Saturday, July 28, 2012

Where the money is

So if Mitt Romney thinks that government can't help businesses grow, why did he sell himself as the man who knows how to get money from the government?

In a long-forgotten tape from the 2002 Massachusetts governor's race obtained by ABC News, Mitt Romney is seen touting his Washington connections and his ability to get millions of taxpayer dollars from the federal government.

"I am big believer in getting money where the money is," Romney says on the video, "The money is in Washington."

The video, which was surreptitiously shot by Democratic opponents of Romney on Oct. 16, 2002, shows him addressing a group called the New Bedford Industrial Foundation. The Power Point presentation he uses lists ways to improve economic development in Massachusetts, including "boost federal involvement."

"I want to go after every grant, every project, every department in Washington to assure that we are taking advantage of economic development opportunities," Romney tells the group.

Well, for one thing, that was in 2002, back when he was also in favor of reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality, and we all know what happened there.

Ironic that he hates the idea of sending his money to Washington, but he has no problems taking someone else's money for himself. Sounds like socialism to me.

H/T to LGF.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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"#RomneyShambles" and The Thick of It

In reporting Mitt Romney's disastrous visit to London last week, Ezra Klein at MSNBC started using the phrase "#RomneyShambles" as "homage to the widespread hashtag" being used in England.

MSNBC subsequently received information from a British viewer, Kevin, that there was more to the phrase "#RomneyShambles" than the obvious.

He wrote:

Like much of the US Press, you noted the widespread usage of the hashtag "Romneyshambles". (Earlier today the top trending non-sponsored topic in the UK!) This is actually a little more than just the obvious meaning of "Shambles/mess involving Romney" though.

The term comes from another one which was used earlier this year to describe the terribly-designed UK government budget which then completely fell apart, caused the government to plunge 6 points in the polls, was mostly reversed on and was shredded by Left and Right alike and all major media as a total mess. That term, originating in a comedy program called 'The Thick Of It', was 'Omni-Shambles' as in, all-consuming disaster.

Omni-shambles thus gained huge popularity in the UK as "Horrible event in which everything that could possibly go wrong does so in a spectacular way."

Last month some friends recommended The Thick of It, which was first broadcast on the BBC in 2005 and so far has completed fourteen half-hour episodes and two hour-long episodes. It's won a slew of awards across the pond and is still being produced. The BBC has plans to air more episodes in the fall.

For those familiar with Yes, Minster, the comparison is obvious, though The Thick of It is quite a bit more intense. There may be nuances that are strange to an American audience as the parliamentary system of government is different than the U.S. system, but politics is still politics.

If you can get access to this incredible show, it's worth a look.

Here's a clip from The Thick of It that actually makes use of the term "Omni-Shambles."

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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All's fair in fraud and felony

Voter suppression -- there's nothing new about it, but when the support for it comes from people who think testing city water for arsenic is "too much government," you have to expect odd, snarling noises from the cynics. Pennsylvania's latest attempt to reserve the right to vote for the landed gentry, posing as a reaction to voter fraud that might possibly occur but actually does not seem to have, has Pandagon snickering and me barking  -- and for good reason. Government intervening in the free exercise of a constitutional right is different I guess, because the goal of keeping Pennsylvania for "real" Americans sanctifies a little bit of  double-think:

[T]he argument seems to be that the state can impair a constitutional right because... well, because they can. It doesn't really matter why, it just makes a kind of instinctual sense, like how vaccines cause autism or how evolution can't exist because I've never seen a thing evolve in front of my eyes despite staring at it and chanting "evolve" for hours on end,

wrote Jesse Taylor yesterday.

Meanwhile, back in Florida, where excluding "undesirables" from the voter rolls is a tradition of long standing, former Florida Republican Party Chair Jim Greer is suing the "whack-a-do, right-wing crazies" that filed criminal fraud charges against him in 2010 in a plot to force saner Republicans including former Governor Charlie Crist out of the party and suppress the African-American vote by once again purging voter rolls.

Florida, of course, bans ex-felons from voting for life for those without good connections in the GOP, like Governor Scott of the Fourteen Felonies, so if one wrote a bad check in 1956 or was found with an ounce or so of cannabis in 1968, one can go fish forever. In fact, if your name sounds like someone else who did, and you live in Florida, you may have been illegally banned from voting in the 2000 election by a similar voter roll purge that targeted minority voters and probably put George Bush in the White House. You may be banned once again and you won't likely know until you show up at the polls.

It's funny how consistently the voter fraud circus parade neglects to mention the voting machine "problems" in Ohio. Again, I'm a cynic, so I find it easy to believe that GOP tampering is treated differently in the post-Bush, Tea Party era. Remember those "unhackable" Diebold machines that took only minutes to hack, delivering more Republican votes than could be accounted for by registered voters -- and delivering Ohio for Bush, as the CEO openly boasted before being forced to resign over accounting fraud? I wonder if he's still on the voter rolls.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Let the Games begin!

So I hear there's some sporting event going on somewhere...

LONDON -- These 2012 Olympics have been dubbed The Twitter Games, the first in history to feel a major impact from social media as athletes share everything from their patriotic feelings to their lunch choices with legions of followers. Already, a racist 140-character joke by Greece's star triple jumper, Voula Papachristou, got her expelled from the Olympics on Wednesday, making her the first athlete in history to lose her spot for a social media posting.

On the brighter side, Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, the man behind Friday's Opening Ceremonies, was able to use Twitter to keep details of the show under wraps. After some details began to leak out at the beginning of the month, Boyle put a hashtag to the situation. He created #savethesurprise, which immediately went viral. The idea was to urge anyone who knew anything about the ceremony to keep it a secret. So far, it seems to be working.

A crowd of 60,000 watched a dress rehearsal of the ceremonies Wednesday night, and #savethesurprise was shown throughout the night on the jumbo screens, reminding those in attendance that the sharing of information or photos of the event was strictly prohibited.

For those of us who don't have Twitter, we will have to settle for the carpet bombing coverage from NBC and its affiliated cable channels to get the latest tearjerker about some Olympian from a small village who carries the hope of his or her nation -- and corporate sponsor -- on their well-muscled shoulders.

Not to be too cynical about it, but four years ago during the Olympics from Beijing, I swear I heard one of the announcers say that they would try to squeeze in some actual live sporting events between the commercials and the sob stories. In 2008, I was in Ohio visiting my parents for some of the games, and thankfully their cable system carried a Canadian channel and I was actually able to see some sports without all the hype. To be sure, they did it up, too, but not in a way that made you want to get insulin treatments.

That said, good luck to all the competitors. Somewhere out there is an endorsement contract with your name on it. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)


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Friday, July 27, 2012

Quote of the Day: Carl Lewis on Mitt Romney

Carl Lewis won nine Olympic gold medals.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is a national embarrassment.

Like David Cameron and Boris Johnson, but from an American perspective, Carl Lewis, one of America's greatest ever Olympians (and athletes generally), smacked Mitt down over his stupid comments about London not being ready to host the Games:

Seriously, some Americans just shouldn't leave the country.

That's right, he said that the Republican nominee for president is such an insular ignoramus he should stay at home lest he embarrass himself and his country abroad.

Which, indeed, Mitt has done over and over again on this little foreign tour of his, making gaffe after gaffe and proving to anyone who cares to pay attention that he's nowhere near up to the job of being president, particularly where diplomacy and foreign affairs are concerned.

Mitt goes around saying President Obama apologizes to foreign audiences for America, a blatant lie. The truth is that, were he president, America would have to go around apologizing for Mitt.


More here, including this from Harry Reid:

It's not good for us as a country, it's not good for him... to go over and insult everybody.

No, but it's Mitt's way. He's an arrogrant douchebag, and he just can't help himself.

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Willful ignorance in the conservative ranks

By Richard K. Barry

While a recent Pew study says that neither Mitt Romney's nor Barack Obama's respective religious faiths are likely to have much of an impact in the fall election, it's incredible that so many Americans still think President Obama is a Muslim.

Specifically, 17 percent of registered voters think Obama is a Muslim. 30 percent of Republican identify him as such.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a Muslim, but if so many voters misidentify such a basic piece of information, what else are they getting wrong, and how much is willful ignorance?

Democracy is a hard slog when so many people simply don't want to hear the truth about anything.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Behind the Ad: Romney's electoral Hail Mary

By Richard K. Barry

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

Who: The Republican National Committee.

Where: Unknown.

What's going on: Jonathan Capeheart at The Washington Post had a very important piece a couple of days ago about a new pro-Romney ad called "It's Okay." Perhaps the reason I think it's important or wise is because I have been having the same thought about this approach. As Capeheart writes, the ad criticizes the president in a way that could be described as "more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger."

The ad says this:

President Obama came to the White House with big plans. He'd halve the deficit. Strengthen the economy. Lower unemployment. What did we get? National Debt over 15 trillion and climbing. Unemployment above 8 percent for 40 straight months. An ongoing economic crisis with no end in sight. He tried. You tried. It's OK to make a change.

It's that last line that is so powerful. It's not that President Obama hasn't accomplished things. It's just that expectations were so high for his presidency that no one could meet them. And, for the economy, it's been a tough four years, through no fault of the sitting president. Still, this approach gives people permission to like Obama, which many clearly do, but still vote against him.

Capeheart makes the case that telling people it's okay to make a change is also about the suggestion that it's okay to make a change and not be thought a racist. I suppose there is something to that, but I'm not sure that's even the biggest part of it.

My fear is that it is quite rational for some voters to say of Obama, "we liked him then, we still like him now, but things haven't improved very much, why not give someone else a chance?" I didn't say it was fair, only that it's a rational approach.

Others have said that for Romney to begin doing better, he has to offer a coherent vision for the country, a positive vision, where he would take us. So far, he hasn't done that. But if he is able to do that, and I am not sure he is, then it would be a powerful thing to convince voters, especially swing voters, that it's alright to like President Obama and still vote against him. This may be the only way I see Obama losing.

There's a lot of parts to this thesis, but this ad moves the Romney campaign in that direction and, if I were the Obama campaign, I'd be concerned. Much like Capeheart, when I first saw it, I wasn't happy.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Mitt Romney vs. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Such a small place, this Number 10. And not even a car elevator!

Mitt Romney has made news the past couple of days badmouthing the London Olympics even before they start -- bad news for himself as he starts a mini foreign tour to try to persuade voters back home that he actually has some foreign policy bona fides and can handle himself on the international stage -- but his anti-England/Britain views are hardly new, even if he's been pumping up the so-called "special relationship" between the two countries (promoting Anglo-Saxonism or not) and suggesting, stupidly, that somehow President Obama is insufficiently pro-British.

(Perhaps remembering the name of the leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition would help his credibility a bit. Though of course Romney's party has been the most disloyal opposition back home.)

Indeed, as Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating reminds us, Romney wrote the following in his book No Apology:

England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth's land and a quarter of the earth's population. 

(The [sic] is there because, as Romney should have known, the island isn't called England. England is just a part of the island, along with Scotland and Wales.)

This is an incredibly ignorant view of Britain, but, just to confirm that, I asked my father, who lives in England and, well, let's just say, knows a thing or two (and a hell of a lot more than Mitt) about British history, British politics, and the British economy, what he thought. Here's his response:

Not sure what point Romney was trying to make but the comments area demonstrates how little many (most?) Americans understand about anything outside their own very limited experience. Romney is of course quite correct about the size of our roads (and more importantly parking places); not sure about average house size – maybe he meant houses he's been in! We have indeed lost much of our heavy industry but have thriving "new industry" sectors in pharma, software, design, computer chips, etc. His comments about WW2 are not worthy of comment. I presume he believes that the US actually won the War of 1812!

Which is to say, Romney's an idiot. A super-rich idiot, to be sure, but an idiot regardless. And when it comes to Britain, a country of which I am a citizen, he should really just shut the hell up -- unless, of course, he wishes to expose even more of his abject ignorance of the world.

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Mitt Romney's very bad day

May want to reconsider that title, Mitt.

You may have heard that Mitt Romney has gone off to England to prove what a gosh darn terrific president he would make, and how good he would be on the international stage, but things haven't actually gone that well. You may have seen a few stories. Just because I try to be a helpful person, here are a few of the things people have been writing, in addition to all that we've done here, about the presumptive GOP presidential nominee:

That should provide some weekend reading. Could be a pop quiz on Monday.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Right-wing counter-spin on Romney's Olympics gaffe

By Richard K. Barry

I was wondering about this. When would some right-wing pundit suggest that maybe Mitt Romney's major gaffe in criticizing England's preparation for the Olympic games was not a gaffe at all, but a good thing?

Wonder no longer. The conservative website Hot Air says it might be time for Team Romney to offer some counter-spin, to wit:

Who wants a president who'll tell foreign nations what they want to hear? What we need is a leader with the stones to sit down, look them in the eye, and say they need to step it up on a global event for which they've spent the past seven years preparing.

Yes, red meat for the base, American arrogance at its finest, but I have to think most people will see Romney's comments for what they are: an embarrassing misstep by someone not prepared to assume the most powerful position in the world. Most people will see an amateur.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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A guy called Mitt Romney pisses off the British

I've always considered London Mayor Boris Johnson something of a snotty Tory blowhard, but you've got to admit, he's smart and charismatic and has a way with words.

In response to Mitt Romney's completely inappropriate and unhelpful suggestion that London may not be ready for the Olympics, Johnson had this to say to 60,000 people at the torch-lighting ceremony in Hyde Park:

I hear there is a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready. He wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes we are! 

Yup, some guy called Mitt, some pretentious American douchebag who for some reason came over to annoy the shit out of us but who's ended up getting stuck in gaffe after gaffe.

And this after Prime Minister David Cameron had already smacked him down:

We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.

Take that, Salt Lake City! I've never been to that weird outpost in Utah, but I've been to London many times, for extended periods, and of course Cameron's right.

And who the hell is Romney anyway to be criticizing London, and Londoners, and the British? Is this what he thinks diplomacy is? Is this how he intends to persuade voters back home that he actually has a clue about foreign affairs, about how to conduct himself on the world stage?

He can't even say the right thing about something as non-partisan (and relatively uncontroversial) as the Olympics in a country that is a close friend and ally of his own. After talking up (with ridiculous hyperbole) the "special relationship" to try to score cheap political points against President Obama, in an of itself an inappropriate thing to do (not to mention hypocritical, given his claim that the president apologizes for America), all he had to say was that he wished London the best and knew it would put on a great show. He couldn't even do that.

And once more we see that the more people know of Romney the less they like him -- it's who he is, what he stands for, and what he says.

Pissing off leading British conservatives isn't exactly the best way to start your little foreign tour. But it's hardly surprising. Given what you know of the guy -- he traffics in platitudes and smears mostly, and when he actually says something meaningful it backfires -- did you really expect him to get away unscathed?

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mitt Romney's Anglo-Saxon friendship tour takes a bad turn

I had no idea you were this stupid. Truly.

Mitt Romney likes to say, without an ounce of proof, that President Obama routinely apologizes to other countries for America. I think we found out yesterday that, should Romney become president, he'll be the one routinely apologizing for his utter lack of diplomacy in dealing with other nations.

In an interview with NBC News that aired a couple of days ago, Romney had this to say about the London Olympics just before he began a visit to England:

The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.

He also called British Olympic preparation "disconcerting."

The New York Times cited the response:

That prompted a tart rejoinder from the British prime minister, David Cameron. "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games right in the middle of nowhere," an allusion to Salt Lake City, which hosted games that Mr. Romney oversaw.

That's terrific, Mitt. Crap all over the national pride of a country just before you visit. That'll really showcase your foreign relations bona fides.

Didn't anybody vet this guy? It's okay. Just say you're sorry for being an asshole. I'm sure this won't be the first time.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Vimeo of the Day: "Timelapse"

From Vimeo (which I love, hence this new "Vimeo of the Day" series -- stay tuned for more), an incredible video by "motion photographer" Dominic Boudreault called "Timelapse."

Locations include Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, New York, and Chicago.

The music, the perfect accompaniment, is "Time" by Hans Zimmer, from the movie Inception.

Seriously, it's awesome. Watch it in full-screen mode. And preferably on a large HD screen.

And turn the volume up.


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Conservative British PM supports same-sex marriage. Over to you, Mitt.

By Richard K. Barry

Timing can be a sweet thing in politics. Despite the fact that Mitt Romney and British Prime Minister David Cameron are members of their respective country's conservative parties, they are not on the same side of the same-sex marriage issue. Cameron supports it and Romney, well, you know.

As an interesting scheduling quirk, Cameron met with members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community on Wednesday where he renewed his commitment to legal same-sex civil marriage.

On Thursday morning Cameron met with Romney to talk about stuff and so Mitt could look presidential, or come as close to it as possible given the raw material available.

My guess is same-sex marriage didn't come up, but times they are a-changin' and while I don't expect Mitt Romney or the Republican Party to change with them, this issue is most certainly not going away.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Killers aim to kill, guns do the killing, the NRA protects the guns, lawmakers protect the NRA, killers aim to kill.

Suspected Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes purchased four guns at local shops and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet in the past 60 days, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told a news conference this evening.

"All the ammunition he possessed, he possessed legally, all the weapons he possessed, he possessed legally, all the clips he possessed, he possessed legally," an emotional Oates said.

The chief declined to say whether the weapons were automatic or semi-automatic, but "he could have gotten off 50 to 60 rounds, even if it was semi-automatic, within one minute," Oates said. 

In the wake of the latest mass murder in America, the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting spree, the usual talk about how insanely easy it is to acquire assault weapons and heavy ammo seems to fill every inch of air and space. In the wake of the Columbine shooting -- talk, talk, talk. In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting -- talk, talk, talk. In the wake of the Fort Hood shooting -- talk, talk, talk. In the wake of the Tucson shooting -- talk, talk, talk. The analysis of the dozens of mass shootings in the past 30 years -- talk, talk, talk. The consensus is that it's too easy to stockpile the kind of weaponry crazy people use to massacre innocent human beings whose only deficiency is that they manage to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Immediately upon hearing the outcry, the National Rifle Association goes into defensive mode, taking their usual stance that guns don't kill people, gunmen kill people, so you can't blame the guns and you can't blame the easy acquisition of those guns. because only a few gunmen are nuts enough to go out and shoot up a bunch of people. (The second most popular NRA stance is that if everyone was armed and ready, things like this couldn't happen.)

Crazy, isn't it? But here's the craziest part: The NRA gets away with it. Every single time. All of America -- or at least those in a position to do something about a runaway gun association -- seems to be terrified of a powerful lobby whose only public position is advocating widespread use of all types of guns and ammo, including repeaters, military-type assault weapons, "cop-killer" bullets, the whole shebang.

So here's more talk -- not that it'll do any more good than the talk before it, but it has become obligatory now. We use it in place of actually doing something about the legality of assault weapons, the obligations of gun owners (and their associations), and the rights of those who fall victim to this irresponsible nuttiness:

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The website for the NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is here. If you can figure out a way to get them to pay attention to you without having to join the NRA, go for it.

And if you can figure out a way to get our politicians to pay attention this time, here is where you can reach them:

James Holmes bought four guns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition and went into a movie theater with the sole purpose of mowing people down. He might have had those same thoughts even if he hadn't had access to guns capable of mowing people down as swiftly or efficiently as these did, but a madman with a single-shot rifle or even a six-gun couldn't kill 13 and wound 70 people within a few minutes.

That's what has to stop. That's what the talk is all about. 

(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices.)

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Foreign policy ignoramus Mitt Romney set to fight Cold War

Romney's campaign often sounds like it still wants to fight the Cold War. Romney himself said that Russia is the U.S.'s "number one geopolitical foe" (a statement that even Colin Powell mocked) and back in April, a Romney adviser criticized President Obama's "Czechoslovakia" policy. Today during a foreign policy debate at the Brookings Institution, senior Romney adviser Richard Williamson, attacking Obama's Syria policy, said the Middle East country is "strategically important to the Soviet Union."

At some point it's not just an innocent mistake anymore. We're past that point.


And from the Obama campaign (which includes us on its media distribution list and has included us in its blog round-ups, for which we're grateful), ten of Romney's foreign policy fails, important to note as he travels overseas, plays up his non-existent bona fides, and lies about President Obama:

Two hundred and ninety-one days after his last foreign policy speech, Mitt Romney stood up once more to deliver a major foreign policy plan and -- once again -- failed to offer any new or even credible policy ideas.

Romney has long displayed a significant lack of knowledge and experience over the years when it comes to foreign policy. But the commander-in-chief only has one chance to make the right decision.

Here's a look at ten times Romney and his campaign got it wrong:

1.      Romney "has been especially vague about how many U.S. forces he would keep in Afghanistan" and has no detailed plan for our engagement in the country.
2.      Romney's campaign said "real Americans" don't care what Romney’s Afghanistan policy is.
3.      Before Osama bin Laden's death, Romney said he wouldn't go into Pakistan if we had bin Laden in our sights and that it was "not worth moving heaven and earth" to find bin Laden.
4.      Romney pledged "to do the opposite" of what President Obama has done for Israel, which includes record-level security funding.
5.      Romney called Russia, a strategic partner of the United States on vital issues, America's "number one geopolitical foe."
6.      When asked how he'd approach going to war with Iran, Romney has said he'd defer to his lawyers: "You sit down with your attorneys" so they can "tell you what you have to do."
7.      Romney has said that bringing all our troops home from Iraq was "tragic" and that it was a "naked political calculation."
8.      Romney "fled down a hallway and escaped up an escalator" to avoid answering a reporter about his position on the NATO mission in Libya.
9.      Romney called the fading power of Venezeula's leader Hugo Chavez a serious threat to our national security.
10.    Romney's campaign said President Obama was not doing enough to protect Czechoslovakia -- a country that no longer exists -- from "the Soviets."

Reckless and stupid isn't a good combination for the Oval Office when it comes to anything, but especially foreign policy.

And Mitt's got it in spades.

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Shrink rap

David Brooks, the other day, went Dr. Phil on killing sprees:

Looking at guns, looking at video games — that's starting from the wrong perspective. People who commit spree killings are usually suffering from severe mental disorders. The response, and the way to prevent future episodes, has to start with psychiatry, too.

The best way to prevent killing sprees is with relationships — when one person notices that a relative or neighbor is going off the rails and gets that person treatment before the barbarism takes control. But there also has to be a more aggressive system of treatment options, especially for men in their 20s. The truly disturbed have always been with us, but their outbursts are now taking more malevolent forms.

In other words, better gun control won't subdue the demons in the heads of the psychotics. (Maybe not, but like chicken soup for a cold, it couldn't hurt.)

The problem with his solution is that it's really hard for the relative or neighbor to make the kind of judgment as to whether or not to contact someone like the police before someone goes "off the rails." Who's to say that the guy next door just likes a quiet weekend doing the crossword puzzles and catching up on TiVo as opposed to the guy with the secret closet full of high-grade ammunition and pomegranate pits? And now that guns have become so politicized that neither candidate will even bring it up, nothing will be done about assault weapons or, for that matter, Mr. Brooks' suggestion that we keep an eye on quiet loners who max out their credit cards at the sporting goods big box store.

The defenders of the 2nd Amendment rightly note that it is unfair to conflate the gun owner and collector with the mass murderers. (Ironically, a lot of people have no problem conflating gay men with child molesters, but that's another post.) But as long as we avoid the issue; as long as the line in the aftermath of Aurora, Tucson, and Virginia Tech is "Now is not the time to talk about guns..." the more we will find out that the time to talk about it is before it happens. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Presidential debate details announced

For all you political junkies out there, the Commission on Presidential Debates has announced details for the 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates, each of which will be 90 minutes long. Moderators will be chosen in August.

Politico posted the following information:

First presidential debate: October 3, University of Denver, Colorado: Domestic issues, questions selected by moderator.

Vice presidential debate: October 11, Centre College, Danville, Kentucky: Domestic and foreign issues, questions selected by moderator.

Second presidential debate: October 16, Hofstra University, Hampstead, N.Y.: Town-hall meeting format with questions from undecided voters.

Third presidential debate: October 22, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida: Foreign issues, questions selected by moderator.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Romney doesn't quite get his party's uncompromising pro-gun extremism

In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, Mitt Romney claimed that James Holmes, the accused Colorado killer, acquired many of his weapons illegally:

Well this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people.

You'd think that a guy who's spent so much time and energy sucking up to the far right, shamelessly pandering to his party's base, including on guns (given the hold the NRA has on the Republican Party, and on legislators generally), would have a clue. But... no. As Think Progress notes:

In fact, 24-year-old Holmes legally purchased every firearm, bullet, and piece of tactical gear that he used for the attack, according to local law enforcement. He bought most of it over the Internet. Mentally ill people are barred from purchasing firearms, but Holmes had no previous record of illness, and would not have been flagged in a background check.

Perhaps Romney should pay closer attention to a) the details of a terrible tragedy and dominant news story; b) the pro-gun extremism of his own party; and c) the policy demands of the NRA, notably its opposition to any and all gun control. (Though it does seem from Romney's unclear comment that he opposes changing gun laws and wants instead to change people's hearts, whatever the hell that means and however the hell he'd do that given his plutocratic laissez-fair agenda.)

But maybe he's just been too busy trying to score cheap political points and avoiding meaningful policy discussions by lying about President Obama and taking his bullshit tour beyond America's borders.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No cliffhanger for New York's Electoral College votes

2016. Oh, yeah!

Quinnipiac has a new poll out on voter preferences in New York State. One finding is that Gov. Cuomo has an approval rating of 69 to 19 percent to the good. Better hold on to him while you can, New York. He'll be in the White House in four and a half years. It'll be good to have an Italian-American president, which will make my mother very happy.

On the presidency, well, it's over. Obama has a 55 to 32 percent lead over Romney. I vote in New York, so it's good to know my ballot will be absolutely useless.

The same is true for the Democratic incumbent U.S Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who appears to have an insurmountable lead.

Of course, getting to vote against Tea Party nutjob Nan Hayworth in NY-19 is some consolation. It would be good to get that seat back.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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We can do this as long as you like

My name is Erick, and I'm a big fat liar.

I'm sorry. I just can't let this go. Not as long as Republicans continue to lie about President Obama's exact words in the faux "you didn't build that" controversy. Every time someone from their side repeats the lie, someone, or many, from our side needs to repeat the truth. We can't stop doing that just because it becomes tiresome. That is what they are hoping we'll do.

Today, RedState, Erick Erickson's conservative blog, flogged the lie for the umpteenth time by omitting the words that came just before the statement.

They wish Obama had said, all on its own, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen," but he didn't. That statement was surrounded by other words that gave it its meaning.

What Obama actually said was:

Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Someone else made that happen.

Anyone not addicted to lying will recognize that Obama was referring to the infrastructure businesses need to succeed that they did not build. Even the jerks at RedState know they are lying. No one is that stupid.

It would be like Erick Erickson giving a speech in which he states: "Democrats say we at RedState are lying about President Obama's 'you didn't build that' comment.'" And then I could turn around and say Erick Erickson said "we at RedState are lying about Obama's 'you didn't build that comment,' because Erickson would have said those exact words. That wouldn't have been his meaning, but you can do that when you take things out of context.

You get that. Everyone gets that.

The Obama campaign has started to push back hard against this lie, including this ad below. One of the first rules in politics is: don't let the lies go unanswered. Got that Jennifer Rubin, you idiot.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Clarence Clemons, a.k.a. "Big Man"

I'm doing a bit of light summer reading at the moment with the Clarence Clemons autobiography, written with his long-time friend Don Reo.

If you don't know, Clemons, who died last year at the age of 69, was the tenor saxophone player in the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen's band. He was called "Big Man" because he was. He was a rock and roll saxophone player, which is a very special skill, one I have been working on for years, but that's another story. Anyway, Clemons could play.

The book, also called Big Man, is like so many other books about rock and roll bands, including tales of struggle followed by success, not to mention girls, drugs, and music. Don't forget the music.

The best part of the book so far is Clemons relationship with Springsteen, which seemed special.

I'll probably make Springsteen fans angry at me, but whenever I read books like this I am reminded that the distance between making a lot of money in music and just being another rock and roll bar band is pretty short. And much of the success that comes has to do with crafting the perfect image, and far less to do with the music. Hell, if it was just about the music, a lot of studio musicians would be famous.

This might be a strange thing to say, but in so many ways books about celebrities are about people who live very ordinary lives, and are very ordinary people except for the one thing they do that makes everyone know their names. Does that make sense? It kind of made sense in my head.

Here's a clip of Clemons blowing hard on the Letterman show a while back, followed by an interview.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Behind the Ad: Obama goes positive

By Richard K. Barry

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

Who: The Obama-Biden campaign.

Where: Unknown.

What's going on: After the shooting in Colorado, it appears the Obama campaign wants to change the tone of things. First Read noted last week "how small the presidential campaign has become," and, they say, "apparently President Obama now agrees."

In this new 60-second TV ad, called "The Choice," Obama says this:

Over the next four months, you have a choice to make. Not just between two political parties, or even two people. It’s a choice between two very different plans for our country.

And then he fills in the blanks about the differences in vision and finishes by saying, “Sometimes politics can seem very small. But the choice you face, it couldn’t be bigger.”

Mostly Joe Scarborough annoys me, but I think he has a point about this ad, saying:

Barack Obama coming out and showing the Barack Obama that excited so many people in 2008 and won over independent voters — that's the guy, right there. "Forward," that's the message.

Some people, like Scarborough, haven't liked the attack strategy on Romney, though I think it is both necessary and will work in the longer term when people start to make their final decisions. Still, Obama's strength is in his big personality, as much as that is Romney's weakness. This ad reminds us of that.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Things Republicans say

In case you missed it the first few times, the Congressional Budget Office has come out with a newly updated estimate of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the budget. Not that this is new information, far from it, but according to The New Republic, "the law, when fully implemented, will dramatically reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. It will also reduce the deficit."

As for reducing the deficit, Republicans either refuse to believe it or, if they believe it, acknowledge it. Romney would like everyone to believe, of course, that Obamacare will run up the deficit, but it's just not true.

This could be a question on Family Feud: Name things Republicans say that just aren't true. But that would be too easy.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Please file under: It's about damn time

By Richard K. Barry

The New York Times ran this story today:

Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision, was sentenced to three to six years in prison Tuesday.

"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong," said Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina as she imposed the sentence, which was just short of the maximum of three and a half to seven years.

Perhaps recent events at the Holy Church of College Football have helped clear the way for the courts to start doing the right thing with Catholic officials who fail to protect children in their charge.

Let's hope.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Mitt Romney's cut-rate campaigning

From Casablanca, Ugarte (Peter Lorre) explains to Rick (Humphrey Bogart) his business model for selling exit visas:

Ugarte: Rick, think of all the poor devils who can't meet Renault's price. I get it for them for half. Is that so... parasitic?
Rick: I don't mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one. 
For some reason that quote came to mind when I read Jonathan Bernstein's post in Salon on Sunday: 

It's not just that Romney lies; it's the quality of the lies, the indifference to any fact-checking, the insistence on continuing to use a lie long after it's been definitively debunked.

I have a name for it, and an explanation. Call it lazy mendacity.

His explanation is that with all the information floating out there on the internet, plus the partisan-aligned media -- Fox News and right-wing talk radio, for example -- there's a lot of time to fill, and they need something to fill the air. Second, their standards for the truth and reality are lower than the average tabloid, and they know their listeners aren't going to fact-check them, especially if they confirm their worst fears or highest hopes. Hell, if you can sell Hair In A Can to the eager public, they'll go for the fake birth certificate.

There's also the fact that the people who could call them out on the lies won't do it. They're either lazy themselves, or they don't feel that it's their job to say to a candidate, "Excuse me, but you know that's not true, and here's the proof. Why do you keep saying it?" If they did, the candidate would just repeat the lie, the pundits would attack the questioner for being a partisan hack, and they would never get the candidate back on their airwaves. As it is, Jon Stewart seems to be the only person out there willing to call out a candidate for lying, and he's on Comedy Central.

And in keeping with the spirit of Rick's sentiment, if Mitt Romney is going to lie about Barack Obama's record, can he at least make them more creative and harder to disprove? I don't mind a liar. I object to a cut-rate one. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Mitt Romney thinks Olympic athletes are losers

So you know how Romney has been grossly misrepresenting President Obama's recent remarks about how "[i]f you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own," including in business, suggesting that the government-loving president is anti-success, or rather anti-individual success? (Basically, it's Romney lying about what Obama said, intentionally taking it out of context and refusing to debate him on the merits, and expressing the extremist Ayn Rand ethos of the Republican Party.)

Yeah, well...

As ThinkProgress notes, Romney made pretty much the exact same point in his speech at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City:

You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We've already cheered the Olympians, let's also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities.

And of course he was right. Olympians may be amazing athletes, and they may deserve the bulk of the credit for their success, but they didn't do it alone. A lot of people helped them. And, yes, government helped them too, in some way, somewhere along the way.

So, yes, Romney is a hypocrite, and he's just trying to score cheap political points. And he agreed with the president on this before he didn't:

Romney agreed with Obama as recently as last week, saying in a campaign appearance, "I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help."

Now, Romney was crediting "a lot of people," but not government, at least not explicitly. (In this respect, he was coming up short of Ayn Rand extremism but still siding with the anti-government mainstream of the Republican Party.)

But who builds schools, pays teachers, and supports most of the primary and secondary education system? Who builds the roads? Who funds fire departments and the police? Who are firefighters and police officers and teachers? A lot of people on the public payroll, and rightly so. He may not have mentioned government, and he may not want to, preferring to spin the right-wing lie that the private sector is all that really matters and that business would be better off if government had nothing to do with it, but the truth is that government matters a great deal to all of us -- in the case of business, both to businesses themselves, directly through tax credits and other supports and indirectly by fostering a culture in which they can succeed, and to the people who created them and work for them.

Do Romney and the Ayn Rand devotees of the Republican Party actually believe that business is better off in the Hobbesian state of nature than in civil society? Apparently so, so much do they disregard the contributions of government.

Does Romney think Olympic athletes are losers? Based on his latest lie, apparently so. Just look at all the help they needed to get where they are.

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