Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

There was another Republican debate last night, and it may actually be the last one! We live blogged it here. I watched the debate and all it did was remind me how distasteful–actually repulsive–every one of these candidates is. Romney is the slimiest, liar ever; Gingrich is nothing but a grifter; Ron Paul is a whiny old geezer; and Santorum is a sanctimonious, preachy theocrat. After this election, the Republican Party may be truly dead. It’s already brain dead.

Here are a few reactions to the debate for those who are interested.

Paul Begala: Romney Wins the battle, but it may lose him the war.

Andrew Sullivan: The winner’s in the White House.

TPM: Rick’s rough night.

Hot Air: Tough night for Santorum

In state legislatures around the country women are fighting back against the Republican war on women. Yesterday, Governor Bob O’Donnell of Virginia was forced to back down on the anti-woman state-sanctioned rape law that he had originally said he’d sign. In Georgia, (via Charlie Pierce), state rep. Yasmin Neal

was the driving force behind a brilliant bill filed yesterday that would outlaw vasectomies in Georgia on anti-abortion grounds — namely, that the lives of millions of potential “persons” were snuffed out because of the vas deferens between the way we see men as reproductive critters and the way we see women as reproductive critters:

Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” said Rep. Yasmin Neal, D-Riverdale, author of the Democrats’ bill. “It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.”

Now some Democrats are fighting back at the federal level.

The House Judiciary Committee recently passed a bill that would ban selective abortions based on race or gender by a 20-13 vote. The biggest hurdle to passage was the bill’s name.

Democrats proposed calling the bill “The Ronald Reagan Impose Your Beliefs on a Woman’s Womb Act” and “The Tea Party Determines What Rights a Woman Has Act.”

The legislation (H.R. 3541), sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), was originally entitled the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-discrimination Act of 2011.” But after objections by committee Democrats and an amendment by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the bill, which passed on Feb. 16, was changed to the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act (PRENDA) during mark-up sessions last week.

Thirteen Democrats voted against the measure claiming it violated the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, and would “make it more difficult for women of color to obtain the basic reproductive health care services.”

The GLBT community is fighting back against the GOP haters too. Not too long ago, an anti-gay Tennessee state legislator was asked by the owner, Martha Boggs to leave her restaurant because of his bigoted public statements. Today, Antonio a gay hairdresser in Santa Fe, said he will no longer cut Republican New Mexico governor Susannah Martinez’s hair. Even {gasp!} Alan Simpson is getting in on the act. He says Rick Santorum is “rigid and a homophobic.”

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wy.) weighed in on the Republican presidential primary on Wednesday, calling Rick Santorum “rigid and a homophobic.”

In an interview with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, Simpson faulted the Republican field for making issues like same-sex marriage and reproductive rights central to their platforms, warning that they would lose favor with voters if the conversation does not change.

“I am convinced that if you get into these social issues and just stay in there about abortion and homosexuality and even mental health they bring up, somehow they’re going to take us all to Alaska and float us out in the Bering Sea or something,” said Simpson, long known for colorful commentary. “We won’t have a prayer.”

He continued, “I watch Republicans, they give each other the saliva test of purity, and then they lose and they bitch for four years.”

Simpson supports Romney, who also claims to be homophobic, anti-choice, and anti-birth control. Oh well….

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and one of those mainline Protestant churches that Rick Santorum thinks have been taken over by Satan offered drive-thru ashes! Someone needs to tell Rick! It’s the Devil’s work!!

Over the weekend, Newt Gingrich tried to look macho by claiming “you can’t put a gun rack on a Chevy Volt!” But lots of people have stepped forward to prove him wrong.

A GM exec came forward to prove Newt was incorrect.

Chevrolet executive Selim Bingol fired back this morning via GM’s new blog, called BTW:

“Newt Gingrich has taken up saying that ‘You can’t put a gun rack on a Volt.’ That’s like saying ‘You can’t put training wheels on a Harley.’ Actually, you can. But the real question is ‘Why would you?’ In both examples:

It looks weird,

It doesn’t work very well, and

There are better places for gun racks and training wheels — pickup trucks and little Schwinns, respectively.

Seriously, when is the last time you saw a gun rack in ANY sedan?”

OK, I know I haven’t posted much serious news this morning. I guess I’m just punch drunk from that debate last night. We did get a bit of good news last night though. A federal judge in California–a Bush appointee yet–found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

You may recall that Martha Coakley got the ball rolling in Massachusetts in 2010, convincing the Obama administration to stop defending the law. Yesterday’s decision is the third time a court has called DOMA unconstitutional

The New York Times has an interview with the mother of Marie Colvin, who was killed in Syria yesterday. Colvin was majoring in anthropology at Yale in the late 1970s,

but took a course with the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Hersey. She also started writing for The Yale Daily News “and decided to be a journalist,” her mother said.

On Wednesday, Marie Colvin, 56, a veteran correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, was killed as Syrian forces shelled the city of Homs. She was working in a makeshift media center that was destroyed in the assault. A French photographer, Rémi Ochlik, was also killed.

At her family’s split-level home on Long Island, the telephone rang at 5 a.m. It was so early, her mother said, that “I knew it was something terrible.”

“She was supposed to leave Syria” on Wednesday, Ms. Colvin said. “Her editor told me he called her yesterday and said it was getting too dangerous and they wanted to take her out. She said she was doing a story and she wanted to finish it and it was important and she would come out” on Wednesday.

Photojournalist Remi Olchlik was also killed in Syria yesterday

Remi Ochlik didn’t waste any time celebrating after he won one of photojournalism’s most prestigious prizes two weeks ago. Hours later, he was on a plane headed back to work in Middle East danger zones, a friend recalled.

On Wednesday, the promising 28-year-old French photographer was dead, killed in a barrage of gunfire and shelling by government forces in Homs, Syria, where he had arrived just the night before….

Colleagues remembered Ochlik as careful and experienced despite his young age, but driven to cover a string of conflicts that won him a reputation as one of the world’s best young photojournalists.

At just 20 years old, Ochlik got his professional start covering riots in Haiti in 2004. The next year he set up photo agency IP3 Press and covered sports, society and politics. When the “Arab Spring” erupted last year, Ochlik was all over it: In Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, and most recently, Syria.

That’s it for me this morning. What are you reading and blogging about?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

There’s another Republican Debate in South Carolina tonight. Can you believe it? This one is hosted by CNN. How much more of this torture can American stand? These debates just keep on coming! We’ll live blog this one later on, perhaps with some interesting variations on the theme.

Speaking of horrible things that never end, can you believe Obama is considering appointing Larry Summers to head the World Bank? Here I thought we were finally free of Summers, but the guy just won’t go away. He keeps coming back, no matter how ghastly of job he does. From Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama is considering nominating Lawrence Summers, his former National Economic Council director, to lead the World Bank when Robert Zoellick’s term expires later this year, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Summers has expressed interest in the job to White House officials and has backers inside the administration, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and current NEC Director Gene Sperling, said one of the people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also being considered, along with other candidates, said the other person. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations….

A nomination of Summers would bring scrutiny of his previous stints in government, both as former President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary and Obama’s NEC director, as well as his tenure as president of Harvard University.

“Larry is controversial,” said Erskine Bowles, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff. “Anything you appoint Larry to, you know there are going to be some people who are going to take shots at him. But you know he’s a brilliant economist, which I think everybody recognizes.”

Oh really? If he’s so brilliant, then why is teaching college freshman? Why doesn’t he publish in academic journals? Why did he get fired by Harvard and the Obama administration? Enough with the retreads, Mr. President.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Mitt Romney has admitted he pays somewhere close to 15% of his income in Federal taxes. NPR’s Here and Now had an interesting discussion yesterday about how he and other richie-rich folks get away with this. I recommend listening to the show if you have time. Here’s a bit from the write-up:

“Carried interest is the way that hedge fund managers and private equity firm managers get paid when they do a deal,” Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Institute told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Gleckman says private equity firms bring in outside investors. To get in on the deals, investors pay the firms in two ways– an initial fee, and a 20 percent cut of future profits.

When the owners of private equity firms pay taxes on that compensation from the investors, they pay as if it were capital gains– so that means they are paying a top rate of no more than 15 percent.

“Ordinarily if they were paid like the rest of us in wages and salaries, they’d be paying a top rate of up to 35 percent,” he said.

Gleckman said the carried interest tax arrangement is completely legal and not uncommon.

Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice said that this kind of income comes from work and should be taxed as such. And Gleckman agreed, saying that capital gains taxes are lower because the goal is to encourage people to risk their own money. Romney isn’t doing that.

Here’s another explanation at Bloomberg:

Romney, one of the richest men to seek the presidency, probably benefits from a controversial tax break that allows him to pay a lower overall rate than do millions of American wage-earners whose votes he’ll need to capture the White House.

That’s because private equity executives, as Romney was for 15 years when he ran Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, receive much of their compensation as “carried interest.” That enables them to treat what would be ordinary income for other service providers, taxed at rates as high as 35 percent, as capital gains taxed at 15 percent….

Yet those investments were largely made by Romney’s former partners with other investors’ money, not his personal funds. The vast majority of the resulting gains represent compensation for Bain’s work acquiring, sprucing up and selling individual companies, critics say.

“This is labor income for them, not a return on capital invested,” said Victor Fleischer, an associate law professor at the University of Colorado whose 2007 paper on the topic helped spark a move in Congress to try to change the law. “It’s a method of converting one’s labor into capital gains in a way that’s unusual outside the investment management industry. Ordinary people wouldn’t be able to do this.”

If Romney just paid his taxes like the rest of us, he’d probably be doing a much greater service to the country than if he becomes president. BTW, the articles says that Obama has paid 31% of his income in taxes for the last three years.

But that’s not all. Romney keeps millions of dollars of his vast wealth in the Cayman Islands, a well-know tax shelter.

Official documents reviewed by ABC News show that Bain Capital, the private equity partnership Romney once ran, has set up some 138 secretive offshore funds in the Caymans.

Romney campaign officials and those at Bain Capital tell ABC News that the purpose of setting up those accounts in the Cayman Islands is to help attract money from foreign investors, and that the accounts provide no tax advantage to American investors like Romney. Romney, the campaign said, has paid all U.S. taxes on income derived from those investments.

“The tax consequences to the Romneys are the very same whether the fund is domiciled here or another country,” a campaign official said in response to questions. “Gov. and Mrs. Romney have money invested in funds that the trustee has determined to be attractive investment opportunities, and those funds are domiciled wherever the fund sponsors happen to organize the funds.”

Bain officials called the decision to locate some funds offshore routine, and a benefit only to foreign investors who do not want to be subjected to U.S. taxes.

Whatever. The guy is filthy rich, pays very little of his income in taxes, and has no clue how most Americans live. His attitude is that capitalism is sacred and if millions of “little people” are hurt by the machinations of people like him, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. And we shouldn’t have any safety nets for when things go wrong either. This man should never be POTUS.

A few more Romney items …

While he was at Bain Mitt used large donations of stock to the Mormon church to avoid paying taxes.

The New York Daily News got ahold of John McCain’s oppo research on Romney from 2008. “Talk about awkward,” the first line reads.

And here’s another awkward moment for the Mittster: Mitt Romney Allegedly Pulls Back Handshake Upon Learning That DREAM Act Advocate Is Undocumented.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suddenly pulled back his hand after hearing that a young college student who greeted him at a New York fundraiser Tuesday night was undocumented, according to DREAM Act activists.

“He extended his hand to shake mine,” the young woman told The Huffington Post. “But once I said I was undocumented, he pulled his hand away from me.”

The 19-year-old college student, who asked to be identified only as Lucy because of her undocumented status, said she was also booed by Romney supporters as she was escorted out of a New York City fundraiser. One of the supporters told her to “go back to Mexico,” and she responded that she was “actually from Peru,” according to her account of the event.

Oops! There goes the Latino vote….

But we can’t forget that Romney still has at least one viable competitor for South Carolina’s delegates–food stamp obsessive and child labor advocate Newt Gingrich. Guess what Newt’s been up to? He’s using a fund-raising letter to threaten to punch out Barack Obama

Newt Gingrich’s campaign sent out a fundraising request to supporters this afternoon touting that the former speaker said he wants to knock Obama out, because, as the subject line of the email suggests, “A Bloody Nose Just Won’t Cut It.” The comment comes from a recent town hall where a questioner asked Gingrich how he would “bloody Obama’s nose.” “I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out!” Gingrich responded. “This is exactly why Newt Gingrich is the candidate who must face Obama,” campaign spokesman RC Hammond says in the email, above a bright red “Donate” button.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent response to Andrew Sullivan’s silly Newsweek article defending Obama’s accomplishments as President. I think Friedersdorf is a liberatarian, but his assessment on Obama is still on point. Check it out. I’ll just reproduce his list of Obama’s “accomplishments” here:

(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.

Unfortunately, he didn’t include Obama’s many contributions to the war on women.

Speaking of Obama’s war on the Constitution, Chris Hedges is going to court to sue Obama over the indefinite detention portion of the NDAA.

Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.

The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.

Thanks to Hedges for putting his money where his mouth is.

I’ll end with this piece from Reuters: Sunk! How Hollywood Lost the PR Battle Over SOPA.

In the space of a couple of days, Hollywood and its content creators lost the public relations war over Internet piracy SOPA legislation — which now appears poised to crumble into a million bits of dust.

Wow.

The messaging industry never had control of the message.

The tech guys found a simple, shareable idea — the Stop Online Piracy Act is Censorship — made it viral, and made it stick.

Hollywood had Chris Dodd and a press release. Silicon Valley had Facebook.

It shouldacoulda been a fair fight. But it wasn’t.

It seems that Hollywood still does not realize that it is in the information age. Knowledge moves in real time, and events move accordingly. The medium is the message in a fight like this.

I disagree that the fight is over, but it’s nice to see the battle for free speech and privacy getting some corporate media ink.

So … what are you reading and blogging about today?


Friday Reads

Laissez les bontemps roulez! It’s the start of the Carnival Season!

Tonight is 12th night which means it’s the official start of the carnival season or the lead up to Mardi Gras Day.  The season kicks off on Epiphany and ends on Fat Tuesday.  Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday.  There are two huge parties tonight!  The first one is held on a St. Charles Street Car and The Phunny Phorty Phellows.  They herald in the season.  We also celebrate Joan of Arc’s birthday with a parade in the Quarter.  If you make it down here, you will see many folks in medieval costume and many maskers.  Tonight is undoubtedly one of my favorite holidays because it’s just an incredibly colorful, local celebration.

If you’re going to hang out with native New Orleanians who grew up with Mardi Gras, there are a few things you must know. Here are the top ten.

Number 10

How to spell “krewe.”

Number 9

Carnival is a season, Mardi Gras is a day.

Number 8

The Mardi Gras colors are purple, green and gold, and the official Mardi Gras song is “If Ever I Cease To Love.”

Number 7

The Captain of the Krewe is more important than the King.

Number 6

If you miss a doubloon thrown from a float, never reach down to pick it up. Always put your foot on it. If you go with your hand, you’re either too late or you’ll get your fingers stepped on.

Number 5

If you bite into a plastic baby in a King Cake, that’s a good thing

Number 4

Any beads shorter than two feet long are unacceptable unless they are made of glass.

Number 3

The national press has no clue about Mardi Gras.

Number 2

The vast majority of people in the French Quarter during Carnival are people from out of town.

Finally, the Number 1 thing you must know about Mardi Gras is

You can always judge how bad hurricane season has been by riding down St. Charles Avenue in late fall to see how many Mardi Gras beads are still hanging in the trees.

Every office in the city will be serving King Cake!  Watch out for that baby because you’ll have to buy the next one!  It’s only 46 days until Mardi Gras!

The tea party has found a primary challenger for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.  Who could possibly think that Hatch isn’t extreme enough?  Yup, it’s the usual group of whackos.

Conservative groups that want to send a message that centrists won’t be allowed to hide behind the GOP label have made a prime target out of Hatch, Utah’s six-term senior senator. Although firmly in the conservative camp on social issues, Hatch has built a reputation for reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats on economic policy, and shies away from the red-meat rhetoric many grassroots conservative groups demand.

The Club for Growth, a deep-pocketed fiscal conservative group, eagerly courted Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to run against Hatch, but Chaffetz quashed their hopes in August when he announced he would seek reelection to the House instead. Rep. Jim Matheson, a Utah Democrat, also considered challenging Hatch, but opted out in October.

FreedomWorks, a national Tea Party group that has set its sights on Hatch, placed its hopes in Liljenquist early, naming him its “Legislative Entrepreneur of the Year” in November and warmly welcoming him to the race on Wednesday.

“We are very pleased to see a dedicated and proven conservative like Dan Liljenquist step up and challenge the status quo in Utah,” said FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe. “His record in the state Senate shows clearly that Liljenquist has the ability to produce innovative solutions to budget woes, and to effectively turn those ideas into action and real legislative change.”

I guess my gut feeling yesterday about the Obama plan to decrease the size of the military was right.  It is an old rehashed Rummy idea.  Это интересно.  (That’s interesting in Russian with apologies for my Parisian accent to my Russian language teacher at university.)

The Obama administration plans to revert to a Bush-era plan to cut the number of U.S. Army combat brigades in Europe in half as part of the Pentagon budget cuts to be announced within weeks, U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The decision is a retreat from the administration’s previous determination, announced last April, to leave in place three of the four brigade combat teams now stationed in Europe, three in Germany and one airborne brigade in Italy. A brigade combat team usually has 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers.

“My understanding is that there will remain two brigades,” Hammond said in an interview yesterday in Washington after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for their first talks at the Pentagon since they each took office. “But in addition to that, there will be some rotating presence” for training and exercises, he said.

Speaking of interesting, here’s something a little offbeat from AJ.  It’s about fertility problems in “Mother India”.  Who would think that a country with severe population problems would have a booming fertility clinic business?

Jhuma and Niladri are a couple from Burdwan in the state of West Bengal. They have been married for eight years and have no children. This is a major problem, especially in India where a childless married woman is considered impure. A few years ago, Niladri would probably have abandoned Jhuma, and her life would have become a misery, her presence taken to be an inauspicious sign at social events or religious ceremonies.

Today, cutting-edge research and the boom in the assisted reproduction industry offer them new possibilities, new hopes, new dilemmas. The couple set off for Hyderabad, the heart of Indian medical and assisted reproduction research, on a journey of hope, a journey that will take them to Dr Rama’s fertility clinic.

Dr Rama is the owner of a number of clinics in southern India and is expanding her business into the Gulf States and the Caribbean. At the Hyderabad clinic, Jhuma comes into contact with doctors, embryologists, other infertile women and surrogate mothers who are driven by poverty to sell their wombs to earn the surrogacy fees that give them and their existing children a chance of a future.

Drink your coffee before you follow this link. What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done?  I wish I’d have bought some hip waders first, but oh well.

The empirical choice between Clinton and Obama was never as direct as those on either side made it out to be; neither was obviously more equipped or more progressive than the other. The maddening part, then and now, is that they were utterly comparable candidates. The visions — in 2008, of Obama as a progressive redeemer who would restore enlightened democracy to our land and Hillary as a crypto-Republican company man; or, in 2011, of Obama as an appeasement-happy crypto-Republican and Hillary as a leftist John Wayne who would have whipped those Congressional outlaws into shape — they were all invented. These are fictional characters shaped by the predilections, prejudices and short memories of the media and the electorate. They’re not actual politicians between whom we choose here on earth.

If she had won her party’s nomination and then the general election, Hillary Clinton’s presidency would probably not have looked so different from Obama’s. She was, after all, a senator who, for a variety of structural and strategic reasons, often crossed party lines to co-sponsor legislation with Republicans, who voted to go to war in Iraq, who moved to the center on everything from Israel to violent video games. You think Obama’s advisers are bad? Hillary Clinton hired, and then took far too long to get rid of, Mark Penn. And her economic team probably would have looked an awful lot like Obama’s.

Yup.  It’s the no difference trope!  I tried to warn you.

Alrighty.  That’s my contribution for the day.  Wonk will be hostessing the live blog for the Republican debates tomorrow night.  I have the makings of cosmopolitan martinis and a spinach/feta pizza.  Youngest daughter is coming in for the LSU blow out with two of her roommates.  At this point, some one is bound to find out that I faked the thanksgiving hand holding deal.  The thangka of lion faced dakini is sure to be a give away! So, be sure to join us for  what promises to be another whack event!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Republican Debate Open Thread and Live Blog

Look what vcame out of the clown car!

Can you believe there’s another Republican debate tonight? I’m going to listen to at least part of it, because I’m hope Newt Gingrich will melt down. I expect everyone will be trying to trip him up since he’s now the {shudder} frontrunner.

The debate will be on CNN from 8-10PM. CNN will probably be live streaming it. I’ll find the link ASAP. The topic tonight’s debate is national security. I wonder if Herman Cain will show up? Or perhaps he’ll have one of the boxes on his back so that his advisers can cue him?

From the Boston Globe:

With new trouble appearing in the Middle East and the Pentagon facing possible budget cuts, the Republican White House contenders are debating for the second time in as many weeks how they would do better than President Barack Obama in protecting and extending America’s national security.

Six weeks to the day before the first nominating contests in Iowa, the candidates were looking to use the pre-Thanksgiving holiday debate to build or — for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at the head of the pack — sustain momentum in the battle to pick a 2012 election challenger for Obama.

Businessman Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania also were meeting in Tuesday night’s forum put together by CNN, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

With unemployment stubbornly high and the economy sluggish to recover from recession, the candidates also were likely to drive the foreign policy discussion back to pocketbook issues at home.

With this crazy crowd, you never know what could happen. I don’t want to miss any ghastly gaffes or monstrous meltdowns! If you’re listing/watching too, please join me in documenting the atrocities. You can feel free to bring up other topics as well. This is an open thread.


Live Blog: *Another* Republican Debate?! Haven’t We Suffered Enough Already?

Who will crash and burn tonight? Will Perry have another brain freeze episode? Will Romney avoid flip-flopping? What embarrassing, tasteless remark will Cain make about women? What ghastly, nighmarish thing will Santorum say about gay marriage? Will god finally make an appearance and choose which of these nutcases is really the divine choice for president?

Tonight’s debate is sponsored by CBS and the National Journal and will take place in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The topics will be national security and foreign policy. You can watch it beginning at 8PM on CBS TV or at the CBS website.

CBS has more tips about what to watch for. First on the list, of course, is whether Rick Perry “can clear the low bar of expectations.”

Almost every debate has been a challenge for the Texas governor, but after Wednesday night’s face plant in Michigan, there’s really nowhere for him to go but up. He’s tried to make light of he stumbles and turn them into strengths, saying he’s not slick, that he speaks from the heart. That’s all well and good, but the danger for Perry is that voters already have formed an opinion of him–and that based on his past performances, they lack confidence that he is either capable or can persuasively carry the conservative message to victory. Debates matter to voters: In our new poll, 76 percent of Republicans said the candidate’s performance was important in deciding their vote.

You don’t have to be a championship debater–the pundits and the media never gave the debate points George W. Bush. But Bush clearly passed the threshold that he was qualified to be president. In debates, he was able to connect with voters and communicate his message in a way Perry so far has not.

I really do hope that god shows up and tells Rick to go back to Texas and deal with drought and wildfires.

I plan to watch as long as I can stand it. I’m hoping for another horrible goof by one or more candidates. If you’re watching too, please join me in the comments.


Thursday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

Today I’m going to start out with some stupid politician stories. And I’ve got some about politicians from both legacy parties.

First up, Rick Perry. At this point, I’m convinced this Texas good ol’ boy is dumb as a post. After the debate last night Perry spoke to Beta Theta Pi Fraternity at Dartmouth College. Check this out:

“Our Founding Fathers never meant for Washington, D.C. to be the fount of all wisdom,” the candidate explained. “As a matter of fact they were very much afraid if that because they’d just had this experience with this far-away government that had centralized thought process and planning and what have you, and then it was actually the reason that we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown if you will.”

The Houston Press published a few of the Twitter responses to Perry’s moronic gaffe. Here are a few examples:

@drgrist Why else did Daniel Boone fight alongside George Patton if not free America from health insurance mandates? #perryhistory

@ ObsoleteDogma Ronald Reagan told Peter the Great to “tear down this wall”… and put it up on the Mexican border #perryhistory

@ FenrisDesigns In 1576, Teddy Roosevelt signed the Magna Carta, effectively inventing bald eagles. #PerryHistory

@ cheetapizza #NathanHale had but one life to give against General #CarlosSantana at #TheAlamo.” #PerryHistory

Dakinikat has been highlighting the nutty Republican candidates over the past few day. She mentioned this recently, but I just have to do it again. Texas is moving toward offering a license plate with the Confederate flag on it. What will Perry do? Probably something stupid.

Texas’ Department of Motor Vehicles will soon vote — or perhaps table — a Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate that features the Confederate flag. Proceeds will go to that group to help maintain grave stones and monuments. But the group also has a dark side: though they claim to be dedicated solely to history, a faction have recently become more aligned with extremist celebration of the Confederate States, crossing well over in secessionist and racist territory.

Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee called on Perry to repudiate the license plate in last night’s debate. So far Perry hasn’t done so.

Salon’s Justin Elliott reported earlier this year that Perry has “warm relations” with confederate groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that once described him as a member, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. And in 2000, Perry went against the NAACP by defending two Confederate flag plaques on the state’s Supreme Court building.

“I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques, and memorials from public property. I also believe that communities should decide whether statues or other memorials are appropriate for their community,” he wrote at the time. The plaques, however, were ultimately removed.

The license plates differ slightly in that they explicitly benefit a specific organization, just like the Confederate plates they’ve championed in Mississippi and other states. The Mississippi plate, you’ll remember, honored late KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Herman Cain called Perry “insensitive.” I’d use a stronger word.

Yesterday Michele Bachmann displayed her ignorance of what really happens to poor people in America when she responded to a question from a toothless man in New Hampshire.

At a campaign event in New Hampshire yesterday, Bachmann fielded a thoughtful question from a man who asked about the future of Social Security and Medicare….”We have uncertainty right now,” Bachmann told him, launching into a wide-ranging answer that mostly focused on how Barack Obama will personally walk into hospitals and old folks’ homes and throw people out windows.

Turns out, this guy’s got enough uncertainty already: He’s losing his teeth. Bachmann’s policy answer: Maybe he should go to… a church? Or, oh! Better idea: Sit on the street corner and beg for change.

“We have charitable organizations and there’s universities who are willing to take care of people who are indigent,” she told him, lovingly. “If you’re indigent, there are programs set up for the indigent. But don’t destroy the finest health care system in the world to have socialized medicine.”

Now let’s look at some stupid Democrats. A Democratic Assemblywoman in California became concerned about young people attending raves after a young girl died of an overdose of Ecstasy.

A California assemblywoman on a quest to end raves was surprised to find that electronic dance music could not be outlawed. Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma tried to ban the music after a 15-year-old girl died at The Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles, apparently from an ecstasy overdose.

“We found out later on that, constitutionally, you can not ban a type of music,” she told Reason.TV.

Where do they find these people? The last one is sad as well as stupid. Dakinikat sent me this article from the Daily Mail about Anthony Wiener.

Anthony Weiner accused his Muslim parents-in-law of being ‘backwards thinking’ and never accepting him because of his Jewish background, it was revealed today.

Newly released messages from the disgraced former congressman’s text conversations, obtained exclusively by MailOnline, show how Weiner had explicit exchanges with women comparing them to his wife.

OMG, what an a$$hole! I’m not going to quote anymore from that story, so as not to make anyone sick.

In other news, Anita Hill has written a book, so she’s making the media rounds. She gave an extended interview to NPR

On Oct. 11, 1991, Anita Hill told the Senate Judiciary Committee that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her.

Hill’s testimony was part of a second round of confirmation hearings to appoint Thomas to the court. He was ultimately confirmed by both the committee and the Senate, and has held the post for the past 20 years.

As for Hill, she has spent the past 20 years mostly out of the limelight, focusing on her academic work as a professor of social policy and law at Brandeis University. She says the tens of thousands of letters she has received since the hearings inspired her to write her new book, Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home.

“They’ve inspired me at times when I really did not feel very good about the subject of equality,” she tells NPR’s Neal Conan. “They’ve inspired me to keep pushing and to keep working and to keep really being myself.”

Listen to the whole interview at the link. There’s good article about Hill at the San Francisco Chronicle–first published by Bloomberg. And here is an NPR story by Nina Totenberg about Clarence Thomas’s 20 years on the Supreme Court. We can thank Joe Biden for that.

Eric Cantor has called for a floor vote on the “Let Women Die” Act of 2011, AKA HR 358. According to Care 2,

The deceptively-titled “Protect Life Act” will allow hospitals that receive federal funds to turn away a woman seeking an abortion in all circumstances, even if the procedure is necessary to save her life.

Under current law, any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds is legally required to provide emergency care to any patient in need, regardless of his or her financial situation. If that hospital can’t provide that service, including a life-saving abortion, it has to transfer the patient to a hospital that can.

But under the bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa), hospitals that don’t want to provide abortions could refuse to do so, even for a pregnant woman with a life-threatening complication that would require termination.

Because women’s lives aren’t human lives, you see.

Jonathan Schell has an article in The Nation that I highly recommend: Cruel America. Schell considers some of the horrifying things we’ve seen in the Republican Debates so far–cheers for the notion of letting a man die if he doesn’t have health insurance, a governor of Texas who sleeps just fine after learning that he executed an innocent man, the lack of concern over the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia–and argues that America is devolving into cruel society.

There have been many signs recently that the United States has been traveling down a steepening path of cruelty. It’s hard to say why such a thing is occurring, but it seems to have to do with a steadily growing faith in force as the solution to almost any problem, whether at home or abroad. Enthusiasm for killing is an unmistakable symptom of cruelty. It also appeared after the killing of Osama bin Laden, which touched off raucous celebrations around the country. It is one thing to believe in the unfortunate necessity of killing someone, another to revel in it. This is especially disturbing when it is not only government officials but ordinary people who engage in the effusions.

In any descent into barbarism, one can make out two stages. First, the evils are inaugurated—tested, as it were. Second, the reaction comes—either indignation and rejection or else acceptance, even delight. The choice can indicate the difference between a country that is restoring decency and one that is sinking into a nightmare. It was a dark day for the United States when the Bush administration secretly ordered the torture of terrorism suspects. On that day, the civilization of the United States dropped down a notch. But it sank a notch lower when, the facts of the crimes having become known, former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney publicly embraced their wrongdoing, as they have done most recently on their respective book tours. To the impunity they already enjoyed, they added brazenness, as if challenging society to respond or else enter into tacit complicity with the abuses.

And still there was little reaction. For in a further downward drop, President Obama, even as he ordered an end to torture, decided against imposing any legal accountability on the miscreants, and in fact shunned any accountability whatsoever. He did not even seek, say, some equivalent of the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa after the end of apartheid.

There’s more, please read it all if you can. In most of the stories in today’s reads, there is a thread of cruelty. The cruelty of ignoring racism, poverty, the inability of people to care for their health. The cruelty of men to women–the hatred that must be in the hearts of these Congressmen who vote to kill women rather than allow them to have an abortion; the repressed anger that leads a man to hurt his wife and future child by throwing away his career for a few fleeting moments of sexual arousal.

Schell is right. We are becoming a cruel and degraded culture. How can we rescue our country from the haters? I wish I knew.

So what are you reading and blogging about today?


Friday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve been working on a lot of research recently to get ready for the big job market event for finance professors in October in Denver.  As a result, I’m enviously reading that a lot of you are already reading the Suskind book and kind enough to comment here.  Keep it up so I can live vicariously through your ability to read it and get a little fix and distraction while I work!

I found a few interesting links this morning to share.  Bill Clinton offered his opinions on the death penalty and the Troy Davis execution which was based solely on notoriously bad eye witness accounts that were later found to be coerced.  He believes that hard evidence is the essential to making our justice system do what its supposed to do.

While in office, Clinton signed into law the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which, according to Time, “reduced new trials for convicted criminals and sped up their sentences by restricting a federal court’s ability to judge whether a state court had correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution.” The law has been cited as one of the major obstacles that prevented Davis from being granted a new trial.

Clinton’s comments on Thursday seemed to suggest that he believes some of these cases should be slowed down in light of advances in technology.

He added that increased reliance on DNA evidence and its ability to decisively prove the innocence or guilt of a defendant is the “the most important thing that’s happened in criminal justice in the last 30 years.”

“When there’s any chance a DNA test can resolve this, then there should be no proceeding with the [death] penalty until that’s resolved,” he said.

“I actually spent some time yesterday on this appeals case, just listening to the news coverage,” he continued. “The thing I found strange was that even though there were some people who apparently wanted to change their testimony when there was a hearing before the court — the lawyers for the defendant didn’t bring them on to say what they had to say. So it’s an unusual case.”

Davis’ attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.

Clinton supported the death penalty as president and oversaw four executions while serving as governor of Arkansas, including the controversial case of Ricky Ray Rector.

In 2000, Clinton stayed the execution of Juan Raul Garza, who was just five days away from being the first federal prisoner executed since 1963. He ordered the Justice Department to examine “racial and geographic disparities in the federal death penalty system.” Garza was eventually executed in 2001.

Clinton held a round table with bloggers in a side conversation during his Global Initiative being held in NYC.  He also addressed the Middle East situation mourning the losses of Rabin to assassination and Sharon to illness.  He did not have the same kind words for current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whom Clinton blames for the current problems in the peace process.  He also blames Arafat for being unreasonable during the peace process when he was directly involved with negotiations.

“The two great tragedies in modern Middle Eastern politics, which make you wonder if God wants Middle East peace or not, were [Yitzhak] Rabin‘s assassination and [Ariel] Sharon‘s stroke,” Clinton said.

Sharon had decided he needed to build a new centrist coalition, so he created the Kadima party and gained the support of leaders like Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert. He was working toward a consensus for a peace deal before he fell ill, Clinton said. But that effort was scuttled when the Likud party returned to power.

“The Israelis always wanted two things that once it turned out they had, it didn’t seem so appealing to Mr. Netanyahu. They wanted to believe they had a partner for peace in a Palestinian government, and there’s no question — and the Netanyahu government has said — that this is the finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had in the West Bank,” Clinton said.

“[Palestinian leaders] have explicitly said on more than one occasion that if [Netanyahu] put up the deal that was offered to them before — my deal — that they would take it,” Clinton said, referring to the 2000 Camp David deal that Yasser Arafat rejected.

But the Israeli government has drifted a long way from the Ehud Barak-led government that came so close to peace in 2000, Clinton said, and any new negotiations with the Netanyahu government are now on starkly different terms — terms that the Palestinians are unlikely to accept.

“For reasons that even after all these years I still don’t know for sure, Arafat turned down the deal I put together that Barak accepted,” he said. “But they also had an Israeli government that was willing to give them East Jerusalem as the capital of the new state of Palestine.”

Republicans attending the debates for presidential candidates continue to set lows for hateful, angry, bigoted, nasty behavior.  First, they scream loud approving hoorays at Perry’s horrible record of state murder in Texas, then then screamed “let him die” in response to a question to Ron Paul on people with no health insurance.  This time they boo’d an active duty soldier serving our country in the Iraq War in the second Fox News Hater Fest.   These are people that are sick sick sick and I wonder who invited them to the shindig and how we can export them all to Devil’s Island where they can create a hell realm all to themselves.

Planet Michele was in full alignment last night with the alternate universe.  She thinks taxpayers should keep all the money they earn.  I guess the government will have to hold bake sales to run the war in Afghanistan.  What ever happened to those t shirts?  We’ll have to redo them for her bits of policy wisdom, I guess.

Former IRS lawyer Michele Bachmann has an interesting approach to taxation: she thinks Americans should get to keep “every dollar” they earn, though she says the government needs to get money somehow.

Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Bachmann about a question at a previous Republican debate on how much of every dollar taxpayers should get to keep. Bachmann said that she talked to the young man who asked the question at the last debate.

“I said ‘I wish I could have answered that question, because I want to tell you what my answer is. I think you earned every dollar, you should get to keep every dollar that you earned,’” Bachmann said. “That’s your money, that’s not the government’s money, that’s the whole point.”

Some one needs to check when the jeebus cult love bombs that  just keep going off in her mind for expiration dates.  Also, her campaign staff

New poster woman for WHAT NOT TO WEAR

needs to send her to TLC and What to Wear where: “Stacy London and Clinton Kelly help the frumpy by giving them life-changing fashion makeovers and fashion advice.” She looks and acts like the Manchurian candidate for Wonderland.  Michele, when you are standing as the only woman in a line up of men and want to be taken seriously, you cannot wear ghost white panty hose and tacky tacky sandals.  Isn’t the styler for Quitterella available? She always looked terrific! It almost made you forget the insanity that spewed from her mouth.  I really think Marcus HAS to be dressing Michele from his secret wardrobe.  I found the picture on the left to be just as bad as it gets.  Look at those shoes!!!  If you want to be a power player, you freaking have to dress like one!  Notice that none of the men are ever out of their traditional corporate monkey suits!  Bachmann’s a total ditz and I wouldn’t want her in charge of anything, but I really think women in positions that should command respect have to go out of their way dress themselves to avoid looking trivial unless they want to be treated that way!  It’s still a power suit world in politics and business. Strappy sandals are for cocktail parties given by lobbyists!

The Villagers are obsessed with the nonperformance of Perry who appeared to have left the Texas part of his personality at home. That didn’t leave much.  Frank Luntz was trying to convince every one that would listen that Perry was yesterday’s plate of grilling beans and that Romney was becoming more Reaganesque every debate and waking moment. He was even seen directing his post debate ‘focus group’ to mimic his talking points.  His eyes kept pleading “Romney can beat the one!  Please LIKE HIM DAMMIT!”  The group describe Perry as a waffler and that Romney held himself accountable for all those ‘mistakes’ that seemed a lot like complete flip flops to the rest of us.  There were some fireworks between the two on Social Security among other issues. Oh, and the newbie to the crowd, some governor whose name I forget from New Mexico ripped a joke off from Rush Limbaugh.  Every one thought it was great until they discovered the source.  Hint to yahoo politicians from New Mexico:  don’t plagiarize any one on your first major TV appearance. You may think that ripping off Rush gives you creds with the ditto heads but it really brings out the worst in the media.

Face to face in confrontational debate, Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry sarcastically accused each other Thursday night of flip-flopping on Social Security and health care, flashpoints in their early struggle for the party nomination.

Romney accused Perry of having said the federal government “shouldn’t be in the pension business, that it’s unconstitutional,” a reference to Social Security benefits.

The Texas governor disputed the charge, saying it “wasn’t the first time Mitt’s been wrong on some issue before.” But Romney mocked his rival’s denial, adding crisply, “You better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.”

Perry soon returned the favor, saying that Romney switched his position on health care between editions of a book he had published. In one edition, Perry said, Romney advocated expanding the health care program he signed in Massachusetts to the rest of the country. “Then in your paperback you took that line out, so speaking of not getting it straight in your book, Sir.”

“It’s like badminton,” said Perry.

WTF is it with men and really stupid sports metaphors?  Sheesh! They’re always like two small steps away from being those little boys on the little league team that can’t do anything right. Oh, and the joke rip off has already gone to Rush’s big fat lying head …

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson brought down the house at Thursday night’s Fox News/ Google debatewhen he joked about how his “next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration.”

The joke killed among the GOP faithful. But was Johnson the first to use it?

Just today, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh delivered a similar joke on air.

“My dogs have created more shovel-ready work than Obama has just this week alone,” Limbaugh said. “The new puppy. Honest to God. More shovel-ready work for me this week than Obama has created all two and a half years.”

So what does Limbaugh think of the similarity?

“I guess I’ve become show prep for the GOP debates now, too,” Limbaugh told The Huffington Post in an email. Limbaugh said he thought he used the line yesterday, “but the days run together, so I’m not really sure.”

Well, the guy’s name is Gary Johnson–how could I forget that!–and he used to be the Governor of New Mexico. His one chance to be remembered and he’ll be known as the guy that plagiarized Rush Limbaugh!  Alrighty then … I’m continuing my policy of making sure we don’t forget the BP Oil spill.  Here’s one from my local rag that’s worth your reading time about the silencing of Gulf oil spill Investigators.

A U.S. House committee was forced to postpone a hearing on the findings of a federal investigation into the causes of the BP oil spill because the Obama administration suddenly refused to let investigators testify, the committee chairman said.

The alleged silencing of the members of the joint Coast Guard and Interior Department investigative team comes in the wake of the sudden resignation of Interior’s lead investigator, Hammond resident David Dykes.

In a news release late Thursday afternoon, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, blasted the Obama administration.

“It took far too long for the final report to be issued and the Obama administration is now further delaying proper oversight by suddenly refusing to allow members of the investigation team to testify,” Hastings said in a statement.

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the Coast Guard said they never wanted “line investigators” to testify. They are seeking to clarify that with Hastings at a meeting Friday, apparently to offer more senior agency officials to testify.

“BOEMRE and the Coast Guard were responsive to Chairman Hastings and his Committee’s request late last week for a hearing. However, we felt strongly from the beginning it was inappropriate for BOEMRE and Coast Guard line investigators to testify, and presented alternative options,” a joint statement from the two agencies said.

Wow!  I just think I made it through an entire morning news post without mentioning ONE economics story.  Must be a record!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?