Saturday, June 02, 2012

Johan Santana pitches first no-hitter in Mets history

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It took 8,020 games, starting way back in 1962, but finally, finally a Mets pitcher threw a no-hitter.

And it was oft-injured former ace* Johan Santana, acquired from the Twins after the '07 season, who did it, beating the high-flying Cardinals 8-0 Friday night.

For a two-time World Series-winning franchise (1969, 1986) that's had some outstanding pitchers on its roster (notably Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden) it's amazing it took that long.

And where's my pal and fellow blogger Richard Barry -- a life-long Mets fan who wanders around Toronto sporting a Mets cap and reliving those old glory days in his mind? Why hasn't he commented yet?

Honestly, I think he's still in shock.


*Actually, Santana is the Mets' ace this year. He's currently 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, excellent numbers, and the fact that he only has five decisions in 11 starts this season tells you the Mets' offence hasn't given him nearly enough support. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has been just as good (he's 7-1), but otherwise it's not like the Mets have anyone who can challenge Santana's spot atop the rotation.

Otherwise, it may not be fair to refer to Santana as "oft-injured." He became a full-time starter for the Twins in 2003 and was consistently healthy through his first year with the Mets in 2008, starting a remarkable 34, 33, 34, 33, and 34 games during the 2004-08 seasons. He started 25 games in 2009, then 29 in 2010, still putting up solid, if not outstanding, numbers those two years. He missed the entire 2011 season, but seems back on track now. Hopefully, anyway. He's been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past decade, and it's good to see him doing so well again.

New York Mets glory: 1969... 1986... and, in a different way, June 1, 2012.

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Obama vs. Romney: Who feels your pain?

By Richard K. Barry

Everybody is taking about the latest dismal job report. Republicans are beside themselves happy about the misery this signals for many Americans. Democrats are rightly concerned about where the economy might be headed and what this could mean for the election in the fall.

This is all true, and the importance of it is not to be diminished.

A new CNN poll, admittedly taken before the new job numbers were released, still contains some interesting data.

It finds that President Obama's approval rating is up to 52%, ahead of Romney by 3 point, which would certainly seem to suggest that Americans are still not blaming Obama for the shape of the economy, and the state in which he found it.

Two other results, however, seem quite key.

The CNN survey asks: "Who do you think better understands how the economy works - Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?" The response was deadlocked at 45%.

Okay. That seems like a pretty good number for Obama. The candidate, Romney, who is putting all his eggs in the, "I know how the economy works" basket, can't put any distance between himself and the guy Romney constantly says, "has never run a business." How could that be good for Romney?

Another question asks: "Who do you think better understands the problems faced by ordinary Americans -- Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?" On this one, Obama is out ahead of Romney by a 55% to 34% margin.

This, it seems to me, is very important. Being a businessman, knowing how the economy works, is only an electoral strength if most voters think that strength will be put to work to improve their situation.

If the majority of voters think Romney is mostly interested in helping the very rich, perhaps due to a belief in the discredited theory of "trickle-down economics," his knowledge of the economy would be less compelling.

The Obama campaign has been, and will continue to be, hard at work reinforcing this impression with ads that paint Romney as out of touch. You can count on that.

It's true, as the Romney campaign likes to say, that it's hard for a presidential campaign to success if it insists on attacking capitalism. But most people want to see capitalism conducted in as fair a way a possible, with rules that give everyone a fighting chance.

If Mitt Romney is seen as a poster boy for the kind of policies that help the rich get richer and keep the middle class increasingly on the outside looking in, no amount of business experience is going to help him win.

It's also true the shape of the economy will be key come November. But close attention should be paid to how Americans view the ability of Obama vs. Romney to identify with their circumstances and how keen each will be to implement policies to address them.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Behind the Ad: Romney's "Morning in America" imitation

(Another installment in our "Behind the Ad" series.)

Who: The Mitt Romney campaign.

Where: Unspecified but possibly Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

What's going on: The Romney campaign released a new television ad Friday, which promised that Mitt would get America "back on the right track." The title of the ad is "A Better Day," and it is the third is a series with the general theme of what a President Romney would do on "day one" in office should he win the presidency.

The big mentions in the 30 second spot are that he would focus on the economy, create jobs, cut the deficit, promote energy policy and stand up to China on trade.

But the key, and one has to assume they are going for the Reagan feel, is this flowing voice over comment: "But there's something more than legislation or new policy. It's the feeling we'll have that our country's back, back on the right track. That's what will be different about a Romney presidency."

I love the clever use of the phase: "the feeling we'll have that our country's back..." It's awfully similar to the Tea Party language that they "want their country back," which always implied that Obama's presidency was illegitimate and that the direction in which he and his supporters wanted to take the country was somehow "un-American." On the one hand, it appeals to Tea Party radicals, and, on the other, getting the country "back on the right track," appeals to mainstream patriotic Americans who just want to see the country come out of the recession. Very clever on Romney's part.

It's a slick ad. They might as well have just used the "Morning in American" theme. From my perspective, everything about it works with the exception that Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan. As long as Romney is shaking hands and smiling but not saying anything, he may be safe. But when there's no grand "West Wing" musical score, no perfect voice over, no flawless cinematography, it's going to fall apart. We know he doesn't have that royal jelly. I see what they're going for, but their guy can't carry it off when it's just him, and for much of the campaign that is what it will be.

Partisanship aside, Mitt Romney is not a very likeable guy, at least that's what the numbers say. People don't warm to him because he's not a warm person, not a very inspiring person. Again, good ad, but there has to be some truth to the characterization of the protagonist in these things and I simply don't think there is.

I guess the question is, with all the money Republicans are going to spend, is it possible to prove me wrong? Can political ads create a wholly false image in the Citizens United era? I still don't think so, but it is interesting to contemplate.

CNN is reporting that Romney has reserved $2 million in ad time in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, "one of the campaign's largest ad buys so far." The campaign has not, however, provided confirmation about any of this.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) could be Obama's secret weapon

Yeah, I know. But I like this Joe Walsh.
I have a campaign idea for President Obama's team, and I think it's a great one. They should follow Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) around with a camera and record whatever he says. Just wait until Walsh says something offensive and stupid, which won't take long, and hit the record button. They should then run the clips in a continuos loop in those communities Walsh has offended. 

Here's Joe's latest (with thanks to Daily Kos):

We have so many people now dependent upon government. So many people want handouts. The Democratic Party promises groups of people everything. They want the Hispanic vote. They want the Hispanics to be dependent upon government, just like they got African Americans dependent upon government. That's their game. Jesse Jackson would be out of work if they weren't dependent upon government. There'd be no work for him.

Perhaps it's true that Barack Obama needs to energize core constituencies that came out in droves in 2008. But, with Walsh's help, that could be a lot easier.

And that's no lie.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Gender bias in media coverage of the 2012 campaign

Yes, let me tell you all about women.
I just discovered an interesting website called "4th Visualizing the Social Influences of Media & Newsmakers."

They have done some work on the lack of women's voices in the media coverage in the current campaign season. They present some terrific graphics in a feature called "Silenced: The Gender Gap in the 2012 Election Coverage."

About their research they write:

Women are significantly under-represented in 2012 election coverage in major media outlets. In our analysis of news stories and transcripts in the past 6 months, men are much more likely to be quoted on their subjective insights in newspapers and on television. This pattern holds true across all major news outlets, as well as on issues specifically concerning women. For example, in front page articles about the 2012 election that mention abortion or birth control, men are 4 to 7 times more likely to be cited than women. This gender gap undermines the media's credibility.

Note that they are talking about "subjective insights." Mostly these are men kicking back and telling us what they think about women's issues. I can only say that the women I know would really appreciate that.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Doc Watson (1923-2012)

Doc Watson died this week. He was 89. If you know anything about acoustic guitar, you've at least heard of Doc Watson. I don't have a lot of time to write about this incredible talent right now, maybe over the weekend. But, it's Friday, so maybe a little music for the afternoon would be nice.

This is a tune called "Black Mountain Rag." Wow.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Behind the Ad: Obama attacks Romney's Massachusetts record

(Another installment in our "Behind the Ad" series.)

Where: Nationally.

What's going on: I suppose this isn't really an ad as much as it's a four minute video attacking Mitt Romney's record as Governor of Massachusetts. It focuses on his inability to translate his business experience into job growth in the state. The piece is called "Broken Promises: Romney's Massachusetts Record."

As Huffington Post writes, it:

features a series of clips connecting the promises Romney made while running for governor in 2002 to the statements he has made during his current presidential bid. It focuses in particular on his touting of his private sector experience during both election cycles.

Clips of Romney's earlier promises are interspersed with on-camera statements from a host of Massachusetts leaders, who recall the governor as difficult to work with and failing to live up to expectations. The present and former lawmakers home in on Romney's failed economic record with respect to job growth, reducing the deficit and cutting taxes.

I'm not quite sure how this thing will be shown or who will see it, but it's interesting in the sense that it tells us how Obama will go after Romney by, in essence, arguing that we have seen this movie before: Mitt Romney claiming that his business experience prepared him to create jobs as governor in Massachusetts,when in fact the jobs never materialized.

It's one thing to make claims in a vacuum, but Mitt Romney has a record too. And as much as Romney thinks he'll have success going after Obama's four years in office, his got his own past to worry about. So far, we haven't heard a lot about that, but we will.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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George W. Bush's White House portrait

Hey, that's a picture of me. Well, whadaya know?

Oh, what the hell. Let's be nice. Yes, Barack Obama has been saying for some time that electing Mitt Romney as president would be to return to the failed policies of George W. Bush. But today he had George over to the house for a little party and the unveiling of W.'s portrait. No snarky talk at all.

Sometimes partisanship takes a holiday, and yesterday was one of those days.

Obama played it pretty safe, though, in saluting Bush for his role in pulling the country together after 9/11. As The New York Times reported:

Hailing Mr. Bush as a steadfast leader after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Obama said Americans would never forget the image of Mr. Bush standing atop a pile of rubble at the World Trade Center, bullhorn in hand.

And then Barack thanked George for leaving him a really good TV sports package. George thanked Barack for "inviting our rowdy friends to my hanging."

The interesting thing about it, though, was that it's almost like Bush isn't quite a part of the electoral scene at all any more. Again, the Times:

[R]elatively few members of Mr. Bush's inner circle are working on the campaign of Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee. Mr. Bush himself has been in a self-imposed political exile, absent from the Republican campaign trail. A couple of weeks ago, he did offer a fleeting endorsement of Mr. Romney — "I'm for Mitt Romney," he said to ABC News — as the doors of his elevator closed after giving a speech on human rights in Washington.

There's George, seemingly enjoying his retirement and no longer a threat to anyone, pretty well invisible. Anyway, ceremony is important, and even this dog gets his day.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recognizing problems is not the same as apologizing for America

I suppose there is a sense in which former Secretaries of State are considered above the political fray. Maybe it's for this reason that the endorsement of Mitt Romney by former George W. Bush Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, is considered news. But I hardly think it's a "man bites dog" story. Gee, we didn't see this one coming.

In endorsing Mitt, she said that America's strength in the world comes from the fact that anyone can rise and do great things, adding that that is "the truly exceptional nature of this country."

I don't have a dictionary handy, but when one describes something as "exceptional" in this context, I'm inclined to think they mean America is unique in this way, that only in America can "anyone" rise to do great things.

I even recall President Obama saying, as he launched his 2008 presidential bid, "For as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible." Really? Well, I can think of a number of places where bigotry is not as prevalent, income equalities are not so great, social safety are nets stronger, multiculturalism is more respected, and education systems are more effective. In places like that your story would be possible, if not more likely.

So, while even Barack Obama seems to have drunk the cool aid on this point in some ways, I still think he understands that a lot of work needs to be done to deliver on the promise of American exceptionalism. On the other hand, Republicans typically think that everyone already has an equal opportunity to succeed if only the government would get out of the way. This was, no doubt, true for Mitt Romney who, as they say, was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.

As I say, Barack Obama can sometimes suffer from blindness regarding some of America's failings, but he does understand there is room for improvement.

And on that point, and let's be clear about this, when conservatives say Obama "apologizes for America," what they really mean is that he tries to be realistic about our failings in order to address them. For conservatives, that qualifies as apologizing.

Better that we lie to ourselves, right, Condi?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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"Engine Charlie" at work on the Romney campaign

What? What did I say?
In a story in Tuesday's New York Times about the state of Mitt Romney's campaign now that he has secured the GOP nomination, senior Romney campaign advisor Ed Gillespie is quoted on the difficulty he believes the Obama campaign will have criticizing Romney's business experience.

He says:

They've had a hard time painting Governor Romney as somehow sinister. The fact is every time they attack Mitt Romney for his experience in the private sector, they reinforce the idea that President Obama is hostile to the private sector.

Well, I'm not so sure. Whenever I hear something like this, my mind goes immediately to that old quote by Charles E. Wilson, also known as "Engine Charlie." Wilson was the Secretary of Defense under Eisenhower from 1953 to 1957.

During his confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Wilson was asked about his large stock holdings in General Motors, a company he had led. When asked if, as Secretary of Defense, he could make a decision contrary to the interests of GM, he said he could. He then added: "because for years what I thought was good for the country was good for general motors and vice versa." Wilson never actually said: "What's good for General Motors is good for the country," which is the common misquote, but the sentiment is there.

I remember being told about Wilson's comment growing up in my working class neighbourhood. It was quite a famous statement in its time and for years after. Back then we would have had no idea what it would have meant to be "hostile to the private sector." What we understood, perhaps instinctively, was that what was good for big business was good for big business and not necessarily for the country or it citizens. To say the least, we looked upon Wilson's statement cynically.

Republicans have always tried to make the case, perhaps in more nuanced ways, that what is good for big business is good for America. I think the obvious point is, this is sometimes true and other times not true. Asking questions about particular cases does not make someone anti-private sector.

In my experience, voters are far more sophisticated than this, and no amount of back-door red baiting is going to scare them off.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The G Spot

By Carl 

By any account, Mitt Romney's tenure as governor of Massachussetts can be termed a period of moderate governance.

Which is great until you decide to run for president as a Republican:

"Mitt Romney claims his experience as a corporate buyout specialist will bring positive economic results for the nation," said an Obama campaign announcement.

"He made the same economic promises when he ran for governor of Massachusetts that he makes today -- more jobs, less debt and smaller government," added the statement. "Once in office, he broke all those promises and more."

I don't want to start to parse the Romney administration and weigh it on a scale of just how moderate it was. Suffice it to say that, by today's standards of homophobic legislation and anti-government rhetoric, it was pretty moderate.

So why would the Obama administration slam Mitt Romney as a moderate governor? After all, everyone -- except Mitt now, although I suspect that will change by November -- acknowledges that Romneycare was the blueprint for Obamacare (clever, that, and part of Obama's vaunted eleven-dimensional chess), and that Romney was pro-family autonomy before he was pro-life.

("Family autonomy" meaning that medical decisions are left up to the individual family unit.)

You read that campaign tactic and view the four minute film and you begin to wonder if it makes sense: it's not going to persuade anyone on either side of the fence to switch allegiances. Republicans will still hold their noses and vote Romney and Democrats for Obama, albeit more enthusiastically. Anyone on the fence isn't really going to care about his social issue stances or his spotty record as governor.

Ah, but the devil is in the details...

The four-minute film notes that Romney raised state fees (i.e., taxes) and increased state debt during his single term in the statehouse; Massachusetts wound up 47th out of 50 states in job creation.

Those three items -- jobs, debt, and taxes -- are right at the top of the mind of every independent voter in every swing state. It shows that even Mitt Romney admits that he'll have to raise taxes and even then, there's no guarantee that he can cut the deficit. And, to boot, it thoroughly destroys the central rationale of his candidacy, that he's a job creator.

Remember, he was governor of Massachussetts, elected in 2002, and part of his constituency was the Route 128 corridor (Silicon Highway). A high tech hotbed that should have been creating jobs like crazy given the massive tax cuts that Congress passed under President... errr, what was his name again?

In other words, he stepped up to the plate with a runner on third and no outs and somehow managed to hit into a triple play. He could hardly have asked for more favorable economic conditions to take office in.

Mind you, in his first year in office, he received $500 million in federal grants under the Homeland Security intiatives. He also got a windfall from increased capital gains tax increases passed under his predecessor of $1 billion. He still couldn't close the gap.

And he had strong bipartisan support from the Democratic legislature, mostly because he didn't set out to bash them as he has started to do in the general election campaign.

Yet, he still failed.

It's a powerful message, one that ought to resonate with voters across the country.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A nation deranged by war, an empire collapsing

Following up on my post from earlier today on Chris Hayes, military service, and the meaning of heroism, wherein I expressed complete agreement with what Hayes said about the use of the word "hero" and it's application to those who serve in the military, I want to bring to your attention an excellent piece at The Economist on the right-wing political correctness of the knee-jerk criticism of Hayes and, context and content ignored, what he said:

Calling "hero" everyone killed in war, no matter the circumstances of their death, not only helps sustain the ethos of martial glory that keeps young men and women signing up to kill and die for the state, no matter the justice of the cause, but also saps the word of meaning, dishonouring the men and women of exceptional courage and valour actually worthy of the title. The cheapening of "hero" is a symptom of a culture desperate to evade serious moral self-reflection by covering itself in indiscriminate glory for undertaking wars of dubious value. A more confident culture would not react with such hostility to Mr Hayes' admirable, though cautiously hedged, expression of discomfort with our truly discomfiting habit of numbing ourselves to the reality of often senseless sacrifice with posturing piety and too-easy posthumous praise.

Indeed, the adolescent vehemence of the reaction to Mr Hayes' mild confession seems to me to underscore the idea that America has become so deranged by war that anyone who ventures to publicly question any element of America's cultural politics of endless conflict will instantly mobilise indignant hordes who will bear down to silence him.

It's actually even more existential than that. What we're seeing in the derangement of the right, of which we have ample evidence (this is hardly an isolated example), are the death throes of the American Empire, militaristic jingoism being the right's knee-jerk response to the coming of the end of American hegemony.

The mature response, the response of a confident, progressive culture, is to welcome such change and to encourage American engagement with the new paradigm, to advocate an outward-focused approach that emphasizes engagement with the rest of the world not as dependents or enemies but as partners tackling common problems and working towards a common future.

Alas, there is no such maturity on the right, and the right-wing Republican Party is powerful enough to block the rest of the country from moving forward in a responsible manner.

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Activist Dolores Huerta is awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

I know President Obama is a centrist. I greatly enjoy claims from the whacky right that he's a radical leftist. Do these people have any understanding of political history at all? They really might want to travel a bit to see what else is out there.

I fully understand that Obama is defined by the realities of politics in America, by the art of the possible. But, I suppose, the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that the president's centrism looks like the left, if relativity is your guide.

For all that, I thought it was nice that President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday to Dolores Huerta, an 82-year-old labour activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union.

Huerta is also a noted civil rights and women's rights activist. And, according to the Wiki entry for her, "as a role model to many in the Latin community, Huerta is the subject of many ballads and murals." Isn't that lovely?

Best of all, she's an honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. That puts her in the wonderful company of some of my political heroes, such as my former professor Frances Fox Piven and author Barbara Ehrenreich.

It must be hard for President Obama to show an openness to ideas not necessarily within the American mainstream, but I appreciate it when he makes the effort. I really do.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Hey George, you want to try again to explain this?

By Richard K. Barry 

Sometimes politics is just weird. Check this out: The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago that attorney George Demos was quitting the race for the Republican congressional nomination for eastern Long Island (NY-1). The primary is on June 26.

The reason he gave was that he decided to focus on his upcoming wedding to Chrysa Tsakopoulos, which takes place in a week or so.

As Daily Kos points out, it is true that a judge moved the primary from September to June earlier in the year, and that there may have been some scheduling tensions, but this is still an odd one.

What did Demos do, wake up last week and say, "Shit, I'm getting married next week. Better cancel that whole 'I want to be a Congressman' thing"?

I'll admit I can be bad with a calendar, but come on!

Inevitably, when these things happen, there's something else going on. This excuse is as credible as retiring politicians saying they want to "spend more time with their families."

Two years ago, Randy Altschuler defeated Demos and one other candidate in the same GOP primary. Altschuler lost narrowly to Democrat Timothy Bishop.

Even if Demos realized he couldn't win the nomination, the timing is strange as is the reasoning.

I'd have to guess his supporters are somewhat annoyed at the sudden decision. What do you think the chances are they'll sign up for a future campaign?

Do I see a movie in the future? Perhaps: "My Big Fat Greek Wedding and How It Ended My Political Career."

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Mitt Romney: Likely three-time loser in states he has called home

It does not appear President Obama will have much difficulty carrying Michigan in the fall, at least not according to recent polling by Public Policy Polling (PPP), which found the president leading Mitt Romney by a margin of 54-38 percent.

As for anything that might count as home-field advantage, Romney doesn't have much of that as only 24 percent of voters consider him a Michigander as opposed to 65 percent who do not. His favourability rating is 35/57 percent in the wrong direction.

According to the PPP poll, it isn't just that Romney is so unpopular in the state. Obama's approval ratings are strong with a 53/41 in the positive direction.

Perhaps the most telling number is that 55 percent of voters think Obama is better for the automotive industry compared to 31 percent who think Romney is better. Maybe Mitt shouldn't have taken such a public stand to let Detroit go bankrupt. Bet he wishes he could have that one back.

Here's something interesting. Mitt Romney has ties to three states that have been called "home states" for the presumptive GOP nominee: Massachusetts, Michigan, and California. He was born in Michigan and his father was governor. He was the Governor of Massachusetts. And he has an ocean-front home in California and numerous family connections there.

Unless something dramatic happens, he's going to lose all three to President Obama in the fall. I'm not saying it means anything as such, but it can't feel good to be so poorly regarded in states where you've spent so much time. I guess it adds further proof to my claim that to know Mitt is to dislike Mitt.

(Cross-posted in Lippmann's Ghost.)

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And so it begins...

By Carl 

The past couple of weeks, ever since Rick Santorum dropped out, have been prologue. A time trial, if you will, the opening stage of silly season touring:

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - The Republican presidential race is over.

Mitt Romney won the Texas primary Tuesday, picking up enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

CBS News estimates Romney now has 1,198 GOP delegates.

Romney didn't go to Texas Tuesday night to celebrate.

He was raising big money with Donald Trump in Las Vegas. 

Okay, a couple of points to make here before I move on:

1) Texans won't forget the insult. Texas is arguably a soft Republican state now, as the dramatic increase in Latinos bodes poorly for a state-wide electorate suddenly voting not only against their better interests but also against their own safety and security. Romney really needs to solidify his standing with the cowboys and oil men of Texas and generate enthusiasm. This fundraiser with Trump in Vegas not only puts him at odds with Texans who would have wanted to celebrate with Romney, but gives a clear signal that the yankee has more stroke than the largest state in the Republican column.

2) The more Trump speaks and the closer that Romney ties himself to Trump, the bigger the loss Romney faces. For Trump, it's a no-lose situation: he gets publicity, he gets to dupe the rubes out of even more cash in his casinos, and if Romney manages a miracle, he suddenly has stroke in the White House. This is Trump's M.O., however: risk nothing and gamble with everyone else's money. After all, it's how he attempted to "steal" the Empire State Building for a mere $50,000. For Romney, he's blind to the danger he's put not only his campaign in, but the entire party.

3) Up until now, the Obama re-election campaign has kept their powder dry and not unleashed torrents of attacks. This is traditional and pro-forma: you don't launch a full-scale campaign until you're sure of who you are facing. Even now, Obama will smartly withhold the main thrusts of his attack at least until Romney names a Veep candidate. Why tip your hand and allow your opponent to shore up his weaknesses? By all accounts, Romney is not politically savvy enough to remain nimble. A lot of what he has said up to this point has been a mixture of memorized bromidizations and off-the-cuff gaffes -- "tells," if you will. Romney's weakness is his uncomfortable balance of entitlement with the appearance of caring for the poor (if indeed he actually does not).

If Romney's staff is as disciplined as it should be, Romney will take this opportunity to lay out his attacks on Obama. It's free play time, and Obama will be busy being presidential right up to the convention, if not beyond. A lot depends on the polls: specifically, polls in states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Right now, though, Romney has a few weeks of free sailing, and that message seems to be taken up. So far this week, Romney's attacked foreign policy and the stimulus, two Obama strengths (and two really stupid attacks to make). Job creation will likely be on the agenda, which for Romney is probably his strongest argument.

Which is saying a lot considering how few jobs he's actually created himself, a point the President's team has been quick to make early and often.

If Romney's staff is as undisciplined as I believe it is, it'll screw up this freebie.

But, as we hockey people like to say, "Game on!"

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Chris Hayes, military service, and the meaning of heroism

I've been meaning to way in on Chris Hayes's comments over the Memorial Day weekend on the nature of heroism -- and specifically this one:

It is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the word hero. Why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word hero? I feel uncomfortable with the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. And I obviously don't want to desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that has fallen. Obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is tremendous heroism. You know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that's problematic, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

I don't think he is. In fact, I think he's absolutely right to question the ubiquity of the word "hero" as it is used with regards to military service.

But for one, the issue now isn't so much what Hayes said (and he has apologized for his remark, which he never should have done) but what his various right-wing critics are saying in response -- and, as you may know, it's gotten ugly. (Hayes made "a conscious effort to show respect to American troops, to highlight the depth of their sacrifice, and to convey as best he could how heavy a burden is carried by the parents, spouses, and children who are left behind (even as he remembered foreign innocents who have no day to commemorate their death in war." But the critics ignored both the context and the content of his comments, attacking him over a single line in a long discussion of military matters.)

And for two, Conor Friedersdorf has written a fantastic piece at The Atlantic not so much agreeing with what Hayes said, and on this I disagree with Friedersdorf (while I respect his open-minded, nuanced approach to the issue, I simply don't agree that "the vast majority of Americans in the military today" are heroes), but defending Hayes as a thoughtful, open-minded, self-critical commentator (of which there are far too few these days) and criticizing those knee-jerking right-wing critics who grossly misrepresented what he said and, as usual, used the occasion to make ad hominem attacks and denounce liberalism and pretty much everything else that isn't flag-waving jingoism.

I highly recommend that you read the whole thing, including the difficult questions he raises. Here's a key passage:

[I]t's worth asking what we want in an opinion broadcaster. Someone with whom we never disagree? Someone whose arguments never provoke or even offend us? For a fragile sort, maybe those qualities would prove ideal. But mature adults keen on useful public discourse ought to value different things. Even if we were to say, for the sake of argument, that Hayes' monologue was wrongheaded and offensive, it would remain the case that he 1) made sure to explicitly note that he wasn't disrespecting any soldier who'd fallen -- that is to say, he tried to anticipate which people might be needlessly offended, and to assure them that he meant something different than they thought; 2) he noted that he could be wrong; 3) he invited a panel of other intelligent people to disagree; 4) and when no one did disagree, the first thing he did was try to articulate the best counterargument that he could formulate. Unless you're a delicate flower looking for a broadcaster who never articulates any idea with which you're uncomfortable, what more can you ask from someone in Hayes' position?

Nothing. And it's worth noting that you don't find anything like this on the right, where opinion is expressed as propaganda and thoughtfulness is an utterly alien concept.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Go ahead and have your Texas primary, if you must

And the winner is... this guy.

In case you haven't been paying attention (and why would you?), there are still Republican primaries going on to determine who the GOP presidential nominee will be. Okay, we know who that will be, but process is process. God bless democracy.

Having said that, Mitt Romney is expected to get to and beyond the 1,144 delegates he needs thanks to the Texas primary today. It's a big state with 155 delegates on offer.

Yippee! Romney wins the nomination! 

More interesting, as ABC News reports, is the primary to determine the Republican Senate nominee to fill the seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who is retiring. The race is between David Dewhurst, the state's lieutenant governor, and Ted Cruz, the former solicitor general.

Once again we have a candidate, Dewhurst, considered to be an "establishment" candidate, going up against Cruz, who appears to claim the Tea Party designation. The waters do get a bit muddied, though, as Sarah Palin and Jim Demint are with Cruz, while Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry, hardly moderates, are with Dewhurst.

In Texas you need 50 percent in the primary to avoid a runoff, which is, it appears, a threshold that may not be reached. But even if a runoff is required, Public Policy Polling is saying that Dewhurst is in good shape to win the nomination because most of the votes of the likely third place finisher, Tom Lepperts, are poised to go to Dewhurst.

Texas is a reliably red state, so the GOP nominee should have no problem winning the general. No Delaware or Nevada 2010 shenanigans here, and not even 2012 Indiana contortions are likely.

That's right. Texans are going to the polls to choose between red and marginally redder.

Okay, this isn't a very interesting post. Sorry.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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How right-wingers took over Wikipedia

By Marc McDonald

Wikipedia is one of the most useful sites on the Web. It's a fantastic reference source that provides an incredible wealth of data on an endless variety of topics.

A big strength of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit any article. If, for example, an expert on quantum mechanics happens to notice a small factual error in the Wikipedia article on that topic, he or she can easily fix it on the spot. By harnessing the power of the knowledge of millions of people, Wikipedia has grown into the world's biggest reference resource.

However, Wikipedia's strength is also its biggest flaw. The very fact that anyone can edit an article means that errors, spin and bias can easily creep into the Wikipedia database.

If you're looking to read up on millions of disparate topics, from aardvarks to Frank Zappa, Wikipedia can offer you an enormous amount of helpful info that is reasonably free of bias.

But there's one big exception: articles on current political figures and topics.

Here, Wikipedia falls woefully short in its goal of providing a "neutral point of view."

Increasingly over the years, literally thousands of Wikipedia's political articles have gradually and quietly been given a right-wing spin. And thousands of articles on political figures ranging from Ronald Reagan to Glenn Beck have been either sanitized, or given a pro-GOP slant.

From A...
Normally, the open nature of Wikipedia prevents such mischief. Typically, if someone introduces biased, or incorrect information into an article, it is quickly corrected by other visitors.

But this process has clearly failed on Wikipedia when it comes to thousands of articles on current political topics.

The reason is obvious: the right-wing "contributors" are ferociously tenacious. They will go in and sanitize and slant an article over and over until it reads the way they want it to. These people are well-organized, ruthless and determined and they usually eventually get their way, via sheer blunt force. In this respect, they're much like Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio in that they believe if they simply repeat something over and over, it becomes "fact."

To be sure, from my experience with Wikipedia over the years, I've seen some of this behavior from progressives as well on Wikipedia -- but it is nickel-and-dime compared to the massive, sweeping efforts made by right-wingers to bend reality to suit their point of view.

I first started noticing Wikipedia's right-wing spin in 2008 when I accessed the main article on George W. Bush. I was looking for some quick info about Valerie Plame. I was surprised to find zero mentions of Plame in the Bush article.

I then tried to raise this issue on the article's "Discussions" page and I found that merely typing in the word "Plame" triggered a text robot that blocked any posts from mentioning Plame on that article. Clearly, a Bush-friendly editor was very determined to sanitize the article of any and all mentions about Plame.

I found this truly astonishing. Whatever one thinks of the Plame affair, it's incredible that Wikipedia's main article about Bush would contain zero mentions about this case. It were as though Karl Rove himself had edited the article and had carefully airbrushed out anything that could possibly have a hint of negativity about his boss.

By contrast, the Wikipedia articles on various Democrats could have been written by Rush Limbaugh himself.

For example, at the same time Wikipedia was blocking any mentions of the Plame affair from the Bush article, the main Wikipedia article on Bill Clinton included a massive, seven-part "Controversies" section. This section rounded up every single right-wing nutcase allegation ever made against Clinton (quite an impressive feat when you consider all the crazed conspiracy theories that swirled around Clinton in the 1990s).

By contrast, at the time, no "Controversies" section existed in the Bush article (although there was a modest two-part "Criticism and public perception" section).

Of course, Wikipedia's contest is dynamic and fluid and a lot of what I found in 2008 has now changed. For example, there is now a very brief mention of Plame in the Bush article.

But it's clear that the ongoing right-wing spin process continues to contaminate Wikipedia articles.

A recent example is the Wikipedia article on Glenn Beck.

Do you remember Beck's controversy from May 17, 2005? That was the day Beck made astonishing and chilling remarks about killing Michael Moore. His exact words were: "I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could."

Beck's remarks (understandably) created a firestorm of controversy. Moore even opened his 2011 book, Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life with the Beck quote, as an example of the crazy, violent rhetoric that he has faced over the years from the wingnut crowd.

It's important to note that at no time did Beck ever claim he was joking, or making the comment in jest. And Beck never apologized or faced any consequences for his remark.

No doubt, after a while, Beck just wanted the whole issue to go away. And today, it's clear that he's gotten his wish. In fact, seven years later, it's as though the incident never occurred.

If you read the Wikipedia article on Beck, there is absolutely nothing about Beck's comments about killing Michael Moore. Not one word. In fact, the article is largely sanitized of Beck's long history of making inflammatory, crazy remarks.

For example, do you remember Beck's controversial 2010 Tides Foundation remarks? That episode too, has been completed omitted from the Wikipedia article on Beck. In fact, the article reads like a big, wet sloppy kiss and a Valentine to Beck.

Of course, the article on Beck is hardly the only slanted article on Wikipedia. A casual scan of topics ranging from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton also shows a heavy right-wing spin.

One of the very few exceptions is the Wikipedia article on global warming. After a long, ferocious back-and-forth struggle over the years, Wikipedia's editors finally locked down that article to prevent tampering from the wingnut climate change deniers.

On that article, one currently finds a detailed FAQ on the discussions page that answers all the questions that weary Wikipedia editors have had to answer, over and over, in disputing the Rush Limbaugh crowd. As a result of this policy, the "global warming" article is one of the few major Wikipedia articles that hasn't been subjected to right-wing spin. Z.
The problem is, thousands of other Wikipedia articles are open to editing by anyone -- and as a result, virtually every article on a right-wing figure has been carefully sanitized. At the same time, most Wikipedia articles on Democratic figures tend to read like they were edited by Fox News.

The Wikipedia articles on everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama round up every single nutcase right-wing allegation ever made against these people. And if the likes of progressive commentators from Ed Schultz to Michael Moore ever did or said anything in the least bit controversial, you can be sure to read about it in detail on Wikipedia.

One quick example to prove my point: at different times in their careers, both Schultz and Beck have gotten into trouble for using the word "slut." But while the Wikipedia article on Schultz details the controversy his comment created, the Wikipedia article on Beck completely avoids any mention of the time Beck called Cindy Sheehan a "slut." As ever, the double standard on Wikipedia is blatant and sickening.

Of course, since Wikipedia's content is fluid and dynamic, the situation may have changed by the time you read this. But if that's the case, you can be assured that such content won't survive long on Wikipedia before it is eventually deleted or altered by right-wingers.

As I said, the right-wingers are tenacious and determined. They'll do whatever it takes to bend Wikipedia to suit their reality.

Today's right-wingers know exactly what they want. And they'll play hardball to do whatever it takes to win. For example, we saw this in the 2000 elections, when the GOP brownshirt thugs staged riots and intimidated the Florida voter counters, while Al Gore's people just sat around politely waiting for the phone to ring.

The right-wingers may not have the facts on their side. But they do have the determination and will to get what they want by brute force. And as a result, Wikipedia, the world's largest and most popular reference site, now has a right-wing slant on thousands of its articles.

(Cross-posted at BeggarsCanBeChoosers.)

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Does it matter that Mitt Romney is avoiding non-Fox media?

Politico ran a short item the other day about Bob Schieffer asking Mitt Romney advisor Ed Gillepsie why his candidate only goes on Fox. The Face the Nation host put it this way:

You think we're ever going to see [Mitt Romney] on one of these Sunday morning interview shows? I know he does Fox, but we'd love to have him some time, as would "Meet the Press" and the ABC folk, I would guess.

Gillespie responded by saying that Romney "spoke to school children last week," though I am not sure what question that answered.

The rest of the conversation went like this:

Then, [Gillespie] said he'd take Schieffer's suggestion under careful consideration. "We'll have to consider a number of options, and I'm sure the morning shows are [some] of them," Gillespie said.

Schieffer, pointedly, politely replied: "I know schoolchildren are happy to see him."

Well, that's all very cute, but it does beg the question whether you can run for the presidency more or less exclusively through Fox News? It may be one thing to secure the GOP nomination, though even there I recall Romney got a bit of a rough ride on Fox from time to time. On the one hand, so few people as a percentage of the voting universe watch public affairs programs that it probably doesn't matter. What can matter, though, is the way reporters for various other networks, that are not Fox News, will frame stories if you avoid them.

One of the best lines in a television show about politics I ever heard was a comment by fictional press secretary Toby Ziegler on The West Wing, who said that it is never a good idea to pick a fight with anyone who buys printers ink by the barrel. Metaphorically speaking, he obviously meant the press in general, that it was bad to make them angry and better to have a good working relationship with them.I know the right has talked foolishly about the biases of the mainstream media (MSM), and I know this plays well with certain parts of their constituency. I don't think it plays well with the mainstream of the country, the kind of people you need to vote for you outside your conservative base if you hope to win the presidency.

Again, I don't know that Romney can't succeed by ignoring the MSM, but I think it is foolish to try.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Romney prepares for Trump fundraiser, refuses to reject birtherism


Mitt Romney, as you may have heard, is attending a fundraiser in Las Vegas today with no less a shining light of the GOP than Donald Trump (as well as with another party star, Newt Gingrich). In anticipation of the event, Romney was asked about Trump's birtherism:

Mitt Romney said Monday he wasn't concerned about Donald Trump's commitment to the "birther" conspiracy, one day before the GOP presidential candidate hosts a fund-raiser alongside the celebrity business magnate.

Asked on his charter plane whether Trump's questioning of President Barack Obama's birthplace gave him pause, Romney simply said he was grateful for all his supporters.

"You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in," Romney said. "But I need to get 50.1% or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people."

(Actually, he doesn't need 50.1% or more, he needs 270 Electoral College votes. But perhaps we should excuse him this apparent lapse of understanding of the rules of American democracy?)

What a steaming pile of horseshit. (No disrespect to our equine friends.)

Romney isn't a birther and could easily have said he thinks (or preferably knows) Obama was born in the U.S., brushing off the question and moving on, but instead he saw an opportunity to pander shamelessly and, as usual, took it. And to whom was he pandering? Why, to the many, many Republicans who are on Trump's side on the whole birther nonsense. To all those "good people" on the crazy far right, which is more and more the Republican mainstream, whose support he needs in November.

But even if you don't think he was pandering to the right, his refusal to take a side was also typical of his tendency to flip and flop like a shameless opportunist, so unprincipled is he, so utterly soul-less, so desperate for votes, so fearful of pushing any prospective supporters away. (He may tout himself as a successful businessman, but there are countless indications he's a terrible leader.)

Anyway, enjoy the Romney-Trump-Gingrich spectacle today. For more, see my recent posts:



Even Wolf Blitzer thinks Trump is an idiot

But Trump isn't backing down: "I never really changed -- nothing's changed my mind."

And Romney is playing right along, still refusing to reject birtherism. His campaign even released his own birth certificate today. Which is just another way of playing the birther card.

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