Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Is there no penality anymore for being wrong?

Bill Maher went after the Focus on the Family organization, calling it an "anti-gay group disguised as a church," adding:  "If you're doing God's work, and God is perfect, how come you're always wrong?"

And then the sharp-focused comedian raised the question that journalists should be asking themselves:   "Is there no penalty anymore for just being wrong?"

Supposedly objective news reporters let politicians get away with being wrong, either intentionally or unintentionally, all the time.  It does not serve the public interest, and it undermines one of the pillars of democracy:  a free press.

Matt Taibbi, writing for The Rolling Stone, sounded the same theme -- focusing on the Vice Presidential debate.   He says that Joe Biden was right to scoff at Paul Ryan's answers, and he praised moderator Martha Radditz for trying to hold Ryan to a yes or no answer to her question about the specifics of how Romney/Ryan would pay for the 20% across the board tax cut that they claim.

Biden threw his hands up in the air and scoffed "unbelievable."   But Radditz did her job -- though it's not clear that any of the commentators noticed.   They were more interested in talking about the "style" of the candidates.

Radditz:   You have refused yet again to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics, or are you still working on it, and that's why you won't tell voters?

Ryan:  said they were committed to the 20% cut but they would wait and work out with Congress what loopholes would be closed, because we want to have big bipartisan agreements.

Radditz:  Do you have the specifics? Do you have the math? Do you know exactly what you're doing?

Ryan:   talked about how Reagen and Tipp O'Neill worked out the tax cuts in the 1980s.  What we're saying is here's a framework.  We want to work with Congress on how to achieve this.  That means successful -- look 

Radditz:  No specifics, yeah . . . 
After repeatedly bringing Ryan back to the question and only getting the talking point blather about bipartisanship, Radditz translates his answer for the viewers, "No specifics, yeah."
Bipartisanship ???  From one of the top leaders of the Republican party in Congress, whose Senate leader began the Obama administration by saying the Republicans' chief goal was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president;  and who, in Taibbi's words, "would stall a bill to name a post office after Shirley Temple" rather than vote in a bipartisan way with Democrats.

All praises to Martha Radditz for being a rare voice who will try to hold the Romney/Ryan "parlor trick" disguised as a tax plan (again Taibbi's words) to accountability.  And then calling it for what it is, when she can't get them to answer.


Friday, October 12, 2012

"F--king crazies . . . "

Jon Stewart has once again put Georgia's own Congressman Paul Braun in the national spotlight -- but not in a good way.   Speaking about both Braun ("evolution is a lie straight from the pits of hell") and fellow Congressman Todd Akin ("women don't get pregnant from rape") -- both members of the House Science and Technology Committee -- he called them, exasperatedly as only Jon Stewart can do, "fucking crazy."

And he used them as examples of why it would be such a terrible idea to leave more and more of the big decisions up to the states -- such as converting federal assistance programs into block grants to the states, as the Republicans are determined to do.


PS:   Here's how smart Braun is (and I think the Medical College of Georgia should re-examine his records to see if he really qualified to received his MD degree from them):
On the road into my home town of Sandersville, which I visited recently, there is a large, full-sized campaign billboard, complete with Braun's picture, for his re-election to Congress.

What's crazy about this is that Sandersville is not in the district he is running in.  Never has been;  not even next door.

VP debate: Biden rocks !!

Joe Biden did everything Barack Obama needed to do last week and didn't.  He was forceful, he didn't miss a single important point, refuting Ryan's lies, distortions and confronting his lack of details about their tax plan.

Some say Biden was rude, grinning condescendingly, interrupting Ryan and making it difficult for him to finish his points.   I found out later I was wrong, after they released the actual speaking time each used, but my distinct impression was that Ryan just wouldn't ever stop talking.  Biden had to interrupt to get a word in.  That was the impression -- and it came from Ryan's speaking style, which was exactly like Romney's last week:  fast, furiously spilling out facts (many wrong), and leaving no space between sentences for moderator or opponent to get into the discussion.

So my subjective feeling about Ryan's speaking style (perhaps shared by Biden) was that "this guy just won't shut up."  I felt assaulted, and it was exhausting just to listen to him.  It was so similar to Romney that it must be a debate prep common decision:   hit them fast and furious with so much that they can't respond to it all;  be aggressive in your style.

That's style seems to count more than substance with some TV commentators.   However, the ones I watched on ABC (2 Dems and 2 Repubs) said by 3 to 1 that Biden won the debate.   He was right most of the time on substance, he seemed to speak more from his heart, and he was forceful in his own way -- which is more measured and insistent rather that bombarding.    Immediate audience reactions also gave it to Biden.

But, in my opinion, the real winner was Martha Radditz, the moderator, an ABC correspondant who has spent much time in recent years in battle zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.    Far more pointed in her questions, better in asking follow-up questions to try to get the candidate to answer something he had dodged, and far better at controlling the time.


Thursday, October 11, 2012


Tonight, the Obama administration's #2 man takes on the Romney campaign's #2 man.  The contrast could hardly be greater, as outlined by Howard Fineman writing on the Huggington Post.
. . .  Biden and Ryan will offer clashing views at the heart of their respective traditions -– traditions in which they are more steeped and to which they are more deeply wedded than their ticket mates.

If the Democrats are to convince voters about the wisdom of an enduring, ameliorative and economically stimulative government, it is up to Biden to begin that profound task here tonight.

It’s up to Ryan to make the case that free-market individualism can work for all.

These are the right men to do it.

They are their parties in pure form: Biden the devotee of traditional Democratic social welfare activism by the state; Ryan a disciple of Ayn Rand’s virtue-of-selfishness, post-Word War II libertarianism.

As a side note -– not an insignificant one -– Ryan and Biden represent conflicting strands of American Catholicism, and are the first two Catholics to face each other in a national political debate.

Biden, who is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, represents the social-welfare good-works traditions of the church. Ryan, ardently pro-life, anti-gay marriage and skeptical of government, represents the conservative, almost evangelical faith tradition.

On a generational level, this confrontation will feature the widest age disparity between national candidates in modern times: 27 years.
So let the games begin.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Get a new recipe

Jon Stewart says:   "If you're cooking the books, 7.8% unemployment is a shitty recipe."


A vanishing breed

Remember former Senator John C. Danforth (R-MO)?   He was such a reasonable and honorable man, I had trouble remembering whether he was a  Repulican or a Democrat.  It just didn't seem to matter that much back then.

Rep. Todd Akins, now running as the Republican candidate for senator in Sen. Danforth's state of Missouri, created such an outcry of disgust with his comments about rape and pregnancy that most of the Republican establishment distanced itself and tried to persuade him to drop out of the race.  

He was defiant and stayed in.  Now that it seems a win for him could be the deciding vote that gives control of the Senate to Republicans, they are beginning to have second thoughts about putting some money into his campaign.   The smell of victory, it seems, overcomes the stench of Akins stupidy

But not Sen. Danforth.   Having distanced himself from Akins, he said in an interview that "Republicans should focus on more than the Senate math. . . .  I think this is bigger than any one Senate seat.  I think it's the brand of the Republican Party, and I think he taints the Republican Party."

That is true loyalty to principle and honor above cheap political gain.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"I'm just saying . . . "

Look, this is total fantasy, thanks to Huffington Post for the idea.   But, with the very real possibility since the debate that Mitt Romney might become president, I've given some thought to who might wind up being appointed to important posts by him.

By no means is all of this likely to occur, but they are all prominent people in the Republican party, and Romney could appoint any or all of them.   Democrats have some outrageous characters, too;  but I think not so many who have been taken seriously and occupied such high places.

So here's what could happen -- not just outlandish fantasies:  each actually has some pretense of expertise for the job.  And each, in my opinion, would be an unmitigated disaster.

Secretary of State:   John Bolton  (former U.N. Ambassador;  neo-con saber-rattler, no qualms about bombing Iran;  would restore our image as the Empire we were meant to be;  never mind that he hates diplomacy and is terrible at it.  Enough of this namby-pamby coddling of the terrorists.)

Attorney GeneralMichelle Bachmann (after all she was one of the first graduates of the Oral Roberts Law School, which teaches the Bible as the first law book;  has worked as a tax lawyer, which should be important in this time of challenge to revise our tax laws and find new ways to benefit the wealthy.   She would also fill the role of token woman in the cabinet.)

Secretary of Treasury:   Herman Cain.   Highly successful business entrepreneur.   Has a plan to change our tax structure -- simple, catchy:  "9-9-9."   Excellent salesman for this plan;  not embarrassed by being made a fool of by his many disbelievers.   Token African-American.)
Secretary of Defense:   Alan West (Congressman, former career Army officer whose career was ended after notorious charges that he participated in the torture of an Iraqi policeman;  but the people of Florida have since elected him to Congress, where he has been one of the outrageous Tea Party crowd.  And he wouldn't be hesitant to order the bombing of Iran, for sure.  Another African-American;  see how tolerant the GOP has become?)

Secretary of Health and Human Services:   Rick Santorum (who better to complete the task of stamping out the bedroom sins of contraception and abortion and homosexuality and keeping the regulatory government out of our lives in every other way that affects our health and welfare?)

Secretary of the Interior:   Sarah Palin (former governor, negotiated a huge oil pipeline deal in Alaska, tv personality, avid moose hunter, and documentary film star of the joys and beauty of nature.  And she can keep an eye on the Russians, in case they even think about encroaching on our ice floes.  Oh!  I forgot;  they've all melted.   Nevermind.)

Secretary of Commerce:   David Koch.  Almost nobody has made more money than he and his brother (maybe Warren Buffet and Bill Gates -- but they're both wimps and want to give it all away. We know somebody who believes in making it and keeping it.

Secretary of Labor:   Scott Walker (successfully fought off the public sector unions as governor of Wisconsin.  It's time we had someone other than a union-sympathizer in the job.)

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development:   Donald Trump (who knows more about developing real estate than The Donald?   Look how many housing units he has built in New York city alone -- what couldn't he do for the nation?   Trump Towers everywhere !!!)

Secretary of Homeland Security:   Jan Brewer (governor of Arizona, who knows a thing or two about passing laws to keep Mexicans from sneaking across her borders and catching the ones that do.  Another woman.  Proves the GOP is serious about equality.)

Ambassador to the U.N.John Lieberman.    The man needs a job since he's retiring from the Senate.  He would be the token Democrat, but you can hardly tell it;  his best friends are Republicans, he thinks like a Republican, and he's mad enough at the Democrats for rejecting him.  
Supreme Court:   Robert Bork  (Yale Law professor, legal scholar, Solicitor General, judge and advocate of originalism;  rejected by the Senate after a bitter confirmation fight when Regan nominated him.  It's time to get this man on the Court.  Help Scalia and Thomas take us back to what our Founding Fathers intended) -- [which I believe included an accommodation to slavery].

Second Supreme Court Appointee:   Paul Clement (former Solicitor General under Bush,  currently being paid by the Republicans in Congress to defend DOMA, and by the National Organization for Marriage to defend California's Proposition 8-- both coming before the Supreme Court.)

Co-Chairs of National Science Foundation:   Two members of Congress and both members of its Science and Technology Committee -- Todd Akins (has important things to say about the science of impregnation and rape) and Paul Braun (Congressman from Georgia who says the earth is only 8,000 years old and that evolution is "a lie straight from hell.")

NASA Administrator:   Newt Gingrich (famous for his plan to colonize the moon.)

Press Secretary:    Chris Christie (Governor of N.J., lots of experience on the hot seat;  doesn't mind losing his cool and telling it like it is, when criticized.)

Wake up !!!  Don't let it happen.  Get out the vote !!!!


Monday, October 8, 2012

It's the comedians who tell the truth

I've said it many times:   in this political climate, it's the comedians who tell the truth.  Cases in point:   Jon Stewart, Steve Colbert, and Bill Maher.

I've just been watching a clip of Bill Maher interview Frank Luntz, the conservative pollster and author of Words That Work, in which he advises Republicans on key words to use to trash their opponents or enhalo their friends, like saying "job creators" instead of "rich people."

It turns out he's a pretty good comedian too, matching wits with Maher.  That doesn't mean he is trustworthy:  some comedians lie, too.

Maher began by quoting Luntz's earlier statement "Show me the first 90 seconds of the debate, and I'll tell you who's going to win the presidency" -- and he asked, given that Romney had a great night in the first debate, to tell him who's going to win.

Luntz said, in all seriousness (I think), "At this point, I still think Barack Obama."

There were comedic moments, where truth was told.  The following are some random moments, not connected.

Luntz, referring to the infamous "1%":  "I realized that I want to be in the 2%, because then I can shout at the 1% and still get all the benefits."

Maher:  "It's widely known that you are evil.  And you are evil because you invent words to get stupid people to vote against their own interests."

Luntz, referring to the dysfunctional Congress:  "They have a 10% approval rating.  Gaddafi had a 14%  approval rating.  And that's among the people who killed him."

Maher:  "The difference between rich Democrats and rich Republicans is that rich Democrats vote against their best interests for the good of the country."

I think this last one is one of the best political comments of the season.  See the full interview at:;postID=3695979140042271864


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Second looks at the debate

Romney got all the media hype about his energetic performance at debate #1, and the polls have showed a slight tightening of the race.

Maybe it's because I mostly read liberal sources, but that initial focus on Romney's big win sort of took second place behind the headlines that followed.  For one day we had all the stories and lists of lies and distortions that Rmoney told.   Then headlines about the good unemployment numbers and the big flap about that, as Republicans screamed "It can't be true."

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera summed it up well:  "Whether the Republicans like it or not, the economy is slowly getting better.   Awful, isn't it?"

Now we're getting the second wave of scrutiny, with people saying:  "Wait a minute."

Case in point:  On Friday, conservative/moderate New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a glowing account of the "moderate" Mitt Romney that had finally returned in the debate, revealing at last his "authentic" self and policies.

The letters about it in the Times Saturday are all scathing, not only about Romney but about Brooks for drinking the Kool Aid (my phrase).

One writer says this 11th hour "return to his authentic self" proves that only one thing is authentic about Romney:  "his cynicism about the intelligence of his audience as he plays to the crowd and tells it what he thinks it wants to hear."

Another scorns Brooks for telling readers that we should ignore what Romney has been saying daily for a year and accept as genuine what he said on Wednesday.   He ends with:  "I truly hope that the electorate is more discerning than Mr. Brooks."    Amen to that.   And I think they will be, that is those who haven't also drunk the Kool Aid.

But my favorite is from Paul Oppenheim who dismisses Brooks' statement that Romney "at long last began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself."   Mr. Oppenheim replied:

"Authentic people don't offer 'versions' of themselves."

Here!  here!    I couldn't have put it better myself.  And somehow I have a hunch that, with a little more time, a few more voters than not will conclude the same thing.