Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shiny Toy Guns: "The Sun" and "Speaking Japanese"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Last week I blogged about Shiny Toy Guns, the wonderful L.A. alt-rock-electronic band that recently released their third album, III.

I included clips of live performances of a couple of their new songs, and here are two more: "The Sun" (this past June in Chicago) and "Speaking Japanese" (last year in Houston).

The quality isn't great, but what do you expect from hand-held devices in the audience? Besides, you get to see Carah, and she is, as always, awesome.

Turn up the volume and enjoy.


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Cell phones and polling

By Richard K. Barry

During the campaign, a lot of people were making the point that robocalls didn't call cell phone numbers and therefore were not sampling the kind of people who use cell phones exclusively. Those who were being missed were part of a younger, urban demographic. In other words, they were the kind of people more likely to vote Democratic.

For example, Rasmussen doesn't call cell numbers but say they use an online panel to supplement their polling and presumably capture cell phone users. Typically Rasmussen shows results more favorable to Republican candidates, which, as noted above, hardly seems surprising if they are not calling cell numbers.

Polling guru Nate Silver was on Morning Joe last week talking about this cell phone problem. Again, this isn't news, but one would have to wonder why any polling company, assuming it wants to be accurate, would not modify its methodology to do a better job of reaching cell phone users now and in the future.

I know it's getting tedious, but it does make me ask if we should pay any attention to polls that don't make an effort to call cell phone users at a rate consistent with average national use. Is there anything about this that's hard to understand?

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I like Christmas as much as the next atheist

By Richard K. Barry

TV evangelist Pat Robertson has never been right about much, most recently admitting he erred in his understanding of God's message that Mitt Romney would win the election. Now he's on to his favourite rant this time of year, which is that atheists want to take Christmas away because, he says, they're miserable and want to make Christians miserable too.

Yes, Christmas is about to be taken away. Ask Bill O'Reilly if you don't believe Pat. That's another fine source of accurate news.

Anyway, here's Robertson's rant, for your holiday entertainment:

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A.M. Headlines

(Haaretz): "Morsi's bid for absolute power revives a dormant Arab Spring"

(New York Times): "Adjusting expectations for Obama's 2nd inaugural"

(Politico): "A new Bush rises"

(Wall Street Journal): "Fiscal cliff debate hits airwaves"

(New York Times): "Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing in 'Dallas,' dies at 81"


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Friday, November 23, 2012

Dan Senor figures out how politics works

Senior Romney campaign adviser Dan Senor is bitter because some Republicans were sucking up to the big guy for administration jobs when they thought he was going to win, but have since been trashing the poor bastard now that he has lost.

"I won't mention their names, but they're talking about Romney like he's Reagan. You know, 'The debate performances were the best debate performances of any Republican nominee in presidential history. This guy–he's iconic.' They were talking about him because they believed he was going to win in four or five days," Senor said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." 

"In fact, some of them were already talking to our transition to position themselves for a Romney cabinet," he added" 

"Still not naming names, Senor said the tone dramatically changed in the days following Romney's loss, as many top GOP leaders conducted post-mortem analysis of the campaign."

Oh, Dan. How long you been in this game? This surprises you? I don't want to shock anyone, but if President Obama had lost, the same behaviour would not have been hard to find. It's a cold world out there.

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Frederick Varley, the (not) Great War, and the madness of Black Friday

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Frederick Varley was one of Canada's famed "Group of Seven" painters. Originally from England, he served in World War I and became an "official war artist," producing some astounding depictions of the horror of that senseless conflagration.

Here, for example, are For What? and German Prisoners. Recently reading a book about the Group of Seven, I meant to post them on Remembrance Day, but for some reason -- and I realize I'm engaging in some questionable analogizing here -- they seem appropriate on this Black Friday.

First because what they depict is similar, I think, to the state of our culture/civilization as reflected in the madness that is Black Friday.

And second because we'd be much better people, and have a much healthier society, if we spent a bit more time thinking about the horrors of the "Great War," among other such things, and a bit less time waiting in line at Best Buy and then trampling everyone and everything in our consumer-crazed path to get hold of the latest tech gadget or other insane bargain that we think will somehow fill the sorrowful emptiness that lies within each and every one of us.

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President pardons turkeys, not humans

By Frank Moraes

I am very fond of turkeys. They are nice animals. So I'm glad that President Obama pardoned not one but two turkeys the other day. But this reminds a bit too much of Charlie Costello in Seven Psychopaths -- the guy who will kill another human without a thought but who dearly loves his Shih Tzu.

As I reported two weeks ago, President Obama has pardoned fewer people than any modern president. Out of 1,041 cases that have come to his desk, he has found only 22 compelling enough for a pardon. When you consider just how much injustice is done in our so-called justice system, the president's lack of action is an outrage.

Let me list a few of the people, via Propublica, whom President Obama didn't feel as deserving of his attention as the turkeys Cobbler and Gobbler:

  • A former brothel manager who helped the FBI bust a national prostitution ring;
  • A retired sheriff who inadvertently helped a money launderer buy land; and
  • A young woman who mailed ecstasy tablets for a drug-dealing boyfriend, then worked with investigators to bring him down.

Read more »

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Is Jeb Bush the GOP's best hope for 2016?

By Richard K. Barry

Not that any of us should be surprised, but Jeb Bush is giving serious consideration to seeking the GOP presidential nomination for 2016. This is according to the New York Times, which also writes this:

Mr. Bush is said by friends to be weighing financial and family considerations -- between so many years in office and the recession his wealth took a dip, they said, and he has been working hard to restore it -- as well as the complicated place within the Republican Party of the Bush brand.  

After Mitt Romney's defeat by a Democratic coalition built around overwhelming support from Hispanics and other fast-growing demographic groups, many Republicans are looking for a candidate who can help make the party more inclusive without ceding conservative principles -- and no one is the subject of more speculation at this point than Mr. Bush.

Read more »

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Karl Rove's hissy fit -- another explanation?

By Comrade Misfit

Anonymous is claiming that Karl Rove's computer geeks tried to steal the election (as has been alleged that he did in Ohio in 2004). The group claims to have blocked the attempt by erecting firewalls to stop the intrusion attempts.

It would explain why Rove melted down on live TV on Election Night. He might have really thought he had the election sewn up.

It would be very interesting if enough evidence c ame out to warrant a serious investigation.


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A.M. Headlines

(Wall Street Journal): "Tea Party seeks to regroup"

(New York Times): "One-party control opens states to partisan rush"

(Associated Press): "Black voters look to leverage their loyalty"

(Rolling Stone): "How President Obama won a second term"

(NBC News): "Shoppers hit the stores after early start to Black Friday"


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Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22, 1963

By Mustang Bobby

Friday, November 22, 1963. I was in the sixth grade in Toledo, Ohio. I had to skip Phys Ed because I was just getting over bronchitis, so I was in a study hall when a classmate came up from the locker room in the school basement to say, "Kennedy's dead." We had a boy in our class named Matt Kennedy, and I wondered what had happened – an errant fatal blow with a dodgeball? A few minutes later, though, it was made clear to us at a hastily-summoned assembly, and we were soon put on the buses and sent home. Girls were crying.

There was a newspaper strike at The Blade, so the only papers we could get were either from Detroit or Cleveland. (The union at The Blade, realizing they were missing the story of the century, agreed to immediately resume publication and settle their differences in other ways.) Television, though, was the medium of choice, and I remember the black-and-white images of the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews, the casket being lowered, President Johnson speaking on the tarmac, and the events of the weekend – Oswald, Ruby, the long slow funeral parade, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" – merging into one long black-and-white flicker, finally closing on Monday night with the eternal flame guttering in the cold breeze.

I suspect that John F. Kennedy would be bitterly disappointed that the only thing remembered about his life was how he left it and how it colored everything he did leading up to it. The Bay of Pigs, the steel crisis, the Cuban missle crisis, the Test Ban Treaty, even the space program are dramatized by his death. They became the stuff of legend, not governing, and history should not be preserved as fable.

Read more »

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Charlie Brown gets the Pilgrims all wrong

By Frank Moraes

With Thanksgiving comes not one, but two Charlie Brown specials. As I was cooking in preparation for today's thang, I watched them -- mostly. The first one was the traditional A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This is an interesting film because Lucy is not in it. As a result, it seems that Charlie Brown is meant to act the part of the asshole. He treats Snoopy and Woodstock as though they are slaves. And then, when everyone heads off to Grandma's condo for dinner, the animals are left behind to fend for themselves. I was outraged. Really.

Snoopy has a turkey dinner all ready to go in his dog house, of course. But then, after all the animal slavery, something happened that bothered me even more. Snoopy serves Woodstock part of the bird and Woodstock eats it! I know this is technically not cannibalism, but it is close enough. This is supposed to be a children's show. What is wrong with these people?!

The second Charlie Brown special was so much worse. I didn't even make it to the first commercial. It is the first episode of This is America Charlie Brown: Mayflower Voyagers. It pissed me off right away. Here were Charlie Brown and Linus in their iconic modern dress. But the girls were all in period costume. Why? How the hell should I know?! One thing I do know: it was offensive for vaguely sexist reasons.

But the reason I turned away was that the show told the same lie that most people continue to believe: the Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower to find religious freedom. I'm so inspired. Wait! I feel a song coming on:

And the la-hand of the Freeeeee!
And the hoooome, of thhhhhe, braaaave!

Read more »

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Fox News, where mocking the poor makes Thanksgiving so much fun

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Media Matters:

On the eve of Thanksgiving, Fox News pundit Andrea Tantaros mockingly dismissed the plight of hungry Americans, claiming that she would "look fabulous" if she were forced to live on a food stamp diet.

Tantaros' vapid commentary came in response to Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker's pledge to accept the food-stamp challenge and try to subsist on $133 for food per month for an extended period of time, just as food stamp recipients in New Jersey do.

After Fox Business panelists speculated whether Booker's pledge is an effort at "positioning himself for a run for the presidency as a man of the people," Tantaros quipped: "I should try it because, do you know how fabulous I'd look. I'd be so skinny. I mean, the camera adds ten pounds."

What an appalling thing to say, if hardly surprising coming from someone at Fox. Honestly, she can go fuck herself.

I might add that she got where she is because of things other than her brains, but for all I know she's a smart woman who just happens to have some truly terrible political views. (Though she actually seems to be a combination of vapid and obnoxious, and her opportunistic career in the Republican propaganda machine in PR and media strategy, which is where the generally brainless wonders of the political class tend to reside, suggests that as well.)

Conservatism may occasionally be attractive on the outside, but inside it's ugly and rotten to the core.

Case in point.

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(American) Thanksgiving 2012

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We had ours. Now, by all means, go have yours.

To my American friends and family, to all of you Americans out there, and especially to my American editors, co-bloggers, and contributors here at The Reaction, as well as to my many American friends and acquaintances throughout the blogosphere, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you're all having a wonderful day.

And as for football today -- Texans at Lions, Redskins at Cowboys, Patriots and Jets -- all I can say is that I despise all of those teams with the possible exception of the Texans. But those are all interesting and potentially entertaining matchups, and of course there's also fantasy, so I'll be cheering for Calvin Johnson, Matt Schaub, Stevan Ridley, Jason Hanson, and Houston's D.

And, as a Steelers fan, contemplating our prospects on Sunday against the Browns, including the odd, and somewhat depressing, thought of Charlie Batch throwing the ball to Plaxico Burress. Good times.

-- Michael

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Obama pardons turkeys, Romney goes to Disneyland

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Fresh off a four-day trip to Asia, President Barack Obama pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey Wednesday, taking a shot at his former Republican opponent and cracking jokes about his reelection. 

"They say that life is all about second chances and this November I can't agree more," Obama said.

"So in the spirit of the season I have one more gift to give," Obama joked in apparent reference to Mitt Romney's claim after the election that Obama won by giving "gifts" to minority groups, Obama said he was going to pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey, named Cobbler, and his stand-in, Gobbler.

"The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward," he added.

See, that's very funny. And really it's the least Romney deserves for proving to be a privileged rich douchebag as much after the election as before it. (Because that's what he is, period. Surely we all learned that, no?)

Speaking of the guy who will likely end up with a karmic 47% of the popular vote once all the ballots from the 2012 presidential election are counted:

There was another Mitt Romney sighting at Disneyland today, and several Twitter users have shared the disappointingly mouse-ear-free photos. (@michellekillzz reports, "Just met Mitt Romney. He's the shit.") In recent days Romney went to see Twilight and grabbed some pizza, pumped his own gas, and drank from a red Solo cup after going to the gym, so it would appear that he's on some kind of tour to see how the other 47 percent lives.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Must be nice, though, to have all that vulture capitalist money to fall back on, eh?

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Math class warfare

By Mustang Bobby

Rachel Maddow explains how raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 works:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If you can't watch the video, what she's telling us is that people who are freaking out about plans to raise taxes on those who make over $250,000, the hike will only effect the income over $250,000. So if you make $250,001, the higher rate applies only to the $1. ABC News and The New York Times are not making that clear. Not only that, anyone who makes over $250,000 and doesn't have the intelligence to hire an accountant to manage their money deserves to pay all the taxes we can squeeze out of them. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A.M. Headlines

(Los Angeles Times): Obama, GOP lawmaker deliver Thanksgiving messages"

(NBC News): "Jesse Jackson, Jr. resigns from Congress"

(Washington Post): "After election euphoria, liberals begin to worry about election fights to come"

(Associated Press): "Iowa Straw Poll on the outs with GOP establishment"

(The Hill): "In lame-duck session, lawmakers aim to resolve legislative leftovers"


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Obama achieves ceasefire in Gaza; Republicans still complain

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian [Foreign] Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr today announced a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, ending eight days of violence that resulted in nearly 150 dead and more wounded. President Obama dispatched Clinton to the region yesterday and the nation's top diplomat traveled to Jerusalem and Cairo today to help facilitate the deal. 

But in a statement on the Gaza ceasefire today, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) — one day after intelligence officials debunked their attacks on the Obama administration over Benghazi — didn't have any kind words for the president and his team. In fact, the new "Three Amigos" attacked Obama, saying there needs to be "smarter American leadership" in the Middle East. 

Yes, why the hell won't he launch an attack on Iran?! Who the hell does he think he is?!

These clowns are so partisan and so desperate that they can't even give credit where credit is due if it involves the president.

Their interests are their own, not the country's, and with the world looking to the U.S. for leadership (and getting it) in the middle of a bloody powder keg, and with peace a tenuous hope but now, thanks to that leadership, a serious possibility, their comments aren't just stupid, they're foolish, counter-productive, and downright dangerous.

This is a time when unity behind the president, along with the presentation of such unity to the world and especially to the various elements in the Middle East, would go a long way towards resolving this crisis. But that's obviously too much to ask of Republicans these days.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Republicans waiting for Superman

By Frank Moraes 

Look! Out in the right wing echo chamber! It's a tax cut proposal?! It's a birth control ban?! No! It's another appeal to conservatives to seem reasonable without changing a God damned thing!

Yes, the "let's all speak nicely about Latinos": argument from a fantasy land far away, come to reality hoping to obfuscate, distract, and deceive the American people.

Katrina Trinko over at National Review writes, "Huntsman's Problem Wasn't Just That He Was Perceived as a Moderate." That title gives you the wrong impression, however. Really what's she's saying is that Huntsman's policies were mostly to the right of Romney. The problem was that he just seemed too damned reasonable!

Trinko goes on to note that Huntsman didn't run a good campaign, but this is a minor complaint. He could easily run a stellar campaign next time. After all, if he had just stayed in the race, at some point, like all the others, he would have surged ahead in the polls. And given that he actually was a real politician, he might have stayed there.

What Trinko seems to be offering is the idea that if Republicans can just hold their noses and vote for a candidate who doesn't pander to their vile ideal, they might get a really conservative candidate who can win. This all comes down to the argument conservatives have been making since the election: it is the style rather than the substance of their policies that are scaring minority voters away. But no: it's really is the substance.

I'm not one of those who think that the Democrats are home free now. Republicans will continue to win low-turnout elections. But for the majority of voters, their ideas are toxic. And it doesn't matter how much they dress up these ideas. Even in a Superman cape, they just won't fly.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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A message from God, in response to Marco Rubio

Okay, so stop me if you've heard this one: 
A Cuban and a writer from GQ walk into the back room of a local community center in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. The writer then asks the Cuban: 

GQ: So, how old do you think the Earth is?

Cuban: I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians... I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all... Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.

Ready for the punchline? The Cuban is actually a sitting senator from Florida named Marco Rubio and he is one of my so-called "children" who think I was being literal when I said the universe and everything in it was created in seven days. I mean, thanks for giving me that much credit, but damn... er... sorry, I meant darn... had I known humans would be so literal with my words I would have been more specific.

You know, when I said all those things back in the day I honestly thought people would take that information and really think about it. Instead, they took me at my word and now we have people like this Rubio fellow making me out to be some kind of comic book superhero.

I mean, think about it. What is more impressive, that I can create heaven and earth in a week or over billions of years? I would have thought the latter to be more mind-blowing, but then again thank you for suggesting I am only 6,000 years old. Flattery will get you everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, if you catch my drift. Do people still use that expression, or am I dating myself?

Now, I have seen this so-called Bible and it always makes me chuckle (you might know it as thunder). And this might also come as a surprise, but I see the Bible as more like a game of telephone than my actual words. You know that game? What is said on one end gets translated into something completely different? That's the Bible.

Let's be real. If I really could create all of this in that brief time, wouldn't I have also taken the time to make people a little bit more aware of their surroundings? From what I understand, the writers of the Bible thought the universe was as large as the distance they could walk in a day. They must have thought all I could do was make sand!

I have to say, though, I love your depictions of me. You flatter me with the flowing hair, white beard, and muscles. I hate to break it to you, but neither I nor my son is as handsome as you all imagine, or as tall. Plus, if I were able to create everything in a week, wouldn't that leave me plenty of time to shave?

Sorry, I know I should not be so sarcastic, what with being perfect and all.

Anyway, I said what I had to say. Please, stop taking everything you read to be the gospel, pun intended. It is flattering, but it also makes me seem like a simpleton. I actually tried to make things very complex and complicated because I love watching scientists trying to figure it all out. But when those so-called religious people try to put all of my hard work into such simple terms, well, I get kind of annoyed. You forget, I created all of you in my own image. I have a reputation to uphold!

Don't make me come down there. 

(Cross-posted at Take My Country Back.)

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John Metz: idiot and fucktard

By Frank Moraes

Matt Yglesias has been writing a bit about about these business owners who are whining that the ACA (Obamacare) is just going to destroy their businesses. In particular, he highlighted John Metz, owner of more than 30 Denny's restaurant franchises, who said he was going to add a 5% "Obamacare surcharge" on all customer bills. Because he's such a charming motherfucker, he added that the customers could take the surcharge out of the server tip, because after all, they're "the primary beneficiary of Obamacare."

These comments didn't sit too well with the CEO of Denny's. John Miller had a private meeting with Metz and afterward said that he was "disappointed" in Metz. Yesterday, Metz released a statement that he regretted his remarks. There is a proximate reason for Miller's swift action, of course: people were talking boycott and were generally pissed off at Denny's. But I think there's more to this. So does Yglesias.

Matt Yglesias puts it this way:

But my strong suspicion is that the CEO is right about this and that's actually a terrible way to market a 5 percent price increase. The basic business proposition at any restaurant is the idea that we're giving you a dining experience that's more valuable to you than the money we're asking for. It's a good deal, come eat our tasty food. Whining about the fact that your servers now have health insurance is neither here nor there in terms of the value proposition on offer, and is only going to serve to alienate people by making you look like an asshole.

I agree with all of this, but I don't think this is the main issue -- or at least this isn't the way that I would put it. This is all about demographics. If everyone in this country voted, Democrats could win every election by a landslide. Everyone doesn't vote, of course, so Republicans do okay. But everyone does go out to eat from time to time. What's more, the people who go out to Denny's tend toward the poor. These are people who are going to be most hostile to a partisan Republican stunt like blaming part of the cost on President Obama.

Yglesias is correct, that everything that Metz said is likely to offend everyone -- even Republicans. But had he said nothing and just added the surcharge, it might have tickled the 30% of his clientele who are Republican. But the 70% Democrats would find it offensive and perhaps choose another of the similar low-cost dining choices.

But I'm still planning to boycott all Denny's in Florida just in case the money might go to this fucktard John Metz.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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The biggest threat all along was Jon Huntsman. Thankfully, Republicans were too stupid to nominate him.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

After decades of trying, the Manchus finally crossed the Great Wall in 1644, taking Beijing and establishing the Qing Dynasty. They had an easier time of it than Huntsman in the Republican Party.

The WSJ's Washington Wire is reporting that early on the Obama campaign was worried about one really appealing Republican in particular: 

Jon Huntsman is the former Utah governor who took a moderate stance in a GOP field that leaned to the right. He didn't get very far in the Republican nomination fight, but team Obama viewed him as a serious candidate who could pose real problems in a general election. 

"We were honest about our concerns about Huntsman," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said at a Politico breakfast event Tuesday. "I think Huntsman would have been a very tough candidate."

As for the president, he liked Mr. Huntsman enough to appoint him ambassador to China in 2009. Mr. Messina, who was working in the White House at the time, said he helped Mr. Huntsman win Senate confirmation.

"As someone who helped manage his confirmation for Chinese ambassador, he's a good guy," Mr. Messina said. "We looked at his profile in a general election and thought he would have been" a formidable candidate.

Absolutely. In fact, I wrote a post way back in June 2011 called "Huntsman the Formidable."

Don't get me wrong, I never thought it was going to be him. The Republican Party is just too extreme right now, too ideologically absolutist, to go with someone like Huntsman.

This is the party, after all, that tossed aside conservative-but-not-conservative-enough Dick Lugar in Indiana, who would have been a shoe-in for re-election, and ended up with Dick "pregnancies from rape are a gift from God" Mourdock, who lost badly in what this year was a solidly red state, a race that was his to lose. A party that was so uncomfortable with Mitt Romney that it flirted seriously with the embarrassing likes of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum before finally settling, reluctantly, on the guy who would end up losing. It was not going to get behind a guy, however conservative, who refused to kowtow to the far right, who exposed Republican ignorance, who was just too sane and civil for the current Republican zeitgeist.

Not in 2012. Absolutely not. He just had way too many strikes against him, as I noted here:

Not that Republicans will ever nominate him, mind you. They're too stupid to know what's good for them, and Huntsman just isn't the right sort of Republican for 2012, what with the party getting ever more extreme, particularly with the rise of the Tea Party, and old-school establishment figures, not to mention moderates, or those who just aren't conservative enough for the extremists, even those with a single questionable mark on their record, being purged from its ranks by the right-wing Bolsheviks who run the show.

I wrote a post way back in January 2011 called "If I were Obama, I'd be worried about Huntsman." In retrospect, I was wrong. Obama had nothing to be worried about. Huntsman was never really a threat.

I was actually talking up the Huntsman thing even earlier, with a post in May 2009 called "Huntsman 2012?" What did I say then? "Huntsman may make us all a little queasy, but, thankfully, Republicans are just too stupid to know what's good for them."

He was undeniably formidable, as I wrote in June 2011:

[T]here's no denying he's an awfully impressive man. I might even go so far as to say he could very well be Reagan 2.0, or if not that, given how transformative Reagan was for movement conservatism, at least a leading Republican in the Reagan mold. He just seems to have it all, even the somewhat more tolerant and even liberal positions on some social issues that show him to be a man of the times, not a man against the times, a conservative who is open to progress and change while remaining committed to his fundamental beliefs. Perhaps he could be zeitgeist conservative, the forward-looking proponent of conservatism at a time of massive global change.


But not likely, not in today's Republican Party, which would likely rather expel him that have him as its leader.

Yes, Republicans really are too stupid to know what's good for them. Which is good for us, but not good for Huntsman, who will have to wait until 2016, or forever, to make his mark in a party that has abandoned him and all those like him.
Do you get what I'm saying?
Republicans. Stupid. Huntsman. Never.

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Fraud alert

By Mustang Bobby

Paul Krugman warns us about Paul Ryan:

The fact is that Ryan is and always was a fraud. His plan never added up; it was never, contrary to what people who should know better asserted, "scored" by the CBO. What he actually offered was a plan to hurt the poor and reward the rich, actually increasing the deficit along the way, plus magic asterisks that supposedly reduced the debt by means unspecified.

His genius, if you can all it that, was in realizing that there was a role — as I said, that of Honest, Serious Conservative — that self-proclaimed centrists desperately wanted to see filled, so that they could demonstrate their bipartisanship by lavishing praise on the holder of that position. So Ryan did his best to impersonate a budget wonk. It wasn't a very good impersonation — in fact, he's pretty bad at budget math. But the "centrists" saw what they wanted to see.

You have been warned.

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Let's call it like it is: Those Republicans attacking Susan Rice over Benghazi are full of shit

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The ridiculous Republican claim, made by the likes of John McCain and his buddy Lindsey Graham, among others, is that Ambassador Rice misled the American people by claiming on the Sunday talk shows that the attack was a spontaneous incident rather than a terrorist attack.

But as I wrote the other day, it's desperately partisan Republicans vs. Obama, the CIA, and the facts. Rice was only saying what she was being advised to say by the intelligence community. The talking point changes weren't politically motivated and reflected caution, which is really the sort of thing one wants and expects from those tasked with figuring out what the hell's going on around the world. A new report by CBS News backs this up:

CBS News has learned that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) cut specific references to "al Qaeda" and "terrorism" from the unclassified talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice on the Benghazi consulate attack - with the agreement of the CIA and FBI. The White House or State Department did not make those changes.

There has been considerable discussion about who made the changes to the talking points that Rice stuck to in her television appearances on Sept. 16 (video), five days after the attack that killed American Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and three other U.S. nationals.

Republicans have accused her of making misleading statements by referring to the assault as a "spontaneous" demonstration by extremists. Some have suggested she used the terminology she did for political reasons.

However, an intelligence source tells CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan the links to al Qaeda were deemed too "tenuous" to make public, because there was not strong confidence in the person providing the intelligence. CIA Director David Petraeus, however, told Congress he agreed to release the information -- the reference to al Qaeda -- in an early draft of the talking points, which were also distributed to select lawmakers.

"The intelligence community assessed from the very beginning that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack." DNI spokesman Shawn Turner tells CBS News. That information was shared at a classified level -- which Rice, as a member of President Obama's cabinet, would have been privy to.

An intelligence source says the talking points were passed from the CIA to the DNI, where the substantive edits were made, and then to FBI, which made more edits as part of "standard procedure."

People like John McCain should know better, and maybe do know better. Obviously, they're either completely delusional or trying to score political points by turning this into a major scandal (at the level of Watergate, some of them are crazily suggesting).

"The points were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack," [a senior U.S. official] tells CBS News, adding that there were "legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly."

"Most people understand that saying 'extremists' were involved in a direct assault on the mission isn't shying away from the idea of terrorist involvement," added the official. "Because of the various elements involved in the attack, the term extremist was meant to capture the range of participants."

Makes sense, no? It's intelligence. It's messy. And it's all happening in a very messy part of the world. For her part, Rice did nothing wrong. She communicated what she thought was right -- and what in fact was right, in nuanced terms carefully chosen by those whose job it is to get it right. To attack her now is just partisan scapegoating, an effort on the part of Republicans to tarnish the credibility of one of President's Obama's chief foreign policy officials and quite possibly his nominee to replace Hillary as secretary of state -- and therefore an effort to tarnish the president himself, to bring him down with a manufactured scandal built, as is typical of Republicans, on lies.

They really are full of shit.

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Bye, Bye Miss American Pie

By Capt. Fogg

Indications are that the Mayans were right and that 2012 is indeed the end of an era, not because of  some change in politics or religion and not because of anything cosmic or tectonic, but because a piece of America as we knew it has died. An America, exuberant in itself, proud, forward looking, confident.  Hostess bakeries died this week and not because of mismanagement but because of what America has become: timorous, ashamed of what it loves and afraid of being provincial.  Our sweet land of phony authenticity.  Of thee I sing.

The Twinkie, the Ho-Ho, the Snowball are gone now, along with the Oldsmobile and the Mercury; with Buddy Holly and the independent hamburger stand. You can't buy a Hostess cupcake any more for much the same reason you can't find anything like Hopper's Nighthawks any more. Your cupcakes have to be 'artisinal,' gluten free, in season, free range and come from a 'cupcakery' just as that cup of Joe is now an 'Americano' and served (artisinally) by a 'Barista.'  You're not à la mode enough though, unless you order something that sounds like Mississippi camp-meeting glossolalia and costs forty bucks for a "venti."  Good God, don't ask for a "large." America's rites of self detestation and the industries that thrive on it the way a tapeworm thrives on weakening it's host have us all scrambling for the plastic, made in Taiwan, European panache that we attribute to lands  that we otherwise pretend to loathe because, of course, they're 'authentic' and we're not. American means fake and we flee from it toward an imported synthetic authenticity.

The Authenticity industry with it's vast smoking factories churning out the local and seasonal and artisinal synthetic-reality products we crave and the flim-flam pseudo-scientist diet doctors selling us low 'carb' gluten free and without fructose and for heaven's sake, not 'processed' foods: we zumba and carb-count our way to South Beach to be fleeced.  In an age most noteworthy for the triumph of scientific method over superstition and fallacious conjecture, we have come more to trust 'alternative' information that comes from movie actors, comedians and people who get rich by insisting, contrary to all evidence, that gluten is poison, that miracle berries and magic beans will let you live forever, that cooking your food is bad and the fructose you get from corn is full of bad and fattening juju unlike the identical Furanose Sugars found in (organically grown, artisinally picked, local and seasonal ) strawberries.

Studies show. . .  I cringe when I see that and nearly always it means that tendentious conjecture based on selected facts might fool you into thinking. . . It nearly always means that there was no real study.  Large scale, double blind and randomized scientific studies that are repeatable and published in peer-reviewed journals don't have a chance against diet doctors, Oprah-backed pundits or miracle food and fake science purveyors, not in a country trained to favor faith over fact, trained to celebrate the notions of celebrities and mistrust scientists; trained to patronize diet doctors who tell us that studies show.

Twinkies have anti-oxidant  "preservatives" which everyone knows are bad because studies show. They contain things like gluten and fructose that everyone knows are bad because studies show.  Twinkies may be authentic, but they're authentic American and that doesn't count. We long for something Tuscan, even if we're not sure where that is -- something from Tuscany where it's all artisinal.  Hostess Snowballs -- they didn't stand a snowball's chance in the new America. Maybe if you called them gluten free Palle di Neve or Boules de Neige and opened chic little sidewalk places in Boca Raton and Park Slope and South Beach and had them served by Ballistas for ten bucks each. . .
Ah well, one can only dream now of  temps perdue.  Where? When? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.

(Cross Posted from Human Voices)

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On the road to single payer

By Mustang Bobby

All those Republican governors who railed against government-run health care back in 2010 are making it come true, at least in their states:

Late last week more than a dozen Republican governors declared that they will not build the insurance market exchanges called for by the Affordable Care Act, including prominent names like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Perry of Texas.

On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma joined them, declaring in a statement that it "does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government."

The original deadline for states to notify the Department of Health and Human Services on whether they intend to build their own exchange was last Friday, but the administration extended it to Dec. 14. About a dozen Republican governors are weighing their options, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa.

The Affordable Care Act encourages each state to build and operate its own exchange — a regulated, subsidized marketplace where consumers and small businesses can shop for insurance plans. If a state declines, the federal government has the power under the health care reform law to build one for it.

The decisions carry important implications for the long-term arc of Obamacare, which supporters and opponents alike agree is here to stay now that President Obama has been re-elected. The Obama administration wants states to build the exchanges so they have an incentive to make the law work. If the federal government takes over, state-level Republicans have a scapegoat in case things go wrong.

There's no telling how it will work out; different states have different needs, and HHS can only do so much, but if it works as well as Medicare, it might be better than what the states can come up with on their own despite all the rhetoric about "local control."

What I think is both troubling and predictable is that these governors are willing to put a lot of their citizens' health and well-being at risk just to score political points with their re-election base (hi, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida). How many people have to get sick and die quickly for him to avoid getting primaried by a teabagger?

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A.M. Headlines

(Washington Post): "Many unaware of healthcare law changes"

(Associated Press): "Courting Asia, Obama finds that the world intrudes"

(Politico): "Republicans, 2016: In full swing"

(The Hill): "Democrats preparing candidates in case Kerry moves to Cabinet"

(Fox News): Only one undecided House Race remains, McIntyre holds slim lead in NC"

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rubio's young earth fantasies

By Frank Moraes

Marco Rubio has made a bit of a stir with comments about his young earth belief. It isn't so much the beliefs; they are standard fair in the conservative movement. What is most appalling is his relativistic statement in support of these beliefs, "At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all." If I didn't know what he was thinking, I would yield the point. The truth is there are different theories and I think it is a great idea teach them all. But I'm talking about actual scientific theories and this is not what Rubio is talking about. He wants the Genesis myth to be taught as science.

I'm not kidding about this. He goes on to say, "I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries." No. It isn't one of the great mysteries. The earth was not created in 7 days and I don't know what an "actual era" is. These are the words of a man who can not back up his beliefs. His religion tells him that the universe is not the way we know it to be so he claims that we should teach "all sides of it": the side that's true and the fantasy he wants to believe. This isn't even handed. This is simple distortion of the truth.

Digby dug up a 2009 article about what Rubio was saying then, via Little Green Footballs:

Rubio added, "And for me, personally, I don't want a school system that teaches kids that what they're learning at home is wrong."

Rubio, a Cuban-American, made a comparison to the strategy employed by the Communist Party in Cuba where schools encouraged children to turn in parents who criticized Fidel Castro.

"Of course, I'm not equating the evolution people with Fidel Castro," he quickly added, while noting that undermining the family and the church were key means the Communist Party used to gain control in Cuba.

What I find most offensive about these words is how they fit into the context of my lifetime here in the United States. There is only one party that ever acted in this way. It was the Republican Party under Reagan and Bush that encouraged children to turn their parents in for drug use and dealing. I remember Bush praising a grammar school child for having turned her cocaine dealing parents into the police. So to have a Republican claim that teaching evolution is somehow going to turn children against their parents when his own party worked to do that very thing in the name of their useless Drug War makes my blood boil.

It would be nice to think that anyone as delusional as Rubio couldn't become president. But we know that isn't the case. Well over half the people of the United States believe the same disproven rubbish that he spouts. There really are facts in the world, however. But the modern Republican Party will have none of it. And as we know from Charles Krauthammer, the only thing the Republicans need to change about themselves is to be a little less vile regarding Latinos. So don't be surprised if roughly 50% of the country votes for a Cuban young earth proponent in 2016.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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Porcupine Tree's Octane Twisted released today

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You know what comes out today (in North America)?

Octane Twisted by Porcupine Tree, a double CD (with a DVD in the special edition being sold directly by Kscope in the U.K. -- yes, I ordered mine weeks ago, and it should be here any day) featuring the band performing the 14-part "The Incident" (the first disc of the two-disc The Incident) in its entirety at the Riviera in Chicago on April 30, 2010, along with additional tracks recorded at that show and at London's Royal Albert Hall on October 14, 2010.

You may know how much I love Porcupine Tree, and, well, pretty much everything Steven Wilson's associated with, and I've posted a lot here already, including most recently some Blackfield (here) and some of Wilson's fantastic solo stuff (here and here), as well as PT's excellent "Drown With Me" last month.

Well, The Incident is probably my favorite PT album, just ahead of the great trio of albums from 1999 to 2002 -- Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun, and In Absentia. (I delved into their history a bit back in May -- but back then I wrote that Lightbulb Sun was my favourite album.) I hope they do more, of course, though they're not currently recording (with Wilson focusing on his solo career), but I see this album as the culmination of everything that came before it, as the album that essentially brings together the history of the band and its musical evolution into one giant masterpiece. 

(My favourite song on the album is the melancholic "Time Flies," which evokes Pink Floyd's Animals, but the three-song combination of "Great Expectations," "Kneel and Disconnect," and "Drawing the Line," each one blending into the next, is particularly outstanding.)

And here it is... live.

Only one of the four songs on The Incident's second disc is included here ("Bonnie the Cat"), which is too bad (I especially like "Remember Me Lover"), but the bonus tracks are great. They include "Russia on Ice" and the full-length "Even Less," probably my two favourite PT songs, as well as the wonderful "Stars Die" (from 1995's psychedelic The Sky Moves Sideways) and the epic "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" (from 2005's Deadwing).

Look, this is incredible stuff. And in the absense of new material, it's as good as it gets.

It's weird being such a big fan of a band that most people have never heard of, especially here in North America (though their popularity has grown in recent years, particularly since 2007's Fear of a Blank Planet, an album about alienated youth). I actually don't think I know anyone who knows them, but I acknowledge I don't always travel in musically well-informed circles.

But no matter. They're awesome.

Nothing will ever top Pink Floyd for me, and I suppose I'd still put The Beatles next, but after that, and of all the bands working today (even if they're currently on hiatus), it's Porcupine Tree. They really do mean that much to me.

Seriously, experience them for yourself. Start with Octane Twisted if you like (though I'd probably go back to Stupid Dream as their most accessible album). As a taste, here's "I Drive the Hearse," the last part of the 14-part "The Incident" and a great, great song. Enjoy.

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