Friday, March 16, 2012

Clash of the Titans: What's going through Romney's mind?

Of all the photos I've seen from the Republican campaign trail, this is one of the best -- and funniest:

What makes it even funnier is the caption at Jon Chait's post today: "Clash of the Titans." When I saw that earlier, I broke out in laughter.

The photo captures the essence of the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

There's Santorum, though it could have been any of the anti-Romneys, whether Bachmann or Perry or Cain or Gingrich, no doubt saying something crazy and extremist, so much in earnest, especially so in Santorum's case, with Romney looking on with... with what? What is that look? And what was going through his mind?

-- "What the fuck? Why do you have to say crazy shit like that? Now I have to say even crazier shit just to prove my conservative bona fides. Thanks, Rick."

-- "What the fuck? Listen to this crazy shit. This guy's certifiably insane. How is it I'm not beating him by a mile? How is this happening?"

-- "What the fuck? This guy's making the whole Republican Party look bad. You're a sad, sad loser, Rick. Do you really believe the shit you're spewing?"

-- "What the fuck? What kind of crazy-ass party do I belong to? The base eats this crazy shit up. How the hell can I compete with this?"

-- "What the fuck? I'm rich. I have bank accounts in Switzerland and the Caymans.  I'm best buddies with some NFL owners. My wife drives two Cadillacs. Why do I have to deal with this shit? Can't they just give me the nomination? I deserve it. It's mine."

-- "What the fuck? Thankfully, I have gazillions of dollars to crush this guy with negative ads. I'll humor him, and stand here with this goofy-looking expression on my face until it's my turn."

Okay, so maybe fuck isn't a word that goes through Mitt's mind much. I have no idea. But that look... it's a combination of contempt, frustration, and... sadness... sadness and resignation? Is that really there? Or am I imagining it?

Whatever the case, it's Santorum who's connecting with the party faithful in a way that Romney isn't, and it's Romney, the frontrunner and likely nominee, who looks small, weak, and ineffectual.

Hilarious. And so very revealing.

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Progressive Music Classics: "Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time" by Gang of Four

Welcome to Progressive Music Classics, a series I run at my blog that I'm bringing to The Reaction.

The mighty post-punk band Gang of Four emerged from Leeds in the late 1970s. Their debut album, Entertainment! was a ferocious blast of raw anger and musical energy.

The band's bass player Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham formed a phenomenal rhythm section, laying down a Parliament-fueled funk groove, over which Andy Gill sliced and diced his guitar to create lethal shards of sound. On top of this combustible mix, the band sang about topics that ranged from Marxist theory to capitalist marketing to consumerism. In short, the band created a perfect soundtrack for a cold, heartless era in which multinational corporations took over the world.

Today, of course, things are much worse than they were 30 years ago. Three decades of eroding workers' rights and union-busting have impoverished many millions of workers around the world. And today's Top One Percent owns a much bigger share of national wealth than they did 30 years ago.

We could really use bands like Gang of Four today. But instead, we get dogshit like Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.

Although Entertainment! was Gang of Four's high-water mark, the band continued to make powerful music for years to come. Indeed, the band remains a going concern to this day (the excellent album, Content was released last year).

Solid Gold, Gang of Four's highly anticipated followup to Entertainment! was released in 1981 and including the classic track, "Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time" (featured in the above video). A scorching track with a driving groove, this is a song that comes to mind every time I think of a misogynist bigot like Rush Limbaugh.

A lyric that particularly comes to mind is, "He wants his wife to run -- and fetch."

It perfectly sums up the attitude of sexist bigots like Limbaugh, who want to put women "back in their place." Limbaugh has been railing against "uppity" African-Americans for years and now, with his "slut" comments, he taking aim at women, as well.

Clearly, people like Limbaugh feel threatened by a world in which the traditional power structure of Rich White Males is threatened by "others," including minorities and women. It's a scary new world for dinosaurs like Limbaugh and his followers. It's clearly a world in which, in their view: Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time.

Of course, the irony is that, for all of Limbaugh's fears and paranoia, the old Rich White Male power structure is still very much in place. And it's not going away any time soon.

Of course, Limbaugh's deluded listeners don't know that. And so, in drinking the Limbaugh Kool-Aid, they continue to direct their anger and fury at the wrong targets. Instead of blaming soulless, greedy multinational corporations like Halliburton (and their stooges in Congress) for their misery, the Limbaugh crowd take out their anger on African-Americans, women, immigrants, gays, and other scapegoats.

It's a win-win situation for Limbaugh and the rest of the fascists on talk radio. Not only does Limbaugh achieve his mission of distracting his deluded base from ever correctly identifying the cause of their woes, he also gets paid handsomely for his efforts.

Meanwhile, multinational corporations get to rape and pillage the world at their pleasure and they, along with the crooks on Wall Street, get to loot the U.S. Treasury and pocket hundreds of billions in corporate welfare.

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It's settled, then: Women, we're at war

By Ramona

Don't expect me to be going over every single attack on women's rights just because I'm writing about modern-day, 21st-century, 2012, just-in-the-last-month attacks, which, as you might have noticed, are escalating at such a dizzying pace we can no longer ignore the rumblings of war.

It's ugly and it's all out there. Even Rush Limbaugh's scrubbed transcripts of his diatribes against Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student who had the temerity to attempt to testify before certain members of congress about the need for free contraception. Even Patricia Heaton's deleted tweets about that same student (aka G-Town Gal). They're out there. They're not going away.

No, we're here today to look at the big picture: How did this latest war of the sexes start? What was the catalyst? And what can we do to grind it to a halt now that it's started? 

The obvious answer to question number one is that it's all Obama's fault. As a part of his health plan (the catalyst), he told insurance companies they would have to offer contraceptive care at no cost to women. (That would mean, for most, no co-pay.) Birth control aids would be free and available everywhere, and since it was mandatory, not to mention laudatory, not to mention commonsensical and a long time coming, that was supposed to be it. End of conversation.

Ha! We wish!

President Obama's first mistake was that he thought he was taking steps toward helping women more effectively and responsibly manage their reproductive years, when what he was actually doing was antagonizing pissants who have been posing as Manly Men for so long they're not about to be ousted from their comfy zones.

A whole host of Catholic Bishops, pseudo-religious politicians, and paid-to-be-mean pundits jumped on the bandwagon called Control the women by denying birth control, and weren't they surprised when the women they were so itching to suppress wouldn't give in? A real donnybrook ensued, with everybody weighing in, pro and con, and here we are, in the middle of it all, coming out swinging, and if they want a war, okay, they've got one.

Some highlights:

  • The Susan G. Komen Foundation is taken over by a right-wing zealot who makes it known from Day One that Planned Parenthood can kiss SGK goodbye. Susan Komen's sister/founder helps figure out a way to do it. A huge, unprecedented fuss ensues. Right-wing zealot goes on to greener pastures. The sister stays and apologizes -- a Pyrrhic victory that nobody feels good about.
  • Long probes up the vagina with cameras on the end used not as medical tools but as instruments of shame -- Zap! Gone! Battle won!
  • Gooey cold stuff massaged onto a bare belly so a government-issue wand can be waved, not to detect a zygote already determined by other methods to be there, but to establish once and for all that a woman doesn't actually have control over her own body -- still working on it but we've got them in our sights.
  • Dozens of state legislatures scrambling to make laws against contraception and abortion so harsh Draco the Greek, if he were still alive, would be crying foul -- this one may take a while.

The legal issues, having some semblance of form and substance, are easier to deal with. There are wise and learned people on our side ready to take them on. But there's another, uglier issue and it's one we've faced many times before. It's our old but formidable nemesis: blind, consuming hatred toward people of our gender.

With the rise of the Tea Party and pressure from the Religious Right-to Life-Until-It-Actually-Becomes-A-Child, fortified by resident misogynist Rush Limbaugh and hardline Catholic men in red robes and black robes and pullover sweater vests, the battle to enforce the reproductive rights we've already fought long and hard for is a battle we can't afford to lose.

The spotlight is on Rush Limbaugh at the moment, but it's Rick Santorum we need to keep an eye on. He showed his hand when he talked about his reaction to John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech to the Baptists, where JFK said he would fight hard for the separation of church and state.

Santorum wanted to throw up when he read that. Why? Because it's disgusting and unforgivable that  Kennedy had the chance to pave the way for an American Pope and he didn't take it. Rick will remedy that when he's president. And guess who will suffer the most under his reign?

The obvious goal is to make sure Rick Santorum never becomes president, but once that threat is gone we'll still be fighting those others working to take us down. We thought that war was over, but all we really won, we know now, was détente.

Men (and, incredibly, other women) are fighting against those of us who go on believing our reproductive rights are sacrosanct. Suddenly they're coming out of the woodwork, no longer pretending that Roe v. Wade is all that's keeping us apart. Now it's about contraception -- a real puzzler, since birth control is the obvious remedy for unwanted pregnancies.

Only women can incubate babies. It's a fact. If they get knocked up and it's not a good time, the sex police want us to believe they have no one to blame but themselves. Really? What other species on the planet punishes the female for being impregnated by a male? Birth control is a two-way street. It's irresponsible and gutless to pretend that women did this to themselves, and yet we're hearing it louder and clearer every day.

And why is that? Because to the people who are coming at us with the same hoary arguments, it's not about the control of birth, it's about the control of sex. That nutty comment by Santorum backer Foster Friess about birth control being as simple as holding an aspirin between our knees? The admonishment from Rick Santorum that all birth control should be banished because it can only lead to badness? Rush Limbaugh's crazed, three-day masturbatory fantasy about the reasons women want free birth control? Sex, sex, and, yet again, sex.

It's the same tiresome struggle, but this time we're going to win. Why? Because we have a secret weapon.

It's men. There are more than just a few good ones out there and they're on our side. They're men who work with us, talk with us, and see us as equals. They're men who live with us and see our roles as complementary and not competitive or without merit. They're men who can love unconditionally and have grown so far beyond the ancient need to keep women bound and tethered, they're willing to fight beside us until this war is ended. Some of them are already at the front lines.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it, you dirty old men of yesterday. A new day dawns and you've been left behind. It has to be this way. It's the way human progress works.

(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices.)

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Behind the Ad: Pro-Santorum ad goes after Romney in Illinois

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

Who: The Red, White and Blue Fund, the Super PAC supporting Rick Santorum.

Where: Illinois.

What's going on: Rick Santorum's Super PAC is starting to run political ads in Illinois attacking Mitt Romney, part of a $310,000 ad buy in the state. Illinois holds their primary on Tuesday, February 20th.

The spot introduces voters to the "real Romney," the one who "raised job-killing taxes and fees," and "supported the Wall Street bailout putting America trillions of dollars in debt. It points to the Massachusetts health care law, which Romney signed, as the "blue print for Obamacare," ending with the statement that Rick Santorum is someone who can "create dynamic jobs and cut wasteful spending."

Romney's claim all along is that he is best positioned to improve the economy due to his business experience. Santorum is clearly trying to take on that perception by almost calling Romney a "tax and spend liberal" whose record on the economy is not what he says it is.

I'd say the ad plays fairly well to those who don't think Romney can be trusted, even on the one trick he'd like us to believe is his strong suit.

With days to go before the Illinois primary, Romney has a slight lead in a recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll, but that could change. If Santorum manages to pull out a win in the state, things will get even tougher for Romney. Poor Mitt.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Control freaks

There have been a lot of stories -- and comic strips -- recently about birth control and contraception and the attempt by the Republicans and conservatives to make it an issue in the presidential campaign. But this story from Arizona strikes me as the capper:

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Monday to endorse a controversial bill that would allow Arizona employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious objections.

Arizona House Bill 2625, authored by Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, would permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.

"I believe we live in America. We don't live in the Soviet Union," Lesko said. "So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs."

Lesko said this bill responds to a contraceptive mandate in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law March 2010.

"My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion," Lesko said. "All my bill does is that an employer can opt out of the mandate if they have any religious objections."

Glendale resident Liza Love said the bill would impose on women's rights to keep their medical records private.

Love spoke to the committee about her struggle with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, conditions requiring her to use birth control.

"I wouldn't mind showing my employer my medical records," Love said. "But there are 10 women behind me that would be ashamed to do so."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that none of this has anything whatsoever to do with religious freedom, moral objections, or the rights of an employer to pay or not pay for certain kinds of insurance, mandated or otherwise. (I especially like the part about not living in the Soviet Union as justification for an employer to have dictatorial oversight to an employee's medical history. When it's the state doing it, it's Communism, but when it's a company, it's the free market capitalism at its finest. Irony is lost on this person.) None of it -- not the invasive sonograms, the 24-hour waiting periods, the parental notifications -- is based on medical concerns or the right of a patient to know about a procedure. It is simply that the people who are writing and passing these laws are control freaks who are obsessed with the private lives and morals of everyone else.

(As history has proved time and time again, they are flaming hypocrites when it comes to their own personal lives. How many more stories are we going to read about a straight happily-married evangelical Christian legislator who sponsors anti-gay bills while he has a app on his smartphone that says "looking for discrete NSA fun; can't host"? Or how many more lectures will we endure about the sanctity of marriage from a presidential candidate who follows his divorce attorney on Twitter, or a senator who has a record of paying for sex? It's been a part of the repertoire since Aristophanes. As one wag noted, "A happily-married man has to have something on the side. Otherwise he wouldn't be so happy.")

It comes down to their pathological desire to rule, not govern. But they can't come out and say it, because if they do, they'd have to acknowledge that that is all they want. It has nothing to do with the sanctity of life or "values." This is why they're "pro-life" to the point that they destroy any reasonable argument for protecting the developing fetus. Reasonable people can -- and have -- made good points about why abortion should be limited to the first trimester except in cases of threats to the life and health of the mother. But enshrining a fetus with the same rights as a person goes not just against legal logic (the Constitution does not grant citizenship to a person unless they are born or naturalized in the United States) but it makes the argument for their side so ridiculous that even the voters in Mississippi -- a state not known for secular liberalism -- rejected a law that granted "personhood" to a clump of cells.

The spate of laws that require invasive procedures prior to a woman getting an abortion are for the sole purpose of shaming a woman into not going through with the operation. They are couched in the Orwellian niceties of "ensuring that the patient is fully informed," but what they're really saying is that they -- the white straight male proponents of "smaller government and more freedom" -- know what's best for a woman and her doctor. If you're an unmarried woman using birth control, your morals are suspect and you have no expectation of privacy because you're just a whore. And you, the guy with no wedding ring and a rainbow flag bumper sticker: why are you buying condoms, hmm?

These people may say it's about religious freedom -- as long as it's their religion. They may say it's about traditional marriage -- as long as they get to define both "traditional" and "marriage." But hiding behind all this sanctimony of religious claptrap or "traditional values" is just a cover-up for that fact they crave the power to control others... as long as no one controls them.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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I'm pretty sure Hillary Clinton wants to be president in 2016

John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Not that it matters, but I've been saying for a while that I thought Hillary Clinton would be taking a long hard look at running for the White House in 2016.

It's good that Game Change co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are coming around to my way of thinking, or they would if they knew I existed.

On Morning Joe a couple of days ago, the pair was asked to handicap the likelihood that Hillary would run for the Democratic nomination in 2016. Heilemann put it at a 99.4 percent chance and Halperin said maybe a little lower.

Whether or not she runs is a different question than whether she would want to run. I would argue that she will want to run, will do the due diligence to see if the support is there, including money, party support, and general electoral enthusiasm, and then make a decision based on bread and butter political factors.

To play the numbers game, I think there is a 100% chance she wants to be the first female president of the United States of America. And I think there is a 100% chance that she will run if she thinks there is a reasonable path to success.

People like Bill and Hillary Clinton never want to get out of politics, no matter what they say. Bill can't run for anything anymore because ex-presidents just don't. But Hillary could seek the highest office in the land and just might.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Santorum-Gingrich 2012?

Santorum would obviously benefit from Gingrich getting out of the race and endorsing him, but does Gingrich, the egomaniacal blowhard who wants to maximize money-making opportunities for Newt Inc., really want to hitch his wagon to an anti-establishmentarian figure, and sure loser in November should he get the nomination, like Santorum? Seems unlikely, unless Newt really does think trying to unify the GOP's conservative majority, far-right conservative majority, is worth the effort (that is, wouldn't harm his brand).

Seems like the Gingrich campaign is doing a lot of floating these days.

The question is, does bullshit float?


Here's a possible explanation for the Santorum-Gingrich floating: Maybe Gingrich is trying to scare Romney into making a deal.

As Jon Chait wrote yesterday, "[Newt's] continued presence in the race is highly valuable to Romney and the Party Establishment, and maybe he wants to leverage that asset."

Floating the possibility that he may get out and back Santorum (and get on the ticket) might just be enough to get Romney to give him what he wants. The question is, what? Money to pay off his debts? A Cabinet spot? He has an asset, to be sure, it's just not clear what he'd leverage it for.

Basically, he can go two ways with this, both of them self-aggrandizing. He can choose to help either Romney or Santorum. The question for him, no doubt, is which one would give him more in return.

It may be that simple.

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Obama's gas

By Capt. Fogg

I confess, I'm a loud-mouth critic of people who insist on driving heavy and dangerous trucks to the office or to do daily errands, but a guy who nevertheless owns a vehicle that gets, with a good tailwind, about one mile per gallon.

It's a boat, of course and these days I think carefully about where I'm going with it before I leave the dock. I probably don't use too much more than 500 gallons a year, which is still a whole lot less than I used to use as a commuter driving a small car. If gasoline rose to 5 or 6 or 7 dollars a gallon at the fuel docks, I probably wouldn't change the number of hours I put on the boat, but if I were driving to work, as many of you do, that 7500 pound, 8-12 mpg "SUV" or super heavy duty monster truck might just get traded for something less absurd.

So I have to make another confession: I secretly wish fuel prices would soar long enough to make urban hipsters go back to taking the bus or driving Fiat 500's, and suburbanites trade in their grotesque fashion statements for cars.

Of course the noises bubbling up from the bottom of the national cesspool have been blaming Barack Obama and "liberals" for those scary numbers that appear on gas station signs, as if it were the president or some government office that dictated prices on the free world market rather than the laws of supply and demand and the mechanisms of capitalism. I'm tempted to say that the self-appointed guardians of the free market either haven't the most elementary idea of how those markets work or perhaps are simply too dishonest to risk not blaming Obama for rising world demand. No sir, there's no pea under that particular walnut shell and if even a small proportion of Republicans had the mental wherewithal to deal with the notion that economic recovery means increased demand for resources, they might figure out that those screaming the loudest have a vested interest in a collapsing economy. As the infamous Rush once said: "I hope he fails."

So yes, some Republicans, some voices from the corporate owned media are also wishing for a big increase because the public is stupid enough, or so they hope, to believe that the "socialist" Obama is behind it all. You'll remember John McCain making that moronic accusation when gas prices soared under George Bush. No, he didn't blame Bush or the huge demand for fuel his wars gave us, he blamed Obama, because that's what Republicans do, they blame the other guy for their own actions; they blame the opposition for the workings of the natural forces of the same free markets they pretend to worship.

No, the old song is about the holy market and how all the ugly features of unrestrained capitalism like disregard for public safety and the powerlessness of an oppressed work force would wither away if we only let them drill for oil in your town's reservoir or chain your kids to a punch press the same way those Commies do, but the reality is that they have a very selective interest in capitalism and the high priests of 'enlightened self interest' are trying as hard as they can to take the enlightenment out of it.

So yes, rising energy costs sap the strength of the recovery and so that's just what a certain party wants so that they can go on pretending there is no recovery or that it would be a much better recovery if only they had someone like that Mad Monk Santorum in the White House. So maybe "jobs, jobs, jobs" is now last month's mantra because we're creating more jobs every week that were created under that 8 year Republican debacle. So it's time to turn on a dime and let's put on that Jumpin' Jack Flash disc 'cause now it's all gas, gas, gas.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Flipping Burghers

By Carl
So what to make of this latest Mitt Romney doublespeak?

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday he does not want to close Planned Parenthood, just strip it of federal money. Romney’s comments were the subject of Democratic attacks after he said he wanted to “get rid” of the organization.

“Planned Parenthood is a private organization. What I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood,” Romney said in an interview.

[...] Discussing reducing the debt in a St. Louis TV interview {Tuesday}, Romney said, “Is the program so critical, it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And on that basis of course you get rid of Obamacare, that’s the easy one. Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that. The subsidy for Amtrak, I’d eliminate that. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

You know, that's a fair criterion for judging whether a program is worth it or not: can we afford it? Is it worth borrowing from China (and owing them indefinitely) to fund a program?

It's not the criterion I would choose to judge programs that don't necessarily fall into line in a cost-benefit analysis matrix, like any social program like the NEA or Constitutional mandate like voter rights or interstate trade, but it's a platform that has some logic to it and at least allows us to have a debate that goes beyond "Well, what are you basing this judgement on?"

But that's a digression and a different column, allowing another nation to dictate domestic policy. I want to look more closely at this Planned Parenthood flip-flop.

His initial comment in the Tuesday interview, where he says he'll "get rid of" Planned Parenthood, some have said, was a dog-whistle to the evangelical right, which of course views Planned Parenthood as an abortion vehicle only.

I don't agree with this assessment. I think ol' Mitt just got caught up in his elocution lessons and tried to come up with a trifecta of get-rid-ofs in the time honored tradition of reinforcing the message with repetition. His mouth got ahead of his mind (admittedly, not a hard thing to do.)

His walk-back yesterday will have genuine repercussions in that same evanglical community, of course, those who misinterpreted the gaffe as a sign Mitt was moving closer to their views.

If Mitt was capable of such subtlety, we would have seen signs of it long ago. His walk-back comments suggest to me he either genuinely made a gaffe in the first place, or realized he had pandered to the wrong audience. Since evangelicals are not, have not been and never will be his base, this seems to be an unlikely situation. He clearly intended this for the general electorate.

Of course, the logic of de-funding Planned Parenthood has its own complications, if you're looking to stop borrowing money from the Chinese who have their own rather liberal birth control & abortion policies as they try to limit their burgeoning population with their "One Child Policy."

If you can call forced sterlizations and forced abortions "liberal."

Indeed, it strikes me that China would be less likely to loan us a lot money for healthcare for babies born out of wedlock than a few bucks to prevent those pregnancies in the first place.

Mitt made a gaffe, and in trying to fix it, nuanced himself into a corner. If I was Mitt's campaign manager, I'd be figuring out ways to keep him away from microphones. Let the prepared commercials do the talking, because right now, they're spending money to win back lost ground.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The genius of Allen West

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is peddling a unique spin on how the GOP should talk about Obama's economic recovery (and, by the way, if Republicans want to call the economic downturn "Obama's recession" or terms like it, we need to start talking about "Obama's economic recovery").

Anyway, West was on Fox News with Neil Cavuto and had this to say about the improving economy and how Republicans should frame it:

WEST: Well, I would think maybe the markets are maybe looking five to six months down the road, when we have a change in leadership in this country – 

CAVUTO: Wait a minute, you think that this is built on a Republican either capturing the White House or Republicans capturing the Senate? … You think that the markets are getting bubbly in anticipation of a Republican taking the White House?

WEST: Oh, absolutely.

I liked Steve Benen's take at The Maddow Blog:

Let me get this straight. In the Republican congressman's mind, investors are overlooking improved job numbers, improved consumer spending, and improved economic confidence, and are instead investing based on expectations that a new, unnamed president might take office 10 months from now?

Well, maybe they will try to go with something like this because, let's face it, if the economy does continue to improve, they'll have nothing else. It's still awfully silly.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Terrifying Canadians

Here's another entry in the Not From The Onion files:

TORONTO — Former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney has cancelled an April appearance in Toronto citing concerns Canada is too dangerous.

"He felt that in Canada the risk of violent protest was simply too high," said Ryan Ruppert, president of promotions company Spectre Live Corp., which had booked Mr. Cheney for an April 24 appearance at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

"They specifically referenced what happened in Vancouver," Mr, Ruppert added.

In September, Mr. Cheney was speaking at a private club in Vancouver when protesters massed outside the front door harassing ticket holders and in one instance, choking a security guard.

The former vice-president was reportedly held inside the building for more than seven hours as Vancouver Police in riot gear dispersed the demonstrators.

Cheney, who along with former President George W. Bush remains unpopular in Canada, had been slated to talk about his time in office and the current U.S. political landscape.

"God forbid there was ever an emergency," said Ruppert, noting Cheney's history of heart problems.

Yeah, some hoser might sneak up on him and yell "Boo!"

Do I really have to defend our friends in the True North? I know it's a stereotype that the Canadian people are the nicest people on the planet, but that's because it's basically true. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that while they are a strong and free people with a national pride second to none -- and a lot to be proud of -- they don't go around like a big bully presuming to know best how to run everyone else's business.

The only reason Mr. Cheney is afraid to go to Toronto is that he won't be treated with the sycophantic slobbering that he's used to from his toadies here in the U.S.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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The political nature of television

By Carl 

On the face of it, this seems like a particularly silly story, unless you're the parent or friend of one of the dead girls: 

Time travel TV series have come under fire since two schoolgirls in East China's Fujian province killed themselves on Thursday after leaving notes saying the suicides could help them travel back to ancient times.

The two girls, Xiao Mei and Xiao Hua (not their real names), were fifth-grade classmates at a primary school in Zhangpu county, Zhangzhou.

On Thursday afternoon, Xiao Hua realized she lost the remote control for a rolling door at her house. She was worried and told her friend Xiao Mei.

At 4 pm, the girls each wrote suicide notes and hid them in a closet at Xiao Hua's home. Then they jumped into a pool and drowned themselves. 

Here's the tell that there's something not right with this story:

According to a media report in February, a 19-year-old Liaoning province woman, Xiao Dan (not her real name), told police she had paid 1,800 yuan ($285) to a Net friend who claimed she could help her travel to the ancient past but disappeared after receiving the money.

Because of several stories along these lines emerging, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television banned prime time -- 7 to 9 pm -- broadcasts of this kind of TV series at the beginning of this year.

Shades of Tipper Gore and the PMRC!

Let me point out that the link goes to the People's Daily, the official house organ of the Chinese Communist party (and, therefore, the government). 

Cui bono? Who benefits if this kind of programming is banned in China?

Obviously, the government, if only under the guise of preventing teen suicides, which seems an unlikely connection. However, the story itself contains a clue to the real political agenda. Think about where and more important, when the girls wanted to travel to.

The claim is they wanted to travel back to Imperial China, an ancient time of fantasy and glamour, opulence and a clearly rewritten history of wealth and freedom.

Now, these are clearly not poor children, since their parents could afford a house with an electronic door opener. This is not a sign of poverty, of a kid who is desperately trying to escape the crushing burden of being poor with little opportunity to advance her lot.

Or maybe it was. Maybe it's a signal to us that the Chinese economic tiger has fewer teeth than we realize. China will be the largest economy in the world before the end of the century, if not this decade. It's growing at a rate that exceeds an American boom economy, but it has two advantages that America never had, and thus may not see a true bust for decades.

It has a population not very far removed from the government-sponsored slavery of the mid-20th Century and it has such a vast population with so many dialects that communication between regions is difficult.

Think about it: imagine the U.S. (similar size and contours) with four times the population, and instead of regional accents, imagine entirely different forms of English such that many words have different meanings in the South and North, East and West. If I said "mother" in Florida in this scenario, for example, I may understand it as the woman who gave birth to me, but Floridians might take it to mean any woman involved in my upbringing, including sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and perhaps even teachers and nannies.

Those problems will sort themselves out in due time, to be sure, but here's the thing. With a population still working for bottom-dollar wages, the Chinese economy benefits from keeping its people segregated and not sharing information and being unable to communicate as easily as any other nation on the planet can.

As in America, there are income and wealth strata in China (until the 1990s, nearly unheard of) and as in America, the gaps are growing.

And as in America, there is undoubtedly a movement growing in China for income equalization.

Imagine that! A socialist nation with income inequality!

Television, however, is a great leveller. Like it or not, information and education is passed over the airwaves. That means people without a fact gain a fact.

For China to succeed economically, it simply must control this information. It must control the thought processes in the heads of Chinese. It must discourage thinking of a better life in leaps and bounds and force people to be content with a carefully planned balance between incrementally advancing their opportunities while staying in thrall to the economy.

In other words, the Chinese government is acting the part in China that banks act here. Sure, you can have that second car, but it will cost you four years of emotional investment in paying your loan back and woe betide he who misses a payment! And your kids can have a better life if they get an education (we're still talking about America here, to be clear) but they'll owe us for the following 25 years and they won't be able to discharge this debt even if they can't earn enough in salary to pay us back.

All while putting commercials on the ubiquitous infotainment medium, television, advertising that better job for your kids or better sex through Audi.

Control the dialogue, control the people.

This wasn't about a suicide. This was about recognizing that suicide as a danger to the status quo, one that would make people think about their lives and their children's lives.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Live-blogging the 2012 Alabama and Mississippi primaries: A Santorum sweep, but Romney remains the likely nominee

By Michael J.W. Stickings, with Richard K. Barry and tmcbpatriot (and a special guest appearance by Mustang Bobby)


7:10 pm - There's really only one way to begin this...

7:12 pm - Don't get me wrong, I like "Sweet Home Alabama" (by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mitt, not Alabama, you pandering fool), just not so much what it's about.

7:14 pm - It's pretty much all about the Deep South tonight, with primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. And it's a tight race in both states. I'll be back with a whole lot more shortly. Just having some dinner first. See you soon. 

8:01 pm - And here we go! Can you feel the excitement? 

8:03 pm - So what's going to happen? Who really has any idea? According to the RCP averages, it's Newt up by a whopping 0.2 in Alabama, but Romney was up by a point or two in a couple of the most recent polls. Santorum's been running a strong third, just a point or two, or six, back. Paul? Single digits, way back. Where you'd expect to find him in the socially conservative Deep South. 

8:08 pm - In Mississippi, it's Newt up by a slightly more whopping 2 in a PPP poll and Romney up by 8 in a Rasmussen one -- there hasn't been a lot of polling there. Let's say Romney's in the lead. 

8:10 pm - As Politico's Jonathan Martin writes, stating the obvious, Romney could pretty much seal the deal with victories in Alabama and Mississippi tonight. And with Gingrich and Santorum splitting the conservative, and otherwise anti-Romney, vote, he could very well pull off the double, as astonishing as that would seem to anyone who's been paying attention. Why astonishing? Because Romney is anything but a man of the South. In addition to being a Mormon, hardly a popular thing to be in the fundamentalist South, he's a northeastern establishment Republican and ex-moderate. To the extent that he's a national figure, he links Utah, Michigan, and Massachusetts, three un-southern states. (Well, Utah is sort of southern given its social conservatism, but of course it's largely Mormon.) Romney just doesn't connect with the South, particularly the Deep South, and vice versa. We've already seen this. Gingrich won South Carolina and Georgia and Santorum won Tennessee. (Florida doesn't count as southern. Sorry, panhandlers.) 

8:16 pm - And Romney's pandering leading up to these two primaries has been even more pathetic (and creepy) than usual. (Did you see Jon Stewart last night?) He opens a speech with "y'all," talks about eating cheesy grits, pretends to be a football fan (some of his friends are NFL owners!), and asks the lead singer of Alabama, Randy Owen to sing a song, "Sweet Home Alabama," by a different band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. (Watch the clip. It's hilarious. Mitt's so far out of his privileged rich douchebag element.) In other words, it was the same old same old, just worse, just more ridiculous, more worthy of our ridicule. 

8:23 pm - Oh, here's one of our long-time contributors, our assistant editor Mustang Bobby (and a fantastic blogger): 

Mustang Bobby: The Republican primaries tonight are in Alabama and Mississippi, so tomorrow we will find out which of the three surviving candidates will have done the most pandering to the ignorant bigots and homophobes that make up the majority of the GOP in those two states. Which is saying something. 

8:38 pm - And here's Richard, who will be commenting throughout the evening: 

RKB: Is there anything more boring than news coverage just before election results come in? CNN is running through the most snooze-worthy details about how the votes will be counted in Mississippi. The reporter actually just said, "Here's the table where the ballots will be counted," Oh, man. 

8:39 pm - I suspect we're in for a long night... The networks want drama. They're going to get it. Or, at least, they're going to manufacture it by talking incessantly about how in both states it's Too. Close. To. Call.

8:44 pm - Oh, continuing my point about how Romney could pull off the astonishing double tonight, let's not forget that Romney winning wouldn't mean much of an endorsement from Republican voters in Alabama and Mississippi. Whatever the final results, he's not likely to get anywhere near a majority of the vote. What we're talking about is a close three-way split in both states, with Romney winning by a fairly narrow margin and only getting about a third of the vote.

8:46 pm - Of course, it doesn't really matter. Both states award their delegates proportionately, so in the end there won't be much movement in the overall delegate count. Romney will keep his seemingly insurmountable lead and all three -- Mitt, Rick, and Newt -- will be able to say they did well today. And the race will go on to the bigger battle in Illinois (an open primary where Democrats could boost Santorum the way they did in Michigan) on March 20 (with Puerto Rico, not to be forgotten, on March 18). The big question is what Newt does. If he finishes third in both races today, or even if he doesn't win either race, will he get out? Or will he continue to split the anti-Romney vote? The writing has been on the wall for some time for him, but he either doesn't see it or doesn't care -- or is just waiting for the right time to acknowledge it, a time when he can get out with his brand, Newt Inc., still intact and as profitable as ever.

8:52 pm - And here's our newest contributor, tmcbpatriot of the blog Take My Country Back. If you've been here recently, you'll know him from his posts as the fourth Mrs. Limbaugh, Kathryn Rogers, and, today, as Ann Romney. Good stuff.

tmcbpatriot: Honestly, if Romney wins either of these states I will be amazed. It will prove two things... 1. that commercials paid for by wealthy Romney donors really work, and 2. that people down south are not as dumb as we all think. Like I said... I will be amazed if Romney wins.

8:58 pm - In terms of trying to predict what's going to happen in Alabama and Mississippi, it would appear that the polling itself is the problem (as throughout the Deep South). As Nate Silver writes, "polls in these states have a pretty awful track record." And why is this? Because of "social desirability bias -- the tendency to provide an answer that you think might seem most acceptable to the stranger on the other end of the line, rather than what you really think. This bias is potentially stronger in cultures that have stronger codes of etiquette, and where people are more self-conscious of the front they present to strangers." Like in the Deep South. What this means is that poll respondents may not be telling us what they really think. It's not clear whom this would help, but I wonder -- and this is pure speculation -- if Santorum may actually do a bit better than expected in both races, if only because right-wing poll respondents might be reluctant to tell pollsters that they support him. (Then again, as Silver notes, it could benefit Romney, if respondents in these right-wing states are reluctant to admit they support a moderate establishmentarian.)

RKB: John King on CNN is talking a lot about the fact Alabama and Mississippi award their delegates proportionately. So, as long as the leading candidates do well enough, it won't change the delegate count all that much. In other words, it might all just be about bragging rights, which is a little silly, especially if the margin of victory is slight. Political contests as sporting events. Just win, baby, even when winning is marginally important in real terms.

tmcbpatriot: "Republican primary voters in Mississippi and Alabama overwhelmingly said the economy is a more important issue than the federal budget deficit, according to exit poll data." -- Amazing to me how the very red states want more Republicans to help them "improve" their already stellar economies. Will they ever learn?

RKB: I know it's early, but at this stage Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum are very close to 1/3 each of the vote in both Mississippi and Alabama. If it did stay like that, no matter where Romney ended up, he'd still be able to say that he was competitive in the Deep South. I don't think he necessarily has to win to put this away, only match the guys, more or less, who should have buried him -- if it ends up this way.

tmcbpatriot: Romney's squeaking out a lead thus far. Maybe he really did eat cheesy grits for breakfast.

RKB: David Gergen is pointing at that results are coming in painfully slowly in these two states. He's right. What's that all about?

9:11 pm - Because they can't count? I mean, it's not like education's a big deal down there.

9:12 pm - After that comment, now might be a good time to mention that I`m actually one-quarter Alabaman. Yes, seriously. I'm Canadian and British (mostly the former), but one of my grandfathers was from Alabama. Great man. Served in the Army during WWII. Was injured on one of the beaches on D-Day, if I remember correctly, then went into broadcasting, first with the U.S. military in Europe (where I think he was one of the first Americans to broadcast from post-war Germany), then back home. He did baseball play-by-play, among other things. Anyway, I have a lot of family down there. Good people. I don't see them nearly enough. (More family history later!)

tmcbpatriot: Man... looking at the exit polling to the myriad of questions at CNN is mind-numbing. It is all over the map. Nobody knows what the heck they want. In one poll Romney is the guy to beat Obama and then in another poll more people would be satisfied with Gingrich or Santorum winning the nomination over Romney. And a majority said that ad campaigns were a large factor in their decision-making process. Ad campaigns! Commercials!! Lord help us all.

9:19 pm - By the way, here are the updated results: Alabama, Mississippi, and, for later, Hawaii.

9:20 pm - Santorum's taken the lead in both states, though it's still very early, especially in Alabama. I'm not sure yet, but this could be another case where he (and possibly Newt) do well early in the more rural counties, until the count comes in from the more Mitt-friendly urban centers.

tmcbpatriot: "NBC News has changed its categorization of both Alabama and Mississippi from 'too early to call' to the much tighter 'too close to call.'" -- Wow! What a scoop! I really do find it amazing that these people actually get paid for doing this.

9:42 pm - Earlier today, Romney said that Santorum's campaign is coming to a "desperate end." This is the narrative he's trying to spin, of course, that he's the inevitable nominee (and has actually won already) while his rivals are running on fumes, but... it's just not true. Sure, he's got the money, and he's been crushing Santorum with his spending, but does Romney not remember how well Santorum did last week on Super Tuesday? -- winning Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota and almost pulling out a win in Ohio? And does he not realize that Santorum likely would have won Ohio, and possibly also Michigan, without Gingrich in the race? Look, yes, Romney will very likely be the nominee. But he's one to talk about being desperate. He's winning only because of his outrageous financial advantage (and his support from the party establishment). And even with that huge advantage he's still struggling. Badly. He's an incredibly weak frontrunner. And Santorum has a lot left in the tank.

tmcbpatriot: CNN is losing its mind with this 24 hour news thing... This video was posted at TPM tonight. And the polls only just closed! A long night indeed!

tmcbpatriot: The L.A. Times has Gingrich in second place in Alabama with Ricky in first with 12% reporting. I do love it so. I love to imagine Romney wondering why the hell he just can't close the deal.

tmcbpatriot: On The Rick & Bubba Show today, "Gingrich won a ringing endorsement from bass-fishing legend Ray Scott, who called into the show." First of all, there is a bass-fishing "legend"? And second, we want people who prop up a person to become a "legend" in bass-fishing deciding our future?

tmcbpatriot: And by the way, if you've ever wondered what a bass-fishing legend thinks... Here he is talking about Gingrich: "He is just the most qualified man, my gosh, almighty. We've seen proof positive that when you don't know what you're doing you shouldn't be doing it... The man has got sober, sober, deliberate focus on what's going on in this country, and what its needs are and, Lord knows, we don't need any more of what we've got. We've got to have some relief and I think Newt is an absolute God-blessed gift to us. And if we don't get out and vote for this guy today somebody ought to be ashamed of themselves."

9:54 pm - Genius.

tmcbpatriot: Romney is trailing in Alabama and Mississippi, with Ol' Miss at 50% reporting! Ruh-roh!

9:58 pm - Wait, no speech from Romney tonight? Has he run out of southern cliches? Is Jeff Foxworthy too busy to write him a few lines?

RKB: Eugene Robinson on MSNBC is saying that if Santorum wins both Alabama and Mississippi it could actually start to change things. The big question is what Gingrich does. If he got out soon, it might actually start to make Santorum viable. How screwed up would that be? I can't see it, but who saw Romney being this weak?

10:02 pm - Richard, shouldn't we put up our hands? We've been talking about Romney's weakness since, like, forever.

RKB: I know Michael, but there's weak and there's weak. This guy is pathetic.

10:03 pm - Point taken.

tmcbpatriot: Ouch! Rico Suave takes Alabama!

RKB: Lawrence O'Donnell, always one for the pithy comment, just said that "Republicans are having a three-way in Mississippi." Now that's an image.

10:07 pm - Maybe you should offer them your basement.

10:08 pm - Huh. It's very tight in Mississippi, with Santorum up 33 to 32 over Gingrich, with Romney in third, but still in striking distance, at 30. 79% reporting. Romney's doing well in and around Jackson, but it's hard to see where he picks up the votes. Counties yet to report, or still early, don't look like Mitt strong holds.

10:10 pm - Santorum's doing better in Alabama, leading 35 to 30 over Gingrich, with Romney also in third, but much further back, at 28. 48% reporting. Still a long way to go, and Romney will pick up a lot of votes in Birmingham and especially Mobile (just 1% reporting in the latter). Let's see if, when, and how dramatically this narrows.

10:14 pm - Interesting that Romney is doing well along the Gulf Coast in both states. Who are the voters there? Transplants from up north?

tmcbpatriot: Santorum's about to take Mississippi too. Like I said... amazed if Romney won. Republicans are just too dumb for their own good. I can hear the collective forehead slap in D.C. from my house.

RKB: Steve Schimidt is talking about how wounded Gingrich will be if he fails to win Mississippi, saying that there will be immense pressure on him to get out. I've thought that Gingrich would stay in just to promote his brand, but I'm no longer sure. His so-called Southern Strategy may be too much of a joke by now. And will there be any money for him to run on or will his big casino donor just go away? I'm so hoping Gingrich gets out. Schmidt is now predicting Gingrich will get out soon. We'll see.

tmcbpatriot: Put a fork in this thing. That didn't take long at all. Romney is still the weakest frontrunner in history. He will still be the nominee, though. This election is just too important for Republicans to throw away. No matter what, it will be Romney. He has to win the nomination. It is just that simple for the establishment, and, make no mistake, the establishment is still very much in charge, regardless what Rick, Bubba, or the bass-fishing legend thinks.

tmcbpatriot: Right about now Romney is thinking... "I actually said 'y'all' and pretended to eat grits, and I still lost? I just don't understand it. Gosh darnit!"

10:21 pm - Just try to imagine Mitt sitting down to a steaming plate of grits, collard greens, pork hock, and corn bread. Can't do it, can you? Lynyrd Skynyrd would have hated him almost as much as Neil Young.

10:24 pm - Go Santorum! I shouldn't be this excited.

10:26 pm - Did you know that American Samoa is holding its non-binding caucuses today? Prediction: Mitt crushes the opposition.

10:27 pm - So what was I saying earlier about Santorum doing better than expected? The polls showed him running third in both Alabama and Mississippi, and yet here he is winning Alabama, the biggest contest today, and likely Mississippi as well. There's the double. Hardly Mitt sealing the deal, eh? Sorry, all you professional pundits (Nate Silver excepted, of course) getting it so badly wrong because you don't understand a thing, or at least because you grossly underestimate Santorum, what he stands for, and who his supporters are. Though you want the drama of Romney-Santorum to continue, you'll also wring your hands over the unpredictability of this race (and try to make excuses for not having a clue).

RKB: I've also been saying that I couldn't imagine the GOP establishment letting Romney lose the nomination. Maybe the delegate count, the math, as they say, will do it for Romney, but I have to start wondering if there is a path for Santorum, or at least a brokered convention. The base is so fragmented that the establishment may not have the authority it once did. Having said all that, I still think Romney will eventually take it, but I'm starting to waver.

10:35 pm - Of course, Romney will revert to his "away game" narrative. As in, he wasn't expected, and really shouldn't have been expected, to win in states like Alabama and Mississippi. That's Santorum and Gingrich territory. This is true, to a point. In a fairly competitive race like this, no one is going to win everywhere, and just as Santorum and Gingrich do well in the South, Romney does well in the Northeast and West. And if and when Romney becomes the nominee, he'll win these hardcore Republican states in November. The problem is that his weakness in the South speaks to his broader weakness with the party's base (and indeed with the vast majority of Republicans). And it's especially telling that he's doing so badly even against two weak challengers like Santorum and Gingrich. Just imagine what a strong, credible conservative would be doing to him -- like, what we thought Perry might do, until we realized he's a moron.

10:40 pm - The problem for Santorum is twofold: Newt and money (and the advertising and organization he can buy with it). But if he wins both Alabama and Mississippi (he'll lose Hawaii), and Newt gets out (which Rick thinks would be "great"), and the money starts rolling in (not that he'll ever have enough to outspend Romney, but at least he could close the enormous gap), and he's seen more and more as a viable alternative to Romney, well, Illinois would be within reach, no? And then what?

tmcbpatriot: I just don't see Santorum taking the nomination if there were a brokered convention. By the time this thing ends, Republicans would have to be certifiable to bring some new candidate into the mix. No, at the end of the day, if they are all at a brokered convention, then Romney takes it. Sure, it will make the Tea Party mad, but within two weeks nobody will remember any of it and Romney will be their guy who will then choose a VP who will turn this thing into a real race.

RKB: Gotta say, Santorum appears to be more disciplined with his economic message in his speech. No messing around with his absurd social conservatism. Yes, he's onto the Pennsylvania coal miner lineage. Oh, and there goes the mention of the "centrality of faith in our lives." That's safe enough and it also sends a message to the religious right that he can be counted on.

RKB: I understand Romney is not speaking tonight. I suppose it would look sad to have him stand up and explain yet another pair of losses.

10:49 pm - I think it would be funny if he just got up and sang the opening lines of "Bohemian Rhapsody," then left the stage in complete silence, a single tear trickling down his face.

tmcbpatriot: Were the pundits really predicting a Romney win tonight? Who in particular was suggesting such a thing? William Kristol? George Will?

10:52 pm - I'd have to go back and look at what was said the past few days. But it seemed to me that some of the less thoughtful of the bunch were looking at the polls, saw Romney ahead, and took it all at face value. (Just look at the Politico article I link to above.) I was worried about Romney wins, too. All the more reason why someone like Nate Silver is so valuable.

RKB: CNN called Mississippi for Santorum. It will be interesting to hear what Gingrich has to say.

10:56 pm - He's a massive egomaniac, but surely even he can see that enough is enough.

tmcbpatriot: What could Romney say in a speech? "Well, we lost, but we lost by only a little?" It's the smart thing to do not to give a speech. He will say he didn't do much campaigning and Santorum had the evangelicals in hand, etc. But still... if he wins the nomination, every singly one of those southerners will pull that lever for Mitt no matter what. He could choose Hillary Clinton as his VP and they would still vote for him because they hate Obama that much. I mean, let's face it. I would have voted for the "Rent is Too Damn High" guy over McCain-Palin.

RKB: Gingrich's whole thing is about being able to beat Obama in the debates. Dream on. What an arrogant dick. Well, he's not getting out tonight. Too bad.

11:31 pm - My recommendation for the night: Watch Will Farrell on The Daily Show. Hilarious.

11:32 pm - The current headline at "Santorum's Southern sweep." A tad dramatic, given that the delegates are awarded proportionately, but, okay, let's run with it. Sweeeeeep!!!!!

11:37 pm - Did I mention that we saw this coming, that we said that Santorum would do better than expected in Alabama and Mississippi, that he might just pull this off? Well, okay, we didn't go so far as to say that he'd win both primaries, but we were almost there. And certainly this isn't, or at least shouldn't be seen to be, a surprising outcome.

11:42 pm - Alright, that's it for me tonight. We've gone on long enough. I had hoped to do Hawaii as well, not to mention American Samoa, but those results won't be coming in until much later. We'll have something to say about those races tomorrow, or sometime down the road. And hopefully we'll do this live-blogging thing again, which we've done numerous times already this primary season, next Tuesday, for Illinois.

11:45 pm - Thanks to Richard and tmcbpatriot for their contributions tonight. It's usually just Richard and me, but it was great having our new friend on board. Nicely done all around. (Oh, I've changed the subtitle of this post from "Tight races in the Deep South, but Phony Romney remains the likely nominee" to what you see now, "A Santorum sweep, but Romney remains the likely nominee." Because, you know, the races were tight, but Santorum swept. I also removed the reference to live-blogging the Hawaii caucuses. Because, you know, we're not doing that. Nothing against Hawaii. It's a time-zone thing.)

11:46 pm - We'll be back with new posts tomorrow.

Good night, everyone.

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Not for nothin', but...

If you go online and look for a definition of the term "not for nothin'," you'll come up with a pretty broad range of opinions. About the only agreement, I think, is that it's generally thought to originate in the Northeastern United States or perhaps more specifically New York City and is working class slang.

In general terms, it's a phrase that introduces a comment or observations of one sort or another.
As for what people think it means, here are just a few examples, some of which are related, mostly, but maybe a little different from each other:

  • "Not for nothin'" is used to soften the blow of something that would normally be offensive or come on too strong.
  • Common big house or camp preface to a piece of advice or a warning. Its use is supposed to imply the speaker is neither bossing around nor threatening the hearer, only offering sage advice or a pithy observation. In practice, however, it is often used immediately before a verbal threat to another inmate. 
  • Phrase meaning "what I'm about to say is important." That is "I'm not saying this for my health..."
  • Used as an introductory phrase to indicate that the principle phrase which follows is intended neither to be commanding nor officious, but simply as friendly advice or constructive observation.
  • Colloquial, inverted way of saying, "for good reason," to emphasize a point. "Not for nothing is Paris called the City of Lights." Used extensively in English literature, including C.S. Lewis, Samuel Butler, and Jack London.
  • This is an old Italian expression "non per niente" and its true meaning is: not that I have anything to gain by it – but it is what he said or meant or did... and so on. Basically, I am relating this, believed to be true... believe what you will... relating without responsibility.

The only thing I know about the phrase is that Silvio Dante, a character in The Sopranos, played by Steve Van Zandt, sometimes uses it to preface advice he wants to give to his mob boss, Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini.

In those contexts, here is what I think "not for nothin'" means:

What I'm about to say might be true. It might not be true. But if it is true, it could be important, so you might want to think about your options. But I'm not just saying it to hear the sound of my own voice (hence the "not for nothing," i.e., not for no reason at all). But if what I'm about to say offends you, remember that I'm just passing on what might be useful information, so don't shoot the messenger (literally).

So, I'm not saying this is the only context in which the phrase can be used, only that this is the sense in which I think it's used in The Sopranos, and it would seem to be pretty close to the last definition given above rendered in Italian as "non per niente."
Other opinions?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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