New Year’s Reads: Things Can Only Get Better!

hongkong-cny-fireworksI’m still recovering from whatever flu virus hit me last weekend.  I do have my voice back and I’m coughing a bit less so I’m beginning to catch up with reading this and that. I stayed in bed with hot tea and a marathon of “Drunk History” while trying to figure out if the noise I was hearing last night was gunfire or fireworks.  I have no idea what the mix of one to the other was. That’s one of those things that keeps me indoors on NY’s Eve because I really don’t want to be the one out there gathering the data. Most folks try not to think about about it.

One of the things that always amazes me is how vulnerable people are to wishful thinking and things easily demonstrated to be complete bullshit.  I suppose I suffer the hubris of the scholar on this account.  I didn’t have access to the internet in my home until 1980 but you generally could find me in whichever library housed the government documents drop.  Yes, the University of Nebraska libraries had huge basements dedicated to the stuff at one time and I was a basement dweller.  Now it’s all on spreadsheets on my hard drive. It really doesn’t take much to figure out what  is what.  However, everything experiences variation and intellect and curiosity are no different.

I guess the same thing that makes folks vulnerable to religion also makes them vulnerable to political myth.  My first experience with all the ploy to keep people well-behaved and hopeful was as a child when I learned my parents were deliberately lying to me about Santa Claus for my sister’s sake.  I later studied 3rd and 4th century Roman history and lost religion. It’s basically the same MO but with much better data. But the Santa episode really sunk in. I went to the basement, screamed at myself for being so stupid then wondered what else they’d been lying to me about.  Well, it turned out that it was about a lot of things that I could easily find out about in my handy dandy local library’s reference section.  I’ve spent my professional and personal life gleaning through data looking for truths. I hate being taken in.

We’ve all been stumped about why Donald Trump could gain ground in any national level political race. He says things that are blatantly hateful and false, yet he gains ground. Polls showing his demographics illustrate his base.  It’s basically the ugly underbelly of the US that shows up in our history quite frequently.  These folks love being taken in.

Donald Trump holds a dominant position in national polls in the Republican race in no small part because he is extremely strong among people on the periphery of the G.O.P. coalition.

He is strongest among Republicans who are less affluent, less educated and less likely to turn out to vote. His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It’s a coalition that’s concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North, according to data provided to The Upshot by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm.

Mr. Trump’s huge advantage among these groups poses a challenge for his campaign, because it may not have the turnout operation necessary to mobilize irregular voters

The Civis estimates are based on interviews with more than 11,000 Republican-leaning respondents since August. The large sample, combined with statistical modeling techniques, presents the most detailed examination yet of the contours of Mr. Trump’s unusual coalition.

We’ve seen this set of nutcases before.  It appears to be the return of the Reagan coalition.  This turns my mind back to the Santa Claus story, and for that matter, any particular dead religious figure you can Sydney_habour_bridge_&_opera_house_fireworks_new_year_eve_2008conjure up that people have turned into something not quite like the original narrative. Ronald Reagan was an affable fool.  Any economist that has studied the time period and his policies will tell you a completely different, data-based narrative than most of the people taken in by him.  BB sent me this link a few days ago.  I’ve only been able to really digest it today.

Any of us that have intensely studied some aspect of his regime–in my case the economic data–know that the myth is no where close to the truth. These narratives always seem to serve the current group of rich, powerful, assholes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re told to submit yourself to your husband or master or render unto Rome, it’s pretty much the same thing.  These so-called populist heroes lead sheep to slaughter.

Ronald Reagan was not only intellectually ungifted, he was incurious and ignorant about the details of the day.  It’s amazing to me that as historians go back and sift through their form of data on the ground, so little of it manages to take down the public id.  The link to Salon takes you to an excerpt from “The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton”  by  whose thesis on Reagan is summed up thusily: “No one ever entered the White House so grossily ill-informed”.  This says a lot given he was followed relatively shortly by Dubya Bush who didn’t even appear to have a command of his primary language let alone nuanced policy.  Remember, Dubya’s the guy that declared war on a lot of  Muslim-majority countries without a real grasp of the difference between  Sunni and Shia let alone the minority ones.

No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed. At presidential news conferences, especially in his first year, Ronald Reagan embarrassed himself. On one occasion, asked why he advocated putting missiles in vulnerable places, he responded, his face registering bewilderment, “I don’t know but what maybe you haven’t gotten into the area that I’m going to turn over to the secretary of defense.” Frequently, he knew nothing about events that had been headlined in the morning newspaper. In 1984, when asked a question he should have fielded easily, Reagan looked befuddled, and his wife had to step in to rescue him. “Doing everything we can,” she whispered. “Doing everything we can,” the president echoed. To be sure, his detractors sometimes exaggerated his ignorance. The publication of his radio addresses of the 1950s revealed a considerable command of facts, though in a narrow range. But nothing suggested profundity. “You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts,” a California legislator said, “and not get your ankles wet.”

 In all fields of public affairs—from diplomacy to the economy—the president stunned Washington policymakers by how little basic information he commanded. His mind, said the well-disposed Peggy Noonan, was “barren terrain.” Speaking of one far-ranging discussion on the MX missile, the Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, an authority on national defense, reported, “Reagan’s only contribution throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he’d watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from War Games.” The president “cut ribbons and made speeches. He did these things beautifully,” Congressman Jim Wright of Texas acknowledged. “But he never knew frijoles from pralines about the substantive facts of issues.” Some thought him to be not only ignorant but, in the word of a former CIA director, “stupid.” Clark Clifford called the president an “amiable dunce,” and the usually restrained columnist David Broder wrote, “The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan’s ears is a challenging one for his aides.”

20141229-1I actually was convinced that Reagan was so obviously ignorant and wrong about so many things that you could run any one against him and he’d never get a second term.  I was obviously young and not jaded enough to grasp the demographic that supported him because they believed what they wanted to believe because he told them so in such a “nice” way.  Now, this same group of yahoos is angry and they believe what Donald Trump tells them because they believe what they want to believe because he tells them in such an “angry” way.    ‘Morning in America’ does sound an awful lot like ‘Make America Great Again’ doesn’t it?  All of this is basically code for ‘Save White Privilege’ even if I don’t really benefit that much from it. As long you as you can make me feel superior to (fill in the blank), I’ll wishfully hope and then vote for you.

I try to tell myself that there’s no way that Donald Trump could ever be elected but then I would not be learning from my obviously wrong hypothesis that Ronald Reagan could ever get a second term.  Reagan raised taxes.  He ran up the deficit hugely.   There’s the Reagan “recession” and there was Iran Contra which all of these folks conveniently never heard about or forgot when they voted for the affable buffoon.  The same demographic could care less about Trump’s lies and the tremendous internet base of fact checking.

Donald Trump is the “King of Whoppers”.

But in this year’s presidential campaign, the fact checkers say one candidate has achieved truth-bending royalty.

“This is the first time we have named someone the ‘King of Whoppers,'” Eugene Kiely of FactCheck.org said.

Donald Trump earned that crown with the biggest whopper of 2015:

“I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down,” he said in a Birmingham, Alabama, rally in November 21.

The fact checkers found evidence of just a few people celebrating. But that wasn’t the only tall Trump tale of the year.

“He’s certainly keeping us busy… It is the worst that we have seen in the 12 years we have been doing this,” Kiely said.

“You know, the president’s thinking about signing an executive order where he wants to take your guns away,” Trump said at a South Carolina rally on October 19.

Then in New Hampshire, on September 30: “You know, it started off with 10,000. The other day I heard 200,000. We are going to take in 200,000 Syrians or wherever they come from,” Trump said.

“It’s just way over what the actual number is,” Kiely explains.

It’s not like this isn’t pointed out daily in places other than newspapers that none of Trump’s demographic appear to read. Bernie Sanders mentioned it just a few days ago.NewYearsEve-Seattle

“It appears that Donald Trump, a pathological liar, simply cannot control himself. He lies, lies and lies again. Today, he repeated his lie that I want to raise taxes to 90 percent. Totally untrue. And PolitiFact gave Trump’s same statement last October a ‘Pants-on-Fire’ rating.

Even Trumps Republican opponents point this out. Unfortunately, the most verbal are Kasich and Jeb who appear to be on their way out the door.

Bush talked to CNN on Wednesday and reinforced his point from the debate that Trump is “not a serious candidate.”

“I got to post up against Donald Trump,” Bush said. “I don’t think he’s a serious candidate.”

He added, “And I don’t know why others don’t feel compelled to point that out, but I did. And I think I got a chance to express my views and compare them to someone who talks a big game but really hasn’t thought it through.”

But, again, the only candidates gaining traction in the Republican field are the “know nothings”.  This includes Marco Rubio who has to be as intellectually ungifted as the gipper and is taken somewhat seriously despite the stupid and despite a very shady history of deal making for shady people.

Didn’t we say all this about a gawky rogue presidential candidate named Barack Obama? Sure. But Obama had the advantage of not looking and sounding like a complete fucking idiot. Obama was on the Harvard Law Review, not the Santa Fe Community College football team. Then again, that’s not really fair to community collegians and football players: Plenty of each are smart enough to run the country. It just so happens that Rubio isn’t one of them.

For proof, simply look to Rubio’s campaign message, a bizarre simulacrum of “hope and change” focus-grouped by Red Stripe-swilling blue blazers who are slightly scared of hope and change because they’ve witnessed its power but never fully understood its appeal, like those crouched simians sizing up the galactic monolith in 2001.

This scares me.  It should scare you.  Fireworks-IMG_9132

I will also admit that I didn’t think Obama was going to be as good of a President as he has turned out to be.  I really thought he’d continue to let the Republicans play him like a violin, but he learned, and learned well.  His last few years defy the lame duck theory.

So, I’m doing a mea culpa on the two failed hypotheses today just because I do not want to be lulled into a third one. We clearly have one great candidate that is experienced, flawed, and capable.  Then, we have a set of figures that look religiously mythical, are supported by people who have a lot to gain from populist ignorance, and appear to be impossibly unqualified for making national policy on all levels.  They may have one area upon which they are knowledgeable but most have absolutely nothing but being able to say blatantly wrong things because they have no clue how wrong they actually are.

Work in the right campaigns and vote in 2016.  Don’t make me write another mea culpa in 2017.  Please.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

And,  have a great NEW YEAR!!!  I love you all!!!

Thirty years ago from 1985 and deep from Reagan d0o d0o land.


Thursday Reads: Corporate Media Enables Victim Blaming in Death of Freddie Gray

View of East Baltimore from Amtrak train (credit Dave Troy http://davetroy.com/posts/from-the-train-baltimore-looks-like-hell

View of East Baltimore from Amtrak train (credit Dave Troy http://davetroy.com/posts/from-the-train-baltimore-looks-like-hell)

Good Morning!!

The victim-blaming flew thick and fast last night after The Washington Post published a self-serving leak from an anonymous Baltimore murderer policeman. According to the Post report, Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord, crushed his own voice box and gave himself severe brain injuries in order to get back at the cops who beat him, dragged him to a police van as he screamed in agony and left him unbelted during a long “rough ride” to the police station.

From the WaPo story:

A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.

The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.

The document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, offers the first glimpse of what might have happened inside the van. It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.

Gray was found unconscious in the wagon when it arrived at a police station on April 12. The 25-year-old had suffered a spinal injury and died a week later, touching off waves of protests across Baltimore, capped by a riot Monday in which hundreds of angry residents torched buildings, looted stores and pelted police officers with rocks.

Abandoned row houses, Perlman Place, Baltimore

Abandoned row houses, Perlman Place, Baltimore

That solves that mystery then, right?

Um . . . . no. That tall tale is just likely to inflame more anger and protests.

Watch this CNN video of the Freddie Gray arrest posted at Slate if you can handle it. It shows police lifting and pushing Gray into the van because he can’t move at least one of his legs. Several times Gray screams in agony as police lift him into the van and leave him unbelted despite his injuries.

A second bystander-filmed video of Freddie Gray’s April 12 arrest in Baltimore—after which he was hospitalized and died—appears to show Gray in substantial pain before being put into a police vehicle.

Initial video of Gray’s arrest also appeared to depict him in pain as an onlooker shouted that Gray’s leg was broken….both videos—and witness reports that Gray was struck and “bent up” by the officers who arrested him—seem to suggest the possibility that he was injured before being put into the van.

Have I told you lately how much I despise the Washington Post? At least they did publish this piece by Michael E. Miller this morning:

Those stories that Freddie Gray had a pre-existing spinal injury are totally bogus.

One thing is certain…Freddie Gray did not have a pre-existing spinal injury.

Yet, that was the story circulating on a handful of conservative Web sites Tuesday. In an “exclusive” quoting anonymous sources, the Web site The Fourth Estate reported that “Freddie Gray’s life-ending injuries to his spine may have possibly been the result of spinal and neck surgery that he allegedly received a week before he was arrested, not from rough [sic] excessively rough treatment or abuse from police.” The site claimed his injury was from a car accident….

“If this is true, then it is possible that Gray’s spinal injury resulting from his encounter with the Baltimore Police was not the result of rough-handling or abuse, but rather a freak accident that occurred when Gray should have been at home resting, not selling drugs,” the site reported right above images of documents pertaining to a civil lawsuit involving Gray.

“The police didn’t mistreat him at all; he mistreated himself,” the report concluded.

Abandoned row houses in Baltimore

Abandoned row houses in Baltimore

A$$holes.

But the images on the Fourth Estate actually relate to Gray’s lead paint lawsuit, the Baltimore Sun revealed. An attorney representing the Gray family confirmed that the case concerned lead paint, not a spinal cord injury a week before Freddie Gray’s arrest.

“We have no information or evidence at this point to indicate that there is a prior pre-existing spinal injury,” said Jason Downs, an attorney representing one of Gray’s relatives, told the Sun. “It’s a rumor.”

And yet that rumor might have caused real damage in a country already polarized on the subject of race and the police. The story quickly spread to several other Web sites, such as Free Republic and the Conservative Tree House, which called Gray’s supposedly pre-existing injury “a potential game changing discovery. A site called New York City Guns ran the headline “Dead Baltimore Drug Dealer Had Spinal Surgery DAYS Before He Collapsed in Police Van (Rioters Say ‘OOPS’).”

F**king a$$holes! I’m so sick of this garbage from so-called “conservatives.”

From this morning’s Baltimore Sun: The truth about Freddie Gray’s ‘pre-existing injury from car accident.’

Paperwork was filed in December allowing Gray and his sister, Fredericka to each collect an $18,000 payment from Peachtree Settlement Funding, records show. In exchange, Peachtree would have received a $108,439 annuity that was scheduled to be paid in $602 monthly installments between 2024 and 2039.

In her documents, Fredericka Gray checked “other” when asked to describe the type of accident. She also said that the date of the accident was “94/99” and that she was a minor when the case was settled.

In his documents, Freddie Gray checked “work injury, medical malpractice and auto accident” as the type of accident. When asked to explain, he also wrote something that is unreadable. He also wrote something unreadable when asked if he was a minor when the case was settled.

Baltimore, Md -- 12/2/11 -- The rear of a vacant house, marked with "X" on the left, where a 13-year-old girl was raped in October. The house at 825 N. Caroline was owned by the city for years and last year the city transferred it through a swap with a developer.  Kim Hairston [The Baltimore Sun ]

Baltimore, Md — 12/2/11 — The rear of a vacant house, marked with “X” on the left, where a 13-year-old girl was raped in October. The house at 825 N. Caroline was owned by the city for years and last year the city transferred it through a swap with a developer. Kim Hairston [The Baltimore Sun ]

Gray’s attorney says there is no evidence he had any kind of preexisting injury and there was no car accident.

As children, Gray and his two sisters were found to have damaging lead levels in their blood, which led to educational, behavioral and medical problems, according to a lawsuit they filed in 2008 against the owner of a Sandtown-Winchester home the family rented for four years.

While the property owner countered in the suit that other factors could have contributed to the children’s deficits — including poverty and their mother’s drug use — the case was settled before going to trial in 2010. The terms of the settlement are not public.

Even the Free Republic has now withdrawn their story on the rumors, according to the Sun article. But that won’t stop Fox News and other right wing sources from spreading the lies.

Now two important articles about the real roots of the riots that broke out in Baltimore on Monday.

TPM Cafe:

The Role The Police Played In Sparking The Baltimore Violence, by Lawrence Brown.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I have a potpourri of great reads for you this morning, so let’s get started.

First up, people in the states impacted by Hurricane Sandy have barely begun to recover. CBS News/AP report that: The scale of post-Sandy challenge in NY, NJ is unprecedented.

Two major airports reopened and the New York Stock Exchange got back to business Wednesday, while across the river in New Jersey, National Guardsmen rushed to feed and rescue flood victims two days aftersuperstorm Sandy struck.

For the first time since the storm slammed the Northeast, killing at least 63 people and inflicting billions of dollars in damage, brilliant sunshine washed over the nation’s largest city — a striking sight after days of gray skies, rain and wind. The light gave officials and residents a true glimpse of destruction on a scale that the region has never seen before.

At the stock exchange, running on generator power, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a thumbs-up and rang the opening bell to whoops from traders on the floor. Trading resumed after the first two-day weather shutdown since the Blizzard of 1888.

New York’s subway system was still down, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said parts of it will begin running again on Thursday. And he said some commuter rail service between the city and its suburbs would resume on Wednesday afternoon.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie and his new BFF Barack Obama toured the devastation. From The New York Times: An Unlikely Political Pair, United by a Disaster.

President Obama toured the storm-tossed boardwalks of New Jersey’s ravaged coastline on Wednesday, in a vivid display of big-government muscle and bipartisan harmony that confronted Mitt Romney with a vexing challenge just as he returned to the campaign trail in Florida.

The scene of Mr. Obama greeting his onetime political antagonist Gov. Chris Christie in Atlantic City was a striking departure from what has become an increasingly bitter campaign, marked by sharp divisions between Mr. Romney’s more limited view of the federal role and Mr. Obama’s more expansive vision. The president placed a hand on Mr. Christie’s back and guided him to Marine One, where the two men shared a grim flight over shattered sea walls, burning houses and a submerged roller coaster.

Speaking to storm victims at a community center in the hard-hit town of Brigantine, Mr. Obama said, “We are going to be here for the long haul.” Mr. Christie thanked the president for his visit, saying, “It’s really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that’s going on here in New Jersey.”

The tableau of bipartisan cooperation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s highly visible role in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, has put Mr. Romney in an awkward position…

As for Mitt Romney, he was getting hammered by the media in Ohio for two ads in which he falsely implied that Chrysler and GM were planning to ship American jobs to China. It looks to me as if Romney has given up the ghost in Ohio, because he headed to Florida yesterday, where a new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama leading by one point.

And last night the NYT editorial board slammed Romney for “cross[ing] a red line.”

When General Motors tells a presidential campaign that it is engaging in “cynical campaign politics at its worst,” that’s a pretty good signal that the campaign has crossed a red line and ought to pull back. Not Mitt Romney’s campaign. Having broadcast an outrageously deceitful ad attacking the auto bailout, the campaign ignored the howls from carmakers and came back with more.

Mr. Romney apparently plans to end his race as he began it: playing lowest-common-denominator politics, saying anything necessary to achieve power and blithely deceiving voters desperate for clarity and truth.

I think Romney may have finally sunk his campaign with those lying ads about the auto bailout. I wonder if that has contributed to polls that show Obama widening his leads in Michigan and Wisconsin?

In the Nebraska Senate Race, Bob Kerrey has been moving up in the polls, and last night Omaha.com broke some exciting news that could put him over the top: Chuck Hagel to endorse Bob Kerrey.

A spokesman with Kerrey’s campaign says Hagel – a former Nebraska U.S. Senator and a Republican – will back Kerrey in his race against Republican Deb Fischer.

Hagel’s endorsement comes as polls have shown the race between Kerrey and Fischer tightening down the home stretch.

Hagel’s backing could go a long way with independents. And, it clearly underscores Kerrey’s contention that he is the person in the race who can win Republican and Democratic support.

If Kerry, Claire McCaskill, Tammy Baldwin, and Elizabeth Warren, and perhaps Joe Donnelly can win their races, the Democrats should at least hold their majority in the Senate.

In Massachusetts, Liz Warren began making her final arguments.

As both Massachusetts Senate candidates deliver their final messages to voters, Warren is drawing on one major advantage she has in the state: demographics. According to the Secretary of State, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Massachusetts by a more than a three to one margin. As the race remains close, Warren and her supporters are using a partisan argument to rally the Democratic base, and encourage activists to turn out the vote on Warren’s behalf. Elect Brown, Warren and her supporters argue, and Republicans will control the U.S. Senate.

Introducing Warren to a crowd of volunteers and activists at Warren’s Haverhill field office on Wednesday, Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said he came from a Halloween party. “Everyone was dressed up in really scary costumes, so I was going to dress up as (Republican Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell,” he said, to laughter. “Because can you think of anything scarier than (Republican House Speaker) John Boehner in the House of Representatives or Mitch McConnell in the Senate?”

“There’s only one vote that counts and that’s the vote about which party is going to control the United States Senate,” Fiorentini continued. “We know which way Scott Brown is going to vote.”

Warren also released a great new ad that may serve as a closing argument: For All Our Families.

Right now in Indiana Joe Donnelly is leading Richard Mourdock by 7 percentage points.

I’ll end with a couple of powerful long reads.

From Truthout: What Does Romney’s Campaign of Lies Say About Our Country? Here’s the first paragraph:

Last week Mitt Romney delivered possibly the most dishonest presidential campaign speech in American history. It contains lie after lie, distortion after distortion, and trick after trick. The fact that a person capable of giving such a speech has reached this level suggests that it may be too late to salvage the country. Our institutions may be corrupted beyond repair.

Please check it out.

At Alternet, Matthew Fleisher writes: Why I Infiltrated One of the Most Secretive and Powerful Republican Organizations in the Country. This one is really long, but well worth reading. Here’s the teaser:

The Lincoln Club is the real deal. And if they have their way, Citizens United is just the beginning of their political ambitions for the country.

That’s it for me. I hope you found something to your liking. Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Soledad Spins the Spinners Again

Tara Wall was put to the Soledad Truth treatment yesterday. She was unable to defend a contradictory set of statements on Israel and Palestine made by Wall yesterday after Romney’s NeoCon speech.

Here’s the basic gist from Alternet.

The exchange over the Israel/Palestine conflict has attracted the most attention, with O’Brien grilling Wall on Romney’s “contradictory positions.”

The topic of the segment wasRomney’s foreign policy speech earlier today at the Virginia Military Institute.

O’Brien first tried to get into the fine points of Romney’s foreign policy, questioning whether Romney was laying out any different options on Iran than President Obama. O’Brien asked three questions about Iran, but Wall was not interested in getting into specifics.

Then O’Brien turned to the Middle East. O’Brien juxtaposed the remarks Romney made at the infamous Florida fundraiser that was secretly taped, and his planned remarks today. In Florida, Romney said that peace with the Palestinians was not an option because the “pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish”–meaning a Palestinian state is unthinkable.

But in Virginia, Romney vowed to work for a “democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.”

O’Brien asked Wall about these “contradictory” positions. Wall fired back, and said, “the fact is that it’s the president who’s failed.” O’Brien then talked over Wall’s remarks, saying, “Tara, that was an excellent shift, but answer for me about Gov. Romney.”

O’Brien repeatedly tried to get an answer to her question, but it was to no avail. “I’m not going to get into a big foreign policy debate with you here,” said Wall, explaining that foreign policy is not in her purview in the campaign

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the media wouldn’t act like stage props and actually call out campaigns on inconsistencies and lies?

Interestingly enough,Paul Ryan was rude to a reporter in Michigan who was evidently asking unwanted questions about guns and violence. There’s some indication that Ryan actually walked off the interview.

A Michigan ABC affiliate posted video of an animated exchange between Paul Ryan and a local reporter on Monday evening, prompting questions about whether Ryan walked out of the interview.

When it aired, reporter Terry Camp characterized the interview as ending badly, and said Ryan was “not specific in his answers.” Meanwhile, the Ryan campaign said the candidate was asked a “weird question” relating gun violence to tax cuts.

The Ryan campaign said the interview had simply run past its allotted time, but that Ryan didn’t end the interview prematurely. Video of the interview that was posted to YouTube shows an off-camera aide (later identified as Ryan spokesman Michael Steel) calling the interview to a halt while Ryan is standing, still in casual conversation with the reporter while removing his microphone.

“Does the country have a gun problem?” Camp asked Ryan during the interview, held in the library of the Cornerstone School.

“This country has a crime problem,” Ryan responded.

I guess that Republicans expect the “Fox” treatment wherever they go.  Good to know that some reporters keep after them.  I just wish they all would!!


Thursday Reads: The Morning After

Good Morning!!

OK, I don’t drink, but I still feel hung over. That debate last night was pathetic. Romney babbled incoherently, but sounded smooth. Obama made sense and gave specifics, but sounded hesitant and herky-jerky. We’ll have to wait and see what happens to the polls, but the consensus of the pundits and liberals on Twitter is that Romney won this one. I think Obama forgot he is the president and acted like a challenger. I simply cannot believe that neither Obama nor Jim Lehrer asked Romney about his “47 percent” remarks!

Anyway, I still have a nasty cold, I’m discouraged, and tired, so I’m just hoping this post will make sense. I’m going to link to some early reactions to the debate and leave it at that.

Jennifer Granholm has predicted a couple of times that Obama would lose the first debate. From Time’s Swampland:

You recently predicted that Obama would lose the first debate. Then you suggested that the media might assign him a loss whether he deserves a win or not. Can you explain that?

The first time, I mentioned two reasons why I think he’s going to lose. One is, he’s not in debate shape in the same way that Romney is. But more importantly, the media does not like a lopsided race, and it’s appearing to be lopsided at the moment. So in order to sustain the race, I think there will be a narrative of the comeback-kid Mitt Romney.

The candidates have been busy playing the low-expectations game. Are you just helping Obama be self-deprecating?

No, I’m just looking at it purely from who’s in practice and who’s not in practice … Part of that might be that the incumbent is confronted, on this national stage, in a way that he is not usually confronted … I don’t discount that he’s a good speaker, but he does speak in paragraphs, and debates are not the place to do that.

She was right. Now for some media reactions.

LA Times: Mitt Romney loves Big Bird, will kill funding for him anyway

No question, Mitt Romney’s extensive debate preparation is paying off. At least in the first half of the debate, he seemed more emotionally connected than President Obama with the material — making jokes and self-deprecating remarks and even invoking Big Bird in a discussion about the deficit and budget priorities….

Then, looking at moderator Lehrer, Romney said, “I’m sorry, Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS…. I like PBS, I love Big Bird — I actually like, you too — but I am not going to keep spending money on things [we have] to borrow money from China to pay for.”

IMO, Romney looked energetic, but he wasn’t funny. Frankly, the biggest problem for anyone debating Mitt Romney is that he is the most amazing liar ever. How do you debate someone who lies constantly and even tells conflicting lies? The only way it would be possible is if you had a moderator. Jim Lehrer was completely ineffectual. Just wait till we have to see Bob Schieffer try it. He’s around 80 isn’t he? I don’t think Lehrer is quite that old, and I think he lost consciousness a couple of times last night.

Ben Smith at Buzzfeed: How Mitt Romney Won The First Debate

Mitt Romney, trailing in the polls, needed to prove tonight that he could stand on stage with President Barack Obama as an equal and a plausible president of the United States.
He did that in the crucial first 40 minutes of Wednesday night’s debate, addressing Obama respectfully, even warmly — but then tangling with a sometimes hazy and professorial Obama on taxes and deficits.
“You don’t just pick the winners and losers — you pick the losers,” he told Obama of his energy investments, sliding time and time again into a second person singular address calculated to level the rhetorical playing field.

Romney departed dramatically from the hard conservatism of his primary campaign, downplaying the scope of his tax cuts.

“There will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit,” he said, without fully explaining how he’d accomplish that.

In other words, Romney lied and neither the moderator nor the incumbent president challenged him on his lies. Obama was incredibly passive.

Talking Points Memo: Obama Supporters: Which Obama Was That?

The early consensus on the debate among the pundit class: Mitt Romney helped himself a lot with a strong first debate performance, President Obama didn’t. And that included plenty of commentators supportive of Obama as well.

“It looked like Mitt Romney wanted to be there and President Obama didn’t want to be there,” Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville said. He later added Obama did not bring his “A game.”

Alex Castellanos, a former Romney advisor who has often been critical of his campaign, said he was surprised by his “very effective” performance.

Many were surprised that Obama appeared reluctant to go on offense, never mentioning many of his own campaign’s attacks on Romney over Bain Capital or his recent leaked remarks dismissing 47 percent of Americas “victims.” In general, commentators suggested he appeared less comfortable than Romney onstage.

Josh Marshall wrote something I heard Al Sharpton say on MSNBC last night. Romney committed himself to a lot things that are going to get him in trouble in the next few days when the pundits get over his surface performance and look at what he actually said.

Two things happened in this debate. Romney had the energy and focus, a long series of arguments packed and tight to dish out in the debate. He didn’t get distracted. He had a game plan he stuck to. What struck me a lot of times through the debate was that Obama seemed pained. He didn’t seem happy. And people like seeing happy people….

Romney’s focus though came at the cost of a few key things.

He basically tossed aside his own tax plan or said he would if his numbers didn’t add up. But then he insisted that he could find enough loopholes to close to afford a $5 trillion tax cut for upper income earners. These are more numbers on the table. That’s really what most of the debate was about — budget numbers. Romney insisted with a straight face that up was down….

The numbers simply don’t add up. Over a few news cycles that can build up really fast. He says he’ll push massive upper income tax cuts and those have to come at the cost of much higher deficits or big tax hikes for middle income people. His campaign agenda is based on a massive deception.

That’s the vulnerability Romney brings out of this debate. And it may be bigger than people realize.

Greg Sargent: A good night for Mitt Romney, but was it really enough?

Mitt Romney had a very good debate tonight. Though debates often reinforce existing perceptions, Romney took steps towards reversing his image as an out of touch plutocrat. During the extended jousts of numbers crunching, he humanized himself in an unexpected way — by converting his boardroom aura from something cold and aloof into an aura of earnestness. He skillfully played the part of the technocratic centrist he used to be and whose balanced approach to policy and government he has completely abandoned. Romney also landed clear blows when indicting the Obama recovery. He seemed particularly on message in claiming that the proof that Obama’s government centric policies had failed could be found in the current state of the economy.

Obama missed key opportunities.When invoking Romney’s suggestion that kids should borrow money from their parents to pay for college, he was far too polite and discursive and didn’t make the moment stick. His defense of Obamacare took too long to make the point that Romney, in repealing the law, would take insurance away from millions without replacing it with anything.

That said, Obama won some understated victories. He won the battle over Medicare; Romney was effectively defined by that exchange as Mr. Voucher. Obama did a decent job in exposing Romney’s lack of specificity on many of the issues that were discussed tonight, and tied them together into a larger pattern of evasiveness on Romney’s part.

Ed Kilgore: Spin Room

I gather from brief glances at Twitter and initial reaction at NBC that Mitt won pretty big on style points.

A lot of progressives are beside themselves that Obama didn’t mention Bain Capital, didn’t mention the 47%, didn’t mention the Ryan Budget (except indirectly), didn’t mention inequality, didn’t mention abortion/contraception, didn’t mention immigration. Very heavy emphasis, as I noted, on Mitt’s “vagueness.” ….

You know, I’m often a bad judge of these things because I really don’t give much of a damn about “energy levels” or “aggressiveness,” and I tend to care a lot when I know a candidate is lying through his or her teeth. But if viewers thought Obama was phoning it in, that will matter, and it will matter a lot more if they are being told by every talking head in Christendom that Romney won big.

The $64,000 question is whether this will have an impact on actual candidate preferences, which have been amazingly stable.

Jonathan Chait: The Return of Massachusetts Mitt.

Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity – and, when necessary, making them up – to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off-guard.

Romney was able to take advantage of the fact that Obama has a record, and he does not. Obama has had to grapple with trade-offs, and Romney has not. So Romney is a candidate of a 20% cut in tax rates, a new plan to cover people with preexisting conditions, and higher defense spending, and he will accomplish it all by eliminating federal funding for PBS. He would not accept that his proposal would result in any tradeoffs at all – no lower funding for education, no reductions in Medicare for anybody currently retired. He insisted his plan would not cut taxes for the rich, which is false. He described his proposal to allow people with continuous health insurance to keep it – a right that, as Obama already noted, already exists, and is therefore a meaningless promise – as a plan to cover all people with preexisting conditions.

Romney did not waste a breath. Obama wasted many, with “uhs” and long, wonky discursions. He went on long, detailed riffs defending his policies, with attacks on Romney few and far between. Romney added little to his longstanding indictment of Obama, but defined himself far more effectively than he has before.
I do think the instantaneous, echo chamber reaction that is handing Romney an overwhelming victory is overstated. Romney made a huge error selling his Medicare plan, promising, “if you’re around 60, you don’t need to listen any further.” It was a moment he went from smooth to oily – when you urge voters to stop paying attention, and especially on an issue where they start off distrusting you, it heightens the distrust. Obama replied, “if you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this will affect you.”

Okay, that should be enough to get you started. I’m already not quite as upset as I was a little while ago, because I think it’s true that Romney is going to be confronted with all the lies and backtracks he pulled in this debate.

So what are you reading and blogging about today? This is an open thread–you don’t have to discuss the debate.


Thursday Reads: Convention Hangover Edition

Good Morning!!

I’m really beat after two nights of watching the horror show down in Tampa, so today’s post is going to be a link dump. Luckily, there are lots of good reads out there.

Yesterday we were talking about how the media is handling the blatant lies of the Romney campaign on welfare and medicare. Some media outlets have actually begun calling them out and using words like “false” and even “lies.”

Some links on that topic–some of which come from yesterday’s comments, because I think this is such an important issue.

Jonathan Chait: Mitt Doesn’t Care About Your Facts.

Brian Beutler: A Critical Juncture (h/t RalphB)

James Fallows: Bit by Bit It Takes Shape: Media Evolution for the ‘Post-Truth’ Age (h/t JJ)

Robert Reich: How Romney Keeps Lying Through HIs Big White Teeth

Dave Wiegel: “You Didn’t Build That”…But You Sure Did Edit It.

Now, some important reads on Romney/Ryan and race-baiting.

Harold Meyerson: In modern GOP, the old South returns (h/t RalphB)

Ron Fournier: Why (and How) Romney is Playing the Race Card (h/t JJ)

Joan Walsh: Paul Ryan and the GOP’s New Dog Whistle Politics

By now everyone knows that a CNN camera woman was harassed at the GOP Convention. Two attendees reportedly threw nuts at her and said “This is how we feed animals.” They were removed, but no one knows if they were permanently banned. CNN has chosen not to reveal the camera woman’s name or the names of the perpetrators–why?

Greg Sargent: CNN should reveal details of nut-throwing incident

Digby: CNN is fighting the perception of being biased against racist thugs

Digby harked back to the famous incident when Dan Rather was attacked by a security person at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 and pointed out that Rather and Walter Cronkite didn’t shrink from commenting on the thuggish behavior.

Several links about Tuesday night’s top speakers, Ann Romney and Chris Christie

Connor Friedersdorf: Chris Christie’s RNC Speech Misled Viewers on Medicare

Andrew Rosenthal: Chris Christie: But Enough About Mitt, Let’s Talk About Me

Errol Lewis: Tough Truths About Christie’s New Jersey

Politico: Chris Christie’s Flop at the GOP Convention

E.J. Graff: Ann Romney Loves Women!

Adam Serwer: Ann Romney and the Subversive Conservatism of ABC’s ‘Modern Family’

Don’t Miss this one! Ed Kilgore: Who’s Zoomin’ Who on Abortion?

E.J. Dionne: In defense of Juan Williams (and Chris Matthews)

Today is the last day of the GOP Convention, and tonight is Mitt’s big moment!

Gail Collins: Renovating Mitt Romney

Dana Millbank: Republicans playing Brutus

Michael Kinsley: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Todd Akin: Going for distance

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


David Corn’s Latest: Romney Lied in his Most Recent Financial Disclosure

At Mother Jones, Corn writes:

The ongoing hullabaloo over the timing of Mitt Romney’s exit from Bain has become a bit absurd. The Romney camp and Bain insist that Romney fully retired in February 1999 from the private equity firm he founded and owned—even though in the past he and Bain have described his departure as a part-time leave—and evidence has emerged (including Securities and Exchange documents I first reported) showing that Romney was involved to some extent in Bain as late as 2002, while he continued to maintain his ownership of the firm and its various entities. Romney has been working hard to avoid being held responsible for any post-February 1999 Bain deals that might have resulted in bankruptcies or outsourcing. But there is another reason for the Romney crew to worry about this controversy: Romney may have made a false statement on a federal financial disclosure form, and doing so is a felony punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.

Like all presidential candidates, Romney has to submit a financial disclosure statement to the Office of Government Ethics. He filed his most recent one last month, and the disclosure contains a very clearly stated footnote:

Mr. Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999 to head the Salt Lake [Olympics] Organizing Committee. Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way.

There’s no ambiguity there: not involved in Bain operations in any way. But that’s not true.

At the link, Corn enumerates many SEC filings that put the lie to Romney’s statement to the Office of Government Ethics. In addition, Corn blasts Glenn Kessler, “fact-checker” for the WaPo for his sycophantic defenses of Romney’s lies and half-truths. Read the whole thing at the link.

Also at Mother Jones, Adam Serwer has compiled a list of “everything we know so far about Romney and Bain.”

Please use this as an open thread. JJ will have a cartoon post later on.