Saturday, August 04, 2012

Keepin' it white

In general, I support the laws allowing most licensed and qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons in most places. Here in Florida, someone who has a permit does nonetheless not have the legal right to carry weapons in many areas, like courthouses, police stations, schools, stadiums, and, of course, bars. A national political convention, however, where emotions run high, where the attitudes resemble the local stop-and-sock tavern, and where people whom other people would like to harm are present, would seem to be another proper exception. 

I'm afraid it's not so in Florida, where during the upcoming RNC in Tampa, squirt guns, pieces of chain, ropes, and other items which might be used to harm or at least get people wet are strictly illegal, Republican Governor Rick Scott seems likely to refuse the City Council's request to keep guns out of the convention. You can bring your Beretta, but leave the Super Soaker at home.

There are other reasons, of course, to wonder how Scott gets away with avoiding the other common nickname for Richard. No, I'm not talking about his rejection of federal funds, because, as he says, hiring people kills jobs, and I'm not talking about the dozen or so felonies his company committed in a billion dollar orgy of Medicare fraud. I'm not even referring to his recent attempt to "purge" the Florida voter rolls of likely Democrats. This time "Rick" deserves a nice cold blast from one of those banned squirt guns for neglecting to tell nearly 18,000 Floridians that their voting rights have been restored and that they can now register. I'm sure he has forgotten how a few hundred votes can put a president whom the majority of voters did not vote for into office. Otherwise, he would be ashamed, right?  

Or maybe he is out of the loop once again. Maybe he just didn't know, the way he didn't know about the 1 billion, 700 million dollar Columbia/HCA Medicare fraud -- in charge but not guilty by virtue of some ineffable virtue and of course well deserving of his severance package of 10 million dollars, 300 million in stock, and a million a year "consulting" fee.

I wonder what he'll make for his part in defrauding America this time, his help in making the White House white again.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Then and now are simply two different planets for Mitt Romney

By Richard K. Barry

Not that Mitt Romney's duplicity in the clip below will have much impact on anything, but it is incredible. American Bridge uncovered this clip in which Romney is seen defending the Bush-Cheney jobs record in 2004 -- on Election Day, at a time, Steve Benen writes, that "Bush's net job total was still negative."

Romney's argument is that Bush was confronted by a "perfect storm" of events in the earliest days of his administration and that he therefore was not responsible for the poor recovery.

The fact that Obama was handed one of the worst economic messes any president has been forced to address since FDR took office is clearly a different matter in Mitt's eyes.

Benen makes the rather clever point that "sometimes, it seems as if the Romney of the recent past would practically be willing to endorse President Obama's re-election campaign."

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Porn superstar Jenna Jameson backs Romney

But first things first. This is post #12,000 at The Reaction.

That's a lot of posts. I've done a lot of them, but we wouldn't be anywhere near here without contributions of all the other writers I've brought on board here. I cannot thank them enough. I may have my name up there, but I'm proud to call this a team effort.

We've come a long way since my first post on March 29, 2005, but I'd like to think we still offer "a reaction to all the nonsense out there that passes for intelligent discourse."

The thing is, most of the nonsense, in U.S. politics at least, is Republican, and little of what Republicans say passes for intelligent anything.


And on that note, let us turn to the other matter at hand, Jenna Jameson's endorsement of Mitt Romney:

Porn star Jenna Jameson chose a familiar stage to make her endorsement for the 2012 presidential election Thursday night. At a San Francisco strip club, the former adult actress and stage performer said she was ready for a Romney presidency.

"I'm very looking forward to a Republican being back in office," Jameson said while sipping champagne in a VIP room at Gold Club in the city's South of Market neighborhood. "When you're rich, you want a Republican in office."

Jameson isn't really a Republican, or at least doesn't appear to be. (She supported Hillary in '08, for example.) And, even if people will ignorantly dismiss her given her past career, she's actually a very smart woman, as her successful business career and extremely personal and entertaining biography, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, show.

And so I can't help but think there's something intentionally ironic in her endorsement of Romney, a conservative who isn't exactly open to -- oh, how shall I put it? -- public expressions of sexuality of the kind that made Ms. Jameson rich and famous.

As well, her words don't exactly make for a ringing endorsement: "When you're rich, you want a Republican in office." In other words: "Vote for Romney because he'll help rich people like himself."

Surely Ms. Jameson knows that Romney is vulnerable in large part because he is, as we often put it here, a privileged rich douchebag with a plutocratic sense of entitlement. Saying Romney is the best choice because you're rich and he'll help the rich is the sort of endorsement you might find at, say, The Onion.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm giving Ms. Jameson too much credit. Maybe she really does want him to win because she's rich and he's rich and that's all that matters. But what would that say about her? Does she really support someone who finds pretty much everything she is and everything she's about -- and I don't mean pornography, I mean freedom of expression, freedom of sexuality, and the freedom to make one's own decisions about how one should lead one's life -- utterly contemptuous? Does she really support a party that for all intents and purposes hates her just because it's the party of the rich at the expense of everyone else? Is that really what she's about?

As Ron Jeremy once said, "Sex is simple, love is painful." And politics? Well, sometimes it makes no sense at all.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

This day in history - August 3, 1921: The ban of eight members of the Chicago White Sox is confirmed

The 1919 Chicago White Sox

It was Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Major League Baseball Commissioner, who threw eight Chicago White Sox players out of baseball permanently for intentionally losing games in the 1919 World Series as part of gambling scheme, allowing the Cincinnati Reds to win. In popular culture it's called the "Black Sox Scandal."

As for who was really guilty of what and the extent to which Landis' decision was fair, it's complicated. The Wiki provides good detail.

John Sayles's wonderful movie Eight Men Out also tells the sad tale beautifully.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Does Ted Cruz's victory in Texas mean Romney has a new Tea Party problem?

ABC OTUS ran a story just after Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-backed Republican, won a stunning victory over Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Texas GOP Senate primary with the headline: "Romney Better Move to Right, says emboldened Tea Party." (By the way, Cruz will win the general election because this is Texas.)

According to Andrea Shell, spokesperson for the Tea Party group Freedom Works, "These guys [newly elected Tea Party candidates] are going to force Romney to move to the right. This is our entire mission."

The point of the story is really this:

If we can elect a really conservative House and Senate that will force Romney to go along with our bold conservative agenda," Shell said. "he's going to have to really, really go to the right. He'll be working with guys in the House and Senate. He won't be able to get away with too many middle of the road policies, especially on things like the deficit.

What they are saying is that when Romney becomes president he'd better listen to the Tea Party members of the House and Senate who will be there with him. Whatever. If he wins, I guess that will be an issue, but he hasn't won yet, and that's the real point.

The Tea Party simply doesn't trust this guy. They think he's a middle-of-the-roader and that he needs to move to the right. My guess is that they'll be very vocal with a radical right-wing message come the fall, as they become more full of themselves after primary victories in places like Texas and Indiana.

Newt Gingrich, ever helpful, recently said that Romney has moved a long way in the direction of the Tea Party right with his endorsement of the Ryan budget plan, opposition to tax increases, and intention to repeal Obamacare. "You have to think of Romney as having a foot in the Tea Party and a foot in the establishment," he said, adding, "that's right where the Republicans want him."

But isn't that the problem? David Dewhurst is a very conservative politician, but his association with the establishment made him a big target for the Tea Party, something Cruz was able to exploit. That's how crazy they are. Being in government and having "compromised" with the other side to get anything done is enough to disqualify you.

We have been talking about this for a long time. To win, Mitt Romney will have to appeal to the radical right but also to swing voters who might be persuaded to vote Republican if they can be convinced Romney is a sufficiently pragmatic, mainstream conservative.

So far, this campaign isn't real yet, but it will be when we come out of the conventions. When that happens, Mitt Romney will have some work to do and the Tea Party will have to decide if it has the discipline to let him do it.

In other words, when Romney starts to shade to the middle come September, even if ever so slightly, will the Tea Party stand down or will they make trouble and remind voters, paradoxically, exactly who Mitt Romney is in bed with? I don't know.

And if Romney decides he either can't or won't move towards the centre, he won't win.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Steve King

Rep. Steve King of Iowa may or may not be the craziest Republican -- it's undeniable that he's up at the top of the list, but obviously the competition is stiff -- but he leads the pack in our ongoing CRD series.

By my count, it's his seventh appearance as CRD. The previous for were for:

-- Introducing legislation recognizing the "importance of Christmas and the Christian faith";
-- Saying that same-sex marriage is part of "a push for a socialist society" in America;
-- Saying that he "empathized" with the suicide bomber who attacked an IRS office in Texas;
-- Saying that Obama "favors the black person";
-- Saying that there are babies "in garbage cans around this country" that don't receive health care; and
-- Saying that it would be okay to ask people in hospital about their immigration status.

And then there was the time we noted his bigoted idiocy.


So what is it today? Here's HuffPo:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Thursday that diversity has never been America's strong suit, so lawmakers should pass his bill to make English the official U.S. language in the name of unifying the nation.

"One of the great things about America is we've been unified by a common language. That common language, of course, is English," King said during a press conference on his bill. "Our language is getting subdivided by some forces of the federal government. It is time to speak with a common voice."


The bill has no chance of becoming law, but it has come under fire from immigration activists who say it would isolate immigrant populations. Others have charged that groups pushing for the bill are racist.

King pushed back on both charges and said his bill is aimed at bringing the country together. After all, he said, diversity has never been America's strong point.

"The argument that diversity is our strength has really never been backed up by logic," King told The Huffington Post. "It's unity is where our strength is. Our Founding Fathers understood that. Modern-day multiculturalists are defying that."

I'm not sure what "logic" has to do with it, but it certainly seems reasonable that a community is stronger when it builds upon the strengths of multiple groups. The right views multiculturalism as divisive, but actually it can be the source of a powerfully inclusive unity, with different "cultures" maintaining their distinctiveness while contributing to a broader understanding of "the nation." The alternative is exclusiveness and bigotry.

Furthermore, how can he say that diversity is not a strength of America. America may not have been terribly diverse at the outset, but its history is essentially a history of the immigration of diverse groups from around the world. Really, what if America had remained purely English? What if it had never benefitted from influxes of Irish and Italians, Chinese and Eastern Europeans? And what of the many contributions of those brought over in chains, the Africans slaves who finally found freedom? If you want to see what America is like without an appreciation for diversity, just consider the treatment of the indigenous peoples at the hands of the white conquerors. Doesn't all this seem... logical?

King and his may or may not be motivated by bigotry, but he is certainly motivated by ignorance and fear. As for me, I happen to believe in America as something other than, as something greater than, a culturally exclusive, and narrow, community. I happen to think that its greatness lies in its expansive ideals, and in the wonderful diversity of Americans who call themselves American, love America, and contribute to America's brilliantly multifaceted identity while also retaining their cultural particularities.

And that includes language. King may want everyone to speak English, and I am not denying that the members of any community need to be able to communicate with one other, but the fact is, English is already the country's de facto official language. There is no need to legislate it. And I would like to think, contra King's cultural narrowness, that America is a large enough nation, and a great enough one, to accept people who speak many different languages, and to expect that its citizens speak not just English but another language or two as well. 

That's the way the world is heading, towards greater integration, distances shortened with travel and technology. You can either accept that and see America as part of a larger international community or you can stick your head up your ass. Steve King, ignorantly longing for the unicultural glory days of the 18th century, has made his choice clear.

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Cluck off: The battle over Chick-Fil-A

I watched with bemusement at the people lined up around the block in the U.S. to show their solidarity with Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday. They were exercising their right to clog their arteries and flip off the librul mayors and anti-Christian queers and sodomites. Jesus is Lord with a Lipitor chaser.

I've already made it quite clear that folks who boycott a restaurant because they don't like the company's business model are free to do so, and that mayors of cities who object to the company and their beliefs are going over the line when they say they don't want them in their town. (I have a number of progressive friends who disagree with me on that point. Fine. That's what healthy debate is all about.)

What I find supremely ironic is that the same people who are yammering about the First Amendment and freedom of religion have absolutely no problem whatsoever trampling on the First Amendment rights of my religious denomination -- the Quakers -- to celebrate same-sex marriage. And we're not alone in holding that all couples, regardless of body parts, have the right to live their lives as they see fit in the way they believe was intended for them by whatever god or higher authority -- or none whatsoever. But apparently we need to open a fast-food chain in order to get our message of inclusiveness out there.

The Christians who think they have a monopoly on the morals of America and can dictate them to the rest of us through lung power, television, and high-paid smooth-talking lobbyists are the ones with the problem with the First Amendment, not us. It also should be pretty clear that they see this as some sort of political weapon, ginning up support for right-wing candidates and running with it as if their church is some sort of SuperPAC. That is more of an assault on the Constitution -- not to mention a trivialization of faith and practice -- than any pronouncement by a mayor of a city who momentarily forgets that being a true democrat means you have to put up with sniveling bigots who want to open a business that supports a group that backs homosexual genocide in Uganda.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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New poll show Obama way up nationally over the deeply unpopular Romney

A new Pew Research Center poll of registered voters shows Obama with a solid lead nationally over Romney, 51-41. Obama has been ahead of Romney all year, though Romney was able to narrow his lead from April to June, the period during which he wrapped up the nomination, dominated coverage, and secured lock-step Republican support behind him. But Romney's general support has fallen since then, dropping from 46% in June to 41% now, while Obama's has remained consistent in the 49-51 range since April.

My sense is that Romney's support is dropping as people are getting to know him better (both him and his right-wing policies) and as the Obama campaign is ramping up its activities, including its efforts to define Romney and develop narratives distinguishing the two candidates from one another. Remember, Romney benefitted from winning the nomination without being overly harmed by his rivals and, more generally, by having his campaign in full swing since last year. (Romney's basically been in campaign mode since, what, 2007?) Obama, meanwhile, was busy being president and doing presidential things. But with fewer than 100 days left before the election, Obama is out there more and more talking about his record and presenting his vision for the future, drawing clear distinctions between himself and his challenger, while his campaign, clearly, is underway in earnest. If Romney is struggling now, imagine how he'll be struggling when things get even more serious after the conventions and when voters start paying closer attention to what's going on and what the two choices really are.

Now, of course, American presidential elections aren't fought nationally. And while Obama has a solid lead nationally, things are tighter in the key swing states that will determine the outcome in November: "Obama holds only a four-point edge (48% to 44%) across 12 of this year's key battleground states." Perhaps Obama's edge will hold or even expand here, if there's anything to my optimistic explaination above, but it's far too early, and far too close, to predict with anything even coming close to certainty how these races will play out three months from now. And, clearly, it wouldn't take much for Romney to pull ahead. A lot of money will be spent on targeted advertising in these states, and get-out-the-vote efforts will be huge.

The problem for Romney isn't so much that he's behind in these polls, though, but that his favorability rating is so low:

By a 52% to 37% margin, more voters say they have an unfavorable than favorable view of Mitt Romney. The poll, conducted prior to Romney's recent overseas trip, represents the sixth consecutive survey over the past nine months in which his image has been in negative territory. While Romney's personal favorability improved substantially between March and June – as Republican voters rallied behind him after the primary season ended – his image has again slipped over the past month.

Barack Obama's image remains, by comparison, more positive – 50% offer a favorable assessment of the president, 45% an unfavorable one. Even so, Obama's personal ratings are lower than most presidential candidates in recent elections.

Yes, Obama could be doing better, but at the very least he's hovering around the 50% mark. And I fully expect him to pull this up when he's out on the campaign trail after the convention -- not just because he's a great campaigner but because he'll be able to present himself to voters on a personal level again without the prism of the media and without the all-out Republican propaganda assault that has tarnished his reputation, reminding voters why they liked him in the first place and of all that he's done for them as president (saving GM, killing bin Laden, etc.).

But what about Romney? Is there any way he can substantially improve his favorability rating? Note that this poll was conducted before his disastrous foreign tour. And, well, he's Mitt Romney. He just isn't a likeable guy. He's an arrogant, smug, out-of-touch douchebag with limited political skills and a penchant for turning people off. Even his own support his soft. Most Republicans seems to support him only because he's the Republican nominee, that is to say, because they have to, and because they hate Obama with irrational, relentless aggression and would probably even support Hugo Chavez if he were running on the GOP ticket.

And yet here he is, with Republicans behind him, after months of being in the spotlight, with less than 40% favorability and on a downward trend. Perhaps he'll show some improvement when he picks his running mate and later at the convention, when no effort will be spared packaging him as a wonderful guy, but then it'll be Mitt on the campaign trail again, and, again, the more people get to know him the less they like him.

In the end, Mitt Romney won't be able to escape his own worst enemy. Himself.

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Jared Diamond refutes Mitt Romney (just like in Annie Hall)

Remember that scene in Annie Hall where Alvy (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) are waiting in line to see a movie and there's a pretentious academic blowhard behind them talking about Marshall McLuhan (the famous Canadian communications theorist)? (You can watch it below.)

"What I wouldn't give for a large sock with horse manure in it," says an increasingly annoyed Alvy, who then turns directly to the audience: "What do you do when you get stuck on a movie line with a guy like this behind you? It's just maddening."

The guy then challenges him: "Wait a minute. Why can't I give my opinion? It's a free country."

To which Alvy responds, "Do you have to give it so loud? I mean, aren't you ashamed to pontificate like that? And the funny part of it is... Marshall McLuhan, you don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan's work.

"Really, really? I happen to teach a class at Columbia called 'TV, Media, and Culture.' So I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity."

"Oh, do you? Well, that's funny, because I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here, so, so..."

Whereupon the real Marshall McLuhan, playing himself, proceeds to tell the blowhard he knows nothing of his work. "How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing."

"Boy, if life were only like this," says Alvy.


Yes, if only.

But sometimes life does indeed imitate art, and sometimes this very thing happens. Like yesterday, when it happened to Mitt Romney, another pontificating blowhard who knows nothing.

You may recall that while in Israel recently Romney gave a speech in which he said that the difference between the Israelis and Palestinians in terms of political and economic success can be attributed to culture, and to that end cited two well-known books, including Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, which he claimed makes the case that "the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there," not culture. (The culture argument, he claimed, can be found in David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.)

Romney's argument was, and is, utterly ridiculous. James Fallows effectively picked it apart. What's more, as Jon Chait wrote, Romney doesn't seem to understand the issue at all, let alone the nuanced historical analyses of Diamond and Landes: "Romney oversimplifies the arguments to a degree that he badly misses the point."

And then came the Annie Hall moment.

Yesterday, Diamond published an op-ed in the Times refuting Romney, just like McLuhan refuted that blowhard:

MITT ROMNEY'S latest controversial remark, about the role of culture in explaining why some countries are rich and powerful while others are poor and weak, has attracted much comment. I was especially interested in his remark because he misrepresented my views and, in contrasting them with another scholar’s arguments, oversimplified the issue.

It is not true that my book "Guns, Germs and Steel," as Mr. Romney described it in a speech in Jerusalem, "basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth."

That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it.

And so on... I encourage you to read the whole thing. Diamond even notes that Landes "would find Mr. Romney's statement that 'culture makes all the difference' dangerously out of date."

Isn't it great when life is like this?

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Charlie Crist backs Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida

Hope that was a really good hug.

Remember when former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign for the U.S. Senate was pretty much destroyed because he once hugged Barack Obama? And then he strongly supported the federal stimulus package. These are apparently just not the kinds of things done by any self-respecting Republican, so that was the end of Crist, and the beginning of Marco Rubio, who has been called the "crown prince" of the Tea Party movement.

Crist had been a Republican but became an independent during his unsuccessful Senate bid in 2010, losing to Rubio. And now Crist is supporting Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and even attending an upcoming fundraiser for him.

Here are a couple of relevant paragraphs from The Miami Herald on the matter:

Republican Connie Mack IV is the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination during the Aug. 14 primary. Crist's decision not to support him is at odds with a long history he's had with the Macks that started when Crist worked to get Connie Mack III elected to the Senate in 1988. Throughout his career, Crist has called the elder Mack a mentor and has often quoted him. Both Macks were longtime Crist supporters.

But that changed when Crist ran for Senate in 2010 and dropped out of the Republican primary and instead ran as an independent. Mack III quit his role as Crist campaign chairman and both Macks withdrew their support and endorsed eventual victor Marco Rubio.

Not that it's unusual for old friendships to die because of politics, but it is interesting to contemplate how much damage has been done to the old GOP because of the general nastiness of the Tea Party insurgency.

It's common for people within the same party to get over hard-fought battles. Look at Obama and the Clintons. I just wonder how many wounds have been caused by the blind radicalism of the Tea Party right that will never heal.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

This day in music - August 2, 1987: David Martin dies at the age of 50

By Richard K. Barry

Okay, I didn't know who David Martin was either, but he was the bass player for Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs and he wrote the band's hit single "Wooly Bully," which was a hit in 1965, rising to #2 in the U.S. and #11 in the U.K.

Dig those crazy outfits. Here's to Mr. Martin, who wrote a great song.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Mitt Romney's plan to raise your taxes

Not that there's much new to be said about Mitt Romney, but it is good that serious analysis is starting to lay out some key facts for us. A new study done by the Brookings Institution, an independent, non-partisan think tank, analyzed Mitt Romney's tax plan and had this to say about it:

Our major conclusion is that a revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed – including reducing marginal tax rates substantially, eliminating the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) and maintaining all tax breaks for saving and investment – would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers. 

Steve Benen adds this fun little fact about the study:

This isn't a hack-job published using worst-case scenarios; it's the opposite. The Brookings Institution and Tax Policy Center made every assumption in Romney's favor, giving him the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.

Here's what President Obama had to say about the report on the stump yesterday in Ohio:

[T]he centerpiece of my opponent's entire economic plan is a new, $5 trillion tax cut. A lot of this tax cut would go to the wealthiest 1% of all households. Folks making more than $3 million a year -- the top one-tenth of one percent -- would get a tax cut worth almost a quarter of a million dollars. A quarter of a million dollars.

But it gets worse. Under my opponent's plan, guess who gets the bill for these $250,000 tax cuts? You do. And you don't have to take my word for it.

Just today, an independent, non-partisan organization ran all the numbers. And they found that if Governor Romney wants to keep his word and pay for his plan, he'd have to cut tax breaks that middle-class families depend on to pay for your home, or your health care, or send your kids to college. That means the average middle-class family with children would be hit with a tax increase of more than $2,000.

But here's the thing – he's not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit, or to invest in our kids' education. He's asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a tax cut.

Imagine that, Mitt Romney is all about raising our taxes.

I don't know. If voters can be made to understand this, this election should be over.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Mike Kelly

Yesterday, as HuffPo's Erin Mershon explains, was "the first day private insurers must include birth control coverage in their plans without charging a co-pay, per requirements in the Affordable Care Act. The change will affect most women on private health plans, with some exceptions. More than a dozen Republican members of the House of Representatives, mostly freshmen, held a press conference to blast the law for what they said were violations of religious freedom."

One of them was Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, who wasn't content just objecting to the change. No, he had to provide some historical context:

I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked. One is Dec. 7, that's Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that's the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.

That's right, Kelly compared the first day insurers first had to provide birth control coverage to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, even using the "day that will live in infamy" language from FDR's famous speech the day after the Japanese attack on the former. (Where's the outrage from conservatives who object to any perceived slight to the military?)

Even if you grant that the religious freedom argument has merit here -- and I don't, as I see it as cover for bigotry (e.g., religious freedom to oppose gay rights) -- this is completely ridiculous. It's hyperbole and grandstanding and insanity. (It was Kelly, but also Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Billy Long of Missouri, Ann Marie Buerkle of New York, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Steve Pearce of New Mexico, and Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi. Crazy, the whole lot of 'em.)

This just requires insurers to cover birth control for those who want and need it. Kelly and his band of idiots may think this was "he day religious freedom died in America," but actually the reverse is true. The law is a strike for freedom against religious intolerance and authoritarianism. And as Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York said, "[s]afe, accessible contraception is a fundamental part of virtually every woman's health care at some point in their lives." Indeed, contraception use is almost universal among women in America. (And shouldn't anti-choice Republicans be happy that more birth control use means fewer abortions?)

But of course Republicans are waging war on women with a religious zealotry that is inimical to freedom. August 1 wasn't the day religious freedom died, it was just another day for Republicans to express their out-of-touch, extremist right-wing agenda.

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Good polls for Obama in key swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio

By Richard K. Barry

It's easy to ignore numbers like this, much as we're all experiencing a bit of polling overload. Still, it's good news for the Obama campaign that brand new Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS surveys show Obama leading Romney among likely voters in Florida (51%-45%), Ohio (50%-44%), and Pennsylvania (53%-42%). The key there is "likely voters."

Here's a clip of Quinnipiac Assistant Director Tim Malloy discussing the poll results. It's packed with information, much of it we already know. One thing, which we have also heard before, is that most voters have made up their minds in the three swing states. Only 4% say they are undecided. Of those who have made up their minds, only 10% say they could change their minds.

Just think of the money that's going to be spent to sway so few. It's obscene, really.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Sarah Palin's lame anti-Cheney zinger ruined by Sarah Palin

So you remember how the other day Dick Cheney, emerging from his evil lair to give an interview to ABC News, said that John McCain's tapping of Sarah Palin as his running mate four years ago was "a mistake"?

("That one, I don't think was well handled. The test to get on that small list has to be, 'Is this person capable of being president of the United States?'... I like Governor Palin. I've met her. I know her. She – attractive candidate. But based on her background, she'd only been governor for, what, two years. I don't think she passed that test... of being ready to take over. And I think that was a mistake.")

Well, that obviously didn't sit well with the self-aggrandizing cult of personality known as Sarah Palin, and you knew a response was coming, probably on Fox News to Greta Van Susteren. It was just a matter of when.

And when turned out to be Tuesday night -- yes, on Fox News; yes, to Greta Van Susteren.

Now, I'll provide the full quote in a moment. First, though, here's the brilliantly hilarious headline to Dan Amira's post at Daily Intel:

Sarah Palin's Comeback to Dick Cheney
Marred by Sarah Palin's Inability to Form a Coherent Sentence

That pretty much says it all.

And just what was the incoherence? Here you go:

Well, seeing as how Dick — excuse me, Vice President, uh, Cheney — never misfires, then evidently he's quite convinced that what he had, uh, evidently read about me by the lamestream media, having been written, uh, what I believe is a false narrative over the last four years, evidently Dick Cheney believed that stuff and that's a shame, so he characterized me as being a mistake.

Um... what? A lame joke about Cheney's hunting accident from 2006? A typical attack on the media? A refusal to be in any way self-critical?

The ramblings of a blithering idiot with limited communication skills and absolutely no genuine self-awareness whatsoever?

Here she is, in all her glory:

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

By Richard K. Barry

(Ed. note: It's not that I didn't respect and admire Gore Vidal, but let's just say he wasn't without his blemishes. Like, for example: "
Gore Vidal, a despicable old fool, defends Roman Polanski, a rapist." Not his finest moment. -- MJWS)

You may have heard that Gore Vidal has died. The New York Times described him as an "all-around man of letters," which is as good a description as any. The obit, which you can find here, is quite good, as is the lengthy treatment at The Guardian, here.

A line that appears in both pieces, which I found hilarious, was a reply Vidal gave to a question about who he was. His response: "I'm exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."

The Atlantic helpfully posted a video of Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley in 1969 on, I think, The Dick Cavett Show. The clip is introduced like this: "Next time someone complains about the lack of civility in today's politics, play this clip of the two late authors nearly coming to blows."

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Standing for equality

The Democrats have unanimously added marriage equality to their party platform.

Democrats appear ready to embrace same-sex marriage as part of their party platform, a policy shift that reflects an expanded acceptance of gay rights in mainstream politics.

The move would place the party in line with the beliefs of President Obama, who in May became the first sitting president to declare that gay men and lesbians should be able to marry.

Democratic Party officials had squabbled over the issue in the past. But at a platform-drafting meeting over the weekend in Minneapolis, they approved the first step to amend their platform, placing the amendment on track for adoption. In two weeks, the entire platform committee will vote at a meeting scheduled in Detroit. Then, if approved as expected, it would go before convention delegates in Charlotte, N.C., for final passage in early September.

They did this for two reasons: First, they know it will set off the Republicans with a round of gay-bashing, and second, it's the right thing to do. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Cory Booker prepares to collect on a debt

By Richard K. Barry

Gee, hate to be cynical, but when Newark Mayor Cory Booker sent a message to the Obama campaign that it just wasn't right to pick on the deep-pocketed guys on Wall Street and at Bain Capital, I, and others, had some idea what might be going on. And, by golly, we were right. Last Thursday, Booker made it official. He's eyeing state-wide office, maybe governor or the Senate.

Word is, he formed a federal PAC last month. And what do you need for a PAC? Why, money. And who has money? Well, you know.

Look, I get it. You need lots of resources to win campaigns in that New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area. But Booker might have mentioned to Obama's team he was going to turn on them, or maybe that was the whole point, to show he's his own man.

Politics is not for anyone with a weak stomach. Wanna see Booker sell his soul again?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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What really makes Mitt Romney tick

Hard work, providence, a rich daddy...
Earlier today, I wrote about the many gaffes, missteps, and otherwise revealing incidents that plagued Romney's trip to Israel, including his suggestion that Israeli/Jewish success and Palestinian (apparent) lack of success can be attributed to culture and the "hand of providence" (i.e., Israel thrives because it has a culture that allows it to, whereas the Palestinians do not; moreover, God is with Israel, directing its success, and against the Palestinians).

This is wrong for so many reasons, not the least of which is that these two peoples are not living in a vacuum but rather in a devastating situation in which one, the supposedly successful one, is militarily occupying the other. Indeed, as Dan Amira wrote at New York's Daily Intel, "a recent [World Bank] report on the economies of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip... concludes that the 'major constraints to private sector activity are the tight Israeli restrictions, and growth will not be sustainable until Palestinians have access to resources and are allowed to move freely.'"

Now, clearly, Romney's goal wasn't to provide an accurate analysis of the situation -- nor to offer a thorough, nuanced understanding of the two books he cited (and misrepresented), Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations -- but to score political points. And if that meant insulting an entire people, so be it. As Amira's colleague Jon Chait points out, though, "Romney has expressed versions of this belief over and over, including in his book. It appears to be a foundational belief of his."

And just what is that foundational belief? "The shorthand version he offers up on the campaign trail is little more than a modernized version of western self-congratulation: Those of us who are rich owe our success to hard work and strong values, and those who are poor have only themselves to blame."

This is "western self-congratulation," to be sure, but for Romney it is also self-congratulation, a self-validation of himself and his values. Israel is rich and Palestine is not, owing to hard work and values, but so too is Romney rich because of his own hard work and values, while those beneath him on the socio-economic ladder, which is to say almost everyone else on the planet, just isn't as good as he is. (Perhaps he also has the "hand of providence" helping him out?) It's a foundational belief -- and also the basis for so much of his self-aggrandizing plutocratic policy agenda (e.g., lower taxes on the rich, like himself; disregard for the plight of the poor; America as crusader for righteousness).

To understand Romney, and to understand just what he would do as president, what would guide him in the Oval Office, you need to understand this about him. It's easy to say he's a just a privileged rich douchebag, as we often have. It's actually much worse than that.

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When will Romney come clean about his taxes?

He's being curiously secretive. What's he hiding?

Here's a new truth-seeking web video from the Obama-Biden campaign:

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A look back at Romney's disastrous foreign tour

What did I do? I was just being myself. I'm Mitt Romney, by golly!

So. He's back. In full-on denial mode and, predictably, blaming the media for his own self-inflicted embarrassment. (Oh, and with a silly veep app. Clearly, his campaign is desperate to turn the page.) Let's recap:




All of which is to say, it didn't go well. Not well at all.

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