and Michigan (16 percent). Obama also won Virginia, by 6 percent; Ohio, by 5 percent; and Florida, by 3 percent.

In other words: Arizona, Idaho and Alaska are the only states Romney has won that Obama lost in '08. Combined, the three states will provide Romney with a whopping 18 electoral college votes out of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

(Though difficult to fathom, it's possible that Arizona, which Obama lost by an 8-percent margin in 2008, could turn blue this November. Republicans have isolated Hispanics with their vehement opposition to the DREAM Act and their state government's discriminatory SB 1070 immigration law. According to the 2010 census, 30 percent of Arizonans are Hispanic. A February 22 poll showed Obama and Romney tied at 47 percent in The Grand Canyon State.)

This race should be over

The upward political mobility of a presumed nominee should be visible 22 races into a primary.

Sen. John McCain hadn't officially secured the Republican presidential nomination after winning Florida on January 29, 2008, but his poll numbers shot through the roof, jumping 16.5 percent after a narrow but powerful 5-percent victory over Mitt Romney in The Sunshine State. A week later he led Mike Huckabee by 25 percentage points.

Two days after the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday races, when Romney won seven states to McCain's nine, Romney dropped out. By the time Mike Huckabee followed suit a month later, McCain was polling at 57 percent nationally.

In 2000, George W. Bush was polling in the mid-60s at the end of January. In February of 1995, when the politically insipid Bob Dole fought for the nomination with the equally bland vice president, Dan Quayle, Dole hovered between 38 and 46 percent from February to April before breaking out for good. "And although Gallup's Republican test elections expanded to contain up to nine candidates, Dole faced no significant competition throughout 1995."

In January 1987, H.W. Bush was in the low 30-percent range, but he too held a 20-percent margin over his primary rival (Dole) "and maintained a roughly 2-to-1 lead over Dole the rest of the year."

Comparatively, it has been a year since Romney announced his presidential exploratory committee, and he has thus far failed either to reach the 40 percentage mark or to open up a poll margin greater than 10 percent. (On the few occasions he has topped 10 percent, the lead hasn't been sustained for longer than a week.) He's trailed Rick Perry, by 12 percent in September; Herman Cain, by 2 percent in November; Newt Gingrich, by 12 percent in December; and most recently Santorum, who has led by as much as 6.6 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics average of all national polls.

NBC's Chuck Todd et al. wrote recently that: 

Romney's image right now is worse than almost all other recent candidates who went on to win their party's presidential nomination: Obama was 51%/28% and McCain was 47%/27%, per the March 2008 NBC/WSJ poll; Kerry was 42%/30% at this point in '04; George W. Bush was 43%/32% in 2000; and Bob Dole was 35%/39%. The one exception: Bill Clinton (2), in April 1992, was 32%/43%. That means that if Romney becomes the GOP nominee, he has a LONG WAY to go to rehabilitate his image.

And as a recent CNN analysis predicted, Super Tuesday won't change that.

Romney is quick to attack Santorum for not having a national campaign apparatus in place -- or even a national campaign headquarters. He's an evangelical extremist who offends all but the hardcore religious right. His strengths in the primaries would be his demise in the general election. But a primary opponent's shortcomings don't make Romney a general election contender.

Santorum will still be "nipping at Romney's heels" long after Super Tuesday, and even if Romney manages to win enough delegates to secure the nomination (or if he doesn't but Santorum concedes at the Republican convention this August), Obama will be waiting, with a full war chest and a strong favorability rating among both Democrats and independents.

How is Romney going to compete in the general election if he can't separate himself from the pack, can't rally the South, and can only win primary victories in liberal states that are guaranteed to vote Democratic in November? He has higher negatives than any electable presidential nominee in decades, and even his fundraising is drying up. (He already has tapped 40 percent of his campaign donors for the maximum amount they're allowed to contribute.)

How is that guy going to beat a growingly popular incumbent whose re-election campaign is both financially well-oiled and strategically unrivaled?

The answer is, he can't.

Atwater knew the outcome of this election 20 years ago.


1 - Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater, by John Brady, 1997.

2 - Bill Clinton was running against two conservatives in 1992, the GOP establishment candidate George H.W. Bush and the anti-establishment populist Ross Perot. Clinton won the presidency without winning a majority of the vote.

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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An October Surprise: Will Israel attack Iran?

By Ali Ezzatyar 

The question of whether Israel or America will attack Iran has had a shelf life that is unheard of in international affairs, and the factors that weigh on a yes or no answer to the question have changed surprisingly little over the last ten years. But there is one variable that could alter everything this year: November.

Prior to, and in the early stages of the Iraq War, there was the notion in foreign policy circles that America could launch a military attack on Iran itself. America had an interventionist president driven by perceived ideals that made Iran seem like a perfect target. Such an attack would have been primarily designed to ensure the failure of Iran's nuclear program; the larger question was whether George W. Bush would try to take it all a step further and force regime change in Tehran. These were ideas being discussed as early as 2002; it wouldn't be farfetched to say an attack on Iran felt as imminent then as it does now.

The more "Mission Accomplished" became the biggest American foreign policy quagmire in generations, however, the less likely an American attack became. And somewhere around when the 3000th American military serviceperson was killed in Iraq, the idea that America could attack Iran for any reason had vanished into seeming impossibility. Until now, the ongoing instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the 2008 election of a president critical of recent American interventionism, continues to hamstring any notion that the United States could embark on a military venture against a bigger, more powerful, more complicated Iranian foe.

It was about the same time, during Iraq's most tumultuous moments of the last decade, that talk of a unilateral Israeli strike became prevalent. Israel has always been considered the primary beneficiary of such an attack, and hence the idea that their highly capable military could go it alone was always feasible although not preferable to an overwhelming American strike. Until recently, however, there was the notion that Israel would not act without America's approval. This was because the success-to-repercussions ratio for Israel was poor, but also because the chaos of war in Iraq and Afghanistan made intervention in Iran dangerous to America, Israel's most important ally, no matter who the attacking party was.

And since George W. Bush was seen as one of the most Israel-friendly presidents ever, America's hamstring was necessarily Israel's. The logic was that if Israel attacked Iran without America's go-ahead and help, America could get dragged into a third war, which could ultimately serve to tarnish U.S.-Israeli relations permanently. George W. Bush was thought to have put his neck on the line sufficiently for Israel, and we assumed then and know now that he drew a red line around Iran. A third war in the Middle East for George W. Bush would have been disastrous, even more definitively writing off George W. Bush as one of America's worst presidents, and ensuring failure in the 2008 presidential elections for any Republican candidate. After Obama's election, the writing was well and clearly on the wall for Israel: we are not attacking Iran, and neither are you. 

So why the history lesson?  If the foregoing is mostly true, I think we can draw two important conclusions:

First, not enough has changed elsewhere to make an American attack on Iran any more likely in the short term as it was five years ago. Afghanistan is increasingly unstable while Iraq's direction remains a huge question mark. Furthermore, Pakistan has come to resemble more and more an ally-turned-enemy, and any fallout from a breakdown in relations there could be catastrophic. There is just too much risk involved with an attack on Iran.

To the contrary, and more importantly, this is the most temperate climate for an Israeli attack on Iran we have seen. There are some obvious reasons, such as unprecedented Iranian isolation, Iran's reportedly nearing critical stages in its nuclear development, and recent accusations of assassinations of Israelis abroad. But there is something much more profound from an Israeli perspective.

A plurality of Israelis believe that Barack Obama is the least Israel-friendly president in American history. They harbor suspicions about his intentions in the region and generally believe he may abandon Israel in ways unprecedented to presidents before him.

An attack on Iran this year is unquestionably dangerous to Obama's reelection. There is no scenario where a unilateral attack by Israel will not hurt Obama's chances. We probably do not need to discuss how a failed attack, the most likely scenario of a unilateral Israeli strike according to most analysts, would be disastrous for U.S. interests and the president personally. But even a successful Israeli attack would wreak havoc on financial markets, on American interests in the region, and portray Obama as a man with no control over a key region for U.S. interests. This is the most likely scenario for an unlikely Republican win in November 2012.

Even if the American public is critical of an Israeli strike, the hawkish Republican candidate-turned-president, who has been distinguishing himself all year long on the principle of being forceful with Iran, comes to power with Israel's interests in mind. It is win-win for Israel.

If Israel waits long enough to ensure there is no sanction from an Obama administration for its attacking Iran, but not until after the elections themselves, it can both perform an operation it has been planning for years, and one which it sees as vital to its long-term survival, while supplanting the president of its largest benefactor that it wants to see gone anyway. Could Israel be planning an October, or perhaps August / September surprise? It wouldn't be the first time Iran has been used to win a U.S. election. (Remember this one?)

The odds of an Israeli attack on Iran are the highest they have been in ten years.

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Peyton Manning should go to the New York Jets -- no question about it

Waving goodbye and hello
As any football fan knows by now, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts ended their 14-year relationship when the team released him on Wednesday. Manning brought the Colts a Super Bowl and four NFL MVP awards but it's a tough business and the club's management felt it was time to say goodbye.

In fairness, Manning is about to turn 36, a pretty advanced age for a QB. He did miss the entire 2011 NFL season with a neck injury and, though doctors have apparently said he is okay to play, it's not at all clear that he would be the Peyton Manning of old. And, oh yeah, they would have had to pay him a $28 million bonus if they decided to keep him. And double oh yeah, the Colts were so bad last year that they are in line to get a first round draft pick that could land them Andrew Luck, reported to be one of the best quarterbacks ever to come out of college.

So, yes, it was time for Manning to go. And, as much as the Colts would probably love him to just retire so he would only have played for Indy in his entire career, which would in some sense be cleaner, he says he wants to continue in the league. Thus, we are about to begin what most observers call perhaps the biggest free agent sweepstakes in the history of the NFL.

Everyone is abuzz with talk of who needs him most and where he might want to go. Teams in need that come up in conversation are Washington, Tennessee, Miami, Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Denver, San Francisco, even Houston.

But my personal favourite is the New York Jets. Whether or not the Jets are interested is another question, but here are my reasons he should want to go there and why the Jets should want him, in no particular order:
  • The Jets haven't been to the Super Bowl since Joe Namath and company won it for them in 1969. The Giants have been there five times and have won four. The Jets and the Giants have always hated each other. Jets coach Rex Ryan has been mouthing off over the past few years about who the best team in the city is. We know the answer to that question and the Jets would do almost anything to change it. Manning could bring them a Super Bowl. I also think Ryan would love the extra attention of having Peyton around.
  • Jets QB Mark Sanchez has been a disappointment and is not developing quickly enough. See point one.
  • Manning will be 36 soon and doesn't have that many good years left. He'll want to go to a team that is ready to win and the Jets are.
  • Brother Eli would be playing not only in the same town but in the same stadium. The brothers seem close and I suspect this would be considered a plus for both of them. Eli has said as much.
  • I think Peyton would like to go up against Tom Brady twice a year in the AFC East. Great rivalry. 
  • Here's the big one: Peyton Manning is a very bright, articulate guy who loves the camera, loves media attention and who will be around the game for a long time to come as a media personality and ambassador for the game once his playing days are over. My guess is he would love to end his career in the media centre of the world. It will enhance his profile even more, if that's possible, making him even bigger than he already is. For example, you'd probably see him and his little brother doing Saturday Night Live skits and whatever. Anyway, Peyton was made for New York and I just can't see him wanting to go to a secondary media market. And next to New York City, every place else is a secondary media market. 
  • A corollary to the last one is that with Eli's two Super Bowl rings and Peyton being Peyton, can you imagine what the Madison Avenue advertising execs could do with these guys if they played in the same town? They'd need their own Brinks truck just to transport their daily earnings.
Okay, it may not go that way for a bunch of reasons, but I think, if Peyton Manning really understood his own interests, it would go that way.

There. No one asked me, but that's my two cents.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The Dinosaur Walked

By Carl
Rush, you're out of touch, and out of your league.

On one side, there is conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh doing what made him famous on the airwaves – throwing incendiary word bombs. This time, he dubbed a Georgetown University law student a “slut” and a "prostitute” after she said at a congressional hearing that insurance should cover contraceptives.   

On the other side, a one-two punch: social media amplifying the concerns of a wave of protesters – particularly women – railing against what they saw as outdated misogyny.

I'm going to put this in terms that Sun Tzu would readily appreciate: asymetrical warfare.

Also known as "death by a billion tweets."

This isn't the first time Rush has mouthed off and been over-the-top offensive, and he's gotten away with it every time prior. It may very well end up being his last, however.

Why? Mostly because his criticism had been from outlets he could readily poo-poo as "liberal mainstream media," like media critics or talk show panels. It allowed him to focus his fire on those symbolic critics without ever addressing the underlying audience. He was fighting other dinosaurs and he was the biggest meanest of the herd. His targets were large and easily fought.

This allowed his fans, all 15 million of them (5% of the US population, believe it or not,) to discredit the criticism easily while ignoring the actual insulting behavior.

Yes, people have tried the boycott advertiser route with Rush in the past, and it hasn't worked because there hasn't been a critical mass-- it's much easier for conservative activists to gather the financial resources to launch an ad campaign-- achieved.

In the world of social media, that paradigm is broken, and in this spew Rush will lose. You don't need money to send a tweet to boycott Carbonite or Sears, and your hundred or thousand followers can read it. Multiply that by millions and then the tens of millions of re-tweets and replies, and next thing you know, AOL is synonymous with Rush Limbaugh.

And therefore, AOL becomes the responsible party for what Rush says. After all, they're paying big bucks to him to say it. Remember, tens and hundreds of millions of tweets will reinforce that appearance. That Rush is hemmoraghing advertisers-- despite his brash "they're coming back" claims to the contrary, he's still down a net of 35 by my count-- is not a surprise.

I mean, it's not like it's been a secret that Rush was offensive, but he had been able to clamp down the controversy quickly and it passed from public view.

Worse for Rush, it would be impossible to find each and every tweeter and start pulling their wings off: first, even if you could somehow devote the resources necessary to investigate tens of millions of tweets, you'd fail miserably in characterizing them because many of them are mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters of his listeners, which would diminish his audience right off the top, and second, the signal that sends is one of abject desperation.

Rush, predictably, blamed liberals. He resorted to "fighting the last war," and Sun Tzu would have chuckled. Meanwhile, the anthill he's stepped in is sending more and more ants (tweets and Tweeters) to attack him. And those tweets are flashing past the screens of people endlessly. Those free commercials for getting rid of Rush are far more common now than the actual commercials the advertisers paid for.

Of course, they ain't selling soap, they're selling the idea that advertising on Rush's program will get you a drop in sales. For companies like Sears, who just announced they were throwing in the towel, this amounts to suicide. And in an economy like ours, as feeble and straining as it is, bad news is not no news. It's bad news and that means a hit to the bottom line where today even a small hit can create a loss.

So Rush is left flailing not because he said something stupid-- as I pointed out, he's done that before and gotten away with it, so there's no reason to think he'd learned from those-- but because he failed to read the environment he was operating in. He believed he was safe from backlash, that if he battened down the hatches for a couple of days, the storm would pass.

It hasn't. It won't. And until Rush comes to God himself and makes a sincere apology taking responsibility for what he said and promising (as Keith Olbermann did last night) never to let it happen again, you can write his career off.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Photo of the day: A Havana Industriales baseball cap

A friend just got back from a trip to Cuba. Yes, those of us who live in Canada and have Canadian passports get to do that.

He brought this hat back, which is the cap worn by the Havana Industriales.

Here's the Wikipedia entry for the team, which I find quite interesting: a team hated as much as the New York Yankees. I can relate.

Industriales is a baseball team in the Cuban National Series. One of the two teams based in the city of Havana. Industriales is historically the most successful team in the National Series, the main domestic competition in post-revolutionary Cuban baseball. They are similar to the New York Yankees in the sense that they have fans all over the country, being a sure sellout in any stadium, also hated by many outside the capital. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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I am Rush Limbaugh's wife... part deux

I Am Rush Limbaugh’s Wife...Part Deux takemycountrybackHi everyone. It's me again! Kathy Rogers Limbaugh. The luckiest girl in the world! Holla!! I wanted to write another post after my last one got such a great response. Plus, I wanted to give you an update as to how my husband is doing since he called that uppity college slut a whorebag.

I have to say, my husband has been having quite a week. All of those "liberal media elites," as my husband loves to call them, have been going crazy over this whole thing. It is just to bizarre to me. Even a bunch of his advertisers have left the show, which is really weird because they are the ones who usually like what he has to say. I mean when Rush made fun of that guy from Back to the Future for having Parkinson's disease nobody seemed to mind at all. When he said that the NAACP should have riot rehearsal and get a liquor store and practice robberies, nobody said anything then either! I mean, it's not like a lot of black people listen to his show. And if one happens to slip through the cracks, when they are not smoking it that is, then he just tells it like it is. I remember he told me about this one time a long time ago, some slutty black girl called his show to harass him. Rush told her to take the bone out of her nose. LOL! I mean, you can see why I married him.

So why is everyone so upset when he calls some college student who likes to have sex all day long a slut? And to make matters even worse, I am now being harassed! For example, I was shopping the other day for a new Prada handbag and this woman who I didn't even know came up to me and asked if I was Rush Limbaugh's wife. I asked her, "Which wife are you thinking of because he has had four of them." She looked at me like I just walked out of Banana Republic or something and stormed off. What a bitch, right?

My point is, I can't even go into my favorite stores anymore without some slutty, contraception binging slut, wearing shoes from the Gap by the way, coming up to me and asking me things. It's like I am being assaulted or even raped! I mean, my husband said he was sorry for calling that slut a slut. I told him he did not have to apologize to anyone for anything. I told him he should go onto the radio the next day and say that not only is that girl a slut, but that she also has no taste in clothes.

As usual, he didn't listen to me. Later I tried to give him the cold shoulder when he came into the bedroom wearing nothing but his ratty EIB polo shirt. But he was feeling depressed as a result of all of this so I backed down. Plus he threatened to close my credit card account if I didn't "give it up," as he calls it. I mean, can you blame me? The cards are all in his name. I am not allowed to open one by myself. Sometimes that makes me so mad. But then, I am a girl. That's just how it goes, right?

Oh well. Tootles!


Guest post by tmcbpatriot (not Kathryn Rogers, but close) 

tmcbpatriot's informative and always entertaining blog, Take My Country Back, emanates from somewhere out in the Midwest. He writes passionately and as often as possible about a confused, mindless right wing hopelessly lost in the abyss of endless lies and misdirection. 

Ed. note: This is the patriot's fourth guest post for us. His first was on how it's about the vagina, stupid, his second was on gay marriage and the end of the GOP, and his third was the first post by Kathryn Rogers. I'm a big fan of his blog and we're happy to have him on board.

For more from The Reaction team on Dear Leader Rush and his vicious attack on Sandra Fluke, see:

See also Mustang Bobby's "Annals of Victimhood" over at his place, Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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Ayatollah Rick: Santorum or Khamenei?

Here's a fun game to play, this Wednesday after Super Tuesday.

Over at Foreign Policy, it's "Khamenei or Santorum? Who said what?" It's harder than you might think. Or, rather, it may just as you think, nearly impossible to tell who said what, which is to say, to tell the difference between these two devoted theocrats.

I would just note that Santorum's theocratic views are pretty much mainstream in today's Republican Party. Which is to say, today's Republican Party is a lot like the supreme leadership in Iran.

But surely you knew that already.

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Why Obama picked this fight

By Carl

Look carefully at this infamous photo.

Now read this (paywall, sorry):

The 1994 campaign ad that turned California from a purple to a blue state began with grainy black-and-white footage of Latino migrants sprinting the wrong way down a six-lane freeway near San Diego. "They keep coming," the narrator announced over an ominously thumping soundtrack. The ad helped re-elect GOP governor Pete Wilson and pass a ballot measure, later tossed by the courts, that barred undocumented immigrants from nonemergency public health care, education and social services. The California GOP, however, has yet to recover from that double win. "It absolutely damaged the Republican brand," says Jennifer Korn, who led George W. Bush's Latino-outreach effort in 2004. "Conservatives have not realized how their tone and rhetoric has turned people off." Over the next six years, the chances that California Latinos would identify as Republican dropped from 34% to 12%, while the odds they would identify as Democratic rose from 38% to 63%. At the same time, Latino voter registration boomed as unions and community groups mounted citizenship and registration drives. Richard Nixon won California three times, Ronald Reagan won it twice, and George H.W. Bush won it once. Since Wilson, no Republican other than Arnold Schwarzenegger has won a top statewide office.

But instead of learning the Wilson lesson, Republicans have repeated the error across the Mountain West. In 2010 the Nevada GOP's Senate candidate, Sharron Angle, ran ads that reprised the black-and-white images of menacing Latinos crossing the border. ("The best friend an illegal alien ever had" was her tagline for Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who won overwhelming support from Latino voters.) Arpaio, the Republican sheriff in Phoenix, has been chastened by the Justice Department for unlawfully profiling, detaining and arresting Latino residents. And the 2012 Republican campaign trail has more often than not echoed Wilson's approach. Romney named Wilson as honorary chair of his campaign in California and toured South Carolina with the Kansas secretary of state who helped write the Arizona law that pushed Valenzuela and Team Awesome into action in the first place. "You look at what Pete Wilson did in California 15 years ago," says Messina, "and that is what this primary is doing with Latino voters."

Within months, the damage to Republicans among Latinos was measurable. In a January survey for the Spanish-language network Univision, pollster Matt Barreto found that 27% of Latinos felt the Republican Party was hostile toward Hispanics, while an additional 45% believed Republicans "don't care much" about them--a total of 72% who don't feel welcomed by the party. (And the numbers are getting worse: back in April 2011, just 20% sensed hostility from the Republicans.) The GOP's nativist drift led Newt Gingrich, who takes slightly more centrist positions on immigration, to call Romney "anti-immigrant." It has rallied a group of party elders, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and strategist Karl Rove, to appeal for a more moderate tone. "We know that this is the fastest-growing segment and that we have to increase our share," warns Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican Party, who recently spoke to a gathering of conservative Latinos in Florida. "In 2020, if the Republican nominee for President gets the same percentage of the white, Hispanic, African American and Asian vote that John McCain got in 2008, a Democrat will be elected to the White House by 14 percentage points."

Now you know why the White House let this pass without much comment.

Obama has had some serious fence mending to make with, sorry, that allegory was a bit outré. He took pride at one point at having deported more undocumented immigrants in his first two years than Bush did in his entire administration. Clearly, that's not a way to curry favor with people who are suspected of being illegal-by-accent.

To his credit, well marginally to his credit a cynic might point out, Obama has made some strides for Latinos in this country, like not forcing spouses to leave the country to apply for citizenship and finding ways to keep families together despite immigration statuses. He has also made at least three attempts at getting the DREAM Act passed, whereby minors who entered this country illegally would be welcome to stay to complete a college degree or serve two years in the military. Filibustered by Republicans each time.

And he has much work to do still, but at least in Obama and the Democrats, this fast-growing sector of the population doesn't experience downright animosity.

A side note: ever hear a Republican talk about illegal Irish immigration? This is a racial issue, first and foremost for them.

My own stance on immigration is simple: open the door. Immigrants have been the single biggest engine of economic growth in this country since, well, colonial times. At this point in our history, facing chronic economic malaise and massive inertia to do nothing amongst our political classes, and an obvious inability on the part of the wealthy to "create jobs"-- there's a laugh-- we need all the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit we can muster. Immigrants provide that.

Coming here with few preconceptions except that it's possible to make a living here, immigrants open the grocery stores, the laundromats, the card shops. They send their kids to school to get an education to make lives that are one step easier than they have it.

Eventually, they pay their way into the American dream, buying cars, houses, a college education for the kids. Instead of pasting a label of "illegal" on them, let's do what we've always done: take the huddled masses yearning to breathe free and integrate them into our culture.

Language issues, you say? So? The English you speak now is a compendium of the English that was spoken in the 19th Century, plus a few thousand foreign words that made their way into our dialogue. It's messugeh to think that language is a set-in-stone communiqué, capisci? Gracias. I'm glad we can discuss this mano a mano and come to some verstandnis

So Obama letting Jan Brewer get in his face is a very powerful image, one that Latinos in Arizona, as well as nationwide, will immediately identify with.

After all, Brewer is the face of the man who wants to keep Latinos in their places, the one who doesn't mind them picking the crops so long as they don't ask for health insurance or a decent wage.

She's the cop who pulls over because she sees a band of mijos standing on a street corner and demands "papers, please!"

She's the neighbor who complains at eight o'clock at night that the party is too loud and that awful native musica!

She's the boss who tries to "speak the lingo, gringo" because it will keep his workers smiling and productive, and not lazy.

She's the grocery customer who keeps a close eye as the cashier rings up the sale, making sure nothing gets scanned twice, and that she gets all her change, because you know how shifty "they" are.

And she's the one who wants to build a fence so high that it doesn't keep people out, but it keeps her mind closed.

(Photo courtesy.)

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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