Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, has died at the age of 82.

Other than teaching at the University of Cincinnati for a number of years after leaving NASA, he didn't do a great deal of note in his non-astronaut years -- unlike, say, John Glenn -- but, then, he didn't have to. He was part of both the Gemini and Apollo programs at NASA, and he walked on the Moon.

That, and that alone, is enough to establish his place in history.

"Neil was among the greatest of American heroes," said President Obama. "And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten."

I think back to how excited I was when Curiosity landed on Mars a few weeks ago. That was pretty amazing, and hugely significant.

But back in 1969... before I was born... two men, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, with Michael Collins circling overhead in Columbia, actually flew to the Moon and walked on it. That was truly historic -- one of those "where were you?" moments in history.

"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." And then, of course, a bit later:

"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." (He had planned to say that but at the time unintentionally omitted the 'a'.)

Simply, and undeniably, awesome.

Here's the ABC News report:

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For Mitt Romney, Barack Obama just doesn't belong

I have no doubt Mitt Romney knows Barack Obama was born in the United States, which is what makes his silly little joke at a rally in Michigan that much more disturbing. His campaign team sees it for what it is, a gaffe, and have been trying to suggest this had nothing to do with the birther nonsense, but was simply Romney's attempt at humour to do with the Romney's "coming home" to Michigan. Well, that's ridiculous.

As Greg Sargent writes:
Of course Romney fully believes Obama was born in the United States. But in a way, that’s the point — he’s still willing to dabble in birther humor, either to rev up his base by proving that he’s willing to take it to Obama or whatever, or for a cheap laugh, or for some combination of the two.

Sargent continues by making the point that on the heels of Todd Akin "legitimate rape" controversy, this is a "reminder of the extreme voices in the GOP, which Romney has at times been slow to denounce."
The fact that uncomfortably large numbers still believe Obama has perpetrated an elaborate plot to fake his birthplace and ascend to the presidency illegitimately is a pretty damn big deal. 
It will be easy for the Obama campaign to seize on this to raise questions about Romney’s judgment, temperament, and character. Wow.

I think that's all true, but I also think it's true that Romney's silly little joke betrays something he does believe, along with a disturbingly high percentage of conservative voters, and that is that Barack Obama's presidency is not legitimate. The birther controversy has always been short-hand for this perspective. Birtherism is short-hand for those who think this election is about "taking their country back." Why else would it continue to have legs long after it has been debunked by virtually anyone with a half a brain?

It wouldn't take long to find a series of clips in which Romney claims Obama's political positions are "foreign," or that he doesn't understand the way the American economy works, or the way the American people think, and other such nonsense.

You don't have to be a Freudian scholar to understand that jokes are frequently a passive-aggressive way to assert things we actually believe but that are too dangerous to say outright. Again, I don't think Romney believes President Obama was born anywhere but in the U.S., but I do believe he thinks Obama's presidency is illegitimate. Birtherism is a continuing bad joke to make that case.

Final comment: I found the youthful "indiscretion" of Mitt Romney holding down a fellow student who was "different," and violently cutting his hair, very instructive. Romney clearly has always had strong ideas about what it means to "belong," to be the "right kind of person," to be acceptable. From his earliest days, he has been more than a little annoyed by those who have failed to understand what is expected of them, who, perhaps, don't know their place.

No, these comments about Obama's birthplace and his foreign understanding shouldn't be taken literally, but their metaphorical sense is just as disturbing.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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God only knows accounting

Here's the latest excuse from the Romneys on why they won't release their taxes:

"Our church doesn't publish how much people have given," Romney tells Parade magazine in an edition due out Sunday. "This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one's financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It's a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church."

Religion has always served as a convenient excuse for bad behavior that -- ironically -- usually goes against the teachings of the faith. How many times have people tried to get away with gay-bashing, supporting slavery, oppressing women, shooting up a shopping mall, or running for president because God told them to? Once is too many, and if there really was a god that lived up to his billing, he wouldn't let charlatans and cowards get away with doing shady and rotten things in his name. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Talk to the hand

The Romney campaign told Shaun Boyd, a reporter for a TV station in Denver, that she could not ask him certain questions:

"They said, you know, 'the only stipulation is we don't want you talking about the Akin issue,'" Boyd recalled. She also said the Romney staffer told her the campaign didn't want questions for Romney about "the whole abortion controversy."

Boyd said she resisted.

"I said to them, 'Look everybody's talking about this. It's going to seem awkward if I don't ask about it,'" she said. "And they said, 'Well he's said all he's going to say about it. He doesn't have anything more to say, you won't be getting any new information so we don't want to talk about that.'"

"It was pretty clear: 'Here's our one stipulation,'" she recalled.

Okay, so Mitt Romney doesn't want to talk about abortion and Todd Akin, Bain Capital, his tax returns, his investments, his term as governor of Massachusetts and his healthcare reform, immigration, marriage equality, or Seamus the Irish setter.

What does that leave us with? His vacation pictures from Europe?

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Freddie King with "San Ho Zay"

By Richard K. Barry

It's Friday. I love the blues. I love Freddie King. I'm going to post a clip of King playing one of my favourites, "San Ho Zay." It's from 1966, which you could have figured out for yourself based on the groovy graphics and the dancing.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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A cure for the GOP fixation on rape and sex and women's bodies

By Ramona

So I guess you heard what House Science Committee member Todd Akin (R-MO) said when asked whether rape would be reason enough for abortion:

People always want to try and make that as one of those things, well, how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

To which even the most thoughtless of the thinking people have to be going, What in the pluperfect HELL???

This is the Tea Party-backed guy who just recently won the Republican Senate primary and will go against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in November. Maybe. McCaskill wasted no time jumping in, saying, in effect, Uh-uh, morons, you chose him, now you better let him run -- I hope, I hope, I hope. 

But her reaction was nothing compared to the scrambling, the fumbling, the hasty word salads coming out of the Republicans who, bless 'em, saw immediately how this could royally screw things up come November if people kept linking that idiot Akin to their almost-main guy, Paul Ryan.

That same Paul Ryan who calls himself the most pro-life person in government.

That same Paul Ryan whose views on personhood -- the belief that the life of each human being begins with fertilization -- meshed so thoroughly with Todd Akin's they co-sponsored a bill calling for the legitimization of that loony theory.

That same Paul Ryan who, along with Akin and a couple hundred other GOP House members, actually tried to make laws about the degrees of rape, defining "forcible rape" as the only violation worth noting -- as if, in fact, "forcible" could be defined; as if, in fact, there was any other kind.

So, because Akin reminds them too much of Ryan and all that's unholy about him, the rest of the Republicans would like nothing better than to see Akin just fall in a hole, his name erased from any future historical references to the Great Race of 2012. 

On Hardball, Cynthia Tucker told Chris Matthews that this notion about a woman's body protecting her from a rapist's sperm -- in a "legitimate" rape -- is nothing new. She said Georgia Representative Don Thomas, a physician, said much the same thing -- in 2003.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jim Galloway quotes Thomas as saying, "Relying on my personal experience in my home county of 90,000 people, we don't have rape cases resulting in pregnancy."

Galloway found another instance of the same crazy theory, this time by a North Carolina legislator (Republican) in 1995:

"The facts show that people who are raped -- who are truly raped -- the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work and they don't get pregnant," said [Henry] Aldridge, a 71-year-old periodontist. "Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever... [t]o get pregnant, it takes a little cooperation. And there ain't much cooperation in a rape," he said.

Rachel Maddow found even more instances of Republican office-holders using the same loopy rape reasoning. (They're always Republicans. I mean it. Always.)

How long before Republicans finally have to admit that they've encouraged and nurtured this craziness long enough? If they get skunked in November, will they finally come to their senses? I doubt it. Their fixation on rape and sex and women's bodies is a powerful habit. It won't go away overnight.

But what if the craziness continues and they don't get skunked? What if Romney wins and the Republicans take both the House and the Senate, and Paul Ryan, entrenched as the second most powerful man in the country, comes out of his shell, no longer having to pretend that there are any circumstances where women have any rights over their own bodies? 

It's our job to keep reminding potential Romney-Ryan voters that Todd Akin is not an anomaly, he is a symptom. Five minutes before he gave that interview his loony beliefs about women's bodies were right there with him, and five minutes afterward he was feeling no pain about what he said. He is who he is, and Paul Ryan and his fellow sex-masters are right there in the peapod with him.

There is no cure for what ails them, but there is a cure for us.

We quit them, pronto.
(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices.)

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Tribal chieftains: Another primal scream from the Republican war on women

Any time a man starts an article with "What do women want," you know you're in for good laugh -- as in hollow and sardonic. For example, check out this by Kevin D. Williamson at National Review:

What do women want? The conventional biological wisdom is that men select mates for fertility, while women select for status — thus the commonness of younger women's pairing with well-established older men but the rarity of the converse. The Demi Moore–Ashton Kutcher model is an exception — the only 40-year-old woman Jack Nicholson has ever seen naked is Kathy Bates in that horrific hot-tub scene. Age is cruel to women, and subordination is cruel to men. Ellen Kullman is a very pretty woman, but at 56 years of age she probably would not turn a lot of heads in a college bar, and the fact that she is the chairman and CEO of Dupont isn't going to change that.


Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters. Romney has 18 grandchildren, and they exceed a 2:1 ratio of grandsons to granddaughters (13:5). When they go to church at their summer-vacation home, the Romney clan makes up a third of the congregation. He is basically a tribal chieftain.

Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.

Wow, I can smell the Viagra-enhanced testosterone from here.

It doesn't take Psychology 101 to figure out that this dude has real issues with feelings of gender inferiority when he cranks out a defensive -- and offensive -- primal scream like this. I don't know him from Adam, but given the topic of the last week and the larger topic of women having control of their uterus, you have to wonder why it is that conservatives are so threatened by other peoples' self-confidence and sense of autonomy.

Why does Mr. Williamson get all bonered up about Mitt Romney siring five sons who turn out male grandsons and diss President Obama for having daughters? (By the way, all of Mitt's boys are straight? C'mon. The simple law of averages predicts that at least one of them has Latter Days in his Netflix queue.) Simply put, what is so threatening about women to him and to a lot of men in the Republican Party?

He will have to answer that on his own, but I'm pretty sure it explains why the GOP isn't doing so well with women voters

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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The Romney-Ryan plan for generational warfare

That's right, dear. Your father and I have decided to
nail you to the wall on this Medicare thing.

As Daily Kos pointed out a couple of days ago, Mitt Romney might have gotten the far right off his back by picking Paul Ryan the Medicare privatizer as his running mate, but at what cost? Well, here's the cost:

New polling from Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News in three swing states — Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin — show that Medicare has become one of the three key issues in this election, and President Obama has a strong advantage there.

In all of the states, strong majorities want to keep Medicare as it is, rejecting the voucher system entirely: Florida (62-28), Ohio (64-27) and Wisconsin (59-32). In addition, when asked who would do a better job on Medicare, Floridians give Obama the edge, 50-42; in Ohio the margin is 51-41; and in Wisconsin it's 51-42.

Importantly, it seems that Romney and Ryan's promise to protect current retirees doesn't seem to be working as a selling point with seniors.

Daily Kos cites Jim Ryan, a 75-year-old retired executive from Bradenton, Florida, who is an independent, with a comment I suspect characterizes the way a lot of seniors feel:

We're enjoying the benefits now, and the Paul Ryan program of making it into a voucher system would change things. I know it's not intended to apply to people in our age group, but I'm concerned about the future. I think it's a wonderful program, and I've got middle-aged children and I don't want to see the program destroyed. It's probably one of the best programs sponsored by the federal government that we've ever had. It does have to be made fiscally sound, but there are ways to do that without destroying the whole concept or the substance of it.

One of the things that is not being said nearly enough is that Romney and Ryan are in fact cynically counting on generational warfare when it comes to Medicare. Great. They don't like class warfare, but they're okay with generational warfare.

I'm not quite a senior citizen, but if there is one thing I've noticed it's that older people spend a lot of time thinking about and worrying about how their children are doing, even if it's a matter of worrying about how middle-aged children will do when they retire.

The Romney-Ryan approach of "don't worry, we're not going to screw you, we're going to screw your kids," doesn't exactly appear to be well thought out, to say the least.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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OMG! Do I agree with Ann Coulter?

Could it be that Ann Coulter just said something I agree with? I think I need to wash out my brain with Lysol.

But I guess it's not quite that bad. Yes, I do believe that the oh-so-typical Tea Twit Todd Akin is a swine, but I would stop short of using nuclear weapons on him as she demands (rather messy at best), and I don't think he's not a real Republican as she asserts, and I certainly don't, as most of my saner readers will agree, think the Democratic Party financed his campaign just to make the Republicans look ridiculous. Hell. they've looked ridiculous for over 30 years.

"What he cares about is his own ego," said Arrogant Ann of the Thousand-Ton Ego on Insanity Hannity's Fox News show. She complained about his lack of knowledge of medical facts, as well one should expect of a propagandist who carefully researches and checks her facts to be sure none of her assertions actually corresponds with any.

I probably should rephrase that to use the word "whined" in ironic emulation of her favorite phraseology: Ann went wah -- she went wah-wah-wah.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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A new poll has Todd Akin way behind

By Richard K. Barry

If you haven't seen it, a Rasmussen poll just came out showing Sen. Claire McCaskill in front of disgraced GOP challenger Todd Akin in the Missouri Senate race by a margin of 48 to 38 percent. In fact, most Missourians simply want Akin to quit the race, although most Democrats want him to stay in.

What's the best indicator that it might be time for Akin to get out? Could that be when voters who want him to lose are thrilled he might be staying in?

To put things in perspective, Rasmussen had McCaskill behind in early August by 3 points.

One anomaly, though, is that Akin has seen a fundraising surge due to the controversy. Of course, being a national media lightening rod may help with the fundraising, but not actually at the polls.

As for how this could impact the top of the ticket in Missouri come November, Nate Silver had an interesting piece that suggested Republican voters might sit out the election altogether. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney has a large enough cushion in the state pretty much to guarantee he'll take it anyway.

Too bad this didn't happen in Florida, Virginia, or Ohio. But don't get me wrong, this has been a nice gift all the same.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

The New York Giants crushed the Jets last weekend

Stop poking me in the eye!

I know preseason games mean nothing, or next to nothing, but given the fact that the New York Giants are Super Bowl champs and the Jets still get way too much ink because some second-stringer got signed in the offseason, this one was a little sweeter.

The Giants offence wasn't all that sharp, but the defense made up for it. And the G-Men got to chase Tebow around for some of the game. Anyway, the Giants smacked around the Jets 26-3. I liked it.

Back-to-back, baby! (I can dream, can't I?)

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Inclusion not included

Kris Kobach, the Kansas attorney general behind other states' immigration laws and a Romney adviser, testified at a GOP platform hearing against an amendment to withdraw support for the Defense of Marriage Act and compared being gay to polygamy and drug use:

Our government routinely judges situations where you might regard people completely affecting themselves like for example the use of controlled substances, like polygamy that is voluntarily entered in to. We condemn those activities even though they are not hurting other people at least directly. So this is worded way too broadly for inclusion in the platform.

For the record, the supporters of the amendment were proposing it because "under the Constitution, every American gets treated equally under the law." Can't have that, can we?

By the way, Mitt Romney's great-grandfather was an enthusiastic polygamist. In fact, that's why the family moved to Mexico and where Mitt's father, George Romney, was born. Oh, but we can't talk about that. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Behind the Ad: Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine is out with his first ad

By Richard K. Barry

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

Who: Democrat Tim Kaine's Senate campaign.

Where: Virginia.

What's going on: I'm so tired of reading and writing about Rep. Todd Akin that I have to think about something else. What about the very close Senate race in Virginia, with Democrat Tim Kaine going up against Republican George Allen? Kaine is out with his first ad and it's a pretty gentle and positive spot, though others have been hard at work on the nasty stuff. As The Washington Post writes:

One day alone last week, conservative groups launched three ads blasting Kaine. The next day, two liberal groups hit the airwaves with new ads attacking Allen.

The Post describes the Kaine ad like this:

With soft music playing in the background, Kaine touts his record as Virginia governor, describing an era of bipartisanship and fiscal responsibility, friendliness to business and commitment to education. He never mentions Allen.

It's going to be interesting. Some campaigns are going to be happy letting outside money do a lot of the dirty work. I just wonder if voters will make those kinds of distinctions. Does anyone really believe candidates bear no responsibility for the content and tone of non-campaign (e.g., Super PAC) ads, or that there is absolutely no coordination, or that they couldn't shut them down if they wanted to? I doubt it.

Here's Mr. Kaine, all warm and fuzzy:

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Quote of the Day: Dear Leader Rush on Obama and Isaac


Rush Limbaugh on Tropical Storm Isaac:

So we got a hurricane coming. The National Hurricane Center, which is a government agency, is very hopeful that the hurricane gets near Tampa. The National Hurricane Center is Obama. It's the National Weather Service, part of the commerce department. It's Obama. The media, it's all about the hurricane hitting next week, and they're not talking about Biden, they're talking about this Hurricane Isaac thing.

So if President Obama is so powerful that he can get a hurricane to hit Tampa, why can't he lower the price of gas, reduce the unemployment rate to 3%, or get the last olive out of that narrow jar with his fingers? Huh?



What makes it worse is that global warming is so totally Obama's fault. He planned this years ago, back in the madrassa in Indonesia. He knew, super-prophet that he is, that if he changed the climate even by just a relatively small amount he'd be able not just to make more of these storms happen but to make them stronger. And now he's directing the NHC, an offshoot of his re-election campaign, to send this storm straight to Tampa, where it will wreak havoc on his opponents.



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Economic forecast

Mitt Romney and the Republicans thought that if they campaigned on the weak economy and the high unemployment rate, they would win the election. And the odds favor them on that score; it's been a long time since a president got re-elected when the rate was over 7%.

They also thought that by putting Paul Ryan, the hunky guru of the Republican budget, on the ticket they could make the case for their vision of lower taxes for the rich -- who deserve it because they do so much for the rest of us -- and force the middle class to really get to work and earn all those entitlements: no free lunch for you people.

But it was not to be. All the liberal media wants to talk about are the slutty women and their lies about rape or the queers and their ideas of marriage equality so they can do icky things and get a tax deduction for their sweaty perversions. They're the ones who are making the GOP talk about turning a one-celled organism into a person; they're the ones who are making them write the party platform that makes a condom an assault weapon; they're the ones who are turning all of the attention away from how terrible things are in swing states like Florida, and even they are conspiring against them by doing better.

The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves (by which they mean Barack Obama). In 2010, they ran on a platform of jobs-jobs-jobs, and a lot of people voted for them because they thought, "Hey, they got us into this mess; maybe now they're serious about getting us out of it." But when they won, we found out that what they really wanted was to repeal health care, ban abortions, marginalize the gays, deport the immigrants (only the brown ones), and restrict voting to those who only deserved it.

And who can blame the media? What's more fun: listening to economists drone on about interest rates and sequestration, or going after civil rights of people? Hey, come on, that's a trick question. Talking about the economy is the stuff of C-SPAN at 2 a.m. Civil rights brings back images of demonstrations in the street, cops using fire hoses, and speeches on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

This is America, the sex-obsessed land of Jersey Shore and the Kardashians; where you can turn even the most boring topic -- health-care reform -- into something for TMZ if you can get to the sex angle: contraception for single women Georgetown law school students, and gay marriage brings forth visions of cute guys prancing around in their Speedos.

No wonder the economy line isn't selling. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Craziest Republican of the day: Mike Huckabee and Rep. Steve King -- it's a tie!

(Ed. note: I would just like to note that this is Rep. King's ninth appearance as CRD. Congratulations, King Krazy! No one else is even close. And when your craziness stands out in today's Republican Party, you know you've accomplished something truly special. For the last two, with links to the others, see here and here. -- MJWS)

You know you're in trouble as a Republican when the only conservative media personality who will give you a friendly interview is Mike Huckabee. Yes, disgraced Rep. Todd Akin went to Mike to explain himself over his "legitimate rape" comments and Mike responded with some massive stupidity of his own, suggesting that rapes, though "horrible tragedies," had produced admirable human beings.

And then Rep. Steve King, one of the more conservative members of Congress, told an Iowa reporter  that he had "never heard of a girl getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest." Now, King may think that he's a bit more clever than Akin because he added this little bit of a disclaimer:

Well I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that's been brought to me in any personal way and I'd be open to discussion about that subject matter.

Glad he cleared that up.

I just can't decide who is crazier or dumber, so I'll have to call it a draw. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The legitimate rape of freedom

I went to bed ruminating about the predicted course of Tropical Storm Isaac, which had it ravaging the West coast of Florida from Fort Meyers to Tampa next week. Am I a bad person for dreaming that a random raging force of nature might do what our miserable excuse for a righteous God never seems to do and tear the Tampa Convention Center to pieces, rending flesh from barbarian bone and yet somehow leave the Tampa General Hospital just across the channel intact to tend to any decent folk who got caught out in the storm? Perhaps I am, but the teeth and claws of the GOP are as visible to anyone with eyes to see as if they were painted red with gore -- as indeed they are -- and who will be there to rescue us when the wolf has eaten Grandma (and blamed it on Obama)? Sadly, today's National Hurricane Center prediction shows Hurricane Isaac passing to the west of Tampa, leaving only some wind and rain to drown out the demented cries of a dying country.

It won't be quite loud enough, of course, to obscure the lies and libels, the slanders, the fabrications, and the calls for armed insurrection against the decent, the humane, and the lovers of freedom  -- nor wet enough to wash away the tea. But don't bring your guns to Tampa. It was OK for the toothless Tea Whores to bring firearms to Democratic meetings and threaten to use them, but the GOP has banned guns at their sabbath.

There will be and there already are howls about spending and taxes and budgets, but put in the form of a passion play that has more to do with reversing the guilt for having started a war on invented information -- the most expensive war in our history -- and proposed that it would cost nothing if only we relieved the richest of us of a few more percent in taxes. They'll go on pretending that a middle class tax cut was a tax hike, that no additional gun control was somehow a "gun grab," and that restoring Ronald Reagan's tax relief for the richest Americans, many of whom like Mitt Romney paid nothing and are still paying almost nothing was "the largest tax hike in history" and a flirtation with Marxism.

They'll continue the tradition of posing pornography, legal birth control, the "personhood" of fertilized eggs, and abortion as the great issues of the day, and the same people who claim that the universe is only a few years older than the pyramids will howl like idiots about how 14-year-old girls won't get pregnant if the rape wasn't forceful enough and how women with hydrocephalic babies can't actually die in childbirth. They'll stand on the bloodstained platform or their vampire religion and call for the subjugation of women, the abandonment of the old and sick and weak, and claim we simply can't survive if we do what everyone else in the free, modern world does. They'll suggest a country with a double standard of morality, where the government sleeps in your bed but not in theirs and where they pay nothing and obey no rules. 

No, sorry, Messrs. Romney and Ryan, I'd like you and your numbered accounts in Bermuda and Luxembourg and Liechtenstein washed out into the Gulf, never to be seen again and soon to be forgotten by the madmen, the congenitally stupid, the misogynists, the sexual perverts who support all the silly, stupid, racist rhetoric. I'd like to drown the contempt for facts, for science, for mathematics, for history, and of course your contempt for anyone who didn't lie, cheat, and steal their way to wealth and power, but of course I can't.

I can't because this is a stupid country -- a petty, angry, prejudiced, bigoted, selfish, and deluded country that thinks it would be better off and safer with no government at all. We're the country that elected George Bush twice and Richard Nixon twice and Spiro Agnew and savaged everyone that spoke up. This is the party that was outraged at anyone who said the economy was unsustainable and now sneers and snarks about how the economy is unsustainable. This is the country that cheered at the biggest borrow-and-spend spree and now looks at the spendthrift culprits as saviors. Perhaps we deserve our fate. Perhaps we deserve even worse. Perhaps a better nation might some day emerge from the stinking wreckage, but probably not and probably some other power will come to dominate the world -- a power that cares less for the kind of country we pretended to be and insisted we were while we danced around a bonfire chanting as America died.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Akin's in it to win it

(Ed. note: Of course, this Republican opposition to Akin is just posturing. They're doing it because he's made himself toxic and is polluting the Republican brand. (Akin is, or at least was, well up in the polls and might still win this thing, though it will be more difficult without overt party support.) And of course all these Republicans want him to win. And if he does, he'll just move his extremism from one house to the other, settling in comfortably with his new senatorial colleagues. And this will all be a thing of the past, one more example of Republican craziness blending in with all the rest. -- MJWS)

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) is staying in the Missouri Senate race despite calls from every Republican in and out of office to get the hell out for speaking plainly about the party's stand on life and women:

Mitt Romney, the GOP's presidential standard-bearer, joined a broad chorus of Republicans urging Akin to step aside for the good of his party. "Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong, and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country," Romney said.

But after two days of apologizing, Akin grew angry Tuesday, allowing a deadline to pass on an easier way to withdraw from the contest. The congressman made clear that he would not apologize for his belief that abortion should be illegal, even in cases of rape.

"I misspoke one word in one sentence in one day," he said on a radio talk show hosted by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. "I haven't done anything that's morally and ethically wrong."


Immediately after his appearance on Huckabee's show, party leaders who had been sending Akin signals to quit the race left no doubt about where they stood.

"When the future of our country is at stake, sorry is not sufficient. To continue serving his country in the honorable way he has served throughout his career, it is time for Congressman Akin to step aside," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

A few hours later, Romney issued his statement calling on Akin to drop out. He was followed by Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who reaffirmed plans to abandon a $5 million campaign for Akin. "If he continues with this misguided campaign, it will be without the support and resources of the NRSC," said Brian Walsh, an NRSC spokesman.

And he blamed the liberal media for all of his troubles, of course. That would include Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

The real liberal media would much rather Mr. Akin stay in the race; he's the poster child for the Republican Party's pro-life stand. After all, they've just adopted a plank in their platform that calls for a constitutional amendment to grant personhood status to a one-celled organism and no abortions at all ever.

As far as I can tell, Mr. Akin is the most honest spokesman the GOP has. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I should think

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Fallows v. Ferguson

Niall Ferguson, a tenured professor of history at Harvard, wrote a cover story for Newsweek making the case for the defeat of President Obama. Numerous pundits and fact-checkers have gone over the article and pronounced it flawed, including blaming the president for bad things that happened a year before he took office.

But leave it to James Fallows of The Atlantic (and a Harvard alum) to really give Mr. Ferguson his comeuppance, and it is a thing of beauty:

-- "I was a good loser four years ago. But this year, fired up by the rise of Ryan, I want badly to win."

According to an article in the Telegraph this year, Ferguson has chosen America over Britain because the intellectual life back home is so shallow. It is good that he is deepening our discourse with observations like these. (To the best of my knowledge, he is not a U.S. citizen, which I note only because it gives the "good loser" and "want badly to win" observations an unusual edge.)

There is lots more, which you can judge for yourself. Let me re-establish the point: I have no complaint with anyone making a strong case against Obama, or in his favor. That's what an election year is for. My point concerns the broadside pamphleteering nature of his argument, which is no worse than what we expect on cable-news talk shows but also no better. And it comes from someone trading heavily on the prestige that goes with being a tenured professor at the world's leading university.


You can say these things if you're a talk-show host or a combatant on some cable-news gabfest. To me this is not what the tradition of Veritas and the search for scholarly enlightenment is supposed to exemplify. Seriously, I wonder if one of Ferguson's students will have the panache to turn in a similar paper to see how it fares.

Game, set, match. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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New Republican reality show: Real World GOP Agenda 2012

I never thought I would see this day, but it's beautiful. Sadly, I am sure it will pass without so much as a memory of the amazing opportunity that has fallen into the laps of Democrats. Of course, I am referring to the monstrous comments by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) about "legitimate rape." If ever there was a reality show for the GOP, this is it.

Will Democrats f**k this up? Of course they will. Why? Because somehow Dems have become known as the party of civility. Why is this? And why do we embrace it? Why can't we just be the party of facts and intelligence and leave civility at the f**king door? This is politics, is it not? When has politics known civility?

Let's face facts: Republicans are falling over themselves to kick this Akin monster to the curb. FOX tried to deflect and deflate, and even doubled down:

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and onetime Republican presidential candidate, opined that although rapes are "horrible tragedies," they sometimes produce amazing people.

Seriously, that's a real quote. Problem is Mike, everyone is looking at Akin, and perhaps you too, as a monster. So much so that Republicans are running from this guy faster than Sean Hannity after receiving a draft notice in the mail. Even Rush Limbaugh, RUSH F**king LIMBAUGH!, is running away from his comments. Meanwhile, Democrats are begging Akin to stay in the race.

This is big! Really big! Akin exposed the real Republican agenda and it was broadcast across the airwaves for all to hear, and goddamn, it was horrific!

Make no mistake, what we all heard Todd Akin say about rape, and his definition of it therein, was just another day in the life of a Republican in today's GOP. These are extreme people who will do anything to get elected, people with views so extreme they may actually be fascist, as opposed to the lip service paid to President Obama about his being some kind of socialist. It is manipulation of the highest order, where up is down, welfare is for lazy people, guns are for our own good, and the government should get out of our lives – except in cases of rape, gays marrying, blacks voting, and making sure Mexicans don't shovel our shit, pick our fruit, or mow our lawns.

The bottom line is that Todd Akin went way off message with the real agenda of the GOP in 2012 and it has threatened their whole plan to re-take the Senate and, god forbid, the White House.

Jobs? LOL!

Abortion has been the GOP's agenda even since taking back the House in 2010. Is anyone still dumb enough to believe that Republicans want to help, that they want to give people a decent wage, that they want to keep our taxes low or put us back to work with affordable health care? Did eight years of W. even happen in these people's universe? Did the last four years, with its record obstructionism by this Congress?

Is ignorance bliss or is it just plain ignorance?

Republicans don't want a minimum wage, they don't want to pay for infrastructure projects or green initiatives, they don't want public schools, and they don’t want the EPA. Last I checked, these were places where jobs existed and people benefitted from them.

So what do they want? They want private schools, private prisons, war with Iran, fracking, and lower taxes for themselves while the rest of us pick up the slack. Republicans care nothing for "we the people." Todd Akin and the collective Republican freakout that is happening right now proves it.

If Akin stays in the race, they have to support a crazy man. They have to take 100% claim of the Tea Party as nothing more than the GOP's insane cousin on steroids. They have to take responsibility for a man who blatantly spilled the beans about how the GOP feels about women's rights and their disdain for separation of church and state. And they claim the Constitution actually means something. Ha!

Republicans are not shocked by what Akin said. They support it! But it's less than three months before the election and this is supposed to be about the economy and imaginary jobs. That is what their talking points dictate. No diversions!

You think Republicans are surprised by Todd Akin, as if they didn't know his extreme views? Don't make me come over there and slap you. You can't be that dumb!

Media, Democrats, Tweeters, anyone out there who can help get the message out... please... Todd Akin is the Republican Party and they want him out because he pulled the curtain away and the rug out from under them and both have been blown away in his sh*t storm. He said rape when he should have said jobs, economy, and evil Obama. He let slip what Republicans are really all about and all they will focus on if re-elected.

So please, before their Death Star is operational again, before independents go back to not paying attention, get in there with your star fighters and let's blow this thing and go home. There is a very, very small window to do this and the response must be spot on or it will ricochet off the side. And don't be expecting the Millennium Falcon to swoop in at the last minute, because it ain't coming. It's all you.

Surely we must have a Luke Skywalker with the force to get this done. Is it Obama? Lando? He may be the best we have. To that I say, Mr. President, you may fire when ready. Just don't turn off your targeting computer just yet. Obi Wan may be one of them.

(Cross-posted at Take My Country Back.)

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Mitt Romney and the Nine Commandments

By Richard K. Barry

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast made the same point recently that I have been making for a while, which is that most of the lying in politics is simply about stretching the truth, not smashing it to bits. So, when Obama's campaign tries to connect Mitt Romney to Bain-related layoffs that happened after 2002, it's not exactly the same as a lie even though Romney left the company after that time, because Romney built Bain Capital and gave it its character.

As Tomasky writes:

There is some little grain of truth there, that "Mitt Romney's company" oversaw such-and-such layoffs, as there usually is in attack ads, even the most vicious ones. The Willie Horton ads were, after all, true. Racist, but true.

We are all used to this kind of campaigning. It's what we think of when we think about the dirtiness of politics. But then Mitt Romney came along and took everything to a whole 'nuther level.

Mitt says things, a lot of things, that are clearly and demonstrably untrue, and that actually takes a little getting used to. Most of us are still able to work up some real annoyance when we know someone is saying something that even they understand is not true. It's human nature. At least, it used to be.

What I'm trying to say is that this is not politics as usual. This is not normal. This is not simply the old saw about all politicians lying. This is a different animal and it should piss us off, all of us, no matter what our political leanings. Is it really a good thing if someone vying for the top political job in the land isn't even going to pretend to care about the truth? Does anyone really want a person like that in that job? Don't answer that.

But this is where we are.

The most recent example is Romney's claim about Obama's changes to welfare rules, which have been presented in new ads.

As Tomasky writes:

The Romney ad campaign says exactly the opposite of what the new rule stipulates. PolitiFact called the first Romney ad “Pants on Fire,” and Glenn Kessler gave it four Pinocchios. But now here they come with a second ad saying that Obama “ended the work requirement.” Plainly and provably not true.

Since 1996, welfare recipients were required to work. This bipartisan reform successfully reduced welfare rolls. On July 12th, President Obama quietly ended the work requirement, gutting welfare reform.

These ads make use of images of Bill Clinton signing into law work requirements for people on welfare, and even he says the claims of the Romney campaign that Obama has undone those requirements are untrue.

There is no nuance. This is no stretching the truth. This is a lie. Again.

Here's one of the ads. No, Mitt Romney is not normal, and I do shudder to think what someone who lies so easily would do with the kind of power a president has.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Akin pains

According to reports reaching TPM, Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R) has been making preparations to withdraw from the race. He's getting pressure from all over the Republican party, a major right-wing PAC, and leading lights of the right-wing punditry and commentariat to get out. The notable exception is, of course, the Family Research Council, who stands by him, but then, they make their living supporting junk science.

Mr. Akin says he plans to stay in the race, and the polls are showing that he's still leading Sen. Claire McCaskill.

The Romney-Ryan campaign came out with the boilerplate condemnation of the remarks, but since Mr. Akin's stated points of view regarding the sanctity of personhood for a zygote pretty much parallel the position of Mr. Ryan and -- at least lately -- that of Mr. Romney, they're kind of on thin ice when it comes to damning someone else for repeating their own views.

A lot of people have pointed out that Mr. Akin's stand on abortion in the case of rape without adjectives (as President Obama noted yesterday, "rape is rape") is not new to the anti-choice crowd. This "you can't get pregnant from rape" meme has been with them for a good long while, too. Rick Santorum, when he wasn't obsessing about gay sex, basically ran his entire presidential campaign on the issue of the sanctity of one-celled organisms over the life and health of the woman serving as host. As for bearing the child of a rapist, he said the woman should "make the best out of a bad situation."

So what Mr. Akin said was not really an outlier from the thinking of the mainstream of the Republican party. It's just that he put it in a way that was blunt enough to prick up the ears of the blogosphere.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This day in history - August 21, 1959: Hawaii becomes the 50th state

By Richard K. Barry

(Ed. note: Interestingly, I just finished reading Sarah Vowell's wonderful book Unfamiliar Fishes, a fascinating history of Hawaii mostly from the arrival of the first missionaries in 1820 (with a great deal leading up to their historic voyage) to its pro-American white oligarchic revolution in 1893 and appalling annexation by the U.S. in 1898 -- and more broadly a case study of American imperialism and its myriad injustices. It turned me into a Hawaiian nationalist -- though, alas, I have never been there -- and made me really, really, really want to see Princess Nahi'ena'ena's famous feather skirt for myself. -- MJWS)


On August 21, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order proclaiming Hawaii the 50th state in the union. This day is celebrated in Hawaii as Admission Day or Statehood Day, and it is a legal holiday. It's actually celebrated annually on the third Friday in August.

Statehood bills for Hawaii were introduced into the U.S. Congress as early as 1919 and again in 1935, 1947 and 1950, but it wasn't until 1959 that Congress approved the Hawaii Admission Act. After this, a referendum took place in which 94% voted in support of statehood, which was then followed by the executive order making Hawaii a state. Prior to this, Hawaii had been an organized incorporated territory of the United States beginning on July 7, 1898.

(Cross-Posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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“One Term More”

This is supposed to be a clever parody, but it’s still one hell of a political advertisement.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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Frasier endorses Mitt Romney. Huzzah!!!

I fully understand that actors are not the characters they play. I also take no strong position about celebrity endorsements. They can say whatever they want on any side of the aisle -- free speech and all that. I'm always amazed at people who get worked up over big names who say stuff. They're allowed like everyone else, and if we don't want to pay attention, I don't think we have to. I'm pretty sure I'm right about that.

I will admit that a slight smile came to my face when I read that actor Kelsey Grammer, a.k.a. Dr. Frasier Crane, endorsed Mitt Romney in a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, saying that he'd "make a terrific president."

I was just thinking how much fun it would be for Mr. Grammer to show up in character as Frasier, the goofy artistocrat, at one of Romney's rallies. Maybe that's just my idea of fun.

On a more serious note, Grammer commented on The Tonight Show recently that he thought it possible his GOP ties might cost him an Emmy nod for Boss this year, adding, "I mean, I am a declared, out-of-the-closet Republican in Hollywood."

I don't mean to be naive, but it would be a shame if that sort of thing actually happened. Though it would certainly be a dramatically gentler form of blacklisting than progressives endured in the '50s, it would still be wrong, obviously.

I've always enjoyed Grammer's work.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Ryan's budget: It's a joke

Never one to mince words, Paul Krugman gets delightfully shrill on the plans Paul Ryan has for our economy:

What Mr. Ryan actually offers, then, are specific proposals that would sharply increase the deficit, plus an assertion that he has secret tax and spending plans that he refuses to share with us, but which will turn his overall plan into deficit reduction.

If this sounds like a joke, that's because it is. Yet Mr. Ryan's "plan" has been treated with great respect in Washington. He even received an award for fiscal responsibility from three of the leading deficit-scold pressure groups. What’s going on?

The answer, basically, is a triumph of style over substance. Over the longer term, the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it — and in Washington, "fiscal responsibility" is often equated with willingness to slash Medicare and Social Security, even if the purported savings would be used to cut taxes on the rich rather than to reduce deficits. Also, self-proclaimed centrists are always looking for conservatives they can praise to showcase their centrism, and Mr. Ryan has skillfully played into that weakness, talking a good game even if his numbers don't add up.

The question now is whether Mr. Ryan's undeserved reputation for honesty and fiscal responsibility can survive his participation in a deeply dishonest and irresponsible presidential campaign.

It doesn't really matter if his numbers do or don't add up. We have already seen that Mr. Ryan is, if not a full-bore hypocrite about such things as the Obama stimulus, he's at least an opportunist. He's also shown that even if you dress up snake oil and sell it as a scientifically tested cure for everything from the common cold to the limp dingus, it's still snake oil.

The blame for the Republicans running a con man for VP isn't really with the party or the candidate; they've been doing that for years. The blame is that the voters have let them get away with it. You would think that after Spiro Agnew and Dick Cheney we would have learned our lesson. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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