It did not take long, upon the shocking revelation that DeDe Scozzafava had walked the plank, for a number of political dominoes to begin to fall: The likely beneficiary of her decision, right-wing Independent candidate Doug Hoffman , commented on the suspension of the Scozzafava campaign, and it was hardly a magnanimous message– This morning’s events prove what we have said for the last week; this campaign is a horserace between me and Nancy Pelosi’s handpicked candidate, Bill Owens. At this moment, the Democratic Party, the Working Families Party, ACORN, Big Labor and pro-abortion groups are flooding the district with troops and they are flooding the airwaves with a million dollars worth of negative ads. They are throwing mud; they are trying to stop me. While Hoffman was busy gleefully putting shovel to dirt in his burial of the Scozzafava candidacy, the state chairman of the Independence Party, an often important third-party that had cross-endorsed Scozzafava, stated that his endorsement would now go to the Democrat, Bill Owens. He also, in the ultimate expression of “too little, too late”, said that he wished his party had endorsed Owens all along. Et tu, Newt? Gingrich, who once saw the Hoffman challenge as an affront to party unity , also quickly got in line to crown Hoffman as the de facto Republican nominee. As they had already done in everything but name, the House campaign wing of the Republican Party (the NRCC) has endorsed Hoffman . This means that the Republican Party will have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a candidate whom they eventually undermined and ultimately supplanted. The spectacular flameout of the Scozzafava campaign, with the GOP rank-and-file providing both the torches and the fuel, inspires this observation: During the 2008 electoral cycle, the public conversation had to endure the endless bleatings of political pundits who knowingly warned that women may not support Barack Obama because he had denied Hillary Clinton the presidential nomination. During a very unifying Democratic convention, a media not ready to let go of the meme treated the viewing public to endless interviews with PUMAs from far and wide, talking about how, as women, they felt compelled to turn their backs on the Democratic Party for- EVAH . Some media outlets even went so far as to put “body language experts” on the air, telling disappointed Clinton backers that when Hillary Clinton endorsed Barack Obama, she didn’t really mean it. Later in the campaign, we were also told by many pundits (often through crocodile tears) that the criticism of Sarah Palin as the GOP Vice-Presidential standard-bearer was further evidence of the latent sexism of the Democratic Party. Yet look at what just happened. We have just witnessed a woman, a moderate in her party, be awarded the nomination of the Republican Party, and then have it brutally snatched away from her: first by the fringe elements within the party, and then by some of the party regulars (including, ironically, Sarah Palin herself). Ultimately, it was the leadership of the party itself that elected to turn their backs on her, with the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, saying yesterday that a victory by third-party insurgent candidate Doug Hoffman was just like a Republican victory to him. Indeed, when Scozzafava called it quits today, Steele jumped in with a promise to assist Hoffman , a more sincere and more generous offer than was ever extended to the Republican nominee during the course of her campaign. In the final analysis, the Republican Party could not control itself. It had to destroy one of its own nominees, because she committed the unpardonable sin of being “a moderate”. Of course, she also happened to be a woman. And the fact is that there are many women in America like DeDe Scozzafava, Republicans with an ideological disconnect with many facets (decidedly in the sphere of social policy) of the modern GOP. I’d hazard the guess that there are plenty more women in America (and, for that matter, in the GOP) that see the world as DeDe Scozzafava does, rather than as Michele Bachmann does. The GOP just gave them a giant middle finger, by replacing Scozzafava, in all but party title, with a middle-aged man. Why is no one in the political media pointing out that the Republican Party just pulled up the welcome mat for a vast percentage of the Republican women in this country? Will we hear about the latent sexism of the Republican Party? Or its ideological rigidity? It’s not like we didn’t hear about it in 2008, guys. So “man up”, so to speak. Tell us how the Scozzafava episode demonstrates that the GOP is hostile to women not named Palin or Bachmann. It is, after all, an infinitely more plausible theory than the Democrats being latently sexist because they (A) had a male candidate win more delegates than a female candidate OR (B) criticized an unqualified candidate for being…well…unqualified. UPDATED 2:53 PM PT : According to commenter Ron V , there were a couple of other dominoes that fell in Owens’ direction this afternoon. Both the AFL-CIO and the UAW, who had either endorsed Scozzafava or sat on the fence, have now endorsed Owens. That could provide some welcome GOTV support come Tuesday.
Archive for October, 2009.
In what is surely a brilliant bit of counter-insurgency marketing, OR Books will be releasing the political antidote to Sarah Palin’s memoir Going Rogue with Going Rouge–Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare , on November 16, the day before Palin’s tome explodes on the national book market. Although it’s been billed by some right-wing commentators as a “copycat publication” intended to “confuse readers,” Going Rouge will not be appearing in bookstores and will be available only on the OR website . Edited by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed of The Nation , Going Rouge contains a superb collection of more than 50 short articles on Palin by an all-star array of political writers who skewered Palin during her vice-presidential candidacy last fall. Many of the classic pieces written about Palin in the last year are collected in the volume–including “Wrong Woman, Wrong Message,” by Gloria Steinem, and “Our Polar Bears, Ourselves,” by Mark Hertsgaard. Going Rouge is an engaging read from start to finish. In their introduction, Kim and Reed rightfully acknowledge the “vital place” that Palin currently occupies “in the Republican Party’s zeitgeist.” In spite of her loss last fall on the Republican ticket and her endless series of car crashes on the campaign trail, Palin remains in the words of New York Times columnist Frank Rich not only the GOP’s “biggest star and most charismatic television performer; she is its only star and charismatic performer.” No one was talking this past week about paying Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee $100,000 to come to Iowa. If you’ve followed Palin’s career closely, as I have, most of the essays here will be familiar, though I somehow managed to miss Robert Reich’s powerful excoriation of Palin’s “death panel” hysteria in response to Obama’s proposed health-care reforms. One of the reasons that Palin was selected as John McCain’s running mate, of course, was as a calculated attempt by his campaign to wrest women voters (read Hillary Clinton supporters) away from the Democratic Party ticket. In the end it proved to be a strategy as ridiculous as it was misguided. Perhaps the most compelling sections in Going Rouge are those that address feminist considerations magnified (and distorted) by Palin’s candidacy. It includes splendid pieces by the likes of Steinem, Katha Pollitt, Jessica Valenti, Amy Alexander, Linda Hirshman, Amanda Fortini, Rebecca Traister, Michelle Goldberg, Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick–all of whom shed considerable light on the varied and complex nuances of gender and feminist constructions raised by the Palin phenomenon. Traister, a contributor to Salon who has a book coming out next fall about women in the 2008 campaign entitled Big Girls Don’t Cry , was by far the best–and most consistent–feminist critic of Palin throughout the campaign. In “The Sarah Palin Pity Party,” Traister writes, “I guess I’m one cold dame, because while Palin provokes many unpleasant emotions in me, I just can’t seem to summon pity, affection or remorse.” Going Rouge is not all slash-and-burn. There’s plenty of humor contained throughout. In a section entitled “The Poetry of Sarah Palin,” Palin’s peculiar phrasing and word amalgamations are placed in poetic form: Haiku These corporations. Today it was AIG, Important call, there. Max Blumenthal, author of the fascinating Republican Gomorrah , is also here in all his splendor, with an account of Palin’s witch-hunting pastor from Kenya, Thomas Muthee, “who urges his parishioners to crush ‘the python spirit’ of the unbeliever enemies by stomping on their necks.” While two of Alaska’s best known bloggers (and HuffPo contributors) Jeanne Devon (AKMuckraker) and Shannyn Moore are included in the collection (Devon thoughtfully explains the brutal ironies of Palin using the term “rogue” in the title of her book), the Last Frontier gets more than a bit short shrifted in Going Rouge , and that’s too bad. There’s little mention of Palin’s role as a council member and mayor of Wasilla, her brutal firing of Police Chief Irl Stambaugh and her betrayal of political allies from the early days of her career. I also would have liked to have seen some excerpts from the Branchflower Report included in the collection along with a run-down of the nearly 20 ethics complaints that are tidily posted on the pages of the Anchorage Daily News . While Palin is now an American icon, she is also very much a product of longstanding Alaskan political traditions of isolation and corruption, and her current political traction remains linked to the interplay between those forces. Then, too, are Palin’s strange post-election relationships with the likes of Greta Van Susteren , John Coales and Fred Malek –all of whom go unmentioned in the collection. But these are minor rubs. One thing is certain: You will read far more about the real Sarah Palin in Going Rouge than you ever will in her own memoirs, being published by (who else?) Rupert Murdoch. If there is a single consistency in the Palin canon it is that she is an inveterate liar and motivated by a reckless ambition that has left a trail of collateral damage from Wasilla to Washington, D.C. Going Rouge is full of golden nuggets about Sarah Palin. Judging from her past performances, her own book will most certainly be riddled with deceit. GOING ROUGE: Sarah Palin–An American Nightmare Edited by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed; OR Books Publication: November 16th, 2009 $16 paperback; $10 e-book; 336 pp. Award-winning writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn is at work on a book about Sarah Palin and American politics, to be published by Macmillan/St. Martin’s next year. More on Sarah Palin
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Geoffrey Dunn: ‘Going Rouge’ Skewers Palin
I moved to California in 1995. Within a few months, I was versed in some of the problems in the state, such as homeless in Berkeley, tight budgets in the University of California system, and soaring real estate prices vs. rent control problems. One day, I was driving across the Bay Bridge listening to some talk radio show and I heard a man talking about some of the serious issues in the city of San Francisco. I had no idea who he was, but it was noted on the show that he was the youngest member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. I liked his energy and common sense. He had a way with words, and I thought he was the freshest political voice I’d ever heard. I hoped he would continue fighting for the City of San Francisco. I kept listening and I found out his name: Gavin Newsom. That day, I began a journal of policy ideas and inspiration, and I wrote his name in my journal along with my thoughts from the radio show. I kept him in mind as I continued studying issues of politics and technology. I graduated and became entrenched in the start-up world, and one day I saw him speak at a Glasshouse for Startups small group event in SF. He was talking about his experience growing the Plumpjack business, and he alluded to his possible run for mayor. I shook his hand, knowing I was shaking the hand of the future mayor because I believed his talent and charisma and his knack for actually finding useful solutions both on the business and the municipal level was significant. I dove into working on new media for political campaigns on national and local campaigns, and during that time, Gavin Newsom was elected Mayor of San Francisco. Every so often, I would attend an event where I would see him. My husband and I attended philanthropic events as a way to get out together, support meaningful causes, and meet interesting people. Gavin Newsom was always there, always talking to people, graciously listening to their concerns. We heard about his own personal problems, but somehow I knew he would rally. His popularity was soaring - the people of San Francisco loved him. When he announced his run for Governor, I think I was the fifth person to sign onto his Facebook page the first day it was setup, and I enjoyed watching it grow to over 59,000 supporters - even in the wake of Jerry Brown’s candidacy. Now I want to make one thing clear: Gavin Newsom could have been a safe politician, a career California Democrat like many others, not rocking the boat, just towing the party line. He could have used his charisma and smarts to take the cautious road politically and follow the party line, moving up the ranks the way many others have, making small enough changes to get pats on the back and applause from the sidelines. But I believe he would not have been satisfied with that life. Instead he dared to dream. He’s a man who has seen poverty, he’s watched couples cry with joy when becoming married after being barred by it for several decades, and he’s had his own struggles and triumphs within the education system in California. Newsom’s someone who’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and do real work. In the early days of his Plumpjack restaurant while Newsom was on the Board of Supervisors, I heard that he would sweep the sidewalk in front of the restaurant himself because it allowed him to stay involved. It’s not that I haven’t heard worthwhile criticisms of his work as mayor. We all have our flaws. But he continued to listen to the people in the community and register their their concerns. He continued working hard for the city. And for a man to admit that it’s tough to run a race for the state’s Chief Executive due to his responsibilities both at home and in his current office - I believe that is daring too, even in the face of an uphill fund raising battle. So while I’m saddened he will not be continuing his run for Governor of California at this time, I feel lucky we still have Mayor Newsom in San Francisco to continue fighting the good fight, and I have no doubt he will run again for another statewide or national office when the time is right. He is a rare individual who could have provided the vision the State of California needed to pull out of a troubled recent past, and perhaps in the future he will still play that role or another of great importance. And for the national pundits who might use this as an opportunity to count him out, take heed: there’s always a Comeback Kid.
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Sarah Granger: A Sad Day for Californians: Gavin Newsom’s Withdrawl from the Race for Governor
Aside from the elite runners and run-of-the-mill participants, the 2009 ING New York City Marathon features a bevy of celebrities. Here’s a brief “rundown” of who’s taking on the grueling challenge: 1. Edward Norton 2. David Blaine 3. Alanis Morissette 4. Anthony Edwards 5. Sarah Jones 6. James LeGros 7. Matthew Reeves 8. Dan Jansen 9. Pat LaFontaine 10. Peter Sagal 11. Brennan Swain 12. Ryan Sutter 13. Ian Rosenberger 14. Donal Logue 15. Nikolai Fraiture 16. Pieter Christiaan Michiel
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NYC Marathon: Which Celebrities Are Running?
On October 25, while an overflow crowd of 1,500 poured into the first convention of the progressive-leaning, Israel-oriented lobbying organization J Street , Elie Wiesel addressed a crowd of 6,000 Christian Zionists at Pastor John Hagee’s ” Night To Honor Israel .” According to the San Antonio Express News , while Wiesel sat by his side, Hagee trashed President Barack Obama, baselessly accusing him of “being tougher on Israel than on Russia, Iran, China and North Korea.” Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who appeared at Hagee’s Christians United for Israel summit earlier this year, rejected J Street’s request to speak at their convention, instead dispatching a low-level embassy official to “observe” the event. Oren then accused J Street of “impair[ing] Israel’s interests.” In blessing Hagee while damning J Street, Wiesel and Oren chose an anti-Semitic group led by a far-right End Times theology preacher over a fledgling progressive organization that bills itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” And both Wiesel and Oren seem to be embroiled in yet another controversy over involvement with the extremist preacher. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain avidly sought Hagee’s endorsement, appearing by the pastor’s side during a widely publicized press conference to announce it. McCain was intent on winning a seal of approval from a figure of the Christian right, especially since he had lambasted Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in the 2000 Republican presidential primaries. Hagee: The Antichrist will be “partially Jewish…as Hitler was” McCain may have been completely unaware of Hagee’s sermon declaring the Holocaust to be a divinely ordained incident orchestrated by God to fulfill biblical prophecy; Hagee’s accusation that the Jews’ rejection of Jesus was the root of anti-Semitism; or his prediction that when the Antichrist returned, he would be homosexual and “partially Jewish, as was Adolph Hitler, as was Karl Marx.” When Hagee’s anti-Semitic ravings surfaced on blogs like Talk2Action.org and eventually gained national notoriety, McCain renounced the preacher’s endorsement. Unlike McCain, Oren and Wiesel cannot claim innocence of Hagee’s anti-Semitic remarks precisely because of the clamor over McCain’s disassociation. “My dear pastor when I hear that Christians are getting together in order to defend the people of Israel, of course it brings joy to my heart,” Wiesel told Hagee in a September 3 interview. “And it simply says, look, people have learned from history.” (Hagee is hawking DVD’s of his Wiesel interview for $15 each on his personal website, turning footage of the encounter into a windfall profit.) On October 26, during an unofficial panel of bloggers and activists at J Street’s conference, I criticized Wiesel and Oren for associating with Hagee just as I had written about McCain’s involvement with the preacher. By embracing an anti-Semite, Wiesel appears not to have learned the lesson he has taught. I said that the last person Wiesel trusted as much as Hagee was Bernard Madoff. That was a joke, of course, something of a Jewish joke, and in the humorous comparison I was granting Wiesel foolish credulity in his involvement with Hagee. The Nobel Prize winning writer Wiesel has based his work and lectures for decades on the premise that we must learn from the tragedy of the past, the lesson of the Holocaust, in order not to repeat it. Perhaps Wiesel is not unaware of Hagee’s appalling theology in which the violent destruction of the Jews is essential to bring about the Second Coming; or perhaps he doesn’t take it seriously and feels such nonsense should not get in the way of Hagee’s financial and propaganda support for the settlement movement on the West Bank that is now at the heart of difficulty in the U.S.-Israel relationship. Hagee’s notorious “God sent Hitler” sermon Michael Goldfarb, a former spokesman for the McCain-Palin campaign who blogs at the neoconservative Weekly Standard , called the blogger panel “clownish.” He reported on my remarks: “Elie Wiesel Mocked At J Street Conference.” In his post, Goldfarb omitted the facts I introduced about Hagee’s anti-Semitism. Once again, ideology demanded forgetting history. Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic , also called the panel “clownish,” attacking me for criticizing Wiesel. “Here’s a tip,” Goldberg wrote on his blog. “Criticizing public figures who survived the Holocaust is permissible, of course. But mocking them is disgraceful. It’s also not going to win you too many Jewish friends.” Goldberg also excommunicated me as one of the “anti-Zionists with Jewish parents.” Why is Wiesel palling around with Hagee? Why did I “mock” Wiesel? Both Goldfarb and Goldberg refused to address these questions and neglected to quote the facts I offered on Hagee. While Goldfarb assailed a J Street donor for controversial statements on Israel, they have never addressed Hagee’s anti-Semitic rants. Goldberg has not addressed the issue of Hagee either. The two present their opinions conveniently without the facts. But the absence of the facts from their blog posts does not allow them to evade the issue. Do they, like Wiesel and Oren, approve of Hagee? In defending Wiesel from criticism for his relationship with Hagee, they are also defending the relationship. Is this what they really mean to do? Then they must also disagree with John McCain’s severing of his ties with Hagee. What is it about Hagee that Goldfarb and Goldberg find acceptable, as Wiesel and Oren find him acceptable? Unless, of course, they don’t approve of Hagee or association with him at all, and were using criticism of those embracing him as a cudgel to beat up on J Street. Send in the clowns. With friends like these, who needs enemies? More on Barack Obama
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Max Blumenthal: Elie Wiesel Appears With End Times Pastor John Hagee, Hagee Trashes Obama
As Afghanistan hastily prepares for a runoff election on November 7, amidst an increase in Taliban attacks, questions persist over what impact the long-discussed runoff will have on Afghanistan and U.S. relations with the war-torn country. Further complicating matters, President Hamid Karzai’s rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has hinted at boycotting the runoff if his demands are not met. The Telegraph reports that Abdullah is “increasingly likely” to pull out of the runoff. His ultimatum demanding the sacking of the country’s chief election official and suspension of key ministers alleged to be complicit in fraud has been ignored so far by Hamid Karzai. Negotiations between the two have reached deadlock, with both men refusing to make concessions. HuffPost bloggers with an expertise in Afghanistan have shared their views on the runoff and how a possible boycott would affect U.S.-Afghan relations. Finding anyone here who believe the November 7 voting will happen is difficult. Conventional wisdom among Afghans and internationals alike now seems to argue that: 1) The same IEC members, the same governors and the same government officials are in place, so why would Dr. Abdullah or anyone else think election improprieties would disappear? 2) Dr. Abdullah seems increasingly likely to pull out of the voting as a result. 3) The November 7 voting will then be called off. Among UN workers here in Kabul there is a palpable sense of fear following Wednesday’s attack. Many non-essential UN staff is exiting the country until the voting date passes. And internationals who heard the shooting Wednesday morning while cooking their breakfast or getting ready for work now look over their shoulder and at their front doors with a growing sense of vulnerability. And meanwhile, Afghans push on. Businesses open their doors and schools throughout the country welcome students each day. Maternal health efforts document progress across Afghanistan. Women entrepreneurs strengthen their business plans and agriculture programs help farmers produce higher quality products they can sell across their borders for higher prices. Afghans watch as the foreigners pour out. And they express gratitude to those who stay. November 7 is coming, but no one is yet sure what it will bring. And everyone is braced for whatever comes. - Gayle Tzemach Lemmon , a former ABC News journalist currently researching a book in Afghanistan The likelihood of Abdullah Abdullah boycotting the elections is high. A likely scenario is that he will refuse to take part in the next round because it won’t be a fair election. The IEC will then declare President Hamid Karzai the winner, despite the fact that it is unclear under Afghan law if they even have that authority. Abdullah will then reject the IEC’s decision for this reason. There will be an extended period of stalemate, during which Abdullah may try to press for a deal. The United States might pressure Karzai under such a scenario since at that point it will be anxious to end the months of deadlock (things have been in limbo since August). A deal for Abdullah would likely include key governorships for his supporters and some ministries, but probably not a position for himself. He instead would try to position himself as a viable opposition candidate for the future. This is all highly speculative, of course. He could just be bluffing, using talk of a boycott to better his bargaining position (his team has been in talks with Karzai’s). - Anand Gopal, journalist who frequently writes about Afghanistan and Pakistan. Governance is not the only thing at stake. I’m most concerned that civilians are already being seen as bargaining chips in the coming runoff. The increasing violence is rightfully causing many to fear for their lives. Last week, after the UN guest house was attacked, a Taliban spokesperson said, “We have said that we would attack anyone engaged in the process and today’s attack is just a start.” That puts a target on anyone going to the polls, any poll worker, any monitor. I worry that we’re going to see the Taliban create even more chaos, which puts even civilians deciding not to get involved in the elections in danger. - Sarah Holewinski , the Executive Director of CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), an organization working with warring parties to help civilians they have harmed in combat. The root causes of violence and instability in Afghanistan go far beyond the question of this last election or this runoff. For almost 100 years the political classes in Kabul have attempted to subordinate the landlords and Mullahs of the countryside. First these modernization efforts were called Constitutional Monarchy, then Republicanism, then Communism, now Democracy. Each time it was the same: pave the roads, collect taxes, expand education, suppress banditry, limit the autonomy of the rural landlords and Mullahs. All good things. But each time it failed - even when supported by powerful outsiders. Rural Afghanistan just wants to be left alone. The recently resigned dissident State Department official Matthew Hoh called their ideology “Valley-ism.” Absolutely correct. We should oblige them and go away. In Kabul, corruption is now endemic. The political class is rotten almost to the core. Afghanistan is a kleptocracy, were bribes are demanded for every service. We should not expect a different style of rule from Abdullah Abdullah, were he to win the run off. He shares the same pedigree as Hamid Karzai. He was a political adviser to Masaud, one of the drug-running, mujahedin terrorists — backed by the CIA, Saudi and Pakistan - who threw out the last invaders, the Soviets. America needs to prepare an orderly, negotiated de-escalation and departure from Afghanistan. American defeat in Afghanistan is inevitable. The process and aftermath can be ugly, or it can be extremely ugly. Obama’s escalation is madness, exactly the wrong thing to do. This election runoff will not create a “credible partner” in Afghanistan. It is time to leave, and do so as responsibly as possible. - Christian Parenti, American journalist and author who has reported from Afghanistan. What do you think of the Afghan runoff? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. We will include the most insightful and thoughtful comments in this post. What is the likelihood that Abdullah Abdullah will boycott the runoff? What would the Obama administration do if that happens? How would and should a boycott affect Obama’s Afghan war strategy? Will a runoff make a difference anyway? More on Afghan Election
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Afghan Runoff: Will It Make A Difference?
A year later, it’s a bittersweet experience watching Amy Rice and Alicia Sams’ documentary, By the People: The Election of Barack Obama, which premieres at 9PM Tuesday (11.03.09) on HBO. (Also depressing: There was a time in the not-so-distant past when a film like this - with this kind of access to a successful presidential campaign - would have been a theatrical release.) Starting on Election Night 2006, the film follows then-Sen. Barack Obama as he launches his presidential campaign, winning the nomination and the election after overcoming a field of better-known opponents - including the all-but-coronated Hillary Rodham Clinton - and a skeptical press corps that regularly predicted his collapse. The film goes from the 2006 election (”Are you going to run for president?”) to Iowa in 2007 and on to the Iowa caucuses, continues through the primaries, then carries him through the general election. It touches on the debates, Sarah Palin, the economy’s near-collapse and Republican efforts to demonize Obama - leading up to Election Day 2008 and its intense emotional resonance. If you were an Obama supporter - which a majority of voting Americans were - it’s hard not to get caught up in the memory of moments that were powerful to experience as they were occurring: his Philadelphia speech on race, his acceptance speech at the stadium in Denver, the flood of feelings and tears of joy when West Coast polls closed on Election Day and the TV networks projected Obama as the winner and new president. Rice and Sams had stunning access, though less to Obama himself as the year went on. But they seemed to regularly be filming such key insiders as campaign overlords David Axelrod and David Plouffe, speechwriter Jon Favreau and communications director Robert Gibbs. Watching a field operative named Ronnie Cho, his enthusiasm infectious to the volunteers he must motivate, brings back the sense of excitement, possibility and, yes, hope, that the Obama campaign generated. You get behind-the-scenes footage of Obama preparing for the debates with John McCain, dissolving into tired giggles at one moment when he can’t remember or recite his bullet points on resurrecting the economy. It’s also fascinating to see a stand-in for McCain pelt Obama with accusations about former Weatherman William Ayers - and then see footage of the actual debate, in which McCain uses nearly identical language to attack Obama, who has a well-rehearsed but spontaneous-seeming rebuttal. That sense of hope - that feeling you had a year ago when Obama was elected - has been under assault for the past year. There have been disappointments, no matter what your issue. Guantanamo, Afghanistan, gays in the military, bank bail-outs, the Dalai Lama refused a visit at the White House, health insurance - need I say more? Everyday, it seems you read something else that makes you wonder what happened to the guy we thought we elected. So, before watching By the People, it’s probably helpful to read Anna Quindlen’s well-written cover story in this week’s Newsweek, which defends Obama against the crush of outsized expectations. As I said, watching this film is bittersweet because it brings back memories of the dream of change that would rescue us from the dark recesses of Bush-Cheney. But while the approach at the top has changed, Obama is still just one person, trying to thread his way through a system that seems specifically designed to throttle progressive change. That’s Quindlen’s point, as well: Obama is a smart guy who has to work in a brutally unforgiving and public system - and he can’t do it alone. But he’s up against an intransigent opposition with no ideas of its own beyond impeding Obama and causing his agenda to fail. Continued… For the rest of this commentary, click HERE to reach my website: www.hollywoodandfine.com. More on Barack Obama
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Marshall Fine: By the People, Poliwood: Bittersweet look at 2008 election
And the ironies just won’t stop. This week we find ourselves listening to Sarah Palin complaining that her almost son-in-law Levi Johnston a) is desperate for attention, b) Is capitalizing from showing off his body and c) is a big fat liar. So says the spotlight-craving, truth-challenged former beauty pageant contestant. We also learned this week that 55% of Americans find Palin to be ” honest and trustworthy .” Apparently 55% of Americans haven’t been watching Palin’s shennanigans back in her home state. From long before Troopergate to the present day, Palin has found herself treading an ethical line, and often stepping right across it without a second thought. On October 26, the ex-governor submitted her final set of financial disclosure documents to the Alaska Public Offices Commission. And if nobody had been looking, that unremarkable partly-hand written submission would doubtless have passed into history and gone to that great big pile of government documents in the sky. But one thing that Palin has done for the state of Alaska, is awaken a sleeping giant - the citizen watchdog. Thanks to her questionable ethics, there is now an entire pack of them who pay close attention to the things that might otherwise pass under the radar. Remember those pesky bloggers and ethics complainers and ankle-biters that Palin claimed had driven her out of office? Them. Blue Oasis blogger Linda Kellen Biegel has been keeping an eagle eye on Palin’s financial disclosures, and has come up with an excellent analysis of the current situation. She lays out some pretty compelling evidence (below) that “honest and trustworthy” may not in fact be the most accurate description of the ex-governor or the ex-First Dude. Sarah Palin filed her final POFD (Public Officer Financial Disclosure) on time according to APOC (Alaska Public Offices Commission) rules. However, the document was less than thorough. In Part One , we talked about how Palin failed to disclose a trust worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In Part Two, we’ll look at the evidence that proves Sarah Palin is being less-than-truthful about Arctic Cat and Todd’s other Iron Dog sponsors. The whole “Arctic Cat” issue began with: — the ethics complaint I filed against Sarah Palin with the Personnel Board, — its subsequent dismissal and –my attempt at an appeal . This all led to a simple question asked by Andree McLeod during public testimony at an APOC meeting: You (Sarah Palin) have reported a “discount on snow machines” by Arctic Cat for Todd Palin. Was this discount exercised during calendar year 2008 and what was the amount of it? Ms. McLeod was referring to Palin’s Financial Disclosure for calendar year 2008 . The only thing disclosed as coming from the Arctic Cat sponsorship was a “50% discount” on a snowmachine and no actual monetary figure was included. This violates APOC’s requirement that anything over $1,000.00 needs to include the value if it was higher than $1,000.00. As a result, APOC sent that question in the form of a “letter of inquiry” to Sarah Palin and received a response back claiming the amount of the snowmachine discount was “50% of the factory cost” and was therefore a “trade secret.” APOC rejected that claim and gave Palin a deadline to report the information. Palin/Van Flein responded , now claiming ignorance as to the details of the contract, even though some of the details were revealed in the previous letter and even more of the contract details were shared in this one. For example: -The racers receive their Arctic wear for free while for others (through them) it was 50% discount and, -Todd Palin receives a “sponsorship fee.” The APOC Staff made a recommendation , somehow coming to the conclusion that Palin had “revealed enough.” The Commission rather soundly rejected the staff recommendation during their September meeting and instead tasked them with finding out even more information from the Palins, including the amount of the “sponsorship fee” described in the last letter from Van Flein/Palin to the APOC. This is where the investigation of last year’s Financial Disclosure form stands at this moment. This brings us back to Monday’s “Final” Financial Disclosure. Regarding the Iron Dog and sponsorship benefits for the Palins–according to the paperwork, the only mention of ANYTHING Iron Dog (other than listing Todd’s “winnings” as $3,500.00) is identifying Arctic Cat as a sponsor. The only monetary value: “Arctic Cat discount on snowmachines is $3,252.00″. So, the Palin’s are claiming that the extent of Arctic Cat sponsorship value to Todd Palin is $3,252. That’s an interesting figure for a few reasons: 1) On Palin’s Financial Disclosure for calendar year 2007 , she lists the total value of the Arctic Cat sponsorship as $7,500.00 . That was the year that Davis/Palin won the Iron Dog and the rewards for that win should have been reaped during the 2008 race…the year that Palin failed to attach ANY monetary value to the Arctic Cat sponsorship. 2008 was also the year that Sarah was the Republican VP candidate. The Palins are asking us to believe that the value of the Arctic Cat sponsorship has GONE DOWN by over $4,000.00 AFTER their latest win and the former-Gov’s new national stature? 2) They have still dodged listing that pesky “sponsorship fee” that already has them under investigation for last year’s POFD. During the September APOC meeting, the other Commissioners were enlightened by Commissioner Frederick, a lawyer from Wasilla who also happens to be “musher savvy” about sponsorships: When discussion ensued, Commissioner Frederick asked a list of salient questions based on the the most recent letter:–The second paragraph states that: “In addition, the company pays a sponsorship fee and gives Team Arctic Wear to the Racing Team.” Frederick explained that she had not really noticed that line before and in the discussion, proceeded to explain that sponsorship fees as high as $40,000 and $50,000 are not unheard of, especially considering the winning record and the high-profile of the Davis/Palin team. When asked if Palin/Van Flein had ever revealed that amount, Jerry Anderson admitted they had not. I believe that this non-disclosure may turn out to be by far the most significant. 3) As low-ball as the disclosed Arctic Cat figure may be, it is still higher than the $1,000. requirement for APOC disclosure. Remember, Palin did not disclose a monetary figure for Arctic Cat for Calendar Year 2008, giving the impression that their monetary value was under $1,000.00. In other words, we would have to believe that the snowmachine Todd Palin used last year in 2008, the year after his Iron Dog win would have been much lower quality than the one they used in 2009. 4) The Palin’s are attempting to pass off their sponsorship discounts as the actual “value” of the item. This is not correct. In the instructions on filling out the POFD form, Section #6 is for listing “other income” and Section #7 is for “gifts.” The instructions for “other income” state: “Report the source and amount of any other income over $1,000 not reported elsewhere.” However, the section on “gifts” states: “Type, source & value of gifts worth over $250. Include multiple gifts from one source if they exceed $250.” Sponsorship actually combines the two. A sponsorship deal includes a substantially discounted price for merchandise in exchange for the high-profile advertising of the successful race team. The actual retail value of the mechandise is the income being exchanged . In other words, they should be listing the “value” of the snowmachine as income, not the 50% they didn’t have to pay after the price was already lowered to the factory cost per the contract (that Palin claims she has never seen)! The extremely low monetary value listed for the Arctic Cat sponsorship AND the absence of any other sponsorship names defies logic in comparison to the past two POFD’s and for the other reasons listed above. It also flies in the face of all evidence pointing to Davis/Palin having recently hit sponsorship gold…or maybe platinum according to the sponsorship levels on their website . Per Sports Illustrated : Some Iron Doggers have spent upwards of $30,000 to finance a once-in-a-lifetime run into the wild heart of Alaska. Tapping their credit cards, they’ve shelled out $10,000 each for a 2009 snow machine, $10,000 more for an identical training sled , $2,500 for the race entry fee and a few thousand more for trailing airplane support. Palin and Davis, in contrast, have spent almost nothing. They are prodigiously sponsored, with their names monogrammed in script on their matching Arctic Cat jackets. (Palin even has the names of his five kids and his wife, SARAH, THE GOV, appliquéd on his snow machine hood.) They give inspirational speeches at trade shows. They are both adored and reviled. They are the New York Yankees of snow machining. That one paragraph says so much, but I’d like to call your attention to the comment about the training sled. Again, per Sports Illustrated: Behold Todd Palin’s snow machine, dangling from a truck’s winch in the icy gray murk of an Alaskan winter morning. The machine is gleaming, new, scarcely ridden. “Scarcely ridden”…which would indicate he either a) doesn’t train much or b) he has another machine to train on. We know the former isn’t true, per People : During each of the past 14 years, Todd has spent nearly two months training up to five hours a day for the 2,000-mile Iron Dog marathon. “He wouldn’t do it if the family wasn’t behind him,” says Davis. …and… “Todd has been training a couple of hundred miles a day to get ready,” Todd’s racing partner, Scott Davis, a seven-time winner of the Iron Dog told PEOPLE. “We’re ready.” Additionally, we have a picture from the Davis-Palin website . In a photo gallery titled “2009″ I found a picture of these three identical Arctic Cat snowmachines (the ones they used during the Iron Dog 2009) at Scott Davis’s place in Soldotna. That’s two for the race and one…errrr…extra? I suspect there are four but the fourth one is not in the picture. Luckily, Men’s Journal can explain it to us: Davis owns a major construction company with lucrative state contracts, and this building - a kind of gearhead paradise, Alaska Rich Guy Version - is the reward, with a 40-foot mobile home parked along one wall, a shiny four-wheel ATV, and room for Davis’s dozen snowmobiles, or, as the locals call them, “snowmachines.” Four new ones - identical Arctic Cat F6s - take up the main work area, two for Davis, a seven-time Iron Dog winner himself, and two for Palin. Did anyone see a “training sled” listed on the POFD? Other benefits caught by the media are a winch, a really nice trailer, and an Arctic Cat mechanic, per Sports Illustrated: And then, a few hours later, Alaska’s First Couple flies home to Wasilla, to resume normal life. Todd goes to his daughter Willow’s basketball game. He tinkers with the boiler down in the basement, changes a water filter, and then gets together with Calvin Nolan, the Arctic Cat mechanic, to nail down what, exactly, went wrong. There is also nothing mentioned on the POFD about transportation to speaking engagements or even the air and ground support costs on the Iron Dog Trail…hmmmm… Remember… ” Palin and Davis, in contrast, have spent almost nothing. They are prodigiously sponsored…” And while we’ve been rightly questioning the true extent of the Arctic Cat sponsorship, let’s not neglect to mention that Davis/Palin has MANY sponsors who reach the Silver, Gold or Platinum levels on their website . Of course, all financial information is devoid from the site however, you can tell who is at least at the “Silver” level by whose logo is actually at the top of the page. Esquire Magazine , however, may have provided us with another sponsorship clue during their description of Davis/Palin getting the sleds ready for the 2009 race: They’ve fitted them with additional gas tanks, sawed off pounds of extraneous metal and plastic, swapped in new Öhlins shocks, and made hundreds of other tiny tweaks and adjustments. The Öhlins cost about $2,500 a set, but they’re worth it. You do this long enough and you learn where to scrimp and where to splurge. I doubt there was any serious “splurging” going on since, if you check their website, Ohlins is at least a Silver sponsor of the team. More interestingly, even if their sponsorship agreement is the same as Arctic Cat, 50% off, that still puts those shocks over the $1000 disclosure amount ! Where are they on the POFD form? How many of the rest of those Silver, Gold and Platinum sponsors should be listed in the disclosure? I think this post, and my previous one talking about the trust worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that got left off the form, have made it extremely clear that what Sarah Palin tries to pass off as “disclosure” is simply a slap in the face to Alaskans. She may have attempted to follow the laws before her VP Candidacy but shows no sign of it anymore. She could potentially believe that no one can/will hold her accountable or maybe she just doesn’t care, as she has no intention of paying any fines even if they were to be levied against her. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. The media she accused of “makin’ stuff up” seems to have uncovered a bunch of “stuff” that she was leaving out. Photos can be viewed at Blue Oasis That’s some pretty fancy equipment. More on Sarah Palin
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Jeanne Devon ("AKMuckraker"): Palin’s Non-Disclosure - Quit Leavin’ Stuff Out!
T-minus 5 days until Election Night 2009…. VA-Gov: McDonnell Maintains Lead As Campaign Heads Into Home Stretch Two new polls today (one of which was our own DK/R2K poll) confirm that Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell has a double-digit lead over Democratic state senator Creigh Deeds in the final days of the Virginia gubernatorial campaign. In addition to the Daily Kos poll (which has Bob McDonnell staked to a 54-44 lead), a new poll from in-state (specifically, from Roanoke College), gives the Republican a sixteen-point lead (55-39). Downballot, it also gives Republicans double-digit leads for the two other constitutional offices up for grabs (although both GOP candidates are under 50%), and gives Republicans a ten-point edge on the generic legislative ballot. In campaign news, the Deeds campaign gets another high-profile assist as they try to reverse a possibly insurmountable deficit. President Barack Obama, who made an in-person appearance for Deeds earlier in the week, has penned an appeal for the Democratic nominee which will be sent to over 300,000 Virginia households on the weekend before the election. NJ-Gov: Christie Now Daring Jon Corzine to Call Him Fat Amid a polling collapse that might actually deny him the office that seemed to be his for the taking over the summer, Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie has decided to become single-minded on the big issue of the day: Democratic Governor Jon Corzine mocking his girth . On an appearance with Don Imus this morning, he challenged Governor Corzine to “man up” and just call him fat. Christie, of course, is referencing a now-famous Corzine ad where Corzine accused the corpulent former prosecutor of “throwing his weight around” in order to escape punishment for some vehicular travesties. As reported earlier in the day on DK, two polls were released out of the Garden State. The DK/R2K poll had Christie clinging with his fingernails to a lead of a single point (42-41-14), while Democracy Corps (PDF) had the incumbent, Jon Corzine, up by five (43-38-12). At the end of the day, SurveyUSA chimed in with numbers of their own: they have it tied (43-43-11). Perhaps tellingly, Corzine is leading quite handily among the 11% of the electorate that has already voted (45-37-8). NY-23: More Republicans Turn Their Back on the GOP Nominee Perhaps inspired by this morning’s release of the new DK/R2K polling which showed the Republican nominee (DeDe Scozzafava) circling the drain , a host of new Republican luminaries have lined up behind third party candidate Doug Hoffman. The septet of GOP Congressman now backing Hoffman reads like a “Who’s Who” of batshit crazy Republicanism–among the horde are Paul Broun (GA), Steve King (AZ), and Trent Franks (AZ). Franks, in an email sent out Thursday, smacked Scozzafava for being “radically out of the mainstream on issues that constitute the core of the Republican Party’s principles.” Late in the day today, Hoffman also got another high-profile right-wing endorsement, as Texas Governor Rick Perry gave his nod to the right-wing Independent as well. Today’s poll here at Daily Kos gave Democrat Bill Owens a lead of a single point over Hoffman, while Scozzafava lagged far behind. It seems likely that we will hear from two additional pollsters over the weekend, as PPP has already confirmed that they will poll the race this weekend, while Siena would seem to be a likely candidate as well (since they polled the race earlier). IN OTHER NEWS… I have finally taken the plunge. You can now find me on Twitter . A day after Dick Cheney endorsed his rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Texas, Rick Perry got a high-profile endorsement of his own: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour . Anyone who thinks that Illinois GOP Senate candidate (and purported moderate) Mark Kirk isn’t nervous about a Marco Rubio-esque primary challenge, ought to see how he is kicking off his campaign . It becomes harder for the New Mexico GOP to find a path to victory in the gubernatorial race upon hearing this news: former Congresswoman Heather Wilson will spend the 2010 election cycle on the sidelines. It looks like Vermont Democrats might cross Lake Champlain in the coming days to offer some manpower to Bill Owens . Most presidential aspirants would give their right arm to go to Iowa in the dead of winter and start to make connections with the critical caucus-state voters. Sarah Palin? She wants a six-figure speaking fee to come.
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Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 10/29/09
Six days to go until Election Night 2009…. NJ-Gov: New Quinnipiac Poll Gives Corzine Modest Lead In Tuesday’s edition of the Wrap , I noted that with polls emanating out of the Garden State being all over the map, we might get some clarity today when Quinnipiac, whose polling in New Jersey is pretty well respected, gave us their new numbers. Well, those numbers arrived this morning, and they were excellent news for the Democrats. Incumbent Governor Jon Corzine, according to the Q poll, has moved out to a five-point lead over Republican Chris Christie (43-38), with Independent Chris Daggett polling at 13% of the vote. Like most pollsters have found, Quinnipiac finds Daggett, a former Republican, doing slightly more damage to Christie than to Corzine (remember that yesterday PPP implied that Daggett’s presence was actually hurting the incumbent more). Meanwhile, we can see quite a contrast in who each candidate is leaning on for surrogate support. Former President Bill Clinton came to the state yesterday on behalf of Governor Corzine. Chris Christie, this upcoming weekend, will be getting a hand from ultra-conservative (and ill-mannered) Congressman Joe Wilson (he of “You Lie!” fame). Christie, in a nod to campaign optics and the political reality of his state, will not appear at the rally in person, which is apparently a teabagger-esque event to promote his candidacy. VA-Gov: Deeds Still Struggling, According to Pair of New Polls Creigh Deeds had the vocal support of President Obama this week, but he is still struggling to find campaign traction, according to two new polls that were released today. One caveat–the Obama visit was after one of these polls was conducted. Amid Obama’s visit, Rasmussen polled the state, and gave McDonnell a thirteen-point lead (54-41). An earlier poll, conducted late last week by Virginia Commonwealth University (PDF File) , was even more bullish about McDonnell’s prospects, putting him ahead 54-36 among likely voters. Neither of these new surveys polled the downticket races, where recent polling has also given the GOP big leads. NY-23: MoveOn Jumps Into the Race, And New Polling Coming Soon Encouraging their loyalists to “defeat Sarah Palin…again”, the crew over at MoveOn are entreating their followers to become invested in the special election next week to replace GOP Congressman John McHugh in upstate New York’s 23rd Congressional District. Pointing out that Palin and other right-wing luminaries have backed the third-party candidacy of Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman, MoveOn is encouraging its supporters to back moderate Democrat Bill Owens. Recent internal polling by two right-wing interest groups hint that Hoffman has moved into the lead in that race. This, of course, contradicted a public poll conducted late last week by Research 2000 for DK which had Democrat Bill Owens up five over Republican DeDe Scozzafava (whose weak effort is putting her at risk of becoming an afterthought in this campaign). For those who do not trust internal polling, fear not! Because….. ELECTION 2009: Daily Kos/Research 2000 In the Field With New Polls! With only a few shopping days left until the curtain closes on the 2009 electoral cycle, Daily Kos wants to give its readers one last look at the landscape. With the able assistance of our polling partners at Research 2000, we are taking one final set of surveys in all of the 2009 battlegrounds: New Jersey, Virginia, Maine, and the New York 23rd District . Expect to start to see some numbers in the next day or so. PA-Sen/PA-Gov: Specter Leads Narrowly, According to F&M New data emerges today from the Keystone State, as Franklin and Marshall polls the 2010 political battles in Pennsylvania . Based on the data we see, it appears to be a safe guess that the polling team at F&M does not push leaners, even a little tiny bit. On the Senate side, incumbent Democrat Arlen Specter is still struggling in the Democratic primary against Congressman Joe Sestak, although this poll does give him a twelve point edge (30-18). In the general election, Specter has a narrow lead over presumptive GOP nominee Patrick Toomey (33-31), while Toomey leads Sestak (28-20). The polling on the gubernatorial side is scarcely worth mentioning, since the poll has 62% of the GOP field undecided and 69% of the Democratic field undecided (Republican Tom Corbett and Democrat Dan Onorato are out front, FWIW). CT-Gov: Internal Poll Hints At Potentially Competitive Race Apparently, the sour mood directed at the governors of America, who get to make few good decisions in their executive roles lately, has even extended to governors previously thought to be immune to political pain. The campaign of Democrat Susan Bysiewicz is talking up an internal poll that has her within striking distance of Republican Governor Jodi Rell (47-41). Earlier polls, iuncluding some public polling, had Bysiewicz out in front of the Democratic field. A Quinnipiac poll last winter had her up 30+ points on Dan Malloy. IN OTHER NEWS…. Another major pollster, in this case NBC News pairing with the conservative Wall Street Journal, have Democrats leading (PDF file) on the generic ballot test by a margin (8 points) similar to 2008. Expect right-wingers to make hay out of the 17% Republican self-identification, even though it is quite possibly true and largely irrelevant. Speaking of national polls, a new one from CNN is not good news for America’s Sweetheart –less than one-in-three Americans think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president. Even Republicans are split around 50/50 on the question. Dick Cheney emerges from…wherever he was…to make an endorsement in his real home state of Texas: he prefers Kay Bailey Hutchison to Rick Perry in the pending GOP Clash of the Titans primary for Governor. It looks like a potentially vulnerable GOP freshman Congressman might be about to get an opponent. Psychiatrist Maureen Hackett is looking at challenging Erik Paulsen, who won just 48% of the vote in Minnesota’s 3rd district. Potentially well-funded state senator Terri Bonoff is also said to be contemplating a run. Obviously a few good quarters of fundraising and campaign-building has paid off for NH-02 Democratic candidate Ann McLane Kuster. She won the endorsement of Emilys List today. Could South Dakota’s Republican Senator, John Thune, be facing a candidate named McGovern next year? National Journal says it might happen–in the person of Mark McGovern, the grandson of longtime SD Senator and 1972 Presidential aspirant George McGovern. Pollster Tom Jensen of PPP seems to echo a point I made this weekend on Sunday Kos –not all Independents are created equal. A lot of them are former Republicans who can no longer in good conscience admit to being Republicans. Something to think about the next time you see some Beltway pundit talking about the GOP “reclaiming the middle” because they are leading among Independents in some poll
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Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 10/28/09
CAZENOVIA, N.Y. — Prominent Republicans like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin are bucking the GOP to back a conservative candidate for a House seat in New York, opting to defend what they see as pure party ideology even if it means helping a Democrat win. Pawlenty, Palin, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, former Sen. Fred Thompson and others are supporting conservative nominee Doug Hoffman, not Republican nominee Dierdre Scozzafava, in Tuesday’s special election in the rural, heavily Republican 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York. Republicans haven’t lost here in more than a century, but the schism is opening the way for Democratic nominee Bill Owens. An Oct. 15 survey by Siena College, taken before all the high-profile endorsements, showed Owens with 33 percent, Scozzafava with 29 percent and Hoffman with 23 percent. The poll of 617 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. “I’m fighting for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” Hoffman told The Associated Press. “I believe the people in Washington, and the overwhelming response that I’ve been getting nationally from individuals, is showing that a lot of people feel like it’s time for the Republican Party to go back to its base.” Scozzafava spokesman Matt Burns said: “Everybody who has endorsed Doug Hoffman has something in common with him, and that is that none of them live in the district.” The potential for Owens to win while Hoffman and Scozzafava split conservative votes worries former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who says a vote against Scozzafava and other liberal-leaning Republicans will ensure a Democratic majority for a long time. “If you seek to be a perfect minority, you’ll remain a minority,” Gingrich said in a written statement. “That’s not how Reagan built his revolution or how we won back the House in 1994.” Conservative voters argue that Scozzafava, a state assemblywoman, is too liberal because of her support of abortion rights and same-sex marriage and her votes for higher spending on New York’s state budget. The backing of several possible 2012 presidential contenders has boosted Hoffman, and money from all over the country has been pouring into his campaign. By staking out support with the conservative candidate, presidential hopefuls like Palin and Pawlenty can send an early a message to voters about which direction they want to lead the GOP. “America’s in trouble,” Thompson, a presidential candidate last year, said in an ad with a decidedly Ronald Reagan appeal. “Big government. High taxes. Deficits. Broken promises. … We can send Washington a message.” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who recently served as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, responsible for recruiting candidates to carry the GOP’s flag, also has endorsed Hoffman. “Doug Hoffman is right on the critical issues facing America – and he is the only Republican who can win this special election,” Cole said in a written statement. The divided high-profile Republicans reflect a competition for the allegiance of party activists, said John Pitney, a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College in California and a former staffer for the House Republican Research Committee and the Republican National Committee. “This one race by itself isn’t going to be decisive, but it’s a way for some of the conservative figures in the party to reinforce their credentials,” Pitney said. Big endorsements are what help candidates like Hoffman raise money, according to Pitney, but they are not hugely influential to voters walking into the polls on Election Day. “Endorsements don’t mean nearly as much as the endorsers like to think,” he said. More on GOP
MSNBC’s First Read : the GOP’s brand is still a mess. According to the poll, just 25% have a positive opinion of the party (compared with 42% for the Dem Party), which ties the GOP’s low-water mark in the survey and which is a worse score than it ever had during the Bush presidency. (Honest question: Can the party still blame Bush for their problems if their numbers have gotten lower since he left the scene?) In addition, only 23% approve of the way in which congressional Republicans have handled health care (compared with 43% for Obama). And looking ahead to the 2010 midterms, 46% prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 38% who want a GOP-controlled Congress. Last month, Dems held a 43 advantage. Also, don’t miss this: Despite being out of office and (relatively) out of the news, Sarah Palin’s fav/unfav in our poll has dropped from 32 in July to 27 now. In fact, her numbers now are nearly identical to Nancy Pelosi’s (26). By the way, both Palin and Pelosi are more popular than the Republican Party. Here’s the full WSJ/NBC poll (PDF). Yes, the more the GOP ties into the Glenn Beck/teabagging crowd, the worse its numbers get. It’s a point that we’ve been making repeatedly for some time, and it’s nice to see this starting to bleed into old media. And while MSNBC still doesn’t seem to get it, because their polling doesn’t ask it, the GOP is in even worse shape because what scant favorability it enjoys comes mostly from their rump regional base in the South. From our own polling: Republican Party favorability Fav Unfav All 21 67 South 48 37 NE 6 87 Midwest 10 78 West 12 75 That may be a good sign for the GOP’s chances in Southern races, but Republicans outside of their stronghold have an uphill battle against their own party’s brand. It’s noxious, and it’ll be difficult to make gains in 2010 if your efforts to drag down your opponent’s numbers aren’t matched with efforts to raise your own. Since January 8, Dems have gone from +8 net favorability to -10 — an 18-point drop. Republicans have gone from -28 to -46 — an 18 point drop. And really, I’d rather be the party at -10 than the one at -46. Yet it’s the Republicans prematurely chortling about their big 2010 victories. Such a funny, funny group of people.
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The GOP brand
Crazed teabagging and screaming townhall meetings notwithstanding, the Republicans and rightwing have never been so thoroughly distrusted and even despised by the bulk of the electorate. A smaller percentage of people nationally trust Republicans to solve their problems than there are dentists who do not recommend Crest®. In Washington State, this identity crisis was first displayed in the 2008 Gubernatorial campaign. The Republican candidate, Dino Rossi, had lost to Democrat, Christine Gregoire, in 2004 by 127 votes, requiring a third recount and a court case before it was finally resolved. During that campaign, Rossi tried to hide his rightwing views, but not his identity as a Republican. In 2008, he eschewed the Republican label, and ran as “GOP Party”. It didn’t work; he lost again, this time by a comfortable margin. Over the last 35 years the rightwing built up an alternative universe of ” belief tanks ” and media that relentlessly hammered their opinions, often disguised as facts. Democrats still, for the most part, do not know how to respond effectively, but the internet has blunted and exposed rightwing lies, so that they do not work nearly as well as they did even five years ago. When John Kerry lost in 2004, for example, Facebook did not even exist, and Twitter was not even a gleaming tweet in someone’s eye. The radical rightwing never gives up. Instead of trying to win by speaking to issues people really care about, however, they have decided to go even more deeply undercover . The tactic may be called, “Going Stealth”. Here is how it works. A group of wealthy, rightwing zealots offered a benign-sounding charter amendment so that the King County Executive race would be “non-partisan”. It seemed like a pleasant, soothing antidote to the bitterness of modern political fisticuffs, and passed easily. [Admission: I may have even voted for it myself!]. King County has a larger budget than 13 of the states, so this is not an insignificant position, and may be the most progressive, environmentally conscious county in the country. They then selected a person with high name recognition, with zero experience–a former TV news anchor, Susan Hutchison, whose political views were largely kept under wraps while she was on the air, but are quite similar to Sarah Palin’s , although Palin has far more experience. So, the candidates are not known by their political affiliations, because the new law says there are to be none. That removes the shorthand busy people use to determine their votes, and in a progressive county would be a nearly automatic win for the Democrat. Additionally, Hutchison says nearly nothing about her views, spouting only homilies about cutting waste from government (she’s never done it). Finally, the demise of one of our two local newspapers–who themselves had quite different political slants–removes any drama that would cause people to look closely at just who Susan Hutchison really is–e.g., she supports the Discovery Institute that believes creationism should be taught in public schools as science under the guise of ” academic freedom .” The “Going Stealth” bet: win on name recognition by keeping her views unknown, and the race uninteresting. This is not so much the threat of a person with whom one profoundly disagrees getting elected, that is what democracy is about. It is more the threat of this campaign tactic being used to enable a victory for a person who, if the right labels and information had been available, would not have had a snowballs chance on our melting glacier of being elected. That is, the word “stealth” contains within it the word “steal”. Hopefully, it is not too late. Local bloggers have awakened. Local radio programs are beginning to comment upon it. Young people have been composing homemade campaign ads (some even better than the pros), and posting them on YouTube. ( Robber Barons and Dinosaurs, Kids and Elephants ). But, “Going Stealth” has a chance of working. Expect to see it popping up in your local elections as well. Forewarned is forearmed. More on Sarah Palin
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Paul Abrams: New Rightwing "Dirty Tricks" Campaign Tactic Being Tested in Washington State
In the House, courtesy of the Office of the Majority Leader: FLOOR SCHEDULE FOR TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2009 House Meets At… 10:30 a.m.: Morning Hour 12:00 p.m.: Legislative Business First Vote Predicted… 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Last Vote Predicted… 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. “One Minutes” (Unlimited) Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 2996 - Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (Rep. Dicks – Appropriations) Suspensions (4 Bills) H.Res. 838 - Welcoming to the United States and to Washington, DC, His All Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch on his upcoming trip on October 20, 2009, through November 6, 2009 (Rep. Bilirakis - Foreign Affairs) H.Res. 784 - Honoring the 2560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius and recognizing his invaluable contributions to philosophy and social and political thought (Rep. Al Green - Foreign Affairs) S.Con.Res. 45 - A concurrent resolution encouraging the Government of Iran to allow Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd to reunite with their families in the United States as soon as possible (Sen. Specter - Foreign Affairs) H.Res. 831 - Supporting the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month by promoting national awareness of adoption and the children in foster care awaiting families, celebrating children and families involved in adoption, recognizing current programs and efforts designed to promote adoption, and encouraging people in the United States to seek improved safety, permanency, and well-being for all children (Rep. Brown-Waite - Ways and Means) Conference Reports may be brought up at any time. Motions to go to Conference should they become available. Possible Motions to Instruct Conferees. In the Senate, courtesy of the Office of the Majority Leader: Convenes: 10:00am Morning business for 60 minutes. The Republicans will control the first 30 minutes and the Majority will control final 30 minutes. Following morning business, debate the nomination of Irene Cornelia Berger, of West Virginia, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia. Recess from 12:30 until 2:15pm for caucus luncheons. 2:20pm vote on confermation of nomination. Upon disposition of nomination, resume morning business. 5:30pm resume motion to proceed to H.R.3548 . 6:30pm cloture vote on the motion to proceed to H.R.3548 , the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009. Short floor schedule for the House today, with just four suspensions and a motion to instruct conferees on the Interior appropriations bill. The instructions, remember, are technically non-binding. Keep that in mind as we approach dealing with the health insurance reform bills. All eyes will be on the conference process, and there will no doubt be attempts to instruct the conferees. You may well see a Republican motion with either a poison pill or something inspired by their general wingnut-ism come to a vote and actually pass. Why? Because such motions are an opportunity to force an annoying or embarrassing vote, but are also non-binding. So very often, rather than cast the principled vote and let that be used in attack ads, Dems will vote with Republicans to make the issue go away, knowing that the instructions are non-binding and will be ignored. Not my favorite move, but there it is. In the Senate, a judicial nomination (a process that to no one’s surprise, Republicans are slowing down again ) and a cloture vote on the motion to proceed on the unemployment extension bill. That finally puts Republicans on the spot and forces them to either own up to being insensitive jerks, or admit that they’ve just been screwing around for political reasons when they blocked the bill from coming to the floor before (three times, thank you very much). The latest block, by the way, came yesterday, as Harry Reid tried one more time to get unanimous consent to bring the bill up clean, with no amendments. Republicans refused. Why? Because they insist on bringing yet another ACORN defunding amendment. I think we’ve defunded ACORN about four dozen times now, but like putting on a diaper and visiting a prostitute, this apparently never gets old for David Vitter. Full committee schedule appears below. Be sure to check out the House Financial Services Committee today as they mark up yet more financial regulatory reform legislation, and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as they consider their climate change and green jobs bill.
Today in Congress
BERKELEY, Calif. — The families of three Americans being held in Iran plan to release video footage that they say proves the three were simply on vacation and had no underhand intentions when they strayed across the border. Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, have been detained since July 31. They apparently crossed into Iran by accident while hiking in a scenic area in northern Iraq. They have been visited by Swiss diplomats, who oversee U.S. interests in Iran, but have had no contact with their families. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said last week that investigators are still questioning the three and that their fate rests with judicial authorities. Mottaki gave no other details on the case. But his comments suggested that formal charges could still be possible against the Americans, although Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that he could ask the judiciary to “take a look at the case with maximum leniency.” One of the videos, set for release on YouTube Tuesday, shows Fattal performing an impromptu rap song – “Yo, it’s hot/It’s ‘cos I’m in Iraq.” – against a backdrop of the city of Irbil in Iraq. A second video shows Fattal, Bauer and Shourd dancing in an unfinished cinder block building. “These kids were on vacation. They were just traveling; they were having a good time,” Nora Shourd, Shourd’s mother, said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s obvious they’re on vacation. This makes it real clear that they were there having fun,” said Bauer’s mother, Cindy Hickey, who lives in eastern Minnesota. “This is a carefree attitude and not an attitude of someone that was meaning to do harm.” Laura Fattal said the videos showed her son looking well and fit – “on top of his game.” But it was hearing his voice that really affected her. “It took me aback,” Fattal said. “I said, ‘That’s really Josh. And I really haven’t heard from him.’ When you hear a voice, that pulls at your heart strings.” As for his rapping ability, Fattal said, “Of course I think he’s adorable.” More importantly, she said, the two videos show “the harmless nature of all three of them.” Fattal, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park, said she and the other two mothers traveled to the United Nations Iranian mission in New York on Oct. 15 to deliver a petition signed by more than 2,500 people asking that the hikers be released. Iranian authorities have had nearly three months to question the hikers, Fattal said, and “I can’t imagine what else they’re expecting to hear.” The videos were made two days before the hikers were detained. They were shot by Shon Meckfessel, a fourth American on the trip who did not go hiking with the others because he was feeling ill. Shourd, Bauer and Fattal are friends who all graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. Bauer had been living in Damascus, Syria, with Shourd, his girlfriend. Fattal went to visit them after traveling overseas on a teaching fellowship with the International Honors Program. Watching the videos has been bittersweet, Hickey said. “It was kind of fun to see that they were having fun and they were being kids. “But it also made me really wonder why they’re still being held. It made me miss Shane even more.” Nora Shourd, who lives in Oakland, said she’s watched the videos “50 times already.” “It’s wonderful to see them. It’s wonderful to see Sarah dancing and they’re really having a good time,” she said. “But then I feel the opposite, which is – Why in the world are they sitting in a jail in Iran?” ___ Associated Press Writer Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia contributed to this story. ___ Family Web site, including link to videos: http://freethehikers.org/ More on Iran
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Families Of US Hikers Held In Iran To Release Video
As you most likely have heard, Sarah Palin has a book coming out entitled Going Rogue . But Palin isn’t just “going rogue” or “writing rogue”. She’s “living rogue”. Because what can be more rogue than going on the TV show of one of President Obama’s biggest supporters? Well, that’s exactly what Sarah Palin is doing. She will be appearing on the Monday, November 16th Oprah Winfrey Show. And as you can see from this exclusive clip, you can expect fireworks. Take a look. More on Satire
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Matthew Filipowicz: Exclusive Preview Of Oprah’s Interview With Sarah Palin
In the House, courtesy of the Office of the Majority Leader: First Vote of the Week… Monday 6:30 p.m. Last Vote Predicted… Friday p.m. MONDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2009 On Monday, the House will meet at 12:30 p.m. for Morning Hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m. Suspensions (9 Bills) H.R. 2489 - AmericaView Geospatial Imagery Mapping Program Act (Rep. Herseth Sandlin - Natural Resources) H.R. 1471 - To expand the boundary of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in the State of Georgia, to redesignate the unit as a National Historical Park, and for other purposes. (Rep. Bishop (GA) - Natural Resources) H.R. 2806 - To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to adjust the boundary of the Stephen Mather Wilderness and the North Cascades National Park in order to allow the rebuilding of a road outside of the floodplain while ensuring that there is no net loss of acreage to the Park or the Wilderness (Rep. Hastings (WA) - Natural Resources) H.R. 1641 - Cascadia Marine Trail Study Act (Rep. Inslee - Natural Resources) H.Res. 854 - Recognizing Weber State University for the 120th anniversary of its founding as an institution of higher education (Rep. Bishop (UT) - Education and Labor) H.Res. 368 - Congratulating the University of Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling team on winning the 2009 NCAA Division I National Wrestling Championships (Rep. Loebsack - Education and Labor) H.Res. 562 - Congratulating Syracuse University for winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Men’s Lacrosse Tournament (Rep. Maffei - Education and Labor) H.Res. 824 - Congratulating the Northwestern University Wildcats on winning the 2009 NCAA women’s lacrosse championship, and to commend Northwestern University for its pursuit of athletic and academic excellence (Rep. Schakowsky - Education and Labor) H.Res. 817 - Supporting the goals and ideals of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Congress should continue to raise awareness of domestic violence in the United States and its devastating effects on families and communities, and support programs designed to end domestic violence (Rep. Al Green – Education and Labor) TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2009 AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK On Tuesday, the House will meet at 10:30 a.m. for Morning Hour debate and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for legislative business. On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Suspensions (10 Bills) H.Res. 790 - Supporting the goals and ideals of a national day of remembrance on October 30, 2009, for American nuclear weapons program workers and uranium miners, millers, and haulers (Rep. Berkley - Oversight and Government Reform) H.Res. 568 - Recognizing the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (Rep. Capito - Oversight and Government Reform) H.Res. 783 - Recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month and celebrating the vast contributions of Hispanic Americans to the strength and culture of the United States (Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart - Oversight and Government Reform) H.R. 3632 - Federal Judiciary Administrative Improvements Act of 2009 (Rep. Johnson (GA) - Judiciary) H.Con.Res. 177 - Raising the awareness of the need for crime prevention in communities across the country and expressing support for designation of October 1, 2009, through October 3, 2009, as “Celebrate Safe Communities” Week, and October as “Crime Prevention Month” (Rep. Reichert - Judiciary) H.Res. 838 - Welcoming to the United States and to Washington, DC, His All Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch on his upcoming trip on October 20, 2009, through November 6, 2009 (Rep. Bilirakis - Foreign Affairs) H.Res. 784 - Honoring the 2560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius and recognizing his invaluable contributions to philosophy and social and political thought (Rep. Al Green - Foreign Affairs) S.Con.Res. 45 - A concurrent resolution encouraging the Government of Iran to allow Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd to reunite with their families in the United States as soon as possible (Sen. Specter - Foreign Affairs) H.Res. 787 - Expressing support for designation of October 13, 2009, as National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day (Rep. DeLauro - Energy and Commerce) H.Res. 831 - Supporting the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month by promoting national awareness of adoption and the children in foster care awaiting families, celebrating children and families involved in adoption, recognizing current programs and efforts designed to promote adoption, and encouraging people in the United States to seek improved safety, permanency, and well-being for all children (Rep. Brown-Waite - Ways and Means) H.R. 3854 - Small Business Financing and Investment Act of 2009 (Rep. Schrader – Small Business) (Subject to a Rule) Conference Report on H.R. 2996 - Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (Rep. Dicks – Appropriations) (Subject to a Rule) H.J.Res. __ - Making Continuing Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2010, and for other purposes (Rep. Obey – Appropriations) (Subject to a Rule) Conference Reports may be brought up at any time. Motions to go to Conference should they become available. Possible Motions to Instruct Conferees. In the Senate, courtesy of the Office of the Majority Leader: Monday: Convenes: 2:00pm Morning Business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each. As previously announced, there will be no roll call votes during Monday’s session of the Senate. Next week the Majority Leader hopes to complete action on the Unemployment Insurance Extension Act, Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations, and Military Construction appropriations. The Senate also needs to act on a Continuing Resolution before the end of the week. Tuesday: 2:30pm Cloture vote on the motion to proceed to H.R.3548 , Unemployment Insurance Here comes that continuing resolution we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks. The current CR expires at the end of this week, so keeping the government funded and running requires a new one, at least for the areas of government for which there are appropriations bills yet to be passed. With an actual Monday start to the voting week (12:30 p.m., Morning Hour; 2:00 p.m.; Legislative Business), maybe we can knock off one or two of those bills this week before the CR comes to the floor. The Senate schedule is off to the usual slow Monday start, with a cloture vote on a motion to proceed to the unemployment benefits extension bill coming on Tuesday. Thanks for the push , Barb! The full committee schedule appears below, thanks again to Jeremy Koulish (aka optimo ) of Carrots & Sticks for his invaluable assistance in preparing it.
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This Week in Congress
Jack Johnson - En Concert In 2008, Jack Johnson toured the world with his Sleep Through The Static concerts, the best of these shows assembled for his new CD/DVD En Concert that captures quite a bit more than your average live album. Jack brings his beach-troubadour style to some of the great cities of Europe–Berlin, The Hague, Munich, Paris, Newquay, and London–with the help of an entourage of kindred souls featuring Adam Topol, Merlot Podlewski, Zach Gill, plus star appearances by G Love, Ben Harper, Mason Jennings, Neal Halstead, and Matt Costa. Eddie Vedder also makes the cut, his having taken the stage with Johnson at Bonnaroo, and Paul Fuga also jumps in for a performance of “Country Road.” Filmmaker Emmett Malloy seriously documents all the fun of their trip across the continent (and beyond), from performances to backstage rehearsals and banter, and from surfing to scenic Euro-exploration. The audiences go as bananas over Johnson and Co.’s shows as if they were U2 concerts, the band’s music as rhythmic and natural as if it were being played back home in Hawaii. The emphasis isn’t on jitter-camera captures, but instead, everything’s as smooth as Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax, the lens especially kind to Johnson’s various shades of five o’clock shadow. There are commentaries sprinkled about, off-stage antics, you know, all your standard fare. But it’s all kept very low key with no rock-star nonsense by surf-celebrator Malloy, whose stylish documentary elevates all of the tour’s nuances Endless Summer -style, with human moments outweighing grandeur and without the bro-chatter of the latter. Those personal moments–such as when the artist explains, “The songs we play are about love, and that makes people feel good…that’s how I explain it to my son…is that the theme of love is what attracts people”–sweetly counter grand Europic visuals with Johnson’s Seagull Soup For The Soul . With performances sequenced together from various shows, there are moments when it crosses over into Jackson Browne’s multi-venue Running On Empty territory, an audio document that also gave us many angles on what it was like for a mellow artist to be on tour. But especially on the CD portion, you don’t even notice as the venues fly by; instead, you just savor the loosey-goosey creative licenses taken that never give us jam band excesses, just occasional segues-for-the-hell-of-it like when Paul Simon’s “Mother And Child Reunion” is slipped onto “The Horizon Has Been Defeated.” With all its personality–like Johnson’s lone surfdog Red Rocks performance and overall slowed down groove-a-billy–this no-miss concert now becomes a don’t miss release with the vibe of an Hawaiian vacation spent in the old country. (Profits will go to Jack Johnson’s Kokua Hawaii Foundation and the Johnson Ohana Family Trust that endow various environmental projects.) Start Here : “If I Had Eyes” Tracks: CD 1. Belle / Banana Pancakes 2. If I Had Eyes 3. Do You Remember / Remember 4. Sleep Through The Static 5. Flake 6. Bubble Toes / Express Yourself 7. Wasting Time 8. What You Thought You Need 9. Country Road With Paula Fuga 10. Staple It Together 11. Sitting, Waiting, Wishing 12. Constellations With Eddie Vedder 13. The Horizon Has Been Defeated / Mother And Child Reunion 14. Good People 15. All At Once 16. Gone 17. Home 18. Times Like These 19. Angel / Better Together DVD 1. Intro (If I Had Eyes - 11 Seconds - Palais Omnisports, Bercy, Paris) 2. Sleep Through The Static (Palais Omnisports, Bercy, Paris) 3. Belle (Palais Omnisports, Bercy, Paris) 4. Banana Pancakes (Palais Omnisports, Bercy, Paris) 5. No Other Way (Olympia Reitanlage, Munich) 6. Good People (Olympia Reitanlage, Munich) 7. Staple It Together (Olympia Reitanlage, Munich) 8. Flake (The Hague, Amsterdam) 9. Bubbletoes (The Hague, Amsterdam) 10. Go On (Kindl-Buhne Wuhlheide, Berlin) 11. Constellations (Watergate Bay, Newquay, UK) 12. Hope (Hyde Park, London) 13. Wasting Time (Hyde Park, London) 14. Hi Tide, Low Tide (Hyde Park, London) 15. If I Had Eyes (Hyde Park for 3:00 Min then Paris for 1:23) 16. All At Once (Palais Omnisports, Bercy, Paris) 17. Angel / Better Together (Palais Omnisports, Bercy, Paris) 18. Monsoon (Palais Omnisports, Bercy, Paris) 19. Rainbow / Buddha (Palais Omnisports, Bercy, Paris) R.E.M. - Live At The Olympia Here’s an interesting approach: record an album and shoot a film centered around rehearsing songs that will be recorded for an album. Being a little Being John Malkovich are we? Not really, since the double disc comes off as yet another live outing, albeit it’s a good one. Overseen by Accelerate ’s co-producer Jacknife Lee, this release is the result of R.E.M. being holed-up in Dublin’s Olympia Theater from June 30 to July 5, 2007, and these CDs–with the DVD doc This Is Not A Show –do show a band’s creative process at work when it weighs audience feedback as its criteria for success. Of course, the sold-out, capacity crowds go nuts after virtually every performance, and the 39 songs of this “Experiment in Terror” (as Michael Stipe called it on and off-camera) are energized, and in some cases (like “Cuyahoga”) the song’s new aggressiveness adds a bit of fight to the anthem. A great moment of Vincent Moon and Jeremiah’s This Is Not A Show flick keenly touches on a unique, modern day dilemma for songwriters when Stipe reads alleged “West Of The Fields” lyrics to the crowd, a translation he found on the internet (fyi, after researching, the most common). “The animals, how strange, try, try to stick it in.” After the room giggles, the singer insists, “I guarantee you, in all my drug-addled twenties, I never wrote that line…never!” Whether it’s concert, rehearsal, commentary, or atmospheric footage, Moon and Jeremiah link everything together with the common theme of “Will this work or not?” that the band seems to be genuinely questioning; and, obviously, if it didn’t work, we wouldn’t be talking about it now. But the band smartly chose what works best, in this case, deeper album material over hits. This is the band raw–or as close as we’re getting to the one we grew up on–and from R.E.M.’s perspective, Live At The Olympia goes out to the songs they love. Start Here : “Carnival Of Sorts” Tracks: CD 1 1. Living Well Is The Best Revenge 2. Second Guessing 3. Letter Never Sent 4. Staring Down The Barrel Of The 5. Disturbance At The Heron House 6. Mr. Richards 7. Houston 8. New Test Leper 9. Cuyahoga 10. Electrolite 11. Man-Sized Wreath 12. So. Central Rain 13. On The Fly 14. Maps And Legends 15. Sitting Still 16. Driver 8 17. Horse To Water 18. I’m Gonna DJ 19. Circus Envy 20. These Days CD 2 1. Drive 2. Feeling Gravity’s Pull 3. Until The Day Is Done 4. Accelerate 5. Auctioneer 6. Little America 7. 1,000,000 8. Disguised 9. The Worst Joke Ever 10. Welcome To The Occupation 11. Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcar) 12. Harborcoat 13. Wolves, Lower 14. I’ve Been High 15. Kohoutek 16. West Of The Fields 17. Pretty Persuasion 18. Romance 19. Gardening At Night DVD 1. This Is Not A Show - A Film By Vincent Moon and Jeremiah Train - Save Me, San Francisco It’s back to the basics for “Drops Of Jupiter”’s Pat Monahan, Jimmy Stafford, and Scott Underwood who have returned with a rejuvenated core band sound, and their best album since their self-titled one. Sporting a full-on celebration of its roots and all that is San Francisco, their latest is not any kind of concept album, though its stories and relationships are all San Fran-focused, with the best geo-shout-out going to The Doobie Brothers in “I Got You.” Within this Train original, the guys cannibalize then regurgitate that group’s “Black Water” with so much glee that Patrick Simmons might as well be onstage with a slop bucket. Yet it’s all so tastefully done. All this fun starts with the title track during which we hear about the misadventures and that-of-which-we-dare-not-speak from being on the road, including certain “blisters” from not-so-virginal sources. The single “Hey, Soul Sister”–climbing atop a pop chart near you–has the best and only Mr. Mister reference one can recall, and the checklist of things Pat Monahan will be giving his girl on “If It’s Love” will NOT be including cologne since, as he cheekily indicates, it’s poison (by the way, it is, check it out). For the retro fan in all of us, Train offers “You Always Know” whose Hollies-meets-Motown amalgam is amazing with Pat sounding like Allan Clarke’s more in-tune little brother. In fact, Pat’s vocals only have gotten stronger with time, no pitch-correcting devices allowed. Jimmy Stafford’s guitars are tighter than ever, and Scott Underwood’s pounding, especially on the rockier tracks, also show the drummer in fine form. The lyrics are snappy and feisty, and the ballads don’t insult your intelligence. The trio’s recent dissolution and reformation has made them personally and musically closer, and these eleven non-Disney, non- American Idol -pop recordings are the very pleasing fruits of their non-labored reunion. Start Here : “Save Me, San Francisco,” “Hey, Soul Sister,” “Marry Me,” and “If It’s Love” NOTE: Please read this Wednesday’s HuffPost interview with Train in which we learn if the group will be performing “Spiders And Snakes” on its new tour. Tracks: 1. Save Me, San Francisco 2. Hey, Soul Sister 3. I Got You 4. Parachute 5. This Ain’t Goodbye 6. If It’s Love 7. You Already Know 8. Words 9. Brick By Brick 10. Breakfast In Bed 11. Marry Me Dolly Parton - Dolly What an excellent overview of Dolly Parton’s career this four disc set is, featuring every important hit (as well as some that should have been) plus seven previously unreleased tracks. It reaches back to when the singer was just eleven years old on Louisiana’s Goldband Records, and marches forward through her Mercury and Monument releases, her two decades of RCA recordings, and her Columbia period. Dolly then wraps it up with the event record that was “Romeo,” her 1993 group effort with Billy Ray Cyrus, Tanya Tucker, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, and Pam Tillis. Through its repertoire, Dolly ’s producer Rob Santos–along with liner note writers Holly George-Warren and Laura Cantrell–trace the musical history almost seamlessly, treating this singer-songwriter-entertainer with a dignity that has long-eluded this country music legend. Beyond the historical information contained within this collection’s 60-page booklet, each period, sequenced chronologically, speaks musical volumes on the Parton story, a couple of the more interesting chapters being Parton’s duets with Porter Wagoner and her early RCA days that introduced us to “Jolene” and a mighty song titled “I Will Always Love You.” (The box even slipped-in “Put It Off Until Tomorrow,” the only track among the 99 presented here not sung by Dolly.) It’s kind of unfortunate that many only know Dolly Parton’s pop hits “9 To 5,” “Here You Come Again,” and her Kenny Rogers duet, “Islands In The Stream,” since there are so many other important recordings, many of which she composed, that are better representations of the artist. But however one gets there, Dolly Parton’s music deserves all our attention, from its pure country roots to its more sophisticated music for the masses. Start Here : “Jolene,” “Dumb Blond,” “Together Always” with Porter Wagoner, and “My Tennessee Mountain Home” Tracks: Disc 1 1. Puppy Love 2. Girl Left Alone 3. Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can) (demo) 4. It’s Sure Gonna Hurt - with Merry Melody Singers 5. Love You Gave - with Merry Melody Singers 6. Nobody But You 7. Busy Signal 8. Don’t Drop Out 9. I’ve Known You All My Life 10. Put It Off Until Tomorrow - with Bill Phillips 11. Dumb Blonde 12. Something Fishy 13. I Couldn’t Wait Forever 14. I’m Not Worth The Tears 15. Last Thing on My Mind - with Porter Wagoner 16. False Eyelashes 17. Bridge 18. Just Because I’m A Woman 19. Holding On To Nothin’ - with Porter Wagoner 20. We’ll Get Ahead Someday - with Porter Wagoner 21. Jeannie’s Afraid Of The Dark - with Porter Wagoner 22. In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad) 23. Daddy 24. Evening Shade 25. Gypsy, Joe And Me 26. My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy Disc 2 1. Just The Way I Am 2. Down From Dover 3. Everything Is Beautiful (In Its Own Way) 4. Daddy Come And Get Me 5. Just Someone That I Used To Know - with Porter Wagoner 6. Tomorrow Is Forever - with Porter Wagoner 7. Daddy Was An Old Time Preacher Man - with Porter Wagoner 8. Comin’ For To Carry Me Home 9. Golden Streets Of Glory 10. Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 11. Joshua 12. Daddy’s Moonshine Still 13. Last One To Touch Me - with Porter Wagoner 14. Better Move It On Home - with Porter Wagoner 15. Coat Of Many Colors 16. Traveling Man 17. My Blue Tears 18. Here I Am 19. God’s Coloring Book 20. Will He Be Waiting 21. Touch Your Woman 22. Together Always - with Porter Wagoner 23. Lost Forever In Your Kiss - with Porter Wagoner 24. My Tennessee Mountain Home 25. Eugene Oregon 26. What Will Baby Be Disc 3 1. Jolene 2. Early Morning Breeze 3. I Will Always Love You 4. Please Don’t Stop Loving Me - with Porter Wagoner 5. Love Is Like A Butterfly 6. Sacred Memories 7. Bargain Store 8. On My Mind Again 9. Kentucky Gambler 10. Seeker [New Edit] 11. We Used To 12. All I Can Do 13. Light Of A Clear Blue Morning 14. You Are 15. Applejack 16. It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right 17. Here You Come Again 18. Two Doors Down 19. Me And Little Andy 20. Heartbreaker 21. I Really Got The Feeling 22. Baby I’m Burnin’ 23. You’re The Only One 24. Sweet Summer Lovin’ 25. Starting Over Again Disc 4 1. Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle to You 2. 9 To 5 3. But You Know I Love You 4. Single Women 5. Heartbreak Express 6. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind 7. Potential New Boyfriend 8. Islands In the Stream - Dolly Parton with Kenny Rogers 9. Save the Last Dance for Me 10. Tennessee Homesick Blues 11. God Won’t Get You 12. What a Heartache 13. Don’t Call It Love 14. Think About Love 15. Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That 16. Yellow Roses 17. Time for Me To Fly 18. He’s Alive 19. Rockin’ Years - with Ricky Van Shelton 20. Eagle When She Flies 21. Silver and Gold 22. Romeo - with Billy Ray Cyrus, Tanya Tucker, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, and Pam Tillis Carly Simon - Never Been Gone With a super-nudge from her son Ben Taylor, Carly Simon re-recorded some of her classics in stripped-down versions, reducing them to an almost unplugged state. Her holding that magnifying glass on the album cover is an accurate depiction of what’s going on track-to-track as the singer-songwriter gets to the heart of what was great about these compositions. She reworks the details as well as her vocals, such as in her new read of “You Belong To Me” that now seems less about re-seduction than an indictment of the temptress that might as well have been from James Taylor’s “You Make It Easy.” All of the songs offer at least one or two similar curve balls, and Carly’s rich, mature voice now offers a smokiness reminiscent of the late Mary Travers’. It’s satisfying to hear Carly Simon approaching some of her popular material through this method as opposed to releasing yet another greatest hits. And it’s nice to have a couple of new songs, although “No Freedom” tries a bit too hard to be special. On the other hand, the chordal movements and reflective mood of “Songbird” places it somewhere near “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” and stalwarts such as “Embrace Me You Child,” two chestnuts that showcase the artist at her emotive best. Of the avian, Carly sings, “…I don’t where it leads, but I believe it sings its song for me…sees the things I see,” but it seems there’s a little personification going on here since the song sounds less about the concept of the “muse” and more about how she’s taken flight in her own life, making her own inspired choices. After all her challenges–personally and musically–Carly’s a fighter (we always heard that strength in her voice) and a winner. Scaring us a couple years back with the somber, haunting album Into White that came off like some sort of graceful goodbye (especially on James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes,” sung with their children Ben and Sally), she re-emerges with solid offerings every couple of years. Never Been Gone is no exception. Start Here : “Songbird,” “Boys In The Trees,” and “You Belong To Me” Tracks: 1. The Right Thing To Do 2. It Happens Every Day 3. Never Been Gone 4. Boys In The Trees 5. Let The River Run 6. You’re So Vain 7. You Belong To Me 8. No Freedom 9. That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be 10. Coming Around Again 11. Anticipation 12. Songbird needtobreathe - The Outsiders This alt folk-pop Christian group always seemed like it was gunning for Counting Crows or at least a southern band or two. Their new album The Outsiders rocks lightly with catchy tunes featuring occasional banjoes or a finger-picked/strummy instrument of your choice. It also whips out a big gospel-y chorus for a couple of tracks, and it’s all pretty even. This band has a big following, and for them, The Outsiders most likely will do the trick. Newcomers will have to come to the party with a lot of open-mindedness in order to wade through heavy-handed anthems and a little religiousness. Perhaps they should try the country track “Stones Under Rushing Water,” featuring the always wonderful Sara Watkins on vocals, since it touches the heart in a way the rest of the album should. Suggestion? Next time out, be a little more outsider-y. Start Here : “Stones Under Rushing Water” with Sara Watkins Tracks: 1. The Outsiders 2. Valley Of Tomorrow 3. Through Smoke 4. Lay ‘Em Down 5. What You’ve Done To Me 6. Hurricane 7. These Hard Times 8. Stones Under Rushing Water - with Sara Watkins 9. Prisoner 10. Won’t Turn Back 11. Girl Named Tennessee 12. Something Beautiful 13. Garden 14. Let Us Love Pink Martini - Splendor In The Grass Ooh-la-la, you had us at “Ninna, nanna.” Thomas Lauderdale’s brand of alt-jazz-world music splashes through France, London, Brazil, with a stop or two in Old Harlem, and elsewhere. The Mama Cass-lite vocals are sprite-like, especially while dancing along French, Italian, Spanish, and Neapolitan cobblestones. For those in the New York know, Moondog’s “New Amsterdam” gets beautifully resurected here, and Sesame Street ’s “Sing,” with guest Emilio Delgato (aka the show’s “Luis”) is adorable. Accompanied by The Harvey Rosencrantz Orchestra and with additional guests Chavela Vargas, Ari Shapiro, and Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Pink Martini’s Splendour In The Grass might be a tad poorly titled; it’s barely as pastel as the cover and moniker suggest. Instead, it’s like a dimly lit foyer in the forties, the one G.I.s waited breathlessly in for Mathilde to appear from her boudoir. Or not. Start Here : “Ou est ma tete?” and “Tuca tuca” Tracks: 1. Ninna nanna 2. Ohayoo Ohio 3. Splendor In The Grass 4. Ou est ma tete? 5. And Then You’re Gone 6. But Now I’m Back 7. Sunday Table 8. Over the Valley 9. Tuca tuca 10. Bitty Boppy Betty 11. Sing 12. Piensa en mi 13. New Amsterdam 14. Ninna nanna - reprise GUILTY PLEASURE : “Weird Al” Yankovic - The Essential “Weird Al” Yankovic This is all ultra-gooey stuff that any cheese connoisseur worth his or her weight in chedduh would gladly pig-out on. Start Here : “The Saga Begins” Tracks: Disc One 1. Another One Rides The Bus 2. Polkas On 45 3. Eat It 4. I Lost On Jeopardy 5. Yoda 6. One More Minute 7. Like A Surgeon 8. Dare To Be Stupid 9. Dog Eat Dog 10. Lasagna 11. Melanie 12. Fat 13. UHF 14. The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota 15. Trigger Happy 16. Smells Like Nirvana 17. You Don’t Love Me Anymore 18. Bedrock Anthem 19. Frank’s 2000″ TV 20. Jurassic Park Disc Two 1. Since You’ve Been Gone 2. Amish Paradise (Parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio) 3. Gump (Parody of “Lump” by The Presidents Of The United States) 4. Everything You Know Is Wrong 5. The Night Santa Went Crazy 6. Your Horoscope For Today 7. It’s All About The Pentiums (An adaptation of “It’s All About The Benjamins” by Puff Daddy) 8. The Saga Begins (Lyrical Adaption of “American Pie”) 9. Albuquerque 10. Ebay (Parody of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys) 11. Bob 12. Hardware Store 13. I’ll Sue Ya (Main Version) 14. Canadian Idiot (Parody of “American Idiot” by Green Day) (Main Version) 15. Pancreas (Main Version) 16. Don’t Download This Song (Main Version) 17. White & Nerdy (Parody of “Ridin’” by Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone) 18. Trapped In The Drive-Thru (Parody of “Trapped In The Closet” by R. Kelly) U2 PLAYS PASADENA’S ROSE BOWL The best word to describe this event is the overused colloquial term “awesome.” To turn your head around and witness 95-100,000 fellow U2 devotees packed into the Rose Bowl elicited its own specific emotional response; but to have shared a musically historic event with seven continents being broadcast from your home turf almost made it spiritual. Reportedly the largest assembly since the nineties that the Pasadena venue had ever hosted, the technologically über-advanced concert carried a message of community and interconnectedness, the themes flowing relentlessly through the set list. Always at the forefront of technology, U2 and its 360 Tour–in association with YouTube–took the stage following a loudspeaker cranking Bowie’s “Major Tom,” the stage harnessing what Bono nicknamed “The Space Station.” It was an interactive circular screen that was attached to a giant “claw” structure that folded around the platform, then intermittently opened as a bridge to the audience for Bono’s coming walkabouts. When Bono, The Edge, Adam, and Larry finally launched the event with No Line On The Horizon ’s “Breathe,” about 1.3 million viewers from all places around the world witnessed as the 24-song set unfolded. “Get On Your Boots” with its Elvis Costello wordplay rip from “Pump It Up” came next, and the music and dazzling special effects relentlessly continued for about 90 minutes of fan bliss. The set list borrowed much from No Line On The Horizon , but most of the hits surfaced as well as appendages such as “Stand By Me” that was attached to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Throughout the night, Bono-isms–some from song lyrics– were tossed about including funky phrases like “The future needs a big kiss,” “We’ve got old songs, we’ve got new songs, we’ve got songs we can barely play, we’ve got a spaceship,” “Enough with the folk mass,” “What time is it in the world, and where are we going?” and “Get up off your big fat ass now.” Band introductions included a reference to a time-traveling Larry Mullen, an Adam “Clark Gable” Clayton toss-off, and the singer added, “Every sci-fi movie needs a visitor from outer space…he’s Mr. Spock to us, he’s The Edge to you” before referring to himself as being an Arnold Schwarzenegger with a little Danny DeVito. There were even pre-taped guest appearances from an international politician and an astronaut from the International Space Station, emphasizing the night’s messages of global community and cosmic connection. One touching moment found Bono calling out to Iran for that “connection” while embracing an American flag prior to revving up “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” its symbolism hardly escaping the assembly. Another beautiful scene came in the form of sending love and music to a Burmese dissident. By the time the concert entered its encore phase, “One” bled into five or so songs, the circular screen’s “spaceship” and “alien” completing the band’s mission with the simple message, “Turn on your radio.” Bono and his gang faux-left then returned, the singer crooning “Ultra Violet” into a dangling color-morphing, mini-UFO-looking microphone. With the words “We’re going to turn the Rose Bowl over to the Milky Way,” the band concluded the spectacle with “Moment Of Surrender” at 11:18 pm, after which 95-100,000 dazed crowd participants exited to Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” preparing themselves for the very grounding and messy traffic experience that was to come. Set List: 1. Breathe 2. Get On Your Boots 3. Magnificent 4. Mysterious Ways 5. Medley: Beautiful Day / In God’s Country / God Only Knows / The Maker 6. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Stand By Me 7. Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of 8. No Line On The Horizon 9. Elevation 10. In A Little While 11. Unknown Caller 12. Until The End Of The World 13. The Unforgettable Fire 14. City Of Blinding Lights 15. Vertigo / It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) 16. I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight / Two Tribes 17. Sunday Bloody Sunday 18. MLK 19. Walk On / You’ll Never Walk Alone 20. One / Amazing Grace 21. Where The Streets Have No Name 22. Ultra Violet (Light My Way) 23. With Or Without You 24. Moment Of Surrender THIS WEEK’S NEW ALBUMS : AC/DC - Black Ice (expanded reissue) John Anderson - Greatest Hits John Anderson - Greatest Hits Volume II The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - Fruit Atreyu - Congregation Of The Damned Emilie Autumn - Opheliac: The Deluxe Edition (CD/DVD expanded reissue) Awesome New Republic - Hearts Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be Cecilia Bartoli - Sacrificium - (double disc) Bassnectar - Cozza Frenzy Between The Buried And Me - The Great Misdirect The Blind Boys of Alabama - Duets Blondie - Blondie Singles Collection: 1977-1982 (double disc) The Breakaways - Walking Out On Love: The Lost Sessions The Canadian Tenors - The Canadian Tenors Chipmunk - I Am Chipmunk The Cowsills - The Cowsills (reissue) Creed - Full Circle Deep Purple - Who Do We Think We Are (vinyl) Dragonette - Fixin To Thrill Duran Duran - The Singles 81-85 (3 CD box set reissue) Editors - In This Light And On This Evening Melissa Etheridge - A New Thought For Christmas (CD/DVD) Mike Epps - Funny Bidness … Da Album Rosie Flores - Girl Of The Country The Four Tops - Something To Remember: The Casablanca Sessions Glass Ghost - Idol Omen Gov’t Mule - By A Thread Grin - Gone Crazy (reissue) Euge Groove - Sunday Morning Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family - Go Waggaloo Halford - Halford III: Winter Songs Heavy Trash - Midnight Soul Serenade Hot Chelle Rae - Lovesick Electric Michael Jackson - The Music That Inspired The Movie Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” (double disc) Tommy James - Tommy James Katherine Jenkins - Believe Jack Johnson - En Concert Jesse Johnson - Verbal Penetration (double disc) Kid Creole and the Coconuts - Anthology Volumes 1 & 2 (double disc) Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights Nils Lofgren - Cry Tough (reissue) Marillion - The Singles 82-88 (3 CD box set) Brian McKnight - Evolution Of A Man Lorrie Morgan - A Moment In Time Morningwood - Diamonds & Studs The Motels - Atomic Cafe: Greatest Songs Live The Mother Hips - Pacific Dust Mr. Big - Back To Budokan: Next Time Around 2009 Tour (CD/DVD) Joe Nichols - Old Things New Orba Squara - Sunshyness Orianthi - Believe Painkiller Hotel - Black Roses Dolly Parton - Dolly (4 CD box set) Pink Martini - Splendor In The Grass Chuck Prophet - Let Freedom Ring Putumayo - Putumayo Presents A Family Christmas R.E.M. - R.E.M. Live At The Olympia (double disc) Kenny Rogers - Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years (box set) Kenny Rogers - The Greatest Duets Matthew Ryan - Dear Lover Carly Simon - Never Been Gone Phil Spector - A Christmas Gift For You (reissue) Spirit - Fresh From The Time Coast: The Best Of 1968-1977 The Squirrel Nut Zippers - Lost At Sea Rod Stewart - Soulbook Stephen Stills - Live At Shepherds Bush Empire (CD/DVD) Sting - If On A Winter’s Night … (CD/DVD deluxe edition) String Cheese Incident - Trick Or Treat: Best Of The String Cheese Incident Swell Season - Strict Joy Taylor Swift - Fearless Platinum Edition (CD/DVD expanded reissue) Tainstick - 6 Pounds Of Sound Tegan and Sara - Sainthood Train - Save Me, San Francisco Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Night Castle U2 - The Unforgettable Fire Velvet Acid Christ - The Art Of Breaking Apart “Weird Al” Yankovic - The Essential “Weird Al” Yankovic Barry White - Unlimited (4 CD box set) Winger - Karma Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg Yo-Yo Ma - Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside The Box (box set) More on Sesame Street
Republicans, to be sure, seem to have an endless reservoir of outrage these days. Among the latest smallish things to get the right wing’s underpants into a collective twist was a poll released several days ago by ABC and the Washington Post . There was much within the poll for the GOP to be concerned about. It had the “generic ballot test” for next year’s midterm election at a twelve-point Democratic edge (generally speaking, an even wider edge than was found in October surveys back in 2008). It showed a striking level of support for the Public Option. On top of it all, it gave the president a 57% job approval rating. Yet these were all ancillary complaints for the conservative fringe. Their largest concern: the poll showed that just 20% of those surveyed self-identified as Republicans. Democrats made up 33% of the sample, while Independents made up the largest group in the sample at 42%. This led Newt Gingrich, joined by a chorus of voices in the right-wing blogosphere, to get positively indignant : Well, it tells me first of all that the poll’s almost certainly wrong. It’s fundamentally different from Rasmussen. It’s fundamentally different from Zogby. It’s fundamentally different from Gallup. It’s a typical Washington Post effort to slant the world in favor of liberal Democrats. It is perhaps not surprising that a right-wing ideologue like Gingrich would push GOP-friendly Rasmussen as some kind of an exemplar. And, as Pollster’s Mark Blumenthal pointed out in his own fine article on this kerfluffle, Zogby does not disclose its party ID breakdown publicly. But Gallup did, and as ABC News’ polling unit director Gary Langer pointed out in his excellent takedown of Gingrich, it isn’t all that different than what ABC News showed. Nor did a large number of other pollsters: Partisan Breakdown, Political Public Opinion Polls, R/D/I ABC/WaPo (10/18)– 20 /33/42 CBS News (10/8)– 22 /33/45 AP/GfK (10/5)– 21 /33/26 Ipsos/McClatchy (10/5)– 19 /33/48 Gallup (10/4)– 27 /33/38 Pew (10/4)– 23 /34/37 NBC/WSJ (9/20)– 18 /31/43 Unless Gingrich is prepared to indict pretty much every pollster in America save for Rasmussen and Fox News, it would appear that he is seriously out of line alleging that Langer and his crew cooked the books. Especially when other theories are infinitely more plausible. After all, what we are talking about is political self-identification . In other words, the pollster asks the respondent to identify their own affiliation. There are no shortage of polls that tell us that voters are not particularly thrilled with either political party (our most recent tracking poll here at DK proves that conclusively). It is also not hard to find data that the GOP brand name is damaged considerably worse than the Democratic party brand: consider this week’s CNN Poll (PDF) , where approval of the Republican Party was at 36%, the lowest level for the GOP in a CNN-sponsored poll since the impeachment saga of late 1998. Given this fact, it is not terribly surprising to learn that voters might not want to identify themselves as Republican to a pollster. Indeed, someone with conservative leanings might be as apt to identify themselves as an Independent as a Republican, given the current base disenchantment with the party. After all, does the name Doug Hoffman ring a bell? Base dissatisfaction is certainly going to lead to an exodus of some kind. We have even seen that phenomenon among Democrats this year, although not as acutely. Last year’s polls showed Democratic indentification routinely in the high 30s and low 40s. That table cited by Langer had tremendous consistency, with Democrats in the 31-34% range. One must also consider the possibility that the relative paucity of people self-identifying as Republicans could be traced to their relegation to the minority party over the last four years. There’s a reason why it is not hard to find people sporting Lakers and Celtics gear but not too many folks rocking the Memphis Grizzlies attire. People usually do not fall all over themselves to identify with a loser, and the GOP has been on a pretty brutal losing streak as of late. So, in the final analysis, it appears that Gingrich and the rest of the right-wing scolds have, to some extent, a raging case of misplaced anger. Their anger at ABC’s polling unit is a deflection of the real problem: genuine anger many Republicans are directing at their own party–an extension of the GOP civil war which is apparent to anybody closely following American politics but curiously underreported by the traditional media, ever eager to instead breathlessly report on the Obama polling collapse that has been more of a retraction of a bounce than a genuine collapse . Quibbles about Republicans in the sample are rather besides the point, anyway. As long as the newly minted Independents vote Republican in the 2010 midterms, then how they choose to identify themselves to a pollster is largely irrelevant. One thing that has been a pretty consistent characteristic of polls in the Obama presidency is that Independents are not behaving the same as they did in 2006 or 2008. In those two election cycles, Independents almost behaved as soft Democrats, leaning much closer to the Democrats on issue and electoral polling than they did the GOP. In 2009, that has not been the case. In the best case scenario, they’ve broken even. In some cases, they leaned just slightly to the right-of-center. This almost certainly means that the drop in Republican identification is not so much an ideological shift as it is a shift in nomenclature. In other words, as the number of people self-identifying as Republican has dropped, the number of right-leaning Independents has increased (and presumably, close to proportionally). Therefore, one can presume that unless there is a real spike in third-party candidacies (call it the Daggett effect, or perhaps the Hoffman effect), those Independents will either stay home (which could have a real and deleterious effect for Republicans) or they will revert to form. The team over at Public Policy Polling looked at the potential for third-party candidates in 2010, and gauged their potential support. In a shrewd decision, they polled a standard Dem vs. GOP generic ballot for 2010, and then they also included a generic ballot with a third option. In the standard two-way calculation, the Democratic Party led by eight points (48-40). With the third option included, 22% of voters selected that third-option, with the Democratic lead stretching out to double digits (40-29-22). In a sign that the new surge in Independents may well be right of center–consider this demographic breakdown: 29% of conservative voters would opt for that third-party option in 2010 if it were available, versus just 9% of liberals. The bottom line is that the sampling data for the ABC poll last week is important, but far from the reason that Gingrich and the right-wing chorus alleges. This is not an object lesson in a liberal media trying to bring down the GOP. It is, however, further evidence that the Republican brand name is badly wounded, and that there is a real and deep schism in the modern-day GOP.
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Where Did All The Republicans Go?
Brian Bird has been working in Hollywood for two decades now as a writer and producer. For many years he wrote and produced the CBS show Touched By An Angel. Before that he worked on a number of shows like Fantasy Island, Step By Step, Evening Shade and others. Most recently, he’s been producing films with his business partner Michael Landon Jr. His story proves that nice guys can indeed succeed in Hollywood. Brian stopped by the Bully! Pulpit show the other day to talk about his life and career and one of his recent films Saving Sarah Cain The interview is posted here.
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Mark Joseph: A Visit With Writer/Producer Brian Bird
Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party By Max Blumenthal Hardcover: 416 pages, $25 Nation Books: New York September 2009 This isn’t a book for the faint of heart. The deep underbelly of the Republican right is far weirder, and far more disturbing, than most observers recognize. The corruption, the sex scandals, the lust for power–it’s all here, presented in a fast-moving romp that’s part sociology, part psychology, part gossip column. But that’s gossip in a good way. It’s well-documented gossip, not just rumors, and the personal and political stories behind the personalities that fill these pages is critical to the web that Blumenthal constructs, showing the ties that you didn’t know existed from notorious serial killer Ted Bundy who James Dobson used to amass part of his forture, to Gary Bauer to Blackwater’s Erik Prince to Ralph Reed to Jack Abramoff to Tom Delay to Tony Perkins to David Duke to Tom Coburn to Bill Kristol to Sarah Palin. They’re all there, and the story of how all these players have become connected with an extreme and pathological “religious” philosophy to take over the Republican party is fascinating. Blumenthal explains where the current Republican Party came from, who it’s foundational thinkers were, and just why it’s still so dangerous. While the conventional wisdom is that the Southern Baptists are at the core of the religious right movement, Blumenthal shows that the movement actually grew out of the works of R.J. Rushdoony, the son of survivors of the Armenian genocide, who devoted his life to nothing less than replacing America’s constitutional democracy with a theocracy based on Leviticus case law. Calling for the literal application of all 613 laws described in the Book of Leviticus, Rushdoony paid special attention to punishments. Instead of serving prison sentences, criminals would be sentenced to indentured servitude, whipped, sold into slavery, or executed.”God’s government prevails,” Rushdoony wrote, “and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.” Those eligible on Rushdooney’s long list for execution included disobedient children, unchaste women, apostates, blasphemers, practitioners of witchcraft, astrologers, adulterers, and of course, anyone who engaged in “sodomy or homosexuality.” Burning at the stake, death by “the sword,” and hanging were some of Rushdoony’s preferred modes of execution. However, his son-in-law Gary North, a self-styled Reconstructionist economist (who eventually fell out wiht his father-in-law) and former adviser to Republican Representative Ron Paul of Texas . . . advocated stoning evildoers to death. Rocks, North argued, are free and plentiful, making them ideal tools for the financially savvy executioner. (pp. 20-11) Rushdoony’s writings influenced people like Bush’s faith-based initiatives czar Marvin Olasky and Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., whose vast wealth funded Rushdoony’s think tank, as well as a number of intelligent design initiatives and California’s anti-gay Prop 8 initiative. Rushdoony also heavily influenced Francis Schaeffer, a 1960s icon of the Jesus Freak movement who became radicalized with the Roe v. Wade decision and essentially created the violent anti-abortion movement, out of which grew the larger political effort around “values voters,” attacking all of the secular underpinnings of America. The rest, essentially, is the political history of the Republican Party for the last 40 years. Then there’s the sex. It might seem that the slightly icky things we’ve learned about the private lives of everyone from John Ensign to David Vitter to Mark Foley to Ted Haggard are just an entertaining offshoots of the larger movement, but Blumenthal sees more. Drawing from Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom , about the psychology of Nazism and authoritarianism, and Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer , Blumenthal describes the frame of reference for so many of the adherents of this extreme fundamentalist worldview, many of whom were brutalized as children. He desribes it in a discussion with Scott Horton : Followers of the Christian right openly admit that they have no capacity to restrain themselves from total depravity without constant, stern commandments from an angry God. As Gov. Mark Sanford, an evangelical minister, declared during his recent press conference confessing an extra-marital affair, the “bottom line of God’s law” is to “protect us from ourselves.” Senator John Ensign, the only Pentectostal serving in the Senate, attributed his own sexual dalliances to having “walked away from God,” or having relied too heavily on his individual will. These figures believe if they don’t do what God supposedly wants them to do they will descend immediately and inevitably into sin and perversion–because that’s what they want to do. Fromm explained that those who seek to obliterate the self in the drama of an authoritarian crusade have attempted a “neurotic solution” that always leads to self-destructiveness. They use right-wing politics as a form of cheap medication, hoping to cleanse their sullen souls by purging the land of sin. But cheap medication rarely works. Thus none of the recent Republican sex scandals are unique; they are reflective of the sensibility of the movement that took over and shattered the GOP, and which Fromm analyzed so concisely in his 1941 book, Escape From Freedom. And, by bowing before James Dobson and mouthing the correct words, they find absolution. And, if they aren’t gay, political rehabilitation. The cases of David Vitter and Larry Craig are particularly representative of this. One quibble I’ve got with Blumenthal–his assertion in the book’s title that by allowing itself to be subsumed by the religious right, the Republican party has shattered. It hasn’t yet, and Blumenthal’s own book shows the danger that the nation is still in as long as the American body politic–and opinion makers and political leaders–underestimate the degree to which this mindset has taken over the Republican party. Torture wasn’t just the outgrowth of Dick Cheney’s personal evil, it was the inevitable result of the “Holy War” the administration was waging. Without a real understanding or acceptance of the extremism, of the radical and violent nature (which is bubbling up more and more frequently since Sarah Palin unleashed the beast during the 2008 campaign) of what is now the Republican base, we carry on as if the Republican party was operating as the counterpoint to the Democratic party, as if it were somehow still the “loyal opposition,” and not fundamentally committed to the radical overthrow of secular America. Bargaining with the Republicans in Congress as if they were partners in governing America is a very bad bet. I’ve saved some of the more fun stuff, particularly Max’s great expose work from Alaska on Sarah Palin, for him to talk about. Join us in the comments.
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Liveblog with Max Blumenthal, Author of "Republican Gomorrah"
Fame is like alcohol. Some people can handle it and others can’t. Like booze, fame can make you feel warm all over, bringing a rosy glow to your cheeks and a smile to your face. Most people can enjoy the buzz from a glass of wine with no ill effects after the wine is gone and the buzz worn off. Likewise, most people can enjoy their 15 minutes of fame, then let the experience become a happy memory as the spotlight moves on to someone else. But for some, that first experience of public attention is intoxicating. As soon as the high starts to wear off, they crave it again. They want more, the sooner the better. They can’t get enough. They’re hooked — they become publicity junkies. The need for attention, acknowledgment and recognition is universal — all human beings need a certain amount of attention in order to feel loved, cared about, and valuable. Appreciation by others is fundamental to our self-esteem and mental health. The amount of attention one needs varies from person to person. Some people need minimal amounts, while others are insatiable — no amount of applause satisfies them for long. They need the spotlight in order to feel OK about themselves. They are childish, overly sensitive, grandiose, and needy — crippled by their bottomless pit of emotional craving. For some people — celebrities and non-celebs alike — the need to feel alive, the need to feel OK about themselves, drives them to seek attention compulsively. Once they get a taste of the euphoria that the spotlight brings, they crave more. Just like an alcoholic craves the stimulation he remembers from his first drink — and the drug addict craves the rush she recalls from her first high - the fame addict craves the excitement he felt in the limelight. He starts scheming how to get more of what made him feel so good. He can easily become compulsive about it - going to any lengths (even dangerous lengths) to get another fix. Balloon Boy’s dad, Richard Heene, may be such a fame addict but he is certainly not alone. The entertainment business is loaded with publicity hounds. My home town, Los Angeles, has more than its share of fame addicts. Publicity junkies flock to any city where they can find klieg lights, spotlights, microphones, stages, cameras and an audience — above all, an audience. Are you — or someone you love — a fame junkie? Here are some simple questions to ask. Be as honest as you can in your answers. 1. Do you envy (or resent) famous people you see in the media? 2. Do you daydream, plan and scheme about how to get famous? 3. Do you think that all your problems would be solved if only you were famous? 4. Have you spent excessive amounts of money and/or gone into debt trying to become famous? 5. Do you get furious when you see others get public attention you think they don’t deserve? 6. Have your attempts to gain public attention caused problems in your family or work life? 7. Have you ever made attempts to upstage or steal the spotlight from others? 8. Do you feel compelled to suck up to celebrities or other famous people, even if you hate them? 9. Do you feel extraordinarily euphoric whenever you get media attention? Do you experience a let-down later? 10. Have you lost friends or professional colleagues because of your publicity-seeking? 11. Do you rationalize your publicity-seeking by telling yourself you have to do it in your profession? 12. Do you feel misunderstood and judged by others who criticize your incessant publicity-seeking? 13. Do you protest that you want your privacy but get angry when the media ignores you? 14. Have you lied, cheated, or stolen to get the attention you crave? 15. Have you ever stalked a producer, agent, reporter, publicist, or editor? If you answered “yes” to four or more of these questions, there is a good chance you may be developing a fame-seeking habit that can lead to a full-blown addiction. Fame addicts need emotional, psychological, and spiritual help to right-size their hungry egos and to heal from their addictions. Just like alcoholics, drug addicts, compulsive gamblers, sex addicts, compulsive shoppers and people with eating disorders, fame addicts are in the grip of a powerful obsession. They cannot control it — it controls them. They need help. Perhaps it’s time to start a new 12-step program — Fame Addicts Anonymous (FAA), or perhaps Publicity Whores Anonymous (PWA), or maybe Spotlightaholics Anonymous (SA). We don’t have to look far to find those, in addition to Richard Heene, who seem to be in need of fame rehab and publicity detox: Gloria Allred, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Ryan O’Neal, Angelyne, Jon Gosselin, Octomom Nadya Sulemon, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Paris Hilton, Perez Hilton, Rod Blagojevich, among others. Of course, each fame addict must decide for him or herself whether or not the label “fame addict” fits. Remember, what looks like an alcoholic may simply be a heavy drinker, and what looks like a fame addict might be someone who’s skillful at using publicity to build a business. If you or someone you love is hooked on fame, addiction experts remind us that a junkie can’t be helped until he or she hits bottom, admits to having a problem, and seeks help. Recovery works only if you want it. Press conference, anyone? More on Balloon Boy
Fox Network’s numbers speaks for themselves. In the first quarter Fox was the second-most-watched network in primetime. It bagged the top spot among nine out of ten cable shows. It made CNN and MSNBC look like amateurish high school student broadcast facilities. In the second quarter Fox did even better with an astonishing ratings jump more than thirty percent higher than the first quarter. Their runaway number one audience, ad, and ratings recruiter is President Obama. Yet, Obama keeps pitching Fox. First he publicty tried to shoo everyone away from the network. Then he blocked its request to interview so-called pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. This got the dander of even some moderate Democrats up. They recognize that he’s making a cardinal blunder in propping up Fox through the backdoor with his attacks. It also ticked off the major TV networks. Free Speech, First Amendment, the right to broadcast, and accessibility were the issues that made them see red about Obama’s ham handed effort to punish Fox. Hey, it’s Fox today it could be us tomorrow the president dumps on. Obama just can’t seem to help himself with his obsessive need to bash Fox and gorge its ratings binge. Fox, of course, giddily loves every swipe that he takes at it. It should. Having the president attack you is the best advertising in the world without having to spend a nickle on it. The puzzle is not so much that Obama hasn’t figured out that he’s the best pitch man for Fox. But that he hasn’t learned that bad mouthing the right side media gabbers only makes them bigger than life. Take Limbaugh. In January, Obama took the ill-fated step and made him his momentary punching bag. The predictable happened. The Media Research Center found that Limbaugh’s ratings soared through the roof. Radio affiliates that carried Limbaugh’s syndicated show floated on Cloud Nine with the listener stampede to his show. Limbaugh quickly saw the goldmine, mined it for all it was worth, and hasn’t missed a beat since. It further coronated him as the de facto mouthpiece for the GOP. It set in stone GOP opposition to anything that Obama and the Democrats come up with, and gave the legion of Obama baiters and loathers more ammunition to blast him on the airwaves, in chat rooms, websites, and even more despicably in race baiting cartoons, emails, Facebook and twitter posts. Obama, it seemed at one point, knew enough not to be a salesman for his critics. During the campaign when Republican rival John McCain dredged up Sarah Palin some Team Obama members foolishly saw this as a chance to go dirty with him and her. Obama quickly saw the folly of this. He publicly congratulated her for being the VP pick and then said not another mumbling word about her. He understood that he was running against McCain not Palin. Despite her mind boggling incompetence and unfittness she was a woman, a mother, had an afflicted child, and was the darling of the rabid right. Beating up on her would simply rally the hordes of christian fundamentalist and ultra conservative troops and inflate her (and the politically moribund McCain) to colossal proportions in the media. The lesson from ignoring Palin obviously didn’t last. Obama’s pummel of Fox won’t do anything to shove down the Network’s huge ratings numbers. It will only boost them. You’d think the president would figure out by now he’s their star unpaid pitchman. Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010. More on GOP
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Earl Ofari Hutchinson: Fox Should Pay Obama for Pitching It
When a stage magician makes a flourish, causing a puff of smoke and a flash of light to appear, there’s a reason for it. It is called “misdirection.” It is meant to dazzle the audience with a shiny object, so that they don’t notice what is going on elsewhere on the stage, or perhaps even in the magician’s other hand. It is an effective technique, so effective that it is the basis for most stage magic tricks. And there’s a huge story that’s sucking up a lot of oxygen from the inside-the-Beltway media scene right now that seems to be tailor-made misdirection which has been tossed into the media shark tank in order to stir up a feeding frenzy. I speak, of course, of whether NBC’s Chuck Todd will (or will not) shave off his goatee. No, of course, I’m kidding. The real head-scratcher for serious media-watchers right now is what the “war” between the White House and Fox News was meant to distract us from this week. The “war” itself is laughable, for a number of reasons. The first is that all presidents do this to one extent or another. Press access is not a constitutional right or anything, meaning that the White House is free to invite anyone it wants into the press room, and exclude anyone it wants. Secondly, it’s not “unprecedented” in any way, shape, or form. White Houses criticize the press all the time, and sometimes kick them off official planes, or completely deny them access in retaliation for stories they’ve run. It happens all the time, from both Republican and Democratic presidents. Anyone who thinks differently just doesn’t have all that good a memory. But the final reason why the whole thing is so ludicrous is calling Obama’s White House “Nixonian” in its dealings with Fox News. This is laugh-out-loud funny, because Roger Ailes, the man who runs Fox News was Richard Nixon’s media advisor during his first successful campaign for the White House, in 1968. So you’ve got the man who designed Nixon’s press policies now being held up as the victim of (as conservative critics say) the same exact press policies being used against him. The irony’s so thick the only way to escape it is with a big old belly laugh. BWAH Hah hah hah! There, feel better? It almost makes you nostalgic for the time (not so long ago) when Republicans used to sneer at liberals for “playing the victim.” This constant sneering at such “victim card” tactics was actually so successful that the Left has mostly abandoned the tactic at this point. But the Republicans, being out of power, seem bent on resurrecting it in many ways. And, true to form, they have hit upon a new version of their tried-and-true tactic of accusing their opposition of doing what they do on a regular basis. Ailes and Lee Atwater were the authors of so many dirty-tricks campaigns for Republicans, it’s hard to count them all up. But even I’m getting distracted by this non-story. Which brings me back to the real point I’m trying to make here — why did the White House choose this moment to pick a fight with Fox News? This wasn’t a slip of the tongue by one person up there, it seems more like a concerted effort. So what are they trying to distract the media’s attention from this particular week? Or, more ominously, why is the White House throwing such political red meat to their base at this particular time? Is it to distract progressives from something the White House is doing behind its back? My guess (which could ultimately prove to be wrong, of course) is that this whole fake (but shiny… oh, so shiny!) distraction was waved in front of the media in order to give some elbow room to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as they are doing the toughest work yet on healthcare reform legislation. That has been the real story of the week, even though it is mostly duelling rumors and leaks (so far). Obama showed a masterful ability to distract Republicans earlier this year, by pushing so many issues simultaneously that the Republicans couldn’t react to all of them with sufficiently indignant rage, because there were just too many things for them to focus on. Rage diluted is rage denied, in other words. You could even call it a variation on Ailes’ “orchestra pit theory.” In Roger Ailes’ own words: If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, “I have a solution to the Middle East problem,” and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news? Providing a center-ring tiger fight for everyone in the Washington media circus to focus on has taken the spotlight off the closed-door negotiations which will ultimately decide what the healthcare reform bills from the House and Senate will look like. This is serious, serious horse-trading, and the last thing Pelosi and Reid need right now is screaming Republicans with nothing better to talk about. Hence, the Fox News tempest in a teapot was served up instead. As I said, I could be wrong about that, but it seems like the most logical answer at this point. We’ll see… we’ll see. Maybe it’s all just Ailes contemplating a run for president , who knows? For those following healthcare reform news closely, it has been a week of wading through rumors. I picked my favorite rumor and ran with it in yesterday’s article, just because it seemed like a fun thing to do, so I’m no better than the rest. The week has consisted of Pelosi and Reid actually cranking the handle on the congressional sausage grinder. They’ve been busy nailing down exactly what will appear in the bills they send to the floor of both the House and Senate for debate. There is no hard schedule as to when this will happen, but (it is rumored) next week may see a bill in the House. Or one in the Senate. Or both. Or neither. Kidding aside, the process does appear to be moving forward. There are so many rumors at this point it’s almost impossible to keep track of them, but if you’re interested in catching up on a few, here’s a story about House rumors and about Senate rumors for you to peruse. The way things stand ( it is rumored ) is that Nancy Pelosi is very, very close to having enough House Democrats to pass what is being called a “robust” public option in the House. She may fall short of the 218 votes needed, or she may be able to corral them. The problem, for House Blue Dogs, is that the most “robust” public option saves more money than the more watered-down public options. So they don’t have the convenient excuse of “fiscal responsibility,” since the fiscally responsible thing to do is, obviously, to back the lowest-cost plan: the most-robust public option. There is also (it is rumored) a struggle going on over abortion among House Democrats, as well, to complicate things. But even if Pelosi doesn’t get the most robust public option, her “fallback” position is still a much stronger public option than the Senate is likely to produce. Meaning she is doing her job well — using the House bill to stake out a bargaining position that is as progressive as possible, so she’ll have a strong hand to play in the inevitable conference committee between the two houses (which will write the final text of healthcare reform legislation). Harry Reid is also moving leftward (it is rumored) from the position Max Baucus staked out. This column is pleased to say that (it is rumored) Reid appears to have settled on Chuck Schumer’s compromise idea of the “opt out” plan — because this column came out for the idea almost immediately when Schumer brought it up two weeks ago. It really does seem, to us, like a brilliant political solution to an almost intractable squaring off between the two camps. Have a nationwide public option, but allow states to opt out if they want. Not only does this allow Democrats from both camps to claim “victory” for their position, it also punts the political decision back to the state level, and throws an enormous gauntlet down to Republicans everywhere — “Put up or shut up. Don’t like the public option? Opt out. See what your voters think about that.” Schumer’s opt out plan isn’t perfect, but what is in politics? It seems like the best way to get the strongest possible public option actually passed and put on President Obama’s desk, and (it is rumored) it seems like Harry Reid is now pushing it as his most-favored option. This is because it appears to be acceptable to (it is rumored) all but two Senate Democrats at this point — a higher vote count than I’ve heard for anything else proposed. The problem may be (it is rumored) with the Obama White House. Depending on which rumor you believe, this is due to Rahm Emanuel pushing for Olympia Snowe’s “trigger” option (he has publicly stated previously what a wonderful plan he thought the trigger was, so this is pretty believable); or it could be President Obama himself pushing for Snowe’s trigger , and using his chief of staff to convey his position (also fairly believable). But the trigger doesn’t seem to have many Democratic fans on Capitol Hill, so the trigger idea may get put on the back burner, at least until the all-important conference committee. Like I said, it’s all tea-leaf-reading and which particular rumor you give credit to, at this point. But enough rumor-mongering, let’s get on to the awards! I’m not sure they’re all Democrats, so I can’t honestly give them this week’s Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, but the musicians who have joined the “Close Gitmo Now” effort certainly deserve an Honorable Mention for their efforts. This group includes: Tom Morello, Billy Bragg, Michelle Branch, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, Steve Earle, the Entrance Band, Joe Henry, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., Trent Reznor, Rise Against, and The Roots. Tom Morello, from the band Rage Against The Machine, after learning that his music was used at Guantanamo Bay in such a fashion, had this to say : Guantanamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured — from water boarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts — playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums. Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me — we need to end torture and close Guantanamo now. You can read the whole story, including statements from other musicians, on the CloseGitmoNow website. But the real winner of the MIDOTW award this week was the 300,000-plus people who called up Congress to urge them to pass strong healthcare reform. This effort was driven by Barack Obama’s old campaign organization, which has now been rebranded as Organizing For America. They set a target of 100,000 calls to Congress in a single day, and they shattered this goal by a factor of three. So while the real MIDOTW award goes to the people who called in, we simply don’t have the funds to strike up 300,000 statuettes, so we’re sending the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to the organizers instead. Getting 100,000 people to call Congress is impressive. Getting over a quarter million is astounding. Of course, just because the one-day drive is over, this doesn’t mean that you can’t still pick up the phone and call your representatives as well, just to remind everyone. Grassroots pressure works . [ Congratulate Organizing For America on their web page to let them know you appreciate their efforts. ] The Obama White House, in a move sure to arouse some controversy (ahem) earned a (Dis-)Honorable Mention this week, for picking a fight with Fox News. Washington protocol in such situations is to ignore such detractors instead of giving them the limelight. Doing so, we are sorry to say, makes the White House look petty. There’s a reason for the old saying: “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.” [Note: I couldn't find a believable source for who actually originated this quote, sorry. Please post one as a comment, if you've got one.] Whoever said it first, the idea is simple — picking fights with the media does nothing, in the end, but diminish you and sell more papers for your opponent. Unless, of course, this is a grand scheme to misdirect everyone, as I discussed earlier. If true, the effectiveness of such a tactic won’t be able to be judged for a while to come. Which is why the White House didn’t sink to the level of earning the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. But until the key question is answered — is Fox News “playing” the White House, or “getting played” by the White House? — I have to say that the Obama team is running a risk of having this tactic blow up in their face. Which is disappointing. Maybe — we’ll see… we’ll see. But the real winner of the MDDOTW is also not going to win us any friends among hardcore Democrats, because Representative Alan Grayson has become such a darling of the Left. We certainly applauded Grayson when he used strong language against Republicans on healthcare, but Grayson apparently has problems knowing where “the line” is in acceptable political debate. This week, on MSNBC, Grayson joined in the Fox fracas by saying ( Huffington Post has the video ): “Fox News and their Republican collaborators are the enemy of America.” Now, his other comments, such as the fact that Republicans are the enemy of anyone who wants “anything good for this country,” or that 99 percent of Americans “have the good sense to ignore” Fox News should all be seen as fine and good. But it wasn’t that long ago that such language was being used by Republicans to question the patriotism of Democrats on a wide range of issues (supporting George Bush on Iraq, for instance). Remember? The Left howled with indignation over such scurrilous remarks, and rightly so. There are “lines” you are not supposed to cross in acceptable political discourse, and calling into question your opponents’ patriotism is supposed to be one of them. But this must apply equally to all, or else it is nothing but hypocrisy for Democrats to complain when such language is used against them. So calling a cable television news channel and your opposing party “the enemy of America” is no better, Representative Grayson, than Republicans saying Democrats “hate America” for not wearing the silly flag pins. We’d do well to remember this. Which was why Grayson’s remarks were so disappointing. So, while the decision will no doubt be unpopular among Democrats, we simply must award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to Alan Grayson. [ Contact Representative Alan Grayson at (202) 225-2176 (his House contact page seems to be for constituents only), to let him know what you think of his actions. ] Volume 99 (10/23/09) A story was floated this week that it would be a good idea to “rebrand” the Democrats’ public plan option as “Medicare for everyone” or “Medicare for all.” Thankfully, it sank quickly, and made barely a ripple on the media’s pool of consciousness. I say thankfully, because although the merits of the attempt at framing are pretty good on the face of it (this idea, incidentally, has been being kicked around the blogosphere for months now), it is simply too late in the game for such rebranding. This may have worked wonders back in March or April, when the subject was first being discussed, and the “public option” language was first being widely used. If Democrats had unanimously started talking about “Medicare for all” it may indeed have done wonders for the whole concept, and built some strong public support. But at this stage, it’s not going to work. I hate to say it, because the idea itself does have some merit. But timing is important, too, and I just think it’s too close to the finish line to change your team’s uniform (how’s that for a mixed-up metaphor?). Of course, others may disagree, and I fully admit it’s a worthy subject for debate, but I’d rather put forth some other framing here instead. So without further ado, here is this week’s list of talking points, for Democrats everywhere (but especially those interviewed on the news this weekend) to consider using. The hypocrisy of Medicare Republicans Against Medicare Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner of New York put out a great press release this week, which pointed out the fact that 55 Republicans “currently receive government-funded; government-administered single-payer health care — Medicare.” This tactic also would have been a lot more welcome a few months back, but it still has power in the whole debate, I feel, so it’s worth pointing out here in the hopes that it can still do some good. In Weiner’s own words: “Even in a town known for hypocrisy, this list of 55 Members of Congress deserve some sort of prize. They apparently think the public option is OK for them, but not anyone else.” Republicans just voted against supporting the troops While this is dangerously similar to what we just awarded Grayson a MDDOTW award for, it’s been used so often by Republicans that it might also do some good. A large number of Senate Republicans just voted against this year’s Pentagon budget, because they didn’t like the expansion of hate crimes which was stuck to it at the last minute. Put in the position of either voting for the Pentagon (but seeming to support gay rights) and voting against gay rights (but voting against the Pentagon), many Republicans chose the latter. Because this is such perennial fodder in election campaigns as a bludgeon against Democrats, we think that this one skates up to the line of acceptable political rhetoric without crossing over it. So, even though we still have a few reservations about the tactic in general, here is what Harry Reid had to say after the vote: “I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans have decided that defeating hate crimes legislation takes precedent over supporting our troops. It is outrageous and unacceptable that Senate Republicans would vote against pay raises for our troops, battlefield equipment upgrades and increased funding for veterans’ health care as we continue to fight two wars. And they decided to do this all for the sake of stopping passage of landmark legislation that will bring justice to those who commit violent crimes based on bigotry and prejudice. What message does that send to our country and, more importantly, to our troops?” It’s not a “war,” folks This one is just a personal pet peeve of mine. I do not like using “war” terminology for political debates (or for sports announcing, for that matter). I know — it is so easy to do so, because literally everything in politics is presented these days in such “us against them” terminology by the mainstream media. Meaning that, at times, I’m just as guilty of this as others. But I do try to keep it to a minimum, and in this particular case it just seems way overblown. “You know, I find it interesting that everyone is talking about Fox News and the White House being ‘at war’ with each other, or ‘going to war’ with each other, when nothing could be further from the truth. Fox News, and all other media outlets, would do well to remember the fact that America is currently fighting two very real wars right now. We have hundreds of thousands of troops in harm’s way even as we speak . I think it does a grave disservice to members of our military in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world when we are in two wars, to call a minor dispute between a news organization and the president a ‘war.’ Has anyone died in this Fox/White House ‘war’? No? Then please, let’s stop using such language in respect for our troops who are bravely facing death each and every day.” Trust-busting Democrats This seems like the story everyone swept under the rug this week, but it could have an enormous effect on our entire healthcare system, no matter what the final bill looks like. “Little attention has been paid this week to the Democrats’ efforts in Congress to repeal a loophole in monopoly law which exempts health insurers. Repealing this loophole will allow the monopoly laws to be enforced against the industry for the first time since World War II. This seems like a very important piece of what Democrats are going to accomplish, but it hasn’t gotten much attention. So I’d just like to applaud the trust-busting that Democrats are currently attempting in Congress.” Cut Wall Street pay! The announcement that the companies which taxpayers bailed out will have some limits on what they can pay their top executives really needs some attention as well. While the rules announced don’t go nearly as far as legislation which died earlier this year would have, the rules are also a lot better than what many were expecting. So it should be seen as at least half a loaf. And since this idea is so wildly popular with the public, Democrats need to beat their own drum on it a little. “I don’t know how any executive at any company which, quite simply, would not exist today if it weren’t for taxpayer money propping them up can complain about the limits to pay recently announced by the Obama administration. Quite simply, if you wreck your company, and by doing so, risk wrecking the entire American economy — you do not deserve a bonus . It’s that simple, really. Most Americans would agree with that sentiment, as well, I think.” The victim card See, I set out to ignore the whole Fox fracas, and yet I keep coming back to it again and again. Those “shiny, shiny” news stories are really too irresistible at times, I guess. Last word on the subject this week, I promise. “You know, I find it highly amusing that Republicans — from Rush Limbaugh to Sarah Palin to Fox News — seem to be rediscovering a political tactic which has been all but discarded by the Democrats, mostly because it proved to be so ineffective and generated so much backlash from those in the political center. I speak, of course, of ‘playing the victim card.’ Republicans used to sneer and denigrate Democrats for always whining about being a victim, for this reason or that. Now, it appears, it’s about the only tool left in their political toolbox, other than saying ‘no’ to everything under the sun, of course. So, to Republican ‘victims’ everywhere, I have one thing to say — politics ain’t beanbag. Grow up, and stop crying in your beer.” GOP’s record: 1000 hours wasted so far! This one comes from the creative shop over at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (the Democrats who are charged with electing more Democrats to the Senate next year). They put out a new web ad which is highly amusing. It parodies the “Mac v. PC” ads Apple has been running, with the stiff-necked Republican as someone who “just kind of wants to see [Democrats] fail,” and goes on to say that Republicans have wasted “1,000 hours” in the Senate so far. This reinforces the whole “Party of No” image the Republicans have embraced, and is very effective in doing so. From the ad, and a good way to wrap up a week of misdirection: “Ideas are hard, blocking them is easy, especially in the Senate … We won’t get caught as long as [Americans are] confused by all the noise and misinformation we throw out there.” Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank More on Nancy Pelosi
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Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points  — Misdirection
[ First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru . ] The man who beat non-Democrat Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut urges you to stand with the man who will beat non-Democrat Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania. Also, courtesy of The REAL Arlen Specter : In his 45 years as a Republican, Arlen Specter cast thousands of votes for his party and against Democratic principles. In the last eight years, he voted more than 2,000 times with the Bush Republicans. So when he claimed at Netroots Nation, “I’ll stand behind my votes one by one,” it makes one wonder, “Really, Arlen?” It’s hard to imagine any Democrat would stand behind voting for Bush’s tax cuts for the richest of the rich or for Sarah Palin to be Vice-President of the United States , but the Real Arlen Specter is proud of his Republican credentials. … From the War in Iraq to the economic policies that created this savage recession, many of our current problems can be ascribed to one man: George W. Bush, who Specter voted for in 2000. Given the chance to correct that vote and help put John Kerry in the White House, what did the Real Arlen Specter do? Co-Chair Bush-Cheney ‘04 in Pennsylvania and vote for him a second time. Now you can chose which one of these actions by the long-time Republican Senator is most egregious. Vote in our poll on this page and check back to see which vote was the worst of the worst. We will call on Arlen to stand behind the winner. On the web: Joe Sestak, Democrat for Senate The REAL Arlen Specter Contribute to Joe Sestak via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page More on Arlen Specter
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Senate Guru: Joe Sestak, Ned Lamont, and Arlen Specter’s Top Ten Worst Votes
Research 2000 for Daily Kos , New York’s 23rd District, 10/19/09-10/21/09, Likely Voters, MoE +/- 4% Bill Owens (D) 35 DeDe Scozzafava (R) 30 Doug Hoffman (C) 23 As promised earlier in the week, DK polls the contentious three-way battle in upstate New York to replace Republican Congressman John McHugh. Our findings, as it happens, mirror fairly closely the results of the other public poll (PDF file) in the race, which was released last week by Siena College. Democrat Bill Owens is rapidly becoming the beneficiary of a brutal schism between the GOP and movement conservatives, and it is growing more plausible that the Democrats may pick up yet another House seat as a result. Furthermore, there appears to be little chance of a truce–bear in mind that this poll was conducted before right-wing royalty in the forms of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann decided not to endorse the Republican nominee, casting their lot with the far-right insurgent candidate. Remarkably, given that the district has a 42-32 Republican edge in self-indentification, it is the Democrat that has the most positive split in his favorabilities in this poll. Owens sits on a +9 favorability (33-24), which is slightly better than Hoffman at a +8 spread (27-19), and considerably better than Scozzafava, whose favorability rests at present at a +3 spread (38-35). In a potentially perilous sign for the Republican nominee, with only two weeks until Election Day, Scozzafava does not even draw a favorable reaction from the majority of Republicans (49-23). In another stat that should make the GOP very nervous, Owens holds his five-point lead, despite the fact that the undecided vote remaining in the race (which is one-in-eight voters) is disproportionately Democratic and disproportionately young. Furthermore, if Scozzafava is hoping on a Hoffman fade to bring her home, she might be left wanting: only 9% of Hoffman’s supporters declared Scozzafava as their second choice. While better than Owens (who only nabbed 3% of the Hoffman vote), it is still far from offset by the much larger segments of the Hoffman vote who would either stay home, or remain undecided. This poll just furthers a series of news cycles that have been simply awful for the GOP nominee. And as FEC reports filed yesterday made clear , Scozzafava is not just trailing her electoral rival in the polls. Looking at campaign totals filed yesterday (from the beginning of the campaign until October 14th), Scozzafava actually is running third with $250K net raised and just $40K on hand. Owens leads the field (with room to spare) with $503K raised and $128K on hand. Hoffman is actually in second in the money chase with $307K raised (albeit with a $102K loan to his own campaign). Hoffman also leads Scozzafava in cash-on-hand. This trend has continued, according to the latest numbers from 48-hour reports which have been filed since the 15th. Clearly, the right-wing schism over Scozzafava is not just hurting the GOP nominee in the polls. What’s worse, she has only ten days to right the ship before Election Day dawns.
Boom goes the dynamite …. Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday endorsed Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman over Dede Scozzafava, the Republican Party’s choice, in the special election for New York’s 23rd congressional district. “The people of the 23rd Congressional District of New York are ready to shake things up, and Doug Hoffman is coming on strong as Election Day approaches! He needs our help now,” Palin wrote in a statement that will be posted on her Facebook page late Thursday. Palin is not only vocally throwing her weight behind the right-wing Hoffman, she is talking with her bankbook. She is planning to have her political action committee, SarahPAC, max out to Hoffman’s campaign (which has now raised over $300K in his bid for Congress, and appears to be outraising Scozzafava, according to recent FEC 48-hour reports). In her endorsement, Palin minces few words in ripping into the Republican Party, yet another sign that the party is on the verge of a fratricidal bloodletting: “Political parties must stand for something. When Republicans were in the wilderness in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan knew that the doctrine of ‘blurring the lines’ between parties was not an appropriate way to win elections,” she added, launching into an attack of the Republican Party. “Unfortunately, the Republican Party today has decided to choose a candidate that more than blurs the lines, and there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race. This is why Doug Hoffman is running on the Conservative Party’s ticket,” she wrote. “Republicans and conservatives around the country are sending an important message to the Republican establishment in their outstanding grassroots support for Doug Hoffman: no more politics as usual.” Palin’s decision to throw her lot in with the third-party insurgent candidate is the second notable Republican defection in as many days for Scozzafava, who has struggled almost since the moment that district Republicans decided to award their party nomination to her. On Wednesday, it was one of the other luminaries in the GOP’s female Axis of Wingnuttery–the one and only Michele Bachmann , who decided to turn her back on the Republican Party: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared yesterday on Laura Ingraham’s radio show — and called upon listeners to support Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate in the NY-23 special election, instead of the moderate Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava. Bachmann quite correctly said the race is a “mess,” and said that she’s read that the Republican candidate is now in third place, with the Democrat in first place and Hoffman as the real chance to keep the seat in the GOP column. In her rationale for supporting Hoffman, Bachmann appears to be talking out of school a bit. There are absolutely no public polls that have Hoffman leading Scozzafava. The assumption, therefore, is that Bachmann is privy to some private polling that has Hoffman ahead of Scozzafava. Daily Kos will be releasing our numbers from the New York 23rd district in the morning. Without divulging too much information, it is fair to presume that Scozzafava’s streak of bad news days is unlikely to be stopped on Friday.
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NY-23: Palin and Bachmann Agree…Down With the GOP
If you read the N.Y.Times in its coverage of the disruption of the Kindle, you might think that publishers are losing a fortune from the sudden rise in Kindle sales. Actually, the opposite is true. Amazon is buying Kindle rights from publishers at the same price they’re paying for physical books. And Amazon is sticking with its policy to sell Kindle books at no more than $9.99. So take your average $20 list price hardcover book (if I were a shameless self-promoter, I would use my book The Genius Machine as an example, since it also has a list price of $20. But I will resist the temptation.) The publisher sells it to Amazon for 50% off, or $10. Amazon could sell my the book for $20, but they discount it down to $13.57, and make a profit of $3.57, or maybe a little less if Amazon is paying for shipping. Now take the same book sold as a Kindle. Amazon pays $10 for those rights, too. And Amazon sells the download for $9.99, thereby earning a gross profit of 1¢ on each copy. On books that wholesale for more than $9.99, Amazon seems to be locked into a loss with every sale. And what about the publisher? On a $20 retail book they get the same $10 for the Kindle edition as they did for the actual hardcover that cost them some $2.00 to manufacture, ship, and even keep a reserve for returns of unsold books. So who is making a killing on the Kindle? The publishers. And Publishers, please, if I’m wrong about these numbers, share the facts with us in the comments below. Publishers are worried that Amazon will choose to stop losing money on Kindle sales at some point. They are just waiting for that shoe to drop. Hence the cheering for Barnes & Noble’s new reader, Nook. (Nook. Interesting name. Just asking, but what would you call a diminutive version of the Nook?) Publishers are beyond eager for someone, anyone, to stop Amazon from completely owning ebooks! Now let’s talk about those ten books that Wal-Mart and Target are offering for pre-orders at $8.99 and Amazon at $9.00. These are for hardcover books ranging in list price from Linda Howard’s Ice at $22 all the way up to Stephen King’s 1088 page monster Under the Dome that lists for a mighty $35. What is the meaning, if any, in these door-busting discounts? Comes now (”Comes now” is a locution reserved for columnists who can’t find a better way to introduce a new character into a story. But I digress.) Motoko “Cassandra” Rich of the N.Y. Times in her “Price War” story in last Saturday’s paper, wherein she worries that Wal-Mart selling some pro-orders for books as a loss-leader will somehow “fundamentally damage the industry and the ability of future authors to write or publish books.” And, once more, end publishing as we know it. To tell her story, Ms. Rich interviews bestselling author James Patterson, who she was apparently grateful to reach before her deadline, since she quotes him at length no matter how little light he has to shed upon the subject. Frankly, interviewing an author about retail price discounting is akin to interviewing a tuna about the price of a Salade Niçoise. The fact is, publishers don’t really care what a retailer sells a book for. Retailers want to take a loss? No problem. What everyone needs to be concerned about, though, is when a Wal-Mart or Amazon pressures a publisher to sell at what is known as a “deep-discount.” That should set off alarms for authors and agents, since most author agreements call for author royalties to take a severe hit when the publisher sells at a deep discount. Authors: Read your contracts! Find that “Deep Discount” clause. Does it say something to the effect that when the publisher sells your book for more than a 50% discount, the author royalty suddenly gets cut in half? Think about that. The publisher gives Barnes & Noble an extra 1% discount and you lose half your royalties on every book sold. The big take-away here is that nine of the ten books being hacked down in price by Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart are fiction titles. Only one calls itself non-fiction. And this is the clue to smart book pricing. Fiction is generally sold as entertainment. Entertainment tends to be more fungible. Non-fiction is generally sold on the value of the information it contains. So pricing the two in the same way seems crazy. How much would you pay for information that can change your life? Heal a child? Save your business? Is that information worth only $20? Is that all you’d pay for it? We haven’t begun to touch value pricing for non-fiction. That is the real gold mine just waiting for publishers. We’ll write more about the potential and the theory of value pricing soon. In the meantime, you have to wonder about the one non-fiction title that’s being treated just like all those other nine fiction titles being deep discounted. Yes, it’s Sarah Palin’s memoir. Now, if what she were about to disclose had great value, say information that could, in some way, save the Union, it certainly would be worth a lot. Some of us would pay real money for that kind of knowledge. But Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon say we can have it all for just $8.99. Maybe they know something. More on Kindle
Here is the original:
Gerald Sindell: Can We Have A Little Chat About Money?
As part of its Bearing Witness 2.0 project, the Huffington Post is rounding up a few of the best local stories of the day. State budget cuts have led Michigan to lay off all of its state school bus inspectors, which means that as soon as Nov. 2 schools that can’t pay for the inspections themselves may stop their bus services, reports Ron French of the Detroit News . The inspection program, which costs the state $1.4 million a year, is being eliminated in order to battle a $2.8 billion deficit. It is illegal to operate school buses without yearly inspections. Nathan Rowen, director of transportation for the Lansing School District, expressed concern that his district would be unable to bus its roughly 4,500 students to and from school. “I could have the fleet out of business if they haven’t corrected [the law] yet,” he said, according to Scott Davis of the Lansing State Journal . State Rep. Richard LeBlanc (D-Westland) suggested that the law be amended to make the safety inspections voluntary: “It’s not a good thing, but it’s a budget reality.” The inspector lay-offs, said LeBlanc, “really [do] point to the economic distress we’re in…[T]he money simply is not there.” ****** Raven Miller, 11, is one of the many homeless students in Southern Florida’s Charlotte County School District, where the number of homeless children has tripled in the past year, reports Sarah Hollenbeck of the local NBC affiliate . Her father, Andrew, recently got a job at a fast food restaurant, after applying for about 50 different positions. The two live together in a homeless shelter, and have trouble affording things like pencils or crayons. “We’re going to get through this and we’ll be happy again,” said Raven. She and her father only have a month left at the shelter, before their 90 days are up and they will be kicked out. The local increase in homeless kids happened at the same time that incoming federal funds earmarked for homeless students have been cut by half, so the district is forced to do three times more with less than half as much. But still, the Millers are glad to have some help. “Raven would not be in school right now and I would be homeschooling her or I wouldn’t have her,” without the funds, said Andrew, which is something Raven refused to think about. “He’s my bestest friend and he’s the only one pretty much there for me. And I love him for that,” she said. If we could only get these kids into a hot air balloon , they might get the attention they deserve… ****** Wayne Gammons has been unemployed for over two years. Gammons, who is legally blind, has had difficulty finding work and is supporting his family of five on his $1,000 per month disability checks, reports Julia Bruck of Southern Illinois’ KFVS . He was getting help from Kathy Sikora of the Farm Resource Center , which helps struggling rural families with things like electric bills, food, and school supplies, but much of that assistance has stopped when budget cuts halted their funding over the summer. “There are several times we’ve needed their help and she wasn’t there because funding is gone,” Gammons said. The Farm Resource Center is trying to raise private funds and hopes to reopen some of its operations by January. HuffPost readers: Seen a good local story? Heard about a heroic judge, neighbor, or doctor helping people stay in their homes? Tell us about it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org . More on Bearing Witness 2.0
Originally posted here:
Michigan Can’t Afford School Bus Safety Inspections, May Stop Service
I’m bored. I know this is my problem and not yours. Maybe you are very excited. Barack is arguing with Fox over whether Fox is really a wing of the Republican Party or a straight news organization. The Republicans are arguing with Norway over who deserves to get the Nobel Peace Prize. Gen. McChrystal is arguing with the Administration (or, more particularly I guess, Joe Biden) over whether we need 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan. The American Medical Association is arguing for the public option. Americans are arguing with Wall Street about obscene bonuses. And Sarah Palin is … Still arguing. So maybe it’s just me. A kind of inherent dullness borne of some deep genetic reality that says all this exciting stuff is all so … Boring. But maybe not. Oh, I agree, the AMA thing is kind of a hoot. You could look far and wide for the last time the AMA has supported anything remotely akin to national health insurance and come up empty handed. But here they are, endorsing the public option, and proving once and for all that this whole current health care debate really is the insurance companies against everyone else. Too bad the insurance companies may win. Which, of course, would be exciting … In that perverse sort of way those who have no business winning still manage to do so against all odds. I mean, it’s pretty hard to find a better opponent than insurance companies. I have never seen one of those favorable/unfavorable polls on them. Probably because you can’t get anyone to say something favorable. So you’d think that, in a one-on-one against them on health care — with the AMA on your side, no less — the insurance boys would be toast. But they’re not. Newt Gingrich has promised them that if a health care bill passes, his party will go to the country in 2010 and 2012, win, and then repeal the health care reform not yet passed today. In truth, this sounds more like a wish than a promise. A “been there, done that,” so let’s do it again boast. A bit of retro from the GOP’s glory days of ‘94, when voters had no knowledge of what the Party of God would actually do if they ran the table and won it all. In a word … Boring. Then there’s Wall Street. The gloom and doom is over. Or at least pretty aggressively abated. Earlier in the year, the TARP money they got from us taxpayers made it possible for them to survive. Now they are reserving record level bonus pools for themselves, which gives new meaning to the words “Thank you.” The real fear among reformers is that the Administration in general, and Geithner’s Treasury Department in particular, is so larded with the authors of the last two financial bubbles that nothing will change. And as of now, it’s hard to argue with that. Health care reform — a long term driver of the deficit reduction needed to allow fiscal policy to work without crippling later inflation — is stalled. And the financial sector is still largely deregulated. It’s deja vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra. What a yawn. I should be able to get excited about Barack’s Nobel Prize. And I am. But the truth is that I am excited because it sends the right wing around the bend. So, in a reprise of my Catholic youth, excitement is tempered with guilt. I generally buy into the notion that Nobel Prizes should go to those who do something … Other than give great speeches. You know — negotiate a treaty, end a war, cure AIDS, keep an eye on Russia from your backyard. Even the President was embarrassed. There he was in the middle of trying to fashion a new war strategy for Afghanistan, refereeing internal disputes over troop levels between his Vice President and the Commander on the ground, wondering how in the world we managed to pick another ally who is not all that good at running his country and oh, by the way, may have stolen the recent election, keeping his eye on the other war he had nothing to do with but is committed to ending, and watching Iran pretend to negotiate on nukes (having stolen a recent election), none of which has led to much of anything yet, and the Norwegians wake us up one day with the news that he has been awarded the Peace Prize. Maybe it was for next year. Fox, of course, had a field day. They reported all the right wing chest thumpers feigning sincere outrage that so undeserving a recipient could have been picked. They gave plenty of time to all those who lamented (as they now do on an annual basis) how the whole Peace Prize thing is nothing more than Norway’s exercise of political leverage in the service of appeasement and old Europe. They even reported calls from some that Barack refuse the prize or give it back (which, come to think of it, might not be a bad idea — maybe he and Kissinger could work a “two-fer”, albeit for different reasons). All this, they call “straight news.” Wow. Even the lies are … Boring. More on Sarah Palin
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Neil McCarthy: Boring
On Monday I reported that authorities alleged that Richard Henne, the man who said his kid was in the balloon, had called a tv station before he called 911. I asked why the tv station didn’t confirm the situation before covering the story. It turns out that the news director of KUSA in Denver, not only confirmed the story, but spoke directly to the sheriff about it before sending a crew. Two interesting things here: 1) we got it wrong and went wide with our coverage and 2) we got our information from a trusted source. Which should bring a bigger digital life story into focus. In the information age, how far do you have to go before you can consider your fact checking complete? Obviously we didn’t go far enough, but we thought we did. This is just the tip of the info-iceberg, even with the best of intentions, facts are at risk. Oprah scored the first interview with Sarah Palin. The episode of Oprah will air November 16th, the day before Palin’s new book, Going Togue: An American Life hits stores. The interview is another in a long line of Oprah exclusives, sure to guarantee high ratings for the Queen of Media. After its officlal unveiling yesterday, Barnes & Noble’s Nook will not hit the market today, or next week, but November 30th. The dual screen eReader comes with a free connection to AT&T’s 3G network, as well as Wi-Fi capabilities. The other big news is that the Nook is powered by Google’s Android operating system, a potentially big win for Google. After selling a record number of iPhones and Mac’s during the last quarter, Apple refreshed its line of iMac desktop computers today. The upgrade to the popular line includes larger screens, as well as the new Magic Mouse, which is touch sensitive. Shelly Palmer is a consultant and the host of MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer a daily show featuring news you can use about technology, media & entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group LLC and the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV . Shelly is also President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. You can join the MediaBytes mailing list here . Shelly can be reached at email@example.com For information about Get Digital Classes, visit www.shellypalmer.com/seminars More on Balloon Boy
For a while now, cybersecurity has been a buzzword used in hopes of making national computer network security sound sexy, but there’s been little legislative backbone behind measures to support federal departmental efforts. The position touted as Cybersecurity Czar has been fraught with problems in both the recent Bush administration and the new Obama team, dubbed a dead-end scapegoat job with no prospects. For technologists and security policy advocates, this has been a frustrating process. Now it looks as if change may be in the works in Congress. Taking a moment to read some of the draft legislation currently under review - particularly in the Senate - it’s worth noting that those in office are well aware that cybersecurity is a concern across the board. It’s not just a political phrase to drop in hopes for greater appropriations; it really is a far-reaching problem and the language is making its way into some major bills, along with significant funds to back them up. Take, for instance, S. 773: Cybersecurity Act of 2009 . It begins with countless examples of how critical cybersecurity is in securing our infrastructure. It may not be the ideal bill for achieving systemic change, but it’s a start. The bill calls for extensive resources to be allocated to recruitment and training of new personnel, and it skims the surface of the need for greater national leadership in cybersecurity. Still, terrorists are a lot smarter than the average scam artist and the new administration is calling for over 1000 technical cybersecurity workers to help bridge the gap between existing Homeland Security and related staff and what the president and Congress see as necessary for adequate protection. This is a huge undertaking that some believe is unrealistic. The truth is: anything that relies on bits and bites, receives signals or transmits information can be a weak point in our collective security. Responding to potential threats that widespread requires a concerted, collaborative effort. Whatever happens next with the new leadership and legislation nationally could have dramatic effects on our safety and security at home. It’s worth tracking the progress.
Last January, as I understand it, the White House promised Big Pharma, big insurance, and the American Medical Association the moral equivalent of what Joel Halderman allegedly demanded of David Letterman: hush money. The groups agreed to stay silent or even be supportive of healthcare reform, as long as they were paid off. But now that it’s time to collect, the bill is larger than the White House expected, and it’s going to fall like an avalanche on middle class Americans in coming years. That could mean an ugly 2012 election (read Sarah Palin). So the President has to do what Letterman did: Refuse to pay. Big Pharma is on the road to getting its deal: not only 25 to 30 million more paying customers, but also a continued ban on Medicare using its bargaining clout to reduce drug prices, a bar on genetic drug manufacturers introducing similar biologic drugs until the originals have been on the market at least twelve years, and no public insurance option to negotiate low drug prices. (Big Pharma did agree to $80 billion of cost cuts over the next ten years, to be sure, but its hush money payoffs far exceeded that sum.) Big insurance is well on the way to getting what it wants: 25 to 30 million more paying customers (many of them young and healthy), a requirement that almost all businesses “pay or play,” and no competition from a public option. Doctors (that is, the American Medical Association) are on the way to getting what they want: Instead of a temporary patch on scheduled decreases in Medicare reimbursements to them, a permanent fix that would change the reimbursement formula altogether and reward them $240 billion over the next ten years. But when they all get paid off, who will do the paying? Middle-class Americans who are already in a financial squeeze — whose wages are lower, adjusted for inflation, than they were thirty years ago, and whose jobs are disappearing. They’ll face still higher premiums, co-payments, and deductibles; and they’ll pay higher drug prices, Medicare premiums, and taxes to cover the rest. That’s because these payoffs make it next to impossible to contain the wildly escalating costs of health care. And 25 to 30 million additional Americans will be covered. The only thing in the emerging bills that’s related to cost containment is a proposed excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” insurance plans, priced over a certain threshold amount (the threshold is now up for grabs). But because the costs of health care are likely to rise faster than inflation, whatever the threshold, the middle class will get socked again. So Obama has to forcefully weigh in with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as the two try to cobble together passable bills for each chamber — demanding real cost containment. The three big means of containing costs: (1) A true public option (better yet, one that allows anyone now holding private insurance to opt into; (2) authority for Medicare to negotiate low drug prices; and (3) lower Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors (in other words, no “doctor fix”). In addition, the so-called “medical exchanges” in the emerging bills (as well as the public option, which hopefully will be included) should give preference to pre-paid heathcare plans, like Kaiser Permanente, whose doctors are on salary and have every incentive to keep people healthy rather than charge for more services and tests. But if Obama doesn’t weigh in forcefully and say “no” to the hush money for Big Pharma, big insurance, and the AMA, America’s middle class will get walloped. And if the walloping starts before 2012, Sarah Palin or some other right wing-nut populist will wallop Obama. And after she or he wallops Obama, America will get walloped even worse. Cross-posted from Robert Reich’s Blog More on Health Care
Robert Reich: Lessons From Letterman in Health Reform
Sarah Palin has joined LinkedIn . And guess what? She’s interested in “job inquiries.” The former Alaska governor has posted her resume on the professional social-networking web site LinkedIn. The service boasts over 45 million users who connect and refer colleagues. Instead of using the Facebook term “friends,” LinkedIn users have “connections.” Palin had over 500 connections as of Saturday evening. The URL for Palin’s LinkedIn profile uses “/governorpalin” despite the fact that Palin resigned from her job as Alaska’s governor in July 2009. The University of Idaho is the sole education entry on Palin’s LinkedIn profile. She does not list the four other institutions she attended before earning her degree. The former governor is no stranger to social networking. Before and after resigning, Palin posted lengthy messages on her Facebook page. Palin posted a message slamming President Barack Obama over the Afghan War just a couple weeks ago. She has over 929,000 Facebook supporters . Politico has hypothesized that Palin’s use of Facebook might have something to do with her resources: To some degree, Palin’s strategy may be driven by necessity. The former governor has operated with a skeleton crew since leaving the governor’s office, with a team consisting of only a handful of staffers employed by her political action committee located in Virginia. Sarah Palin’s popularity took a dive recently. Her memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life” will be released November 17. More on Social Networking
Be careful what you wish for goes the old saying. The compliment in politics that applies today is: Be careful what you promise. A Democratic congressional majority, plus the presidency is a wonderful thing, but only if you use the power to implement policies you pledged to enact. Heard a lot about this during my Washington Journal appearance earlier today. You can watch it here. Suffice it to say that “disgruntled” is being polite. We talked a lot about health care, though I don’t think Harry Reid will appreciate I suggested he should take his cues from Rep. Alan Grayson; with Afghanistan and Pakistan something I got into the discussion as well. The hate mail coming in is a hoot. Byron York wrote recently about how Democrats are feeling, even if he doesn’t fully understand it. That the power new media wields no longer makes us the “Internet fringe,” but has manifested because we now reflect the feelings of Democrats across this country. The feud is entertaining for the media, but the Democrats face a very real problem: Dissatisfaction with the party has spread beyond the Internet fringe. Recent Gallup polling shows that Congress’ job approval among Democrats plunged in September, from 54 percent to 36 percent — an 18-point drop in the course of a single month. There simply can’t be that many people in pajamas. Mainstream, non-progressive, non-pajama Democrats are now decidedly unhappy with the performance of their leaders in Congress. The presence of unbeatable Democratic majorities — 256 Democrats in the House and 60 in the Senate, backed up by a Democratic president — has made rank-and-file Democrats less, rather than more, satisfied. That’s because the Democratic majority and Pres. Obama are not delivering on promises and pledges through the power we gave them. Many insider Democratic types think that having a majority is the goal when it’s just a beginning. And once you decide that compromise is the way to keep your job you forget to actually do your job. That’s not exactly an exact quote from Pres. Josiah Bartlett of the “West Wing”, but it’s the same sentiment. The annoyance reached critical mass when Pres. Obama underestimated and allowed Sarah Palin’s “death panel” squeal to monopolize the summer, with the tea party brawlers the next to hit, until the White House finally figured out they’d better strike back. However, when the public weighed in on health care supporting the public option overwhelming, and leaders of the Democratic Party from Obama to Reid to the Democratic caucus were unwilling to take the reigns and run with it, the annoyance bubbled over with progressive and online activists taking over the leadership role themselves. There’s a reason people elected Democrats. To get something done. The sad fact is that they have not delivered tangible results on very key issues even with the majority they were handed starting with health care, but also ending the Iraq war. Then there is DADT, closing Gitmo, and on and on, with Afghanistan now seen as Obama’s Iraq, as it becomes more and more unpopular. Another real issue, on which the Huffington Post has led, is Obama’s bailouts coupled with the stories of continuing record bonuses, Treasury’s complicity in lack of financial transparency, and what is seen as wholesale looting of the American taxpayers’ wallet. With no job growth in sight. We worked to get this majority and the Democrats in charge of using it are screwing up badly. It’s no secret. People are pissed. And while I appreciate very much the power of Obama’s speeches, the latest given at a $30,000 a plate DNC fundraiser, though you could pay much less to attend a reception and hear the speech, which listed his accomplishments along with red meat partisan rhetoric. It came after visiting New Orleans, which is still a mess four years later, with Obama telling the crowd he couldn’t write a check to help them out, because of the U.S. Constitution and Congress. If you can bail out the banks, Mr. President, you can sure as hell bail out New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama where people’s lives are still in limbo. So let’s get one thing straight. It’s not our anger that will sink the Democratic majority, contrary to what Byron York writes. It’s that if the Democratic majority and Pres. Obama don’t listen to us they will have not only ignored the people who gave them the power, but in turning away from what we want will doom Democrats to lose it. Taylor Marsh , with podcasts available on iTunes. More on Health Care
Taylor Marsh: Disgruntled Democrats
Over the weekend, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California vetoed legislation that would have made California the first state in the nation to collect comprehensive data on the physical evidence collected from rape victims that is sitting in police storage facilities. The bill, AB1017, which sailed through both houses of the state legislature, had been hailed by advocates as model legislation and an important first step in reckoning with the huge backlog in the United States. But Governor Schwarzenegger, citing the time and money it would take law enforcement agencies to collect the data, decided to oppose a law that would help bring justice to rape victims. Every year in the United States, more than 200,000 people report to the police that they have been raped. Many are asked to submit to this collection of DNA evidence from their bodies, which is stored in a small package called a rape kit. It is an invasive and sometimes traumatic process that takes four to six hours. But the potential benefits are enormous: testing the DNA evidence can identify an unknown rapist, confirm the identity of a known assailant, corroborate the victim’s account, and exonerate innocent suspects. When a victim undergoes the examination to collect a rape kit, both she and the public reasonably assume that the kit will be tested. But all too often, that is not the case.Why does reporting rape kit data matter so much to rape victims and their advocates? When Human Rights Watch began researching the rape kit backlog in Los Angeles, we heard powerful stories from rape victims whose kits had not been tested. Without hard numbers, however, it was difficult to generate the political will to fix the problem. Obtaining these numbers proved our most difficult–and vital–task. A March 2009 report by Human Rights Watch found that in the Los Angeles area alone, there were more than 12,500 untested rape kits. Our research strongly suggests that backlogs are not unique to Los Angeles. Every major jurisdiction we have examined that does not have a clear policy of testing every kit booked into police evidence has such a backlog. We are not aware of any jurisdiction in California that has a mandatory testing policy outside of the recently revised policies of the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff’s Departments. Under the California Public Records Act, law enforcement agencies can be required to report the number of rape kits they have inventoried and counted. But if they don’t count them, it becomes a Catch 22 situation: technically there is no information to report, as if the kits in storage did not exist. It took nearly nine months of advocacy and public education to get the Police and Sheriff’s Departments in Los Angeles to count their untested rape kits. And it was not until the numbers were publicized that law enforcement was compelled to change its policies. Now that the extent of Los Angeles’ backlog is known, immense progress has been made toward its elimination. The Los Angeles Police and Sheriff Departments have made commitments to count and test every rape kit collected from a victim and booked into evidence. California needs to replicate this level of commitment to rape victims throughout the state. Los Angeles should not be the only city in California where rape victims can be assured that the evidence from their crimes will be inventoried and tested. Only through annual reporting to the Department of Justice will California law enforcement provide accountability to those victims who entrust them with the future of their cases. Expecting law enforcement to keep track of evidence from serious violent crimes doesn’t seem like too much to ask. The lawmakers who passed this bill understood that. But by vetoing this bill, Governor Schwarzenegger missed an opportunity to signal to rape victims that their cases matter enough to require even this minimal effort.
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Sarah Tofte: Vetoing Justice for Rape Victims
Imagine you are at your son or daughter’s play with a distracting hankering for a piece of chocolate. After much internal debate, you decide to satisfy your sweet tooth by allowing yourself exactly one piece of chocolate. In the lobby, students are offering two options–a Lindt Truffle for $0.14 or a Hershey Kiss for $0.00. Which do you choose? How much does price factor into your decision? Thanks to the research of behavioral economist Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational , we can put a bit of concrete data to this scenario… A couple of years back Ariely and his team set up a table in front of a public building to sell chocolate at various price points to test how price impacts consumer behavior. In their first experiment they charged the following and got the following responses: Lindt truffles:0.15 (73% of customers chose this option) Hershey’s kisses:0.01 (37% of customers chose this option) In the battle of quality versus price, it appears that “quality” won out. Now, in the second experiment they discounted each option by a penny: Lindt truffles:0.14 (31% of customers chose this option) Hershey’s kisses:0.00 (69% of customers chose this option) From the first experiment we can see that Lindt is clearly the preferred brand of chocolate. Even when Ariely and company priced truffles at 26 cents and Kisses at a penny in subsequent experiments, Lindt still won out. Yet, the moment FREE! was introduced into the equation, Kisses won the battle of consumer choice by a landslide. Why? Ariely writes, “Zero is not just another discount. Zero is a different place. The difference between two cents and one cent is small, but the difference between one cent and zero is huge!” Moving back to our school play… Which will you choose, the relatively “expensive” Lindt Truffle or the free Hershey Kiss? Now, what if you have the option of a Lindt Truffle ($0.14), a Hershey Kiss ($0.00) or a piece of your neighbor’s infamous triple chocolate fudge ($0.00)? FREE! fudge sounds quite lovely, doesn’t it? Especially knowing that your neighbor has been cooking fudge for years and is a real expert in the realm of chocolate… Getting hungry? Where am I going with this? Well, for the past four years the organization I direct, Curriki , has provided access to tens of thousands of lessons, units and learning objects to people across the globe free of charge via the Web. With nearly 90,000 registered members of our site, we know Curriki is providing a valuable service to educators in need of the right lesson at the right time and at the right price point for their classrooms. Now to date, that price has been FREE! , but as Curriki aims to sustain itself over the next ten years and beyond, we are wondering if our pricing structure and product are in need of a revision. The content on Curriki is not the expensive and polished Lindt chocolate that the major textbook and supplemental providers represent. Nor are we the lower grade but wildly abundant “edutainment” web sites that share the same instructional value as a Hershey’s Kiss. Instead, Curriki is that rich, time-tested fudge that your neighbor makes. Like the fudge, the quality of the educational resources on Curriki is the product of years of experience. What is exciting about Curriki is that it leverages the collective experience of educators around the world, giving them a place to share ideas, content and best practices. By harnessing all of this institutional knowledge, Curriki is inverting the publishing paradigm. Rather than relying on publishers to create content, Curriki empowers classroom teachers to build and share their best work. We believe that breadth, depth and the classroom tested nature of the resources on Curriki give them substantial value. As Curriki now explores creative ways to sustain itself and find the right product/market fit, we again need the input of the education community. Teachers, administrators and parents, help us out by responding in the comments section below! In light of the financial pressure that most schools are under, how comfortable are you moving from a polished textbook to a repository of teacher-created content? What does high-quality educational content mean to you? Has it been tested? Is it comprehensive? Is it research-based? Is it problem-focused? Is it aligned to standards and learning objectives? Does the price tag on a piece of content impact your perception of its quality? Does an expensive textbook feel of higher quality than FREE! teacher-created content? As Ariely states in Predictably Irrational , “Most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context”. Given the context above, share your thoughts with us! Are you excited by a world with abundant teacher created, classroom-tested curricula? If so, what value (or “price”) would you give for its access? If that value is greater that $0.00, why not take a moment to promote Curriki and the sharing of content internationally ! P.S. Still thinking about chocolate? Check out this excellent teacher-created unit on the history and science of chocolate courtesy of Curriki member Sarah Wostbrock.
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Dr. Barbara Kurshan: What Chocolate Can Teach Us about Curriculum
Bill Frist never had 60 votes. Bill Frist never cared. Republicans ran the Senate as if they owned the place, even when enjoying razor-thin majorities. Yet when Democrats took the chamber, the first thing Harry Reid did was complain that he couldn’t do anything because he didn’t have 60 votes. Then voters delivered 59 votes. And Harry Reid whined that he still couldn’t do anything. In fact, nothing would ever get accomplished unless they had 60, and to do that, they had to bring turncoat Joe Lieberman back into the fold, even though he had spent the previous year making common cause with John McCain and Sarah Palin, even speaking at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. You see, we were told, Joe Lieberman is with us on everything except the war! So we need him for 60, and when we have 60, everyone will get ponies! And if Lieberman strays, why, Evan Bayh said Senate Democrats could punish him ! If he does retain his chairmanship, we still exert oversight over him and control over him. He doesn’t have the ability to just do whatever he wants. The caucus still has the right to remove him from that position at any time if he starts going off on some kind of tangent. Control him? Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Good thing we never believed his bullshit, because neither Bayh, nor Reid, nor any of the ineffective corporatist Dems would ever let this sort of thing actually happen. Lieberman knows this, which is why he’s once again making common cause with Republicans. So once again, Reid is complaining that he doesn’t have 60 votes, which is why they need to anoint Olympia Snowe as de facto President of the United States. Maybe SHE will get us to 60! But we all know Snowe has no intention of voting for real reform, and yet Reid (with White House backing) continue to let themselves get played. It’s all a farce. So much for 60. Still, don’t ask Harry Reid, Democratic Leader, Senate Leader, and the party’s #3 leader to actually start leading . Senator Harry Reid’s office is now going on record pushing back hard against a campaign by the left to compel him to force Dem Senators into line on health care, with Reid’s spokesman sending me a statement claiming the idea is unworkable and a non-starter “Senator Reid is focused on crafting a health care bill that will overcome a Republican filibuster. Stripping Democratic Senators of their leadership titles is a decision that would be left up to the Caucus, not Senator Reid. In light of this reality it’s unlikely that the Caucus would ever go along with this idea.” So that’s that. The notion of “leading” is clearly a non-starter for Reid, according to his office. Well, glad Reid’s office has admitted as such. Time for new leadership. And take special note of this sentence: Senator Reid is focused on crafting a health care bill that will overcome a Republican filibuster. Republican filibuster? Democrats have 60 voters. There is no Republican filibuster, just a Democratic one. The problem is Reid’s inability to keep his caucus together. His office can’t even be honest about Reid’s leadership failures. Fucking liars. I’ll take a Chuck Schumer-run Senate with 57 Democrats (bye bye Reid, Lieberman, and Lincoln) than a Harry Reid-run one with 75 Democrats.
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Harry Reid abdicates his leadership role
By Paul Steiger , ProPublica. Cross posted at McKinsey & Company: What Matters On Sunday, July 12, 2009, the Los Angeles Times published on its front page and on four full inside pages an article headed, Problem nurses stay on job as patients suffer. Of the many extraordinary things about this story, one stands out: it was written and principally reported by two reporters, Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber, who do not work for the Times. They work at ProPublica, a New York-based nonprofit and nonpartisan team of investigative journalists founded in 2008 and funded by philanthropy, including major support from the Sandler Foundation. Just a few years ago, there would have been a very slim chance that a paper of the Times’s standing would have devoted so much prime real estate to anything not entirely of its own origination and execution. How the world has changed! Over the past year, the Times and ProPublica have collaborated on two dozen stories on more than a half dozen subjects, and almost certainly will on more. And how good it has been for the people of California that these two organizations did find a way to work together! The piece detailed how the state board that licenses nurses was failing horribly to do its job. Specifically, the board was taking an average of 3.5 years–and sometimes as much as six years–to remove the licenses of nurses convicted of stealing drugs from their patients, of beating their patients, or of being in a stupor from drugs or alcohol while their patients faced emergencies. If these nurses were fired from one hospital for such misdeeds, they simply took their licenses down the street to another hospital, often to begin a new cycle of mistreatment and endangerment. The day after the Times published these revelations, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fired a majority of the nursing board’s members and replaced them with a new slate whom he charged with curing the system. Will they succeed? It’s far too early to tell, although the board has been granted subpoena power, has finally begun to set enforcement priorities, and has more than doubled the number of cases it initiates. ProPublica will continue to monitor their progress. I tell this anecdote not to brag on myself–I’m the editor-in-chief of ProPublica–or even to praise my brilliant colleagues Ornstein and Weber, who are the ones who deserve credit. The point is to show the importance of this kind of work: journalism intended to shine a spotlight on abuse of power and failure to uphold the public interest, and by so doing to give the public the information needed to produce positive change. We used to be able to count on robust metropolitan dailies to provide a steady flow of this valuable work. Now, while many newspapers continue to do as much of it as they can, the destruction of the business model they once depended on and the resultant shrinkage and even shuttering of newspapers around the country are robbing the American people of an important bulwark of our democracy. This change, of course, is just one of the many effects of a revolution in the way we get our news and information, caused by the dazzling rise of the Internet. This revolution has transformed the typical large and mid-size metro newspaper from a hugely profitable quasi monopoly turning out a must-have product for vast swaths of society, into an at-best break-even business with the dismal prospect of flattening or shrinking revenues. Newspapers are in the position of producing, at legacy expense, a product that is liked but considered not needed by college graduates over the age of 40–while increasingly ignored by everyone else. That sounds terrible, and to many of my friends in print journalism, where I spent a 40-year career, it is terrible. Moreover, while the details are different, much is similar at network television news and at the serious magazines. At the same time, however, it’s important to remember that this revolution has also brought many, many positives to society already, with many more likely to come in the future. The negatives are easy to see. Newspapers are shrinking staffs and news space. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has gone Web-only, while the Rocky Mountain News has closed altogether. Great old newspapers, like the Philadelphia Inquirer, have been operating in bankruptcy proceedings, as have entire chains, like Tribune. Even the New York Times has been losing money much of the past year and has had to borrow at junk-bond rates from a Mexican industrialist. Staff cuts have hit two areas particularly hard: investigative reporting and foreign reporting, in part because these are among the most expensive types of coverage. The Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, Newsday and many others have shut their once-proud foreign bureaus entirely. The Washington Post has cut its investigative team roughly in half, and nearly all papers have reduced the amount of time their shrunken reporting staffs can spend digging into possible domains of corruption, because they need to file news stories more often. In total, between the beginning of 2008 and the middle of 2009, newspapers have bought out or laid off nearly 26,000 journalists. That is the equivalent of more than 20 New York Timeses. Take what this means in one small place: Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, where I got my first paying job in journalism. A few years ago there were more than 50 reporters covering the Trenton state house. Now, I’m told, there are less than a quarter as many. This means that not only is there corruption that won’t be reported, but also that politicians, lobbyists, and others who might have toed the line before will now be tempted to cross it, because nobody will be watching. Multiply that by 50 states and you have the bad that the Internet revolution has wrought. But there is plenty of good. The first is speed. Clearly, we are getting much important news faster. The first detailed information about this past summer’s brutal crackdown against dissidents in Iran came not from reporters but from ordinary Iranian citizens, who were “tweeting” and e-mailing from the scene of the horror. Reporters were kept away and had to wait to verify the sickening reports. Then there is access to extraordinarily detailed information across a wide range of subjects, with some often-prosaic but satisfying consequences. I recently was about to embark on an early fall trip that would involve four days in Maine and three in Florida, with no opportunity to stop home in New York and refill my suitcase. I knew it would be hot in Florida and chilly in Maine. But how chilly, and how wet? Extended weather forecasts from both states allowed me to travel without rain gear and with only a light sweater. My father grew up in Brooklyn. I spent part of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s in Los Angeles. I’m an obsessive Dodgers fan. I live 3,000 miles away from California, in Manhattan. The Web lets me follow every pitch, every stat, and every injury report no matter where in the Web-enabled world I am, at any time of the day or night. That means not just Missoula or Miami or even Mexico City, but also Warsaw and Beijing. Obsessive, yes, but convenient. Consider another kind of ubiquity. Last year, a 20-something, self-taught Internet genius named Amanda Michel mobilized hundreds of politically active citizens to supply info for her “Off the Bus” report on the Huffington Post Web site. When Candidate Obama voiced the notion that some folks who were losing out in the global economy were clinging to such things as religion and guns to compensate, Michel’s network captured it and we soon all heard about it. Without that network, we might never have known, because reporters weren’t invited into the area where Mr. Obama spoke. Michel now works for ProPublica and has put together a team of more than 2,200 volunteers who will do similar reporting for us. This army permits us, for instance, to track progress on 500 representative federal stimulus projects in real time, even though our own news staff numbers just 32. The rise of the Web has also produced a torrent of opinion. Some is a mixed blessing–folks riffing in their pajamas about news they wouldn’t know about but for the reporting of traditional media, and giving it an often angry, often exaggerated spin to fit their particular vision of the world. But some is of real value: finding connections that no one else has spotted, or keeping the heat on an important story, as Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, famously did a few years ago with the story about the politically motivated firings of US attorneys. Given examples like these, some prophets of Web paradise argue that in the future there will be no need not only for newspapers–there will be no need for organizations of trained professional journalists. They make this argument even when faced with examples of egregious errors propagated on the Web. As my friend Michael Massing noted in a two-part report in the New York Review of Books recently, during last year’s political campaign bloggers on the left insisted that Sarah Palin had faked being pregnant to shield her daughter Bristol, supposedly the baby’s real mother, while those on the right steadfastly asserted that Mr. Obama had faked his birth certificate and thus his eligibility for the presidency. What’s the harm, the extreme Web advocates ask. Just as Wikipedia gradually gets us to truth, they argue, people with better knowledge will come forward to amend phony posts like these. And if the process of getting to truth needs to be speeded up, technology combined with the efforts of citizen volunteer journalists will provide the answer. Not so fast. The process of finding and communicating what we used to call news may no longer require newspapers–at least not as we have known them, as seven-day-a-week, ink-on-paper compendiums of new information on a broad range of subjects. But the process will still require journalism and journalists, to smoke out the most difficult-to-report situations, to test glib assertions against the facts, to probe for the carefully contrived hoax. These are reporting activities that take a great deal of time, money, and skill. The example of the Ornstein-Weber piece in the Los Angeles Times on how inept the California board was in removing licenses from felonious nurses amply demonstrates the importance of journalism and of journalistic organizations like the Times and ProPublica. Without such people and institutions, there is no way such a report would have emerged on the Web. It took many painstaking months to assemble the evidence necessary to demonstrate that it was taking the board unconscionable lengths of time to dig into these cases. Scores of people needed to be tracked down and asked if they had any information related to what our reporting had appeared to uncover. Few bloggers have the luxury of such time. Reporters risked being sued for libel or slander if they misidentified any of the miscreant nurses or mischaracterized their behavior. Few bloggers can afford to lose–or even to defend–a $10-million libel case. Databases needed to be built, analyzed, and made Web-friendly. Few bloggers have the quantitative or technical skills to do this. For decades, newspapers and, to a lesser extent, magazines and television, have provided the reporting, editing, legal guidance, and training necessary for information as crucial as that of the LA Times report to get before the public. Some of those institutions will succeed at morphing into more Web-friendly forms and will carry on their roles as department stores of news. These may include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and network and cable news. Public radio and television are likely to play a larger role, as they increasingly pour efforts into their Web sites and produce text and still photography to go along with audio and video. I suspect they will all be joined by pure Internet creatures perhaps including Talking Points Memo, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast. Carrying the retailing metaphor forward, I think the relative role of boutiques will rise, both for-profit and not-for-profit. Magazines like the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Vanity Fair; ideological standard bearers like the Nation, Mother Jones, the National Review, and the Spectator; Web-based upstarts like Politico; hyperlocal sites like voiceofsandiego.org, MinnPost, and the forthcoming Texas Tribune all have the potential to extend the practice of investigative or “accountability” journalism. It will be years, though, if then, before they will make up for the losses incurred in the last year or two. At ProPublica, we strive to play a meaningful role in this process. With the largest investigative news staff in the nation, and with established partnerships with a range of national and metropolitan publishers, there are some things we believe we are uniquely positioned to accomplish. Two more examples may suffice: Our coverage of the risks to the nation’s water supplies from hydraulic fracturing, a promising means of drilling for natural gas, has set off a national debate, now reaching to the halls of Congress. More than 40 exclusive ProPublica stories on hydrofracking have already run in five leading metro newspapers, two major online sites, a national magazine, and on public radio, as well as on our own site, ProPublica.org. That is a range, and a persistence, that traditional news organizations increasingly are unable to match. At the same time, we can empower other journalists as well. On August 5, 2009, for instance, ProPublica launched its Recovery Tracker, a database enabling anyone to review federal stimulus spending down to the county level. In the four weeks that followed, local reporters around the country dug into the database and produced stories on the impact of the spending in their communities. Such stories, each of them based on original reporting and the use of ProPublica’s database, were published by nearly 70 local newspapers and Web sites. These efforts do not lessen the pain being suffered among journalists today. They do not, by themselves, remove the threat to accountability, and thus to our democracy, posed by the business challenges of the press. But they are a start, and they hold, I believe, real promise. Paul Steiger is the editor-in-chief of ProPublica, America’s largest investigative newsroom. More on Newspapers
ProPublica: Investigative Reporting in the Web Era
This year Architecture for Humanity turned ten. Its’ mission to provide pro bono design services to communities in need has led to more than 750,000 people are living, learning, working or healing in buildings designed and built by international team of design professionals. The last 12 months has been spooky. We are hiring like crazy , taking on more projects around the world, local chapter expanding in cites around the world and building more structures than ever before. This might explain why we were asked to keynote a recent conference alongside Sarah Palin . In order to handle this growth we need to expand in a sustainable manner and are embarking on our first capital building campaign . We are asking those most interested in our mission to have a vocal stake in making sure we meet our mandate and to expand into the next decade. To create true impact, you must be held accountable by those who most want your mission to succeed - we want what could be best described as venture philanthropists. However this only works if you don’t forget the base of your support. When the 2004 Tsunami ravaged South Asia, bake sales and lemonade stands run by high school kids brought in the most funds. As Cyclone Nargis struck Burma it was the social networks who responded first and raised the lions share of funds needed. Many years ago armed just a laptop and a cell phone, my first employee was alarmed by the number of coffees I’d drink. On average around 5-7 a day. What she didn’t realize is that for every $5 coffee I’d leave with a $25-50 donation. This kept us going for six years. So, as we embark on seeking venture support we are also going back to basics and doing a ‘coffee with’ initiative called ‘Do A Latte Good’ . You can bid on coffee with one of our supporters, designers or clients and in exchange 100% of the funds will go toward supporting our programs - from sports facilities in Afghanistan ; health clinics in Burma ; weaving cooperatives in Cambodia ; youth centers in Haiti ; upgrading schools in the United States to rebuilding after Typhoon Ondoy. This way strategic investment meets open giving. Until October 22nd you can bid on the following friends; Arctic Pioneer Ben Saunders Ocean Explorer David de Rothschild Pre Fab Guru Michelle Kaufmann Sustainability Expert Eric Corey Freed Environmental Activist and Melrose Place Actor Daphne Zuniga (let’s not forget Spaceballs) and of course me . So if you are thinking of investing in social change, think about becoming a community builder , but if you want to support projects that makes a difference, join us for a coffee . Either way you’ll do a latte good. More on Philanthropy
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Cameron Sinclair: Do A Latte Good : Investing in Social Change
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Still Life at the Lucille Lortel Theater, speaks volumes. An extraordinarily sensitive piece, it focuses on a tender love story. A talented photographer (Sarah Paulson) is suffering the equivalent of stage fright: She can’t take pictures anymore. She falls for a futurist (Frederick Weller) who is emotionally stymied. Together, they carve out, in stops and starts, a union. But he, like she, has dark demons that must be confronted. Still Life , which details the various, and often troubled relationships between men and women, rings true. Married friends (Ian Kahn and Kelly McAndrew) discover understanding, not romance, binds them, while Weller’s deplorable, albeit successful colleague (Matthew Rauch), is a stunted human being; lacking compassion and civility he cannot forge an emotional connection. His instincts are base; the Neanderthal disguised as businessman. Which is playwright Alexander Dinelaris’ message: The life force cannot be reduced to primal urges. Aesthetics, like profound emotion, must weigh in. Economically directed by Will Frears and beautifully acted, Still Life takes a snapshot of urbanites discovering the causal link between life and death, art and redemption. The ties that bind - familial and friendship - are only valuable if they buttress our best selves. We are all wounded, grasping creatures, latching onto fame, career, power or people to define us. The lucky discover the transcendent power of art. Weller’s final scene, almost operatic in its quiet beauty, breathes life into his lover - and humbles the audience. A second dramatic one-two punch is delivered uptown at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater in A Steady Rain , a tense production that owes a debt to David Mamet. It delivers two crackerjack performances and a downpour of moral erosion. The setting is spare - two chairs, two men, and a few days that will change their lives forever. Two cops and lifelong friends, Joey (Daniel Craig) and Denny (Hugh Jackman), battle the mean streets, but the endless war with filth and degradation takes its toll. Denny is a family man with a good heart but an inherently violent nature. His partner, by contrast, has a thoughtful temperament and an inchoate longing for his best friend’s wife. Passed up for promotion; they blame reverse racism. Then, one night, they answer a police call with horrific consequences. The power of A Steady Rain lies in its honesty and pathos. Both Jackman and Craig don the Chicago accents and sensibilities of beat cops with ease. We’re drawn into their lives by the simplicity of the telling; at once powerful and explosive. Playwright Keith Huff doesn’t sugarcoat his characters’ flaws, nor does he minimize the contradictions and demands of their jobs. He does compel the audience to consider the murky nature of morality and justice, as well as the nature of sacrifice. Trapped in a legal nightmare, the final moments are shattering. Pared to its essence and thanks to Jackman and Craig’s chemistry and high-caliber performances, A Steady Rain marks the Broadway debut of an important new voice. Voices from a bygone era will be celebrated at a one-night-only concert Oct. 24 at Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, when music folklorist Mick Moloney presents If It Wasn’t For the Irish and the Jews , a tribute to Irish and Jewish influences on vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley. The show salutes a little-known phenomenon: Tin Pan Alley, famed for the music of Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin, was also home to the collaboration of Irish and Jewish composers and songwriters. Sentimental favorites “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” emerged during this period. Such was the nature of ethnic flux in pre-war New York entertainment, Norah Bayes, beloved for her performance of “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?” was born Norah Goldberg, while “Jewish” stage star Eddie Foy was actually Edwin Fitzgerald. This cross-cultural apex was toasted in 1912, when William Jerome and Jean Schwartz composed “If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews,” the title of Moloney’s just-released CD. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Liz Hanley and The Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra join in the salute to a vibrant chapter in American popular music.
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Fern Siegel: Stage Door: Still Life, A Steady Rain, If It Wasn’t For the Irish and the Jews
As far back as I can remember contemplating the nature of the world on any serious level, I have been an atheist. Of course, I didn’t know there was a word for it, I simply felt the same thing towards God that I felt towards the tooth fairy. For a time, I assumed that everyone felt the same way as they grew up and shed the superstitions we like to believe as children. But that was short lived, of course. I soon realized that there was a particular implausible story that even adults clung to. In the past years, beginning with 9-11 and accelerating during my time at university, speaking up against religion and its encroachment into the classroom and the state became a worthy and consuming goal. Last week, I attended the Atheist Alliance International conference. It had been their largest meeting to date. The speakers included scientists and luminaries, philosophers and activists. The impressive coalition included cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, philosopher Daniel Dennet, Pharyngula’s PZ Meyers, Eugenie Scott, and the always witty Bill Maher. A few years ago, author Sam Harris told this convention’s hall full of atheists, that we shouldn’t be using the term “atheist” to describe ourselves. I agree, and I rejoice in Harris’ dedication to reason and science, but I couldn’t disagree more with his corollary argument that we should advocate for reason and science “under the radar.” We’ve been under the radar, it hasn’t worked very well. Harris was referring to the fact that atheism is not an affirmation of anything, but rather a negation of certain beliefs: we don’t say we’re non-astrologers, non-racists, or a-Zeusians, we simply refuse to believe such nonsense. However, I’ll use the term here for the sake of expediency. American atheists and agnostics outnumber all (American) Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus combined , so how many lobbying firms do we have in Washington? You might imagine my surprise when Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America , gave me his sobering answer: one … his own. That’s right, in the face of the Christian lobby and the religious right - with more money than “god” in their coffers - we secularists are an insignificant speed-bump. That we have reason and the constitution on our side won’t make enough of a difference, if we don’t organize. It’s a (bad) joke we tell each other: organizing atheists is like herding cats (we’re no flock of sheep). I can see the malformed logic behind this, and many repeat the meme, but the reality is that there’s no reason this should be true. Heterogeneous groups are quite capable of organizing behind a cause, or a movement. Luckily, I felt a sense of growing urgency and frustration at this year’s conference. No longer can we afford to play nice with those who refuse to be reason able. This is 2009, we now know more about our world than we have throughout all of human history. We live in the golden age of science. Yet, in an America where pundits and politicians so often revel in American “exceptionalism,” an NSF survey found that: -50% of adults don’t know that the earth orbits the sun, and takes a year to do it. -53% of adults were unaware that the last dinosaur died before the first human arose. -only 53% of adults knew that: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” (Lawrence Krauss quipped that Sarah Palin is a member of this last group, as he hit us with these figures.) Worse, one political party has become distinctly anti-science, and the other doesn’t have the guts to make it an issue, likely from fear of being labeled as the “intellectual elite” (the phrase has come to be derogatory, somehow.) So allow me to make some blunt observations that might not be politically correct, but are nevertheless obvious: -Non-believers tend to be well-educated, scientifically minded, and smarter than average: 93% of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a personal God, yet roughly 80-90% of the general public do. -In countries where there is a high standard of living and education, as more than one AAI speaker pointed out, roughly 80% of the population are non-believers (Sweden, Norway, Denmark etc.). With the state of our education system being what it is, other countries are on a future trajectory to out-compete us in science and technology. Since science and technology have accounted for roughly half of per-capita GDP growth over the last 50 years, it’s hugely unpatriotic to do nothing in the face of moneyed interests pushing superstition into the classroom and public policy. During his talk, PZ Meyers pointed out that the single most important indicator of scientific ability is math. If I made a habit out of making bad puns, I might say, “Houston, we have a problem…” Eugenie Scott , who fights to keep creationism and it’s reincarnation “intelligent design” out of the classroom, gave a harrowing talk regarding the state of science education. She explained in breathtaking relief, how after many courtroom defeats, lawyers and lawmakers opposed to evolution are becoming increasingly clever at achieving their goal of teaching creationism in the classroom (they are evolving to circumvent previous rulings). In some states, this problem is growing discouragingly quickly. What should really frighten us is that, even with the current laws in place, some teachers are intimidated by controversy into simply skipping over evolution, which is the foundation for all biology. Another topic that seemed to arise frequently in my conversations with conference attendees, was the frustration that it has become fashionable to hold completely irrational beliefs in addition to the mainstream theologies. After reading the mission statement for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, I decided to replicate the exercise Dawkins describes: I went to a local bookstore and counted about eight good books on astronomy, but around 25 on astrology. I didn’t see one on biology (although they probably had On the Origin of Species somewhere), but I found an entire section full of books on how to beat cancer with vegetables and herbs, crystal healing, “Eating Right for Your Blood-type,” how to cultivate your “third eye”, and similar nonsense. These kinds of beliefs aren’t harmless, they’re outright dangerous, especially when they convince someone’s mother to decline cancer treatment for “faith-healing”, or to forgo vaccinating her children. All of this paints a bleak picture. In fighting against it, Australian author and critic Russel Blackford suggests that in certain cases, it is entirely appropriate to mock people for what they believe. I couldn’t agree more. It has become trendy to be completely irrational, and ‘cool’ for teens to be “down with Jesus;” therefore, secularists should do everything in our power to make it un-cool. We must get past this ill-advised notion that we should “respect” other peoples beliefs. If Sarah Palin believes that the Earth is six-thousand years old, we should make her say it aloud and then promptly laugh at her. No other category in our discourse deserves the privilege of being off-limits to skeptical inquiry: not politics, not art, nothing. There is nothing moral, nor mature, about playing “nice” when the other side is content to sabotage the constitution and the classroom, where the future minds of our nation are being formed. I’m pretty sure we Americans don’t want to be a laughing stock, mocked by other nations for refusing to modernize. It doesn’t feel nice to be laughed at. It’s effective. In the U.K., religion stays well out of politics, in fact, politicians deliberately avoid it for fear of being mocked. In America, religion is invasive to all aspects of politics. Will we falter in science and technology due to an increasingly anti-science political atmosphere and an ever decreasing will to fund research? Maybe not, but it has me scared enough to become ever more active in advocating for science, reason, and evidence based public policy … something even religious moderates should join us in fighting for. More on Religion
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Landon Ross: The God Crisis
Fear of being fired or laid off in this harsh economy is creating a workplace that has all the trappings of what I would call, in the words of the late Hunter S. Thompson, fear and loathing in the American workplace. I just gave up my livelihood rather than work in a climate of fear and degradation. I feel for my co-workers who don’t have the financial means to do the same. I wonder, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the rising unemployment rate in the United States? Most likely, it’s the sad plight of workers who’ve lost their incomes, health insurance, retirement accounts and, most likely, a big chunk of self-esteem. And, there is no question about the fact that the unemployed grapple with these losses on a daily basis. Many rise early to jump on job boards, write cover letters, and perfect their resumes, only to be met with rejection. Many of them are anxious, depressed and suffering increasingly from related physical illness. But what about the ranks of the still-employed who live in fear of being tapped for the next layoff or becoming the target of managers who can fire them — in most cases — at will? A study at the University of Michigan shows that people who constantly worry about losing their jobs report poorer physical health and more symptoms of depression than those who have actually been laid off. Researchers analyzed nationally representative samples of surveys from more than 1,700 adults over age 25 who were asked about their physical and mental health, as well as their feelings about the security of their job. “The negative effect of being persistently insecure was more significant than the unemployment itself,” said study author Sarah Burgard, a research assistant professor at the school’s Institute for Social Research. People are working overtime without being paid for the extra work. They’re putting up with lower or no increases in compensation as a reward for excellence. They’re scared to speak up against management. They’re undercutting one another in the belief that it’s better to see a former workmate fired than to be fired oneself. “By no means am I trying to belittle the stress of job loss,” Burgard said. “But the negative anticipation of an event can be more stressful than the event itself. People feel they have the sword of Damocles hanging over their head, but they can’t exert any control over the situation.” And it’s not just the slackers who are worried. It’s been my observation that the most productive employees, those who show the most talent, are often targeted by managers whose own insecurity drives them to harass or oust top performers, people who could challenge them for positions in management — possibly for lower salaries, saving the company money. It’s not just a battle between employees and their superiors. This rampant fear creates hostility between equals at all levels: manager on manager, worker on worker. Perhaps the saddest thing about this climate of fear and hostility is that this is just the time when people at all levels in the workplace could be finding solace in a mutual dedication to survival of the best. They could be banding together to ensure that the hard working among them would weather the economic storm. Instead, it’s every man for himself.
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Susan Older: "Fear and Loathing" in the American Workplace
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) demurred once again when asked to divine the kind of candidate for president his former running mate, Sarah Palin, could be in 2012. “I have a degree of clairvoyance,” the Arizona Republican said, “but in 2009 to predict what would happen in the 2012 election is — I’m not capable of.” While McCain wouldn’t wade into presidential politics, he did offer a bit of retrospection. In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” McCain acknowledged what has become quite obvious — that during the course of the 2008 election, serious rifts developed within his campaign ranks. Asked about comments made by his former campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, disparaging the role Palin could play in the Republican Party, McCain offered the following reply: Look, whenever there’s a political campaign — and I’ve been involved in them for many, many years — there’s always tensions within. You know, when you — how — with a high-pressure situation, there’s always tensions that develop within campaigns. And there were clearly tensions between Steve Schmidt and people in the Palin camp. There’s — there are fundamental facts, though, that cannot be denied. When we selected or asked Sarah Palin to be my running mate, it energized our party. We were ahead in the polls, until the stock market crashed. And she still is a formidable force in the Republican Party. And I have great affection for her. Will Sarah and I — did we always agree on everything in the past? Will we in the future? No. But look let’s let a thousand flowers bloom. Let’s come up with a winning combination the next time. We — and — and let’s — let’s all go through the process, rather than condemning anybody’s chances. And I’m happy to say we have some great people out there, and Sarah is one of them. Watch: Get HuffPost Politics On Facebook and Twitter! More on Video
We’re pretty sure offering the Pope “pussy” is inappropriate, but doing it in the name of solving world hunger seems a little less crazy. Sarah Silverman launched a new campaign this weekend on “Real Time with Bill Maher” in which she pleads with the Catholic Church to sell the Vatican to save the world: “You preach to live humbly, and I totally agree. So now maybe it’s time for you to move out of your house that is a city.” Silverman outlines her plan in the following video which may prove unpopular among Catholics and highly popular amongst Silverman fans. WATCH: Get HuffPost Comedy On Facebook and Twitter! More on Sarah Silverman
Yes, it’s unusual for the Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded early in someone’s career, as is the case with President Barack Obama. But these are unusual times. In making the award, the Nobel Committee emphasized Obama’s leadership in creating a new international climate, and they particularly called out his role in the areas of nuclear proliferation and climate change. These two are not just any issues. If nuclear weapons spread around the world , or if climate change accelerates into run-away mode , all of human civilization is in danger. This simply isn’t the case with most other issues of our time. In the case of both climate change and nuclear proliferation, we still have time to avert disaster — but not a lot of time. Either one could reach dangerous thresholds relatively soon. In both cases, the U.S. has a large responsibility for the impending crisis. We were, until recently, the largest source of greenhouse gases. We developed the first atom bombs, currently stockpile the most, and we have failed to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to reduce and eventually eliminate their weapons stockpiles. But we are also central to the solutions. The people of the world have everything at stake in these two issues. It’s no wonder that the Nobel Peace Committee would want to encourage an embattled U.S. president who is trying to do the right thing. After eight years of neocon recklessness, there’s a lot of catch-up to do. President Obama has the goodwill of most of the world (with the notable exception of the Taliban, Rush Limbaugh, and a few others , who would defeat the U.S. president no matter what the cost). When I see this move on the part of the Nobel Committee, I see a world willing to give the U.S. a chance to be great–a world that’s actually desperate for real U.S. leadership on the crises that threaten us all. “Maybe [the Nobel Peace Prize] can represent some sort of encouragement and bring some added support to his cause,” said Geir Lundestad, Norwegian Nobel committee secretary in a video release . In unusual times, we need all the encouragement for peace that we can get. More on Climate Change
When Wanda Sykes is talking, people listen. Maybe that’s because her pointed tone, volume, and no-bullshit attitude make her impossible to ignore. Of course, when it comes to admonishment comedy, Sykes without a doubt ranks among the best. One can only hope that God has a sense of humor and appoints her “Judge Judy” of Judgment Day, allowing her to review the cases of Simon Cowell, George W. Bush, and all those in need of a good punking. Though the comic’s loud, in-your-face persona can be irritating in large doses, at her core is a formidable talent and a nose for irony that is quietly making her famous. In the midst of a recession, many are looking for reasons to laugh and few are opposed to placing a little blame on those who might be responsible for the current socioeconomic state of the union. Thus, for Sykes, who never backs down from controversial issues, idiocy, or racial commentary, there should be fodder aplenty. Truly, for someone who loves to drop verbal bombs, there hasn’t been a better time - the comedian-writer-actress boasts a recent, public exit from the closet and incipient interracial motherhood in her arsenal. In her second HBO special, “I’ma Be Me,” which premieres tonight, Sykes shows that her swagger hasn’t been slowed by maturity or motherhood. She still knows how to dish it out, but unfortunately, for those who are familiar with her work, the special is a bit anticlimactic. Granted, most of her material is topical, as she spends the first third focusing on issues related to the First Family, sprinkling in bits on Somali pirates, Michael Jackson, and the metric system. But too much of it treads of familiar ground–both for her and comics in general. Sykes has been an under-the-radar success on the comedy scene for years, including her work as part of the Emmy-winning writing team on Chris Rock’s eponymous show in the 90’s. Since then, she’s found recurring roles on “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Crank Yankers” and has made cameos in films like “Pootie Tang” and “Evan Almighty.” Most recently, Sykes was chosen as Head Roaster at this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner. Her performance was, as per usual, hard hitting and hilarious. Her set even drew criticism from the Right, (so you know it was good) as a result of wishing kidney failure on Rush Limbaugh. She also took a shot at Sarah Palin, saying, “I know Governor Palin. . . . She’s not here tonight. She pulled out at the last minute. Somebody should tell her that’s not really how you practice abstinence.” In December, she will debut “The Wanda Sykes Show” on Fox, where she will be the first woman (and first gay African-American woman) to have her own late-night show. However, much of her success, I would say, is a result of her stand up work, not her work in film or TV. She belongs on stage, where she is not beholden to - or restricted by - network standards. That being said, while her impression of Michelle Obama having a metal rod implanted in her neck to prevent her from juking and jiving while getting “sassy” at Barack is hilarious, and there are quite a few bright spots in her second HBO special (particularly in her impressions), I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching a good deal of recycled material, including jokes from the Correspondents Dinner. WATCH: It is also difficult to avoid seeing her as the female Chris Rock, especially considering a few startling similarities in their routines. To be fair, Sykes admits that her time at the “Chris Rock Show” was a big inspiration for her, but the point remains. In the latter half of her 90-minute set, Sykes veers back into more conventional stand-up terrain, playing on parenthood, aging, bikini waxes, relationship issues, and health care. She is noticeably killing the crowd throughout, and it’s hard to ignore the serious laughter echoing through the Warner Theatre in D.C. Her clever delivery and confident energy work in her favor, but “black people drive like this” and “white people drive like that” comedy only goes so far and her routine tends to retreat into this over-played territory. Pointing out true differences, racial and otherwise, is expected of comedians — but great comics go beyond this, and I’m not sure Sykes gets there in her new special. Though the new mom is open and unabashed in making dirty jokes about and drawing upon her blackness, her homosexuality, and her interracial marriage for her material (and there are frequent cathartic bombs and laughs), again, much of it seems too easy. But fear not, there are some gems, especially when Sykes details her experience performing on a week-long gay cruise. More on Wanda Sykes
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Rip Empson: HuffPost Review: Wanda Sykes’s ‘I’ma Be Me’ (VIDEO)
On Real Time Friday night Bill Maher suggested that this weekend was the perfect time for President Obama to announce that he would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” due to the fact that Obama will be speaking to a gay rights group on Saturday and because of the march for gay rights in Washington Sunday. Maher referred to “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a policy that “never made sense to begin with.” The HBO host then delivered some particularly amusing reasons why Obama should end the policy. “Forget all the good arguments for repeal, like, because it’s the right thing to do, or because it was promised in the campaign,” Maher said. Instead: “Do it because it will make Rush Limbaugh explode like a bag full of meat dropped from a helicopter,” he said. “Do it because it will make Sarah Palin go rogue in her pants.” More on Barack Obama
From Democracy Corps : Momentum is growing for passage of health care reform, and so is the threat to Republicans because of their continued obstructionism. In the past week, both the AP and Gallup have released surveys showing a significant decline in opposition to President Obama’s health care plan and the Congressional Budget Office released its updated analysis of the Finance Committee bill showing it that it will expand coverage while reducing the deficit. Perhaps most important, at least seven prominent outside-the-Beltway Republicans, including former Senate leaders Bob Dole and Bill Frist and Bush HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, have expressed the need for congressional Republicans to put partisan politics aside and work with President Obama and Democrats to pass major reform this year. These Republican “wise men” are echoing the sentiments of the nation as a whole. The meat of the argument is here: A Democracy Corps survey conducted in early September finds 56 percent agreeing that Republicans are “More interested in partisan politics than solving the country’s problems.” The same poll finds just 29 percent saying that Republicans have “new ideas for addressing the country’s problems,” a lower rating than when we last asked this question in 2005.  Quinnipiac finds just 29 percent think that Republicans are “making a good faith effort to cooperate” with Obama on health care, versus 59 percent who say they are not.  A CBS/New York Times survey finds that just 27 percent think Republican members of Congress are opposing Obama’s plans because they think they are “bad for the country” while 64 percent say they are doing it for “political reasons.”  CNN finds that 61 percent say Republicans are “being obstructionist for mostly political reasons” versus 35 percent who say they are being “constructive.”  A Washington Post/ABC survey finds 62 percent saying Republicans in Congress are “not making a good faith effort to cooperate” on health care, versus just 31 percent who say they are.  Pew finds that 62 percent of opponents of health care reform think that “policymakers who oppose the current proposals” should compromise with supporters while only 33 percent think they should try to block passage of legislation.  As I noted over at the Arena , Here’s the reality: that long time closet socialist Bob Dole told reporters in Kansas City a bill is going to pass and Republicans should get on board because it’s too important not to. He will be joined by two other former Senate Leaders: Republican Howard Baker and Democrat Tom Daschle. That’s how this should be playing out in the Senate, but current Senate Republicans still have to show they are up to the task of doing what’s best for the country rather than what’s best for their party. Whether it’s boorishness over Obama’s Nobel Prize, or “just say no” over health reform, one party looks like adults in the midst of dealing with difficult problems and the other (with a few exceptions noted here and here ) like children with pencils in their ears so they don’t hear anything they don’t want to. You know, the same people that told us McCain won the debates? Well, events on the ground worked brilliantly for President McCain and Vice President Palin, didn’t they? I’m sure our pundit friends in the media have not forgotten just how well that worked out, as they explain to us that Republican negative reaction about the Nobel and health care proves that Democrats are on the wrong side of the issue yet again.
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Democracy Corps: Republican Health Care Opposition Tiresome To Voters
John L. Perry began his Sept. 29 Newsmax column this way: There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic. America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it. But Perry certainly seemed to be advocating just that farther down in his column: Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility? Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making. Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible. Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.” In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass. As outrage grew over Perry’s column, Newsmax quietly deleted it (though not before ConWebWatch made a copy ). You won’t find an explanation at Newsmax — or, for that matter, any reference whatsoever to the controversy; rather, it released a statement to liberal websites that highlighted the column, such as Media Matters and Talking Points Memo : In a blog posting to Newsmax John Perry wrote about a coup scenario involving the U.S. military. He clearly stated that he was not advocating such a scenario but simply describing one. After several reader complaints, Newsmax wanted to insure that this article was not misinterpreted. It was removed after a short period after being posted. Newsmax strongly believes in the principles of Constitutional government and would never advocate or insinuate any suggestion of an activity that would undermine our democracy or democratic institutions. Mr. Perry served as a political appointee in the Carter administration in HUD and FEMA. He has no official relationship with Newsmax other than as an unpaid blogger. Of course, what Perry did 30-plus years ago is irrelevant to the events of today; Newsmax’s highlighting seemed to be an attempt to somehow proves that Perry isn’t really a right-wing nut. (True to form, longtime NewsBusters misleader Warner Todd Huston seized upon Perry’s long-ago Democratic affiliations to insist that “Perry is not a conservative” — apparently missing that Perry’s column is called “Right Angles” and is carried at a right-wing website, where he has repeatedly praised the likes of Sarah Palin .) Further, Newsmax’s dismissal of Perry as nothing more than an “unpaid blogger” is a tad disingenuous since Perry has been writing for Newsmax since 1999 and Perry’s Newsmax bio touts how he “contributes a regular column to NewsMax.com.” But Perry’s column is only the most extreme example of increasingly strident anti-Obama rhetoric and reporting at Newsmax, which runs in contrast to attempts over the past few years to moderate its conservative agenda and temper the extremism that marked Newsmax’s early anti-Clinton years (indeed, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy is now doing sit-down interviews with Bill Clinton) and competitors such as WorldNetDaily. Yet it has echoed WND by embracing the birther movement (though not to WND’s fanatical extent ). While Newsmax had published rants by Barry Farber and Pamela Geller (whose column contained numerous falsehoods and distortions ) and repeated birther talking points in a July article , went full birther in early August with an article claiming that “Lou Dobbs is right” on the issue. Ruddy followed — first in an Aug. 3 appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” (apparently subbing for WND’s Joseph Farah, whose demands O’Reilly decided not to accede to), then in an Aug. 5 column — by rehashing those talking points. While Ruddy asserted in his column that “I believe Obama was born somewhere in the state of Hawaii,” he adds that “we have no idea of his birthplace,” and concludes with a list of presidential birthplaces, with Obama’s listed as “unknown.” Ruddy then tried to reframe the issue: “The issue over Obama’s birth certificate is not about President Obama’s citizenship. It is about his honesty and his promise to be the most transparent president ever.” Or it could be that the issue is Obama’s critics refusing to accept the validity of official state documents in order to de-legitimize him. Ruddy didn’t address that possibility. Newsmax followed that up in September by touting how “conservative thinker and best-selling author David Horowitz likens President Barack Obama to the ‘Manchurian Candidate’ — a tool of the far left fostering the implementation of its radical agenda.” Newsmax didn’t note that Horowitz was flip-flopping from his earlier criticism , from just three months before, of right-wingers making inflammatory claims about Obama, insisting that attacks on Obama be based on his policies, “not because he is a Manchurian candidate or a closet Islamist, as more than a few conservatives seem to think.” Newsmax writers have also invented quotes to put in the mouths of Obama and his aides. James Humes wrote in a March column that “when President Obama walked into the Oval Office for the first time and saw” a bust of Winston Churchill, “he said, ‘Get that goddam thing out of here.’” In fact, there’s no record of Obama saying such a thing, directly or paraphrased. Humes’ column was later amended — again, without any notice to readers that a change was made — to claim that “the story was never fully substantiated, despite frequent repetition on radio talk shows.” Humes named no “radio talk shows” upon which Obama’s “quote” was repeated. Meanwhile, a May 21 column by James H. Walsh began by purporting to quote Obama adviser David Axelrod as saying, “The ‘TEA Party’ movement is an unhealthy mutation from public dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s economic policies.” But that direct quote doesn’t exist. The full context of Axelrod’s remarks — apparently taken from an appearance on the April 19 edition of CBS’ “Face the Nation” — shows that he is specifically responding to the issue of states seceding from the union when he referred to “an element of disaffection that can mutate into something that’s unhealthy.” Axelrod never called the tea parties an “unhealthy mutation.” Newsmax is also engaging in direct anti-Obama activism by hosting a donation page for the League of American Voters, a right-wing group tied to Newsmax columnist Dick Morris that’s currently fighting against Obama’s health care reform plan. Newsmax has not disclosed the details of this financial arrangement to its readers, which raises ethical questions about its reporting on the issue. Newsmax’s reporters and columnists have participated in various right-wing freakouts over the past several months, from hyping Obama’s speech to students as indoctrination to suggesting that Chrysler dealers who didn’t support Democrats were targeted for closure. Newsmax has pushed misleading reporting about Obama’s policies, and its chief Washington reporter, Ronald Kessler, has tried to fabricate a schism between Obama and his Jewish supporters. Newsmax has also published numerous Obama-bashing columns. Prior to Perry’s coup endorsement, the most egregious of these was Rabbi Morton Pomerantz’s attempt in June to link Obama to the killing of a guard at Washington’s Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist, claiming that Obama is “creating a climate of hate” against Jews and that the Holocaust Museum shooter “felt that he could easily take retribution against the Jews for the atrocities Obama implies they are guilty of.” Unlike its sheepish behavior regarding Perry’s column, Newsmax proudly promoted Pomerantz’s column at the top of the front page . Newsmax has published other hateful columns as well, only some of them by Perry: If I had to sum up the current situation of the United States, I would not hesitate to call it horrendous for only one reason: the presidency and the arrogant fool now occupying that office. Even the most dispassionate observer has to conclude that the election of an untested, inexperienced ward heeler of one of the most corrupt political machines in the United States is proving to be one of the most massive mistakes the American electorate ever made. The man is totally unfit to occupy the presidency of the world’s most powerful nation. — Phil Brennan, Oct. 6 This is another vile chapter in the still-young Obama presidency. Obama said he would not prosecute the great Americans who kept the country safe during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Those heroic Americans kept this country so safe, in fact, that we felt free to elect a post-American, pro-jihad president. One has to ask: why did this man run for president? The knee jerk reaction to such a question is that a man (or woman) runs for president because he loves America. It is becoming increasingly clear that Obama ran for president because he hates America and wants very much to indict it. America electing an America-hater for president vanquished our moral authority. The chaos from the anti-American presidency has not even begun. Fasten your seat belts. The man will never stop punishing America for electing him. We will pay with everything good and decent. Obama is punishing America. — Pamela Geller, Aug. 26 Even to allow Obama’s socialist programs a mere toe in the water could prove to be too late. These programs are like flypaper or unspeakable social disease. The elevator to the hell of a Marxist society goes in only one direction - ever higher into costs taken from appropriations of individuals’ earned incomes. It won’t be enough for Republicans just to be “the party of no” and stop there. They will also have to propose national alternatives that begin all over again where Barack Obama first seduced America into his leftward-spiraling, all-consuming maelstrom of latter-day Marxism. If they fail, this nation will be down on its hands and knees for decades, scouring floors in an Augean stable where no one-time sluice will suffice to eradicate the bacilli of socialism from forever attempting a comeback. — John L. Perry, July 27 Obama will suck away medical resources in Medicare that now go mostly to Caucasian senior citizens and reallocate healthcare to younger, largely minority people — including more than 10 million illegal aliens — expected to pay taxes (and disproportionately vote Democratic) for decades to come. Darwinian eugenicists can safely project that this reallocation of healthcare will increase and accelerate the die-off rate of elderly, disproportionately white conservative Americans who vote Republican and worship God By rationing healthcare for this population group that needs it most — senior citizens — Obamacare will hasten their deaths. He will also increase the tax burden on private pensions they earned. And because those seniors are mostly white, Obamacare will speed the day when Caucasians become a minority group (albeit without special rights and preferences granted to more politically correct minorities) here. — Lowell Ponte, July 17 ObamaCare legislation would finance universal health care by eliminating the most fragile among us. Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union had elaborate plans for the disposal of unwanted fetuses, the handicapped, and the elderly. — James Walsh, July 2 Now that he’s president, Barack Obama has new clothes, even if they don’t always fit. What he still lacks is class. Tailors can’t fix that. Before, during, and since the president’s elevation to his stratospheric altitude in the vault of the heavens, he has been adorned in an unprecedented array of resplendent raiments of praise befitting his One-ness. Under those conditions, how, if the president has no class, is his populace to know what he’s doing that is classless? It’s a bit like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s celebrated dictum non-defining hard-core pornography: “I know it when I see it.” So, the answer is that if the president’s classlessness is observed, it must be without comment about: — The way he walks, the way he talks, the way he looks down his nose. — The way he hasn’t learned to tie a four-in-hand necktie like the men do. — The way he smirks in public gatherings at crude, inappropriate humor. — The way he sulks or huffs like a spoiled child when disputed or denied. — The haughty way he fakes erudition off his teleprompter screens and proffers profundities on subjects in which he lacks credentials. — The way he says, “as I’ve said before,” when he hasn’t. — The way he jumps down, spins around, picks a new position when the one he holds drifts downstream toward the unpopular. — The way he tries to straddle two horses racing in diverging directions. — The way he concocts ever-shifting lexicons for marketing distasteful policies when public perceptions catch up with reality. — The way he can’t seem to avoid the first-person singular with almost every breath. — The way he behaves not only as if it’s all about him but also as if he’s all about all that is. The poor fellow is classlessly infatuated with his reflection in the gazing pool of media adulation. Narcissism was never remotely emblematic of a class act. — John L. Perry, June 29 Lord of the Flies became the title of a famous novel by Nobel laureate William Golding, the story of British schoolboys stranded on a desert island. The boys separate into tribal identities and, thus balkanized, wreak havoc on one another as civilized boys lose their morality and revert to savagery. Any similarity between this novel and what President Obama and his identity politics of class envy and racial polarization are doing to tear our nation apart is purely coincidental. — Lowell Ponte, June 19 Obama deliberately arranged to meet his wife, Michelle, in Paris later in his trip. The apparent reason: Muslim fundamentalists would expect a woman in the presence of the Saudi ruler to wear a veil. — Lowell Ponte, June 5 Thurber’s humor was delicious, none of it built around narcissistic self-aggrandizement. What he had to say, what he wrote, what he drew in his near-blindness with a lump of charcoal was of lasting enrichment and enchantment. On the other hand, Obama’s teleprompted words, before which his leftist adulators in the media fawn and grovel so, are blowing in the wind. Absolutely, you can fool too many of the people too much of the time. Time is not with Barack Obama. Even for him, there’s a limit of available fools. — John L. Perry, May 18 Whose interest was President Obama serving when on March 30 he ordered Chrysler to either conclude a merger with Italian automaker Fiat within 30 days or lose federal bailout funds which would lead to its immediate demise? Why would Obama undercut a U.S. company, involved in a heated negotiation, in favor of a foreign company’s interest? Clear answers are not available, but there is one very curious shareholder in Fiat that raises some interesting questions. The African nation of Libya owns at least a 2 percent stake in Fiat and thus makes Moammar Gadhafi, who controls the wealth of Libya, a direct beneficiary of the deal favoring Fiat. Does Obama owe Gadhafi? — Scott Wheeler, May 13 Like the Yorkshireman, Barack Obama burst upon the scene from obscure lineage — his emanating in disparate continents, Africa and North America. Arms extended, Obama still circles the arena. Cheers continue, but slacken. His ill-timed effort to spread his wings across Europe, so congenial in leftist venues he courted, turned into a trans-substantial continental flop. High-flying oratory proved utterly inefficacious in winning any major foreign-policy result he set himself to bring home in triumph. Obama’s personal diplomacy never took off. — John L. Perry, April 13 In a few days President Barack Obama, a professed Christian, will officiate at a pagan ceremony outside the White House and initiate young children into its un-Christian symbols. This ceremony, the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, has its roots in the idolatrous pagan religion of ancient Mesopotamia, the land that was Babylon and is now war-torn Iraq. Christians, where in the Bible does Jesus endorse colored eggs, bunnies, bonnets, Easter baskets, lilies or other things rooted in pagan Babylonian nature religion? What would the Judeo-Christian God say about President Obama’s pagan Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn? — Lowell Ponte, April 9 Salon’s Joe Conason points out how Newsmax — controlled by right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife and Ruddy — are repeating their experiences anti-Clinton activism with Obama. Indeed, as ConWebWatch has noted regarding WorldNetDaily, Ruddy’s embrace of the birther conspiracy echoes his and Scaife’s attempts to prove, despite all official evidence, that Clinton staff Vince Foster did not commit suicide. Conason goes on to claim that “the once-laughable Ruddy could become a formidable player in the 2010 midterm elections — and the fate of the Obama administration.” In order to do so, Ruddy has abandoned Newsmax’s previous moderation and reverted to its rabidly anti-Clinton ways. In that context, it’s clear Newsmax doesn’t actually oppose an overthrow of Obama — Ruddy and Co. simply know it’s bad form to openly advocate one the way Perry did. (This article was originally published at ConWebWatch .) More on Barack Obama
Terry Krepel: Our Newsmax Problem
Just days after my 14th birthday, I rolled up the sleeves of my youth and made a grand entrance into America’s workforce. At an upscale bakery near my childhood home in Tampa, Florida stood an adolescent version of yours truly, apron-clad and grinning, perched carelessly behind a lengthy, oak-stained rectangular table, serving sticky samples of overpriced pastries to soccer moms on cell phones. Originally procured as a fundraising campaign towards the purchase of my first car (and to satisfy a rather curious, natural-born tendency towards workaholism), it was at this part-time job where I discovered one of life’s most important lessons and first uttered its familiar catchphrase: How can I help you? Be careful how you say it. If thoughtlessly spoken this powerful expression can come across stale — reminiscent of the disingenuous type of language found in the customer service training manual of any large corporation. To really understand the power of this expression — and to avoid the naturally precious undertones — one must place the emphasis on the last syllable. How can I help you ? In a culture that praises excess and idolizes greed, it seems that we’ve somehow lost our connection to what matters most. A survey done by the Nonprofit Finance Fund in March of this year concluded that “America’s nonprofits … are strained to the breaking point,” and that out of the 1,100 nonprofits analyzed, “31% don’t have enough operating cash in hand to cover more that one month of expenses, and another 31% have less than three months’ worth.” And yet in the last year over 4 million Snuggies have been sold, grossing more than $50 million in profits. Somehow this seems backwards. While watching Michael Moore’s latest film Capitalism: A Love Story I found myself yearning for an America I never knew. Ronald Reagan was years into his presidency when I was born and the make-money-or-die ethos had already kidnapped the country my parents and grandparents recall so vividly. In an era of Madoff-size scandals and Vice-Presidential candidates like Sarah Palin, one can’t help but wonder if decency is lost forever. The truth is the future of our society lies in the apathetic hands of my generation and the one below. And quite honestly that frightens me. Sure there are plenty of young people who have dedicated their lives to the advancement of a stronger society, but it just seems like there are so many more who are satisfied with staying home and watching The Hills . We twenty-somethings-and-under have been bred with a grandiose idea of entitlement that fosters laziness and encourages ignorance. I suppose that’s what happens when a group of people is never asked to truly sacrifice. What I learned 12 years ago at that silly part-time job is that making something better for someone or something else is the greatest gift one can give … and receive. And the very best part about this gift is that once it’s given it never dies. Goodwill unites. Decency flourishes. Generosity inspires. Because when all is said and done, isn’t this living business supposed to be about improvement — leaving the world a better, cleaner, more thoughtful place than when we arrived? Isn’t the idea behind community that we watch out for everyone’s best interest and not just our own? Henry Ford once said, “To do more for the world than the world does for you — that is success.” In other words, the most savory part of this delicious condition we call humanity is only discovered when we show up, put on that metaphoric apron of service and genuinely ask, “How can I help you ?” More on Capitalism: A Love Story
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Michael Parrish DuDell: An Accidental Lesson in Responsibility
It is now nearly one week since LettermanGate first burst onto TV screens, front pages and Blackberrys nationwide, and the media remain in unapologetic full-throttle. Having already wrung every drop of dirty dishwater from this odd tale of sex, checks and affections, reporters continue to survey the outer fringes of the story’s seedy landscape, hoping to tap a fresh reservoir of bodice-ripping, scurrilous slime. Last weekend, The New York Post heavy-panted its way through a largely empty expose that dubbed Dave a “skirt-chasing funnyman” while depicting his private office at the Ed Sullivan Theater as a door-swinging sex-den, complete with fold-out couch. The Daily Beast unveiled the down-and-dirty on Joe Halderman, the “rogue” CBS News producer-turned-alleged extortionist, whose clumsy attempt to blow the lid off Dave’s randy past earned him a phony $2 million check and a very real bill for $200,000 in bail. And TMZ.com–ground zero for all that is knock-yer-socks-off-shocking–posted an interview with a heretofore unknown Letterman intern, complete with the usual unspectacular quotes (”I was madly in love with him”) and predictably blurry jpegs. And yet for all the ink and bytes devoted to this bizarre saga, here’s what I find most compelling: that David Letterman successfully navigated his way through three explosive crises–personal, professional and legal–by simply telling the truth. Unlike the similarly cornered Sens. John Edwards and John Ensign, Gov. Elliot Spitzer and (sigh) Bill Clinton, who initially body-blocked media inquires about their affairs with everything from finger-wagging resentment to faux-humility to flat-out denial, Letterman confessed to his past philandering instantly (”I have had sex with women who work for me on this show,” he revealed), and he did so proactively, rather than in the crouch of self-defense. Unlike the bathroom-cruising Sen. Larry (”I am not gay”) Craig, who responded to charges of “lewd conduct” at a Minneapolis airport by claiming that cops had simply misread a little innocent stall-footsie, Letterman approached authorities the moment he knew he was being shaken down, and even testified to the facts before a grand jury. And unlike Gov. Mark Sanford, who justified his 5000-mile field trip to rendezvous with his secret Argentine “soul mate” as something more spiritual than your typical sleazy tryst, Letterman copped to the all-too-ordinary sordidness of his office-fling history, even calling his own actions “creepy.” This is why David Letterman will be forgiven his workplace hanky-panky. Because, in the end, what people (and, should it go this far, juries) admire most is straight talk, and that is precisely what Dave dished out last Thursday evening–along with a few laughs, of course. Which brings up an interesting question: Did Letterman effectively duck more serious scrutiny of his trespasses by donning his customary goofball persona and beating the media to the punch by beating himself up first? Probably–but the fact is, this is wholly consistent with the Letterman America has been inviting into its bedrooms for more than a quarter-century. Not only has he routinely used his late-night forum as his own personal scrapbook–talking about his heart surgery, his speeding tickets, the birth of his son–he’s also been the first to bust himself for the occasional idiocy–such as mistakenly targeting the wrong daughter of Sarah Palin in an off-color joke last June. He apologized immediately. CBS and Worldwide Pants (Letterman’s production company) will undoubtedly continue to investigate this matter, if only to determine whether David Letterman crossed the line–or broke a law–by engaging in sex with subordinates. But unless something else erupts–and it would have to be something pretty big–you can file the story of Dave’s Deviant Dalliance where it belongs–as yesterday’s news. [This essay originally ran in the October 8th, 2009 edition of USA Today ; Bruce Kluger is co-author, with David Tabatsky, of the new book, Dear President Obama: Letters of Hope From Children Across America ] * * * NOW ON SALE! Dear President Obama: Letters of Hope From Children Across America (Beckham Publications Group, Inc.) By Bruce Kluger and David Tabatsky Foreword by Linda Ellerbee More on Mark Sanford
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Bruce Kluger: LettermanGate: One Week Later
If President Obama decides to endorse Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s plan to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, he’ll find an unlikely assortment of allies. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin wrote a note to her Facebook followers stressing her belief that the additional troops were integral to success in Afghanistan. In September, she joined Karl Rove, William Kristol, David Frum, Robert Kagan, and more 30 other conservatives in signing a letter that urges the president to “give our commanders on the ground the forces they need to implement a successful counterinsurgency strategy.” On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain told reporters that he was “very convinced that General McChrystal’s analysis is not only correct but should be employed as quickly as possible.” More on Afghanistan
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Newsweek: Strange Bedfellows Oppose Afghanistan Escalation
As the war for the soul identity of the Republican party continues, one of its interesting fronts is very junior high school, when you think about it: Who campaigns for whom? This is how Republican electeds, particularly those with larger ambitions, build alliances and position themselves in relation to each other and the base, making clear that they stand with this theocrat or that business lobby. Some choices are dog whistles, others shout out their meaning. But it’s worth paying attention to. So, as Jed noted recently, the flood of visitors campaigning for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob ” leadership does not require giving voters what they want ” McDonnell is telling: Bobby Jindal, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and now John McCain all want to be associated with hiding how conservative you are in order to win elections and with opposition to marital contraception. Meg Whitman, on the other hand, not so much : She’s apparently ducking a fundraiser for McDonnell. (It “fell through.”) In the special election for NY-23, where the liveliest debate is over who’s more liberal, the Democrat or the Republican (see for instance here and here ), Fred Thompson and the Club for Growth have gone third-party, endorsing the Conservative party candidate; Thompson included a fundraising pitch in the email announcing his endorsement, which also highlighted abortion as a key issue. Shouting Joe Wilson has also thrown his hat into the featured campaign guest ring. When he did a fundraiser for ex-Rep. (and Club for Growth darling) Tim Walberg (MI-07), who is trying to recover the seat Mark Schauer took from him in 2008, Schauer’s campaign issued this statement : “By embracing his former colleague, Tim Walberg has made it clear that he embraces what is wrong with Washington and is not serious about fixing our broken health care system. If you are the company you keep, then Tim Walberg stands with Joe Wilson and the obstructionists.” Also keeping company with Joe Wilson recently was Rep. Roy Blunt , the candidate for Missouri Senate whose health care views also include thinking goverment never should have gotten into the health care business with Medicare and Medicaid . Wilson’s further travels will be among the most telling, since an appearance with him basically says “I stand with a guy known for nothing but falsehood and rudeness.” But really, I can’t wait to see where Sarah Palin goes.
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The Company You Keep
Twitter can now count me among its millions of users. Never one to miss out on a trend that involves naming rights, I actually became a registered Tweeter (Twiddle?) months ago, but didn’t really know how it worked or what its purpose was (and still kind of don’t) until recently. This isn’t the first time I’ve prematurely claimed a name online. A week before getting engaged (keeping a surprise under wraps has never been my husband’s strong suit), I secured an e-mail address with my future married name. Two months before giving birth I locked one down for my daughter (she’ll thank me in 12 years). I registered on Facebook about a year before I actually started using it. The souvenir Arizona license plate with my name on it that I got at the Phoenix airport 23 years ago is still in my possession (which has nothing to do with an online name, but I like my name on stuff nevertheless). After much thought and minimal research, I finally decided to start following people on Twitter: my husband, Sarah Silverman, Michael Ian Black and Gail Collins (although I realized a few days ago that Gail hasn’t Tweeted since Nov. 12, 2008, so I’m not sure she really counts). I wanted to follow David Sedaris, but when I saw that he was following Kim Kardashian and Ricky Martin, I concluded it wasn’t the David Sedaris I had in mind. Not that David Sedaris the writer is necessarily incapable of watching reality shows on E! or listening to Menudo, but if you’re a fan of his, chances are you sort of hope he doesn’t do either. Lately there are other Tweeters whose pages I look at somewhat regularly, too. Like the cast of MTV’s The Hills (particularly the secondary and tertiary characters). But it’s really not cool to admit that, so far be it from me to officially follow them. From the little time I’ve spent on Twitter, it seems that unless you’re super famous, super infamous, super rich or super funny (like some guy called @S–tMyDadSays), you pretty much have to follow lots of people in order to get lots of followers. Nevertheless, I’d like to be the exception and just keep following my four people (although Gail Collins will likely be replaced soon if she doesn’t Tweet anything new) and have people follow me en masse anyway even though I am none of the above. Last Saturday I decided to follow Barack Obama after seeing he had more than 2 million followers and was following about three quarters of a million people. I figured the chances he’d follow me were quite good (one in three, I thought). But when he didn’t jump on my Twitter bandwagon after a few hours I unfollowed him. It was sort of empowering to dump the leader of the free world. This must have been how France felt in 2003. It’s not entirely surprising the president didn’t opt to follow me, though. Nine Tweets into my Twitter tenure, I’ve said nothing witty, insightful or even remotely interesting. I barely even read what I write (except to spell check, of course). Fifteen people are currently following me. One of them is doing it just because we have the same name. Another, I’m pretty sure, is just following me so I’ll click on his porn links. At least three of them don’t seem to know me or update their accounts, so I suspect they’re following me by accident. My husband has to follow me because that’s what marriage is all about (even if the cantor never mentioned it during our wedding ceremony). It was surprising to me that my husband signed up for Twitter and actually uses it a fair amount since he always claims to be averse to technology (although a Facebook account and a BlackBerry later, he should probably stop saying that). He has a decent Twitter following (or, more than three times as many followers as me). Not that it’s a competition, of course. (But as of press time I do have 12 more Facebook friends than he does.) What I’m really supposed to be doing on Twitter is a bit of a mystery to me. And what I think I’m supposed to be doing I don’t think I should do — after all, there’s nothing more embarrassing than an ordinary Joe trying to be pithy and droll and failing. I just keep seeing things on other people’s pages like TinyTwitter, Tweetie, UberTwitter, TwitterBerry and TweetGenius, and I feel like a TwitterMoron because I have no idea what any of it means. The founder of Twitter was the subject of a New York Times piece last week about how he’s made no money on the site and is just trying to build its value. I’m pretty sure that’s code for he’s puzzled about its purpose, too. As far as I can tell, Twitter is for people more sophisticated or popular than me, or for those who really, really want to ensure that if their tree falls in the forest, someone will read about it in 140 characters or less. More on Twitter
Meredith C. Carroll: Getting Lost in the Land of Twitter
When Nancy Pelosi said that Gen. McChrystal should report his recommendations up the chain of command, not lobby in press conferences, the National Republican Congressional Committee responded that: [T]axpayers can only hope McChrystal is able to put her in her place. When Al Franken’s amendment saying that defense contractors could not prevent their employees from pursuing legal action for workplace sexual assault or discrimination passed with bipartisan support, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said : This misleading, partisan attack makes clear yet again just how out of touch Democrats in Washington are with the serious issues facing average Americans. To summarize the Republican position: As women, we are not “average Americans,” and gang rape is not a “serious” issue. As women, no matter how powerful we become on our own merits, the Republican establishment will still be hoping for a man to come along and put us in our place. Not every Republican signs onto these views — indeed, 10 Senate Republicans voted for the Franken amendment, giving the lie to the NRSC’s claim of partisanship — but this is the undercurrent of the party’s policies. This is what they’re hoping to get voters to overlook when they run a Sarah Palin or a Kelly Ayotte for office. This is why Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Virginia governor has been such a popular campaign stop for 2012 prospects: because of, not despite, his opposition to marital contraception and women in the workplace. This is why David Vitter (who voted against the Franken amendment) is still a senator in good standing with the party of alleged sexual morality. You don’t have to go very far beneath the Republican surface claims of equality-but-not-really to get to the rock-bottom sense that women just don’t count, that our rights and our wellbeing are always subordinate to whatever interest of men they might conflict with. When it comes to it, even the (themselves sexist) notions of chivalry and protecting women come behind protecting the right of corporations to imprison their female employees to shield their male employees from rape charges and still get government contracts . As Markos said , As predictably regressive as the modern GOP has become, it’s shocking to see that they still have the ability to shock. On this one, they probably always will.
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The GOP, Corporate Rape, and a Woman’s Place
While we’ve waited for the Kindle to spark a culture-wide switch to e-books, fans of the old paper and binding format have busied themselves with anxious questions: does this spell the end of paper books? Is this the device that will truly — gasp — revolutionize the way we read? Now, it looks as if book publishers are answering: sure — but only with paperbacks. Some book publishers now release new titles with the caveat that the e-book versions will be delayed, even indefinitely, so they don’t compromise more profitable hardcover sales. The Kindle edition of Harper Collins’ Sarah Palin biography Going Rogue will begin sales on December 26th, with only the hardcover edition available for holiday shopping, while Twelve Books has no plans to ever release a Kindle edition of the Ted Kennedy memoir True Compass (current list price $35). This hasn’t endeared the publishers to Kindle readers, most of whom expected the expense of new releases to vanish along with paper and dust jackets. Some vocally boycott Kindle books selling above the $9.99 price point, using Amazon’s own tagging system to label books ‘9 99 boycott’ in their catalog. Their argument is that an e-book, little more than an elaborate text file with the ability to show a few black and white pictures, has no visible production costs. Take out the costs of printing, warehousing, and distributing, and the only cost left seems to be the electricity needed to run Microsoft Word. The cost of an e-book has become such a point of contention because it makes distinct something we haven’t had to distinguish until now: the price of content, independent from its medium. When we purchase that new hardcover at an average list price of $25, it’s easy to think that most of our dollars pay for paper, binding and gluing, warehouse staff. We’re ready to accept these costs because of their tactile results: thick pages, colorful covers, a handsome typeface–in the end, a tangible object, straightforward and perfect at what it does. In its simplest form, though, what we’re really buying when we purchase a book is access to a written work, a means of viewing a verbal record. The physicality of paper books has tricked us into thinking we’re paying for the cost of the physical object, the pages themselves, when what’s really being sold is their words. The reason this is important? It’s clear what a tangible object costs: the slimy salesman at the used car dealership will sell the Corvette with an engine straight out of The Fast and the Furious for more than the Camry salvaged from someone’s front lawn. Abstract products sell for whatever people will pay for them at that moment. This relative cost of access already takes place in the paper book marketplace, as demonstrated by the Harry Potter novels’ simultaneous rise in demand and price: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998):24.99 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003):29.99 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007):34.99 According to publishers, the majority of a book’s ultimate sales price pays for intangible costs as well: preproduction (editing, graphic design, etc.), marketing, and author royalties and advances. Money Magazine found that these three made up about 77% of a hardcover’s production costs . By these numbers, a publisher doesn’t save much on an e-book over a paper book: about 23% of existing costs. So maintaining the same profit means a fair price for a $27.95 hardcover in an e-book format would amount to $21.50. Imagine how many ‘9 99 boycott’ tags a Kindle book would receive at that price! Different pricing needs to match the different emotional, intangible appeals of the two book formats. So: what is the true draw of the Kindle? The easiest answer is cost savings, but what reader spends $300 and up on a single-purpose machine — unlike, say, a $300 iPod that also sends text messages, takes pictures, and browses the web — expecting to save money? Cost savings don’t sell the Kindle. Its appeal, much like the appeal of its prime offering, is intangible: ability to look up and download titles at any location with cellphone service, portability, and the irresistible promise of having all the books you’ve ever wanted in one place, like a thorough and flawless memory bank — the Holy Grail of every avid reader. Not many readers can afford the buy-in cost of a device that, at its current price point, is suited best to a very specific kind of reader: the kind of avid reader who reads often enough for a $300 reading machine to make sense, who has reason to need the room saved by storing hundreds of titles on a device as thin as a pencil. With fewer than half of Americans reading regularly (and those readers averaging a modest seven books a year), plus the $250 plus price of every e-reader device so far, book traditionalists have no need to fear the imminent extinction of the paper book. Even those who spring for the Kindle seem to purchase as many paper books as they had before buying the device . But the only way to make new releases profitable on e-readers such as the Kindle is for the reading audience to reevaluate the traditional metrics we’ve used to measure a book’s worth. Past the weight of its pages or the speed of its delivery, a book’s value will remain constant, and with a near-constant price, between paper and electronic formats: in its words.
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Chip O’Brien: Why New Books Don’t Sell on the Kindle: The Price of the Intangible
Last time, we were not only lied into war, but those who did the cheerleading and lying neither volunteered themselves nor did any of their children. So, this time, before Michelle Malkin, or Eric Cantor, or Liz Cheney, or Rich Lowry, get a nanosecond on any other network but Fox to plump for escalating the Afghan War, let them demonstrate their belief in its importance, and rightness, by first volunteering to fight it. And, if (and let’s be honest, there is no chance they would risk their own lives, so it is really “when”) they have not demonstrated their own commitment, shut them out, they have no credibility even to give ‘balance’ to opposing views. (Liz and Rich are just over 40, but I am sure the Commander-in-Chief could get the military to make exceptions for them; and Michelle and Eric are just the right age to volunteer). Are you listening Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation, the networks news hours, 60 minutes, CNN and the MSNBC cable shows? Do not let these people have the microphone until they demonstrate their commitment to their cause by their actions. John McCain and Sarah Palin, whose sons have volunteered, have earned the right to be heard on this matter. But not Bill Kristol if his sons have not volunteered, just as Bill sat out the Vietnam war vigorously promoting it in his late teens and early twenties; and nor Mitt Romney if some of his 5 sons have not enlisted–during the Vietnam War, Mitt himself avoided service by going on a mission for the Mormon Church in the dangerous jungles of Paris, and returned to the US, according to his own account, ‘waiting to be called and disappointed he was not’, somehow never realizing for 6 years that he could, like Lyndon Johnson’s sons-in-law, volunteer. Dagnabbit–he had to spend his time hunting varmints. And, do not forget his comment in the ‘07 primaries that his sons were being more patriotic by driving around Iowa in a Winnebago to help not make Mitt President than they would have been by volunteering. Similarly, for Bill O’Reilly, and Dick Armey, and Jeb Bush, and Dick Cheney himself. Because it is just too easy to sound macho while other people and other peoples’ children die and are maimed for your vanity. During the disastrous Bush-Cheney Administration, not a single member of either the Bush or Cheney families–who were all of military age–volunteered. If they had had to, would Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Feith-Pearle-Wolfowitz have lied us into war, and then not provided the troops with body armor? If the media (or the Democrats!) had called them on it, how much support for that war would have melted as they stumbled through disingenuous ‘explanations”/ While we are at it, it seems as if there are many patriots showing up at rallies these days, including those of the President, with guns. Most of them, one would presume from their comments on other policy matters, would consider the President a traitor if he does not send all the troops McChrystal wants. Perhaps at subsequent events, the Army and Marines can send some recruiters and give these people a chance to use those guns where they could really help? [Bill Maher--why not add that to the 'New Rule" suggestion?]. Let me say that I would like to hear the arguments directly, both for and against, the McChrystal position presented soberly, and with the alternatives completely analyzed and discussed. But, we should all be damned if we allow a group of cowards to cheerlead other peoples’ children to their deaths or permanent injuries again without first putting themselves, or their close families, in the thick of battle themselves. Once was too much. More on Afghanistan
Originally posted here:
Paul Abrams: New Rule Suggestion for Bill Maher: Before a Politician or Pundit Gets Heard On Winning the Afghan War with More Troops, That Person or a Family Member Must Volunteer for It.
CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP)-Amazon.com Inc. is cutting the price of its Kindle electronic-book reader yet again and launching an international version, in hopes of spurring more sales and keeping it ahead of a growing field of competitors. With Wednesday’s $40 reduction on the Kindle, the device now costs $259. It debuted in 2007 at $399 and started this year at $359, before another price cut in July. In an interview, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company can now afford to reduce the price because of the increased number of Kindles the company is making — and selling. Bezos called it Amazon’s best-selling product, but Amazon has not disclosed sales figures for the Kindle, which has a 6-inch screen that displays shades of gray, room to store 1,500 books and the ability to download books wirelessly. The price reduction also shows Amazon is trying to maintain a lead in the nascent e-reader market as the field gets more crowded. According to a report being released Wednesday by Forrester Research, e-reader sales will total an estimated 3 million this year, with Amazon selling 60 percent of them and Sony Corp. 35 percent. Sony offers a $199 “Pocket Edition” e-reader and larger $299 touch-screen model, and in December it will offer a $399 model that can wirelessly download books rather than needing a connection to a computer. Lesser-known companies are moving in, too. IREX Technologies plans to release a wireless-enabled $400 e-reader this fall, and Plastic Logic Ltd. intends to sell one with wireless capabilities as well. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-books accounted for just 1.6 percent of all book sales in the first half of the year. But the market is growing fast. E-book sales totaled $81.5 million in the first half, up from $29.8 million in the first six months of 2008. And Bezos said Amazon sells 48 Kindle copies for every 100 physical copies of books that it offers in both formats. Five months ago it was selling 35 Kindle copies per 100 physical versions. Bezos said that increase is happening faster than he expected. “I think that ultimately we will sell more books in Kindle editions than we do in physical editions,” Bezos said in the interview, which was held in the Cupertino offices of Lab126, the Amazon subsidiary that developed the Kindle. In hopes of stimulating even more growth, Amazon also will start selling a $279 version of the Kindle that will work in 100 countries and be sold to readers outside the U.S. This Kindle will begin shipping on Monday in such countries as Australia, Japan, India and Germany. The current Kindle can wirelessly download content in the U.S. over Sprint Nextel Corp.’s network, but outside the country you must connect it to a computer with a USB cable to add content. The international version will be able to wirelessly download content over AT&T’s network around the world. Seattle-based Amazon also sells a larger version of the Kindle, the DX, which was released this past spring and is geared toward textbook and periodical reading. It costs $489. Having sub-$299 price tags on the U.S. and international Kindles could help Amazon this holiday season — a period that the National Retail Federation is expecting to be sluggish. The trade group forecast this week that retail sales in November and December combined will fall 1 percent from last year. Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps thinks that e-reader prices need to come down even more if the devices are going to become mainstream products, however. She suggested $99 as a price that would be much more likely to lure consumers. She said people “have somewhat unrealistic expectations of how much consumer electronics in general, and e-readers in particular, should be.”
Stewart’s 6th Blog from Woodstock Film Festival Every community crafts its own narrative. A story line that highlights important events, confirms group values, and enshrines community myths. Sometimes this history reinforces society’s dominant narrative, and sometimes not. The biographical documentary, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe , tells the story of a central figure and public spokesperson for a community that furiously challenged America’s status quo. In telling the story of their father, the radical attorney William Kunstler, daughters Emily and Sarah also tell the story of the 1960s radical left. But with a personal slant. After severing in the US Army during World War II, William Moses Kunstler attended law school at Columbia University under the GI Bill and following graduation formed a modest law firm in suburban New York. Kunstler had liberal leanings, but nothing usual. For more than a decade he toiled at his general practice law firm. Then, in 1961 at the age of 50, the American Civil Liberties Union asked Kunstler to travel to Mississippi to defend jailed “freedom fighters.” Then came the Vietnam War and its huge antiwar movement which also utilized his legal services. In 1968, in the wake of the Democratic Convention, Kunstler defended the Chicago 7. In the thick of the two most important oppositional movements of the 20th Century — one for racial justice and other to end an unjust war — Kunstler the liberal morphed into Kunstler the radical. When others fought to change American society, liberal Kunstler fought to keep the fighters out of jail. Radical Kunstler, however, also viewed court rooms as public venues to try the corrupt political system of the country. For William Kunstler, every White American, including himself, was privileged and every minority was handicapped, and the judicial system, controlled by Whites, was a tool to control people of color. The problem, then, was American society. And the solution was a fundamental change of American society. Liberal Kunstler had once believed the law could change America, the radical Kunstler believed political education and power had to change America. And change it fundamentally. After the courtroom circus of the Chicago 7 trial was the Attica prison standoff, its deadly outcome was partially blamed on Kunstler. This was followed by the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota that ended peacefully and successfully. In his later years, William Kunstler focused nearly exclusively on high profile and emotionally charged criminal defense cases, often interjecting racism and political ideology. He defended the Mafia boss Don John Gotti, several Black youths charged with gang raping a White woman in Central Park, a Palestinian who assassinated a Jewish political activist, a Black who shot six New York City policemen in the Bronx, and at the time of his death at 76 from a heart attack, Omar Abdel-Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. William Kunstler won some cases and lost others, yet he consistently polarized Americans. One side insisted he was a hero for truth and justice, a defender of the oppressed and persecuted, a champion of what is good about America. Another side screamed he was a publicity-hound, a threat to national security, a destroyer of what is good about America. Although William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe sees much that is good and honorable and noble in William Kunstler, the film refuses to be pigeon holed in any corner. Emily Kunstler’s narration makes it clear that for the two sisters this was not all joy ride. Sometimes they could not understand their famous and controversial father’s choices for clients, sometimes they strongly disagreed with his choices. Although they agreed that everyone, including the unsavory and dangerous, were entitled to legal defense, they disagreed their father always had to be that legal defense. They grew suspicious of his motivations. Had fame become a drug controlling him? Although respectful and loving, appreciative of the wisdom he passed on to them, admiring his determination to confront injustice, still there was the ambivalence and the pain. William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe is a universe from a propaganda documentary or inane see-my-famous-daddy-doing-famous-things or mean-spirited father-dearest film. This is a sensitive, truthful, insightful film about a man who stood at the center of a confrontational movement as it spearheaded a political assault on injustice in America. About a man who defended those fighting racism and those fighting against a nasty war, American Indians and American criminals and those desperate for some form of justice, all while taking on the political system that he felt was fundamentally corrupt. Next month William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe will premiere in select cities. Go. Discover or rediscover the man, collect insights about the community he was an important part of, and then think how America needs to change today. You can email Stewart at SNusbaumer@gmail.com .
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Stewart Nusbaumer: Woodstock Film Fest — William Kunstler
During my life, I have experienced just about every emotion. But I have never been bored. And that’s because of books. If I have a book with me (and I never leave home without one), I don’t mind having to wait. Plane delayed? Doctor running behind? Friends forget about lunch? No problem, more time to read. Give me a book — hardback, paperback, eBook — and I’m all set. I used to worry, especially on long-distance flights, about not having lugged enough books with me, but my Kindle has solved that dilemma. The only problem is that I love underlining books as I read them, and though the Kindle lets you mark things, you can’t just collect your underlined passages and print them (help a girl out, Amazon!). My love affair with books is a long one. As a little girl growing up in Athens, I remember sending my friends home early from my fifth birthday party because all that celebrating was keeping me away from my books. Who needed friends and cake? I had my books! My entire career path was set by being asked to write my first book. I was 21 and ready to leave Cambridge for Harvard and the Kennedy School of Government. Then fate intervened. After seeing a debate I took part in at the Cambridge Union, a publisher asked me if I’d be interested in writing a book based what I had said in the debate. “I can’t write,” I replied. “Can you have lunch?” he asked. That I could do — and over lunch he won me over. That was twelve books ago. Since that lunch, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t researching or writing a book, until now, when instead of my signing another book contract, we are launching a Books section . I couldn’t be more excited. From the beginning, HuffPost has sought to combine the best of the traditional media with the best of the new media. And that’s what we’ve done with Books . I’ve always been an avid reader of the New York Review of Books . For going on 50 years, it has been the premier source of thoughtful, penetrating articles on books — as well as politics, culture, and current events. So when we decided to start a book section, the first call I made was to the Review ’s legendary founder Bob Silvers, asking if he’d be interested in partnering with us. To my great joy, he was. As part of this partnership, the Huffington Post will be hosting Review articles before the print version comes out as well as giving readers access to other NYR articles within a branded space in our section. Our Books section will be edited by Amy Hertz. When I was making the rounds of publishers, talking about my idea for a book on fearlessness, Amy was one of the editors I met with. We hit it off immediately; our views of the world (especially the publishing world) were completely in sync. I ended up writing On Becoming Fearless for a different publishing house, Little, Brown. But Amy and I stayed in touch and when it came time to pick an editor for Books, she was our first choice. She is still editor-at-large at Penguin, but we’ve managed to work it out so she can bring her drive, passion, taste, and love of books to our new section. So if you love books, and reading, and good writing, please check out HuffPost Books. You’ll find all the latest book-related news and blog posts, book reviews, and all sorts of special features, including one today where HuffPost editors weigh on the books that changed their lives. Plus those articles and reviews from the New York Review of Books . And, of course, we want to hear from you about the books you are reading, the authors you love, and the books you are thinking of writing (I know you have at least one in you!). As Amy recently said about the section: “We want to get people excited about books again, to remember why they are so important, and to spark a thousand conversations — about everything from ‘Is Google the best thing that’s ever happened to books or the worst?’ to ‘Who will sell more books, Sarah Palin or Dick Cheney?’” So check it out . And let us know what you think.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, finally spoke wise and encouraging words about the tenor of our national dialog. At last a powerful Republican voice is calling for an end to the insane insults and lies that permeate today’s political debate. But will his colleagues accede to his entreaty or will they continue their mischief? What, are you kidding? Speaking before a conference last week sponsored by The Atlantic, The Aspen Institute and The Nuseum, Senator Lindsey Graham said, in answer to a question, “I’m here to tell you that those who think the president was not born in Hawaii are crazy, he’s not a Muslim, he’s a good man, and let’s knock this crap off and talk about the real differences we have.” Senator Graham expressed frustration with both extreme Republicans and Democrats who disseminate misinformation and personal attacks. He went on to blame the lack of civility in today’s political arena in part on the voters who elect confrontational representatives to Washington. Senator Graham also blamed the 24-hour news cycle, talk radio and organizations like MoveOn.org. He was particularly harsh toward Fox News entertainer and gadfly Glen Beck, saying “Only in America can you make that much money crying.” Declaring Beck does not speak for the Republican Party, he continued, “He is aligned with cynicism and there has always been a market for cynics. But we became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers.” However, Senator Graham’s criticism of Beck yesterday on Fox News Sunday had a different slant. “I’m not saying he’s bad for America,” the senator said, “You have got the freedom to watch him if you choose. He did a pretty good job on ACORN. What I am saying is he doesn’t represent the Republican Party.” Then he referred to comments Beck made last week to CBS News anchor Katie Couric that he would have voted for Obama over Senator John McCain. “But at the end of the day,” Graham said, “when a person says he represents conservatism and that the country is better off with Barack Obama than John McCain, that sort of ends the debate for me as to how much more I’m going to listen.” Pardon me Senator, I hate to be cynical, but where were you during the silly season this past summer? You know, when Governor Palin accused the president of wanting to create “death panels?” Or when Beck ranted his ridiculous claims about eugenics? Or Rush Limbaugh called the president a Nazi? Or when the “birthers,” fanned by some conservative members of Congress, accused the president of not being a naturalized American? Or, perhaps worse, the president was a Muslim born in Kenya? Senator, why the sudden urge to take the high road? Do you think these senseless attacks are hurting the Republican Party more than President Obama? Or are you now speaking up because Glen Beck has insulted your best friend, Senator John McCain. Whatever your motives senator, I agree it’s time to knock this crap off.
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Joe Peyronnin: Why Now Senator Graham?
STOCKHOLM — Americans Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak won the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discovering a key mechanism in the genetic operations of cells, an insight that has inspired new lines of research into cancer. It was the first time two women have been among the winners of the medicine prize. The trio, working in the late 1970s and 1980s, solved the mystery of how chromosomes, the rod-like structures that carry DNA, protect themselves from degrading when cells divide. The Nobel citation said the laureates found the solution in the ends of the chromosomes – features called telomeres that are often compared to the plastic tips at the end of shoe laces that keep those laces from unraveling. Blackburn and Greider discovered the enzyme that builds telomeres – telomerase – and the mechanism by which it adds DNA to the tips of chromosomes to replace genetic material that has eroded away. The prize-winners’ work set the stage for research suggesting that cancer cells use telomerase to sustain their uncontrolled growth. Scientists are studying whether drugs that block the enzyme can fight the disease. In addition, scientists believe that the DNA erosion the enzyme repairs might play a role in some illnesses. “The discoveries by Blackburn, Greider and Szostak have added a new dimension to our understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and stimulated the development of potential new therapies,” the prize committee said in its citation. Blackburn, who holds U.S. and Australian citizenship, is a professor of biology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco. Greider is a professor in the department of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Greider, 48, said she was telephoned by just before 5 a.m. her time with the news that she had won. “It’s really very thrilling, it’s something you can’t expect,” she told The Associated Press by telephone. People might make predictions of who might win, but one never expects it, she said, adding that “It’s like the Monty Python sketch, ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!’” Greider described the research as beginning with experiments aimed at understanding how cells work, not with the idea for certain implications for medicine. “Funding for that kind of curiosity-driven science is really important,” she said, adding that disease-oriented research isn’t the only way to reach the answer, but “both together are synergistic,” she said. Blackburn, 60, said she was awakened at 2 a.m. “Prizes are always a nice thing,” she told The AP. “It doesn’t change the research per se, of course, but it’s lovely to have the recognition and share it with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak.” London-born Szostak, 56, has been at Harvard Medical School since 1979 and is currently professor of genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is also affiliated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “There’s always some small chance that something like this might happen, so when the phone rang, I thought maybe this is it, so, sure enough,” Szostak told the AP. He said winning the prize was made sweeter because it also included Blackburn and Greider. “When we started the work, of course, we were really just interested in the very basic question about DNA replication, how the ends of chromosomes are maintained,” he said. “At the time we had no idea there would be all these later implications.” He said that since then it had become apparent that “this process of maintaining the ends of DNA molecules is very important and plays an important role in cancer and in aging, which are really still being fully worked out.” Prize committee member Goran Hansson said there is a lot of work yet to do to develop therapies for blood, skin and lung disease based on the winners’ breakthroughs. He said telomerase is very active in many cancer cells, “and if you turn it off or destroy the cells which have this high activity, you could be able to treat cancer,” he said. The award includes a 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) purse split three ways among the winners, a diploma and an invitation to the prize ceremonies in Stockholm on Dec. 10. The researchers have already won a series of medical honors for their research. In 2006, they shared the Lasker prize for basic medical research, often called “America’s Nobel.” Some inherited diseases are now known to be caused by telomerase defects, including certain forms of congenital aplastic anemia, in which insufficient cell divisions in the stem cells of the bone marrow lead to severe anemia. Certain inherited diseases of the skin and the lungs are also caused by telomerase defects. Ten women have won the prestigious medicine award since the first Nobel Prizes were handed out in 1901, but this was the first time that two women were honored in the same year. The Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, literature and the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced later this week, while the economics award will be presented on Oct. 12. Prize founder Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite, left few instructions on how to select winners, but medicine winners are typically awarded for a specific breakthrough rather than a body of research. Nobel established the prizes in his will in 1895. The first awards were handed out six years later. ____ Associated Press Writers Sarah Brumfield in Baltimore, Mary Hudetz in Phoenix, Mark Pratt in Boston and Malin Rising in Stockholm contributed to this report. ___ On the Net: http://www.nobelprize.org
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Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider And Jack Szostak: 3 Americans Share 2009 Nobel Medicine Prize
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman recently expressed concern about the level of violent discourse aimed toward President Barack Obama. Friedman likened it to the atmosphere in which Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995. Friedman’s column caused Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele to ask the question for which I’ve been dying to find an answer. “Where do these nut jobs come from?” Steele asked. I think it is a very important question at time such as this. But, unlike Steele, my curiosity is not directed toward New York Times columnists, but rather the nut jobs on the ground who feed on hatred. It would be funny, were it not so tragic, to watch individuals who could not distinguish between the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and Green Eggs and Ham lamenting about the original intent of the Founders at their “tea parties” and town hall meetings. It is even more tragic to see those masquerading as journalists, promoting the tag line “fair and balanced,” serving as official cheerleaders at these events, whipping attendees into a frenzy. Steele went on to say, “[They're] saying, because you disagree with the president on policy, that all of the sudden we’re going to make this leap into, you know, assassinations and all this other stuff,” Steele said. I’m not really certain who comprises the vaunted “They Committee,” but I’m saying there is an unhealthy climate being created in this country. That someone felt comfortable posting an assassination poll question about the president on Facebook is alarming. Assuming it was intended to be humorous, where is the comedy in “Should Obama be killed?” Of the 43 men who have occupied the White House, four have been assassinated, Lincoln, McKinley, Garfield and Kennedy. If we add to that list the 13 confirmed attempts, America has attempted to take the life of roughly 40 percent of its leaders. That more presidents have not been assassinated can be attributed to circumstance and just plain luck. Were it not for a double misfire at 13 feet, Richard Lawrence would have shot President Andrew Jackson. Giuseppe Zangara fired five shots at Franklin Roosevelt, but instead killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who was seated next to Roosevelt in an open car. In September 1975, President Gerald Ford had two attempts made on his life. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme drew a loaded Colt .45-caliber as the president reached to shake her hand in Sacramento. Fortunately, the firing chamber was empty. Later that month as Ford was leaving San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel, Oliver Sipple grabbed the arm of Sarah Jane Moore causing the shot she fired from approximately 40 feet away to miss. On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley, Jr., very nearly added Ronald Reagan to the tragic list of assassinated presidents just 69 days into his presidency. Reagan became the only president to survive a gunshot wound. The historical frequency with which assassinations occur and the fact that we are a more heavily armed nation makes one wonder whether there is one among us who believes, as did Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, that shooting the president is tantamount to doing the nation a service. But the failure of mainstream Republicans — members of the House of Representatives, Senate, and the chair of the RNC — to meet the outlandish charges by the fringe with unequivocal disassociation, offers them the cover of tacit approval. Perhaps this right-wing fringe element represents one of the few groups where the Republican brand is still viewed positively, but too many GOP stalwarts prefer to examine this phenomenon by how “reasonable people” see it. But this has nothing to do with how “reasonable” people see it; quite the contrary. It is the fringe element that willfully clings to a false narrative of America to justify unreasonable behavior that is making its way more and more into the public conversation. If the Republican Party wants to return from the political wilderness, it must reject any association with the nut jobs. As Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently stated, the Republican Party must say to those who advocate that Obama was not born in the U.S., is a closet Muslim, is Hitler, or worse, that he should be assassinated, “That’s crazy!” Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist and blog-talk radio host. He is the author of Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site: byronspeaks.com More on Michael Steele
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Byron Williams: GOP Must Disavow the Nut Jobs
It’s not often I find myself in Juneau, Alaska. This was the first time, in fact. When I saw a city-limits sign, I was tempted to spray-paint “Now - Palin-Free, ” but, being well past prime tagging age, I demurred. Juneau seems so quiet now. But a year ago, it was a media hot spot, albeit one of the most unlikely ones imaginable. “You should have seen Juneau a year ago,” a reporter from the local ABC-TV affiliate, KJUD-TV, told me when I dropped by the station recently. “It was nuts. The governor’s mansion was surrounded by ENG (satellite) vans, and reporters were all over town. I couldn’t get into my favorite restaurant and coffee shop. It was stupid crowded here.” This scenic, remote southeast Alaska town, the only state capital inaccessible by car, is not that big — 30,000 souls. I had no idea what it would look like, just that Palin lived here (for awhile). Would the stench linger? Not really. Juneau is lovely, with waterfalls cascading from steep green cliffs looming just above downtown. (They reminded me a lot of the verdant Ko’olau Mountains on windward - and much warmer — Oahu). Juneau is quiet and laid back again, the norm. It doesn’t seem like a government town, either, like, for example, Salem, Oregon. More of a cruise-ship town, given the row of mostly schlocky gift shops downtown. There are still a few Palin souvenirs in shop windows, but fortunately, not that many. It was hard to believe that barely over a year ago, when Alaska’s then-Gov. Palin was named John McCain’s Hail Mary running mate, hundreds of media types would schlep all the way up here. It’s the furthest north I’ve ever traveled, and trust me, it’s remote. The former House of Palin, the Alaska Governor’s Mansion, is a lovely white semi-mansion, incongruously (given security concerns today) tucked into a residential neighborhood. It looks respectable and unremarkable, save for a totem pole on the back wall. What WAS weird was the adjacent Alaska state capitol, which I couldn’t remember from all the live TV shots. Now I know why. I figured that with Alaska’s gold-rush, Jack London-esque history, the state capitol would feature a bright gold dome. No gold, and no dome. This is the most unprepossessing state capitol you’ll ever see. It’s built of industrial-looking yellowish brick, six stories high and is totally nondescript. How nondescript? It could easily pass for a public-utility office. “Sarah Palin never did fit in here,” said my local contact and guide, a bright young woman I’d asked about the town’s former media celebrity. “Juneau’s like Austin. It’s the ‘blue’ part of Alaska,” explained the young woman, a government worker. “We have quite a few artists in Juneau.” The state’s one sizeable city, distant Anchorage, I figured, would be more urban and thus, “bluer.” “Anchorage is pretty conservative,” the 20′ish Juneau woman said, “and this is a very red state. Juneau’s the liberal enclave in Alaska.” And with Palin gone to the rubber-chicken and book-flogging circuits, it’s even bluer. But once again, Juneau is a media backwater. More on Sarah Palin
I have always greatly admired David Letterman, and I consider him to be one of the most enduring and defining wits of our times. And no, I won’t stop watching a TV show because consenting adults were having sex — in fact, that’s why I watch HBO. That said, David still might want to consider putting a plastic cover on that “Late Show” couch. DIRTY WORK - Steely Dan WHEN THE DEAL GOES DOWN - Bob Dylan FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY - The O’Jays WORKIN’ DAY AND NIGHT - Michael Jackson FREE MONEY - Patti Smith INTO TEMPTATION - Crowded House FOUND OUT ABOUT YOU - Gin Blossoms TWO LOVERS - Mary Wells LET’S WORK TOGETHER - Canned Heat WORK TO DO - The Isley Brothers BIG BOSS MAN - Elvis Presley NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT - Sarah Vaughan PAYING THE COST TO BE THE BOSS - B.B. King That’s my playlist. Now it’s your time to play. More on The Late Show
There are hundreds, or maybe even thousands of social media sites worldwide such as Facebook , MySpace , Twitter , and YouTube . Social media networks are quickly becoming the bane of the IT Manager. Twitter phishing and Facebook jacking are growing rapidly. Social media is still in its infancy and its security has been an issue since its inception. Facebook has been perceived as an ongoing privacy and security issue and Twitter has increasingly become a big target for attacks. Users are tricked into clicking links. Viruses enter the network as a result of employees downloading or simply visiting an infected page. Computerworld reports that “Twitter is dead.” Twitter is dead because it is now so popular that the spammers and the scammers have arrived in force, and history tells us that once they sink their teeth into something, they do not let go. Ever. Implement policies : Social media is a great platform for connecting with existing and potential clients. However, without some type of policy in place that regulates employee access and guidelines for appropriate behavior, social media may eventually be completely banned from every corporate network. Teach effective use : Provide training on proper use and especially what not do to. Encourage URL decoding : Before clicking on shortened URLs, find out where they lead by pasting them into a URL lengthening service like TinyURL Decoder or Untiny . Limit social networks : In my own research I’ve found 300-400 operable social networks serving numerous uses from music to movies, from friending to fornicating. Some are less than appropriate and others even less secure. Train IT personnel : Effective policies begin from the top down. Those responsible for managing technology need to be fully up to speed. Maintain updated security : Whether hardware or software, anti-virus or critical security patches, make sure you are up to date. Lock down settings : Most social networks have privacy settings that need to be administered to the highest level. Default settings generally leave the networks wide open for attack. Prevent social media identity theft : Register all your officers, company names and branded products on every social media site you can find to prevent twittersquatting and cybersquatting . You can do this manually or by using a very cost effective service called Knowem.com . Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker with ID Analytics discussing Social Media Identity Theft on Fox Boston More on Twitter
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Robert Siciliano: 8 Ways to Prevent Business Social Media Identity Theft
NEW YORK — Late-night hosts didn’t waste a moment poking fun at the troubles of one of their own, after a CBS newsman was charged with trying to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million in a plot that forced the late-night comic to acknowledge having sex with some of the women who have worked for him. The bizarre case has created a messy legal and professional problem for one of CBS’ most valuable personalities. Commentators and bloggers quickly accused Letterman of hypocrisy because he has made a career of mocking politicians mercilessly, often for their sexual transgressions. Robert J. “Joe” Halderman, a producer for the true-crime show “48 Hours Mystery,” pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court to one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny, punishable by five to 15 years in prison. Prosecutors said Halderman, who was released after posting $200,000 bail, was desperate and deep in debt. Jay Leno, Letterman’s longtime late-night rival, kicked off his monologue Friday on NBC: “If you came here tonight for sex with a talk show host, you’ve got the wrong studio.” On NBC’s “Late Night,” Jimmy Fallon also worked it into his monologue: “There’s a new book out called “Why Women Have Sex” that says there are 237 reasons why women have sex. And folks, Letterman knows the top 10.” It remains to be seen whether Letterman will suffer long-term damage just as his career appears to be peaking. Letterman has taken over as the king of late-night in the ratings this summer, and last week he beat NBC’s “Tonight” show host Conan O’Brien for the first time among young viewers. Friday night’s “Late Show” was taped in advance on Thursday, meaning Letterman won’t be taping an episode after his revelation until at least Monday. But Friday’s show did include a moment – coincidental in retrospect – when guest Larry David unwittingly suggested that he beat Letterman’s record of having the fewest number of dates for someone with a TV show. “Oh, I don’t know,” replied Letterman, grinning knowingly. Halderman’s connection to Letterman was not immediately clear, but public records show that until August, he lived in Norwalk, Conn., with Stephanie Birkitt, a 34-year-old woman who works on the “Late Show” staff and used to work at “48 Hours.” Birkitt was an assistant to Letterman on the “Late Show” and frequently appeared on camera with the host in comedy bits. Last month, Birkitt moved to Manhattan. There was no answer Friday at a phone listed in her name. It was unclear how many women were involved with Letterman, 62, who married longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko in March. The couple began dating in 1986 and have a son, Harry, born in November 2003. All the affairs took place before Letterman’s marriage, said Tom Keaney, spokesman for Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants. Keaney also said Letterman “is not in violation” of the company’s harassment policy “and no one has ever raised a complaint against him.” CBS issued a statement Friday: “We think it was appropriate for Dave to disclose the matter publicly as he has, and we are continuing to cooperate with authorities.” CBS would not address questions about whether Letterman faced any disciplinary actions for relationships with subordinates. Halderman gave the talk show host a package of materials that “contained clear, explicit and actual threats that indicate this defendant … (wanted to) destroy the reputation of Mr. Letterman and to submit him and his family to humiliation and ridicule,” Assistant District Attorney Judy Salwen said in court. Halderman, hands cuffed behind his back, stared at the floor during most of Friday’s court hearing and said only “not guilty.” His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said Halderman worked at CBS for 27 years and had no prior criminal record. He described him as an involved father who coached soccer, baseball and football and has two children, ages 11 and 18. “This story is far more complicated than what you heard this afternoon,” Shargel said outside court, but he would not elaborate. Halderman allegedly left an envelope in Letterman’s car early Sept. 9. According to authorities, he wrote that he needed money and said Letterman’s world would “collapse around him” if damaging information about him were made public. Letterman acknowledged that the letter contained proof that the late-night host had sexual relationships with members of his staff. Three meetings between Letterman’s lawyer and Halderman subsequently took place, the last two with the lawyer recording the conversations and prosecutors listening in, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said. At the last meeting, on Wednesday, the lawyer gave Halderman a phony check for $2 million, Morgenthau said. Halderman deposited the check Thursday and was arrested that day, he said. It’s the second set of embarrassing headlines for Letterman in four months. He apologized on the air earlier this summer for a crude joke involving Sarah Palin’s family. But when the controversy continued to swirl, he came back after a weekend to offer a stronger mea culpa. Letterman’s contract with CBS runs through next August, though the network has been in negotiations to continue that through 2012. ___ Associated Press writers Emily Fredrix, Jake Coyle, John Christoffersen, Colleen Long, Mesfin Fekadu, Jennifer Peltz, Hillel Italie, Ryan Nakashima and news researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report. More on David Letterman
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Letterman Becomes Late Night Target After Admitting To Affairs
NEW YORK — A CBS newsman who prosecutors said was desperate and deep in debt was charged Friday with trying to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million in a plot that forced the late night comic to acknowledge having sex with some of the women who have worked for him. The bizarre case created a messy legal and professional problem for one of CBS’ most valuable personalities. Commentators and bloggers quickly accused Letterman of hypocrisy because he has made a career of mocking politicians mercilessly, often for their sexual transgressions. From a strictly business perspective, Letterman’s revelations on Thursday’s show were an immediate success: His overnight ratings were up 38 percent over the same night a week ago, the Nielsen Co. said. It remains to be seen whether Letterman will suffer long-term damage just as his career appears to be peaking. Letterman has taken over as the king of late-night in the ratings this summer, and last week he beat NBC’s Conan O’Brien for the first time among young viewers. Friday night’s “Late Show” was taped in advance on Thursday, meaning Letterman won’t be taping an episode after his revelation until at least Monday. Jay Leno, Letterman’s longtime late-night rival, didn’t waste a moment commenting on the situation. He kicked off his monologue on NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show” on Friday with several jokes about Letterman. He opened: “If you came here tonight for sex with a talk show host, you’ve got the wrong studio.” Leno continued: “What is going on? First Conan hit his head, and then somebody tries to extort money from Letterman. I’m so glad I’m out of late-night.” (Last week, O’Brien suffered a mild concussion during a skit.) Robert J. “Joe” Halderman, a producer for the true-crime show “48 Hours Mystery,” pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court as he was arraigned on one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny, punishable by five to 15 years in prison. He was released after posting $200,000 bail. Halderman’s connection to Letterman was not immediately clear, but public records show that until August, he lived in Norwalk, Conn., with Stephanie Birkitt, a 34-year-old woman who works on the “Late Show” staff and used to work at “48 Hours.” Birkitt was an assistant to Letterman on the “Late Show” and frequently appeared on camera with the host in comedy bits. Last month, Birkitt moved to Manhattan’s upper West Side. There was no answer Friday at a phone listed in her name. It was unclear how many women were involved in relationships with Letterman, 62, who married longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko in March. The couple began dating in 1986 and have a son, Harry, born in November 2003. All the affairs took place before Letterman’s marriage, said Tom Keaney, spokesman for Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants. Keaney also said Letterman “is not in violation” of the company’s harassment policy “and no one has ever raised a complaint against him.” CBS issued a statement Friday: “We think it was appropriate for Dave to disclose the matter publicly as he has, and we are continuing to cooperate with authorities.” CBS would not address questions about whether Letterman faced any disciplinary actions for relationships with subordinates. CBS News also declined to address questions about whether Halderman’s alleged actions call into question any of the work he has done for the news division. David Lande, a New York City-based civil attorney whose cases have included sexual harassment, said Letterman presumably was in a position of power with a voice in hiring, firing and promotions. “So, to the extent that he had control over these factors with the women he was involved with, he could be subject to liability,” he said. “I am sure CBS lawyers are reviewing the matter very carefully.” Shanti Atkins, president of ELT, a firm that consults on ethics and sex in the workplace issues, said Letterman, his company and CBS could also be vulnerable to claims of sexual favoritism by others in the company if they believe people got ahead because they were sleeping with the boss. Assistant District Attorney Judy Salwen told the judge Halderman was in debt, but did not elaborate. “The evidence is compelling,” she said. “It shows the defendant is desperate, and he is capable of doing anything.” The prosecutor said Halderman gave the talk show host a package of materials that “contained clear, explicit and actual threats that indicate this defendant … (wanted to) destroy the reputation of Mr. Letterman and to submit him and his family to humiliation and ridicule.” Halderman, hands cuffed behind his back, stared at the floor during most of Friday’s court hearing and said only “not guilty.” His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said Halderman worked at CBS for 27 years and had no prior criminal record. He described him as an involved father who coached soccer, baseball and football and has two children, ages 11 and 18. “This story is far more complicated than what you heard this afternoon,” Shargel said outside court, but he would not elaborate. Halderman earned about $214,000 in 2007. He was ordered in 2007 to pay his ex-wife $6,800 per month in child and spousal support until May 2011, when the payments will be reduced to $5,966 until May 2014, according to papers filed in Stamford Superior Court. He had asked for a reduction to $2,039 per month because his ex-wife, Patty Montet, was sharing a house in New Canaan with a man. But Montet argued – and the judge agreed – that her living arrangement was for convenience and not romantic. Montet also claimed Halderman was getting $1,500 a month from Birkitt. “Mr. Halderman claims he is struggling financially, but it is difficult to see what, other than mismanagement and extravagant spending, is the reason for this,” Montet’s attorneys said in the court file. “His is a world of golf trips, vacations, increasing 401k assets, comprehensive benefits, security in employment, earnings as an award-winning producer for CBS, and home ownership.” Halderman allegedly left an envelope in Letterman’s car early Sept. 9. According to authorities, he wrote that he needed “to make a large chunk of money” and said that Letterman’s world would “collapse around him” if damaging information about him were made public. Letterman acknowledged that the letter contained proof that the late-night host had sexual relationships with members of his staff. Three meetings between Letterman’s lawyer and Halderman subsequently took place in Manhattan’s Essex House hotel, the last two with the lawyer recording the conversations and prosecutors listening in, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said. At the last meeting, on Wednesday, the lawyer gave Halderman a phony check for $2 million, Morgenthau said. Halderman deposited the check Thursday in a Connecticut bank and was arrested later that day outside CBS News’ Manhattan office, he said. Halderman has been described by colleagues as a talented and occasionally volatile producer. His boss, Susan Zirinsky, called “48 Hours” staff members into a meeting on Friday to discuss the case, calling it a personal tragedy. Marcy McGinnis, who was Halderman’s boss when she was CBS’ London bureau chief, said she had him work on many important stories, like Princess Diana’s death and the war in Bosnia. She said she was shocked by the alleged extortion. “The idea of it is so unbelievable. This is a very smart guy. There must have been some sort of mental breakdown. I’m no expert, but it just seems like it was 100 percent out of character.” It’s the second set of embarrassing headlines for Letterman in four months. He apologized on the air earlier this summer for a crude joke involving Sarah Palin’s family. But when the controversy continued to swirl, he came back after a weekend to offer a stronger mea culpa. Letterman’s contract with CBS runs through next August, although the network has been in negotiations to continue that through 2012. Advertisers spent $145.2 million on the show from January through June this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. They appear to be holding firm behind the late night host. “We haven’t seen any clients nor do we anticipate any clients looking to move inventory out of the show,” said Laura Caraccioli-Davis, an executive vice president and director at Starcom. “We believe that he handled it with full transparency. Consumers are looking for that authenticity and honesty.” ___ Associated Press writers Emily Fredrix, Jake Coyle, John Christoffersen, Colleen Long, Mesfin Fekadu, Jennifer Peltz, Hillel Italie, Ryan Nakashima and news researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.
Rabbi Boteach is too busy promoting his book on Michael Jackson to weigh in on whether or not Roman Polanski should be extradited nor have we heard what the Coen brothers feel about President Obama’s efforts to get the Olympic games for Chicago. But, fortunately, we have the Sunday morning talk shows coming up and, hopefully, those few who haven’t yet expressed their opinions will - on those topics as well as if Sarah Palin is planning to run in 2008 and whether or not David Letterman screwed up by admitting to screwing women on his staff. More on Roman Polanski
In comments almost certain to rankle Republicans on Capital Hill, Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign manager Steve Schmidt accused the GOP on Friday of having no comprehensive alternative to Democratic health care reform. In an appearance at The Atlantic ’s First Draft of History conference, the longtime GOP strategist did argue that individual Republicans, notably Rep, Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), were “advancing ideas” on health care legislation. “But the party holistically is bereft of ideas,” Schmidt added. The remarks come at a time when Republicans are already beating back accusations that the party has not been a viable or honest bargaining partner during reform negotiations. As such, they seem destined to even further Schmidt’s alienation within conservative ranks. Earlier in his speech, the McCain strategist ruffled feathers when he predicted that if former VP candidate Sarah Palin — whom he helped pick as McCain’s running mate — were to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2012, it would be “catastrophic” for the party. But Schmidt insists that his complaint with the GOP is driven by a simple desire to ensure long-term success. Part of the recuperating process, he added, means finding a firmer and more innovative base of policy ideas around which to re-build the party “Ronald Reagan’s conservatism was relevant to the age and time that he lived in,” Schmidt told the crowd, “and the challenge for the next presidential candidates is to make conservatism relevant to the time that we live in today.” “One of the things that hurt us very badly [during the campaign] and I think that this was not John McCain’s fault… was that the conservative agenda — largely enacted — I think exhausted itself,” he added. “There were no new ideas. And we would have policy meetings in the campaign and there would be a lowest common denominator product that would emerge; no innovative thinking, no new ideas, and I would joke around at the time and say ‘Well, I guess we will continue to run on our platform of tax cuts for the wealthy and endless war.’ It was a little gallows humor inside the campaign. But it underlined a serious point.” Another catalyst for a GOP re-birth, Schmidt stressed, would be for elected leaders to remove themselves from under the weight and influence of the conservative media elite - namely, Fox News’ Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh. “I think people with regard to their vote… make their own decisions,” he said. “Sometimes they agree with Rush Limbaugh, sometimes they don’t…. It is up to the leaders to the party to lead the party. The leadership of the party cannot be outsourced to the conservative entertainment complex. And if it is, then it will become impossible for the party to win elections.” Get HuffPost Politics On Facebook and Twitter!
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Schmidt: The GOP "Holistically Is Bereft Of Ideas" On Health Care
You see, there’s a pretty little rumor running around the beauty industry that Palin’s agents are seeking a cosmetics deal. Page Six reports that the Palin crew may be attempting to capitalize on her infamous joke about the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom. (Lipstick. Har har.) More on Sarah Palin
Confronting Ahmadinejad and Other Liars by Menachem Rosensaft As we sat in our synagogues during the recent Jewish High Holy Days, we were repeatedly confronted with the importance our rabbis, our prophets and our sages have always placed on the concept of truth as a paramount precept. During the morning Shaharit service, we were reminded, as we are every day, 365 days a year, that we are commanded to revere and respect God, in private and in public, by acknowledging truth and speaking truth. This insistence on truth as a core Jewish religious value stands in sharp contrast to the utter disdain for facts that has become commonplace in contemporary political discourse, both domestically and in the international arena. One day before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a “lie,” and a “myth” invented by Western leaders to justify the creation of the State of Israel. Speaking at the site of the Buchenwald concentration camp in June, President Obama denounced Holocaust denial as “a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful. This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts; a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.” The good news is that much of the international community joined the White House in condemning the Iranian president’s latest diatribe. The strongest response came from a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman who said: “Attempts to rewrite history, especially as the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II is being marked this year, are an offence to the memory of all victims and all those who fought fascism.” Holocaust denial is Ahmadinejad’s big lie, a key underpinning of his demagogic calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Along the same lines, Bishop Richard Williamson, the renegade cleric whom Pope Benedict XVI sought to rehabilitate last January, has integrated his contempt for truth into a virulent anti-Semitism. Williamson’s theology features “the false messianic vocation of Jewish world dominion, to prepare the Anti-Christ’s throne in Jerusalem.” He also declared on Swedish television “that the historical evidence is largely against, is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. I believe there were no gas chambers.” Ahmadinejad and Williamson are hardly the only ones intent on twisting, distorting and ignoring the truth. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claims that Democratic health care reform initiatives include so-called “death panels,” even though she knows perfectly well that nothing of the sort is even remotely contemplated in any of the different plans that have been put forward. Rush Limbaugh likens healthcare reform to Nazism and President Obama to Hitler. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) warns darkly — and falsely — that a bill to expand national community service programs would establish “re-education camps … where young kids will have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward.” Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a former Defense Department official in the Reagan administration, writes in The Washington Times , “There is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.” A gaggle of at least 10 paleo-Republican members of Congress further inflame their extremist base by insinuating that Barack Obama was not really born in Hawaii, and is therefore ineligible to be president. This is not to say that all Democrats and liberals are paragons of veracity. John Edwards and Rod Blagojevich readily come to mind. But their disregard for the truth is tawdry, idiosyncratic and petty. The far right, on the other hand, has adopted prevarication as a deliberate and obsessive strategy. Nor is this an attack on Republicans or conservatives. Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley Jr. were men of integrity, and I respect George Will, Senator Olympia Snowe, Joe Scarborough, Governor Charlie Christ, Kathleen Parker, David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, among others. Why does all this matter to us as Jews? Because over the centuries we have suffered more from lies than any other people. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the late 19th-early 20th centuries Russian forgery that purports to depict a Jewish conspiracy for world domination; blood libels; Henry Ford’s slur that “Communism all over the world and not only in Russia is Jewish”; the American radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin’s charge that the Great Depression was caused by an “international conspiracy of Jewish bankers”; the composer Richard Wagner’s declaration that “I hold the Jewish race to be the born enemy of pure humanity and everything noble in it”; Communist claims that Jews are bourgeois exploiters of the working class. The list goes on. Heated political and ideological debates are cornerstone elements of democracy, but only if they are rooted in integrity on all sides. For us merely to acknowledge truth and speak truth is insufficient. We, too, have a “duty to confront those who would tell lies.” Menachem Rosensaft is Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School and Vice President of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants More on Barack Obama
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Menachem Rosensaft: Confronting Ahmadinejad and Other Liars
David Letterman acknowledged on Thursday’s show that he had sexual relationships with female employees and that someone tried to extort $2 million from him over the affairs. During the taping of his CBS late-night show in New York, Letterman discussed receiving a threat to either pay $2 million or risk the relationships being made public. In a release from the show’s production company, Letterman said he referred the matter to the Manhattan district attorney’s office and that an investigation ended in an arrest Thursday. Letterman did not identify the person he said was arrested. As part of the investigation, Letterman said he issued a “phony” $2 million check to the individual and the arrest followed – along with testimony by Letterman. “This morning, I did something I’ve never done in my life,” said Letterman. “I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury.” In his testimony, he said he acknowledged sexual relationships with members of his staff. It was not immediately clear when the relationships took place; Letterman and longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko married in March. The couple began dating in 1986 and have a son, Harry, born in November 2003. “My response to that is, yes I have,” Letterman said. “Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would. I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family.” CBS spokesman Chris Ender said Thursday that “Letterman’s comments on the broadcast tonight speak for themselves.” It’s the second set of embarrassing headlines for Letterman in four months. In June, he apologized to Sarah Palin for making a crude joke about the former Republican vice presidential candidate’s 14-year-old daughter. Although there was a small “fire Letterman” demonstration outside of his studio later, CBS stood by its late-night star. After nearly 15 years in second place to NBC’s Jay Leno in the ratings, Letterman took over the top spot this summer after Conan O’Brien became “Tonight” show host. Letterman’s CBS “Late Show” has been on the air since 1993 and before that, he had a late-night show on NBC. Alicia Maxey Greene, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, declined to comment. ___ AP Television Writer Lynn Elber in Los Angeles and Associated Press Writer Tom McElroy in New York contributed to this report. ___ On the Net: http://www.cbs.com More on David Letterman
Da Coach isn’t backing the favorite. Former Bears coach Mike Ditka, a longtime conservative who stumped with Sara Palin during the 2008 presidential election, has endorsed little-known developer Patrick Hughes over GOP frontrunner Mark Kirk in the race for the U.S. Senate. “I pledge all my support to Patrick Hughes and I will help him in any way I can,” Ditka said in a statement released Thursday by the Hughes campaign. “Patrick Hughes stands for the same mainstream values that Mike Ditka stands for. Patrick Hughes knows who he is and what he believes. He knows that Washington is not the answer to all of our problems today.” Ditka’s endorsement is a clear snub of U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the favorite for the Republican nomination. The North Shore Congressman has come under fire from the right for not being conservative enough. More on Senate Races
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Ditka Endorses Hughes Over Kirk In Senate Race
White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee won first prize in the 16th annual “D.C.’s Funniest Celebrity” contest last night. In his performance he spoke about the Obama administration’s goals and recent battles filled with biting, funny asides such as: “I’ve talked to some of the leading CEOs at banks, and I do think that they learned some important lessons from what just happened…Like spend your bonus quickly.” Goolsbee hit all the usual topics: health care reform, the 2012 election, and naturally, Sarah Palin. “There’s a lot of governors…” Goolsbee mused. “There’s obviously Sarah Palin (wingnut) from Alaska, who’s the former Governor (quitter) and you just cannot rule out that by 2012 (there may be a warrant for her arrest)…That she will be the nominee.” In closing, Goolsbee cautioned the audience, “Have some sympathy for the unemployed because, when Rahm Emanuel sees my comments from this evening, I am going to be one of them.” Goolsbee beat out Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, US News and World Report’s Anna Mulrine, Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, TWT’s Richard Miniter, WDCA-TV’s Count Gore De Vol, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash), Rep. Jackie Speier, Chef Geoff and Examiner’s Mark Tapscott for the top prize. WATCH:
Joy Behar hosted Ann Coulter for the second edition of her HLN show, “The Joy Behar Show.” Behar and Coulter sparred over death panels, with Coulter defending the notion — popularized by Sarah Palin — that one proposal in the health care reform debate included government-run “death panels” to determine whether elderly people could live or die. The two then discussed Palin herself, both agreeing that she has become very powerful but differing over how coherent she is. “Nobody wanted to hear John McCain. Sarah Palin would show up, and she got audiences bigger than Obama,” Coulter said. “She’s prettier, that’s about it,” Behar said. “She’s more coherent, she’s conservative, she’s actually a Republican,” Coulter shot back. “Ann — not for nothing — I like you, she’s not coherent,” Behar said. “The woman cannot construct a sentence!” Watch: Embedded video from CNN Video