Thursday Reads: Villager Gossip, A Priceless Art Discovery, The Troubled NFL, And The Psychopathic One Percent

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Good Morning!!

All the villagers are talking about the gossipy new book about the 2012 presidential campaign by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, Double Down. I can’t bring myself to read it, but Pat J. said she is reading it, so maybe she can give us more detail on the story of Romney adviser Stuart Stevens vomiting backstage after Clint Eastwood’s embarrassing performance at the Republican National Convention.

Lawrence O’Donnell had Heilemann on his MSNBC show last night. O’Donnell “loved” book and was especially joyful about the anecdote about Stevens. I have to admit, it’s pretty funny. The Washington Post has a lengthy review of the book with some more interesting bits.

On Chris Christie:

According to the authors, Romney and his team were shaken by what they discovered about Christie during “Project Goldfish,” as the hush-hush veep search process was known. His “disturbing” research file is littered with “garish controversies,” the authors write: a Justice Department investigation into his free-spending ways as U.S. attorney, his habit of steering government contracts to friends and political allies, a defamation lawsuit that emerged during a 1994 run for local office, a politically problematic lobbying career that included work on behalf of a financial firm that employed Bernie Madoff. And that’s not to mention the Romney team’s anxiety about the governor’s girth.

For Christie, who is coasting to reelection on Tuesday and already laying behind-the-scenes groundwork for a 2016 presidential bid, the book’s revelations are a Drudge-ready public relations nightmare that will send his advisers scrambling to explain awkward aspects of his record and his personal life just as he is stepping onto the national stage.

Mitt Romney is apparently obsessed with fat people, and even criticized men on his staff if they went out with women that Romney deemed to be too “fat.” You can just imagine what he thought of Chris Christie. From an earlier WaPo article:

Romney initially crossed Christie off his short list. The governor’s vetting file was incomplete, and Romney had been bothered by Christie’s propensity to show up late at campaign events and by his lack of physical fitness, the book says.

“Romney marveled at Christie’s girth, his difficulties in making his way down the narrow aisle of the campaign bus,” the authors write. “Watching a video of Christie without his suit jacket on, Romney cackled to his aides, ‘Guys! Look at that!’”

It brings back memories of the tales about Romney bullying classmates in high school. What a horrible man he is! There’s much more gossip in the Post review if you’re interested.

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Corporate media and talking heads have been busy trying to interpret Tuesday’s election results as helpful for Republicans.  Supposedly the only reason Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia and Chris Christie is now on the fast track to the White House–sorry Hillary.

Ed Kilgore at Political Animal: Tell Me Again Who Won in Virginia?

Before we get into any more election analysis, I have to make a preliminary objection to what we are hearing this morning about the Virginia governor’s race. Yes, we all play the expectations game, and Terry McAuliffe only won by two-and-a-half percent, which is less than most of the late polls anticipated. But to read this morning’s spin, you’d think he (and the Democratic Party) actually lost. The results are being widely read exactly as Ken Cuccinelli wanted them to be read: a negative “referendum on Obamacare.” Politico’s James Hohmann, in a piece entitled “Why Terry McAuliffe barely won,” draws bright red arrows pointing to an exit poll showing that 53% of voters said they opposed Obamacare. That’s entirely in line with about three years of polling about the Affordable Care Act, and doesn’t indicate any last minute “surge” against the law.

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: The Wrong Election Takeaways From Christie’s Win, Virginia, and More:

The conventional wisdom on New Jersey: Huge Chris Christie win sets him up to steamroll his way to the Republican nomination in 2016, proving that a more mainstream conservative can win in a blue state. The conventional wisdom on Virginia: Ken Cuccinelli’s stinging loss in a purple state in an off-off-year election against Terry McAuliffe, a flawed Democratic candidate, shows not only that he was too extreme but also that Virginia is inching its way into the Democratic column. As the Times put it in its headline, “McAuliffe Win Points to Virginia Changes.”

Well, God invented conventional wisdom so people like me could beat it down. In New Jersey, Christie doesn’t emerge from his victory nearly as strong as he appears to. And the Virginia outcome isn’t really very strong for Democrats, especially down the ballot. No, I’m not buying into the right-wing spin that Cuccinelli’s narrow margin of defeat really represents some kind of loss for Obamacare. It does not.

Read the rest at the link.

Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast: Chris Christie Is No George W. Bush, and 2016 Is Definitely Not 2000:

In the wake of Chris Christie’s reelection romp on Tuesday, the press is filled withcomparisons between the New Jersey governor and a pre-presidency George W. Bush. They’re both Republican governors who appear moderate and bipartisan compared to their party’s zealots in Washington. They’re both beloved by big donors. Each has made inroads among the Democratic-leaning constituencies with whom Republicans must do better. But there’s a problem with the analogy. It’s unlikely Christie can “win” the presidency by running as a second Bush, in part [because] America still remembers the first one.

Lots more at the link.

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In other news…

Did you hear about the priceless art works stolen by the Nazis that were found in a dirty, run-down apartment in Munich, Germany? From NPR:

The revelation Monday that more than 1,000 paintings and prints seized by the Nazis during World War II were found in a Munich apartment has set off excitement in the art world and spurred anger among Jewish groups that German officials didn’t publicize the discovery when it was first made.

With a potential value of $1.35 billion, the trove of art contains previously unknown works by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall; other artists represented include Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The stash of art was reported by Germany’s Focus magazine Monday, under the headline “The Nazi Treasure” (Der Nazi-Schatz). Tax officials discovered the cache when they visited the cluttered Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, a descendant of a man who was an official in wartime Germany.

Of nearly 1,400 oil paintings, prints and other works, 1,285 had been stacked in a drawer, unframed. They include work by German expressionists such as Franz Marc and Max Beckmann, in addition to a previously unknown self-portrait by Otto Dix. The trove also includes Albrecht Dürer and Canaletto, who worked in earlier centuries — a detail that could make the collection’s origins even more difficult to explain.

The paintings were found in 2011, but the stunning and unprecedented discovery was just announced this week. A couple more links:

Max Fisher at WaPo: Why Nazi-seized art is only now resurfacing – and how it will change the art world.

Bloomberg: Nazi Art Trove Surprises Family Searching for 70 Years.

This will be a story to watch for anyone who is interested in fine art. We still don’t know for sure which paintings were found.

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The NFL is back in the news, and, again, it’s not in a good way. It’s a story of racially charged bullying and hazing at the Miami Dolphins. Reportedly, a veteran player, Richie Incognito was told by someone at the team to “toughen up” rookie Jonathan Martin. Even the GM may have been involved. Incognito, who is white, chose to do so by leaving messages containing racial slurs on Martin’s voicemail. Martin, who is African American, ended up in the hospital for emotional distress and eventually left the team. If you can believe it, other Dolphins players and veterans of the team are supporting Incognito.

Here are a couple of interesting reactions to the story.

Valerie Strauss at the WaPo: If a 6’5, 312-pound Miami Dolphin can be bullied…

Jonathan Martin, the  6-foot-5-inch, 312-pound Miami Dolphin offensive lineman who left the NFL team because he was being bullied by at least one other player, has done a  favor for school kids everywhere.

How can such a big guy get bullied? Because bullying behavior isn’t about physical intimidation. It’s about mind control and creating fear — and no one, not even very large professional athletes — are immune. That’s a useful message for kids and adults working to create safe climates at their schools.

So is the way Martin ultimately handled his problem. After many months of being a victim, he got up, walked away and later accused the Dolphins of creating and allowing an unsafe work environment. He is forcing the powers that be to take a look at the problem. As my Post colleague Sally Jenkins wrote in this column:

Turns out the real tough guy is Martin, whose decision to rebel against a vicious culture in the Dolphins’ locker room has triggered a league-level investigation of [suspended Dolphin Richie] Incognito, and, if reports are true, needs to extend to other veteran players and management as well.

In schools, the programs that work best in combating bullying are those that teach kids that they can’t stand by and watch bullies go after other students. Bystanders have to get help — and everybody in the school, adults included — have to be on the same page. That didn’t happen in Miami.

Veteran WaPo sportswriter Tom Boswell: Richie Incognito bullying allegations are the latest in long list of NFL problems.

Where are we? Where is pro football? The NFL doesn’t have a PR problem. It has a reality problem. And it may be a grave one. Every month — and it seems every few days — the NFL is inundated by new, barely suspected revelations. What has the NFL become? Or is this what it has been for some time? Is the truth coming out of the shadows?

The list is stunning. Its cumulative effect, not any one particular item, is the true confidence-shaking shock.

The NFL is now the league of murder charges against Aaron Hernandez — gang execution style. The NFL is the league of murder, then suicide, with Jovan Belcher killing his girlfriend and then shooting himself in the head in a parking lot by his stadium as his coach and general manager watched….

The NFL is the league where future Hall of Famer Junior Seau, barely retired, shot himself in the heart so his brain could be studied by science to help prove that chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a core part of football, with risk of brain damage down to the smallest kids who play it….

The NFL is the league of thug bullies such as suspended Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who allegedly extorted money, texted racist insults and made death threats to a younger teammate. It’s the league of $15,000 stripper parties in Las Vegas, paid for by intimidated, hazed rookies who don’t make the trip but pay the check even if it busts them.

The article is well worth a read even if you don’t follow sports.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the studies that show that rich people are more narcissistic, less empathetic, more likely to be dishonest, rude, and thoughtless than other people. Here a long read at Alternet about the top 1% as functioning psychopaths: Inside the Psyche of the 1% — Many Actually Believe Their Ideology of Greed Makes for a Better World.

Do the rich and super-rich tend to be psychopaths, devoid of guilt or shame? Are the 1% lacking in compassion? Does their endless accumulation of possessions actually bring them little to no happiness? To each of these, the answer is “yes”—but a very qualified “yes” with lots of subtleties. Even more important is what these issues suggest for building a society which does not ravage the last remnants of wilderness and rush headlong into a climate change tipping point.

Check out the article to get all the details.

Those are my offerings for today; now what are you reading and blogging about? Please share your links in the comment thread.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

Dakinkat is back on-line!  Now if I can just get my internet back, we may have a full complement of writers by the beginning of the Democratic Convention. Now let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

I have to hand it to President Obama. He had to be angry about Clint Eastwood’s disrespectful performance at the RNC last Thursday, but he’s not going to give Mitt Romney the satisfaction of showing it.

USA Today: Obama, a ‘huge’ Clint Eastwood fan, not offended by skit

“He is a great actor, and an even better director,” the president said in an interview with USA TODAY aboard Air Force One, on his way to campaign rallies in Iowa Saturday. “I think the last few movies that he’s made have been terrific.”

….

Was he offended?
“One thing about being president or running for president — if you’re easily offended, you should probably choose another profession.” Obama said with a smile. He said there would be no effort to counter with a similar stunt at the Democratic National Convention, which opens in Charlotte Tuesday.

“I think we’ll be playing this pretty straight,” he said.

The WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart asked DNC executive director Patrick Gaspard about if Eastwood presentation was “disrespectful.” Here’s the response:

“First, Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair and then Mitt Romney gave an empty speech,” Gaspard replied. “So, I’m going to focus on Mitt Romney [and] his lack of clearly delineated plans for middle-class Americans.” But Gaspard, who was Obama’s political director in the first half of the term, had more to say.

This was not Clint Eastwood’s convention. It was Mitt Romney’s. He hired these Hollywood consultants to reinvent himself and all I saw, yet again, was the same guy who was a private-sector outsourcer, a failed governor of Massachusetts and now an extreme right-wing candidate for the presidency. So, I’m going to focus on that.

I guess Romney wasn’t really all that proud of the Eastwood skit after all. According to ABC News Eastwood was left on the cutting room floor during production of the RNC promotional video.

A video mash-up of speakers from last week’s Republican National Convention does not include an appearance from the “mystery RNC speaker,” Clint Eastwood.

The two-and-a-half minute video posted today to the Romney campaign’s YouTube account features former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, VP nominee Paul Ryan and of course, Romney himself, but it leaves out Eastwood’s controversial speech.

Interesting.

Joe Biden went on the attack yesterday.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania, vice president Joe Biden attacked Mr Romney’s international agenda as laid out in last week’s convention address, suggesting that it put him out of step with the US’s priorities overseas.

“He said it was a mistake to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our warriors home. He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home,” Biden told supporters.

He added: “He implies by the speech that he’s ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.”

Biden also ripped Paul Ryan’s speech.

He…noted Ryan had not told the complete story when he talked about a General Motors plant that closed in Janesville, Wis., his hometown.

“What he didn’t tell you was that plant in Janesville actually closed while President Bush was still president,” Biden said.

Later, in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, Biden again challenged Ryan’s criticism of Obama.

“He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing,” Ryan said of Obama during his acceptance speech in Tampa.

Biden was having none of that telling.

“What he didn’t tell you is he sat on that commission,” Biden said to laughter.

“I love these guys. Oh, I love these guys, how they claim to care about the deficit,” Biden went on. “Ladies and gentlemen, the thing I most love about them is about how they discovered the middle class at their convention. Isn’t that amazing? All of a sudden their heart was bleeding for the middle class.”

Rahm Emmanuel was out defending his former boss. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, framed Mitt Romney Sunday as a backward-looking candidate, blistering his acceptance speech as laying “out the policies of Ground Hog Day.”

Emanuel discussed the upcoming Democratic National Convention with David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he was introduced as an “architect” of Obama’s first term policies.

“If people want to know about the first term? Very simple. General Motors is alive and well. And Osama Bin Laden is not. And that’s what got done,” Emanuel said.

Emmanuel also criticized Romney’s acceptance speech as “weak.” From The Hill:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said Mitt Romney’s convention speech was “devoid and vacuous” and allowed for Clint Eastwood’s appearance to claim the spotlight.

President Obama’s former chief of staff said Sunday on “Meet the Press” that there was “nothing memorable about Mitt Romney’s speech” in Tampa.

“Not a memorable line, not a memorable philosophy,” Emanuel said.” “There was nothing there.”

I strongly recommend this piece at HuffPo by Sherman Yellin: Why Mitt Romney IS NOT Like a Bad Haircut. I can’t do it justice with an excerpt. Please click on the link and read it. It’s not very long.

In other news, there’s a story coming out soon in Vanity Fair about how Scientology auditioned women to be Tom Cruise’s next wife–and Katie Holmes wasn’t their first choice.

In the October issue, Vanity Fair special correspondent Maureen Orth reports that in 2004 Scientology embarked on a top-secret project headed by Shelly Miscavige, wife of Scientology chief David Miscavige, which involved finding a girlfriend for Tom Cruise. According to several sources, the organization devised an elaborate auditioning process in which actresses who were already Scientology members were called in, told they were auditioning for a new training film, and then asked a series of curious questions including: “What do you think of Tom Cruise?” Marc Headley, a Scientologist from age seven, who says he watched a number of the audition videotapes when he was head of Scientology’s in-house studio, tells Orth, “It’s not like you only have to please your husband—you have to toe the line for Scientology.” Both Nicole Kidman and Penélope Cruz ran afoul of Scientology and David Miscavige, according to another former Scientologist. “You can’t do anything to displease Scientology, because Tom Cruise will freak out,” Headley says.

According to Orth, Nazanin Boniadi, an Iranian-born, London-raised actress and Scientologist, was selected and dated Cruise from November 2004 until January 2005. Initially she was told only that she had been selected for a very important mission. In a month-long preparation in October 2004, she was audited every day, a process in which she told a high-ranking Scientology official her innermost secrets and every detail of her sex life. Boniadi allegedly was told to lose her braces, her red highlights, and her boyfriend. According to a knowledgeable source, she was shown confidential auditing files of her boyfriend to expedite a breakup. (Scientology denies any misuse of confidential material.) The source says Boniadi signed a confidentiality agreement and was told that if she “messed up” in any way she would be declared a Suppressive Person (a pariah and enemy of Scientology).

I’m looking forward to reading the entire gossipy article!

In other Scientology news, there’s a new movie out that is supposedly based on Scientology, The Master.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson acknowledges that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard was the inspiration for the title character in `’The Master,” but says the focus of the film is the relationship between a charismatic spiritual leader and his troubled follower, not the movement itself.

The movie, set in the 1950s, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic cult leader who captivates a tortured but sympathetic World War II veteran portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix.

….

Anderson sought to quickly dispel any speculation about the film’s influence on his friendship with Tom Cruise, who starred in Anderson’s 1999 film `’Magnolia” and whose Scientology beliefs are well-documented.

`’We are still friends. I showed him the film, and the rest is between us,” Anderson said.

In other cult news, Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon has died.

The Universal Peace Federation said on its website that Moon died early Monday morning of complications related to pneumonia. He was 92.

“Our True Father passed into the spiritual world at 1:54 AM Monday, September 3rd, Korea time,” a message on a Unification Church English-language website said.

Ahn Ho-yeol, a church spokesman, said Moon’s funeral will be held Thursday, with “individual prayers” planned for the three days until then.

“Rev. Moon died from overwork, from frequent trips aboard, including to the U.S., and from morning prayers which caused respiratory disease,” Ahn said.

I posted this on yesterday’s morning thread, but I think it bears repeating: Private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney under investigation for tax strategy

New York’s attorney general is investigating whether executives at Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, improperly avoided paying $200 million in federal income taxes, according to a report by The New York Times.

More than a dozen firms are under investigation by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, who has subpoenaed documents that would show whether some fund management fees were converted to fund investments. Profits on investments are taxed at a much lower rate than management fees, which count as earned income.

Hundreds of pages of leaked financial documents from Bain Capital that have been posted online indicate at least $1 billion in executives’ management fees were converted to investments, whose capital gains are taxed at 15 percent, instead of the 35 percent paid on earned income in the top tax bracket.

According to the documents, executives could take money that would have been paid to them for managing investment funds and put the money into the funds, instead. The executives could pick and choose which companies to invest in, within a given fund, and were not required to invest the value of their fees for the entire life of a fund. They could decide whether to convert fees to investments on a quarter-to-quarter basis.

Today’s WaPo also has a story on Bain Capital and Romney’s taxes: Mitt Romney exited Bain Capital with rare tax benefits in retirement

Before Mitt Romney retired from Bain Capital, the enormously profitable investment firm he founded, he made sure to lock in his gains, both realized and expected, for years to come.

He did so, in part, the way millions of other Americans do — with the tax benefits of an individual retirement account. But he was able to turbocharge the impact of those advantages and other tax breaks in his severance package from Bain in a way that few but the country’s super-rich can ever hope to do.

As a result, his IRA could be worth as much as $87 million, according to his estimates, and he can continue to earn tax-advantaged income from Bain more than a decade after he formally left the firm.

If Romney wants to demonstrate his honesty, he can always release those secret tax returns.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Friday Morning Reads: The Good, The Bad and The Hologram?

Good Morning!

Kat is still out of power, so that means y’all are stuck with me today. 😉

I must admit that real life has been keeping us busy lately, as for the RNC Cavalcade of Comedic Horrors…well that is just one show I can’t even bring myself to watch. One thing is certain, when I do read up on the night’s performances, I have to think, what the hell is that. Take last night for instance, we had Mittastic and the fabulous Clint Eastwood.

Full transcript of speech here: TRANSCRIPT: Mitt Romney’s Speech at the Republican National Convention – ABC News

I guess it is all real, and not some dream where we find ourselves waking to Pamela Ewing in the shower. Romney accepts GOP presidential nomination

Of course, there were more of the comparisons between Obama and Carter: Romney calls Obama a ‘disappointment’

And promises to save America from Obama, Romney Vows to Deliver Country From Economic Travails

Alright, let’s pick through this speech of Romney’s with a few opinionated critiques:

3 Beefs With Mitt Romney’s Convention Speech

Mitt’s Safe and Unadventurous Speech- Howard Kurtz

Mitt Romney Takes It to Mr. Hope and Change – Ron Fournier

Mitt Romney, Capitalist Saint – Molly Ball

And finally the fact checkers: Fact-Checking the GOP Speakers

But, there was one act that seemed to have folks scratching their heads. Clint Eastwood gave a performance last night…to an empty chair.

Clint Eastwood Delivers Bizarre Rambling Speech To Empty Chair

Clint Eastwood opened up the primetime portion of the Republican convention with a rambling, mumbling and often incoherent address next to an empty chair that was meant to represent President Obama.

A creaky Eastwood began by defending Hollywood’s notorious liberal reputation to the crowd, claiming that there were in fact many independents and Republicans in show business.

“Conservatives by their nature play it close to the vest, they don’t go around hot-dogging it,” he said.

He went on to act out an interview with the empty presidential chair that noted, among other topics, Obama’s inability to close Guantanamo Bay.

“I thought it was because somebody had a stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City,” Eastwood said.

Eastwood, who did not seem to use a prepared text of any kind, went on for about 12 minutes. A Romney campaign official told CBS that Eastwood was “ad libbing.”

Here are a few links on that.

Eastwood’s ‘Invisible Obama’ skit amuses some, confuses others

UPDATE 3-Did Clint Eastwood lose the plot at Romney’s convention?

Eastwood goes off-script in Romney endorsement

For a full transcript: Clint Eastwood’s GOP convention speech: Full transcript

And then, The Gipper, Ronald Reagan was supposed to rise from the dead…

No…that’s not it.

Let’s try this one.

No that is not it either…

RNC Scrapped Plans To Debut Reagan Hologram (Which Is Real) This Week

Earlier this week when the Republicans announced a mystery speaker for the final night of the convention, some people joked that it would be a hologram of Ronald Reagan akin to the surprise Tupac hologram that took Coachella by storm. Well, it turns out that a hologram Reagan actually exists, it was going to make an appearance right outside the convention this week, but the RNC asked the makers to delay its because they didn’t want it to “overshadow” Mitt Romney‘s speech.

Overshadow Mitt’s speech, how could they even think that…I mean, maybe that is why Clint was talking to an empty chair?

Reagan hologram is real, was planned for RNC debut

Despite some conflicting reports, Yahoo News has learned that a holographic projection of former President Ronald Reagan is in the works and was originally intended to debut outside the halls of the Republican National Convention this week. But its official unveiling has been put on hold until later this year or early 2013.

“It wasn’t officially going to be part of the convention,” Tony Reynolds, founder of crowdsourcing website A KickIn Crowd, told Yahoo News in a phone interview Thursday. “It was going to be outside of the convention at the Lakeland Center.”

[…]

However, Reynolds says he discussed the idea with a number of Republican activists who asked him to delay the project out of concern it would overshadow Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech.

“At the time he hadn’t chosen Paul Ryan, so I think they were a little worried about his energy,” Reynolds said. “Even in a hologram form I think Reagan’s going to beat a lot of people in terms of communicating.”

Oh, so they are holding the second coming for a later time. Interesting.

Just a couple more links for you this morning. I found this next headline interesting as well:

David Koch breaks from GOP on gay marriage, taxes, defense cuts

And then Erza Klein has this offering, A not-very-truthful speech in a not-very-truthful campaign

Honestly? I didn’t want us to write this piece.

The original pitch was for “the five biggest lies in Paul Ryan’s speech.” I said no. It’s not that the speech didn’t include some lies. It’s that I wanted us to bend over backward to be fair, to see it from Ryan’s perspective, to highlight its best arguments as well as its worst. So I suggested an alternative: The true, the false, and the misleading in Ryan’s speech. (Note here that we’re talking about political claims, not personal ones. Ryan’s biography isn’t what we’re examining here though, for the record, I found his story deeply moving.)

An hour later, the draft came in — Dylan Matthews is a very fast writer. There was one item in the “true” section.

Jason E. Miczek – AP

So at about 1 a.m. Thursday, having read Ryan’s speech in an advance text and having watched it on television, I sat down to read it again, this time with the explicit purpose of finding claims we could add to the “true” category. And I did find one. He was right to say that the Obama administration has been unable to correct the housing crisis, though the force of that criticism is somewhat blunted by the fact that neither Ryan nor Mitt Romney have proposed an alternative housing policy. But I also came up with two more “false” claims. So I read the speech again. And I simply couldn’t find any other major claims or criticisms that were true.

I want to stop here and say that even the definition of “true” that we’re using is loose. “Legitimate” might be a better word. The search wasn’t for arguments that were ironclad. It was just for arguments — for claims about Obama’s record — that were based on a reasonable reading of the facts, and that weren’t missing obviously key context.

This link from TNR caught my eye, because of the use of  one of my favorite classic films in the post: An Annotated Guide To Romney’s Abortion Comments

I sometimes get the sense that Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is one big exercise in gaslighting the country. If you’re not familiar with the term, it comes from the 1944 Ingrid Bergman film “Gaslight,” in which a man tries to convince his wife that she’s imagining things and going insane when in fact he is an evil creep.

For the record, I am not calling Mitt Romney an evil creep.

Gaslighting is at times the only explanation for Romney’s willingness to say things that are breathtakingly false. The most recent example I have in mind is an interview he gave on Monday to CBS’s Scott Pelley that touched on his ever-morphing position on abortion rights. Unlike Herman Cain, who made absurd statements about his position on abortion during the primaries because he appeared to be genuinely unaware of the past 40 years in U.S. politics, Romney is not stupid. But he is banking on the hope that voters are.

Well, that last part about the stupid voters…you all know where we stand on that point. The article then takes us on a shorter version of Romney’s interview.

Scott Pelley: “The platform, as written at this convention for the Republicans, does not allow for exceptions on abortion with regard to the health of the mother or rape or incest. Is there where you are?”

No, my position has been clear throughout … uh … this campaign.

You got that, ladies? Like three-quarters of Americans, I oppose that constitutional ban in our platform. Just don’t ask me in front of a bunch of donors. And as I keep telling you, my position on abortion has always been clear. Marvelously clear. Ha ha. Ha.

 

Just take a look at the rest of the link, it is quite amusing.

And that is all I got for you this morning, catch y’all later in the comments!


Tuesday Reads: Crime and Movies, Obama’s Second Term, How the Wisconsin Uprising Got Hijacked, and Other News

Good Morning!!

I’ve got a selection of interesting reads for you today.

Late last night, the top story on Google news was this:

Coroner rules dingo to blame for Australian baby’s death.

A coroner ruled Tuesday that a dingo, a wild dog native to Australia, caused the death of a baby more than 30 years ago.

Azaria Chamberlain was just two months old when she disappeared from a tent during a family holiday to Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, sparking one of the country’s most sensational and enduring murder mysteries.

“The cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo,” Elizabeth Morris, coroner for Northern Territory, announced to Darwin Magistrates court early Tuesday. “Dingos can and do cause harm to humans.”

The girl’s mother, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, long maintained that a dingo took her baby, even as she was sentenced to life in jail for daughter’s murder, a conviction that was later quashed.

Meryl Streep played Lindy in a movie about the case, A Cry in the Dark.

The movie was satirized in a Seinfeld episode.

Seriously, though, I’m glad that Lindy has finally received justice.

Another long-ago crime story has been in the news: the mysterious escape from Alcatraz by three convicts 50 years ago yesterday, June 11, 1962.

Fifty years ago, on the night of June 11, 1962, the three convicts were locked down as usual. Guards walking the tier outside their cells saw them at 9:30 and checked on them periodically all night, looking in at the sleeping faces, hearing nothing strange. But by morning, the inmates had vanished, Houdini-like.

Guards found pillows under the bedclothes and lifelike papier-mâché heads with real hair and closed, painted eyes. Federal agents, state and local police officers, Coast Guard boats and military helicopters joined the largest manhunt since the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932, scouring the prison complex on Alcatraz Island, the expanse of San Francisco Bay and the surrounding landscape of Northern California.

A crude raft made of rubber raincoats was found on a nearby island. But the fugitives were never seen again. Federal officials said they almost certainly drowned in the maelstrom of riptides, undertows and turbulent, frigid waters of the 10-mile-wide bay, their bodies probably swept out to sea under the Golden Gate Bridge.

But for aficionados of unsolved mysteries, the fantasy that Frank Lee Morris and the brothers Clarence and John Anglin had successfully escaped from the nation’s most forbidding maximum security prison and are still alive, hiding somewhere, has been a tantalizing if remote possibility for a half-century now.

The escapees would be in their 80s if they are still alive. According to this NPR story, there was a legend that they would meet again at the prison on the 50th anniversary of their escape. Believe it or not, U.S. Marshalls were there to meet them just in case. I haven’t heard of any old men being captured yet, but I’m writing this at 11:30PM, so I guess it could still happen.

Fifty years ago, three men set out into the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay in a raft made out of raincoats. It was one of the most daring prison escapes in U.S. history.

As one newsreel put it: The spoon proved “mightier than the bars at supposedly escape-proof Alcatraz prison.”

“Three bank robbers serving long terms scratched their way through grills covering an air vent, climbed a drainage pipe and disappeared from the forbidding rock in San Francisco Bay,” the report continued.

The men — Frank Morris and two brothers, John and Clarence Anglin — were never seen again. It was a brilliant plan, carried out with meticulous care and patience, but with such an unsatisfying ending. Did they make it? Or are they, as most people assume, at the bottom of the bay?

The legend has always held that if the men are alive, they will return to Alcatraz on the 50th anniversary of their breakout. There’s little chance that’s going to happen. But the anniversary is Monday, and I’m headed to the island to see if they show up. The U.S. Marshals say they will be there, too.

There have been a number of movies made about the daring escape. Clint Eastwood made a good one.

In political news, I’ve got a couple of long reads for you.

Ryan Lizza has a piece in The New Yorker about Obama’s second term: What would Obama do if reelected? In case you don’t want to plow through the whole thing, Atlantic Wire has a Reader’s Digest version: Obama’s Advisers Want You to Know He’ll Be a Lame Lame Duck President

If The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza is right, we might be in for four more years of compromise on things like climate change and nuclear proliferation. Lizza has an article this week forecasting Obama’s second term, or rather, what Obama’s advisers want you to know about the President’s second term.

Don’t expect much. Obama and his team aren’t revealing their cards on the pressing issues like the economy (Lizza mentions there’s time for one big policy change) or inflammatory issues like same-sex marriage. And their lack of specifics about the President’s second term has been a story in itself, especially when contrasted with Mitt Romney who has already imagined his first days in the White House. As Lizza reports, the message that the president’s team wants out there is that Obama will be banking on bipartisan support (a word that’s peppered the president’s first term) to maybe get things done in the short time he has.

It sounds a lot like the first term.

At TomDispatch, Andy Kroll has a lengthy article about how Wisconsin was hijacked.

The results of Tuesday’s elections are being heralded as the death of public-employee unions, if not the death of organized labor itself. Tuesday’s results are also seen as the final chapter in the story of the populist uprising that burst into life last year in the state capital of Madison. The Cheddar Revolution, so the argument goes, was buried in a mountain of ballots.

But that burial ceremony may prove premature. Most of the conclusions of the last few days, left and right, are likely wrong.

The energy of the Wisconsin uprising was never electoral. The movement’s mistake: letting itself be channeled solely into traditional politics, into the usual box of uninspired candidates and the usual line-up of debates, primaries, and general elections. The uprising was too broad and diverse to fit electoral politics comfortably. You can’t play a symphony with a single instrument. Nor can you funnel the energy and outrage of a popular movement into a single race, behind a single well-worn candidate, at a time when all the money in the world from corporate “individuals” and right-wing billionaires is pouring into races like the Walker recall.

Colin Millard, an organizer at the International Brotherhood of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers, admitted as much on the eve of the recall. We were standing inside his storefront office in the small town of Horicon, Wisconsin. It was night outside. “The moment you start a recall,” he told me, “you’re playing their game by their rules.”

Check it out. It’s well worth the read.

In other news,

Yesterday the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from some detainees at Guantanamo. At Mother Jones, Adam Serwer asks: Did the Supreme Court Just Gut Habeas Rights?

The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday not to hear appeals from a group of Gitmo detainees leaves the remaining 169 detainees at the facility with little chance of securing their freedom through US courts.

In the 2008 case Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled detainees at Gitmo could challenge their detention in US courts. That decision was seen as effectively ending the Bush administration’s attempt to carve out a legal black hole for suspected terror detainees. Shortly thereafter, Gitmo detainees began appealing their detentions—and frequently winning in court. But in the years since the decision, conservative judges on the DC Circuit have interpreted the law in a way that assumes many of the government’s claims are true and don’t have to be proven in court. By not taking any of these cases, the Supreme Court has ensured these stricter rules will prevail. Civil-libertarian groups say that essentially leaves detainees at Gitmo with habeas rights in name only, since the rules make it virtually impossible for detainees to win in court. A Seton Hall University School of Law report from May found that, prior to the DC Circuit’s reinterpretation of the rules, detainees won 56 percent of cases. Afterwards, they won 8 percent.

The march toward fascism continues. In other cheery news, a new Federal Reserve report says that the “Great Recession erased nearly 40% of family wealth.”

The Great Recession took such a heavy toll on the economy that the typical American family lost nearly 40% of its wealth from 2007 to 2010, shaving the median net worth to a level not seen since the early 1990s.

The Federal Reserve said in a new report Monday that median family net worth, the point smack in the middle of those richer and poorer, fell to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 three years earlier after adjusting for inflation.

The fall came with the collapse in the housing market and massive layoffs that slashed people’s incomes, and the pain was felt by families across the board — young and old, well-educated and less so, with children or not.

But the biggest impact was felt by young middle-age families, those headed by people ages 35 to 44. For this group, the median net worth — total assets minus debts — fell a whopping 54% in the three-year period to $42,100 in 2010. Such was their financial hardships that only 47.6% of these families said they had saved money in 2010; that was the lowest among all age groups, where an overall average of 52% of families saved some money that year.

Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) is “‘worried’ by influx of dark money” in the 2012 election because of the Citizen’s United decision.

“The thing that worries me frankly the most is the huge amount of hidden money which is going to get into — it already is in — the Romney campaign,” he said on Current TV’s War Room.

“The Super PAC money worries me. The fact that Mr. Romney will not disclose who is bundling his money, he is keeping that secret as well… It’s bad enough that we have these unlimited amounts of money that go into Super PACs.”

Levin says that Congress could force SuperPacs to reveal the names of donors, but so far the Republicans have blocked his bill to do that.

At The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart asks why Bashar al-Assad isn’t on President Obama’s “kill list.” After all, he claims the right to kill just about anyone in the name of terrorism. If Assad isn’t a terrorist, who is?

Fine, you say, but there’s an executive order against assassinating heads of state. That’s true, but we don’t exactly abide by it. During the Cold War, the United States helped orchestrate coups that led to the deaths of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem and Chile’s Salvador Allende. The Bush administration launched the 2003 Iraq War with a decapitation strike aimed at killing Saddam Hussein. And whether or not the United States had a hand in Muammar Gaddafi’s death last fall, it was the predictable—and perhaps desired—result of the war we launched.

But doesn’t assassinating foreign leaders set a worrisome precedent? If we can kill Bashar al-Assad, what’s to stop the Syrian government from trying to kill Barack Obama? We might ask the same question about the sanctions we impose and the wars we launch. The point is that the U.S. violates other countries’ sovereignty in all kinds of ways we wouldn’t appreciate if they did it to us. And the reason they don’t is not because they lack a precedent; it’s because they lack the power.

I’m speechless.

So what is on your reading list today?


Open Thread: Republicans don’t *have* to be Mean-Spirited like Karl Rove

I admit I didn’t watch a single Superbowl ad. I didn’t watch the halftime show either. I just can’t stand to. I did hear that there was an ad with Clint Eastwood in it, and I decided to watch it after I heard that Karl Rove was “offended” by it. From Raw Story:

Fox News host Jon Scott on Monday told Rove that Democrats were celebrating the ad as evidence of the effectiveness of President Barack Obama’s bold decision to bailout the auto companies instead of letting them go under.

“This is a sign of what happens when you have government getting in bed with big business like the bailout of the auto companies,” Rove complained. “The leadership of the auto companies feel they need to do something to repay their political patrons.”

“I was, frankly, offended by it,” he added. “I’m a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics. And the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising.”

As the article points out, Rove’s old boss Dubya provided General Motors with $17.4 billion in government loans before Obama was President. Was he offended by that?

We’ve actually reached the point where Republicans are “offended” by improvement in the U.S. economy and are doing everything in their power to bring it down again. As for Clint Eastwood, who is a registered Republican, I thank him for not only doing the ad but also for standing up for LGBT rights.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! I have a few interesting reads for you today. There isn’t a lot to be happy about in the news these days, but I hope that some of my picks will bring a smile to your face.

Maybe this will do it: Clint Eastwood: ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ if gays marry. The superstar actor and director told GQ Magazine that he considers himself an Eisenhower Republican, and he doesn’t sound too happy with the people running the party these days.

“These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage?” Eastwood opined. “I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of.”

“They go on and on with all this bullshit about ‘sanctity’ — don’t give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.”

[….]

“I was an Eisenhower Republican when I started out at 21, because he promised to get us out of the Korean War,” he told GQ. “And over the years, I realized there was a Republican philosophy that I liked. And then they lost it. And libertarians had more of it. Because what I really believe is, let’s spend a little more time leaving everybody alone.”

Go ahead, make my day, Clint.

This story is a few days old, but it made me smile: Zakaria destroys Rumsfeld’s Iraq war talking points. Zakaria interviewed Rumsfeld on September 11, and the old goat still tried to claim that al Qaeda was in Iraq before the U.S. invaded.

“There’s no question that al Qaeda and Zarqawi and people were in Iraq,” Rumsfeld argued. “They aggregated there.”

“If we hadn’t invaded, they wouldn’t have been there,” Zakaria pointed out.

“We don’t know that,” Rumsfeld insisted. “You don’t know that. I don’t know that.”

“But they went in to fight us. So since we weren’t there, why would they have gone into Iraq?” Zakaria countered.

“Why have they gone into Yemen and Somalia?” Rumsfeld asked. “Why do al Qaeda go anywhere? They go where it’s hospitable.”

“Right, and Iraq hadn’t been hospitable,” Zakaria said.

ROFLOL! Why is this joke of a man able to get a book contract? Why does anyone want to put him on TV? He’s a complete loon.

Speaking of deserving people getting their comeuppance, deadbeat dad and Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh was “scolded” by a Chicago judge yesterday for failing to support his children.

A Chicago judge issued a preliminary ruling Wednesday against U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in his child-support dispute with his ex-wife, ordering the Tea Party favorite to explain why he appears to be $100,000 behind in child-support payments.

Vega did issue a “rule to show cause” — which means Walsh has to tell the court why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for falling so far behind in child support over the past five years.

Laura Walsh argues her ex-husband owes more than $100,000, a number the congressman disputes. But Vega’s ruling means that the burden is now on the congressman to prove that he doesn’t owe the money, attorneys for both Walshes agree.

Laura Walsh has gone into court on numerous occasions since filing for divorce in 2002, seeking court orders to have her ex-husband meet his court-ordered child-support obligations.

What a slug that guy Walsh is!

I came across this fascinating piece by Sarah Jaffe at Alternet: Are Jobs on Their Way to Becoming Obsolete? And Is That a Good Thing? It’s a long read, but I highly recommend you take the time. Here’s just a sample:

Media theorist and author of Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back Douglas Rushkoff ruffled some feathers this week when he dared, at CNN.com of all places, to ask that question. It seemed, perhaps, gloriously insensitive to the plight of unemployed workers, of union workers at the U.S. Postal Service, who are struggling like so many others to stay afloat in an uncertain economy while they’re demonized in the press as greedy for wanting a decent job.

[….]

He argues that perhaps we’re going about it backward when we call for jobs, that maybe it’s not a bad thing that technology is replacing workers, and points out that actually, we do produce enough food and “stuff” to support the country and even the world—that, in fact, we produce too much “stuff.”

He alternately harkens back to a past before jobs, when many people worked for themselves on a subsistence level, and forward to a future where we are all busy making games and books and communicating with one another from behind computer screens, with the hours we have to work dwindling.

Rushkoff’s ideas really resonated with me. I haven’t worked a full-time job since 1986, and although I don’t have a lot of money, I have never regretted my decision to quit my 9-5 job and find some meaning in my life by doing things that made me happy. I did find that meaning, first by working on my own problems and issues and then by helping and being a caregiver for my elderly ex-mother-in-law in return for a place to live.

Because my expenses were low, I was able to return to college and get a bachelor’s degree, then go on to graduate school and earn an MA and a PhD. During graduate school and after, I have worked as a teaching assistant and have taught a number of courses. But now that I’m finished with my education, I’ve been reluctant to search for a full-time teaching job.

Lately I’ve survived mostly on my Social Security and selling my huge accumulation of books on the internet with a few teaching jobs thrown in. I will also have another small source of retirement income from my days as a full-time office worker when I choose to take it. I’m enjoying the time I’ve had to follow politics closely and blog about it. I’ve never been all that ambitious. I went to school simply for the joy of learning. I do want to find ways to give back, but I don’t care that much about making piles of money. I might have to check out Rushkoff’s book.

At Truthout, I learned that liberal economist Dean Baker has also written a book, and you can even download it free! The book is called “The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. From the Truthout article by Keane Bhatt, Dean Baker: Why Didn’t We Make These Guys Run Around Naked With Their Underpants Over Their Heads?

KB: Your book argues that financial crises don’t have to lead to “lost decades” of massive pain and suffering and, even more importantly, that the US never even experienced a true financial crisis.

DB: There’s a lot of real sloppy thinking here. The main promulgators of this view are Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart and they say that they look back over 600 years of history and find that in almost all these cases, countries took over a decade to recover. It’s painful, because I’d like to think – and one would expect that they’d like to think – that we know more economics than we did 600 years ago. If we don’t – and we really haven’t learned anything – why do you guys get paid high salaries? I say that only partially facetiously. If we were to look back through time, a very high percentage – probably the majority – of newborn babies didn’t survive to age 5. You’d be an idiot to say that the past trend holds today – we have modern medicine, so we have a very good reason to expect that the overwhelming majority of children will survive to age 5. We have learned something in economics over six centuries, so it’s not some curse, they’re concrete problems.

Finance gets very mysterious and complicated. There are instruments that are hard for people to understand; they’re hard for me to understand. The basic story is not complicated: we need demand. As I say in the book, there’s very little about the financial crisis that explains where we are today. People who want to buy homes have no problem getting credit – you can’t go 0% down, but someone who, say, 15 years ago was able to get a home mortgage can expect to get a home mortgage today. In terms of businesses, the US, unlike Japan, has a very large capital market where firms can directly access capital through commercial paper and bond financing. The current rates are extraordinarily low in both nominal and real terms. So the idea that the banks being crippled would impede the economy doesn’t follow when hundreds of the largest firms can go straight to the market and get financing.

Let’s imagine that the big firms can get credit but the small ones can’t. That would create a situation in which the big firms are running wild, grabbing market share at the expense of smaller competitors crippled by lack of access to capital. This is not happening.

There’s a survey that the National Federation of Independent Business has done for a quarter century that asks businesses what are the biggest problems to expanding. And currently, almost no one mentions finance – either access or cost. So clearly the problem is not finance.

Read the whole interview if you can–it’s well worth it.

I’m going to end with a story that won’t necessarily make you smile, but it’s a story that puts the lie to the Bush/Cheney claims that torture helped make us safer. I think that’s a good thing. In fact, author and former FBI interrogator Ali H. Soufan argues that the opposite is true, and that in fact 9/11 could have been prevented with traditional interrogation methods. Watch his interview with Keith Olbermann:

So…what are you reading and blogging about today?