Saturday, October 13, 2012

For the love of baseball: Moneyball, Billy Beane's Oakland A's, and Scott Hatteberg's home run for 20 in a row

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With the American League Championship Series starting tonight in the Bronx with the Tigers (Mustang Bobby's team) facing the Yankees (Carl's team, as well as our old friend Creature's), I thought it would be appropriate to put up a couple of baseball clips instead of a usual Saturday night music post.

And, even if the A's are unfortunately no longer in the playoff (yes, I was rooting for them to beat the Tigers), I immediately tought of Moneyball, a movie that I like more and more the more I see it.

I was very critical at first, mostly because it doesn't exactly tell the full story (specifically that the A's of that year (2002) weren't exactly a collection of outcasts handpicked from the rubbish bin by Billy Beane but rather a contender full of great players even after the loss of Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon), with perhaps the best starting three in the majors (Hudson, Mulder, Zito -- with Zito winning the AL Cy Young with a 23-5 record -- as well as future all-star Ted Lilly) and perhaps the best left side of infield as well (Chavez, Tejada), along with a solid bullpen and some solid everyday players (Justice, Dye). All that is downplayed, if not totally ignored, in the movie, making it seem as if Beane had turned a pile of misfits into a playoff team that set the AL record for most wins in a row with 20.

That's still a huge weakness, and I can't ignore it entirely, but the movie is nonetheless really good, and mostly because it's that very rare thing: a smart movie about sports. And it helps that the performances are all really good, particularly Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, who make you care not just about what the A's are doing but about the two characters themselves. And, amazingly, it's a movie that stands up well to, and even improves from, multiple viewings. Hard to believe, given my first impressions.

Anyway, the most dramatic baseball moment in the movie is when pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg hits the game-winning home run to seal Oakland's 20th straight win. Here's a great clip that combines footage from the movie with footage of the actual home run:

And here's a lovely scene from the movie -- Casey Beane (Kerris Dorsey) singing "The Show" (in the movie, a song she writes herself) to her dad Billy (Pitt):

And here's the wonderful final scene, with Beane listening to the song in his truck -- and, we are led to believe, deciding to turn down a huge offer from the Red Sox and stay in Oakland, near his daughter:

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Sunday panel guests for Oct. 14, 2012

David Axelrod

Meet the Press: Bob McDonnell, Kasim Reed, Jennifer Granholm, Alex Castellanos, Tom Brokaw, Stephen Colbert

Face the Nation: Lindsey Graham, Darrell Issa, Elijah Cummings, Bay Buchanan, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Frank Luntz, David Corn, John Dickerson

This Week: Rob Portman, Beau Biden, Newt Gingrich, Chris Dodd, Martha Raddatz, Richard Norton Smith, George Will, Donna Brazile

Fox News Sunday: David Axelrod, Ed Gillespie, Brit Hume, Bob Woodward, Laura Ingraham, Jeff Zeleny

State of the Union: Robert Gibbs, Ed Gillespie, Robert Wexler, Al Cardenas, Bill Burton, Grover Norquist, Susan Page, Jim Acosta

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President Obama's weekly address - the auto sector recovery

By Richard K. Barry

Let's give credit where credit is due, and President Obama deserves credit for having the courage to save the auto industry. Here's his weekly address talking about it and what it means for America. This is what leadership looks like.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Laugh about it, shout about it -- VP edition

By Mustang Bobby

That gusty sound you heard across the country last night was the sound of millions of Democrats and progressives letting out a huge sigh of relief after the vice presidential debate.

This was the debate that the Obama campaign should have had last week in Denver between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Per The New York Times:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Representative Paul D. Ryan fiercely quarreled at the vice-presidential debate here on Thursday night, with Mr. Biden using the cutting attack lines against the Republican ticket that Mr. Obama did not and Mr. Ryan delivering a spirited case for conservative policies that Mr. Romney had soft-pedaled.

The 90-minute debate, which unfolded in rapid tempo, offered a spirited airing of the sharp contrasts over the administration’s handling of the terrorist attack in Libya, the pace of the economic recovery at home and the role of government in addressing the nation's fiscal burdens.

The straight news sources are trying to make it sound like it was an even match with phrases like "Ryan held his own," etc., but if you were watching the body language, you could see it was obvious that Mr. Ryan was uncomfortable, irritated, and at times floundering for an answer. And when he came up with one, it was often a boilerplate campaign talking point, even if it was strangely out of context or had just been called a lie — oops, I mean "malarkey." It was impressive to see how many ways Joe Biden was able to call Mr. Ryan and the Romney campaign liars without actually using the word.

This was a real debate, and kudos to moderator Martha Raddatz for asking tough questions and controlling the floor, not letting either man get away with stock answers and following up. It was not a complete shut-out for Mr. Biden; Mr. Ryan got in a few hits, but it was pretty lopsided. Even when Mr. Ryan was able to get off his "zingers," Mr. Biden was either ready with one of his own or laughed it off. And when he got back one of his own, it didn't sound rehearsed.  He was clearly enjoying it, far more than Mr. Ryan.

Based on the GOP reaction, they know that at the very least Mr. Biden stopped the bleeding and may have gained ground; a lot of them are having "lookit the kitty" moments by knocking Mr. Biden's smiling and laughing. They know they lost a lot of points on the substance and the fact that Mr. Ryan was never able to give specifics about his tax cuts, Medicare, and Social Security. Even Ms. Raddatz called him out on that. So expect a lot of snark from the right wing about Mr. Biden's "manic" and "angry" performance. That means they know they have very little more to go on.

The abortion question was a delicate one, given that you had two men taking on a woman's right to control her own body, wrapped up in religious freedom and the Catholic Church. Mr. Biden gave by far the clearer answer, making it about the right of one faith to impose their will and influence on people of different faiths or no faith at all. And when the crunch was on, Mr. Ryan came out with what many people consider to be a "moderate" answer on abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. That's going to raise a few hackles with the Todd Akin hardcore baby Jesus base.

If we can get the same kind of sure-footed and spirited performance out of Barack Obama during the next two debates, knowing that Mitt Romney does not take well to being thrown off message — "The program has encountered an error and needs to close" — then the Obama campaign will be back on track.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. Politics

(Newsday): "Mitt Romney and Barack Obama focus on presidential debate preparations"

(Huffington Post): "Vice presidential debate ratings: 51.4 million viewers tune in"

(Washington Post): "Romney tries to bury Obama in ads"

(The Hill): "Race tightens for swing states"

(Wall Street Journal): "VP debate renews focus on Libya"

Other News

(Reuters): "Turkey condemns UN inertia as Syrian conflict deepens"

(Sydney Morning Herald): "Violent clashes return to Cairo"

(Bloomberg): "China exports exceed estimates, easing concern over slump risk"

(ABC News): "No-quit Cards come back and beat Nats 9-7 in Game 5


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Friday, October 12, 2012

Give 'em hell, Joe

By Richard K. Barry

(Ed. note: Here's a great clip that captures some of Biden's responses to Ryan's incessant lying. What else are you supposed to do when you're confronted with a geyser of bullshit? Instead of obsessing about style, maybe the thin-skinned Beltway pundits who seem so very hurt by Biden's refusal to let Ryan get away with it should focus on substance for a change. -- MJWS)

It's been fun reading and listening to the reaction to the VP debate last night. Right-wingers are trying to tell us Biden was rude for having the audacity to challenge the usual hogwash that comes out of the Romney-Ryan campaign. Democrats are simply happy for the fact that someone has finally called these guys out on the silly and unsupportable platitudes they've been spouting.

But here's the main point about last night. Obama's campaign team is full of smart people and they knew that Biden's goal had to be to put Ryan off his game. They couldn't allow Ryan to appear to hold a graduate seminar on right-wing economic policy. They couldn't allow Ryan to present himself, as the GOP has tried so hard to do, as a serious thinker with all the answers.

The substance of the debate was almost secondary, as long as voters understood that no one should be allowed to say things that aren't true without being challenged.

Not a few pundits, even some so-called independent journalists, thought Biden was clownish and disrespectful and would be seen as such by voters. They are wrong. In real life, when people know they are being sold a bill of goods, they don't wait until the sales pitch is over to squawk. They react as soon as they understand what is going on.

When Ryan began the same old lying pitch we have been hearing from this ticket, Joe Biden threw up his hands, rolled his eyes, shook his head, and even called it malarkey.

Good for him. You don't owe a thief the courtesy of letting him rob you blind before you object. Any voter still willing to be persuaded will get that.

Good for Joe. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Behind the Ad: Romney wrong on women's health

By Richard K. Barry

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

Who: Planned Parenthood.

Where: Colorado and Virginia.

What's going on: Despite the fact that Mitt Romney is trying to have it both ways on reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood wants voters to know they're not buying it.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Obama on Romney: severely kidding

By Mustang Bobby

President Obama was here in my neighborhood yesterday afternoon:

More of this, please.

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New poll: Warren opens up a lead in Massachusetts

Public Policy Polling (PPP) has a new survey out showing Elizabeth Warren (D) leading Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts by six points, 50% to 44%.

According to PPP:

The big change over the last month is that Brown's image is finally starting to take a hit. His approval rating is now a +7 spread at 49/42, down a net 14 points from mid-September when he was at 55/34. There's an increasing sense that he's been more a partisan voice for the national Republican Party (45%) than an independent voice for Massachusetts (44%). That's a 10 point shift from our last poll when voters thought 49/40 that he'd been more of an independent voice.

The biggest thing that continues to make it very hard for Brown to win this race is that 52% of voters in the state want Democrats to have control of the US Senate to 35% who want the Republicans in control. Warren is now winning the Democratic vote 82/13, erasing most of the crossover support that Brown had earlier in the year.

As we know, nothing is over until it's over, but this is good news for Warren.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Reality show

By Capt. Fogg

Oh, who cares whether Ryan or Biden "won" this TV spectacle? Vice presidents don't count, unless you think about Cheney, and although Romney is a sock puppet with the strong arm of the radical authoritarians making his lips move, I don't see him being led around by Ryan as another Darth Cheney. Who cares anyway? It's not as though the public has become smarter or has learned from experience. These things are only a game and never, ever does a president resemble in office what he tried to resemble on camera and the platform they sell at the convention is rarely more than a facade.  There's a difference between dealing with the world as it is and dealing with the tableaux, the passion plays, the street theater, the Potemkin Village we take for reality.

So CNN says his supporters think Ryan expressed himself better. I don't know. I have better things to do with my time, but assuming he did, does anyone think that getting the angry rabble to cheer is the indicator of suitability to administrate a democracy -- even a pretend democracy like ours? Obama's haters were quick to syllogize at us in 2008 that he gave good speeches and Hitler gave good speeches, and therefore Obama is another Hitler. Who cares what such people think?

So the Romney-Ryan thing gives rousing speeches, albeit captious and dishonest ones. So the real truth is not quite as rousing, easily summed up to the satisfaction of one's enemies, or blamed on "libtards." Who gives a shit?

I had a conversation with someone last night. An engineer, a very nice guy, a very devout Baptist and fellow radio amateur about the peculiar state of the ionosphere. We're supposed to be near a sunspot peak and yet HF propagation is generally poor, without the summer openings on 10 and 6 meters we've waited years for. I joked about writing my congressman. He quipped about killing all the lawyers because, as he said, "they'll only blame it on global warming and George Bush." He wasn't smiling.

So easily is scientific consensus and massive data dismissed and so easily the destruction of the U.S. economy according to the 30-year experiment with trickle down, debt-doesn't-matter and wars-pay-for-themselves-when-we-cut-taxes agenda as given us by the Republicans. Truth doesn't matter, so how can these "debates" mean anything?

Really -- why should I listen to these things? I already know who has built a three-ring circus around  the argumentum ad captandum argument, learned to enrage the public with lies and profit from the rage they ignited. No, I'm not going to tell you that Romney will exterminate minorities or that Ryan is a Nazi who wants to put Grandma in a camp, but the people who pull their strings have perfected the same rhetoric, the technique and the ability to harness tribal enmity, bigotry, superstition, and self-pity.  They know how to make you passionately believe things that are self-contradictory, follow policies that always and dramatically fail and they know how to get their way. So sure, Romney won and Ryan won, or not, and whether or not they're elected, George W. Bush and global warming have sealed our fate, or at least made it unlikely that anything will ever be the same. 

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Think about it: What happens if Obama loses

By Mustang Bobby

I was going to tote up a list of what’s at stake in this election, but I see that John Cole over at Balloon Juice beat me to it:


If Obama loses, we will be at war with Iran.

If Obama loses, the Republicans will lower taxes on the rich and continue to shift the burden to the middle class and poor, to the tune of 5 trillion dollars. That's a fact, despite Romney lying about it in the debate. Because, you know, job creation. Just like we created NO jobs during the Bush years despite the massive tax cuts and turning a surplus into a massive deficit.

If Obama loses, the assault on women's rights will continue.

If Obama loses, the EPA will be gutted.

If Obama loses, more corporate leaning and national security fanatics (all probably belonging to Opus Dei, as GOD WANTS IT) will be appointed to the Supreme Court and Roe will be struck down.

If Obama loses, we will spend 2 trillion more on defense, above and beyond what the Pentagon wants.

If Obama loses, Obamacare will be gutted. But in the worst way possible. They'll get rid of the mandate, but keep all the things that will drive costs up.

If Obama loses, Medicare and Medicaid will be gutted. Medicare will go from the safety net it is for seniors into a target rich environment for insurance fraud, with elderly patients given a pittance in vouchers to get rogered by the free market.


If Obama loses, gay rights will be set back decades.

If Obama loses, the New Deal will, for all intents and purposes, be repealed. We will be back to the days of the roaring 20's. You know, right before the crash.

If Obama loses, Dodd/Frank will be history, and our Galtian overlords on Wall Street rule again (not that that ever really stopped, mind you), and all of your pensions, all of your local municipal investments, etc., will be raided and shipped overseas to Cayman accounts. Right next to Mitt's foreign bank accounts.

If Obama loses, hundreds of billions of dollars in tax dodging money will be "repatriated" so it can be used to copy the Bain model and continue to bankrupt our businesses and send jobs overseas.

If Obama loses, the FDA will be gutted. But don't worry - the market will correct!

In short, if Obama loses and RMoney wins, it will be an all out disaster for this country. Republicans like to quote the Road to Serfdom as a cautionary text, when they really do have a plan for the road to serfdom. For you and me.


On top of that dire forecast — and no, I don't think he's being alarmist at all — there is what could happen at the state and local levels if the Republicans get unfettered access. We've already seen it in Wisconsin and Michigan with their union-busting, and here in Florida with Gov. Rick Scott and his tea-stained agenda of voter purging and drug testing for welfare recipients... except the ones who get corporate welfare; they get another tax credit. Public education will be gutted in favor of the charter school scam, public health funding will be turned into a lottery and the voucher system won't begin to cover the needs of people with chronic illness or permanent disabilities. Let fifty Scott Walkers or Rick Scotts loose upon the land.

When John says that we'll return to those golden days of yesteryear like the Roaring '20s, I fear he's being too optimistic. It will be more like the 1910s and the age of the robber barons when James J. Hill, J.P. Morgan, and John Jacob Astor called the shots. The only difference between Mitt Romney and those vultures is that they kept their money in American banks.

Every candidate in every election says that this election is the most important one in the history of the world. Of course they'd say that; they have to justify their existence somehow. But this year, we have already seen what the Republicans and the conservative agenda can do with just a little bit of power and how they view the rest of the nation, including a good deal of their own among the 47%. There's no doubt whatsoever that they would carry out their mission if given half the chance, or manipulate the law and the process in order to get their way. It's not speculation, it's history.

So think about it. Is that what you want? Think about it the next time you hear someone who claims they voted for Obama the last time but now they're "disappointed" because he didn't change the goddam world overnight or put a unicorn in your back yard. Think about it the next time you hear some privileged rich guy closing down his company in Ohio and sending the jobs to China while he complains about his terrible tax burden. Think about it when you see a state enshrine gay-bashing into its constitution because a bunch of sex-obsessed freaks turned their mythology into law.

Now stop thinking about it and do something.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Nobody asked me, but...

By Carl 

(Note to The Reaction readers: this is a weekly feature at my own blog, Simply Left Behind, where I whip through stories you might have missed this week. I thought I'd share today, given last night's events.) 

1) Just in case you missed it, IMMORTALITY!

2) I loved Joe Biden's deconstruction of Paul Ryan last night, particularly when he all but called Grover Norquist a traitor to America:

And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we're going to level the playing field; we're going to give you a fair shot again; we are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street, making sure that we continue to hemorrhage these tax cuts for the super wealthy.

Subtext? A pledge to Norquist trumps the Pledge of Allegiance. Beatifully done.

3) About all Paul Ryan had to do was to rip his shirt off and start flexing, if he wanted to come off anymore immature and shallow.

4) Your word of the day: Malarkey. When a politician wants to say "bullshit" but the cameras are rolling.

5) If I had been Biden, I would have argued even more forcefully, particularly on tax cuts. For instance, during the Bush years, taxes on the wealthy were at the lowest they've been since Hoover, yet Bush only managed to create 2.3 million new jobs, a figure Obama eclipsed inside of 18 months by passing middle class tax relief (the Social Security suspension), and when "Jack" Kennedy -- something else I would have called Ryan on -- lowered tax rates, the highest marginal rate was 70%, not 38%.

But you'll also note that America's greatest achievements came before Kennedy did that: the interstate highway system, Social Security, rural electrification, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the GI Bill, the Marshall Plan, leaps ahead in public education that benefitted Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. All of these came about when marginal rates topped out at 90%.

Let me say that again. They occured with taxes reaching as high as 90%. And even under Kennedy, the space program was developed and the moon landed on when taxes were 50%.

America will never lead the world the way it did post-World War II until we recreate those conditions.

6) Just how desperate are our times? The European Union, as a whole, won the Nobel Peace Prize today. 

7) Mitt Romney's timing is impeccably awful, yet again. Even before he shifts focus to China artificially manipulating the yuan to hurt America, the yuan skyrockets on currency markets, improving our economic outlook and bringing more jobs back to America.

8) Note to my L.A. readers: that is not E.T. on Crenshaw.

9) More evidence that water existed on Mars came yesterday. 

10) Finally, apparently you can buy too much toilet paper in New Jersey. Better alert Gov. Christie. I think his quota may be past.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Mitt Romney: In touch as he ever was with the 47 percent

By Richard K. Barry

Well, Mitt Romney is at it again, proving how in-touch he is with the little guy. This time he told The Columbus Dispatch that people without health insurance don't have to worry about dying as a result. I guess what Romney meant is that no one he cares about has ever met such a ghastly fate. Isn't that right, lovey?

In fact, as Political Wire notes, "Reuters reported earlier in the year that more than 26,000 working-age adults die prematurely in the United States each year because they lack health insurance."

Do we have to make the obvious point that these 26,000 individuals are a part of the 47 percent about whom Romney is so unconcerned. Obvious or not, it is the point.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Reaction to last night's debate

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We'll have a lot more reaction to last night's vice-presidential debate today and in the days to come, but if you missed them make sure to check out our three posts from last night:

-- pre-debate;
-- mid-debate; and
-- post-debate.

Richard and I, along with contributors Frank Moraes and tmcbpatriot, provided extensive commentary throughout the evening.

Quick consensus take: In what was entertaining, interesting, and even edifying theater, Vice President Biden did really, really well and won the debate decisively, even if some in the media are trying to make it all about style and so about Biden's body language (smiling, laughing, and using a variety of facial expressions in response to Congressman Ryan's bullshit), effectively articulating the Obama administration's record and positioning on a range of domestic and foreign issues and exposing not just Ryan's dishonesty and far-right ideology but his ignorance and inexperience as well.

Ryan didn't do anything terribly damaging, perhaps, and obviously a lot of what he said played well to the Republican base, notably his anti-abortion extremism, but it was Biden who came in and got the job done, picking up for Obama's poor performance last week, energizing Democrats (many of whom have been pretty down), and reaching out to the middle class.

That's more than good enough for me.

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. News

(New York Times): "Biden and Ryan quarrel aggressively in debate, offering contrasts"

(Washington Post): "Biden, Ryan trade sharp words in debate on foreign policy, economics"

(Politico): "Biden goes after Ryan in lone VP debate"

(Wall Street Journal): "Sharp jabs dominate combative vice-presidential debate"

(Politico): "Sarah Palin: Martha Raddatz let Joe Biden run wild"

Other News

(Reuters): "EU wins Nobel Peace Prize"

(Reuters): "Meningitis outbreak widens amid demands for criminal probe"

(Bloomberg): "JPMorgan beats profit estimates on mortgage, trading revenues"

(Washington Post): "Werth's homer in 9th lifts Nationals"


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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Post-blogging: Thoughts after the 2012 vice-presidential debate

By Michael J.W. Stickings and Richard K. Barry, with tmcbpatriot and Frank Moraes

(Image from New York's Daily Intel blog -- check out the great zingers.)

Also see our pre-debate and mid-debate posts from earlier.


First, the Steelers suck. Down 16-13 to one of the worst teams in football, with 3:24 left in the third? Pathetic. Embarrassing. I'm this close, this close, to being done with them this year.

Second, Biden won.

And, it would appear, that's the general consensus. He was feisty, forceful, and clear, showing the sort of experience and determination that one has come to expect from him but that was all the more stark with an extremist neophyte sitting next to him as his challenger.

Particularly on foreign policy, he was strong and wise, contrasting Ryan's combination of vagueness and propagandizing. Ryan kept insisting on these differences yet admitted that on the key issues there is no disagreement with what Obama is doing, whether it's Iran or Syria or Afghanistan, and Biden effectively pointed that out. And where Ryan did disagree, he revealed his abject ignorance, as with respect to the handover to Afghan troops.

And on domestic policy as well, it was refreshing to see Biden pushing back against Ryan's right-wing ideology wrapped up in a package with a nice little bow, noting repeatedly that the facts say otherwise and the numbers don't add up. And when Ryan was lying, it was similarly refreshing to see Biden say enough is enough. 

I'd say Biden's one weakness was his closing statement, where he should have spoken into the camera and directly addressed Ryan's accusation that Obama hasn't done anything. Saving GM? Ordering the mission that killed Osama bin Laden? Providing access to affordable health care to tens of millions of Americans? How about that?

But a lot of the talk is about style, about mannerisms, and specifically about Biden's laughing. As I pointed out in our mid-debate post, that was worrying me. But in the end I think he was able to show just how relentlessly Ryan was a) lying and/or b) expressing far-right positions. There were times when it looked like the smiles could turn into smirks, but he held himself back. And, really, the fact that Republicans are focusing on Biden's smiling and laughing as somehow inappropriate is all the evidence we need that Biden won, and won decisively.

(Okay, the Steelers just scored a TD and are now winning 20-16. But I have no confidence the D can hold. The Steel Curtain is no more. Alas... And, guess what, they're not stopping the Titans. Blah.)

Terrible questions about faith/abortion and unique personal character, by the way. But otherwise it was an outstanding debate overall. (Moderator Martha Raddatz was significantly better than Jim Lehrer despite those last couple of questions and some Republican-oriented phrasing throughout, and she did well to keep the debate moving along while allowing the two candidates to interact in a meaningful way.)

Update: Way too much focus among the pundits on style, but what else is new? It's like they can't see past the body language to address the substance of what the two men said. Which is particularly disappointing in this case given that, again, it was actually a really good debate.

What still strikes me more than anything else, though, aside from Biden's overall strong showing, is just how unprepared and unqualified so obviously is for the vice presidency (let alone the top job). He was way out of his element on foreign policy and started cracking the moment his right-wing budget was challenged, just as he has in recent interviews. It's easy to see how he's such a whippersnapping Republican wunderkind, but beyond the talking points there's just not that much there, and all those talking points amount to is cover for his, and his party's, real agenda of slashing tax rates for the rich and otherwise turning the country completely over to individual and corporate plutocrats at the expense of everyone else.

Anyway, the debate was much better than the Steelers game, which was a disaster. (Is it too early to say it's a lost season and that they'd do better to suck the rest of the way and get higher draft picks?)

But Biden's win was more than enough to make up for it. Sorry, CNN, but it wasn't a draw. Ryan didn't do anything terribly damaging, other than revealing his own ignorance and inexperience, and obviously a lot of what he said played well to the GOP base, notably his anti-abortion extremism, but it was Biden who came in and got the job done, picking up for Obama's poor performance last week, energizing Democrats (many of whom have been pretty down), and reaching out to the middle class. That's more than good enough for me.

(And apparently undecided voters give Biden the win, too. By a lot.) 


I'm very comfortable with Biden's performance. Not sure how the media will see it. In terms of score, they might call a tie. I think it will help to stabilize the Obama campaign somewhat.

Biden's closing could have been stronger, but Ryan speaks in cliches. Anyway, I'm feeling good.

Frank Moraes:

I don't know how this debate is going to be perceived by the Villagers. To me, Biden came off as knowledgeable and wise; Ryan came off as a kid. Here are just some notes since I have to go:

Great Biden line, "These people are my mom and dad... instead of signing pledges with Grover Norquist they should sign a pledge to the American people."

Biden talking directly into the TV to seniors. Very effective.

I've lost my breath. Biden says, "Their ideas are old and their ideas are bad."

Biden explains why vouchers won't keep pace: because that's the only way they save money. Brilliant!

Ryan: "We aren't going to end Medicare." Biden: "You are!" Too bad we didn't get this from Obama.

First part on foreign affairs, Biden did okay but didn't totally dominate. On Afghanistan, he is killing Ryan. You know Ryan is in trouble when he repeats "unraveling" talking point. Ryan just looks ignorant about Afghanistan.

Biden says Romney complains about foreign policy but when pushed would do the same thing as Obama. And when Ryan gets pushed for specifics and he demonstrates this by saying, "Our red line is the same!"

Ryan's "Bean" story died because it is so obviously canned.

"Mitt Romney and I want to earn your support." That's why we won't tell you our plans.

Biden has the human touch. Ryan does not.

I don't think this debate will move much. But it should make Democrats feel a lot better. I know I do!


Well... That. Was. Awesome! 

Most memorable line: "Now you're Jack Kennedy!" Biden gave the performance of a lifetime.

Before the pundits shape my answer, here goes: Biden is a smart man, around for decades who knows what is going on. He definitely had Ryan on the defensive all night. One pundit actually said it well. He said Ryan spent the night defending Romney while Biden defended Mom and Dad. That really nails it. He was ready and was not about to back down. Sure he had to build Obama back up after last week, but this is what he would have done regardless. He had Ryan right where he wanted him and had every opportunity to nail him and did with aplomb. He got Ryan on stimulus hypocrisy, on the 47% finally, and on foreign policy. It is hilarious, though. Last week Romney's interruptions and smirking was seen as agressive. Joe is already being called possible rude and snarky. Interesting. Liberal media my ass. 

Okay, the "undecideds" just gave it to Biden. Normally I do not want to hear from these no-nothing morons, but tonight they get a pass. Who is undecided at this point? I ask you. 


I am sure Biden won this thing. We will hear some great sound bites in the coming week. Obama now has no choice but to come out and do what Biden did tonight or lose. He needs to put Romney on the defensive all night. We'll see. The moderator did a fine job, though. Charlie Rose on right now. I am afraid to watch. Al Hunt from Bloomberg is smooching Ryan's ass and reminding everyone how poorly Obama did last week. Rich Lowry says Biden was off-putting, obnoxious, and rude. Mark Halperin from Time is basically agreeing with Lowry. The media is going with Biden being rude and his "ticks," whatever the fuck that means. John Heilemann from NY magazine says Republicans will be happy with Ryan's performance. The whole talk is how those moron undecideds will react. Why do we care about people who still have not made up their minds? These people should not be allowed to vote with three weeks left. 

Oh boy, now its Chuck Todd. He is counting how many times each man said the other man's running mate's name. At least he and everyone is saying that Biden ran the table. Gwen Ifill, surely pissed that she was snubbed this year, is talking about tone. It is absolutely amazing how these supposed professional pundits and journalists talk about what we all just saw with such little substance. It is disgusting.


I am annoyed that Biden did not bring up Ayn Rand tonight. I really thought it would happen. But I will take what I can get nevertheless. Nobody on TV talks about the issues at all. The pundits are still taking about Obama's performance and where he will be next week. Will he bring it, etc. No talk of the actual issues and Romney's lies. All they talk about is style and no substance. Sickening.

Next week, according to these pundits, Obama can read a menu next week so long as he says it forcibly and aggressively.

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Mid-blogging: Thoughts during the 2012 vice-presidential debate

By Michael J.W. Stickings and Richard K. Barry, with Frank Moraes

Stay tuned for our post-debate post, coming up later!



Biden's doing well calling out Ryan on his dishonesty and bullshitting. I worry, though, that the split screen is hurting him. His laughing while Ryan is speaking may be a bit much. I get why he's doing it, but he needs to keep it under control. And while interrupted is fine, again, he needs to do it strategically and only to make key points.

I'd say that the foreign policy part was a wash. Ryan was spouting the usual propaganda, but Biden wasn't entirely effective at addressing it. And the problem with foreign policy is that simplistic points like Ryan's tend to go over well, while nuance -- dealing with reality, as Biden stressed -- falls flat.

But Biden is really doing well on the economy, picking apart the Romney-Ryan plan and addressing voters directly. But he needs to point out more directly that Ryan is talking utter fantasy and show just how Ryan's plan is the imposition of right-wing ideology.

Great point from Biden that Ryan asked for stimulus money.

And Ryan's actually defending his "math"? Wow. An opening for Biden... and he's getting stronger. Can he keep it up?

Frank Moraes:

Biden looks surprisingly good. He has made the decision to go after Romney rather than Ryan. This is very good. However, many lies are getting past. In particular, Ryan's multiple implications that Obama "apologized for America." How? This is not true but hasn't been called. Biden finally landed a major punch noting that the "You didn't meet with Benjamin Netanyahu" line is total bullshit. Now on domestic issues Biden is really taking off.

Also: the split screen is working much better for Biden than it was for Obama.


I think Joe is schooling the young man thus far. He is engaged and good on the facts. The most important thing Biden is doing is fighting. I like the way he is interrupting Ryan. It's working for me. I like the split screen for the way Biden is smiling and shaking his head at Ryan's nonsense. It really doesn't matter what the arguments are as long as Biden's energy is up.

As I wrote earlier, Biden's tone is very real. He knows how to talk to voters.

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Pre-blogging: Thoughts before the 2012 vice-presidential debate

By Michael J.W. Stickings and Richard K. Barry, with tmcbpatriot and Frank Moraes

Stay tuned for our mid- and post-debate posts, coming up later!


We thought about live-blogging the Biden-Ryan vice-presidential debate tonight, like we did last week's first presidential debate, but then thought better of it.

Mainly because it's hard to live-blog and also pay close attention to the debate. You just miss too much, and you end up staring at the computer screen and thinking of what to write about what you just heard instead of watching the debate itself, picking up body language, and following the theater that are these debates, including what is being said. And, as was the case last week, that's especially tricky when you're pulling in comments from several different people, all coming in via e-mail, as I was doing.

Interesting note: In retrospect, I think that's why I thought Obama did better than most other people did. I was listening more than watching, and what I was picking up mostly was Romney's lies. It's not that I was particularly happy with Obama's flat, detached comments, and throughout the debate I was urging him on, almost begging him to be more focused and aggressive both in responding to Romney's lies and in articulating his own positions, but the differences in body language weren't as obvious to me given that I was listening and writing. It was only later, watching clips, that I saw just how lousy the president's performance was in contrast to the more aggressive, and often bullying, Romney.

Anyway, none of that tonight.

I'd also mention that there's a Steelers game on tonight, and I'm going to watch as much of that as I can without missing the debate. Honestly, I'm not sure what would be worse, a Steelers loss or a Biden loss.

Okay, not honestly. Obviously a Biden loss would be much, much worse. I've already resigned myself to a forgettable season from this mediocre incarnation of my beloved Steelers, while a Biden loss -- at least a convincing one -- would be disastrous for Obama.

Suffice it to say that the combination of a Steelers loss (to the lowly Titans, possible given that they tend to play down to the competition) and a Biden loss would make me want to curl up into the fetal position with a bottle of Bourbon and listen to some Adele. I'm not sure I'd be able to function, and I'd be a wreck tomorrow and through the weekend at the very least.

But I digress...

What we're going to do tonight is put up three posts -- pre-, mid-, and post-debate -- with comments from all four of us and perhaps other of our contributors as well.

Why mid? Because I have a fantastic idea. I think these debates, like football games, should be made up of two halves separated by a 15-minute halftime. This would allow the candidates to go back to their respective "locker rooms" and regroup. Imagine what would have happened last week. Obama, off to a wretched start, would have gone back to find Axelrod, Plouffe, Cutter, and the rest of his team waiting to rip into him. Okay, okay, I'm not sure you ever "rip into" the president, but at least they could have given him a rhetorical kick in the ass: "Uh, Mr. President? What the fucking fuck? Seriously! Wake the fuck up!"

The media would love this idea, as the pundits would have those 15 minutes to spew their "in-game" analysis, just like the guys on CBS, FOX, and NBC do every Sunday, or the NFL Network guys on Thursdays, or the ESPN guys on Mondays. There could even be halftime entertainment. Tonight? Ron Paul enthusiast Kelly Clarkson! Or whatever.

There's no way this isn't a good idea. We need to make this happen.

As for my pre-debate thoughts...

I'm worried. Worried that Ryan will be his usual smarmy lying self while Biden comes across as just a bit too nuts for his own good. Worried that the media will again refuse to talk substance and instead award the debate to Ryan for standing tall against the more experienced Biden and for being such a brilliant ideas man (the same way the media still give Newt Gingrich a free pass for supposedly being an intellectual). Worried that even just a steady performance by Ryan will reinforce the narrative that Romney might just be presidential material.

As Jon Chait wrote:

Liberals are excited to see Joe Biden tear after Paul Ryan, and Republicans are expressing trepidation, but the prospect that Biden will tear apart Ryan’s math is almost a pure fantasy. Ryan is not a good budget wonk — witness his 2010 exchange with Ezra Klein when he simply abandoned all his nonsensical talking points and conceded everything.

But you can’t expose your opponent's misleading budget numbers to win a presidential debate any more than you can expose your opponent's misleading budget numbers to win a swimsuit competition. The audience has no concept of the underlying facts. The audience will only be able to grasp the atmospherics of the debate. And Paul Ryan is a world-class bluffer. He will spout figures with winsome authority, and Biden will come off as an angry old man.

At the same time, whatever his reputation as a gaffe-prone liability, I think Biden's really good at these things -- debates and speeches alike. He was excellent four years ago against Palin and excellent at last month's Democratic convention. And as New York's John Heilemann reports, drawing on an interview with the vice president from August, he appears well-prepared to take on Ryan tonight:

Much has changed in the race since Biden laid all this out to me, to be sure. But there are several clear takeaways that have been reinforced by reporting (by others and by myself) about the VP's game plan. First, he plans to be aggressive. Second, he plans to be substantive and data-driven. Third, he plans to draw out the clear ideological contrasts between the Democratic and Republican tickets. And fourth, he plans to perform with one thing paramount in his mind: that he isn't debating solely (or even mainly) as Joe Biden qua Joe Biden, but as a proxy for the president.

All through his career, Biden has had one huge advantage in every debate he's ever engaged in: being systematically underestimated by the press and his opponents...

We shall see, and we'll be back at "halftime" -- around 9:45 -- with some in-debate thoughts on how it's all going.

As for the Steelers... well, they'd better win this one if they have any hope of having a decent season.

Okay, now my colleagues:


I really don't have a lot to say going into tonight's vice-presidential debate. I think Joe Biden will do fine. I'm somewhat amazed the right-wing has been at all successful in suggesting Joe is some kind of fool who is likely to say any silly thing. Closer to the truth is that he is an experienced politician who understands the average American voter better than any of the other main characters in this year's election epic, including President Obama. Biden understands things the way most American do and expresses them in ways they can understand and relate to. Though I am no fan of Ronald Reagan, this was his strength as well, and it was easy to call him a fool back in the day. Much as I disliked Reagan's politics, I can't deny many people liked him because he at least seemed to be one of them. I suspect Joe Biden's considerable political success is owning to this, at least in part.

Biden has also been around politics a long time and understands the issues. He will not get caught short on substance.

As for Paul Ryan, I never understood all the adulation from those who consider him a courageous, big thinker -- the intellectual leader of the current variant of conservatism. He's nothing but your old fashioned small government Republican. If social Darwinism is the big idea Ryan is peddling, he can have it. We have been there. We don't want to go back.

The issue tonight may be the extent to which Ryan pivots, as Romney did, away from radical conservatism. If he does, it will be an amazing performance. After all, Romney is a pretend conservative, always willing to say whatever it takes, while Ryan is the real thing right down to his Ayn Rand collector series underwear. If he starts moving towards the centre, the world might just stop turning on its axis.

Without necessarily calling Ryan a liar, Joe Biden will have to find a way to do the same in a way far more direct than Obama felt prudent. He has to made to look foolish for not  being able to explain how their budget numbers work, or how his Voucher Care program would not be a disaster for Americans.

More than anything, Biden will need to be tough and engaged. I think he can do that.


Here we go. Another debate. Of course, based on last week's fiasco, I am counting on Joltin' Joe to stick a fork in Ryan. If he is smart, which I know he is, he will not allow Ryan to lie like Romney did, but will hold Ryan accountable for his responses and, if need be, give him all the time he needs to explain his "math" to the nation. If Ryan says "It will take too long to explain" their tax cuts or how he and Romney will lower the deficit, Biden must simply cede his time to the gentleman from Wisconsin and allow him to hang himself. 

Paul Ryan is no Sarah Palin. I imagine he is expecting a fight from Joe. I hope that is what we will see. I don't want to get my hopes up though, as I thought Obama was going to win the first debate. But I think Joe has had nothing but time to prepare for this and will be quite ready to take on whatever Ryan tries to throw at him. Joe is no dummy. He is experienced, smart, funny, dramatic and aware of the stakes. I am sad to say it, but all of that plays great on TV. Let's face reality. 

Nevertheless, the Vice President truly has the opportunity of his lifetime to show the nation who he really is. I don't think this is lost on him. He also has an opportunity to call out Romney on all the things that Obama failed to call him on last week. Let's hope he does that too. Yes, the pressure is on and that seems to be when Joe is at his best. I am looking forward to a spirited debate. I am sure we will get it.

Frank Moraes:

My take on this debate is that it doesn't too much matter. The first presidential debate made reluctant Romney supporters comfortable with him. People who would have supported Romney but were ashamed to admit it came out of the debate confident enough to proclaim to pollsters, "I'm for Romney!" I think there is a corresponding group of Obama supporters who are waiting for an opportunity to proclaim their support for the President. (I don't think they all came on board after the DNC.) The VP debate tonight is unlikely to change this fundamental dynamic.

There are three ways this could go. By far the most likely is that nothing will change. Slightly less likely is that Biden will do quite well. This will not make Romney supporters rethink their choices. Nor will it make people leaning toward Obama jump on the bandwagon. But it will no doubt stop the dirge liberals have been playing all week. The other possibility is that Ryan will destroy Biden. In this case, it might push the "undecideds" into being truly undecided. It could be bad.

As for me, I've been careful to hide the week-long version of "16 Tons" that's been going on in my brain. In fact, I've been a bit of a Pollyanna -- at least in public. But I will admit now that it has been a
hard week and now I want to see Biden destroy Ryan. In fact, what I'd really like to see is a fist fight. I know Ryan works out, but as any urban scrapper can tell you, "That don't mean a thing." It's all about attitude and being able to take a punch. And that's just as true of a debate. So I'm hopeful. Biden has one big advantage over Ryan: he really is from the working class. Ryan just pretends to be. And I expect to see that come through loud and clear tonight.

Of course, if after the debate everyone is talking about Ryan's working class cred, I will lapse into full Andrew Sullivan mode and I won't stop until the 6th of November.

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A vote for Romney is a vote against abortion rights

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Mitt may be playing to the center with his usual shameless pandering for votes, but everything about him, from his own stated views to his own party's platform to his selection of anti-choice extremist Paul Ryan as his running mate to his appointment of far-right Supreme Court justice, if elected, says that he'd work hard to overturn Roe v. Wade.

And it's telling that the anti-choice extremists who run the theocratic wing of the party, with theocracy rampant all throughout the party, aren't at all concerned about his recent remarks. Because either they know he's lying or they're confident they'd be able to control him in office and get their way. From TPM:

Anti-abortion groups are thoroughly convinced Mitt Romney is still one of them, despite his remarks Tuesday in Iowa that abortion would not be a part of his legislative agenda if elected.

"No alarm bells here," Tony Perkins, president of the anti-abortion Family Research Council, told TPM on Wednesday.

Perkins said the Romney campaign called him soon after Romney's remarks were published by the Des Moines Register and assured him it didn't represent a shift by Romney from his support for pro-life issues.


Other anti-abortion leaders on Wednesday chalked up Romney's remarks as yet another foot-in-mouth moment from the Republican presidential nominee or as simply a case of getting caught off guard punting on a topic he doesn't discuss much.

"This is clearly not a good moment on this issue [for Romney]. It's a hiccup," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, told TPM.

But none of the groups reached by TPM were alarmed by the remarks or treating them as a betrayal of their cause.

"We wouldn't have endorsed him if I didn't truly believe he’s truly pro-life and has that conviction," Dannenfelser added. 

Remember this when you vote. 


For more, see Andrew Rosenthal at the Times:

[On Tuesday], Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register: "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda."

It sounded like Mr. Romney was trying to distance himself from the anti-abortion position he took during the primaries, when he called himself "an avidly pro-life governor" and said Americans could "count on me, as president, to pursue a policy that protects the life of unborn." It sounded like yet another flip-flop.

Fortunately, the campaign came to the rescue. Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Mr. Romney, later told the National Review Online that "Governor Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life."

In other words, he would make "legislation with regards to abortion" part of his agenda. Perhaps Mr. Romney just meant he did not know of any specific bills that would restrict abortion. But he might want to check in with his running mate, Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," and helped introduced the term "forcible rape" into the national conversation.

Mr. Romney has said repeatedly that, given the opportunity, he would appoint a Supreme Court Justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade...

It's Romney vs. Romney again, the candidate contradicting himself over and over again. On abortion, though, he has repeatedly embraced right-wing Republican orthodoxy, and it's pretty clear that's what he'd push for if elected. Which is why the theocrats are fully behind him now.

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By Mustang Bobby

I am getting really tired of hearing about people like this:

The Catholic Church has been a leading force against marriage equality in all four state campaigns, and Archbishop John Nienstedt has been the fact of that opposition in Minnesota. He has repeatedly asked parishioners to vote and pray against marriage equality, arguing that such views "not prejudicial." Now a letter has surfaced he wrote in 2010 "to a mother who pleaded for acceptance for her gay child," in which he tells the woman she must reject her son according to Catholic teachings, or she might go to Hell as well.

I know that a number of people who read this blog, as well as my own, are faithful members of the Catholic Church and have invested a great deal of their lives to it, and yet they also support the idea of marriage equality as a fundamental human right. So my question to them is simple: how can you see this happening and not be angry and moved to change it? I just don't get it.

As you might expect, Chris Kluwe has some thoughts on the matter:

Millions of children grow up raised in the Catholic faith. Some of these children will be gay, through no choice of their own, but because of how God created them. What does it say to those children when the head of their religion in this state, a man who claims to "explain and defend the teaching of the Church because I have been ordained to do so and I believe those teachings with all my heart", a man acting under the direct auspices of the Pope himself, tells them that they can't be as worthy as everyone else, even though they believe in the teachings of Jesus? What will these children think, as they suffer the barbed insults of their classmates and teachers; I ask you, sir, what will these children think as they are belittled and tormented due to teachings you espouse? What judgment will be passed on your soul when yet another poor child reaches for the knife or the noose to end his or her earthly torment due to your example?

Do you presume to speak for God, Archbishop Nienstedt? Will you tell these children, faithful children who attend Sunday school and earnestly pray every day, that they are somehow lessened in God's eyes? Will you grasp that millstone, Archbishop Nienstedt, grasp it all the way to the bottom, clutching at the heavy weight of earthly power and influence even as it drags you down?


(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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