Saturday, March 24, 2012

If I had a son

By Capt. Fogg

"You know, if I had a son he would look like Treyvon,"

said the president and I guess that's true to some extent. He'd have dark skin, of course, but I took it to mean that his son would be an ordinary looking, ordinary acting 17 year old and not a shooting gallery target.

Newt Gingrich took it differently because he saw the comment, which was clearly an attempt to show compassion and to suggest that he couldn't avoid putting himself in the place of the grieving father of Treyvon Martin, as an opportunity to launch another Fox-faux outrage. Hasn't the entire Republican reaction to the election of Barack Obama been a collection of phony, trumped up, fabricated and exasperatingly stupid outrages?
" Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn't look like him?"

said Newt to Sean Hannity on Fox News. Certainly Fox is the Cape Canaveral; the launch pad of most such desperate grasping at rhetorical straws -- the place where the unscrupulously ambitious launch calumny after slander after blatant lie, not because this president is beyond criticism, but because they, the Republican insiders, are themselves accessories before, during and after the fact of the collapse of our economy, the corruption and outrageous economic policies and the unjustified war that precipitated it and only wild claims can distract the public from remembering. Only wild, unsubstantiated and preferably ridiculous statements can rally the bigotry against honesty and decency.

So is the president suggesting that it was only a tragedy because a black kid was killed? Only a Republican could twist words and facts to make it seem so and only a man of the "I will never apologise for America" persuasion could reflect on the Republican support for segregation, opposition to civil rights for minorities, females and non-Christians and not see the killing as part of a continuum; part of a mentality they've been promoting for at least a century.

The gambit is an old and tired and disreputable one, as much so as is Gingrich himself and the others Fox News gives the megaphone to. "Is George Washington suggesting that he should be king?" In fact he suggested the opposite, but the question suggests that there is indeed a question. Is Newt Gingrich a dishonest, morally unscrupulous, hypocritical liar blinded by an unholy ambition and hunger for power? Does a newt shit in the swamp?

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Mitt Romney: The incredible erasable candidate

Guest post by Comrade Misfit
Ed. note: This is Comrade Misfit's third guest post at The Reaction. Her first looked back at when Romney was pro-choice, which wasn't all that long ago, while her second looked at Romney's incessant flip-flopping. 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. 
The Etch-a-Sketch Candidate: "I can be whatever you want me to be."

The Romney campaign, as much as they are trying to retract the comment, told the truth two days ago: Everything that Romney has said or promised during the primary campaign has been complete and utter bullshit. Romney will flip from being a "severe conservative" to Mister Middle-of-the-Road. He'll get up and deny that he meant anything he said during the primary campaign and that, in the Fall, we can really trust him now.

It's a lesson he learned at Bain Capital, when his job was to lie like a patent-medicine salesman to get the shareholders of a company to agree to being taken over. Romney and his boys at Bain would proclaim how they valued the company, what it did and they'd only make it better. But then, as we all know, they'd load up the company with debt and then loot the company, leaving people out of work, factories shuttered and towns devastated. All the while, the Bain boys laughed all the way to their vacation houses in the Hamptons and in Vail.

Republicans are being fools if they think they can believe or rely on anything that Romney says. I won't say that they are "being fooled," for there is abundant evidence that Romney believes nothing other than he should be in charge. 

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Red states, white popes, blue bloods: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and the Republican war on women

By Ramona

In almost every war, there are those moments when soldiers have to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Think M*A*S*H, Stalag 17, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse Five. Like that. In the war of the Red States against American Women, while the scale may be worlds smaller, and while there's actually been no official declaration, the time has come. To laugh, I mean. Honest to God, it is to giggle.

Could even the wildest, zaniest futurist have predicted these hysterical days, when lawmakers in a dozen red states would be falling all over each other to see who could come up with the nuttiest demand to probe into the sex life of Femalus Americanus?

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett capped last week's antics, turning the usual Republican clown show into an Extravaganza de Burlesque with his lame punchline, "I don't know how you can make anyone watch... you just have to close your eyes," after a reporter asked the governor if state-sanctioned ultrasounds for women seeking abortions "went too far."

This clip from The Rachel Maddow Show shows the madness in a nutshell:

ThinkProgress Health does another recap, this one with an interactive map showing the states that either are planning or already have hardline, punitive anti-abortion laws in place. (Okay, this one isn't funny... not funny at all.)

But then there's Rick Santorum. Rick Santorum is running for president, I guess you know. But is he? His speeches are sermons and his sweater-vests are the closest he could come to a cassock without drawing attention to his real hope for the presidency. But listening to him pontificate, don't you just know he's itching to wave at the crowds from his Rickmobile and turn the White House into a papal palace, where he can do what every American president should have been doing all these many years, which is to work tirelessly at saving us sinners from ourselves?

What The Great Santorum doesn't seem to understand is that most of us don't want to go back to the Dark Ages. Inquisitions are so yesterday. Self-flagellation hurts. And women might be ladies but they'll never be chattel again.

So, given that Rick Santorum can't stop showing his inquisitor's hand, in all likelihood Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential candidate. Mitt Romney can't help that he was born a blue blood, but somebody needs to tell him his impression of Thurston Howell III is wearing thin. It was funny at first -- even hilariously funny -- but verbal pratfalls from haughty billionaires have never a president made.

Blue-blood presidents, from Washington to Jefferson to Roosevelt to Kennedy, at least pretended to be egalitarians. Equality is what our constitution is all about. The president, as leader of the country, is a representative for the people, not a bottom-line, for-profit CEO. Maybe this Mitt Romney needs to go back to his Massachusetts governor roots. That Mitt Romney could at least, every once in a while, be convincing in his role as public servant.

And Newt Gingrich. Where is poor Newt? As hard as he might try to insist otherwise, he's on the outside looking in. Delusions of intellectual grandiosity failed to impress his peeps. They yawned and moved on. Color him green.

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The Syrian uprising's interested onlookers: Iran, Israel, Russia, and Saudi Arabia

By Ali Ezzatyar

The Arab Awakening has a common denominator: the people want the downfall of the regime. It is a pretty good one, too. While it ensures nothing, it is the first, and perhaps the most difficult, of many steps before democracy.

Bashar al-Assad, Tyrant of Syria
It goes without saying that each Arab country, with all of its distinctions, will see its individual route meet special hurdles and circumstances. An unfortunate reality is that many of these obstacles have nothing to do with domestic considerations at all, but rather international ones. We knew this. It's the story of the modern Middle East. But what has become increasingly clear over the last 14 months is just how important one of these countries actually is to everyone else. We get some color on the American perspective by reading the paper. But this is how the other important players are looking at the biggest prize of the Arab dictatorship club, Syria:

Iran: The world's initial fears that the Arab Spring would play into the hands of the champion of anti-Americanism, Iran, seem unfounded at this juncture. Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, for all of their imperfections, have not turned into hotbeds of terror ripe for Iranian influence. Syria is the one country in the Arab dictator family that was traditionally pro-Iranian all along. It was the only Arab country that provided material assistance to Iran during its war with Iraq, and it is an important buffer and ally in Iran's support of anti-Israeli groups. Syria and Iran share a disdain for the Saudi royal family; they also have had poor, often adversarial relations, with the Arab world's West-friendly dictators past and present. So while Iran touts itself as the champion of populist and Muslim revolution, lauding Egyptian and Bahraini revolutionaries as the continuation of the struggle for justice, it has kept its hands muddy and bloody in assisting Syria's crackdown against its own people. For Iran, the survival of the Ba'ath regime is imperative; it is its only genuine ally in the region, and it will stop at nothing, including assisting in the crackdown against innocent civilians, to ensure that Syria does not become the Arab Awakening's next casualty.

Israel: Israel often distinguishes itself as a democracy in a sea of dictatorships, but it was horrified by the Arab Spring when it began. The reality was, most of the Arab dictatorships had cooperative relationships with Israel, and their powerful armies had a leash on the anti-Israeli sentiment that is rampant among their respective populations. There are even reports that Israel explored the idea of sabotaging the revolution in Egypt in its early days in Tahrir square. But for the same reason that Egypt was a potential nightmare, the Syrian revolution is viewed more positively in Israel. Syria is, by any account, Israel's real arch-nemesis. The two countries have been to war multiple times, and Israel occupies Syrian land in the Golan Heights. A more democratic regime, in Israel's view, is less likely to support terrorism, and is less likely to align itself with Iran. There does remain the danger, however, of a more legitimate Syrian regime being more successful in convincing the world that Golan should be returned. That is bad for Israel. On account of this uncertainly, Israel is watching developments very closely in Syria, with a preference for the ouster of the Assad regime, replaced by a weak, fragmented Syrian government incapable of challenging Israel or harnessing support for anti-Israel groups in Lebanon.

Russia: We can always count on Russia to pull no punches with respect to disregarding human rights in the interest of geopolitics. And they are putting on a master-class display in Syria. Since the days of Hafez al-Assad, Syria has been Russia's most important ally in the Middle East; it houses an important army base there and has billions of dollars worth of commerce with the Assad regime. In addition, Bashar is a key element of the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus triangle, helping Russia compete with American dominance in regional affairs. For the same reason that Russia refuses to come down hard on Iran vis-à-vis its nuclear activity, it has singlehandedly (making use of its sizeable influence on China) paralyzed the international community's ability to institute a legal reprimand of the Assad regime. With Russia on the Security Council, thousands more can die in Syria without the United Nations getting involved in a meaningful way.

Saudi Arabia: The primary outside supporter of the Syrian uprising, Saudi Arabia is pouring cash and arms into the hands of anyone who will help hasten Bashar al-Assad's demise. It is the most worthy of missions, in the Saudi mindset, to eliminate Saudi Arabia's traditional Arab foe. Among the many proxy wars these two countries have fought against each other, including in Lebanon, the downfall of Syria helps further weaken Iran, the country that Saudi Arabia views as most dangerous to its survival. Iran has called the Saudi dictatorship the least legitimate of regimes, and dreams of the day Saudi Arabia's substantial Shi'ite population, which happens to be in one of the most oil-rich provinces of the country, will rise up against the Saudi regime. This is Saudi Arabia's doomsday scenario.

And the Arab world's longest-lasting uprising continues.

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Did Santorum really say that the GOP would be better off with Obama than Romney?

Rick Santorum really let it hang out there by saying the country would be better off with President Obama than Mitt Romney, whom Santorum called "the Etch A Sketch candidate of the future."

Here's his comment:

You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who's just going to be a little different than the person in there. If you're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate of the future.

I don't know that it's been possible for even a casual observer to miss the genesis of the "Etch A Sketch" reference, but, if you did, one of Romney's key advisors, Eric Fehrnstrom, was responding to a question on CNN about his candidate being too far to the right to appeal to moderate voters once the general election rolls around. His response was this:

Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.

It's been written about extensively, including here at The Reaction, so I won't cover the same ground. Suffice it to say that Fehrnstrom validated what Romney's critics on the right have been saying all along, that he's a pretend conservative who can't be trusted to hold true to the conservative values he's been espousing on the campaign trail thus far.

Pretty much any pundit worth his or her salt has also been saying that Romney would have to moderate his views in the general election to attract all-important independent voters, so none of this is surprising. It was just really surprising to hear Romney's campaign completely validate what the more conservative part of the GOP base fears most before the nomination race is over.

Having said that, it is remarkable that Santorum went so far as to say that conservatives might as well vote for Obama if Romney is the Republican nominee. What this says to me is that for Santorum the election ahead is a holy war. It's all or nothing. If the GOP isn't going to jam his version of radical social conservatism down the throat of the nation, why bother changing leadership at all?

This isn't about economic conservatism. This isn't about opposition to tax increases or a call for deep program cuts, as facile as all of that rhetoric is from Romney. This is about the hearts and minds of the nation and doing whatever it takes to impose some perverse, radical right-wing, social conservative, theocratic notion of America on its citizenry.

If we're not going to do that, Santorum figures, we might as well suffer with the socialist in the White House. It's not even worth the effort to make a change.

As you might imagine, Romney hit back against Santorum's statement, saying this:

I am in this race to defeat Barack Obama and restore America's promise. I was disappointed to hear that Rick Santorum would rather have Barack Obama as president than a Republican. This election is more important than any one person. It is about the future of America. Any of the Republicans running would be better than President Obama and his record of failure.

I don't think much of Romney, even aside from my wholesale rejection of his politics. I think he's a lousy politician with no moral center, but he probably is a more or less run-of-the-mill center-right conservative. He'll win the nomination. He'll tack towards the center and things will perhaps stop being, in the general election, as silly as they've been in the GOP nomination fight.

Rick Santorum isn't going to win the nomination. This much we know. But what we should also know by now is that he is a tyrant-in-waiting and that if he ever got anywhere near real power a lot of good people would be vilified for not sharing the radical right-wing views of this fool. 

Good that we won't have that to worry about.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who the [bleep] is Mitt Romney?

Via Juan Cole, here's a brilliant look at the real Slim Shady Mitt Romney, who for all his money-making success in the business world (at the expense of companies ravaged, jobs destroyed, and lives ruined) is proving himself to be more and more of a loser in politics, with one win in Massachusetts, various other unsuccessful attempts to get elected, and now just shameless pandering and douchebaggery, with his popularity, such as he ever really had any, tanking nationally just as it did in Massachusetts.


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Seriously. What Part of "Insubordination" Is Unclear To This Douchebag?

By Carl
Marine Sergeant Gary Stein is facing dismissal after starting the Facebook page called “Armed Forces Tea Party” in violation of Pentagon policy barring troops from political activities.

The Marine Corps released a statement saying that “Stein’s commanding officer ordered a preliminary inquiry on March 8 after receiving allegations that Stein posted the political statements violating the Pentagon’s directives.”

“After reviewing the findings of the preliminary inquiry, the commander decided to address the allegations through administrative action,” the Corps said.

“I’m completely shocked that this is happening,” Stein fumed. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve only stated what our oath states that I will defend the constitution and that I will not follow unlawful orders. If that’s a crime, what is America coming to?”

Really? The orders of your Commander In Chief are illegal? Well, I know I can't wait to hear this asshat out...

He said he determined he was not in violation and relaunched the page. Last week, he said his superiors told him he could not use social media sites on government computers after he posted the message stating he would not follow unlawful orders of the president.

Stein said his statement was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan.

In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights.

In. That. Context? You mean you're like the cop who, say, won't arrest a vigilante who murders an innocent American, because it might hurt his fee-fees? A CRIME WAS COMMITTED, YOU DICK! A war crime, and if there's a first principle for ANY soldier, it's to prevent war crimes from occuring and if they've already occured, to correct the problem as best as that soldier can.

Including narcing on his buddies. Sheesh!

Indeed, to follow up on your statement,"Sergeant," there's a long established legal principle that says if you aid and abet in the commission of a crime after the fact, you are deemed an accessory to that crime and subject to criminal prosecution. In other words, America is coming to a criminal state because of goose-stepping morons like you who can't stand the fact that Obama is President.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Etch A Sketch politics: Coming clean about Mitt Romney

So let's get this straight: Romney wins Illinois, a big state, by a significant margin, increasing his delegate lead over Santorum and cementing his status not just as frontrunner but as inevitable nominee, and then, just a day later, just the morning after, with all the momentum on his side, his top communications person comes out and says this on CNN:

CNN: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?

Eric Fehrnstrom: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.

It's like the Romney campaign, if not Romney himself, is purposefully trying to sabotage his candidacy, or at least to keep the race competitive by giving more and more material to his opponents.

This isn't just about the primary campaign. For years now, ever since he left Massachusetts for the national stage, Romney has tried hard -- pathetically so -- to present himself as an ideologically rigid conservative, a purist, in order to appeal to the Republican base, to the primary voters who decide who the nominee will be, as well as to movement conservatives who want one of their own atop the GOP ticket. Indeed, he's gone so far to the right, at least rhetorically, that he's been outflanking the likes of Rick Perry (on immigration).

But now? His campaign is basically telling us that it's all a massive lie, a shameless vote grab. We've known this all along, but it's nice to get this sort of definitive confirmation from his own people.

But what will conservatives make of this, those against Romney or more immediately those on the fence? Will they really buy into Romney now even if he is the inevitable nominee? If Romney had a credibility/authenticity problem before, it's only worse now.

And, already, Santorum and Gingrich are running with the Etch A Sketch line, using the thing itself as a prop, as is the Obama campaign. (In terms of newsworthiness, it's trumping the Jeb Bush endorsement of Romney today.) And can you blame them? Particularly his two Republican rivals, who needed something, anything to kick-start their campaigns, and here's Romney's own campaign handing them a gift-wrapped masterpiece of a gaffe.

For Santorum, in particular, this unforced error is a last shred of hope that he can actually pull this off, if can finally convince enough Republicans that Romney is a phony who is simply not to be trusted.

Throughout the campaign, largely because his opposition has been so weak, his rivals fighting amongst themselves, Romney has managed to keep the lie going, including on Romneycare, without much in the way of effectual debunking. Newt tried, calling Romney "a timid Massachusetts moderate Republican," but didn't get very far (largely because Newt is Newt), while Santorum has been hitting him hard and winning battles here and there but losing the war. I doubt this Etch A Sketch gaffe will be enough to bring Romney down, but it certainly gives Santorum some powerful ammunition, just what he needed after losing Illinois and otherwise looking like more and more of a long shot.

Yes, Romney will be the nominee, but it would appear that his own worst enemy is, as usual, himself.

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Justice For Trayvon

By Carl
There are mornings I wake up, look at the calendar and wonder if it's on some weird galatic Daylight Savings Time. This shouldn't happen in the 21st century:

It's been 25 days since [Trayvon] Martin was shot and killed inside a gated community. The admitted gunman is still free. And despite two ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and state attorney, outrage within this community continues to grow daily.

So many people wanted to attend a gathering inside a church in Sanford that hundreds were forced to express their frustration outside, on the street. One shouted, "That was murder." In the church, repeated chants of "Arrest Zimmerman" could be heard.

It's all part of the continuing controversy over Martin's death - and on Tuesday it reached Capitol Hill.

"I am tired of burying young black boys," declared Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who represents the district where Martin lived. "No more racial profiling," she continued. "I'm tired of fighting when the evidence is so clear."

That evidence wasn't enough for local police to arrest Zimmerman, who cited self-defense.

There are a lot of questions I have before I assess whether Zimmerman is guilty of murder or not, but the facts indicate he has some very serious tribulations confronting him.

For instance, if the claim is self-defense, as I understand it under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, then how does it apply to a case where the "victim" stalks his "attacker" onto someone else's private property? I can understand if Zimmerman stood his original ground, and Martin turns, where Zimmerman might have a case to make that he was in danger. But that's not what happened.

Why was Zimmerman carrying a concealed weapon on a neighborhood watch, when the first and foremost duty of the watch patrol is to notify the police, who will handle the matter from there? I know he had abused that privilege some 46 times over the last year or so, and it was unlikely the cops were going to rush to the scene, but isn't that Zimmerman's fault for being such a pantywaisted Chicken Little?

And on that note, how many of his previous calls resulted in actual arrests for attempted crimes, even misdemeanors? Of those, how many were dark-skinned males?

We know here in NYC, for example, that a black or Latino is nine times more likely to be stopped and frisked than a white person: part of that is because blacks and Latinos tend to live in poorer neighborhoods with higher crime rates, but in reality, there's racial profiling going on as well. And we also know that an even higher percentage of those stopped and frisked are exonerated, either at the scene or by the courts later.

I would like to know if, in a more conservative, gated community, the percentages range closer to 100%, particularly with respect to the neighborhood patrol activities.

The 911 phone calls have been released and they don't really add much to the story, a case of "he said, he said," except that one of the hes is now dead. However, Martin was speaking to his girlfriend at the moment Zimmerman and he encountered each other, and her story-- admittedly hearsay evidence-- would refute Zimmerman's defense that he was headed back to his car when Martin attacked. 

Why did Zimmerman continue to pursue Martin when the police dispatcher pointedly told him not to? I think that question is answered in Zimmerman's background: a failed attempt at becoming a police officer and his pretty clear fixation with being a LEO (he proposed and was the first volunteer for the neighborhood watch.)

There's an irony here, too: Zimmerman was arrested for fighting with an undercover cop, but his record was expunged before the case went to trial when he agreed to attend what appear to be anger management classes. Had his case gone to trial, had justice been served, Zimmerman would have been ineligible for a carry permit.

And Trayvon Martin would have finished his Skittles.  

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Live-blogging the 2012 Illinois primary: A big win for Romney, but is it big enough?

By Michael J.W. Stickings, with Richard K. Barry and tmcbpatriot


7:09 pm - Alright, we turn this evening to the Land of Lincoln, a Republican who undoubtedly would have despised today's Republican Party, and to the next stop for the Republican Crazy Train on its long, drawn-out tour of America.

7:13 pm - Today's primary in Illinois is the next big thing in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. It's one of those genuinely important contests, made all the more important apparently with all the media attention it's been getting.

7:15 pm - And yet, there's really not much to be said, is there? (See tmcbpatriot's post that just went up for some excellent analysis. He knows a thing or two about Illinois, that's for sure.) Romney will win, probably by quite a bit. Unlike Alabama and Mississippi, for example, it's just not a state where Santorum can do all that well, even if he wins most of the southern, South-like part of the state. Romney will trounce him in and around Chicago. A recent PPP poll had Romney up by 15 points. The RCP average is Romney +10, and it looks like Romney's been pulling away. Now, my sense is that Santorum can outperform here just as he did in Alabama and Mississippi, just not to that degree, and elsewhere, but I think we're still looking at a 7-9-point win for Romney. I've been tempted to predict 7, but it'll probably be higher. Perhaps the question is only whether it'll be a double-digit win or not. Even if I'm saying, oh, say, 8, I wouldn't be all that surprised if it turned out to be 11 or 12. (15 is an outlier, I think.)

7:27 pm - But... Okay, sure, Illinois is a state Romney should be able to win fairly easily. And a 10+-point margin of victory would certainly be decisive. But once again we're encountering a contest that isn't taking place on a level playing field. As Politico reports, Romney has outspent Santorum 7 to 1 in Illinois, including an incredible 21 to 1 in Chicago (with a huge media market that extends all through the state). This isn't like the Yankees outspending and beating, say, the Kansas City Royals, this is like the Yankees outspending and crushing a AA team of misfits. It may be fair in that the rules are being followed, but it's not fair in any other sense. And it puts what is expected to be a significant Romney win in perspective. He might have won even with a level playing field, but it certainly would be closer, and it merely serves to remind us, and to reinforce one of this race's key narratives, that Romney can only win, or at least can perhaps only win (appearance being almost as powerful as reality), by outspending his beleaguered rivals by huge margins, that is, that he can only win because he and his campaign are rich.

7:36 pm - Polls close at 8 pm ET. We'll be back shortly.

8:03 pm - And that's it. The Reaction calls the 2012 Illinois Republican primary for... Mitt Romney. Good night, everyone!

8:05 pm - Nah, we'll stick around for the results to come in.

8:06 pm - And here's Richard's first comment, which pretty much sums things up so far:

RKB: I'm here. Not much to say.

8:07 pm - Good times.

8:08 pm - It's not just Romney's money that's sinking Santorum in Illinois and elsewhere, it's Santorum's disorganization. As CNN reports, Santorum doesn't even have delegates running in every Illinois district -- missing four of them. (Even Gingrich and Paul have delegates everywhere in the state.) "Since district delegates are directly chosen by voters, candidates must field a total of 54 delegates in the 18 districts in order to remain eligible for every delegate... [Santorum] failed to qualify in every district and will only be eligible for 44 delegates. He has no delegates running in the 4th, 5th, 7th and 13th congressional districts." Not that it matters all that much for the long run, but it's another reminder that Santorum just wasn't ready to run a truly competitive national campaign as a serious contender. Of course, he wasn't a serious contender until just before Iowa and so may be excused, perhaps, for failing to have the kind of extensive organization Romney has (remember: Santorum wasn't even on the ballot in Virginia), but his disadvantage in this regard is a major obstacle.

8:17 pm - No results yet.

8:25 pm - And. We. Are. Off. With results coming in mostly from Cook (Chicago) and Lake (north of Chicago) counties, but just 1% reporting overall, it's Romney up 54 to 29 over Santorum. Hoo-wah. (You can see the results here.)

8:29 pm - Nate Silver: "In Illinois, Santorum's Chance at Nomination Is Slipping Away." Clearly. This is pretty obvious stuff, though of course Silver brings his characteristically astute analysis to it. And the point, one the major networks, forever manufacturing drama, generally ignore (to the extent they even get it), is that "the nomination isn't all that close." Romney is well ahead, and Illinois will pad his lead significantly.

RKB: The news coverage really has the feel of the "beginning of the end" for Santorum's Cinderella ride. You know, it's been fun, but who are we kidding?

Watching Blitzer. I've never seen anyone get so excited saying absolutely nothing.

8:40 pm - How did Wolf get this gig, anyway? I can't remember.

RKB: I know Gingrich didn't campaign in Illinois, but it's still good to see him do so poorly. What an ass.

Erick Erickson just said on CNN that the Gingrich campaign doesn't really have a pulse at this point and that his people (some of them, anyway) seem to be urging him to get out.

8:42 pm - I'd like to thank Richard for suffering through network coverage so the rest of us don't have to.

RKB: Not that I spend a lot of time trying to figure out Fox News programming, but they're not really bothering to follow the Illinois primary, just doing the regular Bill O'Reilly schtick. I wonder why they're low-keying it?

8:45 pm - And there you go. CNN calls it for Romney. Just 42 minutes after we did.

RKB: Yeah, CNN projects a Romney win!!!!!!! Wooooooooo!!!!

Now it's just a matter of the margin of victory.

Can I go back to playing my Fender Strat now?

8:46 pm - Can't you multitask?

8:49 pm - And here's the patriot joining us (and, again, check out his longer analysis from earlier this evening):

tmcbpatriot: Boy, Romney wins Illinois. What a surprise!

tmcbpatriot: Joining this party late, but these results do not surprise me one bit. Good ol' Illinois. Tried and true. This primary is so dull I can't stand it. Is it over or are we going into summer with this crap?

RKB: Screamin' Ed Schultz has a panel discussing the Illinois primary on MSNBC in his regular 8-9 EST slot. Mostly they're talking about the GOP nomination like it's over as they begin to tee up the inevitable Romney-Obama match.

tmcbpatriot: What a trouncing! I wonder if Santorum will pretend to be surprised by this. Gingrich did well. Looks like the folks in Skokie came out to vote after all.

8:55 pm - It's bizarro election return night! Unlike in other contests (like Ohio, where Romney surged into the lead as votes came in late from Cleveland and other urban areas), results are coming in from Romney Country early in Illinois. Which is to say, Romney won't maintain this 27-point lead (55 to 28), but it could be a wider margin of victory than I thought.

tmcbpatriot: It's not all dull. Newt demands Obama apologize for DeNiro comment. I swear, you can't make this stuff up!

9:01 pm - I agree. This faux outrage from conservatives is ridiculous. Get a fucking sense of humor! All DeNiro said was, obviously joking: "Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" Newt called the remark "inexcusable" (which means it was apparently worse than anything and everything Newt himself has ever done). Even the White House (or at least the first lady's office) jumped in, calling the joke "inappropriate." Which is also ridiculous. It was a funny quip, relevant precisely because it spoke to America's racist past (however much Republicans may wish to deny that past) and, if to a lesser degree, present (which Republicans also deny).


Make it stop already! Who cares? Just put it out of its misery. Presidential races are too long in this country. Make them two months and be done with it. We are The United States of American Idol.

tmcbpatriot: I am impressed with the turnout here. Romney crossed the 100k threshold.

tmcbpatriot: I want to say something smart about this primary today but nothing comes to mind. Seriously, there is nothing more to say about any of this! At this point it is just a primaries drinking game. Thing is, though, nobody is getting drunk! You take a drink and then are sober by the time your guy gets another win.

9:31 pm - It's true, what else is there to say? Romney's lead is narrowing as results come in from the more rural areas of the state, but it's still 17 (50 to 33).

9:32 pm - Though I suppose we should ask the question we've been asking after every recent contest: Will Newt drop out, or what? He's currently in last with just 7 percent of the vote, behind Paul at 9. The writing has been on the wall, with neon lights flashing, for quite a while now. Can't he just end this madness? What can his reason possibly be for staying in?

9:34 pm - Ah, here's Richard with some comments on Romney's speech:

RKB: Romney is speaking. This man is such a fool and a lousy speaker. He's a small man. His speech is so petty. Even for those who buy his facile understanding of economics, there is nothing inspiring about this idiot. He makes my skin crawl.

Running a business has nothing to do with running the country. Totally different skill set. Someone might want to mention that to Romney.

9:36 pm - And more, getting right down to the essence of it:

RKB: It is inconceivable to me that any intelligent person, regardless of politics, would find Mitt Romney compelling.

What a pathetic fucking speech.

tmcbpatriot: You know, if Gingrich is willing to call out DeNiro for some comment, then that alone is reason why he should never be president. I mean, you are going to pick a fight with Bobby D? Fuggedaboutit!

tmcbpatriot: Damn! How many people voted in this thing? Romney is nearing 200k! Who knew that many people were that engaged? Gingrich is so used to getting so few votes he is telling everyone he is winning in Illinois. 

9:43 pm - Romney's lead is now 15. If you're Santorum, it's time to start talking about moral victories (and he was playing the expectations game in anticipation of this loss, hoping to build a possitive narrative out of defeat). If somehow he can pull to within ten, keeping Romney's victory in single digits... If Romney doesn't make it over 50 percent... yadda... yadda... yadda...

tmcbpatriot: The more I see of these four clowns the more they are staring to look like The Monkees. Rick is Davy, Mitt is Mike, Ron is Peter, and Newt, of course, is Mickey. C'mon, don't tell me you don't see it.

9:47 pm - And... 14! I'm really trying to make this interesting.

tmcbpatriot: Why is Newt still in this thing? Because he has a whole mess of books still to sell. I would not be surprised if he puts out another one before he drops out. He is not in this to win. He is in it to keep his name out there, to raise his speaking fees, to spend whatever money is left in his SuperPac. He is no dummy. He is a loathsome snake oil salesman. He is in it to sell as much snake oil as possible.

9:57 pm - Yes, good point. It's all about Newt Inc. But I wonder, if he stays in too long, won't he damage his brand? Unless he thinks that staying in helps Romney, and hence the party establishment, and so his brand, and his status as party "intellectual" who makes frequent apparances on Meet the Press, is secure.

tmcbpatriot: And yes, Mitt is a pitiful human being. His speeches are like listening to a powerpoint presentation. Just bullet points, by the book. Nothing inspirational. Nothing exciting. But then, that is Republicans. Find me one who made politics exciting and quotable? "I am not a crook" does not count.

9:59 pm - Well, you've got to give Reagan some credit for that. Certainly not the Bushes or Dole, or even McCain. Does Palin count?

10:01 pm - 12 points! It's the comeback of the century! Still a lot of votes from Cook (Chicago) and Sangamon (Springfield), though.

tmcbpatriot: Newt's brand is Newt. He works for no man but himself. He is a dog. A political dog. These are not nice people. They eat friends and family for lunch. Newt is already seen as a scoundrel in Republican circles so what has he got to lose? Besides, if Sarah Palin proved anything it is that Republicans will show up to see a real live moron any day of the week.

10:22 pm - 13 now. Wrong way. Looks like this might settle at 12.

tmcbpatriot: Okay. Raygun was a good talker, but he wasn't exciting. Give me one memorable exciting quote. "Tear down that wall"? I'll take Roger Waters saying it over Raygun any day. And Palin doesn't count for anything except being perhaps the most annoying Republican ever to torture us.

10:25 pm - 12 again. I think we're all fading.

10:32 pm - It's always a pleasure to do this, but, let's face it, this has been one boring night. Maybe because the outcome was obvious and the margin of victory hasn't been much of a surprise one way or the other. And so... now what?

Newt may or may not get out, but his support is so minimal it hardly matters anymore.

Rick will stay in, of course. He can't really spin this one the way he did Michigan and Ohio, but he can focus on Lousiana's primary on Saturday, one he may very well win, as well as the three contests on April 3, when he'll need to counterbalance expected Romney wins in Maryland and D.C. with a strong showing (i.e., a win, preferably by a decisive margin) in Wisconsin. Then there's a three-week gap until five contests on April 24, all of which may go Romney: New York and Pennsylvania, along with Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Pennsylvania is the possible exception, as it's Santorum's home state, but he'll have a tough time there as well.

Basically, it's over. We all know that. But with wins in Louisiana and Wisconsin and possibly Pennsylvania Santorum could at least keep his candidacy viable -- viable enough anyway to keep Romney from winning a majority of delegates ahead of the convention. And after April 24, assuming he's still in the race, Santorum could pick up speed with favorable contests in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia (May 8), Arkansas and Kentucky (May 22), and Texas (May 29).

But that's a long way off. It's possible he'll drop out before then. And even if he doesn't, it's getting clearer and clearer that Romney will be the nominee.

In a way, the calendar is both friend and enemy to Romney, though. It's a friend in that he should be able to win the April contests, including Pennsylvania (or at least come very close) and continue to pull away from Santorum, but it's an enemy in that the time between contests means the race dragging on and on into May, with Romney having to spend more and more money to stay on top for good.

tmcbpatriot: I tell ya, the most interesting thing about tonight in the turnout. Half a mil and counting? This has to be Newt's and Ron Paul's biggest tallies of the primary season.

tmcbpatriot: I have been fading since September.

tmcbpatriot: It is really pathetic that the media are going to say how Romney was on top of his game in Illinois, or that he outspent the other candidates, or that he is back on his game. It had nothing to do with it. Romney was going to win Illinois no matter what. All he had to do was show up. That was his accomplishment here, he showed up.

tmcbpatriot: "Newt Fires Back At 'Inexcusable' DeNiro Joke." Wow. These guys are really going to try to make a example of Robert DeNiro. Republicans really don't live on this planet with the rest of us.

10:51 pm - Still 12, now with 84% reporting. And Romney's running away with the delegates. And so I suppose the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is... yes. Romney spent a lot of money and remains a weak candidate who can't finish off even weaker opposition, but this is the sort of win he needed, especially after Alabama and Mississippi. It's a big win that is big enough for him to maintain his frontrunner and inevitable nominee status.

10:55 pm - Alright, I think we're just about done. We were able to make a lot out of not very much tonight, and it's been fun. We'll do this again for Louisiana on Saturday and then for Maryland, D.C., and Wisconsin on April 3.

11:03 pm - We'll be back tomorrow with a lot more election coverage and so much else. See you then.

Good night, everyone.

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Why Romney wins Illinois today

By tmcbpatriot

(Ed. note: We'll be live-blogging the results of the Illinois Republican primary this evening, starting shortly, and the patriot will be joining us, but here, for now, is his take on why Romney will win. -- MJWS)

Spoiler alert! Stop now if you do not want to know how this ends. Although it is really not that exciting.

Mitt Romney is going to win the Illinois primary handily today. Write it down and then forget where you put the piece of paper you wrote it on because Illinois is simply not going to vote for anyone else. Sure, there will be no short supply of Santorum lovers and a few Ron Paul nuts. Gingrich might even manage to get a few votes as well. But this is the Midwest and Illinois is as "mid" as the west gets.

Here too is what you won't see: You won't see a repeat of last week's bumble-f**kkk in the southern racist enclaves of Alabama and Mississippi. No sir. No how. Illinois is much more straight-laced in its conservative creds than the South and Illinoisans always vote with their wallet in mind. Social issues? Please. Illinois is as corrupt as it gets. Illinoisans looking for a politician with moral convictions is like South Carolinians looking for a candidate who is sane. It is just impossible to find.

In addition to that, Illinois is also a pretty blue state. It voted for Obama in droves and has a huge black and Latino population. But for all its blue-state creds, Illinois has some fairly red ones as well. The state has no helmet law, smoking in bars was banned only after years of opposition, Chicago is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country, and guns run rampant on Chicago streets like it's some old-time western town. Chicago is also the home of the Chicago Merc, where workers gleefully taunted the Occupy folks last fall.

Point is, red or blue, no matter where you live in the state, anything can be yours for the right price. In other words, in Illinois the pocketbook rules, period! Chicago is also a real working town. It is not a place where people get too hung up on social issues like abortion, gays, porn, or contraception. Sure, you will get some of that in the burbs. But at the end of the day, Illinoisans are taxed so much and nickel-and-dimed to death so regularly that they vote only for whom they think will provide the most bang for their tax dollars.

Rick Santorum was in Rockville, Illinois yesterday and actually said out loud to the folks in attendance that "the issue in this race is not the economy." Talk about out of touch! This is a man who knows nothing about the state he is trying to win. Illinoisans are not dreamers. Nobody imagines a Republican president or any politician for that matter doing a darn thing about the rampant crime, the shootings, fixing the crappy public schools, or lowering their taxes at all. Illinoisans have had multiple opportunities to vote for a Republican and even when they do nothing ever changes.

For Rick Santorum even to consider that Illinois Republicans care at all about the over-reach of government proves he is out of his league on this one. Government over-reach in Illinois is what keeps the state going! Today's primary is not about principles or morals. Illinois politics is devoid of it. It is simply going to be about voting for the guy who seems the most sensible in terms of dollars and cents. In Illinois, it is the only thing that really matters. In Illinois, it is about the economy, stupid. And with that there is no viable alternative to Mitt Romney other than Mitt Romney. And that is how it will play out.

Now, for the record I want to emphasize that my prediction is in no way a vote for Romney, or any of the other Republican clowns at this or any time. I am only saying that Romney will win today and will go on to win the nomination. These are the cold hard facts. And just like with Illinois, the cold hard facts are something you simply cannot ignore.

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This day in music - March 20, 1971: Janice Joplin's version of "Me and Bobby McGee" hits #1

By Richard K. Barry

I guess most people know that "Me and Bobby McGee" was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster. Interesting to note that it was originally performed by Roger Miller. You know, the guy who did "King of the Road," "Dang Me," and "England Swings." I'm a big fan of ol' Roger Miller, but I can't quite imagine him doing this one. Could be great.

Janice Joplin hit No. 1 with the song in 1971 on the U.S. singles chart, after her death, which made the song the second posthumous No. 1 single in U.S. chart history after "Sittin' On the Dock at the Bay" by Otis Redding.

As you can imagine, "Me and Bobby McGee" has been recorded many times. The wiki entry on this has a list of almost 40 performers who have turned their attention to it including Gordon Lightfoot, the Grateful Dead, Jerry Jeff Walker, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, and Johnny Cash. On the weirder side, I see that Olivia Newton-John, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Anne Murray have also taken a shot. Okay. 

Yeah, Joplin's version is kind of the one for me.

I don't know whether it's worth mentioning, but the song comes in at No. 148 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, not that there is anything subjective about this kind of ranking. No, it's entirely scientific.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Behind the Ad: Things are getting ugly in the Indiana GOP Senate primary

By Richard K. Barry

Who: Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).

Where: Indiana.

What's going on: Dick Lugar has begun airing a new ad in what is becoming a very ugly primary battle with Indiana state treasurer
Richard Mourdock, going so far as to call his challenger a liar.

As The Huffington Post

When they resort to negative ads, it is often a sign that front-running campaigns -- like Lugar's at the moment -- are worried. Indeed, a pair of polls released Monday by Democratic and Republican opponents of Lugar both found Mourdock has climbed to within 6 percentage points of Lugar, even though the incumbent senator remains broadly popular.

Part of Lugar's problem lately has been the pounding he's taken from both sides over the fact that he lives in Virginia, not Indiana. A local election commission ruled last week that he is not eligible to vote in his former hometown, although state officials have declared that he is eligible to run.

The ad is built around Lugar's contention that Mourdock is intentionally misrepresenting Lugar's position on Obamacare. Oh, heavens no. Not that.

At root, this is a battle between an establishment conservative, Lugar, and a Tea Party-backed insurgent, Mourdock, who has been
endorsed by the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Citizens United, and the Tea Party Express.

With the primary two months away and things getting close, it may be hard to call this one, but I'm willing to bet the Democrats would rather run against the Tea Party guy than the one who has been around forever. 

From the movement that brought you Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell.

Here's the ad:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.) 

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By Capt. Fogg

A lot of people are very angry about the shooting of Treyvon Martin last month in the old North Florida town of Sanford. I'm one of them.

Florida, as you may know has been a model of old South attitudes toward black people, but was the incident racially motivated as is being loudly asserted or is there racism involved in interpreting what happened?

As you might suspect from his name, Martin was black. He was only 17 years old and when he was accosted one night, dressed as many 17 year old males are, in a hoodie and sneakers and baggy pants; the kind of costume that produces unease and possibly is designed to produce unease, after dark, when worn by someone strolling through your neighborhood.

Young Martin was shot by a "neighborhood watch" volunteer - one of those people who lurk about neighborhoods at night looking for people who don't 'belong' there, but although such groups are often encouraged by local police and like any citizen who qualifies, is allowed to bear arms for the sole purpose of protecting themselves, these volunteers are not and are not allowed to be policemen. Indeed the concealed weapons license course stresses that fact repeatedly.

If you've ever lived in a community that has rules, you've probably chuckled about "Condo Commandos" who delight in the feeling of power they get from reporting you for having your garage door open for more than 5 minutes or failing to take in your garbage can by the required time. I would imagine that such folks would delight even more in taking on the role of protector while walking a beat at night. Does that describe George Zimmerman? Not having all the facts and being unlikely ever to have all of them, I can only speculate.

Mr. Zimmerman, 28 years of age, is being accused by the family of Treyvon Martin of a hate crime and a racially motivated killing. Of course I can't know what was on Zimmerman's mind, but I do read that he is of Hispanic origin and comes from a racially diverse family. There may be many reasons having nothing to do with race for Zimmerman to have accosted the young man and shot him. And of course it's inevitable that Florida gun laws will be blamed for this sad event by those who haven't read them and I despair when thinking about any lesson we should be learning here.

The laws governing concealed weapons here in Florida are rather clear about the right to defend your life when a person has reasonable fear of a lethal attack and it's rather clear about one's right to defend against someone trying to forceably remove you from a place you have a right to be, such as your house or your car. I'm no lawyer, yet I can speculate that a public sidewalk is one of those places one has a right to be. The law is equally clear about your right to use a weapon being severely undermined in a situation where the attack was provoked or 'escalated' by you. In other words, should I draw a weapon and shoot someone I picked an avoidable fight with, or made it worse by remaining when I should have walked away, I won't get away so easily with a self-defense plea as Zimmerman inexplicably seems to have done. The law is also clear about using a weapon to gain advantage in a dispute or as a threat. Simply showing it or even mentioning that you have one is a serious offense in many cases. "Get off my block kid, I've got a gun" is one of those cases.

The rights of a neighborhood watch volunteer extend as far as observing and using a telephone to call the police. They do not include provoking a fight, attempting to chase someone out of a neighborhood, shoving, pushing or physically engaging anyone. From the testimony of Martin's girlfriend who had been talking with him on the phone when Zimmerman 'went after' him and allegedly pushed him to the ground, that may be just what happened and if so, Zimmerman had long since transgressed and his right to use lethal force against an unarmed person had long since departed, at least in my non-lawyer opinion -- yet Zimmerman has not been charged.

Somehow, in the city of Sanford, this possibly unjustifiable use of force seems to have been ignored. I suspect that if there's racism lurking in this case, we'll find it in uniform or carrying a briefcase. Attempts to get around the apparent lapse by law enforcement people by framing the incident as a civil rights violation or a hate crime are not likely to be successful and any chance for justice drowned in the storm of predictable and formulaic accusations.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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I don't see how any American who isn't a complete idiot can vote for a Republican

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Mitt Romney, yesterday, at The University of Chicago:

I don't see how a young American can vote for, well, can vote for a Democrat.

He was referring to national debt and the accumulation thereof, trying to make the case that Republicans are "consumed with the idea of getting federal spending down and creating economic growth and opportunity so we can balance our budget and stop putting these debts on you."

Which makes him sound all responsible, though of course what he was doing was being dishonest.

Republicans aren't consumed with balancing the budget, they're consumed with lowering taxes on the rich, on people like, oh, Mitt Romney.

And if they were really consumed with improving the country's fiscal health, they'd support the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare, itself derived from Romneycare, Mitt's relatively progressive reform package in Massachusetts), which seeks to get health-care spending under control and which will significantly reduce the deficit. But of course they consider it the worst attack on freedom in American history (one of the truly most ridiculous claims in American history) -- even if it's actually a Republican idea.

And if they were really consumed about balancing the budget, they'd support cuts to military spending and, yes, progressive taxation that places a fair burden on the shoulders of the rich, particularly Romney and his plutocratic ilk, not just letting the disastrous Bush tax cuts expire but advocating higher taxes on those who most certainly can afford to make a greater sacrifice. But of course tax increases of any kind, even returning to the tax rates of the prosperous Clinton years, are anathema to Republicans, without exception. And, no, they don't support military spending cuts either.

But let's get back to what Romney said. Why would a young American vote for a Democrat? Because it's not just about balanced budgets, it's about doing something about climate change, about caring for the poor, about not waging war on women and their health, about extending health coverage to the uninsured, about not getting entangled in imperialist foreign wars, about making sure air and water are clean, about being fair and compassionate to undocumented immigrants who only want a better life in America. It's about so many things that really, truly matter to young people today, things about which Romney either doesn't seem to give a shit or doesn't seems to have a clue. And on these and so many other things, it's the Democrats who stand for the hopes and dreams of young Americans.

Mitt, if you want to know how a young American, or any American who isn't a complete idiot, can vote for a Democrat (you know, like President Obama), go take a good long look in the mirror. There's your answer.


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