Lazy Saturday Reads: Follow the Money?

Portrait of two women, Diego Rivera

Portrait of two women, Diego Rivera

Good Afternoon!!

How is Donald Trump spending his campaign money? He raised about $80 million in July, but he isn’t running any TV ads and doesn’t seem to be spending much for on-the-ground organizing. At HuffPo, Bob Burnett calculates based on Open Secrets data that Trump has spent about $63 million of his cash on had in July. Where did those millions go? Burnett suggests three possibilities:

  1. Trump could be planning to “flood the airwaves” with ads just before the election.
  2. Trump may have used the money to repay a load he made to his campaign early on. He has claimed that he forgave the loan, but everyone knows Trump is a pathological liar.
  3. Perhaps the $63 million was transferred to the RNC to pay for GOTV operations. I’d say that’s pretty doubtful.

I’d suggest another possibility–that Trump has simply used the money to pay himself for flights on his private planes and helicopter and to rent space for rallies in his personal properties. Election law requires campaign to pay market rates for these services; but in Trump’s case, the law allows him to make a personal profit by campaigning for office. I guess we’ll find out what’s going on when the July FEC report comes out.

Auguste reading to her daughter, Mary Cassatt

Auguste reading to her daughter, Mary Cassatt

Quite a few observers are also wondering why Trump is campaigning in traditionally blue states like Maine and Connecticut while he’s falling far behind in the polls in battleground states and even red states like North Carolina.

CNN: Republicans question Trump’s travel choices, tight purse strings.

The last time Connecticut voted for a Republican presidential candidate, Americans were listening to music on cassette tapes and most cell phones were the size of shoe boxes.

Yet Donald Trump’s campaign spokesman insists they believe he has a chance to turn Connecticut red for the first time since 1988, and that’s why he is holding weekend rally there on Saturday.
Veteran Republicans, however, see Trump’s Fairfield, Connecticut, campaign stop [is] a fool’s errand — a prime example of what many worry is a political operation that takes Trump’s proclivity for defying convention a step too far.
And, it isn’t just Connecticut that has Republicans scratching their heads. Trump traveled to Maine last week, a state that has also been blue since 1992….
Concerned Republicans say their worries go beyond the campaign’s decision to send its greatest resource — the candidate himself — to chase one or two electoral votes in Maine, or to what they believe are unwinnable states like Connecticut. The other phenomenon perplexing veteran operatives is that the Trump campaign now has the needed money to finance television ads and ground operations — they just don’t appear to be spending it.

According to the article, Republicans are worried that even if Trump eventually begins running ads, it will be too late. They note that Obama’s early negative ads against Romney were successful in defining him, and now Trump is making the same mistake. In addition, Trump’s ground game is basically non-existent. From the CNN article:

“The campaign has yet to find or appoint key local leaders or open a campaign office in the county and isn’t yet sure which Hamilton County Republican party’s central committee members are allied with the Republican presidential nominee,” reported the Enquirer.
In other key states like Florida, where Trump, along with the RNC, does have staff, they are outnumbered by Democrats. The RNC says it has over 70 paid staffers and plans at least 20 offices statewide. Democrats already have 200 staffers and say they’re aiming for 100 offices in Florida.
A Page-Turner, Keith Larson

A Page-Turner, Keith Larson

Here’s Philip Bump at the WaPo: Cincinnati is the perfect demonstration of Donald Trump’s nonexistent campaign.

On Wednesday, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a story that described the efforts of the Trump campaign in the critical county. Hamilton has declined as a percentage of the state’s population since 1990, but it is still home to 7 percent of Ohioans. So what’s Donald Trump doing there?

With the presidential election 90 days away, the Donald Trump campaign is scrambling to set up the basics of a campaign in Hamilton County, a key county in a swing state crucial to a Republican victory, a recent internal email obtained by The Enquirer shows.

The campaign has yet to find or appoint key local leaders or open a campaign office in the county and isn’t yet sure which Hamilton County Republican party’s central committee members are allied with the Republican presidential nominee. … Even campaign materials, such as signs and stickers, aren’t yet available.

What’s more, Trump hasn’t yet run a single general election ad in Hamilton County — or anywhere.

Last week, the Enquirer reported that Trump supporters, frustrated by the lack of infrastructure in their area, set up their own Trump headquarters in a small house. The campaign tried to spin this as a positive — such enthusiasm! — but it clearly isn’t.

Is it possible that the Trump campaign is nothing but a massive grifting operation to help Trump make money and perhaps to help him get another reality show?

Art and Literature, Loren Entz

Art and Literature, Loren Entz

Yesterday Trump claimed that if he doesn’t win Pennsylvania, where he trails by 11 points in the latest poll, it will be because Hillary Clinton somehow cheated. Again from Philip Bump: Trump says he will only lose Pennsylvania if there’s widespread voter fraud. That’s very wrong.

CBS’s Sopan Deb transcribed Trump’s comments.

We’re gonna watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times. … The only way we can lose, in my opinion — and I really mean this, Pennsylvania — is if cheating goes on. I really believe it. Because I looked at Erie and it was the same thing as this. …

[L]et me just tell you, I looked over Pennsylvania. And I’m studying it. And we have some great people here. Some great leaders here of the Republican Party, and they’re very concerned about that. And that’s the way we can lose the state. And we have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching. Because if we get cheated out of this election, if we get cheated out of a win in Pennsylvania, which is such a vital state, especially when I know what’s happening here, folks. I know. She can’t beat what’s happening here.

The only way they can beat it in my opinion — and I mean this 100 percent — if in certain sections of the state they cheat, OK? So I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the 8th, go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine, because without voter identification — which is shocking, shocking that you don’t have it.

There is almost no actual in-person voter fraud. In a survey of 1 billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014, 241 possible — possible! — fraudulent ballots were found. Several of those ballots were cast in elections in Pennsylvania where a man named “Joseph Cheeseboro” and another named “Joseph J. Cheeseborough” each cast a ballot. That’s all that was uncovered in Pennsylvania.

The “certain sections of the state” to which Trump is referring is almost certainly are a reference to a long-standing conspiracy theory involving the results in Philadelphia in 2012, where, in some places Mitt Romney got zero votes. Trump ally Sean Hannity raised it during a dispute with CNN’s Brian Stelter.

Mother reading with two girls, Lee Lufkin Kaula

Mother reading with two girls, Lee Lufkin Kaula

It’s all about racism, folks; but no one in the public sphere seems to want to admit it. Check this out at the WaPo: A massive new study debunks a widespread theory for Donald Trump’s success.

Economic distress and anxiety across working-class white America have become a widely discussed explanation for the success of Donald Trump. It seems to make sense. Trump’s most fervent supporters tend to be white men without college degrees. This same group has suffered economically in our increasingly globalized world, as machines have replaced workers in factories and labor has shifted overseas. Trump has promised to curtail trade and other perceived threats to American workers, including immigrants.

Yet a major new analysis from Gallup, based on 87,000 interviews the polling company conducted over the past year, suggests this narrative is not complete. While there does seem to be a relationship between economic anxiety and Trump’s appeal, the straightforward connection that many observers have assumed does not appear in the data.

According to this new analysis, those who view Trump favorably have not been disproportionately affected by foreign trade or immigration, compared with people with unfavorable views of the Republican presidential nominee. The results suggest that his supporters, on average, do not have lower incomes than other Americans, nor are they more likely to be unemployed.

Please go read the entire article, and you’ll find that in this “massive study” Gallup did not even consider racism as an explanation for Trump support!

While Trump is swift-boating himself and the media is busily covering his self-destruction, Hillary Clinton is quietly going about her business–campaigning in swing states, advertising during the Olympics, and building her GOTV operation–as the media tries desperately to fan the flames of some “scandal” or other in hopes of bringing her down.

Girl reading, George Cochran Lambdin

Girl reading, George Cochran Lambdin

The obsession with Hillary’s emails is going nowhere except with media Hillary haters and right wing nuts. ABC News reports: Emails Do Not Show Improper Influence From Clinton Foundation, State Department Says.

The State Department said today that there was nothing inappropriate in the communications that Hillary Clinton‘s staff had with the Clinton Foundation when she was secretary of state, recently exposed in new emails released by the conservative group Judicial Watch,

“The State Department is not aware of any actions that were influenced by the Clinton Foundation,” State Department Spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau said during today’s daily press briefing.

That comment comes after the release of two new emails sent by Clinton Foundation executive Doug Band, raising concerns about the relationship between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton family’s philanthropic organization, the Clinton Foundation. In one email, Band requested a meeting between a wealthy donor and an ambassador, and in another he asked Clinton’s aides to find a job for an associated, whose name was redacted from the email.

Donald Trump has described the emails as “pay for play,” without producing any evidence of an exchange of money or political favors.

“The Department does not believe it was inappropriate for Mr. Band or any other individual to recommend someone be considered for employment at the State Department,” Trudeau said today. “We also do not believe it’s inappropriate for someone recommended in this manner to be potentially hired insofar as they meet the necessary qualifications for the job.”

The Clinton campaign said on Wednesday that this person was not a donor nor a Clinton Foundation employee, but refused to release his or her identity. Trudeau added that even if this person had been a Foundation employee or a donor, it would not have precluded the individual from being hired at the State Department.

Woman reading, Jon Urban

Woman reading, Jon Urban

The media will surely try to “trump”-up this story from CNN: Bill Clinton talks email controversy: ‘Biggest load of bull.’

The questioner identified himself as a Democrat who loved Clinton as president and is supporting his wife, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election. But, he wanted to know: Why should Americans trust the Democratic nominee when she lied about her emails?
“Wait a minute,” Bill Clinton said. “It’s not true.”
And so began the ex-president’s unexpected fiery defense of one of the biggest controversies dogging Hillary Clinton’s White House bid.
“First of all, the FBI director said when he testified before Congress, he had to amend his previous day’s statement that she had never received any emails that are classified. They saw two little notes with a ‘C’ on it,” Clinton said. “This is the biggest load of bull I’ve ever heard.”
Clinton went on to say that while the classification system of sensitive emails was “too complicated to explain to people,” what is clear is that Clinton and her colleagues were never being careless with national security.
“Do you really believe there are 300 career diplomats because that’s how many people were on these emails, all of whom were careless with national security? Do you believe that?” he said. “Forget about Hillary, forget about her. Is that conceivable?”
Clinton pointed to the number of prominent Republican leaders — particularly those in the national security arena — who have endorsed Clinton in recent weeks, as a sign that she is the only person fit to run the country.
“There are people who spent their lifetimes advancing national security who believe she’s the only person that you can trust,” Clinton said.

I say good for Bill and good luck to the media in trying to make this a “scandal” over the weekend.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a great Saturday!

Friday Reads: Weapons of Mass Disruption

Good Morning!febc7f1ac34fde5a93fe1d940de1e0cd

I had a lot of work to do on Wednesday so I spent most of yesterday relaxing which in my world means I’m reading a lot and walking Temple around the hood.  I tried to spent my reading time on things a bit more uplifting than politics but this year is so fascinatingly and abjectly horrid that it’s hard to turn away.   I may actually pick up the Game of Throne books again just as a contrast to these real-life machinations.

I managed to tune in to Rachel Maddow long enough to watch her perform “anti-Trump Republican anguish” as beat-style poetry.  Real quotes from Real Republicans Since Donald Trump was nominated is a total gas to watch.  I laughed so hard that Temple nearly got a red wine shower.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has withheld his support for Trump.  Mary Matalin has jumped parties and is re-registering down here in the Big Easy as  Libertarian.  The entire krewe of Red State has entered a period of mourning and disgust.  It’s hard to fight back smugness at this point.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s extraordinary statement Thursday that he’s “just not ready” to support Donald Trump highlights a challenge for the real-estate developer and TV personality on the week that he unexpectedly eliminated his rivals and cementedhis status as presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Ryan joined a growing list of Republican elites who have resisted supporting their new standard-bearer and made a variety of vague demands of him, such as proving he’s committed to conservatism and is White House material, before offering their support. Republicans have refrained from handing down straightforward ultimatums, which suggests many will ultimately get behind him. But the dissent from within is highly unusual for a major-party candidate who has locked up the nomination and is shifting into general-election mode.

“I hope to and I want to” support Trump, Ryan said on CNN. But he said the billionaire “needs to do more to unify this party” by demonstrating to conservatives that he “shares our values” and “bears our standards.”

aad79e23ea542c0a825685281db16d76Trump fired back by questioning Ryan’s fitness to be Speaker.

Roughly 90 minutes later, Trump came back with a sharp critique of another comment Ryan made Thursday.

“Paul Ryan said that I inherited something very special, the Republican Party. Wrong, I didn’t inherit it, I won it with millions of voters!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The subtle difference Trump highlighted was a piercing remark that speaks to the rift between mainstream Republicans and the polarizing, unconventional candidate who has risen to become the face of the party. His proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and refusal to disavow David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan led to Ryan’s implicit rebuke of the candidate throughout the primary, but Trump’s rhetoric has resonated with millions of voters, who have come out in droves across the country to support his candidacy.

Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson went a step further than her boss, suggesting that the Wisconsin Republican is unfit for his leadership role if he can’t support the party’s presumptive nominee.

Asked plainly by CNN’s John Berman whether Ryan is fit to be speaker if he can’t come around to supporting Trump, Pierson responded, “No, because this is about the party.”

Ryan suggested the onus was on Trump to show he can unite the different wings of the Republican Party, but Pierson disagreed, noting that since Trump has yet to clinch 1,237 delegates, he’s only the presumptive nominee.

1960s sign (5)This should make all the Republicans crazy go nuts since Ryan is the party’s boy wonder atm.   Trump has announced he will be fundraising a billion dollars to take on Hillary Clinton in the General.  Sheldon Addison has decided to back Trump. I’m not sure if any of his other fellow billionaires will follow suit.  The amount of stunned establishment Republicans Rejecting Trump the last two days is pretty jaw-dropping.

CNN reached out to 16 Republican elected officials, leaders and major fundraisers associated with former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Speaking on background, none of them said they were planning to go to this summer’s Republican convention. They didn’t say they would vote for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. But they said they were not yet supporting Trump.

2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney declared he’d skip the convention, joining at least three prior Republican nominees — John McCain and both Presidents Bush — in declining to attend the event.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake told CNN’s Manu Raju that “some of Trump’s positions” make it “very difficult for me” to support him.

Meanwhile, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse went on a lengthy Facebook diatribe against Trump and conservative blogger Erick Erickson said some members of Congress have joined his effort to recruit a third-party candidate.

BB’s post yesterday had more information on the Bush rejection of Trump.  Certainly, his behavior towards Jeb is a good rationale of the cold shoulder treatment. But so are the continual attacks Dubya for not preventing 9-11 and for the Iraq War. McCain may actually lose his Senate Senate over this. 

The odd assortment of religious freaks, neoconfederates,greedy ass country clubbers, intellectually and emotionally stunted libertarians, and angry working class white men put together by the party to win elections from Nixon forward is coming8ffe46a7de4e2046e6454c25b922bc9c completely unglued. Watching all of this come to this year’s election–which I can only characterize as a bunch of white straight men throwing toddler-like temper tantrums for not getting their way on everything–has been enlightening.

Hillary Clinton is already making hay from Trump quotes and from quotes about Trump by fellow Republicans. 

Talk about putting the opposition to work for you.

Hillary Clinton‘s latest campaign ad is the ultimate #TBT – to the past eight months of the Republican primary campaign and the GOP’s own most biting comments about its freshly minted presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.

The web ad that Clinton tweeted out Wednesday night showcases insults from the likes of Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush to argue that Trump is anything but the party “unifier” he now claims to be.

“Con artist,” “phony” “know-nothing candidate,” “bully” and “the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency,” are just a few of the disparaging namesTrump’s Republican critics call him in the clip.

“He would not be the commander-in-chief we need to keep our country safe,” says Bush, pointing to what he calls Trump’s “deep insecurity and weakness.”

149cfd069685011278c02865475556aeSome think this actually helps Trump since it actually quotes mostly the Republican establishment that the Trumpsters hate.   However, I’m not thinking the die hard Trumpsters are the targeted voters right now.  I think it’s the huge huge number of Republican voters that haven’t been paying real attention to what the party’s has been about for years.

More broadly, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is repositioning itself, after a year of staking out liberal positions and focusing largely on minority voters, to appeal to independent and Republican-leaning white voters turned off by Mr. Trump.

With the Democratic nomination in sight, Mrs. Clinton has broadened her economic message, devoted days to apologizing for a comment she previously made that angered working-class whites, and has pledged that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who remains widely popular among the blue-collar voters drawn to Mr. Trump, would “come out of retirement and be in charge” of creating jobs in places that have been particularly hard hit.

The media is full of examples today of talking heads mansplaining to Hillary’s campaign how to deal with the Donald.   I would like to add that they sure didn’t do a great job of dealing with The Donald before he metastasized into the Republican Presidential candidate for 2016 so why should we take any of them very seriously?

Now, with regard to the tough guy stuff. The way to shred that calling card is with the military. This may surprise you at first blush. Surely, you think, military types will prefer Trump to Clinton! He’s a man. He talks tough. He’s not gonna pussyfoot around with ISIS the way those Democrats always do.

If you think this, I implore you to read Trump at War by Andy Kroll. It’s about how military people are terrified at the thought of Trump becoming their commander-in-chief, because they think he knows nothing about their line of work and they fear that someone who talks like he does without understanding the consequences will start World War III. Some people quoted in the article spoke openly of having to disobey President Trump’s orders, which is not only permissible but called for when an officer believes that a president’s orders violate code and law.

“You bet your ass” I’d reinstitute waterboarding, Trump has said. Military and intelligence professionals are the last people in the world who want that. It violated international law, which most of them actually care about. And the controversy over it crushed morale. A former CIA general counsel told Kroll that if President Trump ordered water-boarding and other forms of torture, staff would abandon the agency. “At a minimum,” the lawyer said, “people would refuse to participate in anything resembling the former interrogation program and insist on a transfer to another part of the agency where they wouldn’t be involved in these things.”

Conversely, more military people than you’d expect kind of respect Clinton. No, not because she voted for the Iraq War. Because she sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and got to know their issues. Knows the difference between a brigade and a regiment. Put in ample face time as senator at New York’s military bases. They respect her.

There’s even a more brutal ad that lets Trump be Trump. It’s like a montage of his most sexist, racist, idioticUNDERGROUND027statements.  I think it’s absolutely funny that it came out on Cinco de Mayo given some of the worst quotes in it are about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.  You can see the ad directly on BB’s post yesterday.

This is just a Web ad, but as Josh Vorhees notes, it’s reasonable to see this as a template for the massive onslaught of paid ads to come. And this ad also highlights a key dynamic in this campaign that continues to go under-appreciated.

As I’ve argued, the general election will differ from the primaries in an important sense: Unlike Republicans, Democrats will not be constrained from brutally unmasking the truly wretched nature of his racial appeals. Trump’s GOP rivals had to treat his xenophobia, bigotry, and demagoguery with kid gloves, because many Republican voters agreed with his vows to ban Muslims and carry out mass deportations. But the broader general electorate does not agree with those things. Indeed, many voters that populate key general election constituencies are likely horrified by them. As a result, Democrats will be able to prosecute Trump mercilessly in ways his GOP rivals simply could not — with a relentless, non-diluted, non-euphemistic focus on his white nationalism.

d3c546dabf49c31dc52c6d44ebc2d066Cook Political Reports just released its first look at the Electoral Vote for the 2016 General and you’ll be surprised at the number of states that are in play that are usually solidly Republican.  This general is shaping up to be an incredible state of affairs in many ways.  Humor me for quoting this Joe Klein piece at Time Magazine that beckons’ with this bit of clickbait: “Hillary Clinton’s ultimate trump card will not be her gender but her relative humanity.”

In some ways, Hillary faces an easier task. Donald Trump is an implausible President of the United States. But she has a problem that Bill never had. He swept to the presidency on a wave of pure energy and enthusiasm–this was something new, the baby boomers were taking over! Hillary is the George H.W. Bush of this campaign, selling stability–which may prove to be a marketable asset, given the craziness on the Republican side–but momentum feeds on excitement. Core polling perceptions like “trustworthiness” can turn, but they need some impetus.

Her vice-presidential choice will be important. A traditional pick would be someone young and Latino and male, but Hillary’s equivalent of an Al Gore would be … Elizabeth Warren. Another woman, but an outsider; a candidate who could rally Bernie’s legions of new voters, and who would be an excellent attack dog (a crucial vice-presidential function). I know, I know: the Clinton camp mistrusts Warren. She’d be a loose cannon, a risk. Her presence on the ticket might limit Hillary’s attempts to woo moderate Republicans and foreign policy hawks, which raises another possibility: Why not pick a moderate Republican woman–Condoleezza Rice, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley–to stem the barbarian tide? That would be unthinkably new.

Inevitably, the vice-presidential selection will take a backseat in the general election. The presidency is won in discrete moments, as the public gauges the humanity of the candidates. Donald Trump is more a brand than a person; given the spray tan and egregious comb-over, he looks more like a panjandrum in The Hunger Games than a regular guy. How many spontaneous, empathetic human interactions has he had with individual voters? None that I can remember. He is all facade.

There is a basic rule of politics in the television age: warm always beats cold (with the exception of Richard Nixon). Hillary Clinton’s ultimate trump card will be not her gender but her relative humanity–an ironic twist given her public awkwardness. Her decision to sit down with West Virginia coal miners and apologize for her harsh, but realistic, prediction that they’ll be losing their jobs is the sort of thing that would be unimaginable for Trump. In the amped intimacy of a presidential campaign, such moments matter.

I’m sure we’re in for quite the bumpy ride so buckle up and buckle down.  Hang in here with us because we’ll be hanging in there with and for Madam President.  There’s bound to be many revoltin’ developments in the near future and we won’t shy from them.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Extra Lazy Saturday Afternoon Reads


Good Afternoon!!

It’s looking like Massachusetts may be on the verge of electing another Republican governor, and suddenly I’m feeling even sicker than I have been with this cold I can’t get rid of.

Breaking news this morning from The Boston Globe, Charlie Baker jumps 9 points in new Globe poll.

Republican Charlie Baker has opened up a 9-point lead over Democrat Martha Coakley, 45 percent to 36 percent, according to a new Globe poll that depicts a far more comfortable advantage than either candidate for governor has enjoyed in months.

The poll reflects an October surge in independent voters toward Baker’s column. It was independents who provided Governor Deval Patrick with his margins of victory in 2006 and 2010.

Baker’s standing has improved from last week’s poll, which showed the two candidates dead even. It can be attributed largely to the gains he has made in voters’ perceptions of who would improve the economy and manage state government, areas that already were tilting his way. At the same time, Baker has offset the deficits he faced on issues such as education and health care, where Coakley still holds an edge, but a diminished one.

“There is just positive movement in every single metric we can ask around Baker,” said pollster John Della Volpe, chief executive of SocialSphere Inc., which conducts the weekly poll for the Globe. “The more voters have gotten to know him, the stronger he performs.”

What is it with this supposedly liberal state? Since I moved here more than 40 years ago, we have had mostly Republican governors. I can’t understand why Massachusetts would elect another one, especially after our experience with Mitt Romney. We’ve also never had a woman elected governor. Republican Jane Swift was governor for two years, but that was because, as lieutenant governor, she took over for Paul Celluci, who resigned to become ambassador to Canada under George W. Bush.

As for getting to know Baker, what does that mean? Do voters really know his history? Or are they responding to political advertising?

Overall, Baker has moved from 38 percent support to 45 percent since late August. Coakley dropped 5 points this week, the poll found, after having held steady throughout much of the fall. Baker’s growth, said Della Volpe, has come almost entirely from voters who have made up their minds since the beginning of September. Eleven percent of voters remain undecided….

The poll depicts an electorate highly susceptible to the recent barrage of political advertising on television. Two weeks ago, Coakley, the state’s attorney general, led Baker by 5 points in the same poll. According to estimates from Kantar Media/CMAG, a firm that tracks political television commercials, $2.2 million in ads paid for by gubernatorial candidates and allied groups — more than 1,700 individual spots — aired on broadcast television from Oct. 12 through Oct. 19.


I didn’t know much about Baker until I read a very disturbing story in the Globe this week, Mental health record may be predictor for Charlie Baker. It turns out Baker was the architect of a damaging mental health privatization policy in Massachusetts that is still reverberates across the state today. (I’ve emphasized some points in the article with bold type.)

It was early 1991, Baker was Massachusetts’ new undersecretary for health, and the 34-year-old Harvard grad was having his first look at the state’s decrepit mental hospitals.

Soon after, a special state commission recommended closing nine of the state’s most antiquated institutions, including Danvers and two other hospitals for mentally ill patients, and moving much of that care to the community. It was Baker’s job to get it done. His strategy involved a first-in-the-nation use of a for-profit company with power to approve or deny treatments for low-income mental health patients.

Baker’s blueprint saved Massachusetts millions of dollars at a time when the state was staring at a nearly $2 billion deficit, but it left thousands of mental health patients often waiting weeks for treatments. The controversial approach became his template for rescuing financially ailing Harvard Pilgrim Health Care a decade later.

The aftershocks of both initiatives are still being felt as the now 57-year-old Republican runs for governor, and those experiences, say Baker supporters and critics, provide a window into how he might handle similarly fraught and costly issues if elected.

Baker’s claim to fame is that as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, he  kept the company from going bankrupt. Democratic ads have publicized the fact that he “raised premiums 150 percent and tripled his own salary to $1.7 million during his decade at Harvard Pilgrim.” One of the ways he saved money for Harvard Pilgrim was by laying of lots of workers and outsourcing their jobs to India. He even won an “Outsourcing Excellence Award” in 2008.

Back to the Globe article on Baker’s mental health record. There were vast financial profits for the state, and some low income mental health patients did benefit short-term. But overall,

…the separate move to privatize mental health care, with a for-profit company controlling treatment and costs, meant 800 state mental health workers were laid off and their work farmed out to private clinics that received less state money. Long waiting lists ensued for community services.

“It was a disaster,” said Dr. Matthew Dumont, former director of the Chelsea Community Counseling Center, where the number of psychiatrists and other caregivers, including Dumont, was cut from 23 to six. Dumont said the clinic was no longer able to provide a critical service he believes was a lifeline for mental health patients — home visits.

Over the next several years, suicide rates among mental health patients who had received state services soared. That prompted a blistering 1997 report from a legislative panel that criticized the Weld administration for lax monitoring of patients and failing to investigate their deaths in a timely way.

Two years later, a Brandeis University study gave the state high marks for innovative community-based mental health programs launched during the 1990s, but found too many patients waiting for services….

“It’s still a revolving door,” said Dumont, the former director of the Chelsea counseling center who lives with the legacy of privatizing mental health services when he evaluates patients for the state’s public defender agency. He said he has to scrounge to find places that will take indigent defendants who have been in and out of mental health facilities.

Read about Baker’s future plans for mental health care in Massachusetts at the link.


What’s happening in Kentucky?

Is Mitch McConnell getting nervous about holding onto his Senate seat? The Hill reports today that McConnell has just written a personal check to his campaign for $1.8 million dollars to counter the recent DSCC purchase of TV ads in support of challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. From The Hill:

A week ago it appeared the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was giving up on the race when it pulled the plug on television advertising after a $1.4 million buy.

But the Democratic Party committee plunged back into this fight this week by announcing it would spend another $650,000 on television ads to help Alison Lundergan Grimes against McConnell. The Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic super-PAC, followed up with a pledge to spend $850,000 in the state.

McConnell has a stable lead in polls, but doesn’t want to let the new Democratic ads go unmatched. He has long pledged to his Republican colleagues that he would not take any party funds to help win reelection.

Maybe it doesn’t mean anything; we’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile a couple more articles on the Kentucky Senate race.

The Courier-Journal, Grimes pledges to fight for Kentuckians’ rights.

On the stump, she’s a Clinton Democrat. In GOP attacks, she’s a cheerleader for Barack Obama. Political allies — and opponents — know her as the daughter of Jerry Lundergan, former head of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

For her part, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes calls herself a “Kentucky filly,” charging toward victory in her bid to unseat Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and become the state’s first female U.S. senator.

“This is a strong … independent Kentucky woman,” Grimes tells crowds on the campaign trail, while pledging to defend Medicare and Social Security benefits, fight for a higher minimum wage and support pay equality for women.

“She will fight for the people of Kentucky like we have never been fought for before,” she promises, speaking in the third person.

But 16 months after announcing her candidacy, political observers say Grimes still faces challenges in defining herself to Kentucky voters who overwhelmingly dislike Obama and have largely turned away from Democrats in most federal elections.

Apparently, it’s all about how much Kentuckians feel about Clinton and Obama. I hope Bill has plans to stump for Grimes again close to election day.


Brian Beutler at The New Republic reports on McConnell’s refusal to respond to questions about privatizing Social Security.

The reporters appear to be referencing this encounter McConnell had at the Louisville Rotary Club with reporter Joe Sonka. At the event, McConnell had expressed remorse that he couldn’t wrangle any Democrats into supporting George W. Bush’s 2005 effort to, as McConnell put it, “fix Social Security.”

Sonka asked him if he’d revisit that effort in 2015, and McConnell said, “I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance. We’re not in the majority yet. We’ll have more to say about that later.”

So McConnell dodged a pretty straightforward question about the Republican policy agenda, and, should he become majority leader, his own substantive goals.

A central theme of McConnell’s campaign is that Kentuckians shouldn’t replace a guy who stands to become an agenda setter in Washington with Grimes, who would be a freshman with comparably little power. Vis a vis less politically contentious issues, he’s more than happy to explain how he’d use that power.

One of the goals McConnell has been open about is “going after the EPA,” which he claims is hurting Kentucky’s economy.

So it’s inconsistent of him to hold his cards close to the vest when the issue is privatizing Social Security rather than gunning for the EPA. It would’ve been easy enough for him to say that private accounts are going to stay on the shelf, where they’ve been, for all intents and purposes, since 2005. Or that it wouldn’t be worth the hassle, since President Obama would surely veto such a bill. Instead he said the agenda isn’t up for public discussion until he’s granted the agenda-setting power.

I’m sure McConnell realizes that his constituents wouldn’t be too happy about attacks on Social Security . . .

The Texas Voter ID Law


From MSNBC, a depressing story about the Texas voter ID law, Texas woman threatened with jail after applying for voter ID.

An Austin, Texas woman told msnbc she was threatened with jail time for having an out-of-state driver’s license when she went to apply for a voter identification card so she could vote under the state’s controversial ID law. She said she was so intimidated she left without getting the ID she needed — and which she’d been trying to get for a year.

Lynne Messinger’s account highlights the obstacles that some Texans face as they try to obtain a voter ID — despite the state’s assurances that getting one doesn’t pose a burden.

Messinger, 62 and a musician, said she brought her birth certificate to aTexas’ Department of Public Safety (DPS) office in south Austin Thursday in an effort to get a voter ID. She needs one because Texas’s strict ID law doesn’t accept out-of-state driver’s licenses.

Messinger said she spoke to a clerk at the desk, and explained that she had a California driver’s license. She has houses in both California and Texas and goes back and forth between the two, but decided several years ago to switch her voting residency to Texas.

The clerk left for a few minutes, then told her to take a seat. At that point, Messinger said, a state trooper summoned her into his back office, saying he needed to speak to her. Once inside his office, Messinger said the trooper insisted on seeing all the documentation she had brought, and demanded to know where she lives and pays taxes. He even told her she could be jailed for driving with a California license.* It is illegal to drive in Texas on another state’s driver’s license 90 days after moving into the state.

“It was like a Nazi interrogation about how I cant be driving with a California ID,” Messinger said. “I was completely intimidated and freaked out.”


Here’s a very interesting read on Chief Justice Roberts and Voter ID laws from The Atlantic, On Race and Voter ID, John Roberts Wants It Both Ways. The author, Garrett Epps discusses Roberts’ views on race, and concludes that “[t]he idea that government must not discriminate by race seems to be important to the chief.” But . . .

Which brings us to Veasey v. Perry, the voting-rights case in which the Court issued its 5 a.m. order on Saturday. That order allowed Texas’ draconian voter-ID law, known as SB 14, to take effect for the midterm elections next month—the first general election to which it will be applied. It is customary to speak of SB 14 as a “tough” voter-ID law, but it might be better to speak of it as a discriminatory voter-ID law, inspired by the intent to disfranchise black and Latino voters.

That’s not my inference; it was the considered factual finding of federal district Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos. (Ramos is an Obama appointee, but one endorsed for the bench by Republican Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn.) Ramos based her conclusion on a nine-day trial in which both the state and the plaintiffs presented evidence about SB 14’s history and effect. That effect is startling—Ramos found that the law might disfranchise as much as 4.5 percent of the state’s eligible voters. But more important is her conclusion about the law’s intent (emphasis added):

The record as a whole (including the relative scarcity of incidences of in-person voter impersonation fraud, the fact that SB 14 addresses no other type of voter fraud, the anti-immigration and anti-Hispanic sentiment permeating the 2011 legislative session, and the legislators’ knowledge that SB 14 would clearly impact minorities disproportionately and likely disenfranchise them) shows that SB 14 was racially motivated.

This is a devastating finding. The judge is not saying that the law has a disproportionate effect on minorities; she is saying that it was specifically written to prevent them from voting. Because it was intentional race discrimination, she found, it violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, the prohibition of racial restrictions on the vote in the 15th Amendment—and also the prohibition of poll taxes in the 24th Amendment.

Read much more at the link. It’s an important article.


Washington School Shooting

More details are coming out about the school shooting in Washington state. From The Seattle Times, Teen shooter targets 3 girls, 2 male cousins.

A freshman homecoming prince, reportedly angry about a girl, pulled out a gun and opened fire in a crowded cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School Friday morning, killing one classmate and wounding four others before fatally shooting himself.

At 10:39 a.m., as hundreds of students gathered for lunch on the sprawling campus, Jaylen Fryberg walked up to a cafeteria table, pulled out a gun and shot three teen girls and two teenage male cousins, witnesses and authorities said….

Fryberg and a girl were confirmed dead. The girl’s name was not released.

Two boys and two girls were taken by ambulance to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. As of Friday night, the two girls were alive and in intensive care with gunshot wounds to the head, said Dr. Joanne Roberts, chief medical officer for Providence. It will be several days before a prognosis could be made, she said.

The wounded boys were identified by family members as Andrew Fryberg, 15, and Nate Hatch, 14 — both cousins to Jaylen Fryberg. Both also were shot in the head. They were initially taken to Providence and later transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where Andrew was in serious condition and Nate was in critical condition.

“He shot people he cared about,” said friend and football teammate Dylen Boomer.

I guess we’ll learn more as time goes on. These school shootings make no sense to me.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread and enjoy your weekend!

Friday Reads: NOLA Daily No More and Elusive Escaped Penguin is Caught

Good Morning!

JJ here, while Dakinikat is off seeing her oldest daughter get married, I’ve got the honor of taking her place on this morning’s reads!

Over the past few weeks you have seen that I have a fondness for cartoons. Not just the political/editorial ones, but all cartoons. I have hundreds of yellowed and crinkled newsprint cartoons stashed away in drawers, boxes, plastic bags and the few that are very special, I still have taped to my fridge. Some have little messages scribbled on them, maybe an extra doodle drawn to represent something specifically funny, like an inside joke within the family.

I did not limit it to cartoons, there were many times an article would pop out at me, begging for it to be clipped. Of course, I would make my little editorial comments in the borders…And it wasn’t just me who would do this, my mom would do it too. Sometimes I would get a surprise letter in the mail, and in it would be a newspaper clipping of a cartoon or an article that she thought I would laugh like hell at, for example say….about some group of midgets in drag, robbing a Burger King….I am not kidding on that one!

And lets not forget clipping obituaries or recipes…or historic moments. (The attic of our hundred year old house in Newtown, Connecticut had a newspaper from when the Titanic sunk, when FDR was elected for his first term, and when FDR died.)

So when I moved nine years ago from the big city to Banjoville, I expected to have our newspaper, the “legal organ” of Union County published once a week, on Tuesdays. Except for Election Day…that always means a Wednesday delivery.

Since then I have been able to print out a cartoon here or there, but is isn’t the same thing. There is something magical in the feel and look of newsprint, am I right? If you are “lucky” it will smudge your fingers a bit, and as the time goes by, the edges start to curl up…and the dirt and grease marks get darker and darker…the paper gets yellower and yellower. It is a way to mark the passage of time.

The reason I am waxing romantic about newspapers is they are becoming a thing of the past. Like the big dinosaurs, one day they will all become extinct. Yes, in small towns, the weekly is the main form of local news, but in huge cities, residents are finding that they will no longer receive that daily pile of newsprint.

New Orleans is now possibly the only major city in the US without a daily newspaper. The Times/Picayune has stopped its daily print news…opting for the “digital” version. (You can still get a print paper a few days a week, but there is no guarantee it won’t disappear all together.)

Late Night: The Latest Casualty

Another newspaper died today.  Not just any paper; the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which has been publishing since 1837.  Officially, it is merely cutting daily print editions to Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, but what with letting over a third of the staff go, will be something, but it won’t be a newspaper, despite the absurd claims from its publisher that this was some sort of “adaption to the digital era.”  Really?  In the digital era I know, the only thing lame about papers is that they only come out once a day; will letting them sit in the box for three days make them somehow more appealing, as keepsakes, perhaps?

If the newspaper industry were serious about going digital, rather than just reaping larger profits and putting yet another squeeze on its long-suffering employees, it would not be leaving in place any of the absurdly costly and wasteful process of printing and delivery, which will continue to be massive and now underutilized investments.  No, what the bloated and mismanaged conglomerates that now own our newspapers want is slow death and golden parachutes for all concerned, and the less any actual journalism gets involved, the better.

The parent company of the Times-Picayune is Newhouse, and they have decided to forgo the paper’s paper, and of course, a number of their employees…

As revenue began to dry up from all three of these previously reliable sources, the corporate leadership of virtually every major daily decided to tackle the problem the same, self-defeating way: cutting staff, eliminating departments, and turning once-useful functions over to the sales side; most notably car reviews.  Each false economy eroded the only intrinsic value of the legacy newspaper: its credibility, stability, and connection to the community.  To maximize “shareholder value” in the short term, newspapers casually threw away the very things that readers actually valued.  To no one’s surprise, a decade or two of essentially selling pink slime and calling it hamburger did end up causing plummeting circulation, which is now used to justify yet further cuts in the product quality.  What, pray tell, is worse than pink slime?

Sadly, a lot.  Fox News viewers have once again been found to be less informed than the comatose, and back in the days after Hurricane Katrina, the Times-Picayune heroically countered their malevolent misinformation even when its presses were literally underwater.  When I was in New Orleans a year later,  the local reverence for the paper was still apparent; until dark, papers littered the tables of every corner pub and coffeehouse.  But all the Newhouse executives could see in this improbable renaissance was declining margins, grabby unions, and a daily torrent of comment abuse from the (white) readers outside the city.   So they canned it, but just partly, for show.

Yeah…what about that. I know lots of people who do not have internet, or iPads or SmartPhones…or e-readers. WTF (where the fuck) will they get their news?

I will quote the last paragraph of this excellent post on FDL:

The death of the Times-Picayune is unremarkable, I suppose, given the recent deaths of papers from Seattle, Denver, and elsewhere.  But those papers left at least one daily community voice in their wake.  New Orleans is now the only major American city that I can think of that’s lost its only daily paper.  Journalism is dying in America, by a thousand cuts of Bain-style “creative destruction,” and it’s no great leap to think that on some level it’s being done deliberately.  I think it was Jefferson who said he’d rather have newspapers without a government than a government without newspapers, but it seems our corporate overlords have decided they’d like to try it the other way around.

And sadly, NOLA is not the only city losing a print paper. Alabama Media Group, a new digitally focused company, will launch this fall with expanded online coverage and enhanced three-day-a-week newspapers

Wow, it’s an epidemic!

A new digitally focused media company — the Alabama Media Group, which will include The Birmingham News, the Press-Register of Mobile, The Huntsville Times and — will launch this fall to serve readers and advertisers across the state, according to Cindy Martin, who will become president of the new organization.

The change is designed to reshape how Alabama’s leading media companies deliver award-winning local news, sports and entertainment coverage in an increasingly digital age. The Alabama Media Group will dramatically expand its news-gathering efforts around the clock, seven days a week, while offering enhanced printed newspapers on a schedule of three days a week. The newspapers will be home-delivered and sold in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.

(You see what is happening, no more newspapers, post office or social security, don’t laugh, it is coming!)

A second company, Advance Central Services Alabama, will handle production, distribution, technology, finance and human resources, and will be led by current Birmingham News President and Publisher Pam Siddall. Both companies are owned by Advance Publications, Inc.

Driving these changes are rapid advances in how readers engage with news content across all platforms, print and digital, said Martin, who is currently the President and CEO of

Eventually the only form of “news” will be the kind of crap we see on the “cable networks” or online, which will be bought and paid for by corporations…aka people…who will put their own spin on things. No…wait a moment, that is the way it is now!

(emphasis mine BTW)

The change in organizational structures across all departments will lead to a reduction in the overall size of the workforce. Details are still being worked out, Martin said.

There are always painful choices when you begin a process that will lead to people losing their jobs,” Martin said. “But at the same time, we must position ourselves to be sustainable businesses going forward. The new companies we launch in the fall, we believe, not only achieve that, but will serve our growing audiences and advertisers better than ever before.”

Yup, you bet your ass it will…serve up the latest news, in style! (Or cloaked in whatever shade your advertisers prefer.)

Tailor your news to fit your audience, right: Daily Caller Doling Out Guns To Its Readers Now Through Election Day

The Daily Caller, the proudly racist and rabidly right-wing website of adult Pee-Wee Herman doll and epic media failure Tucker Carlson, is no longer going to pretend that it cares about decency and decorum. The website that set of many alarms following the Trayvon Martin murder and the racist responses that its users plastered all over the place, is now offering one handgun per week from now until election day.

Here’s the actual announcement:
The Daily Caller will be giving away one gun per week until Election Day – November 6, 2012. The FMK9C1 is an American-made high capacity 9mm designed by Jim Pontillo and manufactured in California. Each gun is engraved with the Bill of Rights and comes in one of three colors.

To enter this week’s contest, simply sign up below to receive updates from The Daily Caller. Our DC
Morning emails are an informative and amusing way to keep up with the latest news. To enter the giveaway you must complete the form below agreeing to all terms and conditions associated with the contest.

I swear, the country is going to hell in a big ass hand-basket. Actually, that is not true anymore, who the hell carries a hand-basket now a days? The country is going to hell in a touch screen…made in China…and brought to you by the Koch Brothers.

Now, since I wrote so much about the end of an era…let us have the rest of today’s links in a news dump…

Chen Guangchen is talking about his horrific ordeal: Chen Guangcheng Sits Down With Anderson Cooper: ‘My Suffering Was Beyond Imagination’

And, another former house arrest activist is finally giving her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize she won, over two decades ago: Suu Kyi to give Nobel speech, 21 years late

On the war on women front: Senate Armed Services Committee Votes to End Military Ban on Insurance Coverage of Abortion Care for Rape and Incest

The amendment was introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). In November 2011, anti-choice senators refused to allow the Shaheen amendment to come to the floor, so the 2012 NDAA was signed into law with the ban in place. Today’s vote affects the FY 2013 NDAA.

There are some 400,000 women in the United States Armed Forces; they and their families receive health care and insurance through the Department of Defense’s Military Health System. The department currently denies coverage for abortion care except when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike other federal bans on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape and incest.


As a result, those seeking safe abortion care after rape or incest must pay out-of-pocket for such care at a military facility. But because physicians on military bases are prohibited from providing abortion care, it is not actually available to military women in need even under the narrow conditions technically allowed. As a result, servicewomen are often forced to choose between taking leave and traveling far distances to an American provider, seeking services from a local, unfamiliar health care facility (if abortion is legal and they are not in a combat zone), having an unsafe procedure, or attempting to self-induce an abortion.

The Shaheen Amendment, if passed by Congress and signed by the President, would address one of these issues by bringing the military’s health insurance policy in line with the policy that governs other federal programs, such as Medicaid and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program and as a result enable  servicewomen to receive insurance coverage for abortion care.

The amendment is strongly supported by military leaders, physicians, and servicewomen themselves.

“Women who put their lives on the line fighting for our freedom shouldn’t be denied reproductive health care services,” said Gale Pollock, Major General, US Army (Ret.).

Well, lets see what those Conservative Women do to support their fellow women…place your bets!

(And I said the rest of this post was going to be a link dump.)

Waterboarding got another pass this week, state secrets must be protected: A Court Covers Up –

Secretary of State had some words about Iran: Clinton: Significant Differences Remain Over Iran’s Nuclear Program–  VOA

Some guy is taking the flea circus to another dimension, well it is actually not fleas, but ants. BBC News – Artist Ollie Palmer on staging an ‘ant ballet’

Some other guy in South Dakota is running for office, and his credentials are quite extensive: ‘I’ve Ridden An Ostrich. I’ve Done Lots Of Stuff.’: SD Congressional Candidate’s Amazingly Bizarre Campaign Ad | Mediaite

Jeff Barth’s ad:

…features Barth talking to the camera as he walks down a long path. The first thing you’ll notice is that the way the camera backs away from him makes the whole thing seem like the viewer is desperately trying to get out of a conversation with a crazy person. The second thing you’ll notice is that Barth has done a lot of weird stuff in his life. As he walks, he lists such accomplishments as having “learned chess in Iceland,” being in Germany to watch the Berlin Wall get built, and having daughters with “straight teeth and husbands.”

And lastly, remember that penguin that escaped from its cell? (No this is not a nun story.) BBC News – Tokyo keepers catch fugitive Penguin 337

Still from footage reportedly showing the one-year-old Humboldt penguin in Tokyo Bay. Photo: 7 May 2012
Penguin 337 spent several weeks swimming in rivers in the Tokyo Bay area

A young penguin which escaped from a Tokyo aquarium has been caught after more than two months on the loose in the Japanese capital.

The Humboldt penguin scaled a wall and slipped though a fence at the Tokyo Sea Life Park in March.

It has since been spotted several times swimming in a rivers running into Tokyo Bay, but had eluded keepers.

The one-year-old fugitive was finally recaptured on Thursday evening.

Two keepers went to a river after a sighting of the penguin was reported in the morning. They managed to catch it later that day on the river bank, a spokesman for Tokyo Sea Life Park told the BBC.

At least the little bugger is back safe. I don’t know about you, but I am curious…how the hell does a penguin scale a wall?

Please…can somebody explain that to me?

Sunday Reads: There is no place like home…

Good Sunday Morning!

Ahhhh, you feel that? A quiet moment before the P.I.T.A holiday season kicks into gear. This year stores are opening even before the usual early morning hours that most of us are used to on Black Friday.  At Walmart, the word went out that no one could have Thanksgiving and Black Friday off work…no calling in sick cause you will be automatically terminated. (I asked my husband what about if there really is an emergency…he said they would have to be in the hospital to get out of being fired.)  The stores are looking to capitalize on getting those poor economy dollars first, before the people run out of cash.

Thanksgiving Day is for eating turkey, watching football and, apparently, shopping at lower-end retailers.

While much has been made in the media about retailers opening their doors at midnight to grab their share from shoppers’ wallets, several retailers that cater to people with the tightest budgets will be open all day.

Sears Holdings is keeping its discount K-Mart stores open on Thanksgiving for the 20th year, waiting until Black Friday, the following day that officially kicks off holiday shopping, to welcome people into its namesake chain.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is also open on Thanksgiving, as are most of Gap Inc’s Old Navy locations.

Executives and analysts alike have said the fight for shopper dollars is more intense this year in a tough job market and uncertain economy. The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to up 2.8 percent this season, below last year’s 5.2 percent clip.

Chains that cater to shoppers on the tightest budget stand to lose the most, analysts said.

“They want to make sure they are getting consumer dollars before anyone else,” said Kurt Salmon retail strategist Megan Donadio. “Retailers want to do whatever they can to make sure what consumers do spend is spent with them.”

I worked in retail management for 11 years before I went back to school to become a paralegal, and those holiday shopping days of hell still give me nightmares. At least this year things are going to be easy when it comes to shopping for Christmas gifts for the kids…when you got no money, choosing what to get them is easy…reminds me of the line in the movie Caddyshack…Ted Knight as Judge Smails tells his grandson Spalding… “You’ll get nothing and like it!” (Nah, it isn’t as bad as that.)

The Census Data has shown that the “Near Poor” are growing in record numbers, my response to this “surprising” find is…no shit! Check out the title of the New York Times article: Older, Suburban and Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle the Census

Down but not quite out, these Americans form a diverse group sometimes called “near poor” and sometimes simply overlooked — and a new count suggests they are far more numerous than previously understood.

When the Census Bureau this month released a new measure of poverty, meant to better count disposable income, it began altering the portrait of national need. Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September. All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.

After a lost decade of flat wages and the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the findings can be thought of as putting numbers to the bleak national mood — quantifying the expressions of unease erupting in protests and political swings. They convey levels of economic stress sharply felt but until now hard to measure.

The Census Bureau, which published the poverty data two weeks ago, produced the analysis of those with somewhat higher income at the request of The New York Times. The size of the near-poor population took even the bureau’s number crunchers by surprise.

Surprise? Come on! This should not be a shock! Things are bad and getting worse.

“These numbers are higher than we anticipated,” said Trudi J. Renwick, the bureau’s chief poverty statistician. “There are more people struggling than the official numbers show.”

Outside the bureau, skeptics of the new measure warned that the phrase “near poor” — a common term, but not one the government officially uses — may suggest more hardship than most families in this income level experience. A family of four can fall into this range, adjusted for regional living costs, with an income of up to $25,500 in rural North Dakota or $51,000 in Silicon Valley.

Dr. Dakinikat, maybe you can put your expertise to work for us…what do you think of the results:

…most economists called the new measure better than the old, and many said the findings, while disturbing, comported with what was previously known about stagnant wages.

“It’s very consistent with everything we’ve been hearing in the last few years about families’ struggle, earnings not keeping up for the bottom half,” said Sheila Zedlewski, a researcher at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social research group.

Meanwhile, you got 1%er Mitt Romney declaring he does not support the Stupor Committee’s raising of ANY taxes. Romney: I will not support tax hikes by super committee

Mitt Romney said Saturday he would not support any deal by a congressional debt committee that raised taxes, even as time ran short on a deficit-reduction agreement in Congress.

“I don’t believe that raising revenues is the right answer to balancing our budget,” he said. “I will not support any proposal based upon increasing taxes or revenues. I will, however, support proposals that are focused on reducing spending.”

Romney was asked about a proposal by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey that included $400 billion in additional tax revenue – anathema to many congressional Republicans – as part of deficit reduction.

Romney said he had not seen the plan, but said the “right answer” was to concentrate on spending cuts and entitlement reform.

Asshole…Rich Basturd!

“In my view, what the super committee should do is rein in excessive spending in the current budget and reform Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security to make them permanently sustainable,” he said.

Oh, we are so f’d!

Moving on quickly to another ass…of the PLUB kind. Aborted Fetuses to Star in 2012 Election Ads

David Lewis will not be the next congressman from Ohio’s 8th District. But for Lewis, an unemployed former IT technician who is challenging House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in next year’s Republican primary, winning isn’t the objective.

By running for federal office, Lewis can compel local television stations to run grisly anti-abortion ads that would otherwise never stand a chance of making it on the air. Emphasis on grisly: Lewis’ ads feature what purport to be dismembered fetuses, tied together in neat little bundles, or simply mangled beyond recognition. “The FCC says that 45 days out from a primary and 60 days out from a general election, we can run ads on a television station with FCC licenses—unedited, uncensored, they can’t deny it as long as we buy the spot,” he explains.

Lewis isn’t alone. He is one of a handful of anti-abortion activists who have been recruited by Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Society for Truth and Justice, to run for office in metropolitan areas across the country. Together, they aim to exploit a Federal Communications Commission loophole and saturate major media markets with graphic anti-abortion images. What the ads lack in production values, they more than make up for in shock value. As he explained in an interview with Catholic Online last November, Terry, who is himself running for president as a Democrat, explained: “By running campaign ads in the top 25 media markets, we can reach one-third of the nation with a message about the truth and horror of abortion.”

These ads are horrible indeed, one television station that refused to run a similar ad in Georgia for someone running for a State house seat called the ad:

“menstrual gore”

These sick people…I just can’t understand their thought process.

At least the Pentagon has been busy making sure the Country is safe…check it out, a Bomb that goes FIVE times the speed of sound. Depending where these bombs are located, it makes any target only an hour away: Pentagon Tests Hypersonic Flying Bomb : Discovery News

Ballistic missiles have been the ultimate in long-range weapons for the last half-century, able to reach almost anyplace on Earth within an hour (sometimes less). On Thursday the U.S. Army tested a bomb that can reach ballistic missile speeds and more importantly, has directional controls.

The Pentagon didn’t give specifics about the weapon’s range or speed. Called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, or AHW, it was launched from Hawaii and hit a target in Kwajalein Atoll, some 2,500 miles away in about a half hour.

Hypersonic speeds are defined as faster than five times the speed of sound, which is about 768 miles per hour at sea level. If this was truly a hypersonic flight that means the AHW was moving at least 3,800 miles per hour. At that speed it could hit any target on earth in three hours or less. The AHW is part of a program called Prompt Global Strike, and the goal is to build a weapon that can reach its target in an hour or less. The Congressional Research Service reports that some $240 million has been spent on the program so far.

I can’t decide which is more mind-boggling…the faster than five times the speed of sound…or the $240 million spent on the project, “so far.”

Hillary Clinton weighed in on the Penn State child rape scandal: Hillary Clinton: ‘Sick’ about Penn State scandal – MJ Lee –

“I am just sick at heart about it,” Clinton said in an interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper. “I am also the daughter and the sister of two men who went to Penn State and were on the football team. So we have a long tradition of supporting Penn State academically and athletically.”

The secretary of state also said that some people’s initial reactions when the allegations first surfaced were not “calm or considered,” referring to student supporters of the football team who rioted.

“I can understand, in the passion and emotion of the moments, and before people really had a chance to actually think about what these allegations mean, people perhaps were not as calm or considered in their response,” she said.

She added, “But now it seems across the board everyone is focused on what we should be focused on, which are the children who allegedly have been victimized.”

This next link is just interesting on a “how about that” level: The Volokh Conspiracy » Why Yankee Doodle called it “macaroni” It is a quick post about the British Monarchy in the late 1700’s. I guess the word “Macaroni” was the “Bling” of the 18th century.

From Minx’s Missing Link File: Many of you know my fascination with little people (a.k.a midgets) so when I read this obit for one of the last living Munchkins, I had to write about it. Karl Slover dies at 93; among the last of the Munchkins

A dwarf whose father sold him to circus performers, Karl Slover was performing in a vaudeville troupe called the Singer Midgets when he was cast as a Munchkin in the 1939 classic film ” The Wizard of Oz.”

The 4-foot, 4-inch Slover, one of the last of the actors who portrayed Munchkins, died Tuesday in a central Georgia hospital of cardiopulmonary arrest. He was 93.

Slover was part of the Singer’s Midgets, which is an image I use sometimes on my evening read post:

Of the 124 “Munchkins” only three survive. Slover had a terrible childhood, which consisted of painful treatments for his dwarfism.

As a child, Slover was partially buried in sand, immersed in heated oil until his skin blistered and then attached to a stretching machine at a hospital, all in the attempt to make him become taller. Eventually his 6-foot-6 inch father sold him to a troupe of traveling midgets in Berlin. He was 9.

By the time he was a teenager, he had moved to the United States and appeared with the Singer Midgets, whose 30 performers became the nucleus of the Munchkins.

In “The Wizard of Oz,” Slover is the first of three trumpeters to herald the Munchkin mayor’s entrance. Paid about $50 a week for acting in the movie, Slover told friends that Garland’s dog in the film, Toto, earned more.

But he seems to have had quite the personality and a good outlook on life…John Fricke, author of “100 years of Oz” had this to say about Slover and his role in Munchkinland:

“He has a genuine immortality,” Fricke said.


“In those uninformed days, his father tried witch doctor treatments to make him grow,” Fricke said. “Knowing Karl and his triumph over his early life, you can’t help but celebrate the man at a time like this.”

Easy like Sunday Morning Link of the Week: Pictures are worth a thousand words…

Rescue me: This stunning blue lobster has been rehomed at London's Natural History Museum after a fisherman spotted it at Billingsgate Market

Rescue me: This stunning blue lobster has been rehomed at London’s Natural History Museum after a fisherman spotted it at Billingsgate Market

Scientists at the museum believe the European lobster, traditionally a much darker shade of blue, hatched out with the unusual colour due to a rare genetic variant.

It has now been given to the London Aquarium and will be on display once it has been through quarantine.

Rex, 45, was buying supplies for his shop, The Chelsea Fishmonger, when he saw the lobster at Billingsgate Market.

He said: ‘It’s the most striking blue lobster I have seen in my 30 years in the business and was too nice to put in a pot and boil.

‘I had a word with the seller and we both agreed on how nice it looked. He sold it to me for 10 pounds, which is the normal price for a lobster that size.

Standing out: The rare blue lobster is vividly different in appearance to his muddy-coloured contemporaries

Standing out: The rare blue lobster is vividly different in appearance to his muddy-coloured contemporaries

Is that amazing or what? Such a beautiful color of vivid blue…

That is it for me this big Sunday. Big for me because I am moving into our new old house today. Tomorrow the high-speed internet gets hooked up and by Tuesday I should be back to normal, well at least almost normal. So as of Wednesday…the Evening News Reads will be back in full force! Every evening Monday through Friday, between 5–7pm EST. It will be so good to be back, I miss hanging out in the comments too!

So, have a marvelous day…and post some links to what you are reading and thinking about today!