Saturday, July 07, 2012

Syd Barrett: The madcap still laughs

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Syd Barrett died six years ago today.

If you know me at all, you know how much Pink Floyd means to me, and also how much I revere Syd -- so much so, in fact, that two of my children are named after him (or his music) in some way.

Without further ado, three clips:

1) Audio only of my favourite Syd solo song, "Octopus" (produced by Syd and the man who replaced him in Pink Floyd, David Gilmour), off Syd's first solo album, The Madcap Laughs (1970).

2) David Gilmour performing Syd's "Dominoes" at London's Royal Festival Hall in June 2001.

Gilmour has included some of Syd's solo work in his concert performances. This show, for example, which is available on DVD as David Gilmour in Concert, includes "Terrapin" as well as "Dominoes." Remember that Night, filmed live at London's Royal Albert Hall in May 2006, includes "Dominoes" and "Dark Globe" on its bonus features disc -- he performed both songs on his 2006 tour. And he has frequently performed Syd-era Floyd songs like "Arnold Layne" and "Astronomy Domine."

3) Pink Floyd, with Syd Barrett on lead guitar (you can see him well starting at the 4:14 mark), performing "Interstellar Overdrive," taken from filmmaker Peter Whitehead's London 1966/1967 (CD/DVD reissued in 2005, featuring the full-length version of "Interstellar Overdrive" (of which this clip features just the first half) and "Nick's Boogie"). A shorter version of "Overdrive" appeared on Floyd's debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.


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Mitt Romney is a victim, sayeth "Saint Ann"

Oh Mitt. Life is so very hard. 
I do realize the Romney campaign will trot out "Saint Ann" at every opportunity to humanize the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. I guess you run with what you've got and, since Mitt is such a goof, no wonder they are looking for others to carry the water on the sympathetic personality front.

I'm just not certain the latest attempt by Ann to paint her husband as a victim of the big mean Obama machine will have much resonance with voters. In an interview with CBS News Ann said President Obama's entire campaign strategy is to "kill Romney."

Oh, please. I have never seen such an attempt by one political party to delegitimize, vilify, and disrespect a sitting president as happened the moment Barack Obama won the last election. Do childish names like the "Kenyan socialist" ring a bell? Do the ridiculous efforts to now "vet" Obama by the "children of Breitbart" come to mind? What about practically anything Fox "News" says on its airwaves? In general terms, the conservative movement in America has dedicated itself to the destruction, personally and politically, of the guy now in the White House.

But, no, according to Ann Romney Mitt is the victim. He's the target of Obama's Chicago thugs, who will attempt to tear down this wonderful man who only wants to make America great again. (I have to stop there. I'm making myself ill).

Okay. Give it a shot. If you think humanizing Romney requires painting him a victim, go for it.

Call me cynical, but I just don't see Romney as someone who has had a hard time in life and I doubt many others will feel sorry for him on any level.

My advice to Mitt, if he were asking, is: don't do it. It makes you look even more pathetic than you already do, if that's possible.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, July 06, 2012

Distinguished conservative judge Richard Posner thinks Republicans are insane

Said the Reagan appointee:

I've become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.

"Goofy" is apparently Posner-ese for "fucking crazy."

And he suggested further that the right-wing attacks on Chief Justice Roberts since the Obamacare ruling last week may make Roberts, like himself, less conservative:

Because if you put [yourself] in his position... what's he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, "What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?" Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position.

If only more conservatives would re-examine their position. Unfortunately, most conservatives aren't nearly as thoughtful and self-reflective as Judge Posner, and most prefer ideological extremism and/or partisan hackery to honesty and self-respect.

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Behind the Ad: Where Romney keeps his money

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

Who: The Obama-Biden campaign.

Where: The Internet.

What's going on: The Obama campaign is attacking Mitt Romney in an ad that features "man-on-the-street" interviews that ask the question: "Do you have an offshore bank account?" The ad flows from a Vanity Fair report that investigated Romney's finances and where he keeps some of his millions.

The punchline for this ad is supplied by one man who says, "I don't have an overseas bank account, and I don't think our next president should have one either."

As I said earlier today, this issue may be a very big problem for Romney.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The enormity of Mitt Romney's tax haven problem

By Richard K. Barry

Under the category of "worth repeating," here's what Josh Marshall at TPM had to say about Mitt Romney's use of tax havens:

I'll just say it: I don't think the political pundit class understands just how toxic the Swiss/Caymans/Bermuda accounts issue is for Romney. Not that they don't know it’s a liability at all. But I don't think they realize the extent of it.

On top of that he cites a report from ABC News that mentioned Ted Strickland's introduction for President Obama at an Ohio campaign stop:

"Oh, what a contrast, my friends, between these two men who would be president!" Strickland said, standing outside the Wolcott House Museum. "President Obama is betting on America and American workers, and Mitt Romney is betting his resources in the Cayman Islands, in Bermuda, in Switzerland and God only knows where else he is putting his resources."

As Marshall says, this is not about legality. It's probably all good and legal, but "how exactly do you understand that a man running for president has parked a lot of his money in offshore tax havens?"

His point, beside the obvious, is that it "rolls off the tongue" so easily. It's such a perfect way to prove the point that Romney doesn't understand, can't understand, the lives of ordinary Americans, that he isn't at all focused on American workers. It's all about what Mitt can get for Mitt.

I'm with Marshall on this. I have no idea how Romney spins himself out of this one. This is big.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Andy Griffith: "What It Was, Was Football"

Andy Griffith died a couple of days ago at the age of 86. Everyone knows him as Sheriff Andy Taylor on the old Andy Griffith Show on television or as Matlock in the legal drama that was on years later. Before any of that, Griffith had a career in comedy and on Broadway.

In 1953, he recorded a comedy monologue on a smaller label called "What it Was, Was Football." Things more or less took off from there.

Capitol Records released it around the same time as the original and put out 800,000 copies and, according to the Wiki, it's still one of the biggest selling comedy records of all time. It was a big enough deal that Griffith appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1954 due in large part to the popularity of the record.

The YouTube clip of this comes with illustrations and subtitles, which I guess is helpful, though I don't find Griffith's southern drawl that hard to understand.

I remember my father talking about it when I was a kid. I was thinking about posting it when Griffith died and then my sister sent the YouTube link from Florida, where she lives. We must have had the same thought.

It still stands up pretty well.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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How many who don't like Obamacare don't think it goes far enough?

An ABC News/Washington Post poll came out recently detailing voter response to the Supreme Court's decision on Obama's health care law. 43 percent of Americans found the ruling favourable and 42 unfavourable.

What I found more interesting was this section of the report as described in The New York Times:

And while Americans are also divided over President Obama's plans for health care, with 45 percent finding his plans favorable and 48 percent unfavorable, fewer approve of Mitt Romneys health care plans. Just 3 in 10 Americans express a positive view of Mr. Romney's health care plans, while nearly half say they find his plans unfavorable, and nearly a quarter are unsure.

From the beginning of the health care debate, a measurable cohort rejected Obama's plan from the left. They either thought the mandate was a windfall for insurance companies or that a single-payer system was a better way to go. In other words, some people prefer that the government actually run the health-care system as has been done pretty well in places like Canada for years. In this way, health care is paid for out of the tax base. (Take a deep breath. It's not that scary.)

I'd be curious to know if pollsters are bothering to ask the 48 percent of Americans who view Obama's plan unfavourably why they don't like it. Is it possible that for some of them it's not liberal enough, that they want the government to play an even bigger role? Given that only 3 in 10 view Romney's plan, whatever that is, favourably, isn't it possible that a clear majority don't like the rugged individualist, let-the-uninsured-die approach to health-care access.

It's not that hard to ask the question. To be clear, being against what Romney proposes is not the same as being for what Obama proposes and vice versa. There really are other options, though we seem to go out of our way to reject that possibility. America: a land where you can have whatever you want as long as you don't mind only having two choices. Ah, freedom.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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On the individual mandate, Romney brilliantly flips from penalty to tax

I was over there, but now I'm over here. See?
Well, you knew this was coming, surely. 

Ever since the still-stunning Supreme Court ruling last week, Romney has been shuffling to figure out where to land -- against the ruling, obviously (even if Obamacare is really just Romneycare writ large), but what about the whole "tax or penalty" argument?

Basically, it appeared that Romney and his team just wanted the issue to go away, probably because it's a no-win for them. Obama has the upper hand on health care, and of course the longer it's an issue the more time conservatives will have to learn (or remind themselves) that Romney instituted a very similar system, a prototype of Obamacare, in that liberal bastion of Massachusetts.

I suspected right away that the smarter people around Romney, strategists like Karl Rove, would try to move on quickly from an extremely bad week (for them) that saw Obama score significant wins, with vote-winning potential, on health care and immigration, returning to the economy as the one issue that could put Romney over the top, the one issue where Obama, as the sitting president, is vulnerable. But of course it wouldn't be so easy. Conservatives, including both the Republican grassroots base and the movement's opinion-forming elite (i.e., Dear Leader Rush et al.), want blood, Obama's blood, and they weren't about to let Romney move on without a fight.

But how was Romney going to fight without alienating swing-state independents who either find a lot to like in the Affordable Care Act or don't much care for the right-wing extremism that Romney must embrace from time to time in order to keep conservatives behind him?

It didn't really help that one of his top people, senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom, said the other day that the individual mandate is a penalty, not a tax. This made a lot of sense in nuanced analytical terms -- it can be called a tax, as the Roberts-led majority found -- but it acts as a penalty insofar as the intention isn't to raise revenue -- but politically it left Romney vulnerable to criticism. Of course, it also left him in opposition to the Court's ruling, but, again, he and his team don't want to get into a debate over the specifics of the law. So he had to find another line of attack.

And -- bingo. He's flipped and flopped before, so why not again?

Yes, Romney came out yesterday and contradicted Fehrnstrom (who surely was speaking at the time for Romney), saying that the mandate is actually a tax:

Directly contradicting his senior adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told CBS that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is "a tax."

Earlier this week, Fehrnstrom said in a TV appearance that Romney has the same view as the White House on the individual mandate: that it's a penalty, rather than a tax. Romney instituted a state-level mandate to buy health insurance as governor of Massachusetts.

But Romney shifted gears in a sit-down with Jan Crawford, declaring that President Barack Obama broke his pledge not to raise taxes by imposing the individual mandate.

"While I agreed with the dissent, that's overtaken by the fact that the majority of the Court said it's a tax and therefore it is a tax. They have spoken. There's no way around that," Romney said. "The American people know that President Obama has broken the pledge he made — said he wouldn't raise taxes on middle-income Americans."

Well, then he must disagree with the dissent, at least on the matter of the mandate, but no matter. He has no time for consistency, never his strong suit anyway, he's too busy shifting the discussion over to... taxes!

See what he did there? He's acknowledging that the Court said it's a tax, and in a way respecting the ruling, but quickly shifting gears to launch into an attack on President Obama for raising taxes. This was the political Achilles' Heel for Democrats coming out of the ruling, which left them vulnerable to the charge of raising taxes on the middle class and therefore of breaking their pledge not to do so, and Romney jumped on it, allowing him to move away from health care in and of itself but still giving the base something to latch onto.

I can't stand him or those around him, but you've got to give them a lot of credit for turning a no-win situation into a line of attack that may resonate with voters beyond hardcore conservatives.

As for Obama, he needs to stay on the offensive. He needs to do what he didn't do nearly enough of when the was in the sausage-making stage, or even after it was passed. He needs to sell it, to explain what it does, all that will benefit the American people -- tens of millions insured, access to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, lower costs over time, fiscal responsibility, etc.

Can he do it? Of course he can. The Affordable Care Act is historic legislation that does enormous, even incalculable good. And President Obama is just the person to make the case.

Personally, I still believe.

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Flip and flop

By Carl 

Well, there's ol' Mitt Romney again, tumbling through hoops to try to clarify a position that was clarified a week and a half ago, even tho that position was consistent with the position he took years ago as governor of Massachussetts, but inconsistent with the position he took during the primary campaign, which is now consistent with the position he's taken then:

Just two days after Mitt Romney's top spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the former governor agrees with President Obama that the health insurance mandate does not represent a tax, the candidate reversed that positioning.

In an interview with CBS Wednesday from New Hampshire where Romney and his family are vacationing, the Republican candidate for president said due to the Supreme Court's majority decision, he too believes it's a tax.

"The Supreme Court has the final word and their final word is that Obamacare is a tax," Romney said. "So it's a tax." 

Ferhnstrom and Republican National Committee spokesperson Sean Spicer will likely fall on their swords over this.

Y'know, the Republicans used to be such a disciplined bunch of guys. You may not agree with what they stood for, but you felt they had come by that opinion honestly, and they kept their messages, however hateful and abhorrent, consistent.

That seems to no longer be the dynamic of the party, which we can trace to the Teabagger wing. It's hard to stay consistent when you feel your hands slipping off the life preserver that is winning elections. They'll lose, and keep losing, until they tell that wing to shut the hell up, and move to more moderate positions.

I think this dynamic, in part, played into the Roberts flip-flopping on ACA. While much speculation centers on his ego and vanity in what the legacy of a Roberts' court would be, weighing into that ego has to be a measurement of the insanity of the extremist right wing of both his court and the country in general. How could he not?

So when your political movement is affecting even the SCOTUS in ways that are harmful to your political aspirations, the time has come to jettison the loons.

Which would leave the GOP with precisely no base. Moderates have left the party in droves, now self-identifying as "independents" (and skewing that demographic rightward in the process), and many of those have found comfort in the arms of the Donkeys.

Which, of course, has given us on the left pause. After all, it was the likes of Ben Nelson and Blanche Dubois -- I mean, Lincoln -- that created the mess we found ourselves in when the ACA came to the fore in the first place.

Now, I've long held that a vital part of American democracy is two opposing forces wrestling over the issues of the day, but the key element has been two opposing forces with a single goal in mind: to legislate. Two opposing forces within the same party or two opposing forces that can't come to some understanding and get things done is an unhealthy situation.

See, as a winner-take-all electoral entity, America is subject to Duverger's Law. If you'd like a dirty and fast analogy, Duverger's describes American political parties as Sith lords: There can only be two. Never fewer, never more.

This is the extent of "choice" in America and as history shows, Duverger was spot-on. We've never had a viable third party but once, and that party ended up replacing the party it fractured from.

Screw that up, and you enter a period of extremist views, and some god-awful legislatin'.

Romney loses this November, and it should be a wake-up call to the Republicans (who you'd think ought to know better): Get rid of the assholes and get back to work.

But it won't. And they won't. And that should bother us all.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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When it comes to democratic self-governance, it seems a lot of Americans are deeply anti-American

For most of us, the idea that "governments derive their only just powers from the consent of the governed," a central tenet of the Declaration of Independence (a.k.a., the reason you're not working tomorrow), is taken as a given. But a surprisingly large contingent of Americans — 13 percent, according to Rasmussen — disagrees with that philosophy, apparently preferring tyrannical governments which wield power over their people through terror and violence. They must be very disappointed by all those elections we're having all the time! Another 17 percent are "undecided," which probably just means they couldn't follow the question and/or zoned out.

Actually, it's likely that most of those 13 percent think that governments derive their very legitimacy from God -- you know, the residue of that whole "Divine Right of Kings" nonsense that was big way back when and still finds a home among theocratic conservatives, and particularly with the American Taliban that is so powerful in the Republican Party.

(And by God, of course, I mean "God.")

Yes, that would be the party with all those self-defined "patriots" who talk up the Founders, including those who thought the Declaration was a truly revolutionary document (which is was) inbued with the spirit of the Enlightenment, as do-no-wrong demigods -- yes, those self-appointed defenders of what they think is the American Way but is actually the opposite.

Actually, I'm surprised the number isn't larger. There are a lot of born-again theocrats out there, and a lot of ignorance all throughout America. But perhaps a lot of respondents, more than 17 percent, found the question a tad too taxing for their mushy minds.

Whatever the case, the Founders, who possessed not just a profound understanding of history but a firm commitment to the Enlightenment and the possibility of human progress, would likely be rather disappointed that so many Americans, well over two centuries after they launched their revolution of democratic governance, don't understand what they did -- nor what America truly means.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Hallelujah, it's the Higgs

So it may be the long-sought Higgs particle observed by CERN and announced officially today. It also might not be, and of course this "God Particle" really has nothing at all to do with God or gods or proofs thereof. We owe that idea not to physicists but to journalists who don't know a Boson from a Bos'n but know anything they can dishonestly and ignorantly claim to be about scientific proof for any kind of God will attract ratings like mass attracts other mass.

The whole world thinks there is one Higgs, but there could be many of them,

said Dr. Joe Incandela of the University of California, Santa Barbara, a spokesman for one of the two groups reporting their data today. So far, the unofficial theologians of the press haven't mentioned the pantheistic possibilities should super-symmetry and its attendant multiplicity of Higgs particles be the next theory to be backed up by the world;s most powerful and expensive physics experiment, still only running at half power. Even if it isn't, and whether we have the Higgs particle or something that doesn't quite fit the model, we've had another giant step for mankind, not that many in the U.S. will take much notice. A door has been opened to a whole new level of understanding and that reveals many other doors. It's another giant step away from mythology and speculation as the key to understanding.

Perhaps few will notice that this was a discovery made in Europe because we decided we couldn't afford such a machine and the next most powerful accelerator at Fermilab was shut down last year because you can't have wars and tax cuts and take giant steps even though, of course, we're Number One and the greatest country in the history of the galaxy and the only place where freedom rings. Who wants all those scientists here anyway, taking jobs away from Americans and looking down on us all -- confusing us with talk about reality being far more complex than you can dream about -- infinitely more complex than the Bible tells us. It's not a sad failure, it's a victory!

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Photo of the Day: Pride Toronto 2012

Photo by Patrick Delaney

A friend took this picture at the Pride Parade in Toronto over the weekend. The context is that these two men from the U.S. won a contest to be married on a float in the parade. It's a great shot.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Where's the money, Mitt?

When it comes to Romney's money, the issue isn't that he has a lot of it but how he got it and what he's done with it.

How he got it is clear enough. His dad was rich and famous and, leading a privileged life that included an expensive education, he got into vulture capitalism, making a fortune by destroying / outsourcing jobs, ruining lives, and otherwise doing anything and everything for a buck (or, really, millions and millions of them).

What he's done with it is trickier to determine. Certainly he's spent a lot of it on things like dressage and car elevators, and of course it costs a lot to be a rich douchebag with friends who are NFL and NASCAR owners, and with a wife with expensive (if questionable) tastes, a couple of Cadillacs, and her own penchant for Romneying.

But there's a lot, an awful lot, he hasn't spent on his privileged rich lifestyle. And a lot of it he keeps well away from public view, even as he asks for the public trust in his run for the highest office in the land, even well away from his own country, hidden away in secretive offshore accounts, in places like Switzerland, the Caymans, Bermuda.

Is this an issue? Should it be? Yes and yes.

It would be troubling enough were he just a private citizen, given that such accounts are often/usually used to avoid domestic taxation, allowing the rich to get richer. (The rich can get away with it. Everyone else, not so much. Just try to hide some of your income from the IRS.) But it's even more trouble in Romney's case given that he's running for president -- and so is a public future who wants to be the country's chief public servant.

And so I highly recommend the fantastic investigative report on Mitt's money by Nicholas Shaxson at Vanity Fair:

For all Mitt Romney's touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney's fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate.

It's very long, but it deserves your attention.

You can make up your own mind as to whether or not, or to what degree, Romney should be held accountable for what he's done with his money, but you should at least know something of the truth.

And Romney won't be the one to fill you in. You can be sure of that.

(Image from The PBH Network.)

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Behind the Ad: Frightening grandma with lies (have you no shame, Grand Old Party?)

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The National Republican Congressional Committee.

Where: Three California Congressional districts.

What's going on: According to Politico, the $43,000 cable TV ads will be rolled out Tuesday through next Monday and will target three California Democratic representatives: Lois Capps, John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney.

The ads shows two sisters texting each other about the Supreme Court decision to uphold Obama's health care law. (You have to appreciate the hipness of the whole texting thing. I don't do it myself but I hear all the youngsters are really into it.)

I saw Michele Bachman on Piers Morgan a couple nights ago and you can tell the GOP is a short step away from talking about death panels for granny once again. The line in this ad is: "there goes mom's hip replacement." Precisely why mom will no longer be able to get medical care isn't addressed, of course. I guess it's supposed to be obvious. The fact is, it's all based on a recurring series of lies told by Romney and his surrogates about Medicare cuts that aren't real. Frightening people based on nothing is the approach.

Yes, making sure more people get the health coverage everyone needs is a slippery slope to socialism, no doubt. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The problem with the health care debate is that it's complicated, which makes lying about it very easy, not that Mitt Romney needs any encouragement to make stuff up. He's on old pro.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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July 4, 2012 -- Independence Day

We had our day three days ago. Now it's the Americans' turn.

Happy Fourth of July, my American friends and family!


We'll have several new posts up today, but let's start off by posting this clip of Bruce Springsteen, as American a musician as there is, performing "Independence Day" with The E Street Band at MSG on November 8, 2009.

Well Papa go to bed now it's getting late
Nothing we can say is gonna change anything now
I'll be leaving in the morning from St. Mary's Gate
We wouldn't change this thing even if we could somehow
Cause the darkness of this house has got the best of us
There's a darkness in this town that's got us too
But they can't touch me now
And you can't touch me now
They ain't gonna do to me
What I watched them do to you...

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Asshole extraordinaire Joe Walsh says double amputee Iraq War vet Tammy Duckworth isn't a "true hero"

A few weeks ago, Richard wrote that Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh could be President Obama's secret weapon, suggesting that the president's team "follow [him] 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 continuous loop in those communities Walsh has offended."

Well, how about offending the military, the day before July Fourth, and, well, pretty much offending everyone?

Though he never joined the military himself, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) disparaged his Democratic opponent's military service at a town hall on Sunday, saying that she's not a "true hero."

Walsh is running against Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee who lost both her legs in Iraq when insurgents hit her helicopter with an RPG in 2004.

The Tea Party freshman opened the Elk Grove town hall by arguing that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was reluctant to discuss his own military service in 2008, which made him a "noble hero." By contrast, "Now I'm running against a woman who, my God, that's all she talks about," Walsh said.

Let's put that more starkly:

Joe Walsh is a Tea Party Republican who, when acting didn't work out, embarked on a career in extremist right-wing politics. His ex-wife sued him for child support and he has come under scrutiny for various ethics violations.

Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, was an Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in combat. She has been the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She is married to a fellow Iraq War vet and serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

Yes, that's right, the armchair conservative extremist is saying the double amputee Iraq War vet isn't a "true hero." As if he has any fucking clue what heroism is, true or not.

And this isn't the first time this has come up. Back in March, Walsh told Politico: "What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran... ehhh." As if somehow that isn't enough. As if she hasn't followed up her time in the military, where she put her life on the line for her country, with public service in support of her fellow vets. You have to be some kind of reprehensible asshole to try to score political points this way.

(And consider the hypocrisy. Remember when Republicans went ballistic on Chris Hayes for even suggesting, in a thoughtful, self-critical way, that the word "heroism" is used in problematic ways?)

And it's not just Walsh. What his attack on Duckworth exposes, once more, is the general Republican use of the military as a convenient political prop. Republicans always say they support the troops, and are hence sufficiently patriotic, the implication being that Democrats don't, and aren't. Republicans always wave the flag to try to convince us of their love of country, the implication being that Democrats are anti-American (especially since a black man with an exotic past took the White House).

As guest blogger Rob Diamond wrote here a couple of years ago: "Republicans love to stand in front of the military. It is about time they try and stand behind us as well."

But they don't, and won't. To them, the military, vets and active servicemen and -women alike, is an exploitable tool with which to bludgeon Democrats, and the American people generally, even going so far, as we have seen so many times, as to put America's men and women in uniform, those who have volunteered for their country, in harm's way for political gain.

There's no respect there, nothing genuine, nothing sincere. If there were, do you think a chickenhawk idiot like Jow Walsh would actually ridicule the service of someone as noble, as courageous, as heroic as Tammy Duckworth?


Remember this when Republicans try to bludgeon you today, and throughout the campaign this year, as always.

Happy Fourth of July.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Too clever by half with a headline

Hey Chris. It's Mitt. I'm going with
Pawlenty. What do you think?

Here's something incredibly silly. CNBC ran a story today with the following headline: "Christie: I'd 'Answer the Call' if asked to be Vice President."

But here's what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie actually said about a potential VP nod: "I love being governor, you can tell. But the fact is, if Gov. Romney picks up the phone and calls, you have to answer that call and listen at least."

Sorry guys, but "answering the phone" is not the same as "answering the call."

But you did get my attention, if that was your goal. Good job there.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Aborted fetus-gate: This won't help Romney with conservatives

Anything for a buck. Absolutely anything for millions.

David Corn reports:

Earlier this year, Mitt Romney nearly landed in a politically perilous controversy when the Huffington Post reported that in 1999 the GOP presidential candidate had been part of an investment group that invested $75 million in Stericycle, a medical-waste disposal firm that has been attacked by anti-abortion groups for disposing aborted fetuses collected from family planning clinics. Coming during the heat of the GOP primaries, as Romney tried to sell South Carolina Republicans on his pro-life bona fides, the revelation had the potential to damage the candidate's reputation among values voters already suspicious of his shifting position on abortion.

But Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, tamped down the controversy. The company said Romney left the firm in February 1999 to run the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and likely had nothing to with the deal. The matter never became a campaign issue. But documents filed by Bain and Stericycle with the Securities and Exchange Commission -- and obtained by Mother Jones -- list Romney as an active participant in the investment. And this deal helped Stericycle, a company with a poor safety record, grow, while yielding tens of millions of dollars in profits for Romney and his partners. The documents -- one of which was signed by Romney -- also contradict the official account of Romney's exit from Bain.

Make sure to read the whole piece.

I doubt this will become much of a campaign issue now. The mainstream media likely won't pay it all that much attention (it's an ugly and somewhat complicated story) and it's not like Obama really wants to get into a row over abortion (unless he can use it to portray Romney as in line with the anti-choice, anti-woman extremists who run the Republican Party).

To the extent it gets any significant attention at all, it could hurt Romney among conservatives already uncomfortable with him as their party's nominee given his moderate past and questionable right-wing bona fides. If nothing else, it's another straw on the camel's back -- and possibly a heavy one at that.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign can continue to tie Romney to Bain, portraying him not as a job creator, as he and his defenders would have us believe, but as a vulture capitalist who destroyed jobs (outsourcing them for profit, where possible) and ruined lives, making a fortune in the process -- one he keeps adding to in his post-Bain years.

It's the right strategy, given Romney's immense vulnerability, and it seems to be working.

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Deus ex machina at CERN

By Capt. Fogg

Fortunately someone turned off Dad's new flat-screen before I could draw my gun. I guess my family knows me well enough to predict my reaction to the CNN headline about how "Science" might have found "Proof of God," but my Colt Mustang .380 was safely locked out of reached in the car anyway.  

If you've read my rants long enough you probably know my frustration with arguments that attempt to prove some concept of God, since any of them, even if they weren't fallacious, don't argue for any one of the infinitely possible concepts of any deity over another, but of course CNN was just being coy so that the viewers wouldn't tune out during the endless commercial breaks. If we had waited long enough we would have found out that they were only speculating further about a possible July 4th announcement by CERN that they have observed a Higgs Boson -- that thing not one person in 10,000 is able to describe but nonetheless knows as the "God Particle." What must he weigh if he's composed of such heavy particles?

I've often wondered why a incomprehensibly small yet massive particle might have anything more or less to do with God than another. God after all seems to exist in some massless form; in some formless, ineffable state that can interact with matter and energy, but is composed of some undefinable, self- negating, insubstantial non particulate substance one calls "pure spirit" and is therefore free from the constraints imposed by the universe on matter and energy. Does not God also claim neutrinos and neutrons as well? If we create such particles artificially, aren't we creating gods, or at least "godstuff"?

The Higgs particle, if it exists, is postulated to explain the property we call mass in the classical model of physics. If gods have mass, it's hard to allow them divine properties if the universe is consistent, and it's also hard to explain how some subatomic particle pertains exclusively to Krishna rather than Yahweh or Puff the Magic Dragon and maybe harder to explain why any god could not create a universe without inertia if he wanted to. Can a boson be a trinity or a pantheistic infinity? Crank up the accelerator because inquiring minds want to know.

If it were up to me, I'd have called it the Ego Particle, but if it had been up to the Nobel Prize winner and Director of Fermilab Leon Lederman, who coined the regrettable term in his pop-science book The God Particle and launched the meme that sunk a billion minds, it would have been called The Goddamn Particle but for his editor's objections. How I wish that editor had had more courage and that we'd been spared the endlessly dimwitted godbothering about some subatomic particle being "proof of God."

Of course, those who are prematurely jubilating today about how science proves God -- those disciples of those who have been battling against science for centuries, aren't going to accept the actual scientific proof of the age of "the world" or anything else that challenges their celebrated certainties, and I doubt they'll feel remorse about the closing of Fermilab's accelerator for lack of funds, giving the opportunity for divine revelation to foreigners. If those those atheistic, socialistic geeks, buried with their witches circle under the soil of Europe were the ones to prove that the Bible and all our holy Christian beliefs in all their wholly different forms are true, so much the better.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Behind the Ad: Turnabout, fair play, and all that jazz

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

Who: The Romney campaign.

Where: Several swing states, including Ohio.

What's going on: Yes, the Obama campaign has made good use of Mitt Romney's former GOP presidential rivals saying nasty things about him. The Romney campaign, as payback, has dug up a four-year-old clip of Hillary Clinton complaining about Obama's campaign saying things about her in 2008 that she claims were untrue.

As The New York Times writes:

The ad is part of a broader effort by Mr. Romney's campaign to try to undermine the edge that the president has in likability. Aides to Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, are eager to suggest that Mr. Obama's campaign is ruthless and that the candidate will say anything to get elected.

Hey, I supported Hillary four years ago and still wonder if she might have been a better choice. I really do. I had problems with the way she was characterized then by a lot of Democrats. But I have a hard time believing anything Romney does now is going to give him an edge in likability. More than likely people will look at this ad and be glad the President of the United States knows how to play hardball even while coming across as one-heck-of-a-guy.

The Times also points out that Romney hopes the ad might appeal to women, which could be true. There is, however, a problem with the overall strategy:

The Romney campaign is hoping to capitalize on the fact that Mrs. Clinton is popular with women and swing voters — two groups that Mr. Romney will need to win the White House in the fall. 

But Mr. Obama has the ultimate defense if the ad starts gaining traction. Having made Mrs. Clinton a member of his cabinet — and her agreeing to join — makes it harder to argue that she still holds a grudge. 

And despite her role in a traditionally nonpartisan job, she might be moved to respond to the ad in a way that could undermine its effectiveness.

I'm also having trouble with the general theme of Romney's ad, which seems to be: "Barack Obama is a big bad man and he's lying about me." Poor boy.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Oh dear... this one is going to stick...

By Carl 

Romney outsourced fetuses:

Earlier this year, Mitt Romney nearly landed in a politically perilous controversy when the Huffington Post reported that in 1999 the GOP presidential candidate had been part of an investment group that invested $75 million in Stericycle, a medical-waste disposal firm that has been attacked by anti-abortion groups for disposing aborted fetuses collected from family planning clinics. Coming during the heat of the GOP primaries, as Romney tried to sell South Carolina Republicans on his pro-life bona fides, the revelation had the potential to damage the candidate's reputation among values voters already suspicious of his shifting position on abortion.

But Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, tamped down the controversy. The company said Romney left the firm in February 1999 to run the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and likely had nothing to with the deal. The matter never became a campaign issue. But documents filed by Bain and Stericycle with the Securities and Exchange Commission—and obtained by Mother Jones—list Romney as an active participant in the investment. And this deal helped Stericycle, a company with a poor safety record, grow, while yielding tens of millions of dollars in profits for Romney and his partners. The documents—one of which was signed by Romney—also contradict the official account of Romney's exit from Bain.

The Stericycle deal—the abortion connection aside—is relevant because of questions regarding the timing of Romney's departure from the private equity firm he founded. Responding to a recent Washington Post story reporting that Bain-acquired companies outsourced jobs, the Romney campaign insisted that Romney exited Bain in February 1999, a month or more before Bain took over two of the companies named in the Post's article. The SEC documents undercut that defense, indicating that Romney still played a role in Bain investments until at least the end of 1999. 

That's gonna leave a mark. You could make the case that his direct involvement in Bain decisions made after he "left" is irrelevant. He created a culture where farming baby corpses was acceptable behavior, full stop. Granted, if he was not informed of the intents of Bain Capital, it's hard to blame him for decisions they made post-departure.

But as the Mother Jones article shows, Romney was directly and actively partcipating in the decision to acquire Stericycle. Indeed, it's impossible that he was not deeply involved: he was the sole shareholder of at least three entities Bain lists in an SEC filing with regards to its purchase of Stericycle.

Now, no one is denying that aborted fetuses need to be disposed of, and Stericycle seems to be a pretty appropriate organization to do so. Indeed, if it hadn't run afoul of nearly every OSHA regulation with respect to handling medical waste, and hadn't been forced to settle with the states of Arizona... Arizona!... and Utah for antitrust actions in those states, it likely would have slipped into the deep chasm of anonymity, and Romney's campaign wouldn't be in such serious trouble.

In case you were wondering why Obama has never been intimidated by the spectre of a Romney candidacy throwing gobs of money against the wall to smear him, this is why.

Romney is in a no-win situation with this: he has offended and pissed off the very people who grudgingly got in line to support him and managed to make his lies the centerpiece of his campaign this week at a critical moment in the campaign cycle: the Fourth of July. Many people aren't going away because it's in the middle of the week, so they're staying home and paying attention to the news.

That sound you're hearing? The noise from the game Pac-Man when Pac gets eaten? That's the campaign theme for Romney now.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Republicans are lying about Obamacare and trying to have it both ways on the individual mandate

One of the most ridiculous right-wing claims about Obamacare is that it's the largest tax increase ever -- the "biggest tax increase in the history of the world," Dear Leader Rush exclaimed, and this line has become a standard Republican talking point in response to last week's Supreme Court ruling upholding the law.

It's ridiculous... and it's simply wrong.

Kevin Drum has a table that puts Obamacare in perspective. There have been many larger tax increases in U.S. history, let alone "the history of the world." (Many on the list happened on Reagan's watch.) In chart form (from Austin Frakt, via Ezra Klein), it looks like this:

Breaking news: Republicans are liars.


Now, there's still the question of whether the individual mandate -- just one of the revenue-generating elements of the Affordable Care Act, though one designed to compel people to buy insurance, and so unlike a direct tax increase -- is a tax or a penalty.

The Supreme Court, contra Obama, said it is, and that could spell trouble for Democrats, particularly with Republicans already on the offensive, but it helps that Romney's campaign has come out on the "penalty" side. It did that so as to place Romney in opposition to the Court's ruling, but politically this helps Obama.

While the truth is nuanced -- as Brian Beutler wrote, the mandate "functions like a tax, but serves the purposes of a penalty," and so isn't a normal tax -- Republicans are trying to oversimplify the matter with their anti-tax rhetoric, slamming the Democrats for imposing a new tax on the American people. But can they really get much traction with that if their nominee, whose own agenda involves sucking up to the right and therefore disagreeing with the Court's ruling, is saying it's a penalty?

Because if it's a penalty, it's not a tax and so Obama and the Democrats didn't impose one. But if it's a tax, Roberts and the liberals were right.

You can't have it both ways. Though, no doubt, Republicans will try.

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Monday, July 02, 2012

Carrying on

It's been five days since the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act and the right-wingers have not let up on their tantrums and tirades. So far they've included everything from threats of impeachment, armed rebellion, and nullification to questions of medical impairment and at least one death wish. The latter did not come from some Cheeto-munching blogger in his man-cave but from a Tea Party leader in New Hampshire. Granted, there's a fine line between the two, but you get the idea: these people do not take losing very well.

Maybe I'm forgetting, but after the Court ruled in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United -- both of which arguably will have more of an impact on our democracy than health insurance reform -- I don't remember the progressives going off on such primal screams. Yes, they were angry and upset, but not to this degree, in such numbers, and not from people in positions of influence within the party. (Oh, wait. Some anonymous poster at Daily Kos compared Bush to Hitler back in 2004. Never mind.)

Say what you will about the ruling, but what it tells me is that people like that or people who are impressed and influenced by such madness have no business being in positions of power. Granted, it was fun to watch in the beginning, but now they're just getting to be scary. I'd suggest that some grown-up within the party step up and tell them to knock it off, but they're either egging them on or they've been primaried out of office. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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The climate trap

About a year ago, I wrote this post speculating that the Republican party's commitment to global-warming denialism constituted a danger to its own future political prospects -- as the effects of anthropogenic global warming become more severe over the next decade, and the denialist position becomes untenable even to non-scientists, the party will suffer due to its identification with a stance which will have become obviously false, and its refusal to recognize an increasingly clear danger.

The point occurred to me again yesterday in the wake of a week in which Obama has clearly risen significantly in national polls, while Romney has clearly fallen. There's been a lot of speculation as to the reasons for this. Democratic attacks on Romney's parasite-capitalist record at Bain have taken their toll, but that's been going on since long before last week. The biggest recent event, the Supreme Court's Affordable Care Act (ACA) ruling, doesn't account for it since Americans are exactly evenly divided on the decision, 46% to 46%. Obama's plan to grant de facto amnesty to young illegal aliens was clearly popular, but it's hard to imagine that it shifted many voters from Romney's camp to Obama's -- the more likely effect will be to boost Hispanic turnout.

The most dramatic event affecting the country over the last week was actually the record-breaking heat wave, accompanied by storms which knocked out power (and thus air conditioning) to millions.  While political junkies on both sides were transfixed by the ACA ruling, my guess is that for ordinary Americans (at least in the affected areas), it was the heat wave that had their attention.

Is the climate trap beginning to be sprung? It seems plausible that a few percent of the population who had previously dismissed global warming might be reconsidering -- and feeling less sympathetic to the party that insists nothing is going fundamentally wrong with the climate. Another factor is that people suffering from a natural disaster (regardless of what they believe about the cause of that disaster) are more conscious of the need for government to help out its citizens in time of need -- and the Democrats put more emphasis on that function.

I posted a comment suggesting this idea at this Republican site (see comment 29). It's actually a moderate site by Republican standards (during the primaries most posters supported Romney over his wackier rivals), yet the response, to put it mildly, shows well how futile it is to try to discuss this topic rationally with right-wingers. Their commitment to global-warming delialism is absolute, and impervious to evidence or logic. I didn't try to argue with them, since (as explained in the prior post), it's in our interest that Republicans remain committed to that stance for as long as possible. Whether or not the climate trap has anything to do with current polling, the rightists are continuing to march truculently into its jaws.

The thread also exemplifies another looming trap -- the bizarre hysteria of the right wing's reaction to the ACA ruling, which we've seen all over the net in the last few days. Obamacare will bring totalitarianism, mass poverty, death panels, economic collapse, insurrection, the break-up of the country, you name it. The trap here is the inverse of the global-warming one -- over the next couple of years, as the law takes effect and no such horrors materialize, the Republicans' histrionics will make them look silly, and like the boy who cried wolf and shouldn't be trusted again.

On global warming, evolution, Keynesian economics, and so on, the U.S. right wing has committed itself to reality-denial and a self-contained fantasy world. But reality has been defined as "that which doesn't go away when you stop believing in it." Global warming isn't going away, and people who insist on denying reality usually end up getting run over by it.

(Cross-posted at Infidel753.)

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