Archive for August, 2010.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sen. Lisa Murkowski was booted from office in the Republican primary Tuesday by a little-known conservative lawyer in arguably the biggest political upset of the year. Joe Miller, backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, became the latest newcomer to the national political stage to take down an incumbent in 2010 amid deep dissatisfaction with the Washington establishment. Read More… More on Tax Day Tea Parties
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Murkowski Concedes Alaska GOP Senate Primary To Joe Miller
As an American Muslim and a mother about to send my child to a high school located just blocks from Ground Zero, I add to the list of a mom’s first day of school worries: how safe will my son be? Read More… More on Islam
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Sarah Sayeed, Ph.D.: Building Shared Cultural and Spiritual Spaces: Lessons in the Mosque Debate
Sarah Haskins, HuffPost Comedy favorite and deeply funny lady, is preggers. Many of you may think that being pregnant brings love and light to life. WRONG. Haskins wants booze, cigarettes, and hate. Luckily her annoyance is hilarious so it doesn’t make you want to switch to a life of abstinence (just a life of condoms). Here’s her talking about her life as an incubator on the Paper Machete Show. LISTEN: Read More… More on Babies
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Sarah Haskins: Pregnancy Is A Dark Time Of Sobriety (AUDIO)
We’ll see if my schedule allows me to do a compressive ‘end of summer’ box office wrap-up, but since summer 2010 doesn’t officially end until September 3rd, I figure I’ve got time. But for now, here is a rundown of the various scenes, performances, moments, and miscues that defined the summer just past. Because sometimes, discussing the ‘parts’ is more fun than discussing the ‘whole’. I’ll try to avoid divulging plot twists and the like, but consider this a SPOILER WARNING. Funniest moment of the summer: the demonstration goes horribly wrong in Splice . No fair spoiling it here, but there’s a moment about halfway through the otherwise taut and terrific sci-fi horror picture where Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are giving a corporate presentation regarding their recent scientific endeavors. Let’s just say it’s easily the most outrageously funny scene of this nature since ED-209 told that unlucky executive to put down the gun in Robocop . Read More…
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Scott Mendelson: 2010 Summer Movie Review part I: The Moments That Mattered.
My new book, American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right is officially released on Wednesday (though Amazon and others have been selling it for several weeks). I wrote a synopsis of the book here . The early reaction: 1.) Judging the book by its cover It used to be that people read books before opining about them. Apparently, that’s too much effort for some people. 2.) Weenie liberals You know the kind, the type of people that get the vapors when any progressive gets aggressive. Moulitsas … is primarily concerned with building a movement. And he may be right to suggest that the right’s rhetoric is sometimes so intemperate that mockery and reason are insufficient to fight it. Fine. If the Democrats run the country for the next 50 years because Moulitsas has taught them to fight fire with fire, then I guess I won’t complain. I just wish reading American Taliban didn’t make me feel like a member of the Conservative Book Club. I’ll be happy to stipulate — if you don’t believe fighting fire with fire is acceptable in our modern political world, as we face off against the Palins, Becks, Limbaughs and O’Reillys of the conservative world, then this book isn’t for you. Nor this site, for that matter. On the other hand, it’s nice to see the anti-weenie liberals emerge . 3.) Attack the blurbers! This frankly bizarre piece in the libertarian Reason goes after two blurbers for the book — Roger Ebert and Rachel Maddow — because they don’t like Sarah Palin and the crazed rhetoric from the Right. Therefore, they are hypocritical because Right-wing lies are exactly the same as pointing out that Islamic fundamentalists and the crazy Right both hate gays. And then there’s a bunch of stuff about Nazis. 4. Praise Okay, this stuff isn’t as fun as the hysterical reactions to the name or the presence of a fighting liberal. But all the same, can’t ignore it: Amid much crowing about the GOP’s 2008 implosion, he was more prescient than many on the left about how the far right would react to the reality of a black man in the White House who wasn’t a butler or a cook. But in American Taliban, even Moul itsas sounds shocked by the degree to which the virulent attacks on President Obama and his agenda echo the ideas—on war, power, sex, culture, and gay and women’s rights—of the terrormongers who brought us 9/11 … His brilliance lies both in his ability to discern patterns that others miss and in his talent for not mincing words. Like Moulitsas’s previous two books, this one promises to be a conversation changer for those who can stomach reading the whole thing. Too bad that what’s left of the mainstream media will dismiss its insights as mere ideological bile. — We’ll see far more reaction as the book officially hits the shelves on Wednesday, but I expect much of the same. Conservatives will hate it, for obvious reasons. Weenie liberals will hate it, for obvious reasons. A bunch of “serious people” will tsk tsk the lack of civility in our discourse — now that a liberal is throwing the punches. And some people will appreciate that I’m throwing those punches. Because look, this book, ultimately, is a big “fuck you” to every conservative who has ever accused us of wanting the terrorists to win. Why would we? The reasons I hate the crazy Right is the same reason I hate Jihadists — their fetishization of violence, their theocratic tendencies, their disrespect for women, their hatred of gays, their fear of the “other”, their defiance of scientific progress and education, and their attempts to hijack popular culture. It’s a good book, and it’s paperback, so it’s cheap. Pick up a copy at your favorite online retailer or bookstore, and come up with your own opinion on the matter.
Early reaction to American Taliban
Flickr I won’t Iditarod my way into the spectacle of Sarah Palin appropriating feminism as her very own dogma. But it’s just one recent example of women having what can be most diplomatically described as a classification problem. Read More… More on Carla Bruni
Phil Bronstein: Are Bikini Baristas ‘Bad Feminists?’
The U.S. District Court’s August 23 injunction against President Obama’s Executive Order expanding use of federal funds for stem cell research sets back research that can potentially help millions of Americans. Read More… More on Sarah Palin
Robert Klitzman, M.D.: Conservatives Killing Research That Could Potentially Save Millions of Americans
No, I don’t think either of the stars of last Saturday’s “Restoring Honor” gathering in DC will run for office this year. I do think that they have revealed a compelling narrative just in time for campaign season, however. The well produced plot–funded by billionaires with an eternal grudge– has primed the nation’s political conversation. To “prime” an audience means to provide visual and rhetorical stimuli that will influence desired reactions. It is the long-game of politics and the potential mega-bucks payoff all in one. The rally’s storyline is important because it will be the backdrop of discussions about society, culture and America’s global participation through November, probably longer. Here’s a Beck-Palin “restoration” recap: The world is a scary place. God loves all people, but rest assured that we’re his favorites. Read More… More on Glenn Beck
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Lorelei Kelly: Beck-Palin 2010
Editor’s note: There is a great Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days in the month of Elul to study and prepare for the coming high holy days. The time is supposed to challenge us to use each day as an opportunity for growth and discovery. On each of the 29 days of Elul, performer Craig Taubman posts a “jewel,” or story, from some of today’s most celebrated visionaries. Past contributors include President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, Sarah Lefton, Eli Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, Ruth Messinger, and Jeffrey Katzenberg — among many others. Today’s reflection comes from Ketra Oberlander: In my late thirties my vision deteriorated; by 40 I was blind. I picked up a paintbrush and my life changed. Just a slice of my philosophy: there’s no problem so big you can’t give your way out of it. My needs are met. So, if I can barely see, I just don’t need the level of detail in my world most folks need (I do, however, carry a tube of hand sanitizer because we blind folk touch a lot of gross stuff.) My challenge, as a sentient being, is to understand the gifts I have to share, despite my limitation. People like my paintings; when I have a chance to show them, the work sells well. As I began to seriously consider an art career I hit the physical barriers of a physical disability: I had a physics problem. How can I serve? How can I give my way out of my own difficulties? I began investigating ways to prosper as an artist while circumnavigating the physics of art. I touched on licensing and had an epiphany: if rights management of the art worked for me, it could solve the same problem for other physically disabled artists! I could build a scalable model to help others! Read More… More on Judaism
Giving Your Way Out Of Difficulty: A ‘Jewel Of Elul’ By Ketra Oberlander
This isn’t the column I thought it was going to be. I wanted to write about three women I can’t stand, children of political celebrities, who use their last names for profit, fame, or just outright evil. Next month, Bristol Palin will give a speech at a fundraiser for The Lifehouse, a “Christ-centered” maternity home. Why Bristol ? The Lifehouse Maternity home says they’re bringing the daughter of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to town because she represents the story of many teenage mothers. Because so many teenage mothers get paid $14,000 for talking about how to not get pregnant. And what teenage mother doesn’t own a three-bedroom townhouse from money they make for giving speeches, posing for magazines, and appearing on television shows? Bristol’s happy to raise money for her cause — telling girls to abstain from sex so they don’t wind up like her — as long as she gets paid. And every time I see Meghan McCain’s name in the news, I shake my head and wonder who, exactly, takes her insipid babbling seriously. Recently, for example, she complained that when President Obama appeared on The View -– a show on which she has appeared and even co-hosted several times — he did not speak on substantive issues. Despite her desire to distinguish herself as a hip, new kind of Republican, following her father’s primary win last Tuesday, she applauded his victory at The Daily Beast, writing : At the end of the day, no matter how Arizona and Arizonans have been misrepresented in the media, they chose my father because of his reputation, commitment to his country, and record of outweighing the mudslinging and fearmongering. Arizona is facing serious challenges and I have more faith than ever that if reelected in November, he will be the man to help solve those problems. So much for Meghan’s campaign to encourage fresh, new ideas in the Republican Party. And then there is Liz Cheney, the most rancid of the political progeny, using her name to promote her father’s extremist ideology of war and torture, and to defend her father against accusations of criminal activities, as if her insistence that her daddy is innocent should be sufficient “evidence” for him to be acquitted in the public eye. And then there’s this : Meanwhile, there’s the professional right, with Liz Cheney, daughter of Vice President Cheney, stoking the passions of 9/11 through the group she runs, Keep America Safe (and scared), with a two-minute YouTube video titled We Remember . Unlike Bristol and Meghan, Liz has a résumé to her name, but can anyone think of any other former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State For Near Eastern Affairs whose opinion is so critical? Can anyone even name any other former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State For Near Eastern Affairs? Probably not. Each of these women offends me -– not only for their positions and for the cynical way in which they use their famous last names to promote their agendas, as if they have uniquely insightful opinions to offer, but because there seems to be a collective, unspoken consensus that their last names give their opinions particular legitimacy. But I’ve realized something: they are not to blame. The problem is not their willingness to exploit their names. The problem is a cultural willingness to offer them such an opportunity, to take interest in what they have to say because of who their parents are. Such willingness is certainly not limited to Republicans. Caroline Kennedy very nearly got herself appointed to the Senate in 2009, not because of her extensive experience as much as for the Camelot of old that her name represents. Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., has made a name for herself by using the King name to lend an air of legitimacy to political positions that seem, on their face, quite contrary to her uncle’s politics. For example, this weekend, she is participating in Glenn Beck’s hatefest at the Lincoln Memorial, 47 years to the day after MLK stood in the same spot to give his “I have a dream” speech. And when she was criticized for hijacking her uncle’s legacy, she responded: It is absolutely ludicrous that abortion supporters would accuse a blood relative of Dr. King of hijacking the King legacy. Uncle Martin and my father, Rev. A. D. King were blood brothers. How can I hijack something that belongs to me? I am an heir to the King Family legacy. At a recent rally against gay-marriage, she even dismissed her uncle’s widow, Coretta Scott King, saying, “She was married to him. I’ve got his DNA. She doesn’t.” Clearly, for Alveda King, her uncle’s blood and DNA grant her authority to speak on any political issue she chooses, from gay rights to reproductive rights to, apparently, the crazy rantings of Glenn Beck. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Political nepotism has existed since long before our Warholian celebrity culture. And we do love our celebrity culture. Bernard Goldberg wrote an entire book on the 100 people he says are screwing up America, and he lists several celebrities among them, including Barbra Streisand, who is apparently destroying the country because she occasionally weighs in on political issues instead of just sticking to overwrought ballads. (Markos Moulitsas is number 52 on the list.) It’s hardly original to point a finger at the many failings of our culture and the way we elevate celebrities, giving their opinions greater credence because they are famous. But there is something deeply unsettling about the automatic credibility granted to the adult (or almost-adult) children of political celebrities. Whether their message is good or bad, should we be listening to these messengers? And do these messengers not have a right to participate in political discourse? Do we punish them for the accident of their birth? Do we somehow set a higher bar for them, an expectation that anyone who comes from a famous family must demonstrate their credentials? It’s hard to argue that anyone who comes from a famous family is automatically disqualified from participating in the public sphere. We’ve had political monarchies and celebrities for a long time. We’ve had media that will give a platform to anyone who will drive up ratings. Joe Sam the Plumber Tax Cheat did not have a famous name, but he was rocketed to stardom and, for the duration of his allotted 15 minutes, given the opportunity to speak on issues that were clearly beyond his area of knowledge. Is there a solution to the problem of a culture that gives such credence to someone like Joe — or Bristol or Meghan or Liz? Here is the truth: I don’t have the answer. Yes, our media is flawed. Yes, our culture places disproportionate emphasis on celebrity. Yes, we are guilty of creating and allowing political dynasties in this country, in both political parties, and that seems unlikely to change. How do we stop it? Do we even try? I don’t know. At the end of this seemingly futile exercise, though, I know this: When it comes to Liz and Meghan and Bristol — and really, to anyone whose primary credential is their last name — I just don’t see why anyone should listen to what they have to say.
An exercise in futility
ANOTHER weekend, another grass-roots demonstration starring Real Americans who are mad as hell and want to take back their country from you-know-who. Last Sunday the site was Lower Manhattan, where they jeered the “ground zero mosque.” This weekend, the scene shifted to Washington, where the avatars of oppressed white Tea Party America, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, were slated to “reclaim the civil rights movement” (Beck’s words) on the same spot where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream exactly 47 years earlier. Vive la rÃ©volution! There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the “death panel” warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are. Read More… More on Climate Change
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Frank Rich Takes On The Billionaire ‘Sugar Daddies’ Backing The Tea Party
I failed to attend Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” gathering at the Lincoln Memorial this morning. I thought about going. I mean, America’s honor has been stolen. By “Them.” That’s pretty serious. Someone should do something. Frankly, I can’t believe They would do such a thing. Who do They think They are? Read More… More on Sarah Palin
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Sean Carman: I Am the They We Need to Reclaim our Honor From
At the end of July, Blue America and our pals at the Americans Fir America PAC launched the first in a series of videos that highlights what kind of people now lead the Republican Party. We featured Sarah Palin, Rand Paul and John Boehner . And we asked the readers at DWT , C&L and Digby’s Hullabaloo to tell us who to do the next ad for. Lots of votes for Ken Calvert and Michele Bachmann but it was North Carolina reactionary haridan Virginia Foxx who got the most “support.” As you can see in the ad above, there are a lot of things that the voters in western North Carolina need to think about when they consider returning Virginia Foxx for another term in Congress. But there’s also an outstanding alternative. Populist champion Billy Kennedy would make a far better Representative for ordinary working families, a part of the population Foxx is dismissive of. Foxx already has $1,270,733 on hand. Her biggest donors are the sugar lobby, banks, the Medical Industrial Compex, alcoholic beverage companies, gambling interests and foreign powers with their own agendas. Meanwhile Billy Kennedy has $70,406 on hand. He addressed the probelm on the cascade of corrupt corporate cash flooding into congressional campaigns: Read More…
Howie Klein: Why Virginia Foxx Won Blue America’s Craziest Republican Contest This Month
WASHINGTON — Broadcaster Glenn Beck is calling on thousands to rally Saturday in the nation’s capital on the anniversary and at the same site of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Civil rights leaders are protesting the event. Beck, a Fox News personality and a conservative favorite, insists it’s just a coincidence that his “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is overlapping with the 47th anniversary of King’s speech. Potential 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin is expected to attend along with some 100,000 people. District of Columbia officials had granted a permit for some 300,000. Read More… More on Glenn Beck
Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally: Thousands Expected To Attend, Civil Rights Leaders Protest Event
Did Sen. Lisa Murkowski offer the Libertarians $1 million if they allowed her on their ticket? “Absolutely not,” says Scott Kohlhaas, who is chairman of the Alaska Libertarian Party. Not only that, but no one, not one person from her campaign, has approached the Libertarians. “Not one person has come to us in any official way,” he said. Here’s Steve Wackowski, spokesman for the Murkowski campaign, about the rumor: “That’s not true,” he said. “No one on our team has talked with the Libertarian Party.” Read More… More on Sarah Palin
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AlaskaDispatch.com: Murkowski has not — repeat, NOT — approached the Libertarians
The phrase Obama’s Katrina will hopefully be retired after this weekend as we watch nonstop footage of failed lees and American citizens on rooftops. I would prefer instead to refer to political disasters as Sarah Palin’s “In What Respect, Charlie?” When you’ve lived through it, hearing anyone call a disaster someone’s Katrina is like hearing a pundit speculate on Obama’s That Time Your House Burned Down when you’re the one whose house burned down. It’s still everyone’s Katrina until a real effort is made to bring back the residents the levee break scattered across the country. Rachel Maddow, Brian WIlliams, Anderson Cooper - this is New Orleans week for the Katranniversary and I’m grateful for the coverage recovery efforts are receiving this week. It would be nice if the light of social justice shone on New Orleans every day, but with the seemingly endless onslaught of disasters I’m counting our blessings. The first piece I wrote for The Huffington Post was about the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund ReDefine 8/29 campaign. Katrina fatigue was already setting in, so we started to call it something else to keep the conversation alive. Just because the nation is tired of hearing about something doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, as anyone in Haiti, Pakistan or Nashville can attest. Perhaps we could airlift Snookie into ongoing disasters, and the attention would follow. Just spitballing here. In charting my post-Katrina path, I’m up to the year my father died. After moving north, I had many more chances to tell him “I love you,” and he would reply “I love you too, too.” He was doubling down with the Alzheimer’s answers, but at least I was there to hear them. He slipped away peacefully, but I was in New Orleans at the time and didn’t get back to tell him goodbye. Jeff and I were still driving back and forth constantly, and had rented a New Orleans apartment for musicians who were also driving back and forth from Houston to gig, a frightening thing as late as gigs can run in New Orleans. Our database was growing, Mark Fowler at Tipitina’s Foundation would let us know who needed help and we Fedexed the checks home. Many other musicians found NOMRF, they’re still finding us even as donations are more often instruments as the economy struggles. Read More… More on Gulf Oil Spill
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Karen Dalton-Beninato: With A Little Help From Our Friends: A 5 Year Katrina Evacuation
Anti-Muslim speech has been curtailed in the U.S. since 9/11 so far as official channels go. Popular sentiment and right-wing radio are another matter. The Bush administration has been chastised for using terms like “war on terror” and “clash of civilizations” as code for an attack on Islam itself. The Obama administration has tried to erase those phrases. But words don’t cause wars, not directly. They reflect the consciousness of the speaker, which is a much more potent cause of conflict. By his relative silence, Feisal Abdul Rauf is following his long-avowed policy of not getting his hands dirtied with nasty politics. Yet many moderate Muslims have tried this tactic, only to find that they are leaving a vacuum that is quickly filled by extremist voices. Like attracts like, and in the Muslim world the most powerful magnets are extreme. You are known by the company you keep — so the adage goes — but also by the words you share. When Sarah Palin tweets about stopping the “mosque at Ground Zero,” she knows who will take the bait. Most obviously, it will be her base, but she is also rousing the opposition, people who know that there is no mosque being planned and that the location of Rauf’s Islamic center isn’t at Ground Zero. Palin knows this too, but demagogues don’t bother with fact-checking. They want the war of words to continue. Their aberrations are deliberate and crude, mirroring the attitudes of xenophobia and intolerance that are part of their consciousness. What is difficult here comes down to two things. The first seems hard enough: how to get moderate Muslims to begin to pull their weight against the jihadis. Al Qaeda stands for nothing that would build a future in any Arab country, but circumstances favor the irrational right now. Burgeoning birth rates, a surplus of unemployed young males, and a history of oppressive governments who ignore educational reform — these are familiar obstacles throughout the Arab world. As long as they exist, consciousness cannot rise. When the only book you know is the Koran and it is being interpreted by firebrands in the guise of holy clerics, your future is spelled out in ignorance and hatred of Islam’s enemies. Read More… More on Sarah Palin
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Deepak Chopra: Do Words Cause Wars?
Unlike Sarah Palin, Joe Miller apparently doesn’t handle his own tweets : Please accept my apologies. Staffer trying to encourage Libertarians not to sell out. http://bit.ly/… #teaparty #tcot #alaska #ak But now here’s another problem: how do we know if it really was Miller who tweeted the apology?
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AK-Sen: Miller: I wasn’t calling Murkowski a prostitute, and a staffer said it anyway
There’s a hotly contested senate primary still underway in Alaska. The absentee ballots are still coming in, but it looks like Tea Party Express candidate Joe Miller may pull out a squeaker and topple Lisa Murkowski from the senate seat. The endorsement of Sarah Palin, and more importantly a ballot measure for parental notification for abortion brought the Tea Partiers out in droves. The passion of the right-of-right primary voter appears to have won the day. Read More…
Jeanne Devon ("AKMuckraker"): Tea Party Candidate Joe Miller Compares Lisa Murkowski to a Whore, Then Backpedals
Joe Miller, the likely GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Alaska, comparing a potential third party bid by incumbent U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski to prostitution: From Joe Miller’s twitterstream, captured by Swing State Project Miller’s tweet — which has since been deleted but was captured by James L. at Swing State Project — links to this article at The Daily Caller on the potential of Murkowski leaving the GOP and running as the Libertarian Party’s nominee. No doubt Sarah Palin will be outraged — with a capital R — at Miller’s language.
AK-Sen: Miller compares Murkowski to prostitute
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin’s grandson, says he wishes he hadn’t apologized for telling lies about the former Alaska governor because he’s “never lied about anything.” Johnston said in an interview on CBS’ “The Early Show” to air Friday that he wishes that he hadn’t issued the apology to Palin. “I don’t really regret anything,” Johnston said, who has appeared nude on the cover of Playgirl. “But the only thing I wish I wouldn’t have done is put out that apology ’cause it kind of makes me sound like a liar. And I’ve never lied about anything. So that’s probably the only thing. The rest of the stuff I can live with.” Read More… More on Sarah Palin
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Levi Johnston Takes Back Apology To Sarah Palin: It ‘Makes Me Sound Like A Liar’ (VIDEO)
“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes Critics of Sarah Palin claim she offers simple solutions and lacks deep thinking. Indeed, she does not seem to handle complexity well. Her speeches are often slogans substituting for thoughts. Her answers to reporters’ questions are often long sentences weighed down with clauses that tumble out like a mangled chain. Palin’s problem, in Justice Holmes’s terms, may be that she is seeking simplicity on this side of complexity. Her simple slogans and convoluted sentences may be testimony to inadequate thinking. Such efforts at simplicity on that side of complexity are, indeed, not worth a fig. Read More…
Terry Newell: Simple Leadership in a Complex World
If you are one of those people given to rending your garments when confronted with bad polling data, the Wrap has one piece of advice: come back in a half hour when the Diary Rescue gets posted. Yes, friends, today was a buffet of ugly, from the release of the second set of Ayers McHenry (GOP) polls of competitive House races to yucky numbers from SurveyUSA on an open Democratic House seat. Even Rasmussen was giving us the full Ras today. Properly warned, feel free to trudge forward into a decidedly pessimistic Thursday edition of the Wrap… THE U.S. SENATE AK-Sen: Primary fallout continues in the wake of Miller-Murkowski James L. over at Swing State Project opened the day with an excellent synopsis of the most recent events in Alaska in the wake of the improbable defeat of incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski. Senator Mark Begich has effectively slammed the door on the “Democratic Switcheroo” thing by backing the man who won the Democratic nomination Tuesday night: Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams. Profiles of McAdams are starting to pop up, and it is hard not to like what you see. Meanwhile, the state’s Libertarian Party is not slamming the door on the notion of Murkowski replacing their nominee and running under the Libertarian banner in November. Miller’s lead of under 1700 votes now goes to the absentees, which Murkowski would have to win by a sizeable margin to overturn the apparent result. CO-Sen: Bennet rebuts Ipsos poll, Buck caught being a hypocrite Two news items out of the state of Colorado today. In the wake of a seriously ugly Ipsos poll out yesterday (which gave GOPer Ken Buck a nine-point lead over Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet), Bennet decided to release an internal poll which stood in pretty stark contrast to the Ipsos poll. Bennet’s poll, conducted late last week by Harstad Research, gave the Democrat a four point lead (44-40) over Ken Buck. Buck, for his part, is joining fellow anti-government conservative Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in the club of hypocrites who, in their pasts, have had their hands outstretched before the government coffers. In Buck’s case, it is more recent: as recently as 2007, he sought millions of dollars in earmarks via his then-local congresswoman (the infamous Marilyn Musgrave). CT-Sen: WWE combatant’s death refuses to go away as father speaks up The most stringent criticism of Connecticut GOP Senate nominee Linda McMahon comes today from the father of the former WWE wrestler who passed away earlier in the month at the age of 29. Harley McNaught, whose son Lance Cade worked for the McMahons for most of the past decade, had particularly harsh words for how the couple conducted their business: “[Cade] would have cut his arm off for Vince McMahon, but it wasn’t there in return,” his father said. “He don’t care any more than the man in the moon for them, other than as dollar signs.” McNaught was planning to grieve in silence, but was driven to speak after Linda McMahon coldly dismissed Cade’s passing by noting that she “might have met him once”, and insisting that the company was not responsible for his death, or the deaths of any other ex-employees. KY-Sen: Mongiardo offers backhanded endorsement of Conway Apparently, three months has not been long enough for Democratic Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo to get over his narrow defeat at the hands of Democratic Senate nominee Jack Conway. In a local media interview, Mongiardo reiterated that he would be supporting Conway, but his rationale was, to say the least, strained: “I don’t think that Jack is the best in the state, but he’s a heck of lot better than who he’s running against. That’s why I have to support him.” LA-Sen: Vitter a lock to win GOP primary on Saturday, says PPP Geez, has any candidate in the 2010 cycle entered the fray with more hype, and been a bigger underachiever, than former state judge Chet Traylor in Louisiana? According to a new poll by PPP , the man who was expected to give incumbent Republican David Vitter a serious fight is sitting at a whopping 5% of the vote, exactly one percent ahead of totally unheralded perennial candidate Nick Accardo. Vitter, for what it is worth, is sitting on 81% of the GOP primary vote. Meanwhile, Vitter did get some unwanted media attention today, when the New Orleans Times-Picayune uncovered a nearly five-digit expenditure by Vitter’s campaign for “strategy” to his first cousin, who, as it happens, is deeply underwater financially. Vitter’s crew is pooh-poohing the timing, arguing that his cousin did legit work handling the direct mail for this Saturday’s primary. Recall, however, that the somewhat hyped House campaign of Oregon Republican Sid Leiken was upended by a similar charge late last year. MO-Sen: MSU poll says Carnahan within striking distance of Blunt Missouri State University is out with new data in the Show Me State, and their numbers certainly go against the grain . The pollster, in conjunction with KY3, polled the race and found Republican Congressman Roy Blunt only up 49-48 against Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. Most recent polling, including our own survey conducted by PPP, put Blunt ahead by a wider margin, usually in the upper single-digits. One reason to wonder about the partisan makeup of the sample: President Obama’s approval in the state (47%) is higher than most pollsters nationally, which has certainly not been mimicked by other pollsters who have come into Missouri. NC-Sen: Dem challenger calls for Simpson ouster I am more than willing to be corrected, but this has to be one of the first top-tier 2010 candidates calling for Alan Simpson’s head in the wake of his “310 million tits” tirade. Elaine Marshall, who is locked in a tight battle with Republican incumbent Richard Burr in the Tar Heel State, called for Simpson to resign during an address celebrating Women’s Equality Day (today is the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment). Marshall sharply criticized Simpson, saying his remarks were demeaning to women as well as Social Security recipients. PA-Sen: Another poll gives Toomey modest lead…but there’s a catch The outcome of the U.S. Senate race in the Keystone State may well depend on how good the polling crew at Franklin and Marshall College (PDF file) is at constructing a likely voter screen. The pollster gives Republican Patrick Toomey a nine-point edge over Democrat Joe Sestak (40-31) among those voters identified as “likely voters.” Among all registered voters, however, that margin whittles down to just three points (31-28). Another thing long evident in F&M polls, they sure as all Hell aren’t pushing leaners very hard. That, or the good people of Pennsylvania are just chronically indecisive. THE U.S. HOUSE MA-09: Heard of speed dating? How about speed debating? Good grief: Stephen Lynch, the Massachusetts Democrat who was one of the most shocking “nay” votes for HCR back in the Spring, had promised his primary rival, Mac D’Alessandro, that he would participate in a primary debate. And so he will… for fifteen minutes . The two will participate in a debate consisting of a single segment on a weekend news program on WBZ-TV. Talk about respecting the letter, but not the spirit, of the promise… MO-03: Carnahan office attack not motivated by ideology News that ought to come as a bit of a relief: Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan revealed today that the firebombing of his campaign office last week appears to be the work of a disgruntled ex-employee , and not motivated by any other cause. The attack occurred on August 17th, and the suspect apparently had just been fired from his job with the Carnahan campaign, where he had worked for only a week. MO-04/MO-07/MO-08: Everyone holds their own in new public poll The Missouri State crew (referenced earlier in their surprisingly optimistic poll of the Senate race) also polled a trio of House races in the Show-Me state. Before I get to the numbers, a word of caution: the sample sizes here are unbelievably tiny (ranging from 171-198 respondents), therefore the margin of error on these subsamples is quite lofty. In the most anticipated battle among these three districts (MO-04), the MSU poll sees Democratic incumbent Ike Skelton hanging on versus Republican Vicky Hartzler by a fairly solid margin (47-35). In the southeastern-based 8th district, well-funded Democrat Tommy Sowers hasn’t apparently made much of a dent in this uber-red district, as GOP incumbent Jo Ann Emerson has a huge advantage (64-17). And, in the open seat race in the 7th district to replace Roy Blunt, the GOP looks likely to hold, as Republican Billy Long leads Democrat Scott Eckersley by a better than two-to-one ratio (51-23). NC-08: Kissell releases poll with a double-digit edge One prominent exception to the “crappy polls today for Democrats” theme comes from North Carolina freshman Congressman Larry Kissell. The rookie Democrat offers up an internal poll from Anzalone-Liszt Research showing him with a seventeen-point edge (49-32) over Republican challenger Harold Johnson. Kissell easily knocked Rep. Robin Hayes out of office in 2008 after narrowly missing victory in 2006. OH-17: Traficant’s comeback gets a reprieve…for the moment His resurrection is not yet complete, but former Congressman (and prisoner) Jim Traficant got some unexpected good news yesterday, when Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner broke a local canvassing board deadlock and allowed Traficant the opportunity to prove that he had collected enough signatures to be accepted onto the November ballot. Traficant had been filing to appear in his former home district (currently held by Democrat Tim Ryan) as an Independent. OR-05: Schrader fights Bruun internal polling with data of his own Wish I was seeing this more often in this particular election cycle. Just one day after Republican rival Scott Bruun released internal polling claiming he enjoyed a lead over Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, Schrader provided some evidence to the contrary . Schrader’s poll (which was done in late July by Lake Research) had the incumbent up double digits on Bruun (46-35). The district is a swingy district that slightly preferred GW Bush in 2004, and then went by a far clearer margin for Barack Obama in 2008. PA-08: GOP poll claims Patrick Murphy latest Democrat to be behind The usual caveats apply with internal polls, but the campaign of former Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is claiming that the GOP nominee is on his way to getting his old job back . The poll, from Public Opinion Strategies, gives Fitzpatrick a 48-41 lead over sophomore Democrat Patrick Murphy. Murphy defeated Fitzpatrick for the right to represent the 8th Congressional District in 2006. WA-03: SUSA poll says GOP pickup likely in southwestern Washington This is another in a series of painfully pessimistic polls for House Democrats courtesy of the polling crew at SurveyUSA. SUSA heads to the southwestern corner of Washington State, where Democrats are defending a tough open seat with the retirement of Brian Baird. According to the poll, the defense is going poorly : GOP nominee Jaime Herrera is staked to a 54-41 lead over Democrat Denny Heck. BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE: Midwest leaning GOP, at least according to GOP Republican pollsters Ayers McHenry, at the best of the GOP think tank American Action Forum, is back with their second round of House polling, and it is every bit as ugly as the first round of polling early last week. However, there is a caveat that goes beyond the usual “hey, it is a partisan poll” caveat. If you look at the actual scripts employed by the pollster, you will see (PDF file) that the topline question is not asked until question #12. Among the questions asked before are issue questions, which the National Council on Public Polls has noted can skew results . With that mega-caveat out of the way, here are the numbers from the GOP polls: IA-03: Brad Zaun (R) 51%, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) 41% IN-02: Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) 46%, Jackie Walorski (R) 44% MI-07: Tim Walberg (R) 50%, Mark Schauer (D) 40% MO-03: Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) 54%, Ed Martin (R) 38% OH-01: Steve Chabot (R) 47%, Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) 45% OH-13: Rep. Betty Sutton (D) 43%, Tom Ganley (R) 41% OH-15: Steve Stivers (R) 49%, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) 44% OH-16: Jim Renacci (R) 49%, John Boccieri (D) 35% WI-08: Reid Ribble (R) 49%, Rep. Steve Kagen (D) 39% THE GUBERNATORIAL RACES PA-Gov: F&M poll shows same GOP lead and wide RV/LV gap At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Franklin and Marshall poll in the gubernatorial race is somewhat of a carbon copy (PDF) of the Senate race. A big lead for the Republican nominee (in this case, state AG Tom Corbett) among likely voters, but one within the margin of error with registered voters. And, as in the Senate race, a metric ton of undecideds. This poll puts Corbett up by eleven points (39-28) among likely voters, but by just a single point (29-28) with registered voters. VT-Gov: Super-tight Democratic primary to be certified next week Herein lies one of the advantages to being one of the lesser populated states of the Union. We will almost certainly know by this time on Tuesday who will be the Democratic nominee for Governor in Vermont. That is the word from Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, who is in the somewhat awkward position of certifying a brutally close election in which she appears to have run in third place, but less than 1000 points behind the winner. That apparent winner, state legislator Peter Shumlin, is declaring victory, which brought a slight amount of tension to the Unity Rally held there yesterday at the behest of respected senior Senator Patrick Leahy. Shumlin’s declaration and expressions of confidence were declared “inappropriate” by the campaign manager for Doug Racine, the apparent runner-up. THE RAS-A-POLL-OOZA Rasmussen is giving the GOP no small amount of love today. They hit the Florida Senate race, where they become the first pollster in forever to give Marco Rubio a double-digit edge. They also give Meg Whitman her biggest lead of the campaign, as well. CA-Gov: Meg Whitman (R) 48%, Jerry Brown (D) 40% FL-Sen: Marco Rubio (R) 40%, Charlie Crist (I) 30%, Kendrick Meek (D) 21% NM-Gov: Susana Martinez (R) 48%, Diane Denish (D) 43% UT-Sen: Mike Lee (R) 54%, Sam Granato (D) 29%
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Polling and Political Wrap, 8/26/10
Richard Trumka went after Palin directly today in Anchorage. Palin, of course, responded with yet another hyperbolic posting to her Facebook page, elevating Trumka’s comments to several spins in the news cycle. Read More… More on Sarah Palin
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Geoffrey Dunn: AFL-CIO President Compares Palin to Joe McCarthy
The state elections division in Alaska has a schedule for counting absentee ballots, and it’s a stretched out one, kind of like the state. The first count of absentees not received by election day will be Aug. 31, the next Sept. 3, and the final one on Sept. 8. Getting ballots, which only had to be postmarked by Tuesday, in from overseas and from remote parts of the state takes a while. As of now, Miller has a lead of 1,668 votes over Murkowski. She’d have to get about 60% of the absentee vote to pull this out. Or run as a third party candidate , which apparently is under consideration. Which leaves the way clear for Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, the Dem nominee, to ramp up his campaign. That’s a little harder to do without knowing precisely who his opponent is, but it looks like he’s betting on it being Miller . He invited people who supported Murkowski to consider joining his campaign. It’s a rejection of Miller’s tea party-tinged message, McAdams said. “I believe we are the moderate, rational, practical campaign, not the campaign of extreme measures and 19th century ideology,” McAdams said. “Not only do they say no to progress in the form of things like developing Alaska through congressionally vetted appropriations, but they also say no to social progress. … The Tea Party has been clear in rejecting the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and other great progress our society has made.” The likely upset on the Republican side came as such a shock to national Dems and the traditional media, who hadn’t paid any attention to Alaska that they immediately began talking about whether they should get a higher profile Dem in the race. Sen. Mark Begich seemed to put that speculation to rest by giving McAdams his full support. …McAdams has the full support of Democrat Mark Begich, who two years ago pulled off his own successful upset of a Republican senator, Ted Stevens. Begich on Wednesday had this to say of McAdams: “I like what I see.” “Welcome to Alaskan politics, anything can happen, everything’s viable,” Begich said. “It doesn’t take a lot of money, but it takes someone who is committed and hard working and can run a campaign. So I tell people and I’ve been telling people that this race shouldn’t be discounted out and has potential.” …. Begich wouldn’t say who he had been speaking to at the national level to encourage their support of a Democratic Senate candidate in Alaska. But he did say that since his 2008 win, “they realized that we actually knew what we were talking about up here.” “I’m just talking to who whoever wants to listen,” Begich said. “If they believe in Alaska’s future, I’m happy to tell them what I think.” This race is starting to bring reminders of Montana in 2006. Over at Swing State , James L. (in a very good overview piece) links to this post at Mudflats that fills in some gaps. Scott McAdams, little known to Alaskans outside the southeast pan-handle, is a popular small town mayor. He runs the city of Sitka and has balanced budgets, focused on education, served on the school board, and has even figured out how to sell water to India. He was a deckhand on a commercial fishing boat all over the state, and is all the kinds of things that Sarah Palin said she was, before the media began to shine a flashlight in all the dark corners. He’s a “real Alaskan” in the style of the politicians of old, before oil was discovered and turned a libertarian blue state reddish. I say redd-ish because despite the meme that Alaska is ruby red, and that it’s full of a bunch of Palin-style conservatives, Alaska is actually very… plum-colored. Democrats have an equal number in the state senate, and in November stand a good chance of getting a decisive majority in both the senate and the house. It has one Democratic Senator and one Republican Senator. Before Frank Murkowski and Sarah Palin, Alaska had a two-term Democratic governor. The Anchorage Assembly has a progressive majority. It’s a complicated state. McAdams who unlike Miller, is a fiscally conservative moderate Democrat, has executive experience, was born and raised in Alaska, and has worked with his hands in the fishing industry, suddenly finds himself with an incredible opportunity. One could even say that attorney and Yale Law grad Joe Miller who was born and raised “Outside” is kind of “elite,” while McAdams is all about Alaska, and “real people.” Alaska, politically, is a lot like Montana–”plum-colored.” Being “real Montana” was one of the things that put Jon Tester into the U.S. Senate. People were actually talking about the fact that incumbent Conrad Burns, who’d been in the state for decades, was actually from Missouri. Being “real Alaska” will be a strong advantage for McAdams against Miller.
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AK-Sen: Republicans wait, Dem McAdams moves full steam ahead
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sarah Palin has emerged as a key figure in an Alaskan Senate primary race so close that it will now be decided by absentee ballots. Heavily favored Sen. Lisa Murkowski watched the surprising returns showing a tight race Tuesday night, becoming painfully aware of both Palin’s impact and growing anti-government sentiment. Read More… More on Sarah Palin
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Sarah Palin A Central Figure In Tight Alaska Senate Race
WASHINGTON — Glenn Beck’s rally on the anniversary and at the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is drawing criticism, protests and questions about his intentions. Beck insists the event Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial is not about politics, even though Beck and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will attend. But the rally is drawing a strong reaction – and several counter-rallies – as the nation looks toward November’s elections. Read More… More on Sarah Palin
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Glenn Beck Rally, ‘Restoring Honor’, Stirs Controversy
When the polls closed on the August 24 Alaska Republican primary election an unknown forty-three-year-old, flag-waving, baby-killer-hating, right-of-fiscally-conservative attorney from Fairbanks, Alaska, named Joe Miller dumbfounded the pundits and rocked the national political culture. Because if after absentee ballots are counted he holds onto his 1,668-vote lead, Joe Miller will have ousted Alaska’s senior United States Senator, Lisa Murkowski, from the seat in the Senate she has occupied for the past eight years. In June on Facebook, Sarah Palin touted Joe Miller as a Commonsense Constitutional Conservative who “has fought alongside me and others to help clean up the Republican Party here in Alaska by bringing in new leadership, new ideas, and commitment to putting government back on the side of the people, not any political machine.” Most of the pundits who so badly misjudged the mood of Alaska voters who voted the Republican ballot have attributed Joe Miller’s unexpected (by them) triumph to Sarah’s endorsement, as has Miller himself who has said he is “absolutely certain” that the endorsement was “pivotal.” But while the endorsement gave Miller political traction and a modicum of Tea Party money at a time both were needed, the “Sarah did it” explanation of the Alaska Republican Party’s apparent repudiation of its most prominent, and in Washington, D.C., most influential, officeholder ignores the fact that Lisa’s seat has been ripe for a hard-right plucking from the moment her father, former United States Senator and Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, gave it to her. Read More… More on Ted Stevens
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Donald Craig Mitchell: Lisa Murkowski Adios?
The day after Alaska Republicans drove their pickups and minivans to churches and elementary schools to vote for their next senator, the battle between U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller is stuck in an intensely close deadlock. As of Wednesday afternoon, Miller had claimed 50.9 percent of the vote with Murkowski hanging on to the rest. Multiple polls conducted in advance of the primary election showed Miller getting squashed by 30 or 40 points, but with 100 percent of precincts reporting (and a potential pile of over 16,000 absentee ballots that will be counted starting Aug. 31), Miller has a lead of 1,668 votes that might be enough to carry him all the way to Washington, D.C. So how did that happen? Analyzing an election as it unfolds is sort of like trying to figure out who started a food fight by cleaning the pie and mashed potatoes off the floor. But there are a mess of factors, ranging from Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Miller to a groundswell of conservative values, that certainly didn’t help Alaska’s senior senator. Read More… More on Sarah Palin
AlaskaDispatch.com: How Sarah Palin-Backed Joe Miller Took On Sen. Lisa Murkowski
The political news front is actually somewhat quiet after a flurry of activity on Tuesday, a day which saw a few major upsets take place, one of which is still having ripple effects today (more on that in a bit). We also have new polling in a state whose nominees were determined last night, surprisingly bad numbers out of a key state in November, and Ed Case is back in Hawaii, and you won’t believe his endorsement in the Governor’s race. All that (and more!) in the mid-week edition of the Wrap… THE U.S. SENATE AK-Sen: Rumors abound (but little hard info) after primary shocker It was an exceptionally active day up North today, in the wake of the upset of the night in Alaska, where seven-year incumbent Lisa Murkowski appears to have been defeated by Palin-endorsed attorney Joe Miller. Among the hotter rumors of the day: a brief boomlet that the Democrats would replace their nominee (Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams) with former Governor Tony Knowles. That boomlet did not survive the day, as McAdams made clear that he wasn’t going anywhere, and Knowles declared that he wasn’t interesting. A second rumor also surfaced that Murkowski might pull a “Connecticut for Lieberman” and go Indie for the general. While Murkowski might be richly motivated to give it a go, the chances of that happening from a legal standpoint is also remote. AR-Sen: AFL-CIO will not throw cash into the toilet for Lincoln Given the vehement support of labor for Democratic challenger Bill Halter, this will come as a surprise to absolutely no one. The AFL-CIO announced on Tuesday that they will not be supporting incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln in her general election campaign against Republican John Boozman. Lincoln is on track to get pretty well thumped in November by Boozman, who has led in every poll for months. CO-Sen: Ipsos poll gives Buck a sizeable early lead over Bennet This is a pretty distressing poll (though the gubernatorial numbers later will hint that this is a seriously GOP-friendly sample): the latest poll out of Colorado from Reuters/Ipsos gives Republican upstart Ken Buck a nine-point edge (49-40) over incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Buck scored the base-driven victory in the early August GOP primary over establishment choice Jane Norton, while Bennet held off a spirited challenge from former state legislator Andrew Romanoff. FL-Sen: Meek’s win worst thing that could happen to Crist? This morning, Eric Kleefeld from TPMDC threw down a pretty decent analysis of where the Sunshine State goes from here vis-a-vis the three-way battle for the open U.S. Senate seat. The conclusion–Kendrick Meek could be Charlie Crist’s worst enemy. The reason–he’s a legitimate Democrat, and a decent candidate. Had Jeff Greene bought the primary, Democrats could have felt utterly comfortable with defecting to Crist. Now, it’s just not that easy a calculation to make. Tom Jensen over at PPP drew a similar conclusion yesterday, when revealing polling results that showed Republican Marco Rubio returning to a modest lead. LA-Sen: Vitter holds ten-point edge over Melancon, according to PPP Speaking of our polling buddies over at PPP, they released some new numbers today out of the Pelican State, and they find little change in the Senate race between incumbent GOP Senator David Vitter and challenger Charlie Melancon. The pollster has Vitter leading Melancon by a ten-point margin (51-41). Two shocking bits of data: President Obama’s approval is at a paltry 35% in the state, but Vitter’s is actually quite strong for an incumbent (53%). PA-Sen: Rove’s new crew hits Sestak, offers distortions Karl Rove’s new day job (running a group hitting Democrats with independent expenditure campaigns) takes him to Pennsylvania, where his organization (Crossroads GPS) is running anti-health care ads targeting Democratic Congressman (and Senate nominee) Joe Sestak. In so doing, Rove’s team might have had some issues with the facts : The ad misleadingly claims that insurance premiums will rise by an average of $2,100 under the new health care law, but the government report cited says increases will come because more family members will have access to insurance under the law. The ad also misleadingly claims that 850,000 seniors in the Keystone State could “lose their Medicare plan,” lumping the privately administered Medicare Advantage plans that some seniors could eventually exit in favor of traditional Medicare. Sestak, according to the most recent polling, trails GOP nominee Patrick Toomey by a modest margin. THE U.S. HOUSE PA-08: Debating about debates in a sleeper race Here is some news out of a race that I am shocked isn’t getting more attention in the calculus for November: the rematch between Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy and the man he beat for the job, former Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick. The two are, in a popular recent theme here at the Wrap, fighting over debates . Unlike other races, however, the existence of debates is absolutely beyond disputes. They have already agreed to four debates, and the question now is how many more debates will be scheduled. Murphy defeated Fitzpatrick by less than a percentage point in 2006, and was re-elected easily in 2008. WA-02: Koster now leads Larsen in blanket primary, but does it matter? As Washington continues, eight days later, to polish off their vote tabulations from their primary, some Republicans are crowing that Republican John Koster has actually garnered more votes in the 2nd district than incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen. Historically, Washington’s all-party primaries have been a pretty decent harbinger of what might come in November. At present, Koster has a 161-vote edge over Larsen. However, there are two reasons why this might not matter. One is the fact that when all votes cast for Democrats and all votes cast for Republicans are tabulated, the Democrats still came out ahead by a modest margin in the district. The other is the fact that there was a clear distinction in motivation, given that the top-of-the-ballot race (the U.S. Senate primary) was far less competitive on the Democratic side than it was on the GOP side. THE GUBERNATORIAL RACES CO-Gov: Ipsos claims single-digit race, even in split field And herein lay the reason why I am a little bit skeptical about the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll out of Colorado. The poll’s findings put Democrat John Hickenlooper out in front of the field, but by just eight points over Republican nominee Dan Maes (41-33). Conservative Independent Tom Tancredo is well back of the pack, locking in just 16% of the vote. The pollster also claims that if Tancredo took a walk, the race between Hickenlooper and Maes would be deadlocked, with each candidate nabbing 45% of the vote. Even Rasmussen was not that optimistic for the GOP when they polled this race a couple of weeks ago. FL-Gov: Sink leads Scott by seven points in PPP poll PPP polled the Sunshine State more accurately than anyone in the primary cycle, and their final pre-primary poll included a poll of the gubernatorial general election. Looking ahead, PPP gives Democrat Alex Sink a seven point edge (41-34) over Republican Rick Scott. A possible casualty of the primaries was Indie candidate Bud Chiles, who has dropped into single digits (8%) in this poll. HI-Gov: Case endorses former House mate, and in spectacular fashion Ed Case has long been a bit of a scourge for left-of-center Democrats (his warm embrace of Joe Lieberman and his primary of Dan Akaka from the right sealed that reputation). Twice this year, however, he has thrown us all a headfake with incredibly curious moves. In May, it was his decision to drop out of the Democratic primary to challenge newly-elected GOP Rep. Charles Djou. This weekend, it was his full-throated endorsement of former Congressman Neal Abercrombie. Abercrombie is generally considered to be far more progressive than Case (and, some argue, more progressive than his primary rival, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann). That did not stop Case from endorsing his former House colleague. In doing so, he laid waste to Abercrombie’s opponent, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, arguing that “while professing unity, he’s practiced the politics of division, exploiting rather than healing differences of race, origin and economic status.” He also ripped Hannemann as being “the most dangerous politician in a generation.” One has to wonder a little bit about the calculations here. Case is clearly trying to kneecap Hannemann, but why? Hawaii Kossacks, feel free to chime in! MN-Gov: Emmer and Horner receive public funding An interesting quirk in Minnesota law provides for an intriguing story out of that state today. Republican Tom Emmer received over half a million dollars, and Indie candidate Tom Horner cashed in an additional $346K, as a result of a state public finance program that gives public monies to candidates that voluntarily agree to limit their own funds. The catch, in this particular race, is that the candidates are no longer bound by any spending limits, because their opponent, former Democratic Senator Mark Dayton, has refused to abide by any spending limits. SC-Gov: Sheheen draws support from local mayors In a sign that conservative state legislator Nikki Haley is still struggling to coalesce the Republican Party around her bid for Governor, Democrat Vincent Sheheen accepted the endorsement of over two dozen local mayors. Most mayors are elected in nonpartisan elections, but at least one of them (Greer Mayor Rick Danner) self-identified as a supporter of outgoing two-term Republican Mark Sanford. THE RAS-A-POLL-OOZA The House of Ras returns to its prolfiic ways on this Wednesday, with five polls launched today. One notable Ras-sie tendency is especially apparent–their almost unreal consistency from poll-to-poll. It is exceedingly hard to see a real big swing in any five of these data points (although perhaps in the case of Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who seems healthier in this poll than its predecessors). CA-Sen: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) 44%, Carly Fiorina (R) 43% IL-Sen: Alexi Giannoulias (D) 44%, Mark Kirk (R) 42% OR-Sen: Sen. Ron Wyden (D) 56%, Jim Huffman (R) 36% UT-Gov: Gov. Gary Herbert (R) 60%, Peter Corroon (D) 29% WI-Sen: Ron Johnson (R) 47%, Sen. Russ Feingold (D) 46%
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Polling and Political Wrap, 8/25/10
Assuming that Joe Miller holds onto his narrow lead over Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s GOP senatorial primary, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express will tout his victory as a sign of their influence. But while they deserve credit for putting him in the spotlight and giving him a chance to win, the thing that really sealed the deal for him wasn’t just their support: it was his absolute opposition to any form of reproductive freedom. As Miller said to the Anchorage Daily News (emphasis added): Elements of Alaska’s right wing have always disliked Murkowski. Murkowski’s pro-choice stance is a particularly sore point, one that Miller supporters hammered her on. Tuesday’s primary election also included Ballot Measure 2, which would require parents to be notified before their teens age 17 and younger received an abortion. Miller said he thinks that brought out voters who supported him over Murkowski, even though she supported the ballot measure as well. “The Prop. 2 supporters were our supporters, largely. … Frankly I think the pro-life vote was important,” Miller said on Tuesday night. On his website’s home page, Miller featured a four page letter targeted to anti-abortion activists, detailing not only Murkowski’s pro-choice positions, but his anti-choice philosophy. On his website, he wrote: I am unequivocally pro-life and life must be protected from the moment of conception to the time of natural death. The family is the foundation of a free society. In his letter to anti-choicers (emphasis in the original), Miller writes: I pledge to you that if you send me to Washington DC, there will be no greater advocate for Life in the United States Senate. I am committed to advocating for innocent life and vigorously opposing the culture of death. Miller would supports a ban on all abortions, a position that’s hard to believe, but this is a right-wing lunatic we’re talking about here, not a mainstream Republican. In fact, he’s so far to the right it raises the question of whether Miller considers the birth control pill a form of abortion. Believe it or not, as Markos illustrates in his upcoming book , many of Miller’s fellow American Taliban actually believe that taking the pill is equivalent to having an abortion and believe it should be banned . Miller’s radical position on abortion doesn’t just place him on the rightmost edge of Republican politics, it also raises questions about his other views. He’s literally come out of nowhere in this campaign, and given the extremism that he’s displayed on this one issue alone, there’s bound to be more fodder coming out, certainly enough to make this race a contest for Democrats to watch. Indeed, in just the past few days, Democratic researchers and political reporters have dug up some compelling evidence of Miller’s fringiness: Miller has called for across-the-board cuts, phasing out government Medicare and Social Security, and getting rid of the federal Department of Education because it is not in the Constitution, leaving the function to the states. He’s going well beyond positions that Palin advocated when she was running to be governor of the state and those she espoused as governor. Arguably even stranger than Miller’s plan to phase out Social Security and Medicare is his belief that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional . Yes, you read that right: he believes it’s constitutional to ban abortion but unconstitutional to offer unemployment insurance. Given the way he’s started off his campaign, it would be a mistake to assume that Joe Miller is a lock to win this election, especially in light of Mark Begich’s victory as a Democrat in 2008. Things are definitely far from settled up north — in fact, there’s already speculation that Murkowski could run as an independent, and if that happens all bets are off. Alaska may be far away, but its U.S. Senate race should definitely be on the national radar screen.
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AK-Sen: A looming triumph for the Alaskan Taliban
I was going to write, “AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK,” and maybe throw up some exclamation points (!!) for effect. Then I was going to list its attackers: the Republican Party, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, the lunatic blogosphere (Pamela Geller, etc.), the always-wrong blogosphere (The Corner, etc.), Mitch “The Smooth Man” McConnell, the Clown Prince of Politics, Newt Gingrich and, yes, the Tea Baggers and Partiers whose analysis stops with naming Obama America’s Designated Hitler (h/t David Yazbek), Franklin Graham, Fox “News,” and all the other pro-am propagandists, from the mega-wealthy who fund the “grass-roots” movements, to the dumb-as-kale little people, who march around in period costume, proudly waving their misspelled signs and advancing the cause of their rich masters, and who end up with nothing to show for it except unemployment, state fair servings of deep-fried butter, and “freedom.” That was all one sentence! I’m exhausted. Still… Read More… More on Tax Day Tea Parties
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Ellis Weiner: The Enemy Within! (?)
As it stands now , teabagger Joe Miller leads incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski by 1,960 votes, with 97.95 percent of precincts reporting. The Anchorage Daily News reports that Palin was definitely a factor on her home turf. Miller, a Fairbanks attorney, led from when the first returns came in Tuesday night and was on the verge of pulling off one of the biggest election upsets ever in Alaska. With 429 of 438 precincts counted this morning,, Miller had 45,909 votes (51 percent) to 43,949 (49 percent) for Murkowski. Miller credited the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his lead. “I’m absolutely certain that was pivotal,” he said. Murkowski on Tuesday night took a shot at Palin, saying that when Palin resigned as governor last summer she said she would use her new national role to help out Alaska. “I think she’s out for her own self-interest. I don’t think she’s out for Alaska’s interest,” Murkowski said as she waited at her campaign headquarters for results to come in. The results won’t be known until the absentees are counted, which will be finalized on September 8. The elections division received more than 16,000 absentee ballot requests, and thus far about 7,600 have been returned. One element that undoubtedly drove Palin’s, and Miller’s, rabid conservative folks out to vote was Ballot Measure 2, a parental notification measure. Murkowski, who supported the measure, is nonetheless pro-choice, an increasingly difficult thing for a Republican to be. Another factor was the $600K the Tea Party Express pumped into this cheap media market for ads on Miller’s behalf. Whichever candidate emerges victorious (and Murkowski would have to get a big majority of the absentee ballots to do it) will face Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams in November. McAdams cruised in his four-way primary, netting an almost 30-point victory over his nearest competitor.
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AK-Sen: Miller could pull off upset in Alaska
Apparently, the political surprise deities have saved their best for last: Alaska–US Senate (Republican)– 29% 33% of precincts reporting Joe Miller 51 Senator Lisa Murkowski 49 That. Is. Not. A. Misprint. Bear in mind a few things. It is very early. That two-percentage point spread in sparsely-populated Alaska adds up to 537 votes. One of the areas already largely in is none other than the Wasilla region. But Miller is very much in it against incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski. In other news from the early returns in the Land of the Midnight Sun (and…it would seem…vote tallying): The Democrat who will likely challenge the survivor of the Miller/Murkowski GOP Senate primary is Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams. At present, McAdams leads Jacob Kern by a wide 49-18 margin. Both gubernatorial primaries are a bit closer than some pundits might have predicted. Incumbent Republican Governor Sean Parnell (who took over for Sarah Palin when she up and quit the governor thing back in 2009) leads Bill Walker by just a 48-35 margin. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, it’s even closer, as Ethan Berkowitz (last seen giving Don Young the race of his life in 2008) leads Hollis French by just a 48-41 margin. Speaking of Don Young, he has a breather this time around. That is a sharp contrast from two years ago, when the aforementioned Sean Parnell almost knocked him off in the GOP primary. This time around, Young is cruising with 70% of the vote. Expect a complete rundown of this race, and the rest of the primary schedule’s final results (including, if it has even been called by tomorrow, that cliffhanger of a Democratic primary in Vermont), tomorrow (or, for your folks on the East Coast, later today).
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Alaska: It’s Early, But There Might Be News…
On a day when ballots are being tabulated in four states, there is also a bit of political news percolating in the other 46 states. And that, friends, is why there is a Wrap, even on a Primary Night… THE U.S. SENATE FL-Sen: Rubio returns to lead in three-way battle, says PPP On a day when Kendrick Meek appears well on his way to achieving the Democratic nomination for the Senate in Florida, his renewed presence might have the side effect of propelling Marco Rubio back into the lead. At least that’s the thesis of the crew over at PPP, whose new poll out of Florida puts Republican Marco Rubio back out front with 40% of the vote. Independent Charlie Crist sits at 32%, with Meek running third at 17%. One shift since the last time PPP came to town: Meek now leads among Democrats. In the previous PPP survey in the Sunshine State, Crist actually lead among Dems, and by a reasonably surprising spread (nine points). WA-Sen: Rossi’s primary challenger endorses him (no, not that one) Republican Dino Rossi might have a ways to go to mend fences with his main opposition in the GOP primary last week, as Clint Didier made clear late last week that he cannot endorse Rossi (yet). Another also-ran in the GOP field, on the other hand, is willing to make amends: Rossi got the nod from Paul Akers , who got around 2.5% of the vote last week. Feel the reconciliation! THE U.S. HOUSE CA-52: The debate is on, and the hunger strike is off The standoff over debates in the greater San Diego area is over, after quite the confrontation last weekend. For those who don’t remember the story from last week’s Wrap, Democrat Ray Lutz had embarked earlier in the month on a hunger strike to protest the unwillingness of Republican incumbent Duncan Hunter to participate in a debate. He was joined by the Libertarian candidate in the field, Mike Benoit, who joined Lutz in the hunger strike. They confronted Hunter at a local event Friday, accompanied by local media. Hunter agreed to a single debate on October 15th, and claimed he had planned to do that all along, anyway. With a debate in hand, Lutz and Benoit ended their hunger strike. CO-03: GOP internal poll claims another Dem incumbent trailing GOP pollsters Magellan Strategies have been quiet for a little while, but they rear their heads again, and what they found is a tad startling. Their internal poll for Republican Scott Tipton claims that the Republican has moved into modest lead over incumbent Democrat John Salazar (49-43). Magellan knows the terrain pretty well, having been Ken Buck’s pollster during the GOP Senate primary. LA-02: Richmond gets critical endorsement in advance of primary With Louisiana’s primary kicking off this Saturday, state legislator Cedric Richmond got arguably the most important endorsement a Democrat can receive in the New Orleans-based 2nd district. His website announced that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu was endorsing Richmond, who is locked in a battle with fellow state legislator Juan LaFonta. The winner will battle Republican Rep. Anh Cao in November. MI-01/MI-07: GOP gets big break in two competitive November battles It could potentially be overturned by the courts, but for the moment, the Tea Party will not be on the ballot in two critical districts for November. The State Board of Canvassers deadlocked 2-to-2 on whether or not to permit Tea Party candidates Lonnie Lee Snyder (MI-01) and Danny Davis (MI-07) can be on the November ballot. Their candidacy were under challenge from the state GOP, who argued that their petition efforts were fraudulent. The GOP also argued that the Democrats had excessive involvement in the Tea Party’s efforts. NJ-06: Is longtime Dem endangered? GOP internal poll says he is If this internal poll is to be believed (and the standard caveats, of course, apply), then the climate for Dems in this cycle might be even worse than has been often projected. A new internal poll, by National Research, for longshot Republican candidate Anna Little claims that she might not be a longshot , after all. The poll shows longtime Democratic incumbent Frank Pallone leading Little by just six points (40-34). This would be a stunning result, if true, in a district where Barack Obama won by 60-38 and where Pallone has won every election since 1992 with at least 57% of the vote. NM-01: Previewing next weeks Albuquerque Journal numbers An interesting piece out today from Joe Monahan looks ahead to next week’s release of the Albuquerque Journal poll. With regard to the Albuquerque-based 1st district, Monahan appears privy to internal polling. And what he suspects is that “it is more likely that the race will show a several point gap and probably in [Rep. Martin] Heinrich’s favor.” This would stand in pretty stark contrast to last month’s SurveyUSA poll in the race, which showed Jon Barela actually ahead of the freshman Democrat by six points. OR-05: GOP internal shows…well, you get the picture Take three on today’s theme of hugely pessimistic polling for Democrats, courtesy of Republican pollsters. A new internal poll for GOP state legislator Scott Bruun claims that he has moved into a slight lead over freshman Democrat Kurt Schrader. The poll, from local GOP pollsters Moore Information, gives Bruun 41% of the vote, with Schrader sitting at 38%. Schrader easily won here in 2008 (54-38), against the deeply flawed GOP nominee, Mike Erickson. The district is somewhat swingy, though, as it was carried by both Barack Obama in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2004. THE GUBERNATORIAL RACES HI-Gov: Look! It’s a poll! With a Democrat leading! One place where Democrats still hold pole position in the polls is Hawaii, where a new poll out today from Ward Research says that either Democratic contender (former Congressman Neal Abercrombie or former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann) would own a double-digit lead over the near-certain GOP standard bearer, Lt. Governor Duke Aiona. Hannemann, though trailing in the Democratic primary, actually does slightly better against Aiona (54-37) than does Abercrombie (53-41). MD-Gov: New poll says Ehrlich a lock for GOP nod, trails in general If a new poll from local pollsters Opinion Works is on the mark, Sarah Palin’s endorsement of businessman Brian Murphy has rallied the political neophyte to a tiny little 62-point deficit (75-13) against former GOP Governor Robert Ehrlich. Ehrlich does not fare quite as well in a prospective general election contest, however, as he trails incumbent Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley by six points (47-41). Point of full disclosure: while the pollster (Opinion Works) is apparently a nonpartisan firm, the sponsoring entity for the poll (a nonprofit media outlet called Center Maryland) does have some past ties to Governor O’Malley. NM-Gov: More Monahan–are the Dems trailing in this race, as well? Earlier in the Wrap, I alluded to a piece from New Mexico blogger Joe Monahan, where he said internal polling in the New Mexico 1st hinted that Democrat Martin Heinrich likely has a slight edge there. The story, however, appears to be a bit different in the gubernatorial election, where Monahan writes: Democrats are bracing for a weekend ABQ Journal poll that many of them think will show Republican Susana Martinez leading Diane Denish by three to six points. But the late August poll being done this week and to be published Sunday is only the beginning. And now there is a new Democratic narrative popping up on the radar screens of La Politica–that Martinez and the R’s will get their peak performance this week and that we are headed for a photo finish. It is true that not too many gloves have been laid on Martinez thus far, although that began to change last week, when incumbent Democratic Governor Bill Richardson blasted Martinez on the issue of education. This led to an odd reaction from Martinez, who challenged Richardson to a debate. The catch: Martinez hasn’t locked down debate plans with the person she is actually running against : state Lt. Governor Diane Denish. NY-Gov: Paladino to debate with…a chicken? While one debate standoff was peaceably resolved in Southern California, another one rages unabated in the Empire State, and it might start to get ridiculous sooner rather than later. Underdog Carl Paladino had challenged Rick Lazio to a debate in Syracuse on August 30th, even threatening that he would debate a man in a chicken costume (which has been shadowing Lazio) if Lazio was a no-show. With that kind of gauntlet tossed down, Lazio agreed to an appearance on August 30th. At a tea party forum. In Manhattan. For what it’s worth, my money is on the dude in the chicken costume. WY-Gov: Indie candidate seeks slot of November ballot A retired surgeon and rancher has submitted petitions to place his Independent candidacy on the November ballot for Governor of Wyoming. His name is Taylor Haynes , and his candidacy is expected to go after GOP nominee Matt Mead from the right, as he promises to be “the most conservative candidate” in the race. If successful, Haynes will be the first candidate to appear on the gubernatorial ballot in Wyoming as a nonpartisan candidate since 1958 . THE RAS-A-POLL-OOZA The House of Ras dropped three polls today. Democrats will probably howl the most at the one out of Missouri, but the big story here is the relatively small changes in Ras’ numbers from session to session (although they do have Illinois’ Democratic Governor, Pat Quinn, moving back within single digits). IL-Gov: Bill Brady (R) 46%, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) 37% MO-Sen: Roy Blunt (R) 51%, Robin Carnahan (D) 40% OR-Gov: Chris Dudley (R) 45%, John Kitzhaber (D) 44%
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Polling and Political Wrap, 8/24/10
There’s still a lot of votes left to be counted, but former health industry executive Rick Scott appears to be riding his wealth to the GOP nomination for Governor in Florida. With nearly 80% of the precincts reporting, Scott has a 3 point, 37,500 vote lead over his opponent , GOP insider Bill McCollum. Most pollsters — with the notable exception of Public Policy Polling — gave the edge to McCollum, but Scott’s lead has been consistent throughout the night. James L at Swing State Project says the trends are looking hot for McCollum: 10:05pm: Eagle-eyed watchers may have noticed that the Miami-Dade elections office is about 300 precincts further along than the AP (526, instead of 213). McCollum needs to make up about 40K votes statewide, and the further-along Miami votes only help him make up about 5,000, though. Anyway, according to the AP, 72% are reporting, and it’s still 47-43 in favor of Scott. 9:51pm: Things are starting to look kind of locked in, in the Florida GOP gubernatorial race. With 65% reporting, it’s still 47 for Lex Luthor Bizarro World Peter Garrett Rick Scott, 43 for Bill McCollum. There’s still 2/3ds of Miami-Dade County left, though, where McCollum is doing well (up 63-30), presumably because of his support in the Cuban community over his less-insane immigration stance. Personally, I’m rooting for Scott for two reasons. First, Sarah Palin endorsed his opponent. (Yeah, I’m petty that way.) (Actually, Palin stayed neutral in this race — I misread an article about another endorsement she’d made in Florida.) Second, he was CEO of health care conglomerate that even Rudy Giuliani said had ” serious fraud problems ” because Scott’s company was forced to pay a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud — and I think that makes him a perfect representative of the GOP. Update by Steve : The AP just announced that David Rivera is the GOP nominee in FL-25. Congratulations, Congressman Joe Garcia (D-FL)…. Update 2: AP calls it for Rick Scott, the medicare fraudster Republican gubernatorial nominee that even Sarah Palin opposed ! (Palin stayed neutral in this race — I misread an article about another endorsement she’d made in Florida.)
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Florida: Scott holding lead in GOP primary
The eyes of political junkies from coast-to-coast continue to be glued on the Rick Scott-Bill McCollum showdown in Florida, and eagerly await McCain vs. Hayworth in Arizona and Murkowski vs. Palin Miller in Alaska. In the meantime, however, two other states had races on the ballot today worth keeping at least one eye on, and quite possibly both of them. In Vermont , it could scarcely be closer in the highly competitive five-candidate race to determine the Democratic nominee for Governor. After leading most of the night, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz has into a near tie with 2002 nominee Doug Racine. With one-third of the precincts in, Racine now trails by just 39 votes out of the more than 22,000 votes cast. Peter Shumlin is still in the argument, in third place but only 290 votes out of the lead. UPDATE: This is pretty damned amazing. With just over half of the precincts now reporting, it is Shumlin at 26, with Markowitz and Racine both at 25. First and third are still separated by just 226 votes. Now, with a few more precincts in…make that forty-one votes. Racine now up front. Unreal! In the Democratic Senate primary in Vermont, Patrick Leahy is winning in a landslide, notching 89% of the vote. His opponent, veteran Daniel Freilich, might still run as an Independent, according to Politics1, but it is hard to imagine either him or Republican Len Britton providing anything in the way of serious competition. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s primary came to an end tonight, four weeks after it started. Two districts held Republican runoffs today, with one upset and one expected result. The upset came in the 5th district, where former state legislator Kevin Calvey (long thought to be the frontrunner before his surprise second-place finish in a multicandidate primary) was easily defeated (65-35) by youth camp director James Lankford. Lankford is heavily favored in November in this largely Republican district. Meanwhile, in the 2nd district, lightly-funded Charles Thompson easily defeated lightly-funded Daniel Edmonds (66-34). The only way that uber-conservative Democrat Dan Boren loses here is if the national wave is worse than advertised, and sucks a guy who has barely broken the five-figure fundraising mark across the finish line.
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Vermont and Oklahoma: The "other races" chime in
From the most southeastern point in the 50 United States to the most northwestern, it’s primary night! Among the contests at stake, this evening we learn whether Democrats will be represented by Kendrick Meek or Jeff Greene in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, whether Republicans will be represented by Rick Scott or Bill McCollum in Florida’s gubernatorial race, whether John McCain will return as the GOP’s nominee for U.S. Senate, and whether or not Sarah Palin’s chosen allies will prevail in her home state primary. Here’s a schedule of poll closing times (times given are Eastern and Pacific, a transparent attempt to avoid figuring out Arizona and Alaska’s atypical time zones): Florida primary: Most of the state closes at 7ET/4PT, though panhandle region in the Central time zone closes at 8ET/5PT. (More on the down-ballot contests here .) Vermont primary: 7ET/4PT Oklahoma run-off: 8ET/5PT Arizona: 10ET/7PT Alaska: Part of state at 12ET/9PT and rest of state at 1ET/10PT (that’s 1:00am Eastern) Stay tuned throughout the evening as we update you on results and developments. In the mean-time, via Crisitunity at SSP, here’s PPP’s most recent poll of the U.S. Senate general election in Florida: Public Policy Polling (8/21-22, likely voters, 7/16-18 in parens): Kendrick Meek (D): 17 (17) Marco Rubio (R) : 40 (29) Charlie Crist (I) : 32 (35) Alex Snitker (L): 3 (4) Undecided: 8 (15) Jeff Greene (D): 13 (13) Marco Rubio (R): 37 (29) Charlie Crist (I): 36 (38) Alex Snitker (L): 4 (3) Undecided: 10 (16) As Crisitunity notes, the big shift here is Rubio appearing to pick up support from undecided voters and from Crist supporters, though it’s always possible that this particular poll simply reflects a slightly more conservative sample. Crist’s job appears easier with Greene as a nominee, mostly because Greene would be a worse nominee for Democrats than Meek. PPP’s Tom Jensen also flags an interesting challenge for Crist: Crist’s support continues to show an awkward balance that may ultimately make victory for him impossible. 57% of those planning to vote for him if Meek is the nominee think he should caucus with the Democrats in the Senate if elected while 28% think he should side with the Republicans. He’s more likely to find the additional support he needs to get elected from Democrats than Republicans, but can he do that without losing the 20% of Republicans who are still with him? Whether he finds a way to thread that needle or not will probably determine his fate. Of course there’s still plenty of time between now and election day and by the end of the night we’ll have at least one more important piece of data in our hands: we’ll know who the candidates will be. Update: Some very early results in Florida before all the polls in the Panhandle are closed: U.S. Senate (D): Kendrick Meek leads Jeff Greene by 15 points, 51-36 — but less than 10% reporting. Governor (R) : Rick Scott leads Bill McCollum by about 6 points, 48-42 with about 5% reporting. Update 2: U.S. Senate (D): Kendrick Meek is crushing Jeff Greene by 20 points with about a quarter of precincts reporting. Governor (R) : Rick Scott leads Bill McCollum by 2 points, 46-44, with a bit over 15% reporting.
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Primary night, from coast to coast
While we await the tallying of the ballots from coast to coast (and beyond, if you count the Aluetian Islands in Alaska), here are a few nuggets of election day news in the four states holding primaries today: In the Grand Canyon State of Arizona, J.D. Hayworth is predicting victory, while tempering that by suggesting that he will support incumbent Senator John McCain should Tuesday go as every poll seems to hint that it will. Some of his supporters, meanwhile, are less charitable towards the senior senator from Arizona: “The tea party movement saw what [McCain] did to J.D. They’re mad at him because he didn’t beat [President] Obama and turns around and attacks J.D. with more intensity than he did Obama, so that makes people mad,” said Shane Wikfors, a blogger who was hired by Hayworth to help with field operations. “They’re going to turn around and get behind a libertarian or probably this independent candidate. They’re going to make McCain feel some pain.” McCain’s victory is anticipated, so much so that no new polling has emerged from this race in weeks. Additional evidence refuting the strategy of Hayworth will be resurrected by a crush of angry teabaggers: Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett noted that early turnout was soft, describing it as normal for a primary, or even a bit below normal. In Florida, Democrat (or so he insists) Jeff Greene apparently has not conceded defeat in his Senate primary against Kendrick Meek. He has made a trio of late adds to his election day schedule, adding stops in Broward County. Greene may well have been responding to criticism that his Election Day schedule was…shall we say… a bit light . In other Senate news, a new poll out today from PPP indicates that a slight resurgence for Kendrick Meek might be pushing Marco Rubio to the lead, as Democrats who had flirted with Indie candidate Charlie Crist come home to Meek. The new survey puts the Republican at 40%, with Crist at 32% and Meek at 17%. If Jeff Greene were to defy expectations and clinch the Democratic primary, the race would be a one-point coin flip. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ballot in Florida, Republican state Attorney General Bill McCollum voted earlier in the day, and sounded a note of confidence as he chatted with reporters. McCollum wouldn’t predict victory, but he said Rick Scott’s unprecedented TV advertising barrage failed. “He’s thrown up $50 million. We’ve sustained that, and we’ve overcome that,” he said. In a side note, the St. Petersburg Times is predicting a possibly early night, as they estimate that 40% of the ballots are already in the hands of Florida election officials via mail-in ballot. In Alaska, as noted on last night’s edition of the Polling and Political Wrap , Sarah Palin cut a late robocall trying to pull her preferred candidate, attorney Joe Miller, across the finish line in his battle with GOP incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Finally, to Vermont, where I was remiss during yesterday’s preview of today’s contests. There is, in addition to the very competitive Dem primary for Governor and a less-competitive GOP primary to challenge Congressman Peter Welch, a Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. Physician Daniel Freilich is challenging incumbent Senator Pat Leahy, who is, it is safe to say, more than a betting favorite tonight.
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News and notes from Primary day
The true tale of a guy going to jail because Yahoo’s email security is atrocious. To see more of August J. Pollak’s cartoon “Some Guy With a Website,” check out the archive . More on Sarah Palin
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August J. Pollak: Palin’s Hacker
Lots of electoral and ballot box stuff awaits us tomorrow (a preview, for your convenience, can be found here ). For tonight, however, we kick off the week with the Monday edition of the Wrap…. THE U.S. SENATE AK-Sen: Mama Grizzly fires one last shot via robocall While bragging on Facebook that her appointed steed in the race, attorney Joe Miller, is closing fast, Sarah Palin is trying to give Miller an extra boost at the line. She has cut a robocall for Miller, one which stresses his conservative street cred, and attacks Murkowski for, in Palin’s words, having “voted with the Democrats more than any Republican up for reelection this year.” KY-Sen: Ron Paul indirectly takes his son to task on Cordoba House Thanksgiving at the Paul House might have just become a bit more interesting. The iconoclastic Republican Congressman Ron Paul fired off a strong broadside directed at what he called the “Sunshine Patriots”, people who “are all for freedom, as long as there’s no controversy and nobody is offended.” One of those Sunshine Patriots, of course, would be his son Rand, who has joined a number of Republicans in trying to demagogue this particular issue. PA-Sen: GOP pollster gives Toomey double-digit edge over Sestak Joe Sestak got some good (and at least somewhat surprising) news today with the endorsement of respected former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel. But he got some less-than-good news in new data from Republican-friendly pollster We Ask America. The pollster is claiming a thirteen-point edge for Republican Patrick Toomey (48-35) over Sestak. One thing that grabs attention is the sample, which looks like it draws almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats. That would certainly not track with past polls, but W.A.A. would certainly not be the first pollster to see a far more Republican-skewed electorate than in previous cycles. SD-Sen: Thune for Senate 2010 more about Thune for President 2012? In this story may well lie the campaign finance story of the 2010 cycle. John Thune has already laid out $4.6 million in his 2010 re-election bid. Which would be a tidy sum even if he had a major-league opponent. The catch–not only does he not have a first-tier challenger…he doesn’t have a challenger. From any party. Of any caliber. This is leading a lot of people to wonder if the telegenic Thune is laying some foundation in advance of entering the wide-open 2012 GOP presidential derby. WV-Sen: Conservative third party to leap into special election? As if Joe Manchin needed any more help in transitioning from the governor’s mansion to the U.S. Senate in this Fall’s special election, he might see the conservative opposition to his campaign split between two candidates. The Constitution Party of West Virginia has submitted petitions on behalf of candidate Jeff Becker, seeking his addition to the November ballot. The Mountain Party (an affiliate of the Green Party) already has a ballot line in November. THE U.S. HOUSE AZ-05: Well…maybe I don’t have this locked down, after all This is equal parts embarrassing and amusing: you might recall that last week, the Tuesday edition of the Wrap reported that former Maricopa County officer David Schweikert announced that he was going off the air. His rationale: he was so confident of victory that he thought it might be better to conserve his resources for November. That supreme confidence must have been shaken a tad, since Schweikert not only returned to the air, but he actually put in a bigger buy than the standing order his campaign cancelled when they declared victory. AR-01: Democratic hold of open seat looks difficult, says poll A lot of people already had the open seat in Arkansas’ 1st district on the endangered list. Two new polls out today will do little to change that notion. One poll is a new public poll out today from Talk Business shows Republican Rick Crawford with a double-digit edge (48-32) over Democratic nominee Chad Causey. Green Party nominee Ken Adler is also drawing 4%. By way of rebuttal, team Causey released some of their own recent internal polling , which showed a closer race. However, that internal poll also gave Crawford the edge, albeit by a single point (41-40). They also, curiously, cited a previous internal poll in the race by Zata3 (Talk Business’ previous pollster). That poll, from late July, showed Causey (with leaners) leading Crawford up 45-42. Which leads me to this question: why in the hell didn’t Team Causey release that internal when they got it in late July? IA-03: Will Zaun’s past come back to haunt him? Interesting piece today from Des Moines Register columnist Kathie Obradovich. As the Wrap noted last week, GOP nominee Brad Zaun (who is giving embattled Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell the race of his life) had a truly awful news week, with revelations about both his personal finances and personal life gracing the news (Desmoinesdem at Bleeding Heartland has a nice synopsis). Obradovich asked the question–will any of this stick? Obradovich went and asked some experts. The verdict: the revelations about Zaun’s myriad of tax woes might linger for the balance of the campaign, and are much more likely to do so than the personal pecadilloes. MO-04: Farm Bureau goes Republican for first time in over a decade If one needed any more evidence that longtime Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton is seriously endangered, herein lies a critical piece . For the first time since 1996, the Missouri Farm Bureau have turned their collective back on Skelton, choosing to endorse his Republican opponent, Vicky Hartzler. The decision might have national roots–the district chairman for the Farm Bureau said part of the decision for the reversal from recent practice was a perceived shift in Skelton’s voting record. In doing so, he cited Nancy Pelosi by name. NM-01/NM-03: Clean sweep for climate deniers on GOP side of ballot A great catch from the excellent state blog NM FBIHOP : it looks like with new statements which put GOP Congressional candidates Jon Barela (NM-01) and Tom Mullins (NM-03), the entire crew on the Republican side (add gubernatorial nominee Susana Martinez and NM-02 nominee Steve Pearce to the list) is uniformly in the climate change denial camp. Mullins gets the nod for my favorite climate denier quip of the day, arguing that cap-and-trade was tantamount to “Our federal government…attempting to regulate not just the breath we exhale, but is also infringing upon our very livelihood.” TX-23: Another day, another GOP internal poll showing a pickup Is Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in trouble in the southwestern Texas 23rd district? A new internal poll from Republican challenger Quico Canseco says that trouble is, indeed, on the way for Rodriguez. The poll, from GOP pollsters OnMessage, gives Canseco a 43-37 lead over Rodriguez. OnMessage has been here before, giving Rodriguez a narrow lead earlier in the year. THE GUBERNATORIAL RACES HI-Gov: Abercrombie has very narrow edge in Democratic primary New public polling out of the state of Hawaii indicates that former Congressman Neal Abercrombie is the owner of a narrow lead over former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann (49-44). This is the highest profile primary race in Hawaii, which closes out the primary season when the Aloha State heads to the polls on September 18th. The winner will be favored when he takes on Republican Lt. Governor Duke Aiona. TX-Gov: Another attack line for White–”Part Time” Perry This has been touched on in the Wrap before, but Burnt Orange Report revisits a topic that will certainly present itself to Democratic challenger Bill White. Will GOP Governor Rick Perry’s famously soft work schedule be an issue in the Fall? B.O.R. raises an important point–what is Perry hiding? Either he is actually a career absentee from the job (as his schedule would seem to imply), or he is working, and simply not disclosing to the public what the heck he is doing. THE RAS-A-POLL-OOZA A fairly quiet day for the House of Ras. They (speaking of segues) hit on Texas, and still has Perry under 50%. The other race they hit today–the Alabama Senate race–is on absolutely no one’s radar screen. For what it is worth–the Republican incumbent is well ahead, a surprise to absolutely no one. AL-Sen: Sen. Richard Shelby (R) 60%, William Barnes (D) 28% TX-Gov: Gov. Rick Perry (R) 49%, Bill White (D) 41%
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Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 8/23/10
Since speaking with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on July 16 about the Muslim community center to be built in lower Manhattan, it has been painful to watch the national dialogue around this issue deteriorate into misinformation, hysteria and fear of Islam. Imam Rauf has been overseas and not able to readily answer questions of the media, so the rhetoric from individuals like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and others who share their views has continued to distort the real issue at hand. Not all Muslims are terrorists, and the actions of terrorists are certainly not Islamic. This point must be realized if the conversation is ever to elevate beyond these harmful sound bites. It is my sincere hope that by releasing this audio recording and transcript of our recent conversation , those who honestly seek understanding about the Islamic center and the good leaders behind it will find it. LISTEN to the July 16 interview here: READ the transcript of the interview below (edited for clarity): ï»¿ Joseph: Can you explain what the Cordoba House is, why it’s being constructed and your role in that process? Imam Feisal: Sure. One of the things that I have noticed from my studies of religious evolution, or religious relationships or interfaith relationships in America was the role played by institutions … like the YMCA … which started 30 years ago, to improve relationships between members of the different protestant Christian religions by bringing young people … together. It became a worldwide movement. [T]hen the Jewish community established the young men and young women Jewish association known as [the] 92nd street Y, and the Jewish Community Center, which are centers in which membership is open to everybody … to come in and to do, not only athletics, but cultural programming, [hear] lectures on important issues and so forth. So for over 10-12 years now, I’ve had a vision and a dream of establishing a kind of a 21st-century equivalent of the JCC or … 92nd Y which duplicates that kind of programming or builds on that kind of programming for the needs that we have to address … both within the Muslim community and between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities that are causing tensions and problems. Joseph: Many opponents of Cordoba House are not able to understand how this community center would be able to facilitate the same type of activity that a Y would facilitate. How … would you address [the] opinion of those who think it’s not possible? Imam Feisal: Well first of all, let me say that there are over a dozen 9/11 institutions and … the vast majority support us or are neutral [compared to] those who are against us. Yet in spite of that, we have reached out to them and we have expressed our understanding of their concerns and our willingness to sit down with them and talk to them and make sure that our project reaches out and includes and finds ways to address issues that they are concerned with. In regard to the particular question you are concerned with, it is … the capability of Muslims to reach out and learn from others [which] is proven by our history. Our long-standing history. Not the history of the last 50-100 years, but the history of the very earliest couple of centuries of Islamic history when Muslims learned and absorbed philosophy from the Greeks, and the Indians, and the Chinese and utilized them … What we want to do here is to establish a direction for Islam, Islamic thought [and] Islamic thinking that harkens to the best of our heritage, not the worst of our heritage. We have problems within the Muslim communities. We understand that. I have been very concerned, and I lecture and I go everywhere, and right now I’m in Singapore … at a conference here called “The Role of Muslims in Multi-Cultural Societies” [about] how we build multicultural societies. Our heritage was initially multicultural. We have created, in the last century, ideas … that have captivated the imagination of some … which are very problematic … but we have to combat these ideas by demonstrating that the peak of Islamic civilization was when we were multicultural, and [by establishing] the forums which show how they may work. [W]e have already done this in a number of our projects. [In] our “Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow” project, we brought people who think completely opposite from each other … in their way of thinking, [and brought] them together in an atmosphere that they actually can engage and share … their real concerns. So we have shown that we can actually develop the formulas that can lessen the tensions within our communities. So what my vision is for this [Park 51/Cordoba House] is to establish a center that develops such programming, just like the YMCA, [which] last century became a global phenomenon. Hopefully, with this success, to have Cordoba Houses all over the world which serve to address these issues that are divisive. So lets say Cordoba House in New York that we proposed to establish will address the issues both within the Muslim [community], such as Sunni-Shia problems and tensions, and also between Muslims and Jews and Christians. A Cordoba House in Mumbai, for example, would focus on Muslim-Hindu relations, as well as intra-Muslim issues. So by developing the formulas for new ways of discourse … and amplifying and creating this as a new wave of thinking — there are millions of people everywhere I go, Joseph, wherever I go in the world — Muslim world, or even Australia, Canada, Europe you name it. There are countless people who come up to me who want to be part of something that builds a better future. This is our answer to that demand. Joseph: Can you speak anything about why the location, adjacent to Ground Zero was chosen for the center? Imam Feisal: Well, because I am a member of that community. My mosque I’ve been Imam of which is just 10 blocks north of there, it’s part of the Tribeca area. I’ve been a good neighbor of this community for the last quarter of a century. They know me — I know them. I have a track record, and … this is the neighborhood that I have been Imam in for the last quarter of a century. This is where we looked at; this is where we have a need for something. And we looked at other places, this is the one that destiny brought our way.” Joseph: It’s the simple answer to a lot of those questions that this is really the home of your constituency? Imam Feisal: Yes, I have a constituency … I have even a … global constituency in the broad sense that I speak about issues that are on the hearts and minds of people all over the world, both the street level as well as the government level, think-tank level. This is the issue that is on the minds of everybody. It’s one of the issues which must be addressed if we are going to have a safer world for our children and grandchildren.” Joseph: I had a chance to speak with a blogger named Urban Infidel who covers a lot of protests … and different types of activism in NYC. She felt … and this is a direct quote, “that the center would become a hub, a pilgrimage for extreme fundamentalists.” How do you respond to that? Imam Feisal: Such a statement flies in the face of reality, misinformation, plugged images to Ground Zero … we make pilgrimage to Mecca. The choice of language shows a misunderstanding of how Muslims think and who Muslims are, and what the vast majority of Muslims are concerned with. The vast majority of Muslims, 99.99999 percent of them are concerned about life and the pursuit of happiness issues. We want safety for our families and children. Muslims are the largest victims of Muslim extremism. We don’t like it, we hate it, we abhor it. My track record in speaking to … members of Congress, think tanks, at churches, at synagogues, at mosques, is a track record of focusing on the spiritual dynamics of our faiths, of enhancing the ethical principles of our faiths, in trying to steer people away from radical understanding of our faiths. And so, the poignancy of this all is I’ve been called and accused, even by the radicals, of being a moderate. People have said, ‘Where are the voices of the moderate Muslims?’ and here I am trying to do something that expands and amplifies the voice of the moderates in Islam. And how they can conclude this would be a pilgrimage for the radicals is the very opposite of the truth. The fact of the matter is that we are a threat to the radicals because we are the most articulate advocates for combating radicalism. You have to transform people by utilizing the values that they think. When I speak to Muslim audiences, I use the verses of the Koran which we, Muslims, believe to be God’s words. I use the teachings of the Prophet because these are the things that convince them. I use these languages, these methods, to calm that radicalism. So our stated objective is to establish this as a launching point, as a headquarters if you want, of a global understanding, of a moderate Islam that is true to its fundamental principles. And to accuse us as being the opposite of that flies in the face of our stated vision, our mission, my track record and everything I’ve ever done or stood for. Joseph: I want to ask you questions about what some people have said about your record. A republican candidate for NY governor was at the Landmarks Commission hearing, and he suggested that … there should be an investigation of you specifically, and he had cited your positions … that you have said that American policy was an accessory to the attacks on 9/11, that you spend time “with some of the most militant organizations” and he feels that we have to ask questions in this regard to “keep the people of New York and downtown Manhattan feeling safe.” … How do you feel your record is being interpreted … as the Cordoba House conversation and dialogue progresses? Imam Feisal: I welcome the questions regarding my record. However, I must say also that a number of things have been twisted and spun in a way that does not correctly, honestly, explain my work and what I stand for … [W]hen you try to bridge relationships between any two sides where there have been tensions reaching such a level, one of the things you have to explain to each side is why the other side feels angry. Whether it’s, you know, marital counseling between the husband and the wife. You have to explain to the husband’s actions that he has done which in the perception of the wife has offended her and vice-versa … When there is pain on each side you have to explain to each side what has caused the pain of the other, and part of my role has been to explain to each side, you know, the position of the other side so people can understand it. That is how you are able to bring about an understanding to change the reality. I have taken upon myself the role of bridge builder. To be a bridge builder, Joseph, you have to have an ability, to have a foot on each side of the divide if you are going to become a bridge. And it requires developing relationships with each side –relationships at the highest level, in Israel and in Palestine, in order to be able to bring about a positive change. I alone cannot do it all. It requires the involvement of governments, and there is also a role for religious leaders, a role for civic society, and for us to play this role in partnership with all the stakeholders and all the participants of the conflict; and you have to do it in such a way that draws people together and does not alienate people from a commitment to forging a new tomorrow. Doing this is difficult work, it’s tough work, but this is the work that my track record is all about. And anybody who is honest in trying to bridge a better tomorrow, a peaceful tomorrow, is required to be a participant of the change of the discourse. You do not change a relationship by continuing the language, the language of hysteria, the language of mutual condemnation. We cannot afford to do this anymore. The world has become too small; the world has become too dangerous. We need to calm down; we need to look at the issues and, from a perspective of enlightened mutual self-interest. And to do that requires a certain nature of dialogue. Dialogue is not just about yelling at each other. Dialogue is helping everybody understand the other, and helping create a situation where we are true to our fundamental beliefs but can live together in a state of harmony. This is what we have succeeded so well in America in spite of our difficulties and challenges — [and] it’s challenging. But we have succeeded in doing this in America. We need to do this at a global level. And I am happy to say that I have had partners from major Jewish leaders, major government leaders and participants on both sides of a particular conflict … I suppose that the creator has destined me to play a small role in this particular narrative and it is my duty to fulfill it. Joseph: Can [you] talk about the role that interfaith organizations like Intersections, or secular organizations … how you see their role in the development, the support, and relationship with the Cordoba House? Imam Feisal: Oh it is essential. It is critical. The very name Intersections recognizes the fact that … the problems are at intersection points. I remember … I was at the inauguration of Bob, [the Executive Director] of Intersections, and you know we had a meeting last year or some time, and I talked to him about the various projects that we at the Cordoba Initiative have developed and that we view are all important together to help bridge Muslim-West divide as it is called, which includes Muslim-Christian, Muslim-Jewish divides, and all the various things which enter into what people either refer to globally as the West-Muslim world divide or U.S.-Muslim divide. [W]hen I mentioned the Cordoba House project, that was a project which Bob said ‘that is a project I’d like to work with you the most on’ of all our projects and you can remind him of that. It shows because this project relates to a couple of areas of specialty that Intersections has. It’s understanding of New York real estate — you know, when you study real estate 101 the biggest thing they say is location location location, and there is no doubt that the location of Cordoba House has been the cause of all this brouhaha. [B]ut the location is important if you want to sell a product or sell an idea, and we’re about an idea of the kind of future that people like Intersections are committed to building. This is why I have been extremely gratified by the expressions of support from leaders like Bob Chase, and other Christian leaders and Jewish leaders and even friends who are from secular institutions who have worked with me over the last decade or two or three … ranging from people like Rabbi David Rosen, Michael Paley, people like Rev. Bob Chase, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, as well as many other friends who know what we are all about … So the role of entities like Intersections is critical, because had it not been for their role and our track record with them on trying to address these very challenging problems … we would not have been able to get the recognition and understanding and support that we have … from the faith community. The fact that we got the overwhelming and closely unanimous support of the local community board, the unanimous support of our politicians … our Mayor Bloomberg supports this … our burrow president Scott Stringer came in support of this project on the most unequivocal terms … Andrew Cuomo, supports this project, the Governor supports this project, and it is clear that to anybody who understands what is happening in the gubernatorial race that our Cordoba House project has been used by Rick Lazio as a political football in his attempt to advance his particular campaign against Andrew Cuomo. So, you know, we are not naive to not recognize the extent to which this project has become politicized. We do not wish to see the politicization of religion. The whole idea of the separation of church and state as we understand it in America is not to build a faithless society, but to build a society in which the right kinds of relationships … between institutions of religion and religious discourse, religious authority, and institutions and players of political power and authority. [I]t’s clear to anybody who is fair minded that Rick Lazio’s comments are motivated by political concerns and he has come very close to the line (if he hasn’t crossed it yet) of … what we value and pride so highly in America, is the clear separation of boundaries between … the right kind of discourse between politics and religion. This is certainly part of what we are also trying to do, is to make sure the discourse is the right discourse, and the helpful discourse. I am most concerned about issues of national security because as I have mentioned, Joseph … my faith community was impacted by 9/11, too. Members from my congregation are among those who died … in 9/11. We are equally hit by this, we are equally offended by it, we [have] equally condemned it as strongly, and we want to show that the vast majority of Muslims want to be part of the rebuilding of lower Manhattan, of the area of Ground Zero — to give back to the city that gave us so much … to condemn with one voice the actions of [those] that have brought about 9/11, to work to eliminate the kinds of things that have resulted in 9/11, and to prevent it from happening again. This is what I’m all about. This is what the project is all about. Thank you for helping me. What we all need to do together with institutions like Intersections is to make sure that the momentum, and that energy, and commitment, is there … that’s what we are all about. More on Islam
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Joseph Ward III: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Speaks Out (AUDIO, TRANSCRIPT)
One of the more anticipated primary days in recent weeks is upon us, as high-profile races will be decided in a quartet of states on Tuesday. The action will start early in the evening (when polls close in Florida and Vermont) and last well into the overnight hours (when polls close in Alaska). Here’s what to look for when the polls start to close tomorrow night: ALASKA: Governor, Senate, AK-AL The race that got all the hype here was for the Senate , with incumbent Lisa Murkowski facing off with attorney Joe Miller, who was running with the vocal support of both the Tea Party Express and Mama Griz herself. Hotline On Call looked this weekend at this race, and sees a Murkowski landslide in the making. Only one poll has shown Miller even in striking distance, and its authenticity has been questioned. If Murkowski can drop the hammer on Miller, then some of these stories about Palin’s ineffectiveness as a kingmaker are surely justified. If there is any place where she can have an impact, it’d be in her old home state. Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams should easily triumph in a three way primary for the Democratic Senate nod. The race in Alaska that might prove to be more competitive could well be the primary for Governor . While virtually everyone expects Governor Sean Parnell (who took over for Palin when she…well…quit) and former Democratic state legislator Ethan Berkowitz to be the nominees after tomorrow night, both of them have legitimate opposition. In the race for the state’s sole House seat ( AK-AL ), Republican Don Young is being primaried again, but he’s likely to prevail. State legislator Harry Crawford awaits for the Democrats. ARIZONA: Governor, Senate, AZ-01, AZ-03, AZ-05, AZ-08 Speaking of much-hyped races that have falled off the radar screen, the textbook example is several thousand miles to the south of Alaska. The political world did a collective double-take in January when loudmouth former GOP Congressman J.D. Hayworth announced that he would be primarying John McCain from the right. Hayworth’s campaign, however, had repeated false starts, the worst of which was the revelation that Hayworth hosted an infomercial on how to obtain government grants, a tough day job for a teabagger to own. It has to be a very telling sign that there has been no new polling released in this race in over a month. On the Democratic side, however, is where all of the action is. Tucson councilman Rodney Glassman has the most resources, and held an early edge. Former AFL-CIO director Randy Parraz released a late poll , however, that put him right in the mix. Meanwhile, Democrats thought early in the year that they had a better-than-even chance to pick up a statehouse by winning the battle for Governor here. Incumbent Republican Jan Brewer was enmeshed in a multi-candidate primary, and Democratic state Attorney General Terry Goddard had the field clear for him. SB1070 changed everything in this race. Every one of Brewer’s rivals (save for the only GOP opponent of SB1070 in the state of Arizona, businessman Matthew Jette) dropped out of the race, and polls show Brewer dominating the primary and leading the general, as well. Downballot, Republicans will be vying to challenge three potentially vulnerable Democrats in AZ-01 (Ann Kirkpatrick), AZ-05 (Harry Mitchell), and AZ-08 (Gabrielle Giffords). And, in my favorite race of the night, watch the GOP primary in the open-seat AZ-03 , where ten Republicans grace the ballot, and 19% of the vote could very well be enough to carry the day. FLORIDA: Governor, Senate, FL-08, FL-24, FL-25 In both the primaries for Governor and Senate , it has been a pitched battle to the last minute between absurdly well-funded neophytes and classic politicos. In the GOP gubernatorial primary, the big winner might be Democrat Alex Sink . The primary between longtime insider and state AG Bill McCollum and uber-wealthy hospital magnate Rick Scott has been so ugly that Sink has gone from a double-digit underdog against the GOP nominee to a single-digit leader. Late polls in the race have not been terribly helpful: they split , with Quinnipiac putting McCollum ahead, and PPP showing Scott out front. On the Senate side, late polling is more uniform, and seems to confirm that Congressman Kendrick Meek is favored to successfully fight off the cash-infused challenge of wealthy real estate investor Jeff Greene, who it is fair to say was something of a flawed candidate from the outset. Downballot, Republicans will pick nominees in two targeted races for November: FL-08 (Alan Grayson) and FL-24 (Suzanne Kosmas). The big downballot race to watch here is in FL-25 , one of the better Dem pickup opportunities in the nation. It will be interesting to see if the late revelations about the myriad of troubles for GOP fave David Rivera will drop this nomination in the lap of one of his lesser-known GOP rivals. VERMONT: Governor, VT-AL It has received a millionth of the press bestowed on the other three states, but New England is getting in on the primary game tomorrow, as well. And in the case of the battle to replace Republican Jim Douglas as Governor of the state, the race on tap is actually a legitimate one to watch. Five serious Democrats have filed for the seat, and the terrain in the region alone indicates that any of them have a legit shot in November (although GOP Lt. Governor Brian Dubie is as good a candidate as the Republicans could have hoped for). Rasmussen is the only pollster to venture here in the last six months (and only for the general election), and they seem to indicate that Secretary of State Deb Markowitz would be the frontrunner for the Dems. With the dearth of polling here (last poll in June ), it could be anyone’s ballgame.
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Primary Day Preview: AK, AZ, FL, VT
Ted Stevens and Sarah Palin will not be on the ballot in Tuesday’s Alaska primary, but they may loom large in voters’ minds nonetheless. In the Republican primary, Senator Lisa Murkowski faces Joe Miller, a Fairbanks lawyer. Mr. Stevens was long Ms. Murkowski’s proud mentor. Ms. Palin has endorsed Mr. Miller, who styles himself a Republican reformer and is a friend of her husband, Todd. More on Sarah Palin
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In Alaska, Names Not On Ballot Play Roles
Rick Majestic Bob the Islamic Community Center Builder’s new CD features songs about conflict resolution, cooperation and refusal to exploit a national tragedy for political gain. The claymation contractor compares democracy to a building which consists of Freddy the Foundation, Connie the Constitutional Framework and Myron the Materials, which protect their structure against Gingrich the Troublemaker and Sarah the Speech Mangler. In “The Establishment Clause Can’t Be Sold to the Lowest Bidder,” backed by Scoop the backhoe loader and Bill the Bill of Rights, Bob duets with Farmer Pickles: Bob: Bald eagles are fliers Just like the pigeon I won’t take pliers To freedom of religion Farmer Pickles: I know you’re a claymation contractor hero But I say there should be no theater, gym or mosque Two blocks from Ground Zero Bob: The same amendment that lets you say Whatever you wanted Also lets Muslims pray And build things undaunted And if the job’s large You should see what I charge One thing’s even stronger than hate And that’s my triple overtime rate Accompanied by Pussycat Lounge the Other Ground Zero Neighbor and Bloomberg the Mayor Who’s Read the Constitution, Bob the Islamic Community Center Builder sings “You Stay Invincible When You Don’t Abandon Principle” and “The Dump Truck’s Red, The Crane is Blue, Don’t Scapegoat All, for the Actions of a Few.” Bob the Islamic Community Center Builder’s next CD will feature other controversial clay celebs such as Davy and Goliath Against Target, Heat Miser Against Global Warming and Mr. Bill Against BP. Hey hey. My my. Rock and roll can never die. Unless it’s killed by American Idol. More current albums at Tyrannosaurus Rocks .
John Marshall: Bob the Islamic Center Builder
Ninety years ago, a young man named Harry T. Burn, at the insistence of his mother to “ be a good boy ,” changed his vote from “nay” to “yea,” and the generations-long struggle for women’s suffrage was at last won. It is easy to catalog the progress of the last nine decades. Women can vote, own property, earn a paycheck and keep the money in their own bank accounts, go to college and play sports there, and yes, run for and hold elected office. Three of the last four Secretaries of State have been women. The Speaker of the House is a woman. Three of the nine Supreme Court justices are women. And let us not forget that a woman very nearly won the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. But -– and of course there is a but –- it is not enough. Because despite these achievements, control of our economy and our government still rests almost exclusively within the hands of men. For women to achieve full equality, they must have a real role in making the decisions that affect their lives. And that role requires real, and proportionate, representation — something 90 years of struggle for equality has yet to achieve. In the private sector, while women now comprise the majority of the labor force, they are still vastly outnumbered by men at the executive levels. As of 2009, only thirteen of the Fortune 500 companies were run by women. And those women CEOs make only 85 percent of what their male counterparts make. In fact, a study by the non-profit research group Catalyst found that at the current rate, it will take another 40 years for women to achieve “parity with men in the corporate officer ranks.” Forty years. Will it take that long for women to achieve pay equity as well? Maybe. The incremental progress toward pay equity has not come without legislation guaranteeing women the right to work and to earn the same wages as their male counterparts — and even then, a significant pay gap still exists today. As does the forceful opposition to such legislation. Despite protestations from those who scoff at evidence of this disparity, like the Chamber of Commerce -– who has, for decades, opposed every single piece of legislation intended to address this disparity, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act protecting pregnant women from discrimination, the Equal Pay Law, and the Paycheck Fairness Act — the pay gap is real, and it is not merely the result of women choosing lower-paying jobs. It is a reflection of our deficiencies as a nation to recognize the obstacles and needs of half the labor force. Just look at the utter failure of our country to address the reality of working mothers. Our country continues to treat working mothers as if they were an aberration, rather than the norm, and as such, any difficulties women encounter in trying to earn a living and care for their children is a problem for them to solve, a problem in which the government has no interest. Those women who “choose” to work and have families are left to their own devices, unworthy of the government’s care or resources. But working mothers are, in fact, the norm: 80 percent of American women have children, and of those, 66 percent of them are employed, mostly in full-time jobs. A country that valued women, and mothers, would address the obstacles women face, rather than dismiss them as a consequence of women’s choices, a consequence for which the solution is, according to the Chamber of Commerce, “choosing the right place to work and choosing the right partner at home.” That’s really no solution at all. From the moment a woman enters the work force, she will earn less than her male counterpart — and if she has children, as the majority of American women do, it will cost her. She will end up making significantly less than men, according to a recent report by The New York Times . And it will cost her in other ways. Unlike 168 countries that provide some form of paid family leave, most of which offer a minimum of 14 weeks and as much as a full year, the United States has only the Family and Medical Leave Act , which applies only to companies with 50 or more employees, and which guarantees only 12 weeks of unpaid leave. For most American women, three months without a paycheck is simply not a possibility. And even then, women still face the very real threat of losing their jobs anyway if they actually exercise that right. Once working mothers do go back to work, they face the enormous expense of childcare — an expense that ranges from $3,016 a year to $13,480 a year — or more. Without any aid from the government because, according to those like the Chamber of Commerce, the government and society in general should not have to concern itself with the “choices” women make to work and have children. But in a nation in which women are so severely underrepresented in positions of power, is it any wonder that the “solution” offered them is simply to figure it out for themselves? For all the progress women have made, they still comprise a mere 16 percent of Congress and 12 percent of governorships. That’s not real representation; it’s token representation. And token representation is not enough to implement real, systemic changes that are necessary to improving the lives of women, and therefore all Americans. Such under-representation is not without its consequences. During the debate about health care reform, for example, Republican Senator John Kyl argued against a requirement that insurers offer basic maternity coverage. Why? Because it didn’t affect him . “I don’t need maternity care,” Kyl said. “So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.” Senator Debbie Stabenow was quick to point out to him, “I think your mom probably did.” Yes, John Kyl’s mother -– and 80 percent of all American women. Yet when the government is run largely by men, who see no need for something as basic as maternity care, is it any wonder that our system still refuses to acknowledge the needs of half the population? That’s what you get with token representation: the government’s blind eye to problems that disproportionately impact women — but, in reality, impact everyone. Senator Kyl certainly isn’t the first to argue against legislation to help women, on the grounds that since he doesn’t need it, it doesn’t matter. The antidote is greater — much greater — representation, a critical mass of representation. Critical mass is an idea that has moved from science and sociology to political science and into popular usage over the last 30 years. The concept is borrowed from nuclear physics: It refers to the quantity needed to start a chain reaction, an irreversible propulsion into a new situation or process. …[O]nce women reached a critical mass in an organization, people would stop seeing them as women and start evaluating their work as managers. In short, they would be regarded equally. The report by The White House Project, assessing women’s level of involvement and progress throughout the public and private sectors, offered the example of the Supreme Court (before Elena Kagan became its newest justice): One woman is newsworthy -– she’s a first. Two is better –- but still an exception, not the rule. Three out of nine -– one in three -– stops being unusual. We are a long way from women holding at least a third of the seats in Congress. It’s no wonder, then, that legislation to address the needs of women is still the exception rather than the rule. It’s no wonder, then, that too often, Congress dismisses as unnecessary programs to help women and their families — programs that exist in every other industrialized nation in the world. The answer, though, is not only to elect more women. There are now, as there have always been, women who work against the best interests of other women. Sarah Palin’s Mama Grizzlies are merely the latest incarnation of the anti-women’s movement — a movement to oppose real solutions for women, dressed up in a skirt and lipstick, as if to legitimize their efforts to block progress. Palin is really no different from Phyllis Schlafly, the woman who made a career out of telling women not to have careers, the woman who fought –- and continues to fight -– against equality for women. More Sarah Palins and Phyllis Schlaflys and Mama Grizzlies are not the answer. Just as progressives work to elect more, better Democrats, so too do we need more, better women in politics, so that women are not just the exception, so that the obstacles women face are deemed significant enough to merit real solutions, so that the most basic needs of women cannot be dismissed as unnecessary just because men have no use for them. Ninety years after that young Tennessee representative cast the deciding vote to enfranchise women, a battle was won. Women could, at long last, have a voice in the process of choosing their leaders. But the last 90 years have shown that it isn’t enough. To create a nation that truly recognizes and values women and their contributions, women need to do more than just have a voice in the process of choosing leaders; they must have a voice in the process of leadership itself. And that battle is far from over.
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Ninety years later
There is an air of both tragedy and farce as the Arizona Republican primary for the United States Senate comes to a conclusion this Tuesday. Incumbent John McCain–a venerated war hero and once celebrated presidential candidate–has been forced into the sludge against an unworthy opponent, J.D. Hayworth, in what is likely to be the final campaign of his political career. McCain has sullied his carefully crafted legacy by swinging sharply to the political right, betraying his once hard-forged positions on everything from immigration reform to global warming. In many respects, the McCain image as a “maverick” and “reformer” has always been something of a charade. McCain’s seminal role in the Keating Five scandal during his first term in office forever tarnished his reputation. Indeed, there are many who would argue that what we are now seeing is the real McCain– stripped bare of the fanciful narrative–whose guiding light is neither public virtue nor principle, but raw ambition and a lust for power. “There are two John McCains,” a close friend of the senator’s told New York Magazine’s Joe Hagan. “The one I love is a very big man, and he’s willing to take on big issues in a big way. Then there’s another side of John, he’ll admit, that is petty and angry and petulant and small, and that side has overtaken the other one.” For all his proclamations about congressional earmarks and fiscal transparency in the federal budget, McCain has always run with a close coterie of DC-based lobbyists , particularly during the campaign season, when his political ambitions merge with those of special interest groups who have poured money into his campaign coffers. Indeed, during McCain’s ill-fated run for the presidency in 2008, McCain’s proximity to lobbyists became the driving counter-narrative of the campaign. At the center of McCain’s lobbying controversies has been uber-lobbyist Rick Davis, his on-and-off-again presidential campaign manager who, according to Hagan, has sold what was left of McCain’s soul to the devil this summer in the blistering Arizona desert. Davis has long been a shady and controversial figure around McCain. A University of Alabama drop-out and former political operative in the Reagan White House, Davis worked his way into McCain’s inner-circle in the late 1990s by forging a relationship with McCain’s wife, Cindy, who once described Davis to Katie Couric as “our closest friend.” During the 2008 campaign, it was Davis–who after being demoted for a second time by McCain–was assigned the task of overseeing the selection process of the senator’s running mate, a process which he bungled badly. Not only did he fail to lay the political groundwork for McCain’s first choice of Joe Liebermann, he also oversaw the last-minute and haphazard vetting process that resulted in the erratic and self-serving Sarah Palin joining McCain on the GOP ticket. For that alone, Davis has earned a permanent asterisk in the annals of American political history. Davis himself was the focus several negative stories directed at the McCain campaign. First there were the revelations that Davis had worked for the Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska and had set up a meeting in Switzerland with McCain and Deripaska, whose “suspected links to anti-democratic and organized-crime figures are so controversial,” the Washington Post reported, “that the U.S. government revoked his visa.” Then came the revelations that Davis’s lobbying firm was paid nearly $2 million by Freddie Mac–the controversial federal mortgage giant that was placed in receivership during the middle of the 2008 presidential campaign. Davis and McCain were also linked to gambling interests in a celebrated New York Times expose that featured an account of McCain tossing $100 chips at a craps table in a Connecticut casino with Davis at his side–this at a time when McCain was regulating the operation of Indian casinos as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Less well known was what one senior McCain advisor called a “kickback scheme” orchestrated by Davis to skim five percent of all expenditures from the McCain campaign into a partnership, Management Alliance Realty, Inc., created by Davis’s friend and lobbyist Scott Reed and Reed’s controversial client, Indian-casino developer and lobbyist Richard Fields. According to the Wall Street Journal , Davis also formed a company ( 3eDC ) overseeing McCain’s internet campaign contributions for which he initially charged the campaign more than $1 million. For all the controversies, Davis is once again riding shotgun with McCain in Arizona, serving with another controversial lobbyist, Charlie Black , as senior advisors to the campaign. It has been based on Davis’s advice, according to Hagan –with apparently little regard for public perception of McCain’s integrity–that McCain has denied his “maverick” legacy and is sounding more and more like the right-wing Republicans with whom he once waged battle. That McCain will win his war against Hayworth on Tuesday goes without saying. The sad truth of the matter is that having his lobbyist pals at his side probably hasn’t hurt him. He has raised nearly $20 million to Hayworth’s $2.5 million. He may have once branded himself a political reformer, but with John McCain, the democratic process has always come with a price attached. Award-winning writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn’s book The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power will be published by St. Martin’s Press. More on Sarah Palin
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Geoffrey Dunn: John McCain Still Pallin’ Around with Lobbyists
When former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin first endorsed Joe Miller on June 2 in his race for the U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the tone of that endorsement could be described as civil. She was careful to make it less about Murkowski and more about Miller. Less about competence and more about competition. Less about personality and more about principle. In her Facebook note , which is how Palin does these things, she also made sure that she dispelled rumors of personal animus between herself and Murkowski. “Though the media has tried to portray some sort of feud or bad blood between Lisa and myself, such is not the case,” she wrote. “I’ve always wished her well, but it is my firm belief that we need a bold reformer who is not afraid to stand up to special interests and take on the tough challenges of our time.” (**see below for background) That was Sarah then. And to go back further, the Sarah a year ago went so far as to donate $5,000 to Murkowski through her PAC, the maximum she could have given. But today is another day, as they say, and a new Facebook face emerges with a totally different tone. This one doesn’t bother to talk about how she wishes Lisa well, or even about the value of competition. This one goes for the jugular. This one repeats every criticism leveled against Murkowski by Miller and the far right, makes note of the fact that Murkowski was “given her Senate seat by her father,” and accuses Murkowski of talking “one way in the Last Frontier and then vote the opposite way in the Beltway.” And that’s just for starters. In her note, she delights in repeating that the Huffington Post called Murkowski “center-right Democrat.” (Side note: strange that she would call attention to that piece, as it was written by local lawyer Don Mitchell in a column about how upset Sarah was that Lisa got the Senate seat. That piece also says that Palin came across as “immature” and “uninformed,” and the least impressive of any candidate interviewed by Frank for the seat. Read it all here. ) Read more here. More on Sarah Palin
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AlaskaDispatch.com: Palin goes after Murkowski
Oh, those Republicans and their wacky sense of humor : The male webmaster of the official website for the Senate District 56 Republicans says a video comparing the attractiveness of Democratic and Republican women is just a joke. Serenaded by Tom Jones, the GOP women are depicted in bikinis and gowns, while those identified as Democrats — Helen Thomas, Rosie O’Donnell and Michele Obama, among others — are represented in unflattering photos accompanied by the song “Who Let the Dogs Out?” The video, which wasn’t produced by the local GOP, “had only one purpose, humor,” writes SD56 webmaster Randy Brown via email. Get it? Funny! Michele Bachmann is hot, but Michelle Obama is a dog. And Condi Rice? What a looker! But that San Francisco values lefty liberal Nancy Pelosi is so ugly — especially in a Photoshopped picture of her grabbing her crotch. But those who might take issue with the video — including Andrea Kieffe, Republican candidate for the Minnesota House, who called the video a “juvenile attempt at marketing” — are obviously just people who lack a capability for humor. No, really. “I do realize that there are groups of people who lack such capability [for humor], but fortunately that is their problem,” wrote Brown, who posted the video. “Again its only intention was to bring a smile to a few peoples faces, and possibly irritate a few others. Is it fair? Does that matter? It wasn’t intended to be fair. It was intended to be funny.” Yeah, that’s so funny. Democrats are ugly, but Carrie Prejean is hot in a bikini, so vote Republican. Ha ha ha. (The Minnesota GOP has now removed the video from its website, but you can see a screen capture of it here , courtesy of the Minnesota Independent .) The only real question is when Sarah Palin and her Mama Grizzlies, including Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, will stand up to refudiate this obviously sexist attempt at humor. After all, they are the new guardians of feminism and warriors against sexism. And, as Digby points out , if there’s one thing Sarah Palin hates, it’s sexism . Sometimes. The choice of photo for the cover of this week’s Newsweek is unfortunate. When it comes to Sarah Palin, this “news” magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. The Runner’s World magazine one-page profile for which this photo was taken was all about health and fitness — a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation. The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin . So according to the rules of Sarah Palin, women shouldn’t be judged on their appearance. Apparently, that’s one memo the Minnesota GOP hasn’t received yet.
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Minn. GOP calls Democratic women ugly
This week’s two biggest media story brouhahas have been Dr. Laura’s N-word gaff and the Ground Zero mosque, both of which commentators insist are First Amendment issues. They are not. Here’s why. First, let’s review the First… “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Most people forget that there are actually five freedoms protected in the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly, petition.) Laura Schlessinger says that she is quitting her job as the biggest female radio show host in the galaxy because, she told Larry King: “I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what is on my mind.” Sarah Palin chimed in on Twitter that Schlessinger’s First Amendment rights “ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence her.” Wrong. The First Amendment applies only to what the government cannot do. No government agency is demanding that Dr. Laura step down. No laws are being passed to silence radio talk show hosts (at least not yet–recall last year’s cultural scuffle over whether liberals should be given equal time on all radio shows, including conservative talk radio). This is not a First Amendment issue in the least. Dr. Laura is free to exercise her First Amendment rights to say what is on her mind, including her stupefyingly ignorant opinion that blacks are being hypersensitive when called the N-word by whites. In turn, blacks, whites, and anyone else not from another planet are free to remind Dr. Laura what has transpired over the past half century here on Earth since she’s been away on Mars. The Ground Zero Mosque issue is equally clearly not a First Amendment issue because, near as I can figure, it is not being built on government land, it is not being funded by tax-payers’ dollars, and it is not a public building. To that extent, it’s none of the government’s business what the owners and financiers of the building want to do with their private property, so they are free to build a mosque near Ground Zero (it’s two blocks away, by the way, not “at” Ground Zero), and by the 4th right of the First Amendment, people are free to peacefully assemble to remind said private land holders and building builders what happened in that neighborhood a scant nine years ago next month. The government is not–and never should be–in the business of regulating stupidity or making laws respecting the free exercise thereof. More on Sarah Palin
Michael Shermer: The Free Exercise of Stupidity: Dr. Laura, the Ground Zero Mosque, and the 1st Amendment
Ralph Samuels is a conservative Republican candidate for governor of Alaska. The primary is next Tuesday, and Samuels’ new signs are dotting roadsides in Anchorage. Yes, it’s come to this. Promising not to quit is now a legitimate campaign pledge for Republican candidates in the state of Alaska. More on Sarah Palin
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Jeanne Devon ("AKMuckraker"): ‘I Promise Not to Quit,’ pledges Alaska Republican Gubernatorial Candidate
Short and Tweet, our weekly series, brings you the newsiest, most buzzworthy tweets of the past seven days. What’s in store this week? Sarah Palin defends Dr. Laura Schlessinger after her controversial n-word rant, North Korea launches a Twitter propaganda offensive, and Heidi Montag’s plastic surgeon tweets moments before his fatal car crash–and more. About Short And Tweet: Some tweets make news, and some of those tweets break news. HuffPost Tech’s new weekly feature of the top newsmaking tweets of the week will showcase both. We’ll be posting our picks for the tweets of the week, but we want to hear from you , too: tweet us suggestions using the hashtag #hptweets, email us links at email@example.com, or use the tool below to upload screenshots of noteworthy Twitter posts. See last week’s picks here .
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SHORT AND TWEET: The Top Tweets Of The Week From The Fringe And Famous (PICTURES)
My disappointment with the rhetoric offered by the Sarah Palin’s, Dr. Laura’s, Rush Limbaugh’s, Don Imus’s and Glenn Beck’s of the world is that their messages resonate with so many Americans. It seems that every time I begin to become encouraged and believe that there has been real substantial progress in OUR country something happens to remind me that many have merely put a more presentable faÃ§ade on some of this country’s ugly unresolved issues. America has so much more ability than is currently being realized. There has always been this illusion of ‘Promise’ but the continued appreciation and consumption of this dark rhetoric continuously dispensed by the aforementioned and others makes me truly wonder. I’m not amazed that these media darlings spew forth this filth but I must admit that I am very disappointed and somewhat disheartened that so many of my nice neighbors agree with and enjoy it. Many writers have attempted to re-cast the latest events as merely another ‘teachable moment’. But why must these opportunities continue to come at the expense of the dignity of other decent Americans? In my heart, I continue to believe that WE are far better than this despite OUR continued consumption of non-productive chatter and worse. Did the caller seek Dr. Laura’s professional help to be berated and publicly humiliated? Did the good doctor fulfill the highest standards of her profession? (Then again, what are the professional standards of a talk show host? Better yet- what is she a doctor of?) Or did Dr. Laura once again use a real person seeking help as just another opportunity to propagate her personal agenda and beliefs all for the sake of ratings and the almighty dollar? Newsflash These talking head, pundit, media darling, know-it-all experts are playing their listening audiences for fools with their outlandish, over-the-top and divisive commentary. They don’t care what they say and they certainly don’t care who they hurt. They are in the business of selling inflammatory provocation and fear mongering neatly packaged as entertainment and apparently business is very good. Schlesinger, Palin, Imus, Limbaugh & Beck Inc. makes untold millions from doing exactly what that can be considered even remotely constructive? This particular media conglomerate has done absolutely nothing to solve any of America’s numerous, very real and significant issues but the money keeps rolling in…and a sizeable portion of ‘we the people’ keep listening. When will WE support a talk show host that actually attempts to find meaningful and respectful resolution to some of America’s more difficult issues? Are we ready for a host that moderates an intelligent dialogue instead of one that preys on insidious, petty fears and tells the huddled masses what to think? Instead of sound bites and obstruction what about civil discourse and production? Is America ready for insightful media voices that use their platforms for something more than merely catering to their massive egos and helping themselves to the low hanging fruit? More on Don Imus
Dr. Johnny Benjamin: Dr. Laura, Palin & Limbaugh Inc.’s Rhetoric Sadly Resonates with Many Americans
It will come as no surprise to learn that Bill O’Reilly was the first Fox News on-air personality to to lose the Democratic Governors Association challenge : In the wake of Fox News officially becoming the media arm of the Republican Party with its $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association, Nathan Daschle, the executive director of its Democratic counterpart has issued a challenge in a letter to Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes: In the interest of some fairness and balance, I request that you add a formal disclaimer to your news coverage any time any of your programs cover governors or gubernatorial races between now and Election Day. During Wednesday’s broadcast, Bill-O had the Republican gubernatorial candidate from Ohio, John Kasich, on his program and didn’t bother to inform his audience that he had a vested interest in promoting Kasich’s candidacy. On the other hand, O’Reilly was fair and balanced. He opened by calling Kasich his “pal,” cited a Rasmussen poll, said that Kasich’s Democratic opponent wouldn’t come on his show because he couldn’t handle the questions. O’Reilly then peppered Kasich with hard-hitting questions on the President, how the liberal media might hurt him, and whether Sarah Palin would be campaigning for him. Ouch. Media Matters has the video here … but save yourself some time and aggravation and watch this for the whole story:
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O’Reilly doesn’t take the DGA challenge
A few months ago, I spent a Sunday morning in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Thomas Road in East Phoenix, just on the cusp of the immigration flare-up over racial profiling and Arizona’s repressive law called SB 1070. It was quieter then — a weathered 39-year-old Mexican in a wool cap with a New York Mets logo named Roberto Valdez told me of his trek across the desert to seek work in Phoenix as a day laborer. Weeks earlier, Mexican day laborers like Valdez had been harassed on the weekends by angry white nativists, but in March of 2010 the nativists had moved on. Many had joined the Tea Party, and some were campaigning for GOP anti-immigration zealot J.D. Hayworth for U.S. Senate. Why waste time on “the Other” Roberto Valdez, when America now had “the Other” daring to occupy the Oval Office in the person of Barack Obama. Five months later, the American political debate — in a time of crushing 9.5-percent unemployment, record foreclosures and bankruptcies, and climate change linked to catastrophes from Moscow to Pakistan to Iowa — has been hijacked over the arcane question of whether to allow an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. The controversy is stunning — but it should not be. The national brouhaha over the $100 million Muslim Park51/Cordoba House proposal is not an anomaly but rather the culmination of an alarming downturn in America’s mood, its discourse, and even our former ambitions as a beacon of religious and political tolerance. In 2010, a large swath of the American public — led by ratings-mad media mavens and immoral politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin — had declared out all-out war on “the Other” in America in all its alleged forms, from immigrants to Muslims to non-white aides working in the West Wing of the White House, and of course the president himself. And it is threatening to rip America apart in a way that we have not seen in 145 years. Over the last year, I traveled across the country seeking the sources of right-wing outrage and anger in the Obama era as I researched my new book — The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama — that will be published at the end of the month. What I discovered was fear — some of it innate and much of it whipped up by high-def hucksters on TV and in talk radio and even in the corridors of political power in America. Much of that fear centered on one simple fact: that America is increasingly becoming a non-white-dominated country. While many Americans take no issue with that, the prospect of an America with an increasingly non-Caucasian face is a deeply disturbing one to millions of people — people for whom a unified and traditional culture is a source of solidarity and comfort, even — according to some sociologists — a bulkhead of immortality . In the mid-2000s, an anti-immigration frenzy took root across right-wing talk radio. It seemed largely a matter of entertainment and most likely changing the subject, since the George W. Bush presidency was at low ebb because of Iraq and Katrina. The increasingly paranoid conversation about the threat from brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking people grew in a way that was completely disconnected from realities, that immigrants were growing the economy in places like Arizona and Nevada, that crime rates among immigrants were quite low , and that these arrivals were paying more in taxes than they received in services . But the bottom line was that for many, reports that whites will be a minority of Americans by the year 2050 carried the shill ring of an alarm bell. But this concern about the submersion of a dominant white culture in America spiked prematurely in 2008 with the political rise of Obama. In researching the book , I spoke with many conservative voters who talked of their “discomfort” the first time they watched Obama speak on television, who said that in particular they were alarmed at the future president’s use of the specific word “transformation.” These voters were egged on by political “leaders” like vice presidential candidate Palin, who didn’t just voice traditional policies differences with the Democrat but accused him of ” palling around with terrorists .” It is no surprise that by mid-2009 I was hearing from the leader of the anti-Obama group, the Delaware 9-12 Patriots, that the 44th president of the United States “is absolutely not American” while his neighbors were screaming at town hall meetings: “I don’t want this flag to change. I want my country back !” These rank-and-file citizens were often echoing what they heard in a 24/7 right-wing media bubble of ratings-driven irresponsibility — outlandish neo-McCarthyite allegations that Obama had Commies and Maoists working in the West Wing, Glenn Beck’s notorious claim that the president has ” a deep-seated hatred of white people ” and, perhaps more tellingly, of “white culture,” and most recently radio’s Rush Limbaugh’s bizarre charge that Obama is probably the ” best anti-American president the country’s ever had .” In this paranoid environment, the president looked as much “the Other” as the day laborer Roberto Valdez in the Wal-Mart parking lot. High-employment and the destruction of the working class in America is increasingly demanding a scapegoat, and the right-wing media and an increasingly erratic GOP establishment is more than happy to direct people’s palpable anger down the economic ladder. The result is something like the most un-American piece of garbage legislation that most of us have seen in our lifetime — Arizona’s racial profiling law SB 1070, whose sponsors admit they were seeking to drive Mexican immigrants out of the Grand Canyon State in droves, which is exactly what is happening . But the modern-day American Diaspora is only the beginning. Once the Pandora’s box of emotion and rage against “the Other” has been opened so wide, it is almost impossible to close. Now the backers of Arizona’s hideous law want to rip apart the 14th Amendment — the one that ended slavery, once a high point of American history, especially for the extinct brand of Republican that drafted it — in order to prevent children of Mexican immigrants from becoming American citizens. The xenophobia has reached the point where a U.S. congressman took to the House floor — with zero supporting evidence — to charge that terrorists had a scheme to breed future U.S.-citizen bombers in maternity wards here. Which brings us to the present crisis: Mosques in America. It should tell you something that the backlash against Muslims practicing their faith in America is far greater in 2010 than it was in the months immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That’s because the political firestorm with its epicenter in lower Manhattan really has nothing to do with 9/11 or its aftermath and everything to do with “the Other,” and the awful forces and fears that have been unleashed in the last couple of years — fears that craven politicians like Gingrich, Palin and the formerly rational Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are eager to surf into the White House in 2013. If the Manhattan mosque controversy were really about our 9/11 sensibilities, how does one explain the opposition to other Islamic houses of worship from Tennessee to California to Staten Island ? America, we are in for the bumpy political ride of a lifetime. It will take enormous courage for defenders of two centuries of religious freedom and tolerance toward both religious and economic refugees to stand firm in the face of the kind of raw public anger and emotion that have caused backbone-impaired politicians like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or supposed progressive stalwart Howard Dean to wither in mere days. Our determined minority may be barely clinging to our cherished traditions — as best expressed by President George Washington in 1790 when he wrote : “the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens” — in the face of this onslaught for the next few years. Let’s face it: This country has long had its Know-Nothings and its Birchers and its McCarthyites, but it never had gizmos like Fox News or Sarah Palin’s Twitter feed to fuel toxic ideas so far so fast. It’s time we admit these seemingly disconnected battles over “anchor babies,” mosques, and a black man in the Oval Office are all part of the same war against “the Other,” and that we are in the fight of a lifetime. More on Barack Obama
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Will Bunch: It’s Not About the Mosque! It’s America’s War on ‘the Other’
Sarah Palin is offering words of encouragement to Dr. Laura Schlessinger through her Twitter account . Dr. Laura, as she’s known on her radio program, has come under fire in the past week for using the N-word eleven times while on the air with a caller to her show. She quickly apologized and then announced that she would end the program once her contract expires later this year. Palin, once the governor of Alaska and Republican nominee for vice president in 2008, has used social media to push her messages in recent months. Her latest offering comes out in support of Dr. Laura. Her first of two tweets on Wednesday night read: Dr.Laura:don’t retreat…reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence”isn’t American,not fair”) That was followed quickly with : Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America! More on Sarah Palin
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Sarah Palin Supports Dr. Laura Via Twitter: ‘don’t retreat … reload!’
In an interview late Wednesday, former DNC Chair Howard Dean reiterated his belief that the controversial “Ground Zero” mosque should be re-located, arguing that critics of his position were “guilty of” the same type of absolutism on the issue that they’ve accused Republicans of harboring. The former Governor of Vermont told the Huffington Post that he “stood by” the remarks he had made earlier in the day on WABC radio in which he called the mosque plan “a real affront to people who lost their lives [on 9/11].” But in a clarification of sorts, he stressed that he would not have a problem if the proposed Islamic cultural center ultimately ended up being built in the current location. “It won’t upset me,” Dean said, “except I think it is a missed opportunity to show some flexibility… I don’t believe all this nonsense the right wing is putting out about radicals and all that stuff. I take the congregation at its word that it is a moderate congregation trying to heal the wounds of 9/11. But the best way to heal the wounds is not to have a court battle, but to sit down and try to work things out.” As Dean explained, the purpose of the Ground Zero mosque — which is, in essence, to promote cross-cultural reconciliation — became irrevocably compromised once the controversy began bubbling around the project. This is no fault of the planners behind the Cordoba House, Dean acknowledged. Nor was there any debate that the constitution was on their side. But that didn’t nullify the argument that they would be better served to sit down with city and state officials to find an alternate site less objectionable the critics. “They don’t have to move,” Dean said. “But the fact of the matter is, for better or worse, since 9/11 this country has been badly divided — particularly by right wing politicians exploiting those divisions — and this is an opportunity to bring the country together.” Dean’s sentiments put him in, what surely seems like, rare political standing. The former DNC chair is not the first Democrat to oppose the current location for the Cordoba House. But he is the first critic to hail from the progressive community that, by and large, has viewed the debate over the mosque as a litmus test of sorts for a politician’s commitment to constitutional rights and religious tolerance. Indeed, when Dean’s viewpoints were broadcast, it was met with a mix of horror and anger from, what usually are, his chief defenders. “I’ve seen a lot of the comments about this and a lot of it is silly that I’m agreeing with Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich,” Dean said in response to the criticism. “That’s just silly. I don’t believe in race baiting…” “The battle lines have been drawn so firmly on every issue that when the right says ‘X’ the left has to take the opposite position,” he added. “This seems like one issue where if you have a congregation that wants to make things work and want to bring America back together again then why don’t you do that.”
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Dean Stands By Mosque Remarks, Charges Liberal Critics With Being Inflexible
We’re still counting votes in King County (mail-in ballots only had to be postmarked on primary day and they just count slowly here) but the winners and losers clearly emerged. So far, it appears that more people voted for a Republican in this primary than a Democrat, but primaries tend to skew Republican here. Sen. Patty Murray is holding at 46 percent in the top-two primary, with Rossi maintaining at about 37 percent. When all of King County finally gets into the mix, Murray’s total might inch a bit closer to the 50-percent mark, but Rossi’s, and all the money the NRSC is going to pour into the state, is going to make this a very real race. Teabagger Clint Didier, Palin’s endorsee, came in with 12 percent. Veteran Washington political reporter Joel Connelly analyzes the results : Murray was taking less than 50 percent of the state’s total vote. The vote counts for November opponent Dino Rossi and his two active Republican foes were inching pretty close to those of Murray. It is, therefore possible — possible, but not yet likely — for Rossi to execute what Gorton’s strategists used to describe as a “boa constrictor” strategy. Win — win big — all around the state and put the squeeze on the Democrats’ liberal heartland. That’s Slate Gorton Connelly is referencing, who executed that strategy against challenger Maria Cantwell in 2000 and lost. Murray and the Dems are going to have to figure out a way to close an enthusiasm gap Survey USA identified in polling released Aug. 12. Forty-one percent of Republicans were more enthused to vote this year compared with 22 percent of Dems. Again, the lack of competition on the Dem side of the ticket in the primary could be a factor, and enthusiasm could pick up among Dems really wanting to vote against Rossi again. There are few Republicans Dems in this state dislike more. Other federal races to watch in the state: WA-08, where Dave Reichert shockingly lost the endorsement of his old standby Seattle Times in a dual endorsement of his Dem challenger, Suzan DelBenne and a Republican, Tim Dillon. Not that the Times endorsment means that much, Dillon is getting a pathetic 5 percent. Reichert, however, has been held below 50 percent. Only one other incumbent, Rick Larsen in the 2nd district, has sub-50. WA-02 will pit Dem Larsen in a re-match with John Koster, who he narrowly beat in 2000. This appears to be the Palin crowd (she endorsed Koster) coming out in full force; this is a pretty solid Dem district. Finally, in the true swing district WA-03 that Brian Baird is leaving, Dem Denny Heck emerged as the top vote-getter, four points above Republican Jaime Herrera. Heck has a massive fundraising advantage that the NRCC will do its level best to erase. This open seat would be a key pick-up for Republicans.
Washington primary results
The US District Court decision on August 4, overturning California’s Proposition 8 and its ban on same sex marriages was a watershed moment for proponents of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Within hours of the landmark decision , pundits ranging from MSNBC’s liberal Rachel Maddow to Fox’s ultra-right wing Glenn Beck, began postulating that the ruling signaled a new “post-homophobic” era in America. Maddow, who among news anchors may well be America’s most trusted lesbian, led her show for the two nights after the decision with celebratory coverage of the ruling. She went so far as to taunt GOP leaders for being uncharacteristically quiet during the 24 hours after the US District Court decision. Speaking presumably to Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and John Boehner, among others, Maddow asked at the top of her August 5 program , “Where were the outraged Republicans? Where are you? You guys used to be so good at this.” At the same time, Glenn Beck, who is to liberal causes what “Mikey” was to breakfast foods in the 1970s Life cereal ads (”he hates everything”), turned heads by telling Fox’s Bill O’Reilly that “I don’t think marriage, that the government actually has anything to do with . . . [what] is a religious right,” and then added a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?” Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com In the wake of the decision, both sides held their breath as Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker gave opponents of the ruling six days to appeal it. On August 16, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals left in place Prop 8 and its same sex marriage ban in California, as the case winds its way through its appeal process toward the Supreme Court, where it may ultimately be decided. Depsite forcing Golden State gay and lesbian couples to put their nuptial plans on hold, this delay has one possible plus for same sex marriage proponents. Loyola Law School professor Richard Hasen told the LA Times , that “If this case takes another year to get to the U.S. Supreme Court, there could be more states that adopt same-sex marriage and more judicial opinions that reach that conclusion.” In fact, despite the dramatic victory in the federal court, the battle over same sex marriages in the US continues to rage at the state and local levels. Streak of “31 Straight Victories” Brought to an End Over the past decade, gay marriage opponents have racked up an impressive winning streak of 31 straight victories against no defeats when the issue of same sex marriages has been on the ballot in state elections. Loss number 31 was in Maine, on November 3, 2009, when voters repealed a law that had allowed gay unions. The 31-0 streak was brought to an abrupt end by Judge Walker’s Prop 8 decision. As recent events have been developing in San Francisco, filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson have been traveling the country with their feature documentary film, Out in the Silence . The film captures the remarkable chain of events starting with the announcement of their wedding, which ignited a firestorm of controversy in the small Pennsylvania hometown Wilson left long ago. The documentary tells the story of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights in rural America, and premiered at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, was broadcast on PBS stations across the country, and has been shown at over 400 community and school screenings accompanied by public discussions. Currently, Dean, who has worked for the past three decades at the National Institutes of Health, and received international attention after the journal “Science” published his research in 1993 that he had identified a “gay gene,” and Joe, a human rights activist and native of Oil City, Pennsylvania, where the documentary takes place, are traveling with the film through all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, a state that prohibits same sex marriage. The following is Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson’s “dispatch from the front” regarding the latest battle in America’s 2010 culture wars: Plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier at federal courthouse. “The images of the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case standing on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco during the trial, were typical of the now standard media portrayal of gay America: out, proud, comfortably middle class, living in a big city or suburb. But there is another side to gay America that is rarely seen. It takes place in conservative, often deeply religious small towns and rural communities where those who are found, or even perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, strive to fit in rather than to stand out. For these people coming out means risking their families, friends, jobs and livelihoods, their safety and at times even their very lives. Our documentary film, Out in the Silence focuses on the harrowing, ultimately successful battle waged by a 16 year-old gay student and his mother against recalcitrant school authorities when the teen was brutally gay bashed for courageously coming out at his rural high school. Filmmakers Hamer (L) and Wilson (R) in Oil City, Pennsylvania We’ve reached half of our goal of screening the film in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and most of the events have been greeted with enthusiasm. But in Coudersport, a town of 2,650 people along the northern border of the state, we received an email from Keturah Cappadonia, a town librarian just two days before the scheduled screening informing us that the event would have to be canceled. The reason, as the Harrisburg Patriot-News , later reported , was that ‘after several hours of people pointing their fingers in her face and telling her she was going to hell, Keturah Cappadonia cracked’ and was reduced to tears by the experience. The controversy resulted from, no surprise, an alliance between fundamentalist Christians and right-wing conservatives. Pastor Pete Tremblay of the Coudersport Free Methodist Church told a local news web site that the film was ‘designed to get people to give up their convictions based on the word of God and accept these practices as equivalent to God’s design for human sexuality. It is propaganda.’ Pastor Tremblay went on to request that people ‘ call the library…and in a Christian manner inform them that this event is not a benefit to our community, and ask that it be canceled.’ He was joined in his condemnation of the film by George Brown, president of the Potter County Tea Party, who said he was upset at having to be ‘attacked for our beliefs at a public library we support with our tax money. This is wrong and cannot be tolerated.’ Brown also told the web site that $1.5 million of local taxes was used to support the library (the actual number is $42,000), and went on to say that ‘Should this agenda be continued, we may need to ask if the library should be defunded.’ Diane Gramley, head of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania That appeared to be one threat over the line for the library board. Following a quick phone meeting, they unanimously decided that the screening would go ahead as originally planned and issued a public statement for the library patrons : The mission of any public library is to serve a diverse community with varying opinions about what is and is not objectionable material . . . We believe the library would fail in its mission if it did not provide information about ideas or topics that each of us might find uncomfortable at some level . . . American libraries are the cornerstone of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. And so two days later, on the evening of July 28, 2010, a standing room only crowd gathered in Coudersport’s public library, made up of mainstream members of the community along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual, transgender and cisgender, young, middle-aged and senior citizens, together with a goodly handful of reporters, all gathered together in a public place and ready to talk about a subject that had divided their community for far too long. As soon as the film was over, one of the opponents in the room quickly rose and read from a long list of objections to the film, including that ‘most homosexuals are very well off.’ Another spoke at length of his belief that homosexuality is against ‘ God’s word. ‘ But then, gradually, slowly and often in tears, the LGBT folks and their family members, friends and allies began to recount their personal experiences. A teenager described how he had been harassed at school when his classmates discovered his father was gay. ‘I didn’t understand why my friends turned their backs on me ,’ he said. ‘To accept everyone is the only way to go about living.’ Then the teen’s father - a local business owner, Episcopal Vestry member and former Republican Party Chair - spoke of the acceptance he has quietly gained over his 30 years in the town. Another young man, visibly nervous, publicly announced for the first time that he was proud to be both gay and Christian, even though his church had rejected him. That prompted a local minister to stand and announce that her church was supportive of LGBT people and would serve as a resource for those who wanted a welcoming spiritual home. When a woman with a small child in her arms offered to make a financial donation to the library to offset any losses due to the screening, she was greeted by a solid burst of applause. The topic of marriage equality was never even mentioned. But audience members did circulate a sign-up sheet for people who wanted to work with one another and Equality Partners of Western Pennsylvania to try and make Coudersport a more welcoming and tolerant place. By the time the event was over, the majority of the people in the room had signed up. While it was painful, even frightening to observe the open hostility of the handful of individuals who attempted to stop the meeting from occurring, and then to disrupt the conversation with angry diatribes and personal attacks, people in the community have told us that it was actually useful that it all took place in full light of day because it revealed the seriousness of the problems that LGBT people face, often alone and without any networks of personal or legal support in such an environment. The other screenings throughout Pennsylvania, which has a law on the books prohibiting same sex marriage, drew good crowds of local LGBT people and allies including educators, social workers and business owners, but only one minister showed up, in Emporium, PA. After watching the movie he took off his white collar and placed it in his shirt pocket. ‘ Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be associated with the clergy in this area, ‘ he said. ‘ My religion is about faith, not about hate .’ Visit the official “Out in The Silence” web site at Outinthesilence.com “Out in the Silence” can be seen On iTunes or purchased on Amazon . More on Gay Marriage
Bill Lichtenstein: Proposition 8 Dispatch From the Culture Wars Front
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and her leading Republican challenger emerged from their primary Tuesday and will face off again in November in a race that could be pivotal in the battle for control of the Senate. Murray and Republican Dino Rossi already have been campaigning against each other in anticipation of a fall matchup, and President Barack Obama came to the state Tuesday to bolster the Democrat’s candidacy. The two had coffee at a bakery with small business owners, and Obama urged Democrats to “send her back to Washington.” Obama’s presence shows how high the stakes are in the race. Republicans will likely need to oust Murray if they want take back control of the Senate. Rossi, a real estate investor who narrowly lost bids for governor in 2004 and 2008, has been attacking Murray over her efforts to bring home federal dollars at a time when the debt is soaring, and over her votes on the financial regulation bill. He declared Tuesday that he would put the nation’s capital on “a pork-free diet” if elected. Murray, who is fourth in Senate Democratic leadership, says her experience and clout make her the right candidate for the job, and she says Rossi’s opposition to financial regulation makes him “the best friend Wall Street and big banks can buy.” Washington was one of three states holding elections Tuesday. Former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead narrowly led state auditor and Sarah Palin-backed Rita Meyer in the GOP gubernatorial primary in Wyoming. The winner will be favored to win in November and help the GOP pick up a governor’s seat, with popular Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal stepping down after two terms. A normally quiet special legislative election along the California coast became a more prominent contest because a Democrat victory could have put the party within one vote of a two-thirds majority in the Senate that is needed to approve budgets and tax increases. Obama endorsed the Democrat, but the Republican won. In Washington, the Senate race was a “top two” primary, meaning the candidates with the highest vote totals move on to November. With about 59 percent of the expected vote counted, Murray had 46 percent of the vote, compared with Rossi’s 34 percent. GOP hopeful Clint Didier, a former tight end and Super Bowl winner for the Washington Redskins who has the backing of tea party activists and Palin, was running a distant third with 12 percent. The results show how close the race might be for Murray. The fact that an 18-year senator is not able to pull a majority of the vote shows her vulnerability, but she could gain ground in November when the Democratic base is more motivated than in a primary that was essentially a foregone conclusion. Murray said she has been underestimated “all my life. And that’s just fine, thank you.” She called the primary “really one step on the road to victory in November.” Murray has built a reputation as an underdog ever since she was told by a politician early in her career she was just “a mom in tennis shoes” who couldn’t amount to much. The quote inspired her to get into politics and has been her catch phrase in past campaigns. In Wyoming, Mead was clinging to a 714-vote lead out of 105,000 votes cast. The winner will face Wyoming Democratic Party chairwoman Leslie Petersen.
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Washington Senate Primary Results: Patty Murray, Dino Rossi To Square Off
Today the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a Commentary on the health effects of the Gulf oil spill that I wrote along with my colleague Sarah Janssen, who is also a physician and specialist in occupational and environmental medicine at UCSF and NRDC. Our goal was two-fold: (1) to help alert Gulf coast health care providers to the main issues they should be aware of in their communities; and (2) to try to learn from history by summarizing the existing science on oil spill health effects. The article is available free on the JAMA website in PDF form here . My colleagues and I have been working for months, collecting information and stories on the ground in the Gulf and also analyzing data from EPA, BP, NOAA, and other agencies as it becomes publicly available. We also exhaustively searched the existing scientific literature, including tracking down unpublished studies that might help shed light on what is going on in the Gulf. We identified four main health hazards associated with the oil spill: (1) vapors from oil chemicals and dispersants in the air, (2) skin damage from direct contact with tar balls or contaminated water, (3) potential cancer or other long-term health risks from consumption of contaminated seafood, and (4) mental health problems of depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior due to stress. One piece of good news is that the air quality is improving now that the hole is plugged, and we’re hoping that there will be no long-term respiratory effects, but it’s too soon to know that for sure. We are continuing to track and update air quality information for the Gulf coast each week here . Seafood safety is probably our biggest concern right now with the new fishery reopenings. The shrimp season opened today, and people want to know if it’s safe. I honestly don’t know if it’s safe or not, since the agencies haven’t been making all of their data public; the most serious concerns are for vulnerable populations like pregnant women, children, and subsistence fish consumers. We are submitting formal letters to NOAA and the FDA tomorrow asking for the FDA to fix flaws in its seafood risk assessment, and for NOAA and FDA to make all their data on seafood safety (not just some of it) publicly available. An unexpected finding from the research we did for the JAMA article was how little research had been done on prior oil spills. The scientific literature is downright threadbare in this important area. It’s essential that we get it right this time and do the necessary health studies to document any effects. Tomorrow, NIEHS will be announcing their ambitious Gulf Worker’s Study in a Webinar at noon Central time. That study will provide lots of information on short-term and possible long-term health issues. There are also plans for studies of pregnant women and children in Gulf coast communities. It is critical that these reasearch studies get done. We can’t squander the opportunity to learn some useful lessons from this Gulf disaster - let’s do the research and get the science and health information this time. I hope there will be no ‘next time’, but if there is, we need to be prepared. More on Gas & Oil
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Gina Solomon: Health Effects of the Gulf Oil Spill: JAMA Commentary
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m standing with Sarah Palin against the Burlington Coat Factory Mosque (BCFM), aka the Ground Zero Mosque, located two blocks from Ground Zero. Now, I don’t want you to jump to conclusions. Please, hear me out. You’ll see that I’m right. My problem with the BCFM is not that it’s two blocks from Ground Zero. It’s that it’s even closer — one short block — from the New York Dolls Gentleman’s Club ( NSFW link ). Here’s a picture: Just one of the many establishments the BCFM puts at risk It’s not that I’m a bigot. It’s just that I know that if the BCFM becomes reality, all the dancers at NY Dolls will end up being forced to wear burkas. And really, what good is a strip club if all the strippers are in burkas? Don’t you think Wall Street executives unwinding after hard morning’s work deserve to see some flesh if they pay for a lap dance? And that’s not even the biggest problem: if the dancer is in a burka, how will the customer really know it’s a woman underneath the cloth? This is one place where Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell just won’t cut it! So please, stand with me. Stand with Sarah. Stand up with one voice and demand BCFM find another place to go. Your nation is counting on you.
Why I am against the Burlington Coat Factory Mosque
Ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is endorsing Republican Sharron Angle in her fight to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, the Daily Caller reports . Chuck Heath, the brother of Palin, signaled to the news site that his sister intends to “actively help” the Tea Party-backed contender in her electoral fight. The Daily Caller writes : “She’s got GUTS and is putting up with more crap than she deserves because the libs don’t know what to do with her and the support she has,” Palin said in a email provided to TheDC by Heath. While Palin has not yet formally endorsed Angle in public before now, she said her support was offered to the Angle campaign when she recently made a donation to her. According to a Washington Post project tracking endorsements made by Palin this election season, Angle is the fifteenth female candidate running for office the one-time Alaska leader has thrown her support behind to date. While Palin has not yet formally announced her backing of Angle’s campaign, news of the endorsement should come as welcome news for the Senate hopeful. Since winning the Republican nomination to take on Reid, Angle’s political operation has hit a fair number of speed bumps, which include repeated media-related gaffes and flare-ups related to her controversial views . While it can be expected that Angle will seek to leverage Palin’s conservative cred to score points with voters, it seems likely that Reid’s camp could also aim to capitalize off of the ex-Governor’s seal of approval. The latest poll numbers out on Nevada’s Senate race reveal the election fight to be developing into an extremely heated match-up. More on 2010 Elections
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Sarah Palin Endorses Sharron Angle In Nevada Race: ‘She’s Got GUTS’
The MSNBC documentary series Lock Up ran a story earlier this month about a Maricopa County Jail inmate charged with identity theft named Cecil Kunkel . The 29-year-old Kunkel has a swastika tattooed on top of his “skinhead.” He’s covered in “white power” slogans and imagery. The only ink-free spot on him is an empty space in the shape of another swastika over his heart. The crew first finds him spending time in the hole as disciplinary action for refusing to house with black inmates. When asked why he refuses, Kunkel says, “Because it’s wrong…nothing personal - it’s just the way it is.” In the next scene Kunkel is caught on camera beating an African-American inmate who is, of course, smaller than himself. Filmmakers for the series interview a close family friend of Kunkel’s, also locked up in Maricopa County. When asked about Kunkel by the producer, the self-proclaimed cousin offers, “He’s not a racist.” Yes, here is Kunkel - being documented on national television proudly boasting about being a criminal, who has more Nazi ink than a copy of Mein Kampf - and the person closest to him doesn’t want Kunkel to be vilified by the term “racist.” The whole conversation about race has turned into a rigged game of Whac-a-Mole where every time you hit a mole with your tethered mallet, the mole declares, “I’m not actually a mole, and how dare you use such a horrible label to describe me and my mole-like actions, appearance and affiliations.” Denying racism while being overtly racist isn’t a new thing. In the hilarious 2001 book , Them: Adventures with Extremists , British journalist Jon Ronson spends time with the KKK during their attempted image makeover. Not using the “n-word” was part of the New and Improved Klan. Yes, the Klan wants you to know it’s no longer anti-non-whites…just very pro-hood. Making a living promoting a fictional idealized version of 1950’s morality while having saucy nudie pics on the Internet, Dr. Laura Schlessinger last week felt she suddenly needed to move us all forward about how an affluent white woman should be able to use the “n-word” with impunity. Dr. Laura said the slur on her syndicated radio show - some 11 times . Then the melba toast ideologue decided to become the arbiter of what’s funny and said to the caller, the black wife of a bi-racial couple, “If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry outside of your race!” After taking such a definitive stand, Dr. Laura apologized the next day. See, she’s not a racist. Racial agitator Andrew Breitbart is best known for promoting the heavily edited Sherry Sharrod video to show, according to him, the racism of the NAACP. That ordeal resulted in the firing of Sharrod from the USDA followed by the discrediting of Breitbart after the complete unedited video was released. And guess what? Breitbart is also not a racist. Sure, almost every one of his slanted stunts, including the one that brought down the community organizing group ACORN, targets black people - but that’s just a coincidence. How dare you imply race has something to do with it - such a horrible slight! The right-wing is now frothing at the mouth over a Muslim community center within walking distance (as are most things in lower Manhattan, including a couple of existing mosques) from where the Twin Towers used to stand. President George W. Bush at least gave lip service to the Muslim community’s being “peaceful,” but now he’s an embarrassment. So the GOP thinks they really have a winner in denouncing and ” refudiating ” American Muslims with their goals of occupying buildings. The subtext is that all Muslims are terrorists. This goes along nicely with Republican leaders attempting to make all Latinos into job-stealing, people-beheading, baby-dropping threats to national security. If you whittle down enough groups of people, you do eventually make a point. A pointed neo-Republican talking point. But the GOP isn’t racist. Yes - hatred, intolerance and discrimination based on race are no longer racist. So surprisingly, the next wave of the Nixon-founded Southern Strategy is no longer “racist.” Pandering to our darkest fears about “the others” coming to our side of the island to kill us is, also, officially no longer racist. Perhaps the term “post-racial society” is a typo. What they mean is “post-racist.” Racism no longer exists because the word for it is too offensive to those who practice it. Nice twist. More on Immigration
Tina Dupuy: Living in a ‘Post-Racist’ Society
Billionaire Republican Meg Whitman, still trying to gain traction in her bid to beat Jerry Brown and succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as California’s governor despite already having smashed all non-presidential campaign spending records in American history, rests her campaign on her reputation as a corporate CEO. Since she didn’t bother to vote and was never involved in public affairs before deciding to start as governor of a state she moved to in the late ’90s, it’s all she has. Absent that, she is nothing more than an assertion of ambition and creation of paid advertising. Californians have been inundated with ads since last fall extolling Whitman’s purported expertise as the former CEO of eBay, the online auction company, and other business credentials. With her negative ads coming up short against Brown, Whitman relaunched her imagineering efforts anew … with a TV ad telling us she did a great job at eBay. But did she, really? Or did she actually do what she claims politicians do, i.e., disastrously expand into areas she knew nothing about, jack up overhead, take far more in personal pay and perks, and repeatedly hike fees (read: taxes) on eBay sellers? Let’s look at what Whitman did with her earlier harsh realm. (”Harsh Realm” being inspired, of course, by Whitman’s married name of Mrs. Harsh and her constant depiction by the California Nurses Association as Queen Meg, as well as the short-lived series from X-Files creator Chris Carter.) Some business magazines have said that Whitman was a great CEO. But business magazines have been notorious for their lavish praise of CEO culture and lifestyle, and for anointing executives who turned out to be terrible. It’s part of the myth of the CEO in politics, that a tough corporate manager is what is needed for a good governor or president. Though Whitman, notorious for her temper at eBay — and a reported $200,000 settlement of charges after shoving an employee — has the tough part down, the reality is that corporate CEOs seldom work out as governmental leaders. But how good, really, was Whitman in her two CEO jobs, at eBay and FTD? The record is far more mixed than the endless commercials claim, and in her final years at the mature eBay was quite poor. For starters, Whitman never talks about her brief stint at the helm of FTD, the nation’s leading floral delivery service. That’s because it didn’t go well at all, ending not long after she was forced to settle an age discrimination suit. What about the CEO job everyone has heard about, in endless TV and radio ads, not to mention millions of dollars in direct mail and Internet advertising? Well, like her other CEO job, the one at the floral delivery company, Whitman exited her job at the online auction house not long after expensively settling charges against her, in the aforementioned shoving incident. That’s the one in which she grew infuriated with a PR woman who was trying to prepare her for a wire service interview about online avatars, lightweight stuff compared to most anything, much less what a governor of California has to deal with. But before her now clearly ignominious fade-out at eBay (Whitman successfully hid the shoving incident and expensive settlement until the New York Times revealed it earlier this year), Whitman had a great run followed by a disastrous run. We have all heard about the great run, eBay built from a small company when she arrived — contrary to what many imply on her behalf — eBay was not her idea, she didn’t start the company, and it was already on the road to success when she arrived, which is how they were able to pay her well in the first place. eBay grew with the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and early part of the last decade. Unlike most dot-com companies, it stuck around. After all, it had a very logical niche, that of providing a platform for people to sell their things on the Internet. It didn’t create products, it provided a stable marketplace. What eBay had needed in its growth phase was an experienced corporate marketer to manage things, to make it the main online place for folks to sell their stuff. And in Meg Whitman, that’s exactly what eBay got. But once the dot-com wave had washed over the country, with Internet use firmly established as a fundamental key to life in an advanced industrial society, things did not go nearly so well. There are some very inconvenient facts about Whitman’s eBay leadership the last few years before she left the building, while, ironically, some business magazines were touting her as a great corporate executive. Whitman really doesn’t like to talk about her last three years as eBay’s CEO. (She formally exited in 2008, becoming national co-chair of John McCain’s presidential campaign against Barack Obama in early spring, but was mostly out the door in late 2007, already the national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and actively exploring a gubernatorial campaign.) In 2005, 2006, and 2007, eBay lost nearly half its value. Whitman, eager to keep growing eBay’s revenues, thus making herself the head of a bigger company, made a number of bad acquisitions and strategic decisions. Whitman’s purchase of Skype, the Internet telephony service, and her move into China were outright debacles. But eBay maintained revenue growth through these acquisitions. And by hiking fees on eBay sellers — the real entrepreneurs in the eBay story, without whom there is no story at all — a half-dozen times. Let’s see, doesn’t that sound exactly like Whitman’s criticism of state government? Always expanding into areas beyond its core competence, and always raising taxes? Why, yes, it does. According to investment banker and columnist Eric Jackson, writing in TheStreet.com on September 30, 2009: “Whitman promoted a drunken-sailor approach to acquisitions, always overpaying and making little effort to stitch them together. A culmination was the $4.1 billion purchase of Skype in 2005 (including all payouts), in which she took an auction and e-commerce site into the phone business. Potentially more damaging in the long-run for eBay than overpaying was that Whitman didn’t get the intellectual property associated with Skype. This has allowed Skype’s founders to now come back and sue eBay for trying to unload the property recently at a valuation of $2.75 billion.” As other observers have noted, Whitman’s personal compensation increased dramatically while eBay’s market value tanked and eBay sellers were charged more. “Based on my review of the company’s SEC proxy filings,” wrote Jackson, “it appears that there were two big clues for investors that suggested, between 2005 and 2008, Whitman’s interest had drifted away from increasing the stock price of eBay to increasing her cash compensation and perks. Had anyone seen these clues — and, interestingly, perhaps Skoll did as he liquidated his entire eBay stake in 2006 — they might have pulled the ripcord on owning the stock in 2006 or 2007 when it was trading at $35, before the bottom fell out in the stock and it hit its nadir below $10 this past March. The first big clue that Whitman’s eye was no longer on the ball as CEO had to do with her total annual compensation spiking in the last two full years of her tenure, even as eBay’s stock price continued to decline. Peaking at $58 at the start of 2005, eBay’s stock price dropped 43% over the next three years. Over that same period, Whitman’s total annual compensation almost quintupled to $13.9 million from $2.9 million.” In addition to paying herself a lot more while the company did a lot worse, Whitman developed a great love for private jets. In fact, few if any Silicon Valley executives rivaled Whitman in private jet usage. “The second big clue that Whitman,” as Jackson notes, “was no longer as focused on eBay’s fortunes in her final four years as CEO was the amount of time she spent flying around the world on personal business in eBay’s corporate jet, which was paid for by eBay shareholders. As the chart below illustrates, eBay’s compensation committee (again perhaps indirectly linked to Tierney’s arrival) went from a practice of not granting Whitman any personal air travel on the corporate jet paid by the shareholders to almost $1 million a year in her final two full years on the job. That $1 million includes tax gross-ups, meaning shareholders also paid Whitman’s taxes on the benefit she received of making all those flights instead of the billionaire paying her taxes herself. These two years of lavish perks coincided with a time when eBay’s stock dropped 22%, even though Nasdaq was up 17% in the same period.” So how’s Whitman’s latest venture, the proposed acquisition of the governorship of California, going? Well, it certainly has all the hallmarks of her late eBay tenure — massive spending, huge overhead, and a candidate who views the folks below her from 30,000 feet. As I’ve been writing and saying since the June 8th primary, she is gaining remarkably little traction for all her massive campaign spending, now well north of $110 million, making hers the biggest spending non-presidential campaign in American history. Her plan was to be as much as 15 points ahead of Jerry Brown by this point, hopefully far enough ahead to prevent Brown from mounting a post-Labor Day comeback. Whitman has been spending a few million per week on advertising, while Brown has spent nothing. But the McCain/Palin national campaign co-chair hasn’t gotten that huge lead she and her strategists believed she needed, and would get during this period between the primary and the start of Labor Day weekend. In fact, she has no lead at all. In fact, she is very slightly behind Brown. So earlier this month, she tried to reboot her image by running a positive TV ad telling people she was the great CEO of eBay. It’s an old message. She’s already runs countless ads around the state telling people this. Everyone she knows she was at eBay, which, after all, is not a company that cured cancer, invented the Internet, or won a war. But I did get a very nice second-hand jacket on it, as well as some long-sought CDs. Besides trying to restart her advertising campaign, Whitman’s troops are trying to downplay her incredible spending, most of it from her stock market-derived personal fortune. (Her old friends at Goldman Sachs, where she served so controversially on the board, helped her out with favorable stock analyses back in the day when she was cashing in shares to form her fortune.) Whitman’s highly-paid minions are saying her record-shattering spending makes her independent, while Brown will be totally beholden to unions providing the bulk of funds for independent expenditure (IE) outfits like California Working Families and Working Californians. Which the on the one hand/on the other hand drones of Post-Press Era journalism dutifully report. The reality, however, is that Whitman is heavily outspending these operations. And when Brown himself goes on the air, he will outspend their efforts as well. So while the IE efforts are helpful to Brown, they will end up as the minority of spending on his behalf. Indeed, what is actually quite striking about this is that, while the IEs were dark for a few weeks on English-language television, Whitman’s unfavorables continued to rise. This was noted in both Democratic and Republican private polling, with a prominent GOP consultant marveling to me last week about how Whitman is suffering under the weight of her own efforts. The other area where Whitman seeks to turn a negative into a plus is in the matter of the wildly overcompensated local elected officials of the tiny LA area city of Bell. With the story broken by the LA Times, Brown has been all over it as California’s attorney general, earning publicity in the process that Whitman can only dream of. So he campaign has taken to the false charge of claiming that Brown presided over a Bell of his own in Oakland. In reality, a number of firefighters became highly-paid during his tenure there. There is nothing on the scale of Bell, as Whitman undoubtedly knows. Worse for Whitman, Brown last week trumped her criticism of him by forming a joint investigation of Bell with LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley. Cooley is not only a Republican; he’s the Republican nominee for state attorney general. The fact that a member of Whitman’s supposed ticket is working closely with Brown on the issue will make it very hard for her to criticize the wily Brown, who has very good relationships with most of the state’s prosecutors and law enforcement officials. You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes … www.newwestnotes.com. More on California Governor Race
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William Bradley: Harsh Realm: Meg Whitman and the CEO Myth
The Daily Dish catches a perfect example of Sarah Palin-inspired media management tactics in action: “[Your producers] did not tell me that you were going to grill me for this specific information that I was not ready to give to you tonight,” - Texas representative Debbie Riddle, upset that Anderson Cooper dared to ask her for any evidence behind her claims that “terror babies” exist. More than I’ve ever seen before, Republican politicians seem to believe they have a God-given right to know exactly what questions they’ll be asked when they do interviews. They seem to think that a reporter is biased if he or she asks them any question for which they do not have a snappy, Palin/Twitteresque answer. So they hope to control the media, using Palin’s tactics of attacking the people asking them the questions that they don’t want to answer. Certainly part of the reason they don’t like challenging questions is that frequently they aren’t all that bright (see Palin, Ken Buck, or Sharron Angle.) But a bigger part of it is that their views really are out-of-step with most Americans and when asked about them in uncontrolled settings — basically, outside the bubble — things tend to go very wrong for them. Just ask Rand Paul about his Rachel Maddow interview. But as bad as it looks when they publicly talk about stuff that they want to keep inside the bubble, they know it would look like they were hiding something if they did no interviews at all. So what you end up with is a bunch of candidates who try to set rules with reporters to make it appear that they are being open, when they really have no intention of being so. The rules aren’t exact, and they are ever-changing, but they come down to this one goal: these candidates no longer just care about staying on message. When they talk in public they want to stay outside the bubble. The last thing they can afford to do is to say anything that reveals them to be inspired by Sarah Palin looniness. Unfortunately for them, you can’t always get what you want. Yet, they still try. And the results can be downright hilarious.
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Staying inside the GOP bubble (or at least trying)
The “Ground Zero Mosque” is many things, but it is neither at ground zero nor is it really a mosque. So argued Keith Olbermann during Monday night’s edition of “Countdown” on MSNBC. In a Special Comment lasting twelve minutes, the commentator ripped into the case being made by critics of the Cordoba House. The proposed Muslim community center would be located two blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed on September 11, 2001 by Islamist extremists. The thought of building the new facility — which would include a two-story prayer center — so close to the site of America’s worst terrorist attack, one perpetrated by followers of Islam, has been unsettling to a wide range of public figures, from Sarah Palin to Harry Reid. But it has also inspired people like Olbermann and others who hope to encourage religious worship that doesn’t resemble the extremism behind al Qaeda. Olbermann opened his monologue by reciting from ” First They Came… ,” a poem that many attribute to Martin NiemÃ¶ller. He went on to question Newt Gingrich’s grasp of history and the significance of Cordoba, Spain. And he didn’t exactly stop there. WATCH: More on Keith Olbermann
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Olbermann: There Is No ‘Ground Zero Mosque’
I was on vacation last week, but nearly interrupted it when I saw the press release from D.C. public relations firm Clarus, touting the results of its new survey. “PALIN SUPPORT FOR GOP NOMINATION SINKS,” the headline blared, followed by this lead paragraph: A new nationwide survey of Republican voters finds that support for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to win the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination has fallen by one-third since March, sliding from 18 points to 12 points. Palin is now running in fourth place for the nomination behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The release has several lessons to teach us about how to best interpret horse race polling. First, the headline struck me as overly dramatic, especially when I checked the methodology. The survey, conducted from July 26-27, interviewed just 374 “registered voters nationwide who self-identified as Republicans or as Independents who lean Republican,” yielding a reported margin of sampling error of +/- 5%. The March survey interviewed 415 Republicans or Republican leaners, so the margin of error would have been roughly the same. It’s not hard to do the math on that. Eighteen percentage points minus five (or 13%) is less than 12 percentage points plus five (17%). So I assumed, at first glance, that the much heralded drop in Palin’s support was not statistically significant. Problem is, the margin of error is a little more complicated than my quick arithmetic. While the references at the bottom of news articles and press releases rarely explain it, the margin of error gets smaller as a given result gets closer to zero or one hundred percent (explained in more detail here ). In this case the sampling error probably shrinks just enough to make 18% and 12% “significantly” different had the two questions asked in March and July been identical (and I say “probably” because without knowing how severely Clarus weighted their samples, I can’t calculate the precise margins of error). And that brings me to the second lesson: The margin of error tells us nothing about what happens when the pollster changes the question, which Clarus did here in two important ways. First, in March Clarus asked Republicans to choose among seven potential candidates: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush, John Thune, and Mitch Daniels. Last month, they presented nine choices. They dropped Bush (who received 8%) and added Lamar Alexander, Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty (who received a combined 8%). So was the apparent change in Palin’s support about a decline in her support, or were Barbour, Pawlenty and Alexander collectively more attractive to some potential Palin supporters than Jeb Bush? Equally important, Clarus changed the root question. In March, they asked Republicans which candidate they “would now most likely favor.” On the more recent survey, they asked which they would favor “if you had to vote today.” Is it a coincidence that the undecided percentage grew by five points (from 10% to 15%) when respondents were pressed how they would have to vote “today?” I think not. We might also consider the results of other polls. CNN, which has asked an identical Republican preference question three times this year, shows Palin with exactly the same support a week ago (18%) as in March (18%). A new PPP survey released just this afternoon finds essentially the same result. Also, a dozen or so national pollsters have been asking national samples of adults or registered voters to rate Palin (favorably or unfavorably), and our chart shows no consistent pattern in their measurements over the course of 2010 (click on the individual black and red dots on the interactive chart below to see the trends of individual pollsters). And finally, there is a lesson about the value of this sort of horse race question, especially when asked at this stage of the contest. What they tell us about the Republican nomination race shaping up for 2012 is that none of the potential candidates — not Palin, Romney, Gingrich nor Huckabee — are the sort dominant front runner likely to begin with a huge advantage based on early name recognition or support. The same was true at this point four years ago when polls showed Rudy Guiliani as the “front runner” in early trial heat questions. Those early “leads” turned out to be meaningless as the real races in the early primary states got underway. Over the weekend, Kevin Madden, the former press secretary to Mitt Romney during the 2008 campaign, tweeted that “2012 horserace polls are like pre-season football: Fun to watch for a few minutes until you realize they don’t matter.” That’s about right. More on Sarah Palin
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Palin Sinking In 2012? Picking Apart The Latest Horse Race Poll
Despite polling that shows most Americans — including Democrats and even many liberals — oppose building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, Republicans are making a big mistake in building their fall campaign around the issue, in the process handing Democrats a big opportunity. GOPers obviously believe that the symbolism of the mosque issue makes it ripe of exploitation. And it might be true that the mosque is the best issue they’ve got going for them, even if the public debate about it has been fueled by bigotry and false characterizations of the proposal. Nonetheless, their decision to exploit it says more about the fundamental weakness of GOP than it does about their political prowess. Here’s why: the mosque issue is far less important than the economy, and every moment that the GOP spends focusing its message on the mosque provides Democrats with the chance to point out that Republicans are fundamentally unserious about doing what it takes to get the economy going again. Every poll shows the economy is priority #1, #2, and #3, yet Republicans haven’t offered a single economic plan other than to do nothing. In Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) own words : I think the best thing we can do in Washington at this time is really just to calm down and quit changing sweeping — making sweeping changes. … the best thing we can do is just calm down, to really let people’s balance sheets sort of get back where they need to be. That will stimulate demand over time. Not only do they support doing nothing, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says that despite the GOP’s record use of the filibuster, he wishes that that GOP had managed to block Democrats on even more policies: “I am amused with their comments about obstructionism,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview. “I wish we had been able to obstruct more. They were able to get the health care bill through. They were able to get the stimulus through. They were able to get the financial reform through. These were all major pieces of legislation, and if I would have had enough votes to stop them, I would have.” Of course, it’s possible Republicans have a secret agenda for the economy, but if so it’s likely to consist of nothing more than slashing Social Security, further reducing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, and getting rid of any regulations keeping corporate America honest. And if that’s their agenda, it’s understandable they don’t want to say it out loud. What we’re left with is a Republican Party that hasn’t found the time to offer an economic plan but has somehow found all the time in the world to deliver very specific ideas and commentary on the proposed mosque two blocks from ground zero. It’s telling that this is the debate Republicans want to have — where a mosque should be built, instead of how to revive our economy. The reason couldn’t be more clear — they don’t believe they can deliver a winning message on the economy. So instead, they want to talk about what parts of the country should be “mosque exclusion zones.” It’s entirely cynical, it’s entirely political, and it demonstrates the fact that they believe Americans really aren’t smart enough to figure out what’s going on here. To borrow a phrase used by my dad to explain McCain’s selection of Palin, Republicans exploiting the mosque issue are like Gollum drawn to the ring, unable to restrain themselves from seeking power at all costs, even if they know better. But the American people are smart enough to figure out what’s going on, and that’s where the opportunity is for Democrats. Instead of chickening out like Harry Reid, Democrats should take the principled position of President Obama while simultaneously pointing out that the reason the GOP is trying to change the topic is because they don’t want to talk about their plans — or lack of them — for the economy. The choice Democrats should put to the voters is this: Democrats are focused on the economy: Democrats want more federal policies that will strengthen the economic recovery and job market, and they don’t think the federal government has any business picking and choosing which religions are acceptable. The Democratic Party’s top priority is helping the private sector — including small businesses — put people back to work. Meanwhile, Republicans are focused on a mosque: The Republicans top priority is to incite a national argument about a mosque, avoiding saying anything at all about the economy. They want the federal government to get involved with the decision over where mosques should be built, but when it comes to delivering a boost to people who can’t find work, Republicans draw the line. They think it’s fine for the Federal government to get involved in local religious issues, but it shouldn’t do a damn thing to help the national economy. That’s a winning frame for Democrats. Hopefully, Dems recognize that Republicans have stepped into a trap by ignoring the most important issue facing the country and take full advantage of it. This is an opportunity to go on offense, not defense. It’s jujitsu time.
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It’s jujitsu time on the mosque "issue"
So Harry Reid has waded right into the middle of the “Ground Zero mosque” debate…and expressed his view that the mosque should be located somewhere else. Paradoxically, he also asserts that the First Amendment protects the right of not just American Muslims but every American of every faith to build houses of worship wherever local authorities have deemed it appropriate to build such institutions. Greg Sargent: Harry Reid is breaking with the President, claiming that while he respects freedom of religion, he’s not willing to defend the right of Muslims to build an Islamc center where they so choose, if the site in question is near Ground Zero. Specifically, Reid’s spokesman says, he thinks it should be built “some place else.” From Reid spokesman Jim Manley: The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else. If the Republicans are being sincere, they would help us pass this long overdue bill to help the first responders whose health and livelihoods have been devastated because of their bravery on 911, rather than continuing to block this much-needed legislation. So on the one hand, Harry Reid says the First Amendment protects religious groups from government intervention in matters of faith. And on the other hand, Harry Reid is using his influence as the majority leader of one of the two chambers of our nation’s legislative branch to intervene in a matter of faith. I don’t care what Harry Reid’s personal opinion is, but for him to weigh on this in his capacity as majority leader violates the fundamental principle of the First Amendment, that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing which faiths ought to be preferred over others. Even if his view has nothing to do with politics — and given that his election is coming up in less than three months, it’s hard to believe that — Reid was wrong to weigh in. It’s one thing when local politicians express their views, but Reid has no business inserting himself here. Can you imagine how angry he would be if Sarah Palin said that the Clark County Commission was wrong to allow a Mormon Tabernacle to built within a certain distance from a strip club or brothel or casino in Nevada? He’d be mad, and justifiably so. Unfortunately, instead of embracing the principled position adopted by President Obama over the weekend, Reid has now put himself in the position of picking winners and losers in religion. And that’s someplace that no public official should ever want to be.
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From chickens for checkups to just plain chicken
Editor’s note: There is a great Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days in the month of Elul to study and prepare for the coming high holy days. The time is supposed to challenge us to use each day as an opportunity for growth and discovery. On each of the 29 days of Elul, performer Craig Taubman posts a “jewel,” or story, from some of today’s most celebrated visionaries. Past contributors include President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, Sarah Lefton, Eli Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, Ruth Messinger, and Jeffrey Katzenberg — among many others. Today’s reflection comes from Lady Gaga: It’s hard to believe that G-d hasn’t been watching out for me when I’ve had so many obstacles with drugs, rejection and people not believing in me. It’s been a long and continuous road. But it’s hard to just chalk it all up to myself. I have to believe there’s something greater than myself. Lady Gaga, an American recording artist, has sold over 15 million albums and over 40 million singles worldwide ( www.ladygaga.com ). If Question: If you had to name the number-one motivating force driving your life forward, what would it be? More on Lady Gaga
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The Thing Greater Than Me: A ‘Jewel of Elul’ By Lady Gaga
A trove of more than 90 thousand documents released by the self-proclaimed whistle-blower Wikileaks offers a grim picture of the latest US foray into the Middle East - one that senior White House officials knew would likely end up in failure: Sex and the City 2. The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from June 1998 through May 2010 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the successful 2004 completion of the popular television series, producers refused to give up on the Sex and the City franchise even while opposition to it increased exponentially with the 2008 release of the first Sex and the City movie. Sex and the City 2 , released in May 2010, brings to the screen the now familiar gal-pals, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, who are flown on an all-expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi by an Arab sheikh. Culture clashes ensue. “Frankly, since the movie was already a critical failure back in May, we thought we dodged a bullet,” said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject. “The fact that Wikileaks released these documents means someone simply wants to embarrass the Warner Brothers, HBO, and the White House.” The reports — some spare summaries and others more detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the Sex and the City 2 production that pointed toward almost certain failure: - Grossly oversimplified stereotypes would be inflicted upon civilians not just in US movie theaters, but around the world. “The bitch, the slut, the princess, and the everywoman - forming a circle of friendship unlikely to sustain itself in real life — these are stereotypes that might have had some traction in the late 90’s, but are long since past their sell-by date,” said one report. - Those stereotypes would only be amplified in a Middle Eastern setting. “Of course they have to ride camels,” said one classified document. “Of course most Muslim men are portrayed as thugs, while Muslim women are all simply closeted Manhattanites.” - Obscene displays of conspicuous consumption far outweighed concerns related to narrative flow, plot development and character growth. “This is what happens when power is taken out of the hands of the American movie-goer and put into the hands of those who benefit from product placement,” said another secret document. “It’s the rise of the fashion-industrial complex.” The hugely popular Sex and the City television series starred Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall - all hailed for their portrayals of modern women in a post-feminist landscape. The series, which ran from 1998 until 2004, was nominated for 50 Emmy awards, winning seven times. The Sex and the City movie, released in 2008 - and focusing on the married lives of the characters - faced lackluster reviews. While not directly involved in the production of Sex and the City 2 , White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says President Obama “is owning up to the responsibility” of what the US “foisted” upon its allies, the emirate of Abu Dhabi (UAE), where major segments of the film are set, and Morocco - where the movie was actually shot. “These documents simply highlight what the President has been saying since the campaign,” Mr. Gibbs said in a White House briefing, “Not every superhero, not every theme park ride, and not every tv series needs to be made into a film - or a sequel.” More on Fashion
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MP Nunan: Wikileaks: Sex and the City Edition - Another Failed US Foray into the Middle East
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston have reached a custody agreement for their toddler son, Tripp. The 19-year-old daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin earlier this month called off her re-engagement to the 20-year-old Johnston. On Friday, Palin family attorney Thomas Van Flein confirmed a report that the couple have agreed on custody. He says Palin gets primary physical custody of the little boy and they share legal custody, subject to her resolution if they can’t agree. The lawyer adds that Johnston gets visitation on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Van Flein says Johnston will pay child support based on anticipated earnings of $72,000 per year. A report of the agreement appeared on TMZ.com. The couple broke off their first engagement soon after Tripp was born in December 2008. More on Levi Johnston
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Bristol, Levi Custody Deal Reached On Son Tripp
Happy Friday the Thirteenth, everyone. It’s actually a fitting day for this column, which I’ll explain in a bit. Because before we get to that, we simply must begin our column the way we do every week here, which is to call for the abolition of the Pentagon. Yes, as we’ve done consistently for the past 133 weeks, we demand that the Defense Department’s budget be zeroed out entirely. Oh, and also that we immediately adopt a Canadian-style health care system. Can’t forget that, as we’ve been railing about it for ever since Friday Talking Points, Volume One. And lest we forget, President Obama is nothing more than George W. Bush’s third term. As I said, none of this will come as any surprise to faithful readers, since we’ve been saying this sort of thing all along, ever since we were massively disappointed that Dennis Kucinich didn’t win the presidency. Now, you’ll have to excuse us, as we’re late for our drug test. What’s that? This column has never said any of that, you say? Well, if that’s true, it must be news to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who took the entire “professional left” to task this week for doing exactly that. He later narrowed this down to folks on “cable news,” so I guess the Lefty Blogosphere is off the hook. Since, as fellow Huffington Post blogger Matt Osborne is fond of saying, “I’m still waiting for my first check from George Soros,” I would likely only qualify for the “semi-pro left” or perhaps “triple-A minor league left” anyway, so I guess I’m not even included in Gibbs’ sentiments. Whew! Seriously, this was such a stupid thing to do less than three months from the election, that it must have been intentionally planned — which is the truly scary thing about the entire fracas. Picture Obama and his top advisors sitting around the Oval Office last week, scratching their heads over why Democratic voters don’t seem very enthused to go out and vote this year (as opposed to Republican voters who are positively chomping at the bit to cast their midterm votes). “Why are the president’s approval ratings so low?” the advisors wonder. “What can we do to make it better?” And then some bright spark decides that what Obama really needs is to woo independents and centrists back. And the easy way to do this is to pick up a two-by-four and beat the Left over the head, once again. Yeah, sure, that’s the ticket! Sigh. As I wrote Wednesday, “With Friends Like These….” Which brings us back to Friday the Thirteenth. Why is thirteen a “bad luck” number, and why is Friday particularly bad luck? Why are American buildings (many of them, at any rate) constructed with no thirteenth floor, instead jumping from “12″ to “14″ on the elevator buttons? Why are there traditionally thirteen steps to the gallows? Two words: Judas Iscariot. You see, Jesus Christ had a band of followers. There were twelve of them. Together with Jesus, this made thirteen — which, quite obviously, turned out to be a bad luck number for him. In other words, one of Jesus’ loyal followers betrayed him, leading to his downfall. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to draw analogies with this week’s situation between the president and the Left (professional, semi-pro, and amateur). Before anyone complains, I’m not saying Barack Obama is the equivalent to Jesus Christ in any way , just to be clear. It’s just a cheap journalistic trick to tie in today’s date to what’s going on in Washington, that’s all. Which leads into the rest of our weekly column, here, where we ceaselessly advocate eliminating the Pentagon, a Canadian health system, and Dennis Kucinich to be named president-for-life. Oh, wait… in Gibbs’ own words… “that’s not reality.” There were slim pickings on the ground this week under the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week category, sad to say. Partly, this was due to the fact that Congress is out on the hustings, instead of in Washington doing the nation’s business. Oh, but wait! Both houses actually came back and voted on some things! Will wonders never cease? The House returned to pass a woefully small bill for the purpose of sparing hundreds of thousands of teachers, police, and firemen from joining the ranks of the unemployed. Of course, since the Republicans are all about being “tough on crime,” they all voted for it. [Pause to allow readers to roll about the floor, laughing hysterically.] No, of course, it passed on pretty much a party-line vote, with Democrats standing up for first responders and the education of the next generation of Americans, and Republicans standing firmly against saving jobs. Over on the other side of the Capitol, the Senate briefly reconvened during their traditional August month-long vacation so that they could pass a sop to the “Seal the borders!” crowd. Rather than trying to tackle comprehensive immigration reform (as President Obama promised he’d do his first year in office… oh, wait, I see Robert Gibbs coming with a big stick, better move on quickly…), instead Democrats are trying to pre-empt Republicans in being “tough on illegal immigration.” The whole thing was, as said previously, a sop, since the money allocated was less than a billion dollars — which doesn’t even qualify as pocket change in D.C. But, reluctantly, we’ll at least give an Honorable Mention to both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid for getting everyone back to Washington during August — which happens about as often as pigs flying, we hasten to point out. Instead, just because we are still mightily annoyed with Robert Gibbs, we’re going to give this week’s MIDOTW to none other than Representative Alan Grayson, for his response to Gibbs, in which he referred to the press secretary as “Bozo the Spokesman.” That alone would likely have won Grayson the Golden Backbone this week, but he then continued on in the same vein: I don’t think [Bozo the Spokesman] should resign, I think he should be fired. He’s done a miserable job. He’s so far in over his head he’d have to reach up to touch his shoes. I’d like to see Gibbs show some frustration over 15 million unemployed Americans. I’d like to see him show some frustration over 40 million people who can’t see a doctor when they need to. I’d like to see him show some frustration over the Republicans, who have blocked the president’s plans and his programs … They’re the opponents for him, not the liberals. Hoo boy, tell us how you really feel, Representative Grayson! For putting into words the frustration of millions, who watched the president’s leading voice absolutely take for granted the very people who got Obama elected — again, less than three months before an election — Alan Grayson is this week’s Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week . Hint to the White House: this is not the way to fix your “enthusiasm gap” problem, unless you’re talking about Grayson’s enthusiasm. Just a thought. [ Congratulate Representative Alan Grayson on his House contact page , to let him know you appreciate his efforts. ] Unlike the MIDOTW , we have an embarrassment of riches in the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week category. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it is what it is. First, of course, there is Robert Gibbs. But I can’t honestly give him the award, since I firmly believe that he wasn’t acting as some sort of “loose cannon,” but instead expressing frustration he was instructed to express. How high up this decision was made is unclear, but Gibbs’ refusal to back down in his next public appearance told the whole story — he had support for what he said, and was not being taken to any sort of metaphorical woodshed for doing so. Next up, we have Representative Charlie Rangel, under an ethical cloud, who just threw himself a birthday party. This has already provided fodder for political attack ads against Democrats who attended his party, it is worth mentioning. But that’s not the reason Charlie was in the running for MDDOTW — instead, it was for the sheer political chutzpah of holding a birthday party two months after Rangel’s actual birthday. What’s up with that, Charlie? Was every single rentable hall in New York City booked solid for those two months? Sheesh. Down in South Carolina, the Democratic nominee for the Senate race just got indicted by a grand jury for showing pornography to a college student and suggesting they go up to her room to discuss it further. Alvin Greene is the gift that just keeps on giving… to Republicans running for office this year, that is. Narrowly escaping this week’s MDDOTW ignominy was New Hampshire Democrat Timothy Horrigan, who thought it’d be funny , after hearing of the plane crash that killed former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens this week, to post on his Facebook page: Just for the record, I don’t wish Sarah Palin dead… but not merely for compassionate reasons. I also want her to live because a living Sarah Palin is less dangerous than a dead one. Her rise to the status of Head Tea Partier had nothing to do with anything she ever said, did or accomplished— but as long as she lives she might be able to say or do things which could serve as a moderating influence. And she also might commit a gaffe bad enough to shock her followers, though that is unlikely. Unless of course she endorses Obama for President in 2012. This is despicable. Now, we are no fans of Stevens or Palin, around here. In fact, we think they’re two of the worst things ever to come from the state of Alaska. But, seriously, there is a line of propriety in politics, and that line is labeled: “Don’t joke about the deaths of politicians, past or future.” Horrigan crossed that line. The only thing saving him from the MDDOTW award this week was the fact that he promptly resigned his state House seat, and withdrew from the upcoming election. At least he recognized the magnitude of his error, in other words. But, after handing out (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards to Horrigan, Greene, Rangel, and Gibbs this week, we have to bestow a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award to a second New Hampshire Democrat (insert: “something in the water?” joke here) who jumped on the “Die, Sarah, Die!” bandwagon upon hearing of the Stevens plane crash. Keith Halloran, who is running for a seat in the New Hampshire House, posted to Facebook something even more offensive than what Horrigan posted: Just wish Sarah and Levy [sic] were on board. Now, without getting into what, exactly, he’s got against Levi Johnston (father of Sarah Palin’s grandchild), this sort of thing is just beyond comprehension, as well as beyond the pale. You are an adult politician — and not some teenager cracking inappropriate jokes. Facebook is not a private communications forum, your words are going to be noticed by the media. When will these people learn? Halloran has yet to announce he’s ending his candidacy, unlike Horrigan, who (to his credit) immediately did the right thing and ended his political career voluntarily. For not realizing the depth of his own stupidity, Halloran is awarded one of our two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards. For shame, Keith, for shame. Our other winner of the MDDOTW award is one of those things that almost flew below our radar here. But, as the Salon.com “War Room” column helpfully points out , the Obama administration is convening a gathering of knowledgeable folks to figure out a plan to deal with the housing crisis in America. They’ve invited lots of people interested in such things, but somehow Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner forgot to invite people who actually know what the heck they’re talking about from any perspective other than the big banks. From the Salon article (well worth reading in full): The Obama administration will prove that they have a plan to do something about the housing crisis by holding a housing conference next week, in DC. The event, called the “Conference on the Future of Housing Finance,” has been organized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Treasury Department. Panelists include… well, a bunch of economists, finance industry representatives, bank officials, think tankers, and an academic or two. Not included: Any actual consumer advocates or community group representatives. See now, this is what “the professional left” is upset about, Mister Gibbs. This is exactly the heart of the entire freakin’ problem — the Left isn’t asking for everything on their agenda to be done yesterday, all they’re asking for is a damn seat at the table . Which, consistently, they are denied by the Obama administration. Which is why they’re so annoyed with you — because, to be blunt, this is not the “change” they could believe in, and voted for. Seriously, if the Obama White House can’t understand the simple concept of “we don’t want a veto, we just want a seat at the table,” then how can they be expected not to get frustrated when “the professional left” pushes back against such blatant disregard? We should all just tout their successes instead, right? Come to think of it, we should probably just do away with the entire concept of the MDDOTW award for good, right? Well, maybe not. For their monumental insensitivity and their complete lack of interest in hearing from anyone other than (as “War Room” puts it): “PIMCO, Wells Fargo, the goddamn American Enterprise Institute, the MacArthur Foundation, Moody’s, and Bank of America” on the subject of housing, we hereby award Secretaries Tim Geithner and Shaun Donovan their own Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards. Way to fight for the consumer, guys! Way to stand up for the little guy! Well, no. Because, once again quoting Gibbs, “that’s not reality.” [ Keith Halloran is a candidate for office, and we do not provide campaign sites here, so you'll have to search for his contact info yourself, sorry. Since the White House is really the one to complain to about Executive Branch foolishness, here is their official contact page to let them know what you think of their cabinet secretaries' actions. ] Volume 134 (8/13/10) Perhaps you’re thinking that I’m taking this whole Gibbs thing too personally. I hasten to assure everyone I’m not. I really don’t think I was included in the “professional left” Gibbs referred to (especially after he clarified it to “cable news,” on which I’ve never appeared). But my annoyance is borne not out of personal pique, but rather out of my own frustration with the job that Robert Gibbs and his boss Barack Obama are doing on the communications front. They’re understandably annoyed. I get that. They think that they’ve got a long list of legislative achievements (far longer, and more sweeping, than virtually any president at this point in his term), and that they’re simply not getting enough credit for these achievements from the segment of the press that should be lauding them to the skies. No wonder they’re confused, when all they seem to see on television is annoyance from the Left (not to mention what the Right is saying, which is far worse, of course). But this is, bluntly, largely their fault. Not completely their fault, mind you, but the buck famously does stop in the Oval Office. They just have not been making their own case effectively, and then they wonder why nobody’s out there making it for them. It’s like hiring a bandwagon, but forgetting to hire a band — and then wondering why nobody’s jumping on it (or even noticing it as it silently glides through town). As I said, though, this isn’t entirely their fault. Other Democratic politicians, as well as the “professional Left” media also have a role to play, which they mostly fall down on. I speak of the inability to frame things. The inability to use messaging. The inability to develop a political theme (or “meme,” for our younger readers). The inability to reinforce each other. To fully explain this, I’m going to pre-empt the usual discrete talking points this week, and instead give an example of how the Republicans do this sort of thing, and how Democrats have been falling short. We’ll take it one step at a time. Picture a Republican in the White House, a Republican House, and a Republican Senate (if that’s not too horrifying to imagine, this close to an election). The Republican president, during a press conference, answers a question by giving it a brush-off, joking type of answer: “Well, you know, it’d be just as easy to say that all of America’s problems can be traced to left-handed people, since everyone knows that everything left is bad.” Before we get into the rest of it, please note the “during a press conference” part of that sentence. For those of you who have forgotten what the term means, a “press conference” is where the president stands at a podium and takes questions from members of the media. Then the president answers these questions, making his own case and showing America how he thinks about issues of the day. OK, that preceding paragraph was a little snarky, I’ll admit. But considering the fact that President Obama has given exactly (somebody correct me if I’m wrong, here) one primetime press conference in about the last year, you can see that I’ve got a valid point to make. The Obama White House complains that their message isn’t getting out? Well, I don’t know, how about trying to get your own damn message out by using the biggest damn media platform in the country a little more than once a damn year or so , guys? This stuff ain’t rocket science. If you want to put your spin on things, then you’ve got to step up, face the cameras, and make your own case . Refusing to do so, and then complaining that others aren’t doing it for you is just pathetic. OK, it’s time to move on to Phase Two. Within hours (at the most, a day), every single Republican politician who appears on television is using some version of the following: “You know what? The president’s right. When he said ‘all of America’s problems can be traced to left-handed people,’ he was just giving voice to the vast majority of American citizens who write with their right hands. America is a center-right country, and we think it is abhorrent that some people don’t recognize that and continue to favor their left hands. Lefties are the root of what is wrong with America, whether you’re talking about their politics or what hand they choose to write with.” You see, this reinforces the message from the top. Using exactly the same terminology, and repeating the soundbite endlessly cements the idea in the public’s mind. The cable news “journalists” soon begin reinforcing this phrasing themselves, and start asking their questions using the “lefties are causing all America’s problems” rhetoric themselves. This puts Democrats in the uncomfortable position of playing defense, pointing out things like “there have been famous Republicans who were left-handed” and that America’s problems aren’t quite so simplistic. Of course, nobody listens to them. Instead, Republicans ratchet up the rhetoric. The whole thing takes on a life of its own (or, for our younger readers, “goes viral”). By the following week, GOP politicians are saying things like: “We will be introducing a Constitutional Amendment soon which will outlaw writing with your left hand. It will also ban favoring your left hand when raising our nation’s flag, throwing a baseball, firing a weapon, or making apple pie. This new law will also mandate that everyone begin wearing their wedding rings on their right hands as well. We want to, once and for all, stamp out the evil that is leftism in this great country of ours.” The Righty blogosphere, of course, will go along for the ride: “OMG, you know what I just found out?!? The word ’sinister’ means ‘left’!!! I’m not kidding — go look it up in the dictionary! ALL LEFTIES ARE SINISTER! Spread the word!” Soon, though, a backlash develops. Not from Democrats (many of whom, by now, have timidly come out in support of forcing children born left-handed to learn to write with their right hands, as a “sensible compromise”), of course. Instead, from Major League Baseball, and from the hordes of women and men who haven’t removed their wedding bands in twenty-eight years and who would require surgery to do so. So the Republicans moderate their position slightly, and instead call for passage of the “Write Right Act,” which forces kindergarten and first-grade teachers to teach everyone to write with their right hand. This passes in both houses of Congress (with a significant number of Democrats voting for it, by the way, who are terrified of the wrath of all their own right-handed voters). OK, that may have been slightly over the top as an example, I will fully admit. But the process for building public opinion is no joke. The message has to start from the top. “Here is what we’re going to do, and why it is a good thing for America.” This should ideally come from the president himself, in one of his regular, monthly press conference appearances. At the very least, this is the sort of thing Robert Gibbs should be communicating on a daily basis. It then needs to be picked up and seconded by prominent Democrats everywhere. It needs to be the first thing out of their mouths whenever they’re being interviewed, no matter what the question . This positive reinforcement is crucial and is often the weak link in the chain for Democrats. Then — and only then — can the “professional left” pick up the ball and run with it. Oh, sure, there’s bound to be disagreement around the edges on this aspect or that of whatever is proposed (being, after all, the Left), but the president and his press secretary will find that if Obama keeps banging the drum on the issue — in multiple appearances before the media — and if Democratic politicians are also on board with the basic concept, and speaking with one voice about the desirability of achieving it, then the “professional left” will indeed deliver for them. The Lefty media may not be quite as efficient an echo chamber as the Right (or “corporate”) media, but when the message is a good one, the Left can eagerly get behind it, the president will find. If he starts the ball rolling, that is. To be quite blunt, this is known as leadership. And it — not anything the “professional left” has been saying — is what has been missing in the equation. When the president stops refusing to give press conferences, and when the president stops absolutely refusing to be interviewed by the “professional left” at any time or place, and when the president stops refusing to come out strongly for anything moving through Congress (other than in terms so vague and foggy you could swear you were in London) until sixteen minutes before it is about to pass, then and only then will I entertain the notion that the “professional left” isn’t giving this White House and Barack Obama enough credit for their accomplishments. Because, jokes about zeroing out the Pentagon budget aside, this is what this column has been saying all along, for 134 weeks and counting — Democrats need to bang their own drum. Democrats need to toot their own horn. Democrats need to get in front of the people and make the case for what they’re trying to achieve, and what they have managed to achieve. While everyone along this chain has shown their faults (such as Democratic politicians’ seemingly-inherent inability to stay on message, or the “professional left” always pooh-poohing “the good” in favor of “the perfect”), faults indeed exist at the top of this chain as well. I said it in my initial reaction to Gibbs’ statement, and I will say it again: who would have thought that, once in office, Barack Obama’s biggest problem was going to be a failure of communication? Maybe he’ll address it at his next press conference… next February, or maybe July. But until then, Gibbs and the rest of the White House need to do some self-examination before reflexively bashing the Left with a two-by-four. Because it is just not the best way to fix the Democrats’ “enthusiasm gap” right before an election. And that , Mister Gibbs, is reality for you. Chris Weigant blogs at: Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank More on Sarah Palin
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Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points  — Some Reality For Gibbs
What is the mindset inside the Obama White House these days? I’ve been wondering about this ever since Robert Gibbs went off on what he calls “the professional left” the other day. Not only did Michael Moore wind up talking with Keith Olberman n about this, but P aul Krugman (who I consider “professionally economically brilliant” as contrasted with “professionally left”) wrote about it as well. Now Robert Gibbs is no idiot. He may have said something he didn’t mean to say, but his frustration can’t be his alone. He’s just too wired into the rest of the Obama Administration for him to be uniquely frustrated. If he says the “professional left” is wrong to criticize the Obama Administration, then they all feel that way. So, who is right? Gibbs or The Professional Left? Well, I believe it’s possible to work through the emotional back and forth… the “You should do more!” / “Look at how much we’ve done!” tug of war… and get to a place where we can see - more or less objectively - whether what the Obama Administration has given us so far is enough or not. Some Additional Thoughts On The Mindset Within The Obama Administration I know what my mindset would be if I was in the White House these days: absolute, never-ending terror… because I would see how many things are falling apart around me and how little chance there is to fix things without adopting a truly radical and risky strategy… “What collapsing empire looks like” by Glenn Greenwald â¨â¨ “America Goes Dark” by Paul Krugman “Putting Our Brains On Hold” by Bob Herbert And, in private, I would acknowledge that the real reason why I’ve lost two top members of my economic team is because too many people who talk about the health of America’s economy are starting to claim that the currently horrendous economic conditions are “structural” and, therefore, cannot be changed (as if there were some “economic structure god” who will prevent us from changing the aspects of our economy which no longer work). Scary-sounding but true. And I would acknowledge it, so I could deal with it. But what is really going on in President Obama’s White House? Well, I suspect that they are terrified too. But they can’t admit that to us. And maybe not even to themselves. There was a lot of truth in the humorous headline “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job” that The Onion ran in November 2008. And that was written based on how bad things were after eight years of the Bush/Cheney/Rove Administration. But now we have even more bad things to worry about: President Obama abandoning his campaign promise to leave Iraq . There being no strategy for winning the Afghan Wa r, despite Obama’s lengthy strategy review. A Pentagon budget - which includes more than $56 Billion in “black box programs” we can’t even examine to see if they make sense - continuing to bleed America’s budget dry. State budget deficit s that are a ticking time bomb on the entire nation, in part because the Obama Administration asked Congress for a too-small stimulus package . A corporate community in which Wall Street and companies like BP are running such complex operations and throwing so much money around that they are still at liberty to put making money their first priority, even if it means that the larger population suffers for it. (Making money by hurting people. Doesn’t that just sound so American to you? No, it doesn’t to me either!) And let’s not forget the current media culture - which the Obama Administration inherited and has also failed to do anything about - in which appearances are much, much more important than reality… a condition that is getting worse. With that set of problems and in that kind of media environment, what I see is an Obama Administration devoted to making things look and sound good rather than actually making them good. I will say more about this in a moment Not Knowing How To Respond To Negative Feedback From Your Base Robert Gibb’s comments concern me, in part, because not only are they defensive but they also are evidence of that famous “smartest guys in the room” syndrome that caused the ENRON company to collapse. “Don’t complain to us, because you obviously don’t know as much as we do about how what we are doing is actually helping you”. This to me is the expressed message of Robert Gibbs, reflecting the intellectual attitude within the Obama Administration. It also reminds me of an article by Frank Rich published in December 2008. “The Brightest Are Not Always The Best” described how President Kennedy’s team - also considered the smartest guys in the room (”the best and the brightest”) - blew it so badly with the Vietnam War. Frank Rich warned us then that we might be going overboard with our praise of Obama’s economic team. Here are three key excerpts: The stewards of the Vietnam fiasco had pedigrees uncannily reminiscent of some major Obama appointees. McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser, was, as Halberstam put it, “a legend in his time at Groton, the brightest boy at Yale, dean of Harvard College at a precocious age.” His deputy, Walt Rostow, “had always been a prodigy, always the youngest to do something,” whether at Yale, M.I.T. or as a Rhodes scholar. Robert McNamara, the defense secretary, was the youngest and highest paid Harvard Business School assistant professor of his era before making a mark as a World War II Army analyst, and, at age 44, becoming the first non-Ford to lead the Ford Motor Company. The rest is history that would destroy the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and inflict grave national wounds that only now are healing. it’s the economic team that evokes trace memories of our dark best-and-brightest past. Lawrence Summers, the new top economic adviser, was the youngest tenured professor in Harvard’s history and is famous for never letting anyone forget his brilliance. It was his highhanded disregard for his own colleagues, not his impolitic remarks about gender and science, that forced him out of Harvard’s presidency in four years. Timothy Geithner, the nominee for Treasury secretary, is the boy wonder president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He comes with none of Summers’s personal baggage, but his sparkling rÃ©sumÃ© is missing one crucial asset: experience outside academe and government, in the real world of business and finance. Postgraduate finishing school at Kissinger & Associates doesn’t count. Summers and Geithner are both protÃ©gÃ©s of another master of the universe, Robert Rubin. His appearance in the photo op for Obama-transition economic advisers three days after the election was, to put it mildly, disconcerting. Ever since his acclaimed service as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, Rubin has labored as a senior adviser and director at Citigroup, now being bailed out by taxpayers to the potential tune of some $300 billion. Somehow the all-seeing Rubin didn’t notice the toxic mortgage-derivatives on Citi’s books until it was too late. The Citi may never sleep, but he snored. No doubt the Pavlovian ovations for the Obama team are in part a reaction to our immediate political past. After eight years of a presidency that valued cronyism over brains (or even competence) and embraced an anti-intellectualism apotheosized by Sarah Palin, it’s a godsend to have a president who puts a premium on merit. I also wonder if a press corps that underrated Obama’s political prowess for much of the campaign, demeaning him as a professorial wuss next to the brawny Clinton and McCain, is now overcompensating for that mistake. No one wants to miss out a second time on triumphal history in the making. Based on Robert Gibbs’ comments, it looks like the same “we know better than you” attitude President Kennedy’s national security team had has infected President Obama’s Administration in general and its economic team (what’s left of it) in particular. The biggest danger of this kind of thinking (of, essentially, believing your own PR) is that you stop being willing to learn anything new that doesn’t fit your existing mindset. You take in new data that agrees with your mental model and eliminate the rest. The sad thing is that after he was elected Barack Obama said at least once “I made a mistake”. It was very refreshing at the time, but that was a long time ago. I had originally hoped that he would maintain that sense of “I know a lot; but I don’t know everything.” From “Change We Can Believe In” To “A Failing Strategy We Deserve To Be Worried About” President Obama has constantly tried to broker deals with the Republican Party, apparently thinking that healing the nation after the Bush years required doing so. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that his election victory itself brought a lot of the country together. I could feel that unity in D.C. on inauguration day. There was so much love in the air, it reminded me of NYC in the days after 9/11. And he also doesn’t seem to realize that what would have finished the job of healing the nation would have been to truly institute the course correction the American people knew was needed when they elected him. That would have been the Change that We Believed We Were Going To Get… change that produced real results. Attempting to negotiate with Republicans and failing time after time didn’t make anyone feel better, except those who want to keep the nation divided for purely political reasons. Except for the very wealthy, American is not experiencing good times. The American spirit is in the worst shape it has been since The Great Depression. Many people feel that the Tea Party is increasing the sociopolitical divide in our country - with talk of “Second Amendment remedies” - to the point where a Second Civil War is about to start if it isn’t under way already. Yet Robert Gibbs believes we should be satisfied with the things the Obama Administration has done. And so now I will explain - using basic systems thinking - why “doing something” isn’t the same as “doing the right thing”. Not Recognizing The True Nature Of The Challenge Is A Strategy For Failing In order to develop a successful strategy you must understand the nature of the system in which the problems you are working to solve exist. It is not enough to work on the problems separately. Because if the larger system is dysfunctional, it will just generate those or similar problems again, after you think you have solved them. The Obama Administration is working on solving problems without taking the nature of that larger system into account. As a result, the Obama Administration (”the best and the brightest”) don’t see the true nature of the fight they are in. They don’t see the granddaddy of all problems: perhaps the biggest challenge America has ever faced. America is losing the ability to know what is true and what is false. Many of us grew up on the expression “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” from the Superman comics, 1950’s TV show, and movies from the 1970’s and ’80’s. That’s just once example of how truth is burned into the American ideal of itself through popular culture. But of course truth was there - without have to be fictionalized - when the Founding Fathers created this great nation. The Founding Fathers did not fight the War for Independence based on lies and falsehoods about the danger from remaining under British rule! Without knowing what the truth is, American society cannot function. Put in more graphic terms, America is a patient that was wheeled into the Emergency Room in January of 2009, desperately in need of a team of skilled doctors to save its life. America’s life’s blood - a true accounting of its condition and required remedies - had been draining away at least since President Bush convinced the country to attack Iraq by using the 9/11 attack as justification for doing so. And while the bailout legislation stemmed some of America’s “economic bleeding,” the whole of America was not given the treatment required to cure it of the disease… the virus… that was threatening its system then and is still threatening its system now. Once again, the virus that has been running almost totally unchecked through the body politic of America at least since 9/11 is a fear and lie-driven effort - too well coordinated for it to be accidental - to kill off America’s ability to make rational and logical decisions about its future. America (the patient) had many symptoms in November of 2008 that drove voters to give the Democrats the huge victory that they got. The Wall Street-triggered economic crisis, failing health care and education systems, crumbling national infrastructure, behavior that made America one of the least respected nations on the planet, two hugely expensive wars, etc. But as terrible as these were, they were only the symptoms of a greater underlying disease. And that underlying disease - the inability of the truth to be heard… truth that would enable America’s problems to be solved once and for all - has not been addressed. And it must be addressed. This is why I say the Obama Administration’s strategy is one that by design will fail. It’s a strategy that doesn’t even recognize what it’s up against. Al Gore Knows The True Disease Infecting America I’d like to think that Barack Obama read Al Gore’s book “The Assault on Reason” when it was published in 2007. But perhaps he didn’t. Either way, here is Al giving a 34 minute talk about his book. I think it gets at this disease so forcefully that it is more important to America’s future than “An Inconvenient Truth”. The essential message of “The Assault on Reason” is that America’s ability to use reason and logic to plan the most effective and appropriate path to the future is threatened by an increasingly powerful communication network that uses lies, fear, and a very sophisticated delivery mechanism to cloud the judgement of the American people… all in service of keeping a certain class of people in power. Power gained through lies promulgated through disinformation campaigns is not power the Founding Fathers would say had been earned. The Founding Fathers were on the side of the angels. Those who would gain power through lies and celebrating ignorance and playing the victim as a virtue come from a very different place. Protect the Constitution from all enemies both foreign and domestic We Americans love our sports. We celebrate great athletic skill almost above anything else. And our presidents have always been shown in various different athletic circumstances to show that “they’ve got it too”. President Obama’s skills on the basketball court get talked about a lot. He is also likened to a Zen master chess champion. Both are admirable, and neither are what America needs. And that’s because America is not in the middle of a basketball contest. It’s not in the middle of a chess championship that isn’t going our way. America’s very life is at stake. If the forces that live though lies and deceit come to power, the America of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” will be lost. And if that happens, then not even Superman will be able to save our country. In November 2008, America did not need a great athlete to lead it to a better future. It needed a great doctor… who was surrounded by other great medical professionals. And it needs that great medical team now more than ever! The “virus of ignorance” - some might even call it a cancer - and the parallel, unrelenting attack on America’s ability to learn… to think… to reason it’s way out of this terrible mess is killing our civic culture. And if our civic culture dies, then America will disintegrate into a collection of warring tribes, each held together by their fear of “the other”… their fear of those who are different than they are… all operating under the grand, false belief that competition (not cooperation) is the natural order of things… the grand, false belief that “survival of the fittest” rules humanity as completely as it does the lowliest of creatures on Earth. If President Obama has read Al Gore’s book, then he needs to understand that he is one of the few people in America capable of marshaling the forces necessary to treat the root cause of this virus and save the civic culture of America. I believe he proved he has it in him to do this with his speech to the American people about race relations. That speech probably drove more people to believe that “Change We Can Believe In” wasn’t just a slogan than anything else the Obama campaign did. But if President Obama is going to be the doctor America needs, he will have to start telling the hard truths America needs to hear himself. That will increase his credibility as having the credentials needed to successfully cure the overall viral infection. And one place he can start is with America’s unemployment figures. In a complete denial of factual reality, the Federal government stops counting you as being unemployed once you stop looking for a job. That’s right. Give up looking for a job? Congratulations! You are no longer unemployed! This is complete lunacy. And it’s our government at work. Bob Herbert wrote eloquently about this shameful governmental policy in his recent “The Horror Show” OpEd. I think President Obama could probably stop that practice instantly by signing an Executive Order. But getting rid of this disease will require much more. And here’s a good place for President Obama and his team to start. They should read the language in the Presidential Oath of Office and compare that to the one taken by members of the armed forces. I,__________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States faithfully, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God. I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. I find it interesting that members of our armed forces explicitly say they will defend the Constitution against “all enemies, foreign and domestic” and don’t get to recite the qualifier “to the best of my ability”. The first part says “look our for dangers that exist at home”, and the lack of the qualifier says “No excuses. You will do whatever it takes.” Now that the Obama Administration knows they must see themselves as doctors not sports figures, I trust they will work to develop those new skills needed in order to avoid making excuses later. I know plenty of people in the systems thinking profession who would be happy to help. The first skill I recommend is recognizing when your country is under attack from within. This is an attack on America’s value system as deadly as any I can imagine a foreign government dreaming up. To eliminate our ability to operate from the truth. That is one serious “domestic terrorist threat”. (And yes, I just labeled those who use lies and deception… even within the US government… as terrorists.) What Curing This Disease Would Then Enable The Obama Presidency To Do Imagine an American civic culture where the truth ruled the day. Imagine an America where being an expert in something meant that your opinion was respected. We all use experts all the time. Product designers are experts. Auto mechanics are experts. Engineers are experts. Doctors are experts. Police and firefighters are experts. Professional singers and athletes are experts. Why not policy developers? It’s possible. Let me make this as simple as I can. The quality of the legislation passed so far (health care, financial reform, stimulus package) is like the home built of straw in the story of The Three Little Pigs. It looks okay, but when the Big Bad Wolf comes along he has no trouble blowing it over. Two tries later (and with the pigs fortunately still alive), they finally build a house made of brick. And that house is able to withstand the wolf’s best efforts to blow it down. America needs the truth. It needs logic and reason. America must solve the challenges it faces in ways that stand the test of time. We can’t afford to build houses of straw when brick is what the objective facts demand. And I will add one of my favorite truths the Obama Administration would be wise to add into the American “solution development conversation”: The Corporate Social Responsibility (sometimes called Corporate Sustainability Leadership) movement. A great many Americans are justifiably angry at the corporate community, especially Wall Street. I have never heard the Obama Administration acknowledge the existence of this now 17 year old movement to change the values underlying capitalism… a movement supported by many leading American corporations (more information here and here ) Were President Obama to publicly champion this movement, he would be giving the American people hope that not all corporations are bad. And I will finish with one phrase: The First Motion Picture Unit of WWII . This massive government-funded communication effort taught the American people the truth about what it would take to win WWII. And Jack Warner (of Warner Bros. fame) led this organization of mostly Hollywood motion picture experts in making sure the American people got the message in ways that were entertaining as well as educational. America can be a land where political calculus is based on the truth. And given how sick the patient is, if President Obama doesn’t decide to cure this virus, his legacy will be that when America was on life support he thought he and the virus that is killing us were playing a championship game of basketball. Is there a doctor in The (White) House? More on Al Gore
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Steven G. Brant: Progressives Deserve To Be Worried About The Obama Administration
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday forcefully endorsed building a mosque near ground zero, saying the country’s founding principles demanded no less. “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” Obama said, weighing in for the first time on a controversy that has riven New York City and the nation. “That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” Obama made the comments at an annual dinner in the White House State Dining Room celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Republicans were quick to pounce on the president’s remarks. “President Obama is wrong,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. “It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero. While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much.” The White House had not previously taken a stand on the mosque, which would be part of a $100 million Islamic center to be built two blocks from where nearly 3,000 people perished when hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Press secretary Robert Gibbs had insisted it was a local matter. It was already much more than that, sparking debate around the country as top Republicans including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich announced their opposition. So did the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group. Obama elevated it to a presidential issue Friday without equivocation. While insisting that the place where the twin towers once stood was indeed “hallowed ground,” Obama said that the proper way to honor it was to apply American values “Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us – a way of life that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today,” he said. Entering the highly charged election-year debate, Obama surely knew that his words would not only make headlines but be heard by Muslims worldwide. The president has made it a point to reach out to the global Muslim community, and guests at Friday’s dinner included ambassadors and officials from numerous Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. While his pronouncement concerning the mosque might find favor in the Muslim world, Obama’s stance runs counter to the opinions of the majority of Americans, according to polls. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released this week found that nearly 70 percent of Americans opposed the mosque plan while just 29 percent approved. A number of Democratic politicians have shied away from the controversy. New York’s mayor, independent Michael Bloomberg, has been a strong supporter of the mosque, which has won approval from local planning boards. The group behind the $100 million project, the Cordoba Initiative, describes it as a Muslim-themed community center. Early plans call not only for prayer space but for a swimming pool, culinary school, art studios and other features. Developers envision it as a hub for interfaith interaction, as well as a place for Muslims to bridge some of their faith’s own schisms. Opponents, including some Sept. 11 victims’ relatives, see the prospect of a mosque so near the destroyed trade center as an insult to the memory of those killed by Islamic terrorists in the 2001 attacks. Some of the Sept. 11 victims’ relatives, however, are in favor. More on Barack Obama
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Obama Defends Ground Zero Mosque Plans In Ramadan Dinner Speech
George Packer’s recent New Yorker piece The Empty Chamber - Just How Broken Is the Senate leaves no doubt that our “most deliberative body” does barely any deliberating at all. Instead, it’s a pathetic nest of nasty egotists, damn-the-facts party loyalties and take-no-prisoners special interests. Just down the Conde Nast hallway at Vanity Fair , Todd Purdum answers the question How Broken Is Washington? in depressing detail, revealing the overwhelming obstacles the executive branch faces in trying to get anything done. (Factoid: The Chamber of Commerce’s lobbying expenditures outstrip the entire congressional payroll.) If you don’t have time for Purdum’s ten thousand words — or would rather spend it reading Esquire ’s explosive Newt Gingrich profile , which nails that “family values” hypocrite via testimony from one of his ex-wives — White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gets to the core of Washington culture with one word: “Fucknutsville.” Meanwhile, the Judiciary — labeled the “third branch of government” with characteristic meanness by Sarah Palin after a federal court opined in favor of gay marriage — furthered the ongoing dysfunction of its sister branches earlier this year when the Supremes, with characteristic 5-4 wisdom, gave corporations — to which they’d previously conferred the status of human beings — the right to spend unlimited funds on political campaigns. This makes the dominance of mega-bucks in future elections — the root of all the other problems — even tougher to transcend. But lest the healthy anger of progressives during the Bush years curdle into full-blown, hide-under-the-covers depression, it’s worth asking: When did Washington work, anyway? Was it better during the 20th Century’s two World Wars, Depression, Vietnam, Hoover, Harding, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, a succession of corrupt House Speakers and pork-obsessed Senators? Stacking the Supreme Court and picking candidates in smoke-filled rooms? And those Eisenhower ’50s about which conservatives love to wax nostalgic? Please. Tens of thousands of Americans were killed in Korea; Joe McCarthy saw Communists under every rock; and violent homophobia, alcoholism and lynching were commonplace. It would take far more than ten thousand words to describe the dysfunction of the 19th Century, when Constitutional crises, genocide of Native Americans, fraudulent elections, slavery, imperial wars and widespread poverty were the norm. Abe Lincoln may have been our greatest president — and his administration a portrait in bipartisanship — but while he was running things, the whole country was literally broken. It’s natural to be discouraged by Washington’s impotence in dealing with such crises as deepening unemployment, the BP disaster in the Gulf and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. And many on the Left, Right and in between can point to trends that indicate America is on a severe downward track — economically, politically and culturally — for the first time in our history. But it does no good to mourn an imagined golden past or indulge in “if only” future scenarios, in which something else — something out there just over the horizon — will make everything okay. Politics is ugly, always has been and — in a country that endeavors to bring together so many ways of life and points of view — will continue to be. But the framers invented a government that would embody all the messy contradictions without threatening the collapse of the system. Freud said that depression is anger turned inward. What’s really dangerous is that the Right seems to have most of the anger these days, while the Left is left with the depression. If despair makes liberals and progressives stay home instead of staying on Obama’s case — the system gives him plenty of unilateral power to, for instance, ratchet down our involvement in Afghanistan — pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan shows that “in spite of the empirical record we continue to project into the future as if we were good at it.” This may seem negative, but it can also be a tonic, since it underscores the truism that the only thing we can be sure of is our inability to predict the miracles, disasters and surprises of the next moment, let alone the coming years and decades. (Gregg Easterbrook’s 2007 New York Times review of the book notes the Washington Post ’s 2004 declaration that the demise of the cosmos would require 30 billion years. The paper wisely hedged its bet by adding, without irony, “It remains impossible to predict the fate of the universe with certainty.”) There’s no getting away from it: Things look pretty horrible for the short term. But the long-term future is up for grabs. If the system seems hopelessly broken and you feel helpless to fix it right now, remember the old Crosby Stills Nash & Young tune Helplessly Hoping . I never knew what the hell the lyric meant, but I’ve always loved that title. More on Wash Post
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Michael Sigman: Washington May Be Broken Now, But the Future Is Up for Grabs
Summer is a time for fun, flirting and romance. And according to the tabloids and celebrity blogs that many of us guiltily read, it’s also a time for broken engagements, lawsuits and unplanned pregnancies. Hmm…how many days until September, again?? Not to fear. The voyeuristically emotional rollercoaster ride of this season’s most talked-about celeb couplings - and de-couplings - has not been in vain. Mel, Bristol, Jude & Co. are playing out every kiss, fight and court battle in public so that we can learn from their PDA successes and embarrassing mistakes (I’m sure they’re all very excited about this public offering of theirs). There are some real-life romantic lessons to be gained from all this gossip fodder! So what are they? Let’s roll out the red carpet of love and educate ourselves… Jessica Simpson and Eric Johnson - Who says that men aren’t attracted to powerful, successful women? Rumor has it that soon-to-be-divorced (let’s hope?) ex-NFL player and Yalie Eric has given up his plans to attend UPenn’s prestigious Wharton business school in order to focus on his relationship with Jessica. We’re also hearing whispers that he’s a little low on cash and has no problem letting Jessica buy her own engagement ring. Her Texas girl act may seem traditional, but Jessica could finally be learning to embrace her strong, modern femininity and call some of the shots in her relationship. Lesson: Don’t assume that men will be intimidated by your success. Our generation of guys is becoming more and more comfortable with switching up the typical gender roles and accepting that you might just be the breadwinner. This especially holds true if you also happen to be blond and busty. Jude Law and Sienna Miller - After reconnecting in New York last year , these two formerly-engaged lovebirds have recently been spotted celebrating their renewed relationship all over England , Italy , and Spain . Hand-in-hand, mouth-to-mouth, bikini-on-bikini…who knows if it will last, but they look pretty happy and sexy in the meantime! Lesson: If you can’t seem to get over your ex and still find yourself thinking longingly of him after years of separation, maybe you should give it another try. People may not change, but they certainly grow and are capable of learning from their mistakes. True connection can be hard to find! So even if your relationship crashes and burns (again), that might be preferable to wondering if you’ve missed your shot with the love of your life. Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston - Estranged, back together and shopping reality shows , and then broken up again . Throw in a music video that may or may not mock your almost-in-laws , and I think I speak for the general population when I say that Bristol and Levi’s relationship is almost too outlandish - and immature - to believe. Any chance that we’re done hearing about them yet? Lesson: Jude and Sienna aside - usually, when it’s broke, it’s not worth fixing. Even when there are kids involved. Maybe even especially when there are kids involved. And certainly when there’s a Playgirl shoot involved. Katy Perry and Russell Brand - Once a player, always a player? It’s a little too early to tell in the case of Katy and Russell. But we do know that she helped him overcome his sex addiction, which will hopefully lay dormant as long as she continues to provide him with “an orgasm every 15 or 16 minutes.” And that a little romantic publicity never hurt movie ticket and iTunes single sales. Lesson: Players can be reformed! Maybe. We’ll see. Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva - Oh god, where to begin? Actually, let’s not. Lesson: Don’t be a raging psychopath and expect to be forgiven just because Braveheart was an incredible movie. And don’t date and/or have a child with a raging psychopath and expect that you’ll be paid in full for your time without a fight. For more insight into the post-dating world, head over to www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com . More on Levi Johnston
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Jessica Massa: What We Can Learn From This Summer’s Newsworthy Celeb Couples
What is it with the national media and Alaska these days? Were reporters infected with a case of Palin-steria after the national elections? Ever since, every Alaska-connected story has had them scurrying around the state like a bunch of crazed lemmings that stumbled into a patch of really good Matanuska weed, and I’m not talking about invasive dandelions. Sometimes these days it seems the national media — lamestream and otherwise — has gone more mama grizzly than mama grizzly Sarah Palin herownself what with all the huffing, slobbering, ground stomping and unthinking charges. It sort of started with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which brought all those reporters north to write about how you could still find oil in Prince William Sound, and now it’s spun into the unfortunate death of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and four others in a plane crash. The once sedate Wall Street Journal was Thursday headlining that “The ‘Chuck Yeager’ of Bush Pilots” was at the controls of the crashed plane when it went down — the implication being clear to all who’ve read the book “The Right Stuff” or watched the movie of the same name. Yeager, a test pilot, was famous for “pushing the envelope,” as they say. There is no evidence that Terry Smith, the pilot of the plane in which Stevens died, was doing that. Nor is there anything to support this claim in the Journal story: “Pilot Theron “Terry” Smith, who was at the controls of the single-engine airplane that crashed Monday in Alaska, killing five people including former Sen. Ted Stevens, was a flamboyant former airline pilot who reveled in seat-of-the-pants flying.” As someone who spent time with Smith at a number of social gatherings, I can testify that about the last word anyone would use to describe him is “flamboyant.” The word “reserved” would be more like it. But let’s go back to that Yeager claim for a moment. If you’re even a wee bit familiar with Alaska aviation history, you have to wonder: If Terry Smith was Chuck Yeager, who the hell was the late Don Sheldon?” Moses maybe? Sheldon was a Talkeetna bush pilot who once did something very risky, ie. Yeagerish. He backed a float-plane down through whitewater on the Susitna River to rescue some people stranded on a rock. It was extremely risky, but only for him, because a pilot has only marginal control of a plane drifting with the current. Control is regained only after the throttles are pushed forward and the plane begins powering upstream against the current, something Sheldon admitted he was relieved to do after rescuing the people from the rock. That was a Yeager moment. The crash that killed five people near Dillingham wasn’t. But if the WSJ suggestion that flamboyant flying — for which, once again, there is no evidence — was whacked out, how about this from Vanity Fair: “In the News — What Will Become of Alaska’s Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport?” Apparently, hot dog reporter Juli Wiener is of the belief “like many others,” whom she does not name, that the airport might want to “dissociate itself from a passenger who died in a tragic plane crash.” Why? Who knows? Because the name might stop people from flying to Anchorage? That is, of course, why I stopped flying through Chicago O’Hare International Airport. It’s named for Lt. Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare who died…wait for it…wait for it…yes, here it comes…in a PLANE CRASH! OK, he was actually shot down by friendly fire, but that only makes it worse, given Chicago’s gangster-linked shoot ‘em history. Flying into O’Hare, because of its name, makes me think about how the plane could go down or I could be shot up or both. So I avoid it, or at least I’d like to think I’d like to avoid it if I’d even known the history of Butch O’Hare before I Googled O’Hare airport 30 seconds ago. Nobody knows the history of the people for whom airports are named, except maybe for those named after celebrities like John Wayne, Ronald Reagan or Louis Armstrong. Quick, who was Gen. Edward Lawrence, as in Gen. Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport? I thought so. National media nonsense So what is with this national media nonsense when it comes to Alaska, which seems to have started with Palin’s resignation? She made reporters take a “dangerous” flight to Dillingham to interview her after she fled to hubby Todd’s setnet fishing site. And never you mind that it’s been a long time since a commercial airliner has crashed at an ILS-served airport in Alaska. That part of Alaska flying, at least, is as as safe as flying in the Lower 48, no matter how risky it might have seemed to sheltered Lower 48 reporters. And after Palin, of course, came the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which sent national reporters spinning off to Alaska in search of the tale of the still-polluted, after all these years, Prince Wiilliam Sound. Oil! Lots and lots of oil! Twenty-one years later and there’s still lots of oil! Why it pours out of the ground when the sea otters go clam digging in the beaches. OK, so the otters don’t really dig in the beaches. They dig underwater. And there’s really less than a half-full swimming pool of oil left buried under Sound beaches. And you really have to go looking to find it. But there are those herring that haven’t come back (never mind the herring-eating humpback whales that invaded the Sound sometime shortly after the spill to gorge on these tasty little critters on which they are still gorging) and the salmon. Oh yes, the salmon. Take it from nonetheless than the august New York Times that the “fishing here (in Cordova) is far from what it was. Yes indeed, the fishing is far from what it was. Commercial fishermen in the Sound now catch about twice as many salmon on an annual basis as they did before the Exxon Valdez spill. The fishing is so much better than it was before the spill that maybe we should all be thanking Exxon instead of cursing the big, fat, money-grubbing international corporation. But wait, there is that oil. Yes, there is that oil. No doubt about that. Some of the national coverage would have almost left a man afraid to light a cigar in the Sound for fear the whole place might catch fire like the Cuyahoga River in 1969. There was even a local reporter writing about the stench of it in the air making her sick. Maybe. Or maybe she just made the mistake of breathing the exhaust of the boat that hauled her out to search for the oil. Because when I’ve been in the Sound, I’ve been forced — whether I like it or not — to agree with a simple conclusion from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill final report on herring research: “In general, water in PWS is characteristic of the least-contaminated portions of the world’s oceans.” In simple English, the water in the Sound is about the cleanest you will find anywhere these days. Cleaner than Puget Sound. Cleaner than San Fransisco Bay. A whole lot cleaner than the Gulf of Mexico. Unless, of course, you’re looking at it as a reporter sent to scary, wild, Godforsaken Alaska to find a pollution story and bring it home. Sadly, I can here only echo former, half-term, controversy-plagued Gov. Palin in saying “lamestream.” And to think she’s now gone over to become a part of that media. She was working as a reporter on the plane crash story for Fox News, helping to inform the world about “the Agulowak and Aleknagik area of Bristol Bay which is right outside of Anchorage.” Yes, that is what she said, and she could only giggle and say, “I don’t know if that’s the case” when asked if Alaska still has more airplanes than automobiles. Obviously, in fairness to the Outside scribes, the reporter thing isn’t quite as easy as it looks. In fact, I’m still trying to figure out what the former governor-turned-reporter meant when she observed the problems “with Alaska having essentially only one main road through the state.” Would that be the old Richardson Highway from Fairbanks to Valdez, which has since been connected to the Dalton Highway to create a road extending all the way from the Arctic Ocean to Prince William Sound? Or the newer George Parks Highway that connected to the Seward, Sterling and Alaska highways to make it possible to drive all of the way from Homer near the tip of the Kenai Peninsula to America? And while we’re at it, who was Dalton anyway, and how did he die? Not in a traffic accident I hope. Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com . SUPPORT LOCAL JOURNALISM. VISIT ALASKA DISPATCH! More on Sarah Palin
AlaskaDispatch.com: Who’s The Mama Grizzly Now? National Media Goes Bushwhacking In Alaska
“You despise me, don’t you Rick?. Well, if I ever gave you a moment’s thought, I suppose I would”. –Rick (Humphrey Bogart) to Senor Urgarti (Peter Lorre), in Casablanca, 1943. From what has been leaked, Democrats intend to make the November elections about a choice–”D” for drive forward vs. “R” to go into reverse. It is a nice analogy to driving and appeals to Americans’ love affairs with their cars. Perhaps, though, for this political season, a bit too cute? Republican (i.e., FoxNews) strategy has been crystal clear since before President Obama took office: use the massive dislocations created by their economic failures, and the President’s race, to exacerbate peoples’ innate anxiety over change. As the late, eminently sane, Republican Congressman Joel Pritchard reminded us, “everyone wants progress; no one likes change”. But, this current Republican ugliness has provided Democrats with a much larger and profound opportunity, to seize, define and hold the political center. Unwilling to engage in any meaningful dialogue, unable to formulate a program with even a scintilla of internal consistency, repeating their talking points like automatons, kowtowing to outrageous media hosts, and nominating candidates for very high offices who seem to have several screws loose, Republicans have not just cast their lot with extremists, they have become them. All Obama and the Democrats need to do to seize the political center is to claim it. And, to cast the November elections as a fight between the grand tradition of America can-do’ism and rationality against extremists and reactionaries that have usurped once-respectable, democratic institutions such as the Republican Party itself. When they retaliate by claiming they are the traditionalists, and Obama/Pelosi/Reid are the extremists, the lines will be drawn. If we show up to the fight, we cannot lose this one. How does one know? Not by polls, but by the panicked attempts by the Republican campaigns to take down their own loon-candidates’ websites, to try to assure people that they are not as far out as they really are. Get this–Sharron Angle now wants to “strengthen” Social Security! This battle harkens back to our Founders, children of the Enlightenment, when human reason overthrew blind belief and absolutism. Those dark forces are struggling for a comeback–in America and around the world. No one is better suited intellectually to wage that battle than Barack Obama. Whether he has the temperament to do so is the question for this autumn. This is more than just an opportunity to control the dialogue (for once!) and win in November. It provides a greater chance to govern, to forge solutions to key problems facing the country, having dispatched the extremists whose presence or threats have controlled or cowed our governing institutions–not unlike Israeli and Palestinian extremists that block majorities on each side from achieving a settlement. Indeed, it is an opportunity to lay to rest the false policy polarities Republicans have claimed and to which Democrats have failed to respond. This is, in short, the opening to speak the truth and dispel extremist myths. Karl Rove’s claim that the rightwing could create its own realities–about as arrogant a position as one can imagine–would be cast to the ash heap of history, just as their policies used to pursue that mirage mired us in an unnecessary war and depths of economic failure not seen since the Great Depression. Here are just a few of the mainstream truths Obama/Dem could advance, while also noting what extremism has wrought: an economy that has failed the middle class, and an atmosphere of fear and loathing that has paralyzed needed actions… 1. Our economy has never been free market or government run, it has always been MIXED : part private, part public, part private-public partnerships and each has played an important role. That balance will shift back-and-forth with changing circumstances. That’s its genius. 2. A strong prosperous growing middle class is in the economic interests of the wealthy; indeed, even if they pay more taxes to achieve it, the wealthy become wealthier. 3. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves. Nice try, but only alchemists successfully created something out of nothing. We now have Republicans like Alan Greenspan, David Stockman and Greg Mankiw admitting it. Mythology has been tried, and it failed. Only under Reagan and the 2 Bushes did our debt/GDP ratios grow. Obama is still living with the Bush2 tax cuts… 4. Individuals can spend their money better than government on many things, mostly individual, but not on everything, not on public health needs like vaccines, or basic scientific research, or building roads and bridges and the electric grid or a justice system, or policing or firefighting, or insuring our food and medications are safe to take, our airplanes are safe to fly and land, our air is safe to breathe, and so forth. 5. Health care costs will increase with the aging of the population. Period. They will neither disappear nor be reduced by privatizing them. Somewhere, somehow, some one has to pay. Medicare is more efficient than any private plan. Imagine insurance costs if the elderly were part of your private plan. Other countries’ healthcare systems have bottlenecks because they spend 50% less per person than the US, not because they are nationalized . Medicare passed in the 1960s because enough middle-aged families had either experienced, or feared, the extraordinary financial burden of paying for their parents’ care, while raising children and trying to squirrel away enough money for their college tuition. By spreading that burden across the entire population, and running a very efficient program with less than 5% administrative costs, Medicare freed the children to invest in their own children’s futures while having the security that their parents’ healthcare needs were met. Millennials and X-rs lived in better homes, went to better schools, were able to buy more electronic gadgets, could hang with their friends…because Medicare freed their parents from the financial burdens of their grandparents’ medical care. There are many ways to reduce those long-term costs–phasing out the benefits are not one of them. 6. Social Security is NOT going bankrupt. [But, a better way to pay for it, and Medicare, in a globalized economy is to replace the payroll tax with a sales' tax on goods and services, so the burdens do not fall on US-produced goods, but are spread widely across all goods and services]. 7. Government regulatory officials should NOT be ‘acceptable’ to the industries they are designed to regulate. The idea was called “counterveiling power”. It should be restored. 8. As the population grows, and society becomes more complex, are we likely to be better off if government shrinks? Routing extremism is right in the sweet spot of the President’s philosophy. Who, and what, constitutes extremism? One is tempted to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it”. That may work for the in-your-face screws-loose Senate candidates (Angle, Buck and Paul) along with their matron saint, Sarah Palin, but it will be insufficient if those who have heretofore enjoyed the perception of being mainstream, but who espouse extremist views are not specifically branded–e.g., Newtie’s call for banning all building permits for mosques because–get this–Saudi Arabia does not have any churches. That is, we are to become like the Saudis! Or, his long-sought goal of “social security and Medicare withering on the vine”. As Republicans have shown for the past 40 years, those who seize the center also get to define it. With rightwing mythology discredited, the President would be in a much better position to pull the country to do what it needs to solve its basic structural problems. The extremists would then be at most a minor annoyance. The President has been searching for a theme to replace “terrorism” to define our global engagement. “Extremists” are as good a foe against which to struggle as any, and a basis for rallying progressive forces against bronze-age brutality and megalomania worldwide. In the meantime, let’s win one at home. More on Health Care
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Paul Abrams: "Fighting Extremism" Should Be Theme for Fall Campaign
Last month Dino Rossi became the first Senate candidate in the country to call for the repeal of Wall Street reform. Now it’s clear he has plenty of company on Capitol Hill. With Washington state’s primary Tuesday just a few days away, HuffPost asked around at the Capitol to see how Rossi, the Republican challenger expected to face Democratic incumbent Patty Murray in the general election, stacks up with sitting Republican Senators on financial reform. The verdict? When it comes to Wall Street reform, Rossi’s views fall in line with many top GOP leaders. Rossi made headlines when he said on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” program, “I think it should be [repealed]“, charging the Wall Street reform bill has “created six super banks and left Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac], which were at the epicenter of the problem, out of the deal.” Democrats pounced on Rossi’s words, saying he is much too conservative for a state that leans left and arguing Rossi shows more loyalty to big banks than to Washington taxpayers. “Rossi seems to want to go back to the days when Wall Street ran roughshod over families resulting in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression,” DNC spokesman Frank Benenati said. And Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Deirdre Murphy said Rossi “is out of step with Washington values and not on the side of consumers in his state.” While Rossi may be out of touch with moderate constituents, he finds company on Capitol Hill in Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), George LeMieux (R-Fla.), and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) all of whom told HuffPost they would repeal the legislation or at least parts of it if given the opportunity. “Well yeah,” Inhofe told HuffPost when asked point-blank if he would repeal the legislation. “I’m not saying I can, but the answer is yes [I would].” LeMieux and Sessions both said they would repeal parts of it, though they offered few details. “Well, it has some things in it of value but overall I think it’s bad legislation,” Sessions told Huffpost. “So I guess I would favor legislation that would be on balance better than bad. I would repeal parts of it.” The new legislation regulates derivatives trading, and puts restrictions on proprietary trading and private equity investments through the Volcker Rule, and creates a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a top Republican player in the financial reform debate, denounced the Democrat-backed bill almost immediately telling reporters “at the end of the day this bill is going to limit credit availability and cause that credit availability to be more expensive.” And House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for the repeal of the Wall Street reform legislation just minutes after it passed, saying the bill penalizes Main Street bankers for the crimes of a few on Wall Street. “I think it ought to be repealed,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly press conference. “I think the financial reform bill is ill-conceived. I think it’s going to make credit harder for the American people to get — clearly harder for businesses to get. And the fact that it’s going to punish every banker in America for the sins of a few on Wall Street, I think is unwise. On top of that, I think that it institutionalizes ‘Too Big To Fail’ and gives far too much authority to federal bureaucrats to bail out any company in America they decide ought be bailed out.” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham has long referred to the bill a “missed opportunity” to control spending and set priorities. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was similarly underwhelmed, calling it “business as usual.” “No one can make a convincing argument that this legislation indeed prevents any institution from being “Too Big To Fail” — you can’t make that argument,” McCain told reporters shortly after the bill passed. Rossi is the preferred candidate of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This year’s race is his third time running for higher office; his two previous bids against Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) in 2004 and 2008 were unsuccessful. Rossi is widely expected to be the Republican nominee, though Rand Paul and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) have endorsed Rossi’s Republican rival, former Washington Redskins tight end Clint Didier. Rossi shrugged it off, saying: “We haven’t been seeking endorsements,” and adding that Palin endorsed Didier “three weeks before [he] even got in the race.” The real challenge however, will come from Murray, the state’s three-term incumbent. Watch Murray’s campaign ad slamming Rossi’s ties to Wall Street: More on The Financial Fix
GOPers Line Up To Repeal Wall Street Reform
So GOP Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX) claims that he’s discovered the new terror plot threatening to “destroy our way of life.” The conspiracy? Terrorists are coming to the United States and having babies, babies who are programmed to explode bombs on U.S. soil “20 or 30 years down the road.” Gohmert calls them “terror babies,” but they are literally an invention of his own mind. There’s no evidence for his conspiracy theory whatsoever, yet for some reason, he went on CNN’s Anderson Cooper to try to defend it. The interview (watch it below) was hilarious — unless your name is Louis Gohmert. Cooper reduced Gohmert to a sputtering tub of GOP incoherence, repeatedly challenging Gohmert to offer a single shred of evidence of his wild idea — something Gohmert never managed to do. Partial transcript (full transcript below fold): COOPER: The FBI says this is just not happening. You are spreading scare stories, and this is completely about politics. GOHMERT: It is happening. It is happening. COOPER: Where? Give me some evidence. Tell me one person, one terror baby that’s been born? Can you tell me? GOHMERT: The explosions will not happen for 10 or 15 or 20 years and then you will be one of those blips. I’m not comparable to Winston Churchill, but the detractors like you are comparable to his detractors. COOPER: OK. GOHMERT: He tried to tell people these things were going on. COOPER: All right. GOHMERT: Anderson, do you really believe that the ones that want to destroy the United States are more stupid than these entrepreneurs in China, than these people in Mexico? I guess he was getting jealous of Michele Bachmann. But at least he deserves some credit for fusing fear of Mexicans with fear of Muslims, right? Not even Sarah Palin can claim to have done that…at least not yet. But it’s coming.
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Watch a Republican congressman go crazy
Editor’s note: There is a great Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days in the month of Elul to study and prepare for the coming high holy days. The time is supposed to challenge us to use each day as an opportunity for growth and discovery. On each of the 29 days of Elul, performer Craig Taubman posts a “jewel,” or story, from some of today’s most celebrated visionaries. Past contributors include President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, Sarah Lefton, Eli Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, Ruth Messinger, and Jeffrey Katzenberg — among many others. Today’s reflection comes from Jeremy Ben-Ami: The world is a little too full of “can’t” — and there’s not enough “why not?” What’s more frustrating than to be told a problem isn’t solvable or a goal unattainable? My law school professors rewarded me for spotting issues and problems — but why not for coming up with solutions? A good friend of mine pitched dozens of companies 15 years ago with the design of a slim machine on which you could read books without paper. They laughed. Trying and failing is no excuse for not trying again. Coming up with reasons not to take chances, passing the buck, pinning the blame on someone else, saying you can’t — that’s all easy. We tell our children to get back in the saddle when they fall off a bike, to get back in the batter’s box when they swing and miss. Why accept anything less as adults — in matters as important as life and death, war and peace? Sure, we’ve all heard why Middle East peace can’t happen. How there are no partners. How everything was tried ten years ago and it failed. We’ve been told that those of us who believe are few and far between, and that our limited power can’t have an impact. But why not? Beginning anew means refusing to accept things as they are. It means believing that, with effort, the power of good can and will overcome the daunting power of the status quo. New beginnings demand that we dream a better future and relentlessly ask “why not?” Jeremy Ben-Ami is the President and founder of J Street ( www.jstreet.org ). If Question: If you had to count the number of times you “got back in the saddle again” this year after a fall, how many times would it be? Is it harder or easier the more times you do it? More on Judaism
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The Spiritual Value of Asking ‘But Why Not?’: A ‘Jewel of Elul’ by Jeremy Ben-Ami
It’s been a crazy two years of Palin-mania, hasn’t it? I was reminiscing the other day about all the crazy she’s given us, and began debating her best moment. So much good material to judge! After some deliberation, I decided this was my favorite: First, this : Then, just three months later, this : Palin had announced on Twitter that she would be running the 5k race organized by the Benton-Franklin Chapter of the Red Cross. She didn’t finish the race , opting to leave the course early to avoid more crowds at the end. About 40 minutes into the run, word started trickling out to people gathered at the finish line that she was gone. But here’s why I love this — Palin is an attention monger, selling herself as a big runner with a splashy magazine layout in a premier running magazine. Yet given the chance to actually, you know, run , she couldn’t even finish a measly 5K run. Is there a better anecdote to illustrate the essence of Sarah? So watch, she’ll make noise about running for president in 2012, but when push comes to shove, she doesn’t have the work ethic to actually campaign. She’ll bask in the attention, sell lots of books, and get $100K per speech. But the second it becomes hard work, she’ll call it quits.
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My favorite Sarah Palin moment
As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney basically wrote the blueprint for health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama this past March. Now, as a likely contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2012, he’s leading the field, according to the most recent Clarus Group survey conducted last month. Romney gets 26% of the GOP vote compared to 21% for Mike Huckabee. Newt Gingrich is at 14% and Sarah Palin as at 12%. The cognitive dissonance is deafening: GOPers have declared the health insurance mandate public enemy number one, but more of them support the guy who helped make them become reality than any other candidate. Sure, Romney now tries to pretend he hates the mandate, but he passed into law as governor, embraced it during the 2008 primary campaign, and he wouldn’t be able to walk away from it in 2012. In March, the DNC put together this highlight reel of Mitt Romney explaining — in 2008 — why he supports a health insurance mandate: Pretty damn impossible for him to walk away from that, eh? I still believe Romney’s support for mandates will ultimately cost him the nomination , but if he somehow gets the nod, it would be hilarious indeed given his full-throated endorsement of the GOP’s most-hated aspect of health care reform.
Architect of health insurance mandate leads GOP 2012 field
Via Mother Jones : On Monday, the Tea Party Express sent out an email blast touting a supposed surge by Joe Miller, the group’s preferred candidate in the Alaska Republican senate primary. Miller, the email said, was quickly narrowing the gap with incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski. The last public poll had Murkowski crushing Miller by 32 points. But the Tea Party Express says this latest, unnamed poll in Alaska finds Miller within just 9 points a few days before the August 24 primary. There’s one glaring problem, however: outside of the Tea Party Express email, I can’t find any evidence that the latest poll even exists. The Miller campaign is getting its ass kicked up there in Alaska, despite its star endorsements from Mike Huckabee, Mark Levin, Lars Larson, and Laura Ingraham. Oh, and of course, the most prized endorsement of all from the former half-term governor, Madame Winksalot herself. But then, an endorsement from Sarah isn’t worth all that much , at least in Alaska. Better make up some bogus poll numbers to show that he’s winning still getting crushed. That’s sure to help.
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AK-Sen: Teabagger candidate using fake poll numbers?
[T]he relative paucity of female technology entrepreneurs remains a chronic problem. So Arianna Huffington, Donna Karan and Sarah Brown are teaming up with i/o Ventures to identify the most promising female technology entrepreneur.
Wanted: Women As Technology Entrepreneurs
[T]he relative paucity of female technology entrepreneurs remains a chronic problem. So Arianna Huffington, Donna Karan and Sarah Brown are teaming up with i/o Ventures to identify the most promising female technology entrepreneur.
Wanted: Women As Technology Entrepreneurs
Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) says the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) should stop funding development projects awarded to non-U.S. companies in Africa. I can think of three reasons this response is misguided: 1. It’s bad development. Restricting overseas development contracts to domestic bidders - so-called “tied aid” - buys political support at home, but often costs more and is less effective . It reduces recipient governments’ freedom to shop for the best deals and, according to one economic study , reduces aid’s value by 15 to 30 percent. The MCC puts good-performing countries in charge of their development because it yields better results; tied aid takes those countries back out of the driver’s seat. Many U.S.-based companies (including some of the Initiative for Global Development’s members ) also oppose tied aid, not just because it is bad development, but because it prevents competition and when other donor countries do the same thing, it hurts American businesses. (These are among the reasons countries with high levels of tied aid are penalized in CGD’s Commitment to Development Index .) Taxpayers pay more, but get less . The MCC aims to spur economic growth and reduce poverty in select, well-governed countries. Taxpayers should get the biggest development bang (and best price) for their bucks. Requiring the MCC to use only U.S. companies in regions where they could be more expensive, less effective, or may not exist, unduly constrains our aid dollars and ends up costing American taxpayers more money. The MCC is not ExIm or OPIC . The U.S. Export-Import Bank (ExIm) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) are designed specifically to help U.S. businesses invest overseas. The MCC, in contrast, has a clear and different mission — economic growth and poverty reduction in well-governed, poor countries — that is also in the U.S. moral, economic, and national security interest. We have different tools for different (and equally valid) purposes, but conflating them puts both objectives at risk. As CGD president Nancy Birdsall and senior fellow Todd Moss said , tying development assistance to U.S. companies is “one of the worst habits that undermines the ability of foreign aid to deliver development results.” Let’s hope that even in tough economic times and as we enter silly-season in Washington with mid-term elections, we can remember how to do good development.
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Sarah Jane Staats: A Webb of Misguided MCC Ideas
Mark Sanford deserves some props — for breaking his word. Well, it’s not exactly breaking his word that he deserves credit for. It’s the fact that in reversing his pledge to reject stimulus funding, Sanford is, as Alex Seitz-Wald notes , securing jobless benefits for more than 17,000 out-of-work South Carolinians. NYT : The federal Department of Labor announced Tuesday that South Carolina had officially cleared its approval process and that the stimulus money was being released immediately. The reversal by Mr. Sanford attracted virtually no notice, but it made South Carolina the 33rd state in the country to expand jobless benefits to qualify for its full share of stimulus money under the program, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal advocacy group. Of course, while it is true that Sanford is now making the right decision, it’s worth noting that he’s only doing it after his infamous hike to Argentina, which effectively killed his political career. So this isn’t exactly a profile in courage. But it does show that even conservative Republicans, freed of the need to pander to GOP’s wingnut base, actually believe the stimulus can do some good. It’s too bad more of them weren’t willing to make that case in early 2009. If they had been, it might have been possible to get a bigger stimulus through Congress.
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Mark Sanford embraces stimulus
That "professional left" is what some might call "your base", Mr. President, and they think you should legalize marijuana. Washington political news outlet The Hill reports on the recent “professional left” remarks made by the Obama White House’s press secretary Robert Gibbs. Â Gibbs was expressing frustration at progressive activists who are complaining that the president hasn’t lived up to campaign promises on a number of issues. The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.” “I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.” Over 850,000 of these people will likely be arrested this year and branded "criminal" for the rest of their lives. I don’t disagree that comparing Obama to Bush is crazy; Bush could push the exact bill he wanted through Congress and Obama can pronounce “nuclear”. Â It’s the “drug users are crazy” slur, the “drug test” variant of the ” what have you been smoking?” that offends me. Â It’s that joking about these drug tests that ruin thousands of lives is a response from an official addressing the disappointment in the president felt by the people who voted for him . Â Considering the vast majority of people who use “drugs” are using cannabis and the tests for “drugs” most often find cannabis metabolites, he’s talking about us, the 22 million* Americans who will use cannabis this year . Full disclosure: I am one of the “professional left”** and attended that Netroots Nation conference Gibbs is obliquely referencing, representing NORML on a marijuana policy panel. Republican, Democrat, we still get arrested. (We still have another year worth of George Bush data to collect.) But NORML is a non-partisan organization, just as arresting marijuana consumers is a bi-partisan shame (4.9 million under Clinton, 6.2 million under Bush, but Clinton’s overall increase in the annual rate was +90% from beginning to end of his term while Bush’s was +17% between 2001 and 2008; we still await the 2009 final year arrest numbers which chronicle the marijuana arrests from the year before… think of the graph as “arrests up to 2009″, not “arrests up to andÂ includingÂ 2009″.) Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama. Legalization is actually pretty popular right now. More popular than the President and Congress. Well, we know what President Obama and Robert Gibbs think of those of us who “ought to be drug tested”, especially us online activists in the “professional left” who helped get him elected. Â We’re chuckled at when we suggest legalizing marijuana (see videos below), even as more than half of America on some polls - not just Left Blogsylvania - are beginning to think it is a damn good idea and California is voting on the issue this November. Legalization is more popular than the Congress and the President - who once, like us, was just one bust away from being “Barry the Drug Criminal” for life - so maybe equating our criticisms of the president to drug-induced psychosis isn’t the smartest political move. One marijuana arrest in their past would have indelibly altered the lives of 41% of America, including these three fellows. This is not to ignore the millions of cannabis consumers who find themselves on the right side of the aisle, the Libertarians and true small government, personal responsibility, states rights Republicans, who we count as our ideological allies in ending adult marijuana prohibition. Â There are 102 million of us who’ve tried cannabis, including the last three presidents and eight of fifteen of the last major party candidates for president and vice president.*** Â Right now, our issue is the only thing on which members of the Tea Party and the Netroots Nation can agree on. Â Somebody is going to get wise and start courting our votes. * Remember these are numbers from a government-sponsored survey where an anonymous pollster surveys random strangers by telephone to ask whether they currently are violating state and federal law… so you might want to adjust upward a bit. Â For comparison’s sake, there are more adults in America who will smoke pot this year than there are adult African-Americans in this country. ** And yes, I would be satisfied with Canadian health care, thank you very much! Â My insurance premiums went up 24% this year! *** The admitted / strongly suspected (Danforth, we’re looking your way…) marijuana users are italicized : 1992 Clinton / Gore vs. Bush / Quayle 1996 Clinton / Gore vs. Dole / Kemp 2000 Bush / Cheney vs. Gore / Lieberman 2004 Bush / Cheney vs. Kerry / Edwards 2008 Obama / Biden vs. McCain / Palin More on Barack Obama
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Russ Belville: White House Press Secretary thinks "professional left" who criticize Obama "ought to be drug tested"
On Tuesday, voters in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, and Minnesota took to the polls to decide which candidates would advance to face-off in general election match-ups come November. Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet scored a win in Colorado against primary challenger Andrew Romanoff and in doing so arguably earned a proxy victory for the White House. Karen Handel’s presumed defeat to Nathan Deal in Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial runoff, could be viewed as a loss for Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, who backed the conservative hopeful. Who’s up and who’s down in the aftermath of the August 10 primaries? Take a look: More on 2010 Elections
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August 10 Primary Elections: The 8 Biggest Winners And Losers
ATLANTA — After a bruising runoff campaign, former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal and former Secretary of State Karen Handel were locked in a tight race Tuesday to decide the Republican nominee for governor. Unofficial early returns had Deal leading with 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for Handel with 40 percent of precincts reporting. The three-week runoff between Deal and Handel has featured brutal attack ads, dueling endorsements from Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich and tough talk on the campaign trail. The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will face Roy Barnes, a Democrat running for his old job, in the November general election. The former governor locked up his party’s nomination in the July 20 primary. More on 2010 Elections
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Georgia Election RESULTS: Nathan Deal, Karen Handel Locked In Tight Race In GOP Governor’s Primary
Pat Toomey a Moderate? Yeah, Right. Pennsylvania U.S. Senate Republican Candidate Pat Toomey has been flooding the TV airwaves this summer with commercials touting himself as a mainstream moderate and hammering Democratic Candidate Joe Sestak as being too Liberal and radical for Pennsylvania. Toomey’s pulling an old trick in trying to portray himself as a moderate. Last year, he wrote an Op-Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer stating that he would vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice. He even fooled Republican Moderate Senator Susan Collins into campaigning for him last week. The problem with this is that Toomey’s voting record is as Conservative as former Senator Rick Santorum’s, if not more. Toomey was a Wall Street investment banker in the late 1980s. He was head of the Conservative anti-tax Club For Growth, a far-Right Wing organization which seeks to evict Republicans that aren’t Conservative enough and which called Collins “Comrade of the Month” after she voted to support the Obama stimulus package. His website touts his Conservative voting record and boasts about his 0% rating from the pro-choice group NARAL and his ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association. As pointed out by Harry Enten in Pollster.com in May 2010, Toomey had a much more Conservative DW-Nominate score than Rick Santorum. According to Enten’s analysis, Toomey ranked more Conservative than 97.9% of all United States legislators since 1995, even more Conservative than J.D. Hayworth and Jim DeMint. In urging Senator Santorum to endorse Toomey over Arlen Specter in the April 2004 National Review Online, Club For Growth President Stephen Moore said, “Toomey’s voting record, especially on economic-growth issues, is very similar to Santorum’s and is as impressive as Specter’s is dreadful.” Toomey recently told Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast that he embraced the Tea Party support that he has been receiving. “I think of it as a very loose network of unaffiliated but like-minded folks,” he said. “In Pennsylvania, I think we’ve identified 79 Tea Party organizations. I think, generally speaking, they’re wonderful people. They’re ordinary Americans. They love their country. They’re concerned that Washington is heading down the wrong path of way too much spending and way too much interference in the economy, way too much deficits and debt. And they have spontaneously formed, tried hard to push back. And I do have a lot of support from the Tea Party movement, and I’m delighted to have it.” Thus far, Sestak has had virtually no media presence in TV commercials, especially in the key Philadelphia area. Hopefully, he’ll jump into action right after Labor Day. Over the weekend, his campaign released an online ad linking Toomey with Conservative Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. It was a brilliant TV ad against Arlen Specter that won the primary for Sestak, and they need to do the same against Toomey. There should be plenty of past Right Wing Extremist rhetoric by Toomey that the Sestak staff can find and then juxtapose it against his current deceitful attempt to portray himself as a moderate. Toomey is nothing more than Sarah Palin with cojones, to paraphrase Palin. Come on Joe; start getting your message out on television that Toomey is loony and is no moderate. More on Sarah Palin
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Larry Atkins: Sestak Needs to Show Toomey’s True Radical Right Wing Stripes
Whether you’re a young woman just starting out; a socially responsible executive looking to make a difference; or a successful woman who believes in empowering the younger generation — ‘WIE need you’ in the fight to save women’s lives around the world. Arianna Huffington writes: When I heard Sarah Brown speak at an all-women dinner in Davos last year, I knew that I was seeing something really special taking shape. Her audience was an impressive mix of women leaders from the worlds of media, business, politics, and fashion. Sarah’s message: we all have a part to play in making life better for other women around the world. Both in Davos and at a dinner in New York last September, Sarah asked each woman in the room to do one thing — in her own way, within her own circle — to improve the odds for the millions of women the world over who risk death to give birth. (A woman still dies needlessly in pregnancy every minute, and usually her baby dies too). Inspired by Sarah, one after another, the women at the dinner stood to make their pledges. And that energy has generated even more action as women from all walks of life have taken up the call. This is the genesis of the WIE Symposium taking place in New York on September 20th. Timed to coincide with the gathering of world leaders during the UN General Assembly, “Women, Inspiration, Enterprise” is a collection of women coming together to share our ideas, our experiences — and above all our passionate determination to make change happen, helping each other grow and thrive in a better and safer world. Sarah Brown writes: Since I became Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood three years ago, I have seen a remarkable thing happen. A hidden scandal — of how many women still die in childbirth around the world — has emerged from the shadows. And the despondency and gloom which once hung over it is evaporating in the sunshine of hope and successful change. What has happened? A movement of people — from all walks of life — has spread like wild fire, inspiring others in nearby countries to get together, and to say no to the needless maternal deaths that strangle the growth and development of so many countries. Members of the White Ribbon Alliance, now in 148 countries around the world, have proven that we can change the thinking of leaders — in families, in communities, in governments — convincing them that women’s rights must be respected and that women are the keystones to all development. The WIE Symposium gives a vibrant New York voice to that same spirit, inviting women from all walks of life to come together for inspiration, empowerment and action — for the sake of all women. With only five years left for the international community to reach its goal of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters, we will make our voices heard — and play our part in the change to come. This is why I want to thank Arianna Huffington — such a consummate communicator, with a long term commitment to justice and women’s rights — for agreeing to be my co-host. And this is why I also want to thank Donna Karan — inspirational leader in the world of fashion, passionate defender of cultures — who has agreed to be my co-host too. It will be an extraordinary day that will lead to many more. I hope you will join us! Donna Karan writes: I am joining Sarah and Arianna in co-hosting WIE because, like them, I know that we can and must connect and be creative in order to change the paradigm. And I am convinced that now is the moment to join with people from around the world to reverse the long neglect of women and their children. The Urban Zen Foundation works through collaboration to raise awareness and inspire change, particularly in health care and for children, bringing together people who can see solutions and make them happen. I have long believed that there is no greater investment in the future than an investment in children — and Sarah Brown has convinced me that we cannot care for the world’s children unless we care for their mothers who love, feed, nurture, and educate the citizens of the future. Let us do that in a new and exciting way — let us communicate through creativity and design — in order to inspire each other. Let us open our eyes and speak out for the beauty of rich cultures around the world and especially for the women who are at the heart of those cultures. Let us speak to that through fashion, inspiring the women of New York to join the women of the world in solidarity. Together we can change the world. Arianna concludes: WIE is going to be a remarkable event, bringing together powerful and inspiring women from all over the world — leaders and activists, entrepreneurs and entertainers. There will be writers and thinkers, businesswomen and artists, connecting with — and talking to — amazing young women advocates from Africa and Asia who have won a competition to join us, and who will return to their countries further empowered as champions of the rights of women. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlights the urgency of saving women’s lives, WIE is unique in its power to focus attention on women at a key moment in world politics. We are also delighted, in conjunction with i/o Ventures, to announce the WIE Prize, a program that awards a young female technology entrepreneur a $25,000 investment, free office space (in San Francisco), and expert business advice from the founders of YouTube, BitTorrent, and MySpace — to name but a few of those taking part. WIE promises to be both inspirational and hands-on practical. We invite all women — whatever your role in life — to be a part of the change that is coming. All proceeds from WIE will go to support the work of the White Ribbon Alliance and Urban Zen. Ticket sales: http://www.startickets.com/event.php?event=1773 More information: WieNetwork.org With warmest thanks to Mission PR, the Wall Street Journal, Kamarama and i/o Ventures for their help and creativity. More on Health
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Arianna Huffington: WIE Need You
A Conversation With Rosanne Cash Mike Ragogna : Your new autobiography Composed: A Memoir doesn’t follow the typical, linear format. Rosanne Cash : It’s not a straight chronology as an autobiography normally would be. It doesn’t start, “I was born on a Tuesday,” blah, blah, blah. I wasn’t really interested in doing that. It’s more circular and themes keep reappearing in my present life that throw me back into the past or the future. It covers, pretty much, my whole life up until 2007 or 2008. But you can’t write a book or a memoir without mentioning your family, so it’s a lot about my childhood and my family. In some ways, the overarching narrative of it is it’s the making of a songwriter, of a writer. MR : And this is not your first book. Your work “Bodies of Water” was published back in 1997. RC : That was my first book, but also I have a little cottage industry of writing essays for various publications. I wrote for The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Oxford American, and many, many others. About 10 years ago, I wrote this essay called “The Ties That Bind” about music and family, and it was chosen for this compilation called Best Music Writing 2000. My editor at Viking read it and said to me, “That’s the beginning of a memoir,” and I said, “Well, I think I’m too young to write a memoir.” He said, “Think about several volumes.” So, I started and it took me a decade, but I finally finished this book. MR : So, you went to Vanderbilt University and studied under its esteemed English Professor, Walter Sullivan. RC : Right. He was a wonderful, wonderful man, and was at Vanderbilt for 40 something years. He knew Robert Penn Warren and all of those great literary guys who were around at that time. He kept saying write what you know, write what you know, and he took me seriously even though, at the time, I was a very bad writer. I think it gave me courage. MR : Speaking of courage, you’ve had some life challenges in the last few years. RC : Yeah, I have. I guess you are referring to the fact that I had brain surgery in 2007. It was a good hard look at my mortality, which was very motivating. MR : Like you said before, your approach to writing is not exactly linear, and you have these sweet eulogies towards the end. RC : Interesting you would bring that up. This was the one thing in the book that I was really ambivalent about including, and I kept saying to my editor even a week before we went to galleys, “Are you sure we should put these in?” They were just so personal and something that I had written in great mourning and delivered privately. He said, “They are beautiful, and I think they belong in there.” So, I went with what he said. MR : Are there any stories from the book that involve your father Johnny Cash that you feel comfortable sharing in this interview? RC : Well, I didn’t write about him as this iconic figure, I wrote about him as my father. There is this moment that was kind of revealing of the kind of parent he was which is he never gave advice unless you asked for it. He was very respectful, even to children that way. I wanted to go off and live in London when I was 20 years old, so he kind of underwrote the whole experience and paid for the rent and paid for me to go. He never interfered. So, I just did this and learned so much, and it was a real coming-of-age experience for me. But I came back for a visit six months later and he said, “Okay, that’s it. You have to come home now.” I asked why, and he said, “You have to come home now.” It wasn’t until much later when he told me that he was so afraid that I would loose touch with my family forever and become an expatriate and never return to the family fold. He reinserted his parenting right then. It was a very loving thing to do because he was right. I would have probably separated myself. MR : This book is clearly the journey of Rosanne Cash, not a back door glimpse into the life of Johnny Cash. Others in your position might not have been so elegant. RC : Yeah, of course, how can you write a memoir about another person? I mean, I’m sure you can, but I just couldn’t do that. As most people you know, I am mostly absorbed in my own life. My insights have been about my own character and my own experiences. You know, I have had a lot of unusual experiences in my life. But the way I’ve experienced them has not been unusual. There are these stories of coming-of-age, loss, crises of faith, travel, motherhood, serious health crises, you know. These are very universal experiences. MR : And I believe that Rosanne Cash fans feel a deep connection with you because you’ve been such a real person to them. RC : Well, I would hope so, and that’s a great compliment if it’s true. I do find–and it’s kind of clichÃ©–that the more personal, universal…there was this record I did, Black Cadillac , that was about loss. Several members of my family died in a short period of time, and I wrote this record that was kind of a map of grieving. It wasn’t just sad, as there are a lot of elements to losing people; you get angry, you get liberated. There are crises of all kinds. These songs had a lot of documentary detail to them, and I got nervous about that. It seemed too revealing, and the path that I had always used was poetic license in songwriting. But there is this one song that was particularly full of documentary-type details called “House On the Lake.” The first time I performed it, I was so nervous that I was revealing too much, and a guy came up to me afterward and said, “You know, everybody’s got their house on the lake.” Then I thought, “Okay, I’m over the hump.” MR : “Black Cadillac” was a very personal, almost mournful song. RC : It’s fair to say mournful. It’s just that mourning isn’t just one single thing. People think mourning is sad. Well, it’s more than just sad, it’s a lot of things. And it’s also reestablishing relationships with the people that died because I found that they do go on. With your parents, you are free to relate to the best parts of them which is nice. Yeah, that record “Black Cadillac” was probably the most personal I’ve done. MR : Is it fair to say that a lot of your fans came in on the single “Seven Year Ache”? RC : That’s true, yes. “Seven Year Ache” was a very successful and popular record. Do you know that was 30 years ago? It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s about the age my youngest daughter is now when I wrote and recorded that record. MR : You have also recorded John Hiatt’s music over the years. RC : Yes, I love John Hiatt. I really resonate with his writing. I am a huge fan of his, and I have always felt comfortable interpreting his songs. I can’t say that about everybody. I was very selective as an interpreter as I preferred being a songwriter myself. John was always one I was drawn too. MR : Can you talk about The List for a moment because it was such an important album to so many people? RC : Sure. I went on the road with my Dad when I was 18, and I was a huge Beatles fan. I grew up in Southern California infused with the pop and rock of the ’60s and early ’70s. So, after High School, I went on the road with my Dad, and we were talking about songs. He mentioned a song and I said, “I don’t know that one.” He mentioned another, and I said, “I don’t know that one either, Dad,” and he grew very alarmed. He thought I was missing half of the knowledge I needed. He knew I wanted to be a songwriter, and so he spent the afternoon making this list of songs, and at the end, he said, “This is your education.” It was an education, my God. It’s a great archive for me now. MR : The songs on that album are so wonderful. My personal favorites are “Motherless Children,” Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” and the Hank Snow number “I’m Moving On.” RC : Yeah, those are just great American songs. It’s such a rich treasure trove of who we are as Americans, as Appalachian music, early country music, Delta blues, Southern Gospel, folk songs. You know, my Dad recorded “Girl From the North Country” with Dylan in 1969. To think about doing it, I had this iconic version in my head that I had to get away from. So, we listened to Bob’s original version from 1963, and it’s very much like an old Elizabethan folk song. It’s just such a beautiful part of the canon. MR : In 2007, Michael Streissguth wrote Always Been There: Rosanne Cash, The List, and the Spirit of Southern Music . RC : Right. He followed me around for a few months and came to the studio when we were recording The List . He wrote this book about my Dad, and did this film on Folsom, and he was so intrigued by this list and this idea of musical legacy which has kind of consumed me as well, stepping into this musical legacy. MR : At times, it seemed almost as if it were your voice and perspective. RC : Yeah, although the way he wrote about the recording process, I don’t know that I would have documented it like that or that I could. Having his objective observation was a nice thing to have for that book. MR : When I’m interviewing an artist with a new album, I sometimes ask which songs are personal favorites. Do you have a favorite chapter in this book? RC : That is a hard one. There are certain scenes and stories that I think are really good and rich in detail. There is a certain story I told about Oslo Prison. I went to Oslo, Norway, shortly after my Dad died, and there were these Norwegian artists who did a concert in Oslo Prison of my Dad’s music as a kind of tribute to him. He had just died three months before. They invited me to come to Oslo to see this concert, and it was one of the most moving events of my life. So, I wrote about the concert in Oslo, yet somehow, I didn’t know that it was going to connect this scene that occurs about three years before my Dad died, when I took him to a hardware store. As I said, there is this sense of themes reappearing and time being mutable that shows up, and in that piece in a really clear and lovely way, I think. MR : I have to be a fan now and tell you how much I loved your album The Wheel . RC : The Wheel is the record I made with my husband, and that’s the record we fell in love to when making it. So, that has a special place in my heart too. MR : Will we be hearing any new music from you soon? RC : You will. That is something I am going to start wrapping my head around in the fall. MR : Is there anything in the paper right now that’s interesting you? RC : I’ve been following the spill in the Gulf pretty closely. It’s very troubling. I follow the Tea Party machinations with great fear and trepidation. MR : What do you think of the whole Sarah Palin thing? RC : Actually, I wrote a piece and The Huffington Post published it called “Why I Would Be A Better Vice President Than Sarah Palin.” It was very snarky and kind of funny; but the truth is, I am just appalled that we don’t want the smartest people in the room to be the leaders of our country. It makes no sense to me. MR : If you were to give advice to new artists, what would that be? RC : Learn an instrument. So many don’t play instruments these days. Also, it’s something I say in the book–refine your skills to support your instincts. Sometimes, we have these instincts and passions towards doing something really creative, but if you don’t have the skill set to support it, it’s just kind of wasted. I’m one of those who thinks it’s half inspiration, half perspiration. So, I would say keep your head down and work hard. (transcribed by Erika Richards) A Conversation with Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin Mike Ragogna : Before we get into the album, you guys are on tour right now, right? Steve Berlin : Yeah we are. Actually I’m on my way to Santa Barbara. We basically started our American tour opening for Steve Miller. MR : Have you ever opened for him before? SB : Never. I’ve never met the man, never opened for him. MR : Your new album Tin Can Trust seems quite relevant considering what’s going on with our economy. Can you go into the song and how its title sets up the theme of the album? SB : Well, part of it came from the fact that we were recording for the first time, really, since the ’90s. Basically, the records we did in the ’90s were done with Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake at The Sound Factory in Hollywood. From ‘99 on, we built a studio at Cesar’s house in a town called Diamond Barb, which is like forty-five miles east of East L.A. It worked great for us. I’m really proud of the records we made, but it was a garage that was retrofitted into a recording studio, and we made it work but it wasn’t configured in a way that allowed us to play live. More often than not, it would be two guys playing at once, and then we would build on that, but never more than that. It just wasn’t big enough. There were never enough headphones or mic inputs for the band to play as a band, all together, live. For this record, Cesar had moved to a new place, and we just decided we wanted to find a place where we could all play live again. So, we found a studio in East L.A., really, within yards of where the guys grew up. It’s kind of down-trodden–I don’t know what the popular perception of East L.A. is–it’s really just a neighborhood. It’s a pretty typical place during the day, and then it sort of changes a little bit. We sort of found ourselves right in the middle of the economy in ‘10, where people are struggling and you see it graphically every day going to work. I think it informed the record in that exact regard. We were forced to really observe what’s going on around us in a way that we hadn’t. Not that you could ignore it, certainly, in this day and age, but it was even more apparent…that we would come every day to work on the record, and see what this economy has done to neighborhoods, families, and businesses. It was very graphic, and certainly such that you couldn’t ignore it. So, I think “Tin Can Trust” and some of the other songs on the record like “On Main Street” kind of speak to that immediacy, and sort of being in it every day in a way we hadn’t really subjected ourselves to for the better part of ten years. MR : There’s a blues-y mood to this album, with that simpler, almost “live” sound of your older records. SB : I agree. It’s something that we found once we got there. I don’t think we ever really plan, discuss, or strategize anything we do, to be perfectly honest. So, it wasn’t like we said beforehand, “Hey, we’ll go to this funky old studio, and we’ll sound like ‘84 again.” But that’s what happened, more or less. We sort of found ourselves in this place, and the studio had this old school vibe. They had no outboard gear to speak of; very few bells and whistles on any level. Our lounge was a ping-pong table that we set up in the hall. Not that we didn’t love it, but it was very much a down and dirty, workman-like environment, and it sort of came across in the music as well. Just the fact that it was only us, the guitars, and the amps, there really wasn’t anything like going back to Kiko or Colossal Head where we just had a mountain of gear; and we were fooling around with effects pedals, weird mic-ing, and just bizarreness before we’d start a track. This was just like, “Plug the guitar in and let’s go.” There was almost nothing between the hands and the tape, more or less. MR : Both Tin Can Trust and Will The Wolf Survive lack self-consciousness, and songwriting and musicianship are the focus. That’s usually the secret behind the longevity of the more classic acts. Actually, at this point, most people do categorize you as that, and know how smart and influential you’ve been. SB : Well, thank you. That’s very high praise. I guess when you play live as much as we have, and then you find yourself in a recording environment that lends itself to that, it isn’t really that hard. It’s just what we do, and it comes out like that. But that’s very nice of you to say. MR : Has the band reached that point where you’re mainly intuiting each other’s creative moves? Your recordings always have sounded spontaneous, but Tin Can Trust especially seems that way, like it’s mostly original takes. SB : That is very true. There are a number of songs on this that were first takes, “Tin Can Trust” being one of them. I think “West L.A. Fade Away” was a second take because we screwed-up something, but yeah we lucked out as far as that is concerned. We got a lot of great first takes. “Jupiter Of The Moon” was another one that was a first take. There’s something special about those first takes. If you manage to catch it just right, it’s like a perfect wave, it just works. You know from the minute you start it that it might be as good as it ever gets. So, we got very lucky a couple of times. MR : Who is singing harmony with you on the chorus of “I’ll Burn It Down”? SB : That’s Susan Tedeschi. MR : She’s got a billion dollar voice. SB : Yeah. She did it in, like, the one hour she had off between her tours. It was very, very gracious of her to do it. I don’t know if any of us would have done it with the schedule she was working with, but she did it, and we’re wildly appreciative. We think the world of her and Derek (Trucks). They’re the two coolest people in the world, basically. MR : She and Lucinda Williams are like the hardest working women in rock right now. SB : Yep, they really are. MR : Though “I’ll Burn It Down” suggests a more overt solution to solving problems, it seems more like a positive song about creating change. Am I wrong about that? SB : No, I think it is. You get to a place where it’s just time to burn it down and start again. I think it is, ultimately, a positive song, and I think it’s also about following your art as well. I didn’t write the lyrics, but if I could take the liberty of interpreting, I think what Louie is getting at there is that people have told us to do this or do that as a band and personally as well. We’ve only ever succeeded by ignoring virtually everything anybody ever said to us. So, if I’m not mistaken, I think that’s what the song’s about. The collective wisdom of the band members is what wins out at the end of the day, and we tend to ignore almost anything anybody has ever told us as far as career advice. MR : And that collective wisdom musically most likely is what’s kept you guys vital and relevant throughout the years. So, where is your Tin Can Trust tour taking you? SB : Earth, mostly. It starts in Santa Barbara, and then we sort of, stereotypically for us, bounce all over the place. We’ll be in the Midwest, the East Coast, and we’ll be in New York the day it comes out. I think we’re pretty much everywhere. By the end of September, there probably won’t be a part of North America that we haven’t reached in some way. MR : Will you be mixing it up with new songs from this record along with some of your classics? SB : Yeah. We really haven’t even begun to rehearse the new songs yet, that process starts next week. We’ll start integrating them into the set and see what works. Just speaking for myself, I’m certainly ready for a new bunch of songs to play. It seems like we’ve been doing the ones we’ve been playing for an awfully long time now. So, I’m very much looking forward to getting some new ones in there and trying them out. MR : What’s in the news right now that’s got your attention? SB : Wow. Well, that’s such a good question. I would say, musically at least, there are a couple of new cloud-based models that show promise. I just got back from Europe where there’s a company called Stratify. I don’t know if you’re familiar with any of their stuff, but it’s sort of like drawing your music from the clouds instead of storing it on your iPod or having it live on your computer someplace. You can have, effectively speaking, unlimited access to everything recorded, all the time. Apple is actually moving towards a model like that. Rather than selling track by track it would be more of a subscription model–kind of an all you can eat thing. So, that’s certainly something that’s got me thinking because we’ve got this problem of music being largely downloaded for free, and people like us not really being compensated for it. I understand, but I’m not going to sit there and pretend it’s not a problem. Obviously, the consumer’s voice is the loudest voice, and the music business has to come to terms with them and has to figure out a way to get stuff to people at a price point that makes it so stealing doesn’t make sense. If you can get something at a low enough price point and everybody gets paid, then why steal? MR : I guess getting there is the hardest part because royalty rates and all that would have to be re-negotiated for any major reworking of music delivery. But a Stratify-like model sounds like it’s where we’re heading. SB : Well, they have it in Europe, and it’s working, so it’s not like it can’t be done. I feel like, for the most part, the people that run the music businesses and publishing businesses have yet to really come to terms with what’s going on, and obviously they have to. No force is going to turn back the clock to ‘92 which is where they want us to be, desperately. They have to figure out how to do it, and all of us, I think, have to bring pressure to try to figure out a solution that works for everybody. Unfortunately, we’re alienating the people we should be guarding. That is, a young music consumer, at this point, feels like, “Why should I pay for anything? It’s all out there for free, so you’d be an idiot to pay for it.” We’ve lost, in my opinion, four or five generations to that exact sentiment just because it was either hard to get the stuff they want or it’s way too expensive. I think, frankly, records are way too expensive. Every other business in the world has brought their prices down, especially businesses that are digitize-able like books, T.V., and movies. All the other businesses that are digitized have brought their prices down in line with the lower costs of distribution, but in the record business, the prices go up. I think that’s insane. I think people see that and feel that these companies are just greedy. “What do I want to give them my money for?” That’s obviously a whole other conversation. MR : Do you have any advice for new artists? SB : Be born rich, I guess, would be my first advice (laughs). You start there, and you’re probably in much better shape. Really, what it’s about now is–in addition to finding your voice as a musician and a songwriter–you really have to develop your social networking skills. The bands that I see succeeding the most are the ones that have really figured out how to communicate to their fans on a one-to-one basis, and their fans feel like they’re friends and confidants. They have a really close relationship with their friends through all the social networking tools that are out there. So, if it isn’t you, find somebody that understands it and knows how to use it, and do it. I think it’s really important, from the word “go,” to connect with your fans, and utilize every form of conveyance there is. I think it’s really important that that is part of the package. You can’t just be a brilliant singer, brilliant musician, or a brilliant songwriter. You need to find out how to use that stuff or find somebody who knows how to use that stuff if you want to be successful in the future, I think. Tracks : 1. Burn It Down 2. On Main Street 3. Yo Canto 4. Tin Can Trust 5. Jupiter of the Moon 6. Do the Murray 7. All My Bridges Burning 8. West L.A. Fadeaway 9. The Lady and the Rose 10. Mujer Ingrata 11. 27 Spanishes (transcribed by Ryan Gaffney) More on Sarah Palin
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Mike Ragogna: Memoirs & A Tin Can Trust: Conversation with Rosanne Cash and Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin
Smarmy condescension fairly drips in this latest Sarah Palin video: Over the weekend, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was in Homer, Alaska, to film her TLC documentary series Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Alaskan teacher Kathleen Gustafson decided to welcome Palin with a banner reading “WORST GOVERNOR EVER.” Upon seeing Gustafson’s handiwork, Palin walked over to talk with her. Gustafson told Palin that she was angry that the former governor quit to become a “celebrity.” Palin tried to defend herself, claiming that she’s working to “elect candidates who understand the Constitution,” but the teacher was unmoved, insisting that if Palin really wanted to help the people of the state, she would not have quit her post … At one point, Palin asked Gustafson what she did for a living. When Gustafson responded that she is a teacher, Palin visibly rolled her eyes. Apparently we can add teachers to the list of people who aren’t “real” Americans.
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Palin’s run-in with a former constituent
Celebration is indeed in order. The health of our society, our democracy, hinges on equality, not just for some but for all. However, the ink isn’t even dry on Judge Walker’s decision to undo the wrong passed by California voters and already we’re onto how weak Obama and Democrats are on gay marriage. Obama may have brought this one on himself. There was really no need to rain on the gay marriage parade with a statement about not supporting gay marriage. And I suppose, there is a lot he and Democrats could do. If Obama believes in civil unions so strongly, he could have someone draft legislation or call for a vote on legislation that would give civil unions the equal rights and protections of marriage. He could also do what he does best and give a big eloquent speech on equality for all and how it is unconscionable to demand gays and lesbians pay taxes while denying them the full liberties granted in our Constitution. He could do this from any national monument or from the oval office on television, on the day of the big march for gay marriage. He could do this, except for one small thing, there is no big march for gay marriage! With all the criticism being lobbed at the embattled president and embattled Democrats, one would think it was 1988 and ACTUP! was in full protest mode taking over Pennsylvania Avenue. But that is not the case. Maybe it’s just a new way of doing things. These days you don’t have to get “out loud and proud”! Maybe a quiet email campaign and good lawyers is all it takes. If that’s the case, reserving your outrage for Obama and Democrats makes perfect sense. Especially, if you believe comment posts like a whopping 87% of the American population supports an end to DADT. There’s no need to get organized if you believe as Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry that there isn’t a single voter that Obama and Dems would lose if they openly embraced freedom to marry instead of everything but marriage. However, if you’re noticing the culture clash going on out there, and candidates like Sharon Angle and Sarah Palin’s 76% approval rating scare the sh*t out of you, you may want to get out of your slippers. According to a 2006 City University of New York study, Eighty-one percent (81%) of the United States population identifies as Christian: 30% are White Evangelicals; 24% are Catholic; 20% are Liberal Protestants; 8% are African American Protestants; 2% are Jewish; and around 2 Million Americans are Muslim. Over a third of our population attends church regularly. With these statistics it should come as no shock that there are thirty-one (31) states with state constitutional amendments and statutes banning same sex marriage. They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Seventeen (17) of these states have bans against same sex unions of any kind. In Arkansas, gay couples are prohibited from adopting children. Even if DOMA was overturned tomorrow, it’s more than likely that states would fight to keep these bans under the guise of protecting States’ Rights. The LGBT community does not need to win over every American to secure their rights but with the reality of these numbers, gays and lesbians should hardly realistically expect anyone in government to simply sign their rights into law without them first shifting the country to the tipping point on the issue. Lincoln tried to legislate freedom and equality for African Americans with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. He was successful at freeing the slaves but not without a bloody Civil War. In 1863 Lincoln instituted Reconstruction, which among other things, granted civil rights protections to African Americans. This was undermined by southern states with the enactment of Jim Crow starting in 1865 and Lincoln’s assassination that same year. John F Kennedy might have been thinking about the Emancipation Proclamation when he denied support for passing the Civil Rights Act and its very movement during the first years of his presidency. When Martin Luther King Jr. told him he was going to start marching for the integration of schools, Kennedy asked him not to because the country wasn’t ready. Martin Luther King Jr. pressed on and the movement made the nation ready. Kennedy did finally come around, and on June 11, 1963 he even went so far as to send in the National Guard to Alabama to assist in integrating the schools there. Less than six months later, Kennedy was assassinated. The fact that these presidents forced the hand of progress in our country by way of openly supporting civil rights had nothing to do with their murders, according to the history books. It’s just rather ironic that both were so incredibly hated by a significant portion of this country for doing so. The tipping point for gay and lesbian equality is clearly on the horizon but I’m afraid it’s going to need a little more activism on the part of gay and lesbian Americans. If you understand Obama is the president of a rather conservative country and not the Gay Civil Rights Leader, you get the need for marriage equality supporters to invest diligently in winning this struggle. I don’t know who is the leader of the gay marriage movement. So far, the Marriage Equality movement has not shown the fortitude of the ACTUP! Movement of the 80’s that got stuff done and elected the very compelling Larry Kramer as its spokesman. The Marriage Equality Movement has been about the dignified fight for legal justice. Unfortunately, it may need to become an all-out battle for the hearts and minds of America. You can’t legislate acceptance but you can set a society on a course to acceptance by deliberating and directly taking up the issue of equality with voters. It seems this work cannot done by politicians; it is done by people who are demanding their civil rights. Besides coalition building, probably the biggest success of Martin Luther King Jr, Stokeley Carmichael and the Civil Rights Movement was making their cause something Americans consistently and constantly talked about. While Brown v. Board of Education was making its way through the courts, there was regularly something for Americans to respond to, something to get involved in. There were protests, sit-ins, marches and speeches for the media to run on the 6 o’clock news. Images of police officers turning dogs onto crowds of protestors and beating them with nightsticks, bloodied faces and pictures of activists who had gone missing and later found dead splashed across the television and newspapers. Separate but equal wasn’t neat and harmless and it was no longer being portrayed as such. The notion of separate but equal was exposed as pure hatred, a heinous, deadly act. It seems too many in the gay and lesbian community want to leave the activism to the judges and the courts and Rachel Maddow, which begs the question, why? Whatever the answer, gay and lesbians need to understand their not-yet-nationally-acclaimed leaders cannot do it without them. There is no Movement without them. Before we question whether Democrats and Obama are doing enough for the rights of gays and lesbians, we must first ask if gays and lesbians are doing enough for the rights of gays and lesbians? To get involved with the campaign for marriage equality contact the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force or any other organization in your area that is in the fight. There is still work to be done. More on Civil Rights
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Vanessa Carmichael: Is There Really a "Fight" for Gay Marriage?
Can we get a fair program where people stand at the back of the line, they pay a fine, they do some things that would ultimately allow a path to legalization? ~ Meg Whitman on citizenship for illegal immigrants, October 2009 So, I don’t think we should have blanket amnesty, and I am not for a path to citizenship. I have been very, very clear on that. ~ Meg Whitman on citizenship for illegal immigrants, August 2010 By flatly declaring herself against a path to citizenship as she did on the John & Ken radio show last week, Whitman has, we believe, undercut her chances — slim as they might have been — of winning a significant portion of Latino votes in November. Instead, she has driven voters to Jerry Brown who, if not entirely consistent on immigration issues himself, clearly supports developing a process by which illegal immigrants can become U.S. citizens. This is a big blunder on the part of the Whitman campaign - on par with their decision to oppose AB 32, California’s pioneering climate change law, supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and iconic GOP figures like former Secretary of State George Shultz. Together, these moves have hurt Whitman’s ability to capture votes from two constituencies that could decide the election: independents and Latinos. Calbuzz has explained several times our thinking about independents and the environment. See here , here and here , for example. So now let’s recap why opposing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants - a position Whitman took to shore up her standing with conservatives during the GOP primary fight with Steve Poizner — is such a mistake by eMeg. Since June 2007, the Public Policy Research Institute of California has asked this question: If you had to choose, what do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years? They should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status or they should be deported back to their native country. Overall, among all adults, the responses have ranged from 69% to 74% in favor of a path to citizenship. Democrats have hovered at about 80%, independents at about 70% and even Republicans at about 50%. But among Latinos, the response has consistently been about 90%. This is not even a question for Latinos. It’s a core, baseline article of faith in the Hispanic community that illegal immigrants should not be deported but should, instead, be given an opportunity to become citizens. eMeg has been on both sides of the issue, giving Working Families for California — the pro-Brown labor-funded independent committee — an opening to create a commercial accusing her of being ” dos caras ” — two faced. She is, in their Spanish language TV spot, “sin verguenza” — shameless. Whitman’s problem is that as good as she might appear to Latino voters on jobs, education and cutting bloated government, she is on the wrong side on a deeply-rooted issue that is fundamental among this population. In fact, she agreed on the John and Ken radio show the other day that illegal immigrants should have to leave the country and apply through legal channels before they can become citizens. John & Ken : No illegal alien is going to get any citizenship unless they leave the country and apply through the process. Is that true? Whitman : Yes. How are you going to make them leave the country and come back through legal channels, Meg? Shove ‘em, right? Unless her plan is to politely ask all the illegal immigrants to please, kindly go back home, we’re talking deportation. Bill Whalen, the very smart former speechwriter for Pete Wilson who is now at the Hoover Institution, doesn’t believe Whitman has killed her chances with Latinos. First of all, he argues, “Every politician in America who opens their mouth and tries to speak lucidly about illegal immigration usually ends up creating problems for himself or herself.” That’s true for Brown as well as Whitman, he believes, because illegal immigration is a Gordian Knot in American politics. Moreover, he asks, “Is Jerry going to campaign on this?” Brown, he argues, has to be careful not to push too hard on the issue for fear of a backlash from voters who are not sympathetic to illegal immigrants. But if PPIC’s numbers over three years are correct, Brown has little to fear from California voters by advocating a process by which illegal immigrants can become citizens: that’s a popular position. So why wouldn’t Brown campaign — among Latinos — on the issue? If Brown ever campaigns at all among Latinos. Or anyone else. For another — somewhat more partisan — look at this issue, you can read what the Oracle of Cruickshank has to say about it over at Calitics . BTW: Camp eMeg argues — gamely but unconvincingly — that when Whitman said she was for “a path to legalization” she never meant “citizenship.” “She was talking about a temporary guest worker program,” the volcanic eMeg spokeshuman Sarah Pompei told John Myers . “She supports a comprehensive solution that secures the borders first and includes a temporary guest worker program. What she said today is entirely consistent with what she has said before.” Consistent, indeed. More on California Governor Race
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Phil Trounstine: Meg Whitman’s Immigration Snafu
The Duchess of York’s debts have risen to almost Â£5 million, causing alarm in the Royal family, which now fears her best option is bankruptcy.
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Sarah Ferguson, Duchess Of York, To Declare Bankruptcy?
The decision by CNN anchor and Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria to return the 2005 Hubert Humphrey Award for First Amendment Freedoms to the Anti-Defamation League, along with the $10,000 honorarium, added a much-needed layer of intellectual and moral honesty to the national debate over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” to be built a few blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The ADL has taken a position in opposition to the planned building of the 13 story Islamic cultural center and mosque at that location, calling it “not an issue of rights, but an issue of what is right,” citing “the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.” Zakaria pointed out that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf , the Arab-American Islamic leader and author who first proposed the center, has spent his career promoting peaceful relations between Islam and the West. Said Zakaria of the proposed 13-storey Islamic cultural center on Park Place, two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center and its proponent: The man behind it, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has spent years trying to offer a liberal interpretation of Islam. His most recent book, What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America argues that America is actually what an ideal Islamic society would look like because is it peaceful, tolerant and pluralistic. His vision for Islam, in other words, is Osama Bin Laden’s nightmare. In returning the award, Zakaria challenged the ADL’s position, questioning whether or not the esteemed religious freedom organization’s perspective in this instance actually contradicted its own mission statement. The ADL’s mission statement says it seeks “to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens,” Zakaria wrote in his August 6th Newsweek column. But Abraham Foxman, the head of the ADL, explained that we must all respect the feelings of the 9/11 families, even if they are prejudiced feelings. “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted,” he said. First, the 9/11 families have mixed views on this mosque. There were, after all, dozens of Muslims killed at the World Trade Center. Do their feelings count? But more important, does Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic? The 9/11 attacks, unquestionably the defining moment of this generation, took the lives of 2,976 people (not counting the 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists who hijacked the four commercial airliners, crashing two into the Twin Towers, a third into the Pentagon, and the fourth into a field in Stonycreek Township, near Shanksville, PA.) The dead included citizens of more than 70 countries and numerous faith traditions, including both American and non-American Muslims. The national and international wounds left by the 9/11 attacks won’t heal during any of our lifetimes. In addition, the attacks have spawned a horrific cottage industry of destruction. They were cynically co-opted, repackaged, and sold back to the American people by the Bush presidency as a justification to invade Iraq based on two fallacious premises: that Iraq was hiding “weapons of mass destruction” (read: nukes) and that it was not-so-secretly working in concert with Al-Qaeda. That hijacking of America’s grief over 9/11 has, conservatively to date, cost the lives of between 97,182 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians, as well as 4,414 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen. On the home front, “9/11 Inc.” has run the gamut from the commercial ghouls who hawk everything from pictures of the towers in flames, to bits of Ground Zero rubble, to “commemorative coins,” to well-funded evangelicals like Pat Robertson who said Islam is “not a religion” and Jerry Falwell who blamed “pagans,” “abortionists,” “feminists and the gays and the lesbians,”(oh, and the ACLU), to politicians who’ve made free with both 9/11 imagery and the word “terrorist” during the last presidential election, flinging it at, or near, candidate Obama, desperately hoping that the scary word would highlight his “otherness” from “middle-America.” On July 18th Sarah Palin famously tweeted “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.” Aside from highlighting, yet again, the degree to which basic high-school English vocabulary eludes her, Palin’s tweet fundamentally insulted the Islamic-American electorate by drawing a line in the dirt: if they didn’t “refudiate” this “spear through the heart,” they weren’t “peaceful Muslims,” they were the other kind, the scary kind, the un-American kind, who were out of touch with “the heartland.” The fact that this folksy cri-de-coeur came from a woman whose home church once bizarrely brought in a Kenyan witchfinder to pray over her and keep her safe from “the spirit of witchcraft” during 2008 election lent it a certain surreal, Sarah-through-the-looking-glass quality. On the other hand, Palin has never shrunk from creating division and polarization. A significant portion of her failed candidacy for vice-president of the United States was predicated on division, and she showed herself to be no slouch when it came to using the hot-button word “terrorist”–and, by extension, 9/11 imagery–to taint the Obama candidacy with the implications. Across the country, goaded, in some cases, by Republican candidates and Tea Party groups that have successfully fanned anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant sentiment, the establishment of mosques and Islamic cultural centers has been met with increasingly hysterical opposition. Writing in the New York Times on August 7th, Laurie Goodstein quotes a grandmother, Diana Serafin, who believes that “in 20 years…we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that.” The ugliest part of fear mongering is that the “they” and “them” being referred to are other Americans. Perhaps the only honest justification for opposing the building of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is to admit that one believes Islam itself was to blame for 9/11, and that 5 to 7 million Muslim-Americans share in the blame by association by virtue of their religion—and not the 19 Saudi, Lebanese, and United Arab Emirates-born criminal religious fanatics driven by a perverted, medieval vision of a theocratic Islamic utopia. That belief would, indeed, make the establishment of a mosque on, or near, Ground Zero an obscenity. The only problem with that premise is that it’s nonsense. I freely admit that I myself initially flinched at the thought of a mosque so close to the site of the worst terrorist attack in American history, an attack that was intended to engender a primal and visceral feeling of terror. It’s the same part of me, again entirely primal, that occasionally flinches when I see men and women in Muslim garb at airports before I board my flight. At the same time, I realize that the part of me that feels that way is not one of the better angels of my nature, and certainly not the part of me I’d ever want to define it. On some level, I know that those feelings can only be a form of symbolic and emotional internment of the millions of moderate American Muslims who want nothing more than to raise and educate their children in the same American dream shared by their Christian and Jewish neighbors. Perhaps the ultimate memorial to the murder victims of September 11th would be to categorically reject the forces of political and religious divisiveness who want this fear of neighbors to fester and spread, and in doing so, issue a clear, strong statement of mutual trust and unity to those who wish harm to America, to state unambiguously that the 9/11 murderers did not succeed in their assault, an assault that was as symbolic as it was literal. More on Tax Day Tea Parties
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Michael Rowe: Thoughts on the "Ground Zero Mosque " and the Better Angels of Our Nature
Andrew McCarthy, one of the dependable frothers over at what experts call ” American’s Shittiest Website ,” has some indignant things to say about Islam and Islamists–and in so doing, he has deeply insulted both me and America. How? In a minute. First, though, everyone wants to know: Does McCarthy’s latest bleat meet or exceed standard National Review Online (NRO) specifications for dishonesty, fake “thoughtfulness,” and barely-contained scaredy-cat pants-pissery? It certainly does. What the GZ mosque episode powerfully demonstrates is the growing divide between the American people and the progressive ruling class. The latter, I believe, are gradually surrendering. Yes, it’s all good old American wingnut fun, from the pipe-puffing “I believe” to the frankly ludicrous term “the progressive ruling class.” This is a phrase of oxymoronic power equal to that of “the attractively self-effacing Bill O’Reilly” or “the damned sensible Glenn Beck.” Only in the total intellectual vacuum of NRO (where they don’t allow comments, and where the sublimely clueless Kathryn Jean Lopez reigns as editrix) can someone with a straight face use the term “progressive” and “ruling class” in the same sentence without satire. The world knows, even if McCarthy doesn’t, that National Review has spent every day since its founding defending the actual ruling class from progressives. Still, if the piece featured merely the rote recitation of the usual papier-mache -patriot tropes (”ultimate victory…appeasement…surrendering…American credibility…”), I would laugh raucously in its face and mention it no more. But Mr. Andrew McCarthy goes so far as to presume to speak for America. And, in the words of the philosopher, this aggression will not stand, man. Most of the American people are in a much different place. They see Islamists advancing, they are beginning to grasp that Islamists (not just terrorists but the whole Islamist movement) mean to change us in very fundamental ways, and therefore they understand that every such advance is a defeat for freedom. (snip–but wait! Don’t you love that “are beginning to grasp”? The Great American Wad struggles toward consciousness. It’s exciting! Thanks, Marx!) Americans also realize that when our country looks like it doesn’t have the stomach to face down bad people and noxious ideologies, we are significantly less safe. Though weary, the people of the country want to see resolve. They think they understand their principles a lot better than the ruling class does, and they are tired of lectures from the Obamas and Bloombergs who, in the name of abstractions that they presume to call “our values,” would have us sell out our principles and our security. (snip–although…huh. “Bad people and noxious ideologies”…does that include South American dictators? And the House of Saud? No? Pity. And aren’t “our principles” also “abstractions”?) Most of all, Americans are tired of the shroud of political correctness the ruling class has placed around Islam. We don’t object to anyone’s freedom of conscience, and we abide countless places for Muslims to gather and worship even though we know a very high percentage of the Islamic centers and mosques are heavily influenced by Islamists. But we’re tired of being told things that aren’t true: e.g., that Islam is peaceful, tolerant and non-threatening; that sharia — which is relentlessly authoritarian, discriminatory, and, in parts, savage — is something we need to accommodate; and that there is no connection between Islamic doctrine (which is supremacist and belligerent), Islamist terror, and the broader Islamist threat to our civilization. We’re tired of being told that people who can’t bring themselves to condemn Hamas are “moderates” deserving of being taken seriously and having their endless grievances against America addressed. And we’re tired of being told that we shouldn’t examine or object to an authoritarian ideology just because it travels under the label of “religion.” No, it isn’t you. All of it has the tone of a clarion call to duty and patriotism, and none of it makes sense. The figure spearheading the (so-called) Ground Zero mosque, Faisal Abdul Rauf, is a bridge-building figure with allegiances to both the Islamic world and to the U.S. He has said things the chest-thumpers on the American right don’t like, and I’m sure he’s said things their chest-thumping counterparts in militant Islam don’t like, either. The best way to see “Islamists advancing” is to subvert him, pollute our (supposedly sacred) idea of religious freedom, and polarize the situation. Similarly, McCarthy deplores anyone who would “sell out our principles,” but cannot see past the flare of his nostrils that allowing the worthy (the 9-11 relative) and the unworthy (assorted loudmouths and yahoos) to restrict Muslim religious freedom is, in fact, to sell out our values–cheap. According to this gentleman, all of Islam is a militant, authoritarian “threat to our civilization.” If that’s the case, how is it that any of us are still alive? (Guess how many Muslims there are in the world. No, come on, just guess. Give up? ReligiousTolerance.org says, “As of mid 2010, we accept the Pew Forum’s estimate 1.57 billion as the most reliable estimate.”) And us with a measly 300 million (some of whom are Muslims). Perhaps McCarthy is so “tired” because he lays awake at night, trembling. Oh, and if it’s Islam’s authoritarian ideology he abhors, what’s his position on Catholicism? Does he abide countless places for Catholics to gather and worship, in spite of the fact that the Church’s history of authoritarian tyranny is even longer than that of Islam? But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that this individual presumes to speak for America. And he most certainly does not speak for America. I do. Granted, like McCarthy, I–like all Americans–am weary and tired. But we Americans aren’t tired of Islamists. We’re tired of Andrew McCarthy. We’re tired of places like National Review Online publishing nonsense like the above-quoted. We’re tired of the Republican Party and its nihilistic obstructionism. We’re tired of transparent liars, frauds, mutants, and grifters like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh being taken seriously by anyone except giggling children. We’re tired of Fox “News” and its daily spew of propaganda and race-based alarmism. We’re tired of the screaming Tea Baggist idiots, with their silly Colonial dress-up and their misspelled signs, and the cretinous religiosity of Sharon Angle being accorded serious media consideration. We’re tired of John Boehner’s tan and Mitch McConnell’s hideously smooth face. In short, we’re tired–and weary–of how the political right of this country has devolved into a fall-of-Rome orgy in which the ignorant and the bigoted are manipulated by the mendacious and the demagogic into making the rich richer and everyone else poorer. Or is it just me? Whatever. I need a nap. More on Islam
Ellis Weiner: I’m America, and I’m Tired
There was something distinctly amusing about watching Sarah Palin’s piece of performance art last week defending the Bush tax cuts. In truth, there were lots of amusing things. In progressive circles, there are plenty for whom the mere mention of the name “Karl Rove” engenders nothing more than the gnashing of teeth–or perhaps the occasional howl of execration. But his admirers and detractors alike can agree on one thing: he had a rare gift. He could turn his candidate’s weakness into a strength, and his opponent’s best strength into a devastating weakness. Have a candidate who’s afraid of horses? Turn him into a kickass cowboy. Have an opponent who’s a bona fide war hero? Turn him into a cowardly Frenchman. Have a vice-presidential candidate who got five deferments to avoid Vietnam? Turn him into the Dark Lord of the Sith. The idea is clear. Fortunately, Sarah Palin lacks this skill. Her weakness is that she’s an overmatched lightweight who has to scribble notes on her hand during interviews. And how does she decide to overcome that? By doing it again and reminding everyone that she did, in fact, scribble notes on her hand during an interview–though admittedly, the attempt to blame it on liberals for actually expecting a potential presidential candidate to have basic math skills deserves some plaudits. Let’s just call it an attempt to appeal to the baser elements of her base. Even more amusingly, the half-term governor managed to take her biggest strength and turn it into a weakness. Chris Wallace did his absolute best to do her a favor: He emphasized the point repeatedly that the tax cuts being defended by the Governor Who Quit were blowing a hole in the budget of around $600 billion per year and that they had benefited only the very wealthiest of Americans. But Mama Grizzly continued unbowed in their defense, repeating the tired talking points of failed Reaganism: that the tax cuts would hurt small businesses. That rich people employ everyone else, so increasing their marginal tax rate would prevent employment. That “raising taxes” will hurt the economy and slow growth. All of which, of course, is utterly false . But you wouldn’t know that from hearing Republicans talk about tax cuts–especially marginal tax cuts for the wealthy–as if they were some sort of panacea, equally effective regardless of the illness. Conservative tax policy has long been centered on the hypothetical Laffer curve –a parabolic graph demonstrating a presumed relationship between marginal tax rates and total government revenue. At tax rates of zero percent and a hundred percent, government revenue is zero: after all, zero percent of zero is zero, and if the government takes all your income, there is no longer any incentive to work. The idea is that somewhere in the middle of that curve is the “peak”–the ideal rate at which government revenue will be the highest. Here’s a basic example . Now, just to recap: This so-called Laffer Curve underwrites much of the theory behind taxation policy in supply-side economics, because the default assumption is universally that tax rates are on the upward slope of the curve–namely, that tax rates are too high. If tax rates are lowered, that fact simply goes down the memory hole and is forgotten, and the new tax rates, such as they are, become the readjusted baseline. This was precisely the framing that the ex-governor used to promote the extension of the Bush tax cuts: according to Palin, Obama has a “proposal” to end the Bush tax cuts–even though by their nature, they were designed to be temporary and it would take a proposal to continue them, rather than to end them. According to Palin, Obama would be “responsible” for the largest tax increase in history, rather than simply standing by while they reverted to the levels they were at during a period of unrivaled economic prosperity. The conservative perspective on tax policy is something like a ratchet: it only goes one way. The Laffer Curve is an extremely simplistic way of viewing tax policy, given the inherent complexities of the subject, but it is illustrative of a fundamental point: If conservatives were intellectually honest about their views on tax policy and the existence of a “peak rate” at which government revenues would be maximized, there would be a serious debate about which side of the hypothetical Laffer curve we were on. It would be especially important to have that debate–especially regarding tax cuts for the wealthy–in light of the history of the top marginal tax rates in this country, which were as high as 77 percent in 1964, and have now decreased to as low as 28 percent during the presidency of George H. W. Bush before settling at the current rate of 35 percent — half of its 1964 level . It would seem even more important to have that debate in light of the deficit we currently face, and the supposed concern that conservatives have about it, especially given the fact that tax cuts for the wealthy are one of the less productive ways of providing economic stimulus. Intellectual honesty, however, is not the conservative strong suit. Promulgating self-serving policy, on the other hand, is quite a different story. So as the battle over the Bush tax cuts heats up, just remember: The governor who quit isn’t seriously interested in reducing the deficit. She’s not even intellectually curious about whether the current tax rates are the best for the economy as a whole. Rather, she’s very interested in making sure she gets to keep as much of her six-figure speaking fees as she possibly can. And if the people who were forced out of a job by her party’s policies can’t get unemployment benefits because of that? Tough luck. They just didn’t have the drive to spend time giving Rich Lowry starbursts .
The tax ratchet
Conservatives routinely paint Barack Obama as a socialist looking to redistribute wealth in the United States. (Or worse, as Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) reported that tea party leaders, during a meeting, espoused paranoid delusions of a totalitarian takeover of the U.S. by Obama.) This charge is cynical and outrageous, not just because it is false and a naked attempt to use fear mongering to drum up votes, but because there is actually a group of Americans actively engaged in wealth redistribution, and they have been for quite some time. Who are these people looking to move massive amounts of assets from one subsection of Americans to another? The conservatives themselves. Beginning with the Reagan administration, and reaching its fullest realization during the presidency of George W. Bush, conservatives have systematically been acting to redistribute wealth from the middle class upward. The result has been the steady decay of the middle class, and it’s all a result of conservative policies, specifically involving taxes and deregulation. Bush successfully pushed through accelerated deregulation and massive tax cuts for the highest earners. The result was that while the wealthiest Americans saw substantial income gains, real income for the middle class was static (and far below the robust growth of the middle class during the Clinton administration). And when, in the absence of regulation, Wall Street’s reckless bets nearly brought ruin to the financial industry, the result was a massive recession that severely hit the lower, working and middle classes. As I lamented last month , middle and working class Americans have every right to be angry now, but that anger shouldn’t be directed at the Democrats in November, but at the Republicans, whose policies created the economic mess the country finds itself in. Which is why I was so happy to see Paul Krugman’s annihilation of the economic plan advanced by the so-called “intellectual” star of the Republican party, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Krugman exposed Ryan’s plan for what it is, a replay of the Bush economic policies, only this time on steroids: A massive tax break for the wealthiest five percent of Americans that would cost the country $4 trillion over the next ten years, a tax increase for the other 95 percent of Americans, and monumental cuts in government spending that would cause catastrophic pain for the lower, working and middle classes (while having little effect on the wealthy, the primary beneficiaries of Ryan’s plan). Oh, and Ryan’s plan would add to the deficit, pushing it far beyond the current projections for 2020. (Of course, Ryan is touting the savings of his spending cuts without accounting for the costs of his tax cuts for the rich.) I thought Krugman’s exposure of the realities of the Ryan plan provided a solid summing up of current Republican ideology. On the surface, Ryan appears more reasonable than the more vocal leaders of his party. He tends to avoid the outrageous pronouncements of his fellow conservatives (think Sarah Palin , Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his talk of ” velvet revolution ,” Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN) and House Minority Leader John Boehner , not to mention the lies and vitriol spouted by pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, as well as the consistent national security fear-mongering of Newt Gingrich , and the out-and-out insanity on parade daily in the media, like the recent charge by Colorado gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes that his Democratic opponent encouraged bike use as mayor of Denver as part of a plan to convert the city into a “United Nations community,” not to mention the possible Queen of the wackos, Nevada GOP senate candidate Sharron Angle , including her claim that the press should ask the questions she wants to answer .). Ryan is the young, normal-looking and sounding face Republicans would like to send out in front of the public, but, as Krugman comprehensively laid out, his policies are no more mainstream or plausible than those of his more obviously extreme colleagues. No, Ryan, just like the others, is completely dedicated to policies that empower corporations and transfer wealth upward, at the expense of the middle class. In short, Ryan and the rest of the conservatives are at war with lower, working and middle class Americans. The Republicans would like to frame the November midterm elections as a matchup between a socialist party looking to redistribute wealth and engineer a government takeover of the private sector (the Democrats) v. a party defending traditional American values of free market, capitalist economics (the Republicans). Such a framing of the two parties is a Republican fantasy, as accurate as the charge that President Obama was not born in the United States (which, according to a recent CNN poll , nearly two in five Republicans believe to be true ). But one look at the reality of the Bush years and the behavior of Republicans during the Obama administration paints a very different picture. On issue after issue, the Republicans have sided against the middle class, whether it was opposing financial regulation (even after GOP-touted deregulation resulted in the near financial collapse that plunged the country into deep recession), pushing for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, opposing any kind of job-creating stimulus (that didn’t involve more tax cuts for the rich), opposing and delaying the extension of unemployment benefits to those out of work (and painting the unemployed as lazy), opposing state aid that would preserve the jobs of teachers, police officers and firefighters (even though it would decrease the deficit), opposing health care reform (except to protect private insurance companies), and even opposing aid to workers sickened by the toxic fumes at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. The smoking gun of GOP dedication to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class (and the revelation that the party’s supposed fanatical opposition to deficits is a facade) came when one Republican after another lined up to back Sen. John Kyl’s position that it was okay to add to the deficit for tax cuts for high earners (something even conservative stalwart Alan Greenspan could not support ). The GOP record of the last ten years demonstrates that, in reality, the election in November will pose a choice between Democrats who support a free market capitalist economy, but with protections to prevent against its excesses (thus protecting lower, working and middle class Americans), and Republicans at war with the middle class, advocating policies that further their suffering while benefiting Wall Street, corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Conservatives are right when they say that there are those in Washington looking to redistribute wealth. It’s just that it’s their party that is all for the redistributing. More on Third World America
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Mitchell Bard: Krugman’s Takedown of Ryan Demonstrates How Conservatives Are at War With the Middle Class
I must admit that only two shows into Season 8, I’m hooked all over again. I already have my favorites, I already know who’s going home sooner than later, and I think Season 8 has the makings of a really strong season. That being said, I’m kind of not sure how some of the 17 contestants on the premiere made the final cut. But Reality TV has its own modus operandi and this show is just as formulaic as the rest; in other words, some folks are picked because they will obviously make for good television. It’s Project Runway Business-As-Usual; the designers bunk down at furnished rental building atlas, which is located near their workroom at Parsons The New School for Design and also close to Mood, the fabric store they will be visiting most weeks for their materials. For the premiere, we’re thrown a curveball with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn doing voiceover intros about each contestant. After this we see them all meeting up at different ports of entry into Manhattan - by land, air, and sea - before uniting as a group, along with their suitcases, at the Lincoln Center Plaza (home to this year’s New York Fashion Week, mes cheres ). Whereby Tim and Heidi greet them with the news that their first challenge takes place that day - they have a mere five hours to accomplish it - and they are not yet definitely on the show. In fact, this is the final hurdle in the acceptance process. And of course, there’s another curveball. They are told to take a garment from their suitcases, and this garment will be the basis of their design - after which they then have to pass the garment to the person next to them. Ouch! Off to the workroom they go. For this challenge, because of the time constraints, Mood has created an annex so there’s no time wasted on a shopping trip. And it’s the usual plethora of sponsorship opps; the L’Oreal Paris makeup room, the Garnier hair salon, the HP Touchsmart notebooks, the Brother Sewing Room, the Piperlime.com accessory wall, etc. etc. And once again I yearn for Tim to tell the designers about Kohler-faucet and toilet outfitted washrooms, but no dice. It is a school, after all. The reason I think we have the makings of a really good, if not great, season, is that there are truly some peeps to keep an eye on here. There are egos the size of the workroom (Ivy: “I know this sounds totally vain but I think Project Runway is the Ivy Show”), cartoon characters (Mondo - who at 32 dresses like a gothic punk 12 year old boy; Casanova - words almost fail me, he must be seen to be believed and even then I don’t), a goth-influenced new college grad (April: “I’m inspired by morgues”), an earthy-crunchy Northwesterner who designs sustainable clothing (Gretchen), a Philly girl who works mistakes into her designs (Kristin: “Embrace the crooked zipper!”), a Utah housewife with dreads who misses her baby daughter (McKell), a guy who talks like he just injested helium (Michael Drummond, the St. Louis Michael. There’s also Michael Costello from Palm Springs, who tried out for the show twice before), Peach (at 50 the eldest of the bunch, from suburban Chicago, who usually designs - blanch! - for “the ladies who lunch”), and - my current favorite - Valerie (from Cleveland, which I happen to know is a hotbed of awesomeness). Since this episode happened two weeks ago I’ll cut to the chase so we can get to more pressing matters, like this week’s episode. The kids (and Peach) are struggling, thrown into the fastest turnaround in Project Runaway history on the day they arrive in New York to find they’re still not definitely on the show. Casanova’s model - who’s wearing the least amount of clothes, mind you - is not even dressed by the time Tim comes in to herd them all to the runway. The judges are, as always, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, and the guest judge this week is actress Selma Blair (who’s a member of the internationally best dressed list, dontcha know). The winner is Gretchen, who’s whipped up a lovely sophisticated yet simple and elegant black cocktail dress with the sleeves accented by April’s icky spangly disco jacket material. Color me surprised. Obviously Gretchen will be a force to be reckoned with. In the bottom are Nicholas, Ivy, Jason, McKell, April, and Casanova. Nicholas’ look, per Heidi, is “odd and boring.” Ivy mouths off too much to the judges defending herself but the fact is she literally took Peach’s pants, made capris out of them and added a blouse. Selma tells her it looks like “small town hick outfit night at the bar.” April’s look is just plain “a hot mess” according to La Klum , to which Nina adds “she looks like an 80’s streetwalker.” Michael Kors tells Casanova that his look, which is pretty much two scarves on top and a filmy low cut skirt, looks like “a pole dancer in Dubai” (Nina: “fascinatingly bad”). Jason - who has the no people skills, keeps to himself, and is just plain creepy - took a kimono and turned it the other way around - and stapled the belt to it because he ran out of time (Heidi: “It looks like a hairdressing cape”). And McKell, our young be-dreaded Utah housewife/mom, is told by Michael Kors that her garment looks like “a trainwreck” and by Heidi that it is “butt-ugly” (”She’s in an alternate universe,” says Michael during the critical assessment). Seriously though McKell’s dress is at least tailored (and has no staples!), and Jason should have been sent packing - or perhaps all of them at once, which I guess would have thrown off the season’s arc. At the outset of the second episode, Sarah from Toluca Lake makes this comment: “I’m pretty sure this show is not about fashion design. It’s about public torture of designers on television.” Which leads me to conclude she’s going down soon, as this is just Week Two. I would expect that kind of comment to come around Week Five or Six. The ladies all like Peach and seem to see her as a sort of “surrogate mother” (April’s words). To me this means she’s not at all a threat, and I agree. She’s definitely not going to be around long. She’s very nice but her designs so far have been screamingly boring and she keeps bringing up her advanced age (”My only hope is that they’ll take mercy on the old lady”). My guess is she hasn’t read The Secret . It’s imperative that someone look like a walking cartoon character every season, I guess. For Season 8 this person is Mondo, who keeps to himself and is not making any friends as of yet. Ditto Jason, but he has no apparent talent (how in the hell did he make the cut?). Jason affects a bowler hat a la Clockwork Orange (I wish I could say I made this reference but my girl Valerie did). The challenge this week is delivered to them on the rooftop of atlas from Heidi, Tim, and Marie Claire Editor-In-Chief Joanna Coles. They are to design a look for the quintessential Marie Claire woman - who is intelligent, practical, fashion forward, confident, and sexy. The winner’s look will be featured on a 40 foot tall Times Square Billboard for the magazine. AJ (sporting a - I kid you not - Hugh Hefner style boat captain hat) sketches out a design for a grungey punk rock chick going to a concert, mentioning Courtney Love and Gwen Stefani as his inspirations. (Um, this is Marie Claire - not Nylon . Have you ever looked at the magazine?) Gretchen decides to make a jumpsuit even though she’s never designed pants on her own before. I love her for her cheerfulness. Jason’s idea is an “infinity dress” which is a concept he’s had “for a long time.” The dress will incorporate the number 8 for Season 8. We get a glimpse of his handwriting which is very squiggly and serial killer-y looking. “Infinity is forever. What’s better than infinity?” he muses. Indeed. When Tim comes to check in with the crew during their workday, he allows that he likes Jason’s color palette but looks dubious about the dress itself. At which point I notice that Jason is wearing a strange shark tooth bracelet. He grouses to the camera, “Everything’s against me. I’m a straight guy in a gay man’s world and I’m trying my best.” Oh, poor you. Violins please. You just know Nicholas is doomed when he pronounces that his look will be “absolutely amazing and really innovative.” He’s making a three piece outfit - cape, blouse and skirt - and the back of the blouse eerily resembles the back of Gretchen’s winning dress last week, only much higher, cheesier and cheap looking. Tim sniffs when Nicholas describes his concept for the cape - “a complete circle.” Tim: “I’m ambivalent.” The group is told there is a new wrinkle (sorry - couldn’t resist) to their challenge. They will be dressing and styling their model for a photo shoot with a Marie Claire photographer, and choosing one shot which will be part of what they are judged on. Jason’s shoot is a disaster. Marie Claire Senior Fashion Editor Zanna Roberts Rassi states the dress isn’t working and the safety pins Jason’s used because he ran out of time to add buckles “look like a mistake.” “I’m not Prototype Jack - I can’t pop these things out,” Jason complains to camera, saying he is emotionally and physically drained. It’s only Week Two - obviously you’re not long for this show, sir. Michael Kors (let’s call him MK for now) and Nina Garcia are joined by Joanna Coles for the runway judging this week. Mondo’s growing on me - besides the fetching outfit he did this week, he’s wearing bright orange glasses and a black satin jacket festooned on one shoulder by orange and yellow feather boa shreds. But in general there are so many bad and boring looks this week I’m truly amazed that more than two designers are not sent home. It’s a billboard, people - why so many drab and dark colored outfits? Like Christopher’s boring dark two piece dress trimmed with mustard - I mean, seriously. AJ’s punky gothic dress is cute, but not Marie Claire in the least (black lipstick? really?), and even he admits that the model looks like she “was impregnated by a weird alien creature.” St. Louis Michael’s black meshy frock is way too short which even he realizes on the runway, and the model pulls it down over her bum as she’s making her final turn. The three standout outfits are by Gretchen (a beautifully made jumpsuit which fits like a dream on her perfectly styled Blake Lively-ish model - although I wish it wasn’t so dark), Valerie (a cute, fresh, summery red dress with a collar that exquisitely frames her model’s face), and Mondo (an adorable houndstooth skirt with a cute black top garnished with black and white and pink polka dots, black leggings and gorgeous black heels with rosettes on the front). My pick is Valerie’s dress but the judges go with Gretchen, awarding her the winning look for the second week in a row. Clearly she’s now a favorite, but my money at this point is still on Valerie even if last week she let us all down with the pants made from pants. Peach, Nicholas, and Jason are in the bottom three. Peach escapes narrowly to design another day although her pink polka dot snore of a dress (even she admitted earlier it looked like “Barbie’s sofa”) is called “matronly” by the judges and like “an Amish cocktail dress” by MK (his lines are doubling me over so far this season). Nicholas’ outfit is noted as “complicated”, MK: “If she takes the cape off, she’s naked - if she keeps the cape on she might be joining a religious sect.” Jason’s dress is possibly the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen on this show, it looks like the model is a futuristic waitress in a wrong side of the tracks diner on Battlestar Galactica , the first one - and paired with combat boots it looks even worse. The model looks completely miserable. (Alas, who would have thought I’d miss Models of the Runway from last season? I’d love to hear the girls dish on this dress.) MK says it looks like a “walk of shame dress.” When Jason is asked how he could possibly think this would be a Marie Claire woman, he’s adamant: “it’s me for Marie Claire .” Jason also thought the model looked “bad-ass” in his creation (hey by the way? 1965 called, they want their slang term back). As the judges discuss amongst themselves who to send home, Jason tells the other designers that he felt his model is not a runway model, therefore removing the blame from himself. They’re flabbergasted. He reveals to the camera that he has a chip on his shoulder because he’s been misunderstood since he was a child. Eeeeesh . He gets the boot, and doesn’t bother to wait around for Tim to bid him farewell like he was no doubt instructed to do by the producers. Nicholas, who seems way too fragile for the show, is also sent home because of his disastrous three piece nightmare. I have to say I’m not down with the expanded 90 minute length of the show this season. One hour was enough. But I digress. As I said earlier, I think we’re in for an interesting time. I’ve already memorized everyone’s name and this early in the season, that’s unusual. And sew it goes! Project Runway airs Thursdays at 9PM on Lifetime Television More on Fashion
Holly Cara Price: Rubbernecking: Project Runway Season 8, Episodes 1 and 2
The First Lady has been subject to vicious attack by Republicans over her travel costs and her use of governmental aircraft, despite the fact that she has paid for a substantial portion of it herself. Michelle Obama in 2010? No, Hillary Clinton in 2000. In March of that year, a House appropriations subcommittee held a hearing focusing on the First Lady’s trips to New York. In May, two House committee chairs followed up by demanding that the White House turn over records documenting Mrs. Clinton’s travels in extraordinary detail. The Republican National Committee and the campaign of Rudy Giuliani piled on, trying to stir a pot of scandal around long-standing and bipartisan practices involving the way first families travel. As a White House spokesman at the time, I criticized the way Republicans were “looking to play politics with the safety of the First Lady,” and distributed memos from Republican chiefs of staff James Baker and John Sununu supporting the use of military planes for the First Lady’s trips. Eventually the diaphanous controversy dissipated like a morning fog. Besides providing a reminder of what shenanigans might be in store should Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives this fall, the parallelism of the attacks on two Democratic First Ladies - when coupled with the way Republicans went after Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her own use of government planes not long ago - offers lessons on the politics of personal destruction, as practiced by the right wing. Simply put, there are some in this country who cannot stand the idea of women and people of color in positions of power, and there are cynical power mongers who don’t mind pushing their buttons to keep the political pot boiling. And they are not above exaggeration and outright lies to prove their nonexistent point. One small example: a newspaper headline reads, “Spanish Police Close Public Beach” for Michelle Obama. Well, no. The beach wasn’t closed. A 100-yard buffer was set up to provide protection for the family. In this age of terrorism, that seems to be quite a modest nod to security. Not all the criticism of the First Lady’s trip is malevolent, but you do not have to travel far into the depths of the conservative blogosphere to find evidence of extremely sexist and racist commentary about it. Could all of this have been avoided by choosing a “safer” location for a vacation? Perhaps, but I say give the First Family a break. The Drudge Report will keep lighting the match, Rush Limbaugh will keep fanning the flames, and maybe Sarah Palin will pour some gasoline (”Come to Alaska, Michelle!”), but Marbella-gate has all the earmarks of a mid-August media mob gone amok. Come September, it should all blow over. But when it does, just remember this: the folks who find fault with the cost of a small vacation in Spain are the same folks who helped turn the historic Bill Clinton surplus into the giant George Bush deficit. That’s one strange and expensive trip I for one don’t want to take again. More on Hillary Clinton
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Jim Kennedy: What’s Behind The Attack On Michelle Obama
Back in April, I wrote about News Corp and Fox News’ love/hate relationship with the LGBT community: It’s no secret that Fox News doesn’t live up to its “fair and balanced” slogan, especially when one considers its coverage of the LGBT community. In fact, much of its coverage is openly antagonistic and downright homophobic. On issue after issue of importance, the network, its hosts, anchors, contributors, and guests offer up lies, misinformation, and right-wing spin that only further stigmatizes the gay and lesbian community. A review of Fox News’ employment practices however, reveals a network at odds with its own homophobic public image. According to an examination of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) employer database, News Corp. (Fox News’ parent company) has had a policy protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation since at least 2005 and has offered health care benefits to same-sex partners since at least 1999. Time Warner (CNN’s parent company) and General Electric (NBC/MSNBC’s parent company) offer not only these basic protections to gay and lesbian employees, they appear to go even further. The HRC’s Corporate Equality Index rates Time Warner and General Electric with 100 percent and 80 percent, respectively, while News Corp. has yet to complete the survey that HRC uses to establish its index. News Corp. would give us a better understanding of how it treats LGBT employees on a variety of other important issues by completing the survey, but the media company does deserve credit for at least offering some very basic protections and benefits for gay and lesbian employees. Lack of a Corporate Equality Index rating notwithstanding, News Corp. has taken its support for LGBT employees a step further by sponsoring the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) which describes itself on its website as “an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues.” In fact, the program from the organization’s annual conference last fall in Montreal included an ad from News Corp. stating: “The networks of Fox News honor NLGJA for its commitment to fair and balanced reporting. From your friends at Fox News Channel, Fox Business, News Corporation.” That ultimately is what’s truly sad about News Corp.’s relationship with its LGBT “friends.” The media company gives its employees decent protections and benefits while making the lives of the very same employees more difficult in the long-run by broadcasting homophobia and misinformation that harden anti-LGBT views and slow the movement for full equality under the law. Evidence of this love/hate relationship couldn’t be clearer of late, especially for those watching the right-wing network in the days following Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. As Media Matters noted this week: FoxNews.com did not note that Walker was nominated as a federal judge by Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. But in reports on Judge Susan Bolton’s decision to block portions of the Arizona immigration law, it did note that President Clinton nominated Bolton. FoxNews.com hosted a post on the Fox Forum by Gerard V. Bradley argued that Walker should have recused himself from the Prop. 8 case because Walker is a gay man. As The Daily Show ’s Jon Stewart pointed out , Fox News host Neil Cavuto claimed the decision would be costly because same-sex couples would be entitled to spousal benefits if married while Fox News contributor Sarah Palin appearing on Hannity (who hadn’t read the ruling) attacked the “third branch of government” for striking down the proposition. What must the LGBT employees at News Corp and Fox News think of their employer’s attacks on the landmark, detailed, 136 page ruling? To be fair, you may be looking for the “love” part of the “love/hate” relationship in this particular story. It should be noted that Margaret Hoover — a Fox News contributor and the great-granddaughter of President Herbert Hoover — is on the advisory board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights , which spearheaded the legal challenge against Proposition 8 leading to this decision. More on Marriage
Karl Frisch: Prop 8: What must Fox News’ LGBT employees think?
As she shatters all spending records in her attempt to defeat Jerry Brown and succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California, a campaign which is way off plan, billionaire Republican Meg Whitman has a role model in mind. He was “the greatest governor in the history of California.” So says Whitman, the political novice who seldom bothered to vote and was never involved in public affairs before deciding, one fine day, that she really should start at the top. Billionaire Meg Whitman tells us in her brand-new ad that she worked at eBay. Who knew? Whitman’s campaign is way behind her schedule. He’s her campaign chairman. And, as fate would have it, he is responsible for California’s structural budget deficit, the disastrous electric power deregulation scheme that enriched Enron and turned out California’s lights, and the hypocritical nastiness of the debate over illegal immigration. Who is he? He is former Governor Pete Wilson. And the legacy that his acolyte Whitman invokes demonstrates that Whitman’s future, a harsh realm indeed, began arriving before Whitman ever got around to settling in the state in which she has already spent a national record amount of money to seize the reins of power. (”Harsh Realm” being inspired, of course, by Whitman’s married name of Mrs. Harsh and her constant depiction by the California Nurses Association as Queen Meg, as well as the short-lived series from X-Files creator Chris Carter.) Now, to be fair, had Jerry Brown not run for the president in 1980, the only one of his three presidential campaigns that really didn’t make a lick of sense, most likely would never have heard of Wilson, then the mayor of San Diego. He had tried to run against Brown for governor in 1978, when Governor “Moonbeam” won a 20-point landslide re-election. Wilson couldn’t get out of the Republican primary, finishing a badly beaten fourth. But Brown, who, in his 30s, had finished a very late-starting runner-up for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination to eventual President Jimmy Carter, had California cool, international celebrity, visionary energy, environmental and high tech policies and frugal fiscal policies, and a bad case of Potomac fever. He thought he could defeat a sitting president if he started soon enough. Brown continued to think that even as Senator Ted Kennedy got into the race, removing as he did all the oxygen from the room as the resurrection of Camelot vied with the power of the presidency as the guiding narrative of the race. Brown marginalized himself by remaining in the race, barely averting humiliation at his own state party convention, finally withdrawing after a Francis Ford Coppola-produced television speech outside Wisconsin’s state capitol turned into his very own Apocalypse Now. In 1982, deciding not to run for a third term as governor in those pre-term limit days, Brown made his move on the U.S. Senate seat then held by Republican S.I. Hayakawa. Brown was poised to make short work of the incumbent senator, so GOP power brokers closely aligned with President Ronald Reagan eased him out of the race. Which cleared the way for a bright, rather Brownian maverick in the form of Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, who’d been a vociferous opponent of Richard Nixon. Wanting someone more “club-able,” the power brokers turned to Wilson, funding his candidacy and easing his path to the nomination. Not wanting Jerry Brown, capable of lighting a fire by rubbing two buzzwords together, anywhere near the U.S. Senate, President Reagan’s forces provided a big war chest for Wilson, the “fresh face” who beat brown in an off-year for California Democrats and proved to be a reliable vote for every weapons system and covert operation in the vast military build-up of the 1980s. Eight years later, with no good candidate to replace retiring right-wing Governor George Deukmejian, Wilson was asked to run for his first love, the governorship. With Gulf War I looming and chill winds of recession in the air, Wilson beat Dianne Feinstein for the governorship. And ran into some trouble. Deukmejian, the fiscal conservative who didn’t really want to do all that much as governor other than reinstate the death penalty and help agribusiness, nevertheless left behind a very large budget deficit. So Wilson did something logical. He cut some programs, and he raised taxes. In fact, he instituted the biggest tax increases in California’s history. Even bigger than Governor Ronald Reagan’s tax increases. Wilson’s tax increases were certainly bigger than Jerry Brown’s, since, unlke Reagan and Wilson, Brown had no general tax increase. (And built the biggest rainy day fund in California’s history besides.) On the strength of this one ad, Pete Wilson rode to re-election as California’s governor in 1994 and made illegal immigration the centerpiece issue supposedly threatening California. The far right of Wilson’s party, already very influential in the Republican legislative caucuses, went nuts. He was hung in effigy at his own state party convention. That was no fun. So in his second term, with his popularity lagging, he instituted a big cut in the car tax. Wilson did it in such a way that a future state budget director, appointed by the governor, could return the car tax (formally the vehicle license fee) to its former level in the event of a budget crisis. The car tax cut was very popular, though Wilson’s popularity never returned. A few years later, with Wilson safely out of office and revenues from the dot-com boom drying up, the money lost from the big car tax cut was badly missed. Then Governor Gray Davis, knowing the move would be very unpopular, as he told me months before he did it, has his budget director raise the car tax to former levels to help bridge a big budget deficit. Raising the car tax to what it was before Wilson cut it was wildly unpopular. After all, nobody likes losing a tax break. Conservatives threatened a statewide initiative. The car tax hike helped drive the recall movement against Davis. When action superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped into the race — the seventh anniversary of his “surprise” entry into the race, which I explain in this LA Weekly article from that time, was yesterday — he seized on the issue, promising an immediate repeal. As soon as he was inaugurated in November 2003, Schwarzenegger cut the car tax back to the Wilson level. Over the years, the move has cost the state as $6 billion a year. When you add it all up, it’s right in the ballpark of the state’s spending shortfalls. Not surprisingly, former Governor Pete Wilson did not emphasize his own central role in creating California’s structural budget deficit when discussing the chronic budget crisis last year. Your chronic California budget crisis, courtesy of Meg Whitman’s “greatest governor ever,” her campaign chairman Pete Wilson. The big car tax cut was simplicity itself compared to another major Wilson maneuver as governor. That was the scheme to deregulate California’s electric power system. The state’s electric power service, mostly provided by a few big public utility companies regulated by state government, with a leavening of publicly-owned municipal utilities, was very reliable. It used a mix of natural gas, hydroelectric, nuclear, and renewable power sources, with some coal-fired power imported. Under Brown’s leadership, utilities embraced new energy efficiency programs. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Why indeed? Well, some said that businesses needed to pay less — they already paid lower rates than residential customers — and that unless they did pay less they would move to other states. This is a very familiar rationale in California. In addition, deregulation was all the vogue on Wall Street and in the business press. It was the same time as the repeal of Glass-Steagal in Congress. Using these rationales, Wilson and his allies came up with a remarkably convoluted scheme to deregulate California’s electric power system, moving away from utility generation and long-term power contracts to a spot market in which power would purchased daily. This was supposed to spur competition and innovation. What it actually did was turn California’s rather dull, reliable electric power system into a casino, featuring a host of out-of-state power companies like the infamous Enron as the power players. With, again, Wilson’s Democratic successor Gray Davis holding the bag in the governor’s office. Wilson ignited a wave of anti-illegal immigrant sentiment in California and used it to campaign against the Browns. In reality, he employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper and sponsored legislation in the U.S. Senate that allowed more illegal immigrants into the country. There were big price hikes, there were blackouts. It was an international spectacle and an absolute disaster. Davis, naturally, got the blame while Wilson laid low. Lest one think that the great legacy that Meg Whitman so admires is all a result of Wilson’s second term as governor, there is his most famous move, which occurred at the end of his first term. Wilson wanted to run for president in the worst way, and he did, which we’ll get to in a moment. But first he had to get re-elected. There was a big problem. First-term state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, sister of Jerry Brown, highly personable and attractive, was popular and led him in the polls. There was plenty of nation press buzz about Kathleen Brown as the coming figure in American politics. Wilson needed an issue to use to beat Kathleen Brown and perhaps ride into a strong bid for the presidency. And he found one. Illegal immigration. Wilson leaped aboard an initiative to deny all state services to illegal immigrants — including health care and schooling for children — cooked up by some long-time activists and made it the centerpiece of his campaign for re-election. It was called Proposition 187. California was just coming out of a recession and many looked for scapegoats for bad times. Immigrants, legal and illegal alike, have historically filled that role here. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Pete Wilson’s disastrous deregulation of California’s electric power system early in the last decade was the infamous Enron. Here Enron traders discuss how to manipulate the market. Wilson began running one TV ad, over and over, which showed illegal immigrants running across the border and featured the memorable slogan: “They keep coming.” On the strength of that one TV ad, Wilson erased Brown’s lead and vaulted into his own lead, which he never relinquished. While this was happening, her thoroughly mismanaged campaign was wasting its time focusing on her hopeless primary opponents, John Garamendi and Tom Hayden. (In retrospect, Kathleen Brown, a very promising but unseasoned figure, should have waited until 1998, when she would almost certainly have been elected against far right Attorney General Dan Lungren. She would have gained needed experience, developed a strong team of her own, and avoided running against an incumbent governor, which is almost never a good idea.) Wilson rode the draconian Proposition 187, which won in a landslide, to a big win over Kathleen Brown. To her credit, incidentally, knowing that her own campaign was lost, Brown made her opposition to Prop 187 the centerpiece of her campaign in its closing days, against the opposition of her campaign manager and a number of high-ranking Democrats. Her move had the effect of placing the Democratic Party firmly on the side of the Latino community for the long run, which has paid off tremendously for Democrats ever since. In reality, Wilson’s opportunism in seizing on illegal immigration as his signature issue was rank opportunism of the worst sort. As a U.S. senator, he sponsored legislation that allowed more illegal immigrants into the country. Which was known at the time, but which oddly was not used much his Democratic opponents. But Wilson’s opportunism was even greater than that. As he began his run for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, it emerged that Wilson had himself long employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper in San Diego! Wilson’s hypocrisy in demagoguing the illegal immigrant issue knew no bounds. With fundraising lagging, and few impressed by his speeches, Wilson was ignominiously forced to abandon his presidential campaign long before the primaries began. Some of his consultants went to work for Boris Yeltsin, then running for re-election as Russia’s president, a fascinating story in itself. Wilson’s Prop 187 legacy further degenerated when it was essentially thrown out by the courts as unconstitutional. But none of this stopped Meg Whitman from having Wilson step in during her hard-fought Republican primary against Steve Poizner to insist that she is “tough as nails” on illegal immigration and will crack down just as he did. Since the national co-chair of the McCain/Palin campaign didn’t bother to vote before deciding she should be the governor of California, perhaps she is simply ignorant of these facts about the politician she calls California’s greatest governor. But who can say for sure? It’s hard to tell what Whitman really knows beyond the talking points relentlessly drilled into her skull by her panoply of high-priced political consultants. And how are things going for Whitman’s campaign? Not nearly so well as planned. Jerry Brown has passed through what may well have been the most dangerous period of his candidacy for governor of California. Not only has Whitman been advertising heavily throughout, and Brown has not advertised at all, but the main California Working Families (CWF) independent expenditure committee was off the air. In fact, there was no IE advertising on Brown’s behalf, with the exception of the Working Californians’ radio ad and Spanish language TV ad, for three weeks. Until Thursday, when AFSCME went up with a big new buy ($2 million-plus) in the Los Angeles and San Diego media markets. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) was to have been next up in the CWF organizational rotation sponsoring the next flight of ads. But the money never came, and AFSCME was suddenly doing its own ad, but nobody knew when. It turns out that AFSCME national leadership likes to do its own TV ads all around the country. The ad as written and produced turns out to be a pretty strong hit against Whitman, laying out the case why she can’t be trusted, both as a leader and as a messenger distorting Brown’s record. This ad is up through August 14th. After that, California Working Families looks ready to roll till Labor Day weekend and possibly beyond. Actually, former Governor Gray Davis pointed out to me on Thursday that it and other groups are likely to raise more money once Brown is fully engaged in the campaign, as enthusiasm will increase. The new TV ad by AFSCME. Meanwhile, a new private poll completed at the beginning of the week still had Brown doing well, 43% to 42% over Whitman while she was spending heavily and the principal pro-Brown IE was dark. Whitman has been making a move in LA, but the new AFSCME spot should blunt that. She doesn’t appear to have been able to move elsewhere. And a new poll just out Friday from the Republican-owned Rasmussen Reports (which many believe skews Republican in its sampling and timing), has Brown with a slim edge over on Thursday night, 43% to 41%. Brown is now two-thirds of the way through the period between the primary and the start of Labor Day weekend — the period in which Whitman expected to build a huge and insurmountable lead — and he’s hanging very well. And President Barack Obama has yet to weigh in this state in which is still very popular. Realizing that she is far off plan, Whitman has just changed things up in her advertising approach. I had heard through Republican sources that Whitman would switch to a new positive TV ad. She had to change pace because the incessant negativity, which consultants all love, is hurting her image. But the ad is not what I expected. I had heard that she would do an eBay ad, but had heard that it would focus on an arguably dramatic incident while she was CEO, when she had to stay up round the clock to deal with a disastrous computer network outage. The ad she put up now, however, has no drama. It’s actually a very vanilla TV ad telling the viewer that she was CEO of eBay, which was a very big company. Gee, I think we knew that. I think her ads told us this last fall on the radio, and last January on the tube. It’s an odd spot, almost an attempt to reboot and re-present her persona. But done in the same old way, with an old message. I think it’s the product of Whitman herself, and her longtime consigliere Henry Gomez. She is totally in love with the image of herself as the great corporate CEO. She is totally in love with herself as a brand. And she is totally in love with the idea of appropriating the eBay brand as her own. The problem is, it’s an old message. And the problem is that there is a big, new to most, and hence dramatic counter-story to her myth about her tenure as CEO. This counter-story has been in the works for quite awhile. And she has now provided the context for its introduction into the campaign. As all these major moves have been taking place behind the scenes, Brown has continued to do his job as attorney general in a high-profile, impactful manner, and has sparred with Whitman in the press. For her part, Whitman continues to exhibit the behavior of a flip-flopper. As I told Davis, Brown’s gubernatorial chief of staff, when we spoke yesterday, she’s flip-flopped as much in her sole campaign as Brown, a noted flip-flopper in his own right, has in the last 40 years. (Much of which he was not actually in politics, by the way.) Her appearance Wednesday on LA’s very high profile right-wing radio talkfest, the John and Ken Show, provided a dramatic case in point. She changed her position yet again on illegal immigration, shutting the door on a path to legalization for illegal immigrants already in the country, contradicting what she’s been saying since the primary, in which she contradicted what she said last year. She also came up with, by my count, her fifth position on California’s landmark climate change program. I’ll get to all her policy stuff in a comprehensive and definitive way in a forthcoming piece. Once I find my weathervane … You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes … www.newwestnotes.com. More on John McCain
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William Bradley: Harsh Realm: The Legacy That Meg Whitman Invokes
Republicans have dug a deep hole for themselves on matters related to the Middle East and Islam reflecting the extent to which the Party has become captive of the neo-conservative “clash of civilization” crowd and their partners on the evangelical Christian right. This drift becomes clear listening to statements by Republican leaders and surveying the attitudes of the party’s base. Comments, a few weeks back, by 2012 presidential aspirants Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, in opposition to the building of a mosque in New York City, are a case in point (Palin called the mosque a “stab to the heart” while Gingrich claimed that “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization”). Other top Republican contenders are no better. Mike Huckabee, a leader of the religious right, has made disparaging comments about Muslims and is so bizarrely pro-Israel that he has stated “there’s really no such thing as a Palestinian”; while Mitt Romney, once moderate Governor of Massachusetts, now darling of conservatives, has, on more than one occasion, suggested that the government wiretap mosques. The GOP has virulently opposed President Obama’s Middle East peace initiative and outreach efforts to the Muslim World. Following his June 2009 Cairo University speech, I debated Liz Cheney and former Senator George Allen, both of whom working from Republican Party talking points, took the President to task accusing him of selling America short in order to curry favor with Muslims. They charged Obama with “moral equivalence” (meaning that he equated his concern with the Palestinians with the traditional American concern for Israelis) and “apologizing” for our use of torture and the Iraq War. The effort to score partisan political points by exploiting fears of Muslims and exacerbating tensions emanating from the Arab-Israeli conflict led two Republican stalwarts, Bill Kristol (neo-conservative editor of the Weekly Standard) and Gary Bauer (one time Presidential candidate and leader of the Christian right), to form the “Emergency Committee for Israel”. The group has sponsored TV ads attacking a Democratic senate candidate accusing him of befriending radical Muslims and being an enemy of Israel. The same aggressive hard-line behavior is on display in Congress. Just last week, Texas Republican Louie Gohmert introduced a resolution explicitly authorizing an Israeli attack on Iran. While Gohmert can be dismissed as a loose cannon–given his penchant for long winded fundamentalist rants about Israel’s claims to the Holy Land–it is disturbing that his “Israeli attack on Iran” resolution was endorsed by 1/3 of the Republican Caucus. Also last week, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who would become chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee if Republicans take control of Congress, countered the Obama Administration’s effort to elevate the status of Washington’s PLO office by circulating a letter calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to expel Palestinian diplomats from the U.S. and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This ideological drift has filtered downward and is now playing out in elections around the U.S. In Colorado, for example, Republican senate candidate Jane Norton criticized the Obama Administration’s efforts to include Muslims in NASA’s science and technology programs, calling it a “feel good” effort that Americans could not afford. In Tennessee, the sitting Lt. Governor, Ron Ramsey, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, was quoted saying “you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life or cult”. And a candidate for Congress in Tennessee has made an issue of efforts by the local Muslim community to build a mosque, saying that “our nation was founded on the tenets of the Judeo-Christian tradition; we have a right to defend that tradition”. This marriage of neo-conservatives and the Christian right and its impact on the Republican Party’s approach to Middle East policy was on display last week at the annual gathering in Washington of the group, Christians United for Israel. While one lone Democrat was on the program (stridently hawkish Congresswoman Shelley Berkeley), other headliners included the GOP’s Minority Whip, other Republican elected and former elected officials and representatives of hard-line, right-wing, pro-Israel groups and conservative think tanks. All of this has had a profound impact on deepening the partisan divide on a range of issues, including how Democrats and Republicans approach critical Middle East policy issues. In recent polls we have noted a disturbing gap between the two parties. For example, in an answer to the question “How should the Obama Administration pursue peace in the Middle East”, 14% of Democrats said “Support Israel” and 5% said “Support the Palestinians”, but 74% responded that the U.S. “Should steer a middle course”. 71% of Republicans, on the other hand, said “Support Israel” and 3% said “Support the Palestinians”, while only 20% said “steer a middle course”. This Republican drift and the harshness of their anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric is worrisome. America’s engagement across the Middle East and South Asia is too important and the dangers we face are too great for such virulence and misunderstanding to have taken hold in one of our political parties–especially when that party’s current leaders appear so willing to vent their venom and use it for political advantage. Even George W. Bush, for all his flaws, knew better, as did his two Secretaries of States, and his father and many other Republican leaders of the not too distant past. It’s high time for these traditional conservatives to come forward and challenge the current GOP crop who are running their party, and I fear, our country into a deep hole. More on Barack Obama
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James Zogby: GOP Drift
By Rabbi David Saperstein Religion News Service (RNS) The most effective response America can give to the 9/11 terrorist attacks is to affirm our nation’s core values of freedom and liberty for all–including the religious tolerance, freedom, and equality that the perpetrators so vividly repudiated. The debate surrounding a planned Muslim community center and mosque, known as Cordoba House, two blocks from ground zero has been plagued by fear, intolerance and politics, reshaping it into something ugly. The religious community–including the Jewish community, which isn’t of one mind on the matter–has a special stake in putting forward this vision. I am proud that most Jewish organizations have supported the right of this mosque to be built near the site of ground zero. We Jews, as the victims of religious extermination and persecution, know all too well the pain that comes from being told that our community and our houses of worship will be treated differently than others. The Jewish commitment to the right of Muslims to build at this site reflects the admonition of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. If any group can be subject to discrimination, then no religious group is safe. The minority of opponents, however, should not be lumped together. They range from those who are driven by animus to Islam, to groups like the Anti-Defamation League (who have long been champions of religious liberty and consistent opponents of anti-Muslim bias), to those who oppose the location out of sensitivity to the 9/11 victims and their families. Indeed, we all must respect the sensitivities of the survivors and the families of victims, but even they have been sharply divided in their views. However well-intentioned, the opposition of some has been manipulated as a political wedge issue. To be sure, there are growing numbers who seek political gain by stirring up fear about Islam: Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey characterized Islam as a cult; a church in Gainesville, Fla., plans to host a Quran burning on the 9/11 anniversary; Sarah Palin and some New York politicians are using Cordoba House to further their political ambitions. Such critics inflame interfaith tensions and seek to reduce Muslims to the most extreme and violent expressions of Islam. In the process, they inculcate the false impression that this project is a monument to the radicals who attacked us on 9/11. Accusations also have been made about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who heads the Cordoba House project. Rauf has worked to promote interfaith harmony and has collaborated with religious leaders and community members in creating a peaceful society. It is incumbent on mainstream religious groups to portray this mosque and community center for what it really is: a home for those who seek insight, solace and peace. It is a symbol to the radicals within Islam (and other religions) that they will not be allowed to dictate the policies or values of America. Cooperation is difficult unless we address each other’s fears as well as our respective dreams and aspirations. Three years ago, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Islamic Society of North America launched a dialogue initiative among local mosques and synagogues called Children of Abraham to help overcome such tensions. Our joint effort has built bridges, spurred cooperative endeavors, strengthened trust and enhanced understanding. Cordoba House creates a national symbol of those same values. The entire religious community has worked together for 20 years to write and pass laws that enshrine the principle of free exercise of religion, and to ensure the right of EVERY religious community–including Muslims–to locate and build houses of worship where they see fit unless there is a truly compelling reason to prevent it. We do not abandon that right, or that fight, when emotions run high. Our nation is strengthened by the faith of its citizens and their houses of worship. Cordoba House should rightfully join the countless churches, synagogues, mosques and temples that populate our landscape and enrich the spiritual lives of their congregants–and of our nation. (Rabbi David Saperstein in the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. He is also a professor of First Amendment/church-state law at Georgetown University Law School.) More on Judaism
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Embodying The Values We Cherish Most
SAN FRANCISCO — A state investigation into fundraising practices at California State University, Stanislaus found no violations of law or misuse of funds at its charitable foundation related to a Sarah Palin visit. Attorney General Jerry Brown said Friday that the CSU Stanislaus Foundation exercised inadequate oversight of its $20 million in assets and has agreed to improve the administration of its fundraising operations. Brown agreed to investigate the foundation at the request of state Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco. Brown probed how the foundation spent its money, as well as the university’s refusal to turn over records related to a recent fundraiser appearance by Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. More on Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin Stanislaus Speech Did Not Break Any Laws
In case you’re one of the people wondering why so many of us want the straight-talking Elizabeth Warren to head up the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection , here’s about as succinct a rationale as you can find. Right from her own lips last March at the Make Markets Be Markets conference put together by the Roosevelt Institute : Elizabeth Warren on Consumer Protection (MMBM) from Roosevelt Institute on Vimeo . Some Senators no doubt would prefer to have lobbyist Thomas J. Donohue at the BCFB reins. They’re all for advocacy except when it’s advocacy that exposes and shackles the misbehavior of their leading campaign contributors. Sen. Chris Dodd said July 19 that it’s not clear whether Warren can be confirmed by the Senate for the BCFP post. There’s difference of opinion over whether he was trying to sandbag her nomination or just point out the screwed-up reality of the Senate’s filibuster rule. Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, doesn’t mention Dodd by name nor take note of rumored but unproven opposition to Warren’s appointment at high levels on the White House team. But he, like Matt Yglesias and others, takes issue with the idea Warren might not be confirmable. At New Deal 2.0 Thursday, Konczal wrote : I’m not much of a political analyst, but I’d note that I think Republicans would have a hard time going hard against her. I’m not sure if the Republicans could [oppose] her as a block. Shahien Nasiripour reports about the waffling inside the Republican camp already. A nomination battle in which the GOP … blasts Elizabeth Warren is going to hurt them with women voters, voters they are looking to test out strategies to reach. For a GOP looking to bring on women voters who like Sarah Palin, the idea of them yelling “who cares about a fee that is only $30?” or “$1,000 in medical costs? That’s chump change!” at Warren would probably not work that well with women voters who fight to make sure the budget lasts the whole month. And remember the Credit Card Bill of early last year passed the Senate 95-to-5. This was May, 2009, so we were already into GOP Waterloo territory on the Obama domestic agenda. That’s a lot of votes for the Senate; I think Republicans can’t quite defend this part of the financial sector in the same way that they work to get expanded derivatives loopholes. And the GOP managed to make the financial bill much weaker and then voted against it anyway. And it’s not going to cost them anything that they did this. So turning up the heat with this nomination battle has to look good for voters. The unlistened-to Christina Romer will soon be out the door in the Obama administration. Bad news that gives Larry Summers an even tighter grip on the President’s ear. And the likelihood is less than minimal for the new appointee at the Council of Economic Advisers to be Joe Stiglitz, Bill Black or Lawrence Mischel. To be sure, having Warren at the BCFB would not solve the problem of having little but the conventional economic wisdom spoken aloud at the White House. But, especially since she would be the first chief of the new protection bureau, setting its tone and behavior in its earliest days, Warren would make a difference where and when it counts. Not only would she have an economic impact if confirmed, just the fact of her nomination, as Matt Yglesias has written , would also have a political impact by sending an I-hear-you message from the White House to liberals. = = = [Green diary rescue returns Sunday]
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Open thread for night owls: Elizabeth Warren
There are twelve USAID management jobs requiring Senate confirmation. To date, zero have been confirmed. Two of the twelve nominees have had confirmation hearings (hooray!) which means USAID might have confirmed assistant administrators for Latin America and Asia before the Senate recess begins on August 6. That leaves ten nominations, ten hearings, and ten confirmations before USAID Administrator Raj Shah will have a full management team in place. Shah has skilled and capable leaders in his front office and the rest of the agency — several of whom have been doing yeoman’s work in acting positions — but all twelve management seats empty eighteen months into the administration is unconscionable. USAID cannot be the premiere development agency everyone envisions without appointed and confirmed leaders at the helm of its regional and functional bureaus. Nor can it elevate development across the U.S. government without a full cadre of assistant administrators to inform major development policy reviews taking place right now and congressional efforts to rewrite foreign assistance legislation . And other important decisions like whether USAID will lead the Feed the Future initiative may very well depend on whether Shah has staff in place throughout the rest of the agency in order to take on a major new administration priority. Who’s to blame? Is Shah’s attention on Haiti and the interagency efforts? Are good candidates worried about USAID’s future and turning jobs down? Is State delaying or impeding the process? Is the White House vetting process impossible? It could be a combination of all of these, but it certainly calls into question the priority the administration places on development. There are a mere eighteen working days in Congress before the elections (and strong rumors they may cut that down to just thirteen). Even if the administration announced all ten remaining position immediately — and they should — there is a slim chance USAID will have its team in place before November. Must we add this to the Christmas wish list?
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Sarah Jane Staats: USAID Senate-Confirmed Positions: 0 for 12
Originally posted on Can I Get a Man with That? Name: Helena Andrews Status: Single, Head of Household Position: Authoress In her new memoir, ” Bitch Is the New Black “, Helena Andrews pokes fun at the stereotype that says “successful” and “bitch” are synonymous. With the help of “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, her eccentric childhood as the kidnapped daughter of the town lesbian and subsequent roller coaster ride to single, overachiever approaching 30 is being adapted for film. Today the self-described smart-ass answers our 15 Questions on love, career and the modern bitch. Who is your favorite couple, living or dead, real or fictional? Lucy and Ricky. “Lucy Ricardo” was the most subversive Stepford wife in the history of the world. Being a wife and a mother was never enough for her even when it was supposed to be. And Ricky, despite being the stereotypical archetype of machismo, always gave in because he knew she needed more than a baby and a tiny ass apartment. Have you ever offended anyone on a date? If I have, I was totally oblivious to it. Once I showed up to a “date”–a lecture on volcanoes in outer space–in a Sesame Street T-shirt and black jeans. I was trying to fit in with all the other geeks, but apparently I was “under dressed.” In 140 characters or less, what is Bitch is the New Black? In Tweet-speak, #BITNB is this woman’s journey from Catalina to catcalls. It’s about my dog Miles, getting mugged twice, loved up often and Michelle Obama. The word bitch has obviously evolved from the time Queen Latifah demanded, ‘who you callin’ a bitch?!’ in 1993 to when Tina Fey coined the title phrase of your memoir on “Saturday Night Live”. How do you define bitch? The Queen also said, “when we playing it’s cool,” which I always thought was funny. The first time I called another girl a bitch I was 12. She was like the coolest girl in sixth grade and I wanted to be friends. Go figure. Since then the word has evolved to encompass any woman who isn’t cute and cuddly. I reject the Care Bear approach to life. Sure, I like to laugh, but I also like to laugh at people. I also think I’m way too cool for everything except making fun of myself, which is always a blast. Lady Gaga told “Cosmo” earlier this year, “Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” Is this ‘hypothetical mumbo-jumbo’ or a real choice modern women have to make? Claire Huxtable really fucked a lot of girls up. Nobody can pop out five kids, run a brownstone, be a partner at a law firm, speak fluent Spanish and still have sex with her husband on a regular basis. It’s just not done. That being said, I don’t think my business cards will stop me from falling in love. But at the end of the day something’s gotta give (my favorite movie btw), and although careers can’t walk out on you (allegedly) they also can’t put the curtains up. The assumed checklist of a successful, presumably bitchy, modern woman: her guy must have an Ivy League degree, six figure salary, et al. You said in a previous interview that this list is outdated. What’s in vogue? I don’t know many women who look for husbands on Monster.com. I’m not a headhunter. I don’t match my resume to someone else’s and then assume after a few prerequisite years of dinner and a movie we’re on our way to the White House together. The new rules are that there are no rules. Do I want my man to have a job? Umm duh. I know plenty of folks with Ivy League degrees and Ivy League debt and no dates. Still, I don’t subscribe to the Tyler Perry paradox–that someday I’ll look up and the bus driver will be reading Toni Morrison and we’ll live happily every after. Like attracts like and I seem to be a magnet for masters degrees. A lot of women are stuck in the ‘in between’ referenced in your memoir –more than a friend less than a girlfriend. But the problem isn’t that we’re stuck in this gray area, it’s how we got there in the first place. What are the telltale signs a woman is headed towards the in between? You know you’re in a more than less than equation if he introduces you to his coworkers as “my friend” at a work thing. The “work thing” is key. Not even a family thing can measure a man’s seriousness for you as much as a work thing. The people you spend eight hours a day with know you better than the women and men who raised you. Speaking of family, you’re really close with your mom. How has having a hippie lesbian mother influenced your relationships with men? Not all lesbians are Amazons with only half a chest and armpit hair. There were men around when I was a kid. Were they necessary? Sometimes. Either way being raised by a single woman who worked a thousand jobs so I could go on a ski trip with a bunch of rich kids meant that I appreciated the value of being spoiled. No man can pamper me better than I can pamper myself. At least no man I’ve met yet. What message do you want women to take away from your memoir? I don’t have a PhD in anything but being me and I haven’t even mastered that subject yet. If women take away anything from my book it’s that “we” aren’t a monolith–black women, single women, educated women are all different. We’re all not die-hard “Sex and the City: The Movie” fanatics–but everyone hated the second one. Who do you want to portray you in the film adaptation? My head is huge–in size not like ego (okay, well ego too)–so whoever plays me should have an abnormally large cabeza. But not like Oprah big. It’s time for, ‘Can I Get a Man With…’ (we link the trend and you tell us if we can get a man with that) Bedazzled Rainbow Louboutins — Absolutely, but he might wanna borrow ‘em. Big Butts — Big butts win championships, just ask the Kardashians. So yes if you’re dating an athlete and no, if you’re dating a Mormon. Gay Best Friend — Can’t get one without it Texting — As long as you don’t put an “s” in front of it, then you’ve got a 12-year-old boy not “a man.” What is the biggest obstacle keeping single women from getting a man with that (whatever that is for them)? It’s hard to get a man with a dog. My awesome pug, Miles, fulfills every and all of my unconditional love needs and all I have to do is feed him and pick up his poop. I don’t have to be like a better person or anything. I don’t have to be less selfish to get a very sincere lick in the face and for now I’m super okay with that. Photo by Rebecca Lim courtesy of Helena Andrew’s Facebook fan page
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‘Bitch Is The New Black’: Helena Andrews Dishes On Love, Careers, And Claire Huxtable
As a woman who wears three-inch high heels on a daily basis, often sprinting in them from one meeting to the next, I want a Senator who understands the issues facing working mothers. That’s why I’m voting for Ken Buck Tuesday. Colorado Democrats have had many reasons to smile in recent weeks, especially as Buck and his U.S. Senate primary opponent, Jane Norton, have duked it out over so-called gender issues. It could have been a real chance for Republicans to debate our party’s strategy for attracting female voters. It still can be. And it should. As an activist Republican, I’ve long watched with interest Norton’s impressive rise within the party. There is no doubting she’s attractive, articulate and on message. Earlier this year, GOP insiders smelled victory as they attempted to clear the candidate field for her. Rising star and Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier played nice, vacating his Senate bid to run for the state’s 7th Congressional District. Buck, however, decided to stick it out. No one gave him a chance. He now leads in the polls. Norton’s campaign announcement was straight out of the GOP’s 2000 playbook. Her pitch was short and sweet, as a “pro-family, pro-marriage, and pro-life” candidate. On paper, we’re identical. But this doesn’t mean I want a candidate who sees the government as the vehicle for promoting such values. Why debate gay marriage at all when we should be questioning why we should have state-sanctioned marriage for anyone? Especially in an era when nearly every state recognizes common law unions. How is the government’s hand in things going to help combat tragic divorce rates? And why is it that as a mother, I should use my government as a crutch to end unintended pregnancies? It’s a recipe for failure. Republican strategists have spent much of the last decade trying to lure female voters away from Democrats, who now hold a nearly two-to-one gender advantage in some age groups. Too often, they’ve done so by introducing us to underqualified and tokenized candidates like Sarah Palin. Here’s the formula: Find a pretty girl who can give a good speech, put her in a nice suit and have her proclaim her ability to shatter the glass ceiling for all of us little people across the nation. It didn’t work for Palin and it’s not working for Norton. As a former candidate myself, I sympathize with Norton. To a point. If a female candidate smiles too much, she’s ditzy. If she doesn’t smile enough, she’s a man hater. I remain hopeful that as more women hold elected office, such stereotypes and misconceptions will continue to disappear from the public arena. This doesn’t mean, however, that Norton’s gender will earn my vote Tuesday. Since learning Buck would stay in the race, Norton has veiled herself in a gender-cloaked message, tirelessly playing the gender card. Vote for her, she has repeatedly urged voters, because Colorado has never had a female U.S. Senator. Remember her as the candidate in high heels. As Norton’s femi-squad traveled the state promoting her chromosomal superiority, Buck’s own gender quickly became the target. Responding to independent attack ads launched against her, she responded with TV commercials that responded not to the substance (or lack thereof) of the attacks, but instead questioned Buck’s “manhood”. Speaking straight into the camera, she said, “You’ve seen those ads attacking me. They’re paid for by a shady interest group doing the bidding of Ken Buck. You’d think Ken would be man enough to do it himself.” Really, Jane? What’s gender got to do with it? I didn’t know much about Buck before he announced his Senate candidacy. I had seen him on the front page of the New York Times taking on illegal immigration, and was pleasantly surprised when he came out earlier this year to question federal raids of medical marijuana growers. This is a guy who speaks his mind, listens to voters and doesn’t hide behind a strategist. How refreshing. At a July party hosted by the Independence Institute (full disclosure: I am a policy analyst there), Buck took to the mic to introduce himself to attendees. He then took questions. The first, which came from a woman, posed the following: “Why should we vote for you?” His reply: “Because I do not wear high heels,” was met with a mix of groans and cheers. “[Norton] has questioned my manhood, and I think it’s fair to respond. I have cowboy boots, they have real bullshit on them. And that’s Weld County bullshit, not Washington, D.C., bullshit.” Never one to miss an opportunity, Norton’s handlers leapt into action, with spokeswoman Cinamon Watson telling Politics Daily, “Ken is going to have to use all of his best lawyer-speak to explain this really stupid statement. He may say it’s no big deal, but just ask . . . George Allen what a comment like this can do to a statewide race.” With all due respect Ms. Watson, it was a joke. Comparing Buck’s lighthearted response to Allen’s infamous “Macaca” moment, is out of line. Real women get it. Jane, the gender carder, can attack Buck’s biology all she wants. When her opponent responds, she wants us to believe he’s a sexist. Actions speak louder than words. Just a week before Buck’s July 22nd “high heels” remark, the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara had Norton on his radio show, where he asked her, “What is the crucial difference between the DA from Weld County, Ken Buck, and the former lieutenant governor?” Norton’s view was clear. “Well, I’m a girl first.” Caldera then asked “Is being a girl important in this race?” Oh, she was just kidding, she wanted listens to know. “No, it isn’t. I was trying to be funny, but it didn’t go well.” While Buck was kidding, she wasn’t. She indeed wants me to vote for her because she is a girl. Truth be told, I had planned to write this column even before I opened my mail after work yesterday. The batch included a postcard bashing Buck as a sexist. The piece, funded by an independent activist group, (hmm, where’s Norton’s outrage now?) used his “high heels” comment to suggest that a vote for Buck is a vote for the sexism that once plagued our nation. But if anyone is taking us back in time, it’s Norton. At a recent forum hosted by the Broomfield Republican Women’s Club, one woman was overheard saying that Norton’s attacks on Buck’s gender has taken women back 50 years. I caught up with Buck Friday. I asked him to explain his take on so-called women’s issues. “My wife and daughter are precious to me and any issue that would affect a woman would be of great concern to me also.” Truth be told, Norton’s campaign team includes some of Colorado’s brightest political minds, including some who I consider good friends. In a tight election, they’re doing their job, working tirelessly to edge out a victory in a heated primary they once thought would be a slam duck. In the short term, their tactics may be pulling votes from Buck. Recent polls show that Buck’s 17 point lead from June shrunk to just nine points this week. But any short term political gain for Norton could cause long term damage to women. Voting for Norton because she’s a girl is just as bad–or perhaps even worse–than voting against her because she’s not a man. Crying wolf about sexism only minimizes harm caused by real discrimination. It’s time to burn the gender card. Real women vote Buck. Regardless of what kind of shoewear we prefer.
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Jessica Corry: Gender Joke’s on Jane: Real GOP Women Vote Buck
Join New York Nonstop’s Roseanne Colletti and Bonnie Fuller of Hollywoodlife.com as they dish about the most recent news in the celebrity world. Tune in and learn about everything from Lindsay Lohan’s arrest to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. View more Gossip Gram videos here . More on Sarah Palin
Roseanne Colletti: Gossip Gram: Bristol Palin, Chelsea Clinton, and Lindsay Lohan
In Bali, they’re seeking guidance from a spiritual healer. In Rome, they’re lapping up gelato. And in India, they’re visiting temples. Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” have been following in her footsteps ever since it was first published in 2006. The book describes a year Gilbert spent living in Italy, India and Indonesia on the rebound from a divorce and failed romance. But the travel industry is betting that the Aug. 13 release of a film version starring Julia Roberts will inspire even more globe-trotting. Hotels, tour companies and even guidebook publishers are offering everything from do-it-yourself itineraries to luxury trips. The movie even has “official” travel partners: Lonely Planet, which created a website at with recommendations for sightseeing and lodging, and STA Travel, which is advertising a contest for a 21-day trip to the three countries. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/eatpraylove Naturally, it is a trip for one. For high-end travelers, there are invitations like this one: “Eat. Pray. Fall in love with Micato Safaris’ Inspirational India Tour.” Price tag: $19,795. But plenty of fans have replicated parts of Gilbert’s journey on their own. Australian tourist Zoe Moran was reading the book as she stopped by the San Crispino ice cream shop near the Trevi Fountain in Rome, where Gilbert ate gelato three times in one day. “I just got to the part in Rome, so I’m trying to follow the footsteps of Gilbert,” she said. Gilbert writes of savoring good food and soaking up sights like the Villa Borghese and Piazza del Popolo. Canadian tourist Sarah Luong, another “Eat, Pray, Love” fan at San Crispino, said she was “trying to do the same, take my time and enjoy Rome at its best.” Some “Eat, Pray, Love” devotees have found their way to Ubud, the artsy town in Bali where Gilbert seeks guidance from Ketut Liyer, a spiritual healer, and makes friends with a cafe owner named Wayan. Gilbert notes in the book that tourism to Indonesia plummeted after a series of terrorist bombings. Liyer even says to her, “If you have Western friends come to visit Bali, bring them to me for palm-reading. I am very empty in my bank since the bomb!” Liyer’s wish came true. Since the book was published, Liyer said in an interview in his home, “I have more foreign tourists visiting me.” He estimated the number of visitors to be in the “hundreds.” As seekers dropped by – including a group from Japan who said they heard about him from the book – Liyer offered cheerful palm and face readings, predicting luck, wealth and long life. And just as Gilbert described, he asked his guests to help him practice speaking English. Ngurah Wijaya, head of the Bali Tourism Board, said it’s impossible to quantify how many tourists Indonesia is getting because of “Eat, Pray, Love.” But he said it has had a “great impact” in making “people understand that Bali is safe.” Amy Graff, who lives in San Francisco and writes about family travel on her blog, “On the Go With Amy,” took a trip to Indonesia in 2009 with her husband, kids and another family. Both she and the other mom loved the book. “I really was compelled to go and try and find Wayan,” Graff said. “We got the vitamin lunch,” Gilbert described in the book, “which is absolutely delicious.” Kathryn Alice, who describes herself as a “love guru” based in Los Angeles, (”I help people find their soul mates”), took one of her followers to Liyer’s home and also ate at Wayan’s cafe. “It’s really fun to go and experience what she did,” Alice said. But Alice noted that many of the tours being offered by travel companies “have very little resemblance” to the actual places described in “Eat, Pray, Love.” “People can go and do it a lot cheaper for themselves,” she said. “It doesn’t take a whole lot to look these people up.” A number of “Eat, Pray, Love” packages are geared to India, but do not include the ashram where Gilbert is believed to have spent several months, Gurudev Siddha Peeth at Ganeshpuri in Maharashtra, about 85 miles from Mumbai. Abercrombie & Kent spokeswoman Kelly Brewer explained that the ashram has a “process of application and approval and they do not welcome casual visitors.” That’s why, she said, Abercrombie & Kent offers a “similarly enriching experience” on its “Treasures of Northern India: Journeys for Women” tour “without having to go through the rigorous screening process.” Abercrombie & Kent’s options include a day-trip visit to the Hari Mandir temple, with lunch at an adjacent hotel. Roberts, while in India filming, visited Hari Mandir Ashram and shot scenes in a nearby village about 40 miles from New Delhi. For “Eat, Pray, Love” fans who lack a passport, look no farther than Texas. The Lone Star State is not on Gilbert’s itinerary, but that did not preclude the creation of a “Where to Eat, Pray, Love in San Antonio” promotion. Hotels in locations unrelated to the book are jumping on the bandwagon, too: The Benjamin in Manhattan, Five Gables Inn & Spa in St. Michaels, Md., and the Red Mountain Resort in Utah all have packages themed on the book. After all, why go flying around the world when, as a pitch from Tucson put it, “at Miraval Arizona, you can find it all in one place.” Meanwhile, not every place mentioned in the book has seen an uptick. Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples, where Gilbert says she had the “best pizza in the world,” and where Roberts filmed a scene in the movie, says the number of customers they’ve gotten has been about the same. The Leonardo da Vinci Academy of Language Studies, where Gilbert took Italian classes, also said they have not had an increase in applications. While Gilbert fans are finding their way to Italy, India, Indonesia, and maybe San Antonio, the author has moved on. At the end of “Eat, Pray, Love,” she falls in love with a Brazilian-born Australian, whom she later marries. And in the August issue of Travel + Leisure magazine, under a headline of “My Favorite Place,” Gilbert reveals that her “idea of a perfect city” is nowhere near the places touted in “Eat, Pray, Love.” Instead, she recommends Melbourne. ___ Associated Press Writers Amilia Rosa in Bali, Daniele De Bernardin in Rome, and Nirmala George in Delhi contributed to this story.
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‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Tourism Courted By Travel Industry
It’s summertime which means politicos are getting shady…and accessorizing with sunglasses! The Bidens love their aviators, Hillary Clinton has rectangle frames in every neutral color, Sarah Palin goes for the bling-bling and Carla Bruni’s pair looks like it costs more than a small country. Take a look at our eye-gear roundup below and vote for your favorite specs. More on Fashion
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Politicos In Sunglasses: Who Looks Shady? (PHOTOS, POLL)
As most of our thoughts are now turned towards this fall and the possibility of a larger than usual loss for the party in power- the Democrats-we should take a minute to look ahead to the presidential contest in 2012. With unemployment likely over the 10% mark by election day this November and hot topics like the war in Afghanistan, the spiraling deficit and immigration to name a few the Democrats will suffer larger than usual losses but they might not be as dire as analysts and pollsters are predicting. The House and Senate may stay in control of the Democrats because in the final analysis even in an anti-incumbent mood many voters revert back to casting their ballots for someone they know rather than taking a chance with a newcomer. However, once the midterms are over and new faces emerge on the GOP side who will immediately be cast as potential presidential possibilities in 2012 one person seems to have taken the lead for that position as we head into the 2010 midterms and that person is the ever present former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. While many Democrats and pundits and others may laugh and scorn the former 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidates for her views and her abruptly leaving her job as governor of Alaska and many of her other behaviors that seem to many as out of the mainstream she actually seems to be doing quite well in positioning herself for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. She is very actively promoting, endorsing and giving money to candidates who look like likely winners this November. She is on FOX News as a commentator and the public knows her views and opinions on the key issues of the day. She is certainly appealing to the Tea Party movement and the conservative part of the GOP who determines who will get the nomination as they are the activists who go out and vote in the primaries and caucuses. To someone not involved in politics looking at who commentators and pundits and analysts always bring into the 2012 presidential equation it is Sarah Palin. She is outdistancing her likely rivals by her ever present performance on and off the air and on her websites. How much attention is the senator from South Dakota getting as he lets it be known he wants to run for the GOP presidential nomination? You mean you haven’t yet heard of John Thune? And Newt Gingrich is saying he will most likely run in 2012. He appears to be old news with some new ideas to be sure but he had his day as Speaker of the House and not sure he has mass appeal for the voters. Mitt Romney should be leading the pack at the moment but aside from his book he is keeping a lower profile these days than Palin for sure. Tim Pawlenty hopes to run for the nomination but he is unknown to most voters and not many Republicans are that enthusiastic. Haley Barbour is lively and colorful and would make a terrific campaigner but don’t know if much of the country could handle his deep accent. Bobby Jindal has enough problems in his state to keep him busy for awhile and Mike Huckabee seems to be known as a jovial and cheerful talk show host more than a serious presidential candidate at the moment. Mitch Daniels, Scott Brown, Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum all have an appeal but certainly no national following like Palin has at this point in time. The Republicans have a weak field at a time when the president’s popularity for good reason continues to decline as he seems disconnected from the main events of the day. With no one having a lot of time to get a national reputation Palin is actually leading the GOP field you might say by default. She is colorful, provocative, engaging and likes to stir things up. She knows how to make news on a daily basis where the other potential candidates seem to be nowhere to be seen. She may not be able sway Independents to her side in 2012 and she may turn out to be a marginal candidate who could not appeal to the general public voter in 2012 but at this point in 2010 one would have to christen her the favorite and the frontrunner to get the GOP presidential nomination. In a so far weak Republican field of presidential possibilities she stands out as the top dog or top grizzly bear or whatever you want to call it but other serious GOP candidates better start taking her seriously and get in the game quickly before she has a lead that can’t be beaten. Palin is not a joke that some people like to make her out to be– she is doing the right things and doing them well and staying in the spotlight. Presidential possibilities in 2012 certainly look like Obama and Palin going against one another. Rather than smiling and jumping for joy the Obama team should take Palin seriously! She will be a tougher and more serious opponent than they think. More on Mitt Romney
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Robert Guttman: Presidential Possibilities 2012: Palin vs. Obama: It Could Happen and It Could Be A Close Election
By Alfredo Garcia Religion News Service (RNS) Brigham Young University was named the nation’s most religious campus, and Sarah Lawrence College the least religious, in new rankings released Tuesday (Aug. 3). The Princeton Review released the 2011 edition of their yearly assessment of “The Best 373 Colleges,” which included rankings of the most and least religious students. Mormon-owned BYU rose from second place in last year’s rankings; it also ranked first in the list of “Stone-Cold Sober Schools,” an honor which the school has held for 13 consecutive years. All of the schools with the most religious student bodies hold some kind of church affiliation, other than the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colo.), which came in 14th. On the other side of the spectrum, Sarah Lawrence College in New York took the lead as having the least religious students, up from the No. 9 spot last year. Also in the top 10, in the No. 8 spot, is Presbyterian-affiliated Macalester College in Minnesota. “It is true that not very many of our students practice organized religion,” said Allen Green, dean of studies and student life at Sarah Lawrence College, “though we do have active, even growing, Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups and popular spiritual space.” The rankings, he said, do not indicate that students face a difficult time making the right decisions. “Our students value moral and ethical principles including tolerance, diversity, respect, and honesty,” he said. All the rankings included in The Princeton Review’s tome are compiled from approximately 122,000 survey results from students at the 373 schools surveyed. An average of 325 students commented from each school. The question regarding religiosity on campus has been asked every year since the survey began in 1992. See the rest of the schools below: More on College Admissions
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The MOST And LEAST Religious Colleges (PHOTOS)
Public Policy Polling looked at Washington’s Senate race [pdf] and the top-two primary and found Murray leading Rossi, in the primary, 47 percent to 33 percent. In the probable general election line-up, her lead is just three points, 49 percent to 46 percent. To clarify a bit, Washington uses a “top two” primary system, so whichever two candidates get the most votes in the primary advance to the general elections, regardless of party affiliation or the preference of the state party organizations. Candidates are listed by their party preference on the ballot rather than by the party to which they belong. I have my mail-in ballot in front of me now (the majority of Washington counties vote by mail), and am looking at 15 Senate candidates, Six of them “prefer Republican Party,” five “prefer Democratic Party” (including perennial candidates Goodspaceguy and Mike The Mover), and there’s one “Centrist,” one “no Party Preference,” and one “Reform Party” to round out the field. Now back to the poll. Swing State’s Crisitunity analyzes the results . Check out the undecideds: only 5% in a Murray/Dino Rossi head-to-head. Thanks to Rossi’s two gubernatorial runs, everyone in the state already has an opinion of both candidates, and he’s not going to fall below 46% (which is about where he wound up in 2008’s gubernatorial race). It’s the getting from that base camp to the summit of 50%+1 in this blue state that’s the tricky part for him (and for all Republicans, period). Murray’s approvals are 46/45, surprisingly not-bad for an incumbent politician this year; Tom Jensen points out that leaves her fairly exalted company (only five Senators up for re-election this year have better ratings). Rossi’s favorables are 43/48, again, pointing to the problem of who he wins over to get over the top. (Bear in mind, too, that this sample went 51-41 for Obama over McCain in 2008; the actual Obama margin was 17 points, so this sample may be about as good as it gets for the GOP.) Rossi’s being a known entity is his real problem, and cracking that 43 favorable rating will be a challenge. That’s combined with a likely enthusiasm gap. There’s a core of far-right, teabagger types in the party who are pretty solidly behind the Sarah Palin-anointed Clint Didier. Yard signs don’t vote, but true believers put up yard signs, and the only ones I’ve seen around the state are Didier’s. Will the Didier supporters be able to keep their enthusiasm up for Rossi? That’s the big question. As Crisitunity points out, he’s going to need to get every Republican along with all the undecideds. On the other hand, there’s significant enthusiasm against Rossi among Dems, who will relish the opportunity to vote against him for the third, and probably last, time. This ad from the Murray, soon to go statewide, will remind people of why they don’t like Rossi and of his affiliation with shady banks and opportunistic real estate brokers.
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WA-Sen: PPP poll gives Murray slight edge
The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (it’s as powerful as it sounds) voted unanimously to not landmark the building that is standing in the way of the proposed mosque. From their standpoint, the building in question is not notable for any particular reason, therefore did not deserve protection. The LPC was not about to damage it’s credibility by landmarking a building just to satisfy a bunch of wingnut pundits on Fox News and their internet skinhead followers. They are there to determine if a building is worthy of distinction. It is a power that must be used carefully because once the LPC landmarks a building, you can’t so much as replace the carpeting without their permission. For them to bow to political pressure would have been a travesty. The vote was received with loud applause from New Yorkers, as reported in the Daily News. As Lawrence Lewis noted yesterday: Muslim New Yorkers are every bit as innocent of the crimes of 9/11 as are all other New Yorkers. Muslim New Yorkers suffered and continue to suffer as did and do all other New Yorkers. They have the same rights and responsibilities as do all other New Yorkers. Initially, New Yorkers reacted to this “issue” with our “whatsit gotta do wit me?” reaction to things in general. The outcry came from the usual suspects of rural right wingers ginned up by Fox News. New Yorkers are simply too busy to worry about who is building what in Downtown Manhattan. In fact, union men from the building trades in Brooklyn will be happy to hear there is more work coming. New Yorkers are simply unfazed by Islamophobia. I’ve told this story over the years: On the morning of 9/11 I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge covered in debris. That same evening I ate at an Afghan restaurant on the Upper West Side. It was full. New York City will not be stopped. Not by terrorists, not by teabaggers. While the Landmarks Commission may have been dealing with the narrow concerns of real estate history and architectural aesthetics, the cheers that erupted after the verdict sends a clear message to intolerant non-New Yorkers like Palin: If you don’t like if you don’t like our religious tolerance, if you don’t like our racial diversity, if you don’t what we build in our city, don’t come here. But don’t for one second think you can tell us what we can and cannot build. See Bensonola’s recommended diary for more discussion.
NYC gives Teabaggers Bronx Cheer
These numbers (from a Pew Research poll conducted July 29 - August 1) shouldn’t surprise anybody, but given what passes for conventional wisdom these days, they could very well be a shock: If you look at the net impact of each hypothetical on a liklihood of support (in other words, subtracting the less likely number from the more likely number), you get, in order: Government projects: +39% Barack Obama: -1% Candidate is neither Dem nor GOP: -6% Tea party: -9% Sarah Palin: -20% So it turns out that the tea party’s austerity message is a lead balloon for the GOP. Instead, voters want somebody representing them who will deliver the goods for their district. Even among Republicans, voters are just as likely to support a candidate who delivers government projects and money to their district as one who has the backing of the tea party. Moreover, it turns out the election really isn’t about any one national figure, but if it were, it would be Sarah Palin that was a detriment — not President Obama. The more you see numbers like this, the clearer it becomes that vulnerable members of Congress shouldn’t spend their time running from programs like the recovery act. Instead, they should be touting the benefits of what the stimulus has delivered to their districts. And they should be running on a platform of doing even more of it to get the economy going. As the numbers show, it’s not a close call.
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Sorry, tea party: Voters prefer government projects
Back in my day, things were different. I never thought I would start off a blog post by saying that … I grew up straddling Generation X and Y, so I can proudly claim to be a member of both the hackers and slackers. We’re also the ones who are supposed to be too apathetic about life because we never really rebelled against our parents. Well now that I’m a parent, I’m turning against my own kind and am starting a my own revolution. My cause: Resurrecting the use of formal titles. Though my two-year-old daughter Rachel has many play pals, not one of them calls me Mr. Sachs. And before I get all sanctimonious about this let me admit, I’m guilty here as well. In my circle of parent friends, we’re telling our kids to address not only their friends, but also the parents by their first names. The practice didn’t strike me as odd until only recently when Rachel went off to summer camp for the first time. There, the instructor’s name was completely up for grabs. She was a woman in her early fifties with over a quarter decade of teaching experience, yet a good number of the kids called her by her first name, Catherine. It didn’t seem respectful enough so I thought perhaps we should tell Rachel to call her “Teacher Catherine.” But after mulling it over, we decided that didn’t feel right either. “The teacher’s name is Mrs. Denton,” we finally declared. That’s not to say other parents didn’t come up with their own solution to this formality conundrum; quite a few kids called the teacher “Miss Catherine.” I’m encountering this hybrid formality more and more as it seems to be gaining popularity as a compromise title for kids to use with adults. But being called Mr. Rob sounds wrong to me, and it sounds even more backwards when I hear someone call my wife Miss Anna. A part of me feels like this naming device should have died out the same time “Gone with the Wind” ended its theatrical run. But I can understand why some parents use Miss First Name. They’re trying desperately to hold on to formality, without being too formal. Of course, other languages like French or Spanish use completely different verb tenses to distinguish between the familiar and the formal. The only thing we English speakers have is our titles, and when we give those up, perhaps we’re giving up too much. I’m not the only one who’s worried about this. In my latest podcast I discussed this dilemma with my friend, mommy blogger Sarah Maizes. She told me, “When all the kids you know call you Sarah you lose a level of respect and it really bums me out. We’re no longer seen as this older generation that deserves the respect that we had to give our parents.” But let’s not blame this one entirely on the kids, who will pretty much call you whatever you tell them to. It’s when you don’t say anything that things get tricky. Sarah pointed out how she’s often addressed as “Ben’s Mom” because the kids themselves don’t know what else to say. Since titles are no longer a given, it’s up to each adult to tell kids how they should be addressed. But this is precisely the problem. Won’t I look like a jerk if I’m the one guy demanding a stricter formality when no one else is? Could be — but then again can you really be a counter revolutionist if you’re worried about seeming like a jerk? Perhaps a friendlier solution for now would be to request that my friends make me and my wife a part of their extended family. I’ll take Uncle Rob over Mr. Rob any day. Certainly Aunt Anna sounds much sweeter to me than Miss Anna. And if the kid’s parents aren’t close enough to consider us part of their honorary brood — well then Mr. and Mrs. Sachs works just fine. More on Parenting
Rob Sachs: Just Don’t Call Me Mr. Rob
Perhaps it doesn’t matter to bigots like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, and it should matter to the no longer credible Anti-Defamation League , but the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks included innocent Muslims, some of whom were killed in the attacks. But when considering the pain and suffering of those who survived 9/11, or who were traumatized by it, it’s worth considering that there are more than half a million Muslims living in New York City. They saw what other New Yorkers saw. They smelled what other New Yorkers smelled. They experienced the same devastating horror and sorrow. They were New Yorkers like any other New Yorkers. They were no more responsible for the attacks than were any other New Yorkers. That the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Muslim extremists is not the fault of the larger Muslim community. This shouldn’t need to be said. It shouldn’t need to be said that collective guilt is no more acceptable a concept than is collective punishment, which is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Muslim faith is no more responsible for the 9/11 attacks than is the Republican Party responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, perpetrated by registered Republican Timothy McVeigh. Should the Republican Party choose to build local headquarters near the Oklahoma City memorial site, would anyone object? This isn’t about the pain and suffering of the 9/11 victims, it’s about bigotry. What about the pain and suffering of Muslim New Yorkers? Is their pain and suffering now to be exacerbated by the intolerance of some of their neighbors? Like so many people, innocent Muslims have suffered much too much from 9/11. An irrational backlash caused innocent Muslims in this country to be stigmatized, marginalized, and demonized. How many saw their personal or professional lives turned upside down? How many children faced hatred merely because of the color of their skin or the faith that they worship? And beyond that, how many innocent Muslims from around the world were secret renditioned, imprisoned, tortured, or even executed? And what of the innocent Muslims of Iraq? What of the victims of the sinister cabal of bloodthirsty liars who used the 9/11 attacks to foment enough collective hatred to convince a traumatized nation into supporting the bombing, invading and devastating of a Muslim nation that had had absolutely nothing to do with those attacks? Anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims have been killed in Iraq. Millions have been displaced. Lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. What of the suffering and pain of innocent Iraqis? If all Muslims are to be held responsible for the horrors of 9/11, then all Americans are responsible for every outrage and atrocity perpetrated by the Bush-Cheney administration–some of which continue to this day. If all Muslims are to be held responsible for the horrors of 9/11, then all Americans are responsible for every act of bigotry and hatred perpetrated by those whose reactions to 9/11 were most irrational and extreme. Where does it end? Perhaps this is where it should end. Perhaps it’s time to start getting this right. Perhaps it’s time for people to rediscover their basic sense of humanity. Perhaps it’s time to heal collective wounds rather than exploiting, deepening, and adding to them. Muslim New Yorkers are every bit as innocent of the crimes of 9/11 as are all other New Yorkers. Muslim New Yorkers suffered and continue to suffer as did and do all other New Yorkers. They have the same rights and responsibilities as do all other New Yorkers. A mosque and Islamic cultural center should be a perpetual source of healing, of fostering understanding and tolerance. And if this current controversy proves anything, it’s that we all need a lot more healing, understanding, and tolerance.
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It’s time to get this right
She did it again… ### Oh joy, Sarah Palin has once again inserted her palm into the national political discourse. Her, yesterday, on Fox News Sunday: PALIN: My palm isn’t large enough to have written all my notes down on what this tax increase, what it will result in…. Democrats are poised to cause the largest tax increase in U.S. history, it’s a tax increase of $3.8 trillion in the next ten years and it will have an effect on every single American who pays an income tax. Small businesses, especially, will be hit hardest. Small businesses account for roughly 70 percent of our job creation in this country. So raising taxes on these employers is the worst thing that can happen. WALLACE: Can I ask you, what do you have written on your hand? PALIN: $3.8 trillion in the next ten years, so I have didn’t say $3.7 trillion and get dinged by the liberals saying I didn’t know what I was talking about. As Think Progress points out , Palin’s palm obscured the truth: For better or for worse, nobody is talking about allowing all of the tax cuts to expire, but even if they were allowed to expire, it would reduce the deficit by $3.1 trillion over the next ten years, not $3.8 trillion. The only question on the table is whether to allow the expiration of Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthiest 2% of Americans — who earn over $250,000 per year. That would save on the order of $700 billion over ten years without hurting the economy. On the substance of the matter, Palin gets a fail, but for style points, perhaps she does deserve a little bit of credit. Here’s why: by presenting her palms as the fountain of truth (and by sticking to Fox), Sarah Palin has cleverly given herself a way to avoid answering any really hard questions about the hypocrisy of claiming fiscal responsibility while fighting for tax cuts for people who don’t need them. If you have to defend the GOP economic platform, ignoring substance and sticking to style isn’t the dumbest move in the world. If you’re going to support absurd, self-contradictory policies, why would you want to answer questions about them? If you do, and you’re honest, bad things will happen. For example, earlier today Eric Cantor — while on MSNBC — admitted the GOP position (Palin’s position) on the tax cuts will “dig the hole deeper” on the federal budget deficit. GUTHRIE: I just was wondering if you had a — if you had any dispute with the notion that it does exacerbate the deficit picture. CANTOR: What I — what I said in the beginning is, um, if you have less revenues coming into the federal government, and more expenditures, what does that add up to? Certainly you’re gonna dig the hole deeper. In retrospect, don’t you think he’d rather have talked about his palms?
iPalm for Sarah Palin
The recent uproar over a mosque/community center being built blocks from the World Trade Center has evoked passionate responses from numerous parties. Many of these voices are from New Yorkers who experienced first hand the horror of 9/11, and still feel the pain of lost loved ones. Unfortunately many of the loudest voices are from politicians not connected to the issue in any way other than a persistent desire to condemn anything that will get them on television. And while I can empathize (albeit disagree) with those who feel that the proximity of said mosque is an affront to the memory of the horrendous acts committed nearly nine years ago, it seems clear that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has seriously erred in coming out against the building. The principles of equality and religious freedom must not only be brandished for issues we necessarily agree with. We are required to support these principles uniformly so that the misguided will of a majority never supplants the rights of a minority. The ADL was founded to , “to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens”. How can an organization founded to combat injustice against a minority population not see that trying to stymie construction of a religious (and community) center because the pain is, ‘ too raw, too real’ , is out of line with their founding principles? I’ll say it again, I understand how and why some people might believe this is an unacceptable place for a mosque, but even if those feelings are deeply held -and whipped to frenzy by limelight seeking politicians- we must remain true to our ideals as Americans. Then again the ADL did try to keep neo-nazis from marching in Skokie, so there is precedent from the group that some things come before the First Amendment. Before coming out against the mosque the ADL should have thought about alternate scenarios where the religious center in question was not Islamic, but Jewish, or perhaps Christian? Didn’t they ever read Martin NiemÃ¶ller’s First they came … ? Their action is all the more surprising given that they recently chimed into the debate in Arizona, and said , ‘As a nation of immigrants, we must strive to promote diversity, not punish it.” It seems odd that on the one hand they want to promote diversity, while on the other hand saying that it has a limited geographical constraint. In regards to the mosque, it appears to be a situation where the ADL should have heeded my mother’s long-standing advice to either, ’say something nice, or don’t say anything at all.’ Unfortunately the ADL has tossed their hat into the ring with people claiming that the new mosque is an example of, “Islamic Jihad’s imperial conquest” and right-wing politicians trying to rile up support prior to an election. William Kristol has argued that because popular opinion is against the mosque, and its creation would, “pit American against American, faith against faith, neighbor against neighbor”, it should not be built. (Thank you Bill for an argument that could be straight out of segregationist literature circa 1954.) What happens to these neocons that had been screaming, ‘they hate us for our freedoms’; suddenly they aren’t so freedom minded when it comes to people with prayer rungs instead of pews. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the ADL’s involvement comes from a line in their press release. “… building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain - unnecessarily - and that is not right.” I’ll give the ADL credit for issuing a press release that rejects outright bigotry, and positions itself as a protector of the aggrieved of New York. But what is this ’shadow’ business? I realize it’s not a literal thing, but the broad and imprecise nature of their language leaves me wondering what they would consider too close? If you took the 2.3 mile long shadow that the new 1,776 foot tall World Trade Center will eventually cast (based on the sun at 6:20pm yesterday in NYC), you’d have the length from Ground Zero to 23rd Street! Should there be no mosques below 23rd Street? The suffering and pain that the terrible incidents of 9/11 caused is undeniable, but this Beckish (yes I’m using Mr. Beck as and adjective) frenzy is a very short step off a very steep drop. How can the ADL not see that if they are true to their founding mission statement then they must either support this project in the name of equality, or sit this one out. Mr. Foxman, National Director of the ADL, has argued that their decision was about ‘ sensitivity ‘, and while I can appreciate that approach, I cannot help but ask if ’sensitivity’ supersedes a principled stance on an issue as important as religious freedom? My criticism does not deny Mr. Foxman’s highlighted commendable efforts by the ADL in the past, but consideration of people’s feelings on this subject should not supersede maintaining a principled stance in favor of freedom. The game of ‘tough on terrorism’ that turned this center into a national issue is a nauseous adaptation of the old ‘tough on crime’ routine that’s plagued us since Len Bias died in 1986. Thankfully just this last week the 100-1 disparity against crack-cocaine that emerged as a result of his death has begun to be reformed , but I certainly hope that the ADL doesn’t take nearly 25 years to realize that there are principles greater than those dictated by the passionate, the intolerant, and the aggrieved. Please ADL, you’ve done good before and will do so again, but you need to ‘refudiate’ your stance on this one. More on Islam
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Daniel Bear: Religious Freedom Doesn’t Have a Geographical Contraint
In 1964, long before theater producers started to experiment with nontraditional casting, one of America’s greatest caricaturists did a series of brilliant sketches entitled “Unlikely Casting.” Among Al Hirschfeld’s hilarious drawings were: Jimmy Durante as Professor Higgins. Zero Mostel as Peter Pan. Carol Channing as Lady Macbeth. Barbra Streisand as St. Joan. Jason Robards, Jr. as Puck. Carol Burnett as Blanche Du Bois. Peter Ustinov and Boris Karloff in The Odd Couple . Buddy Hackett as Hamlet. Bea Lillie as Ophelia. Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine in Noel Coward’s Private Lives . Barry Goldwater and Lyndon B. Johnson in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot . Bert Lahr as King Lear. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Robert Preston as the Dromio Twins in the 1938 Rodgers & Hart musical, The Boys From Syracuse . Since then, theatre geeks have often found great sport in indulging their casting fantasies (the most elaborate of which usually revolve around who should appear in the next production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies ). Some ideas indicate solid, albeit wishful thinking: A production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Bette Midler as Martha, David Hyde-Pierce as George, Neal Patrick Harris as Nick and Robin de Jesus as Honey. Allison Janney as Auntie Mame. A movie musical of 1962’s Little Me starring Ben Stiller and Christina Hendricks. Others could only take place in a galaxy far, far away: A revival of William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker starring Ethel Merman as Annie Sullivan and Carol Channing as Helen Keller. Carmen Miranda starring in a revival of The Unsinkable Molly Brown . The late, great Marion Lorne as Dolly Levi. Here are some unlikely casting ideas I doubt we’ll ever get to see: A revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Kristen Chenowith as Maggie, Peter Dinklage as Brick, Harvey Fierstein as Big Daddy and Kirstie Alley as Big Mama. Bruce Vilanch as King Lear. Joan and Melissa Rivers in The Glass Menagerie. Chris Rock’s Professor Harold Hill wooing Audra McDonald’s Marion Paroo in The Music Man . Rosie O’Donnell as Rosina Daintymouth (the witch in Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera, Hansel und Gretel ). Dame Edna as Blanche Du Bois. A revival of Fiddler on the Roof starring Gilbert Gottfried as Tevye and Liza Minelli as Golde (with Seth Rudetsky as Yente the Matchmaker). A production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew with Jim Parsons as Petruchio and Lisa Lampanelli as Kate. Stephen Colbert as Mary Poppins. A remake of Lust in the Dust starring Kathy Griffin, Sarah Palin, and Mario Cantone. A revival of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion
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George Heymont: Improbable Casting Ideas
Why did President Obama choose to appear on The View ? The answer is simple. The View’s audience is 79% female and Obama has a women problem. Obama’s approval among women voters has plunged from 59% to 45% during his term in office. Here’s a shocker: just one-third of white women approve of the president. In fairness to President Obama, his policies and lackadaisical focus on women’s issues only partially explain this nosedive with women. The Democratic Party — once heralded as the party of equality — has lost its moral authority with women after the misogyny-fest of 2008. Suddenly, Democratic and newly-minted Independent women are reexamining their political-selves and priorities. The Republican Party, sensing this shift, is gearing up to feature a strong field of women in 2010 and beyond. Will the Republican Party succeed in becoming the party of women? And will the Democratic Party fight for women’s vote? There are 3 major factors that have made Democratic and Independent women voters transient. 1. A redefinition of “women’s issues” Traditional feminists and women’s groups have sought to narrowly define issues that matter to women. Since many of these issues, such as abortion rights and legislating equal pay, were aligned with the Democratic Party, so too were women’s votes. More recently, women are increasingly concerned about a broad set of policies. We prioritize such things as creating jobs (especially for small businesses that disproportionately employ women), reducing the deficit burden left on our children, and ending fruitless wars to bring our children home. We want the next generation to have opportunities. Yet, under the current administration, less than one-third believe that the American Dream is intact. This is the thought that keeps mothers awake at night. 2. The Democratic Party lost it’s moral authority The Democratic Party of the Roosevelts and Kennedys was based on the notion of equality. Yet in 2008, we learned that equality of the gender variety had de minimis standing in the current Democratic Party. In 2007-08, the Democratic Party fielded its first viable female presidential candidate. What ensued was a onslaught of horrific, shameful, overt sexism for which the Democratic Party was silent and in some cases complicit (if you forgot how bad it got, watch here .) Where were the DNC officials? Where were the Democratic elected officials? Where was Obama and his aids? Why did so few speak out? What ensued was an awakening. A realization that in 2008, sexism was alive and well in our country — and in some instances, was promulgated by the Democratic Party and the liberal media. And as women increasingly feel betrayed, their loyalty and attachment to the Democratic Party has cooled. 3. Gender representation vs. policy Until recently, conventional wisdom has been that the best way to better conditions for women was to elect politicians who would support women’s policies. The gender of the politician was secondary. When Obama was elected, Ms. magazine issued a special Inaugural edition cover featuring Obama in a superman pose with a t-shirt proclaiming: ” This is What a Feminist Looks Like “. Foreboding perhaps. In the ensuing year, neither women nor women’s issues fared particularly well under President Obama (even the widely ballyhooed signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act only makes it easier to file pay-discrimination suits). By early 2010, an article at BlogHer queried: Are Democrats Losing Their Hold Over Women? and noted: ” Maybe women on the left are realizing that they are more than their uterus…Women are drawn to other women in leadership .” Republicans seemed to sense this discontent and presented women with an alternative to the narrow-issued, male-represented version of Feminism embodied by the Ms. cover. The new vision is a broad-issued, women-represented, women-supporting-women, Pro-Women movement. Whereas the policy argument makes women passively dependent on progressive male candidates; the gender representation alternative posits: get women into leadership and the rest will take care of itself! So while the DNC failed to back numerous qualified women running in 2010 primaries such as Jennifer Brunner (OH) and Colleen Hanabusa (HI), the RNC fielded and supported a bevy of qualified women. In the Year of the Woman , many of these Republican women are running to become historical firsts as governors (states include OK, SC, GA, NM and CA). Republican women candidates are also supported by women in their party. F0r example, Sarah Palin endorsed so many women in her party that The New York Times reported : …the biggest furor so far has erupted here, with a leader of an anti-abortion group, Georgia Right to Life, accusing Ms. Palin of “endorsing any female Republican candidate that she could find.” Jan Brewer, viewed by Politico as a rising star, has also actively endorsed women in her party. Conclusion: The sexism the 2008 election will forever change the political landscape. Millions of women voters, be they registered Democrats or newly-minted Independents, no longer feel that they have a home in the Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party does not yet realize this, the Republican Party does! The next year will be very telling. Women voters have decided every modern day presidential election. If the Democratic Party continues its tone-deafness to women voters, it does so at its own political peril. More on Barack Obama
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Amy Siskind: Why Obama Really Went on The View
You know the narrative by now. We’re in disarray. We’re depressed. We’re running for the hills, or running for our lives. The conservative movement is on the ascendancy once again, ready to bring tea party values to Congress and prevent Obama and the Democrats from bringing even more socialism to this country. Except… not quite. You can follow that link to the Gallup poll about voter preferences for the generic Congressional Ballot as of July 19, and for the first time in a long time, Democrats have the lead–by six points, no less. And there are a lot of reasons for that, but the main one is this: The more we do, the more the voters like us. We had a monumental struggle over health insurance reform that robbed progressives of their energy and drained our party’s approval rating. And yet once that bill was signed and something was accomplished for the American people–even if it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for– our numbers increased. And the most recent Gallup numbers are a result of the aftermath of the passage of a landmark financial regulation bill that–again–doesn’t do everything we want, but will make a significant difference. On other things, of course, we haven’t been so lucky–and of course it’s difficult to keep up the enthusiasm morning, noon and night for an administration that on occasion seems more willing to disown its friends and embrace its enemies than the other way around. On the other hand, why we fight couldn’t be clearer. We fought to have a president who would do what it took to save the American automobile industry and bring it forward into the future, despite the barrage of attacks against him from those who would have rather seen the engine of American industry die than see the government have a hand in its salvation. We fought tooth and nail to elect a president and a Congress who would at least fight like hell–regardless of the overall result–to make sure that the excesses of America’s health insurers were reined in for the good of the American people. We fought to ensure that the American people understood that the way to treat the banks who nearly drove us into a depression was to regulate them, not to deregulate them further. And the examples could go on and on. But despite everything we’ve accomplished so far, winning back the allegiance of the voters is still, by any admission, an uphill struggle. And that leads to the main point here. There was something special about Netroots Nation 2010. It felt much more like the first YearlyKos way back in 2006 than any YearlyKos or Netroots Nation has since the beginning, and not just because we were all back in Las Vegas. It felt that way because just like four years ago, our movement is locked in a monumental struggle against the notion of Democratic despair. In 2006, that despair arose from the question of whether we would ever end what was seeming at the time like a permanent Republican majority in Congress. In 2010, the despair is a little different; this version is born more of a feeling of helplessness as to what it could possibly take to get strong progressive policy passed if we can’t even do it right now with a Democratic president and overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress–especially when conventional wisdom dictates that those majorities are about to shrink. The despair is understandable. But as Van Jones does so often, he said it best at this year’s Netroots Nation. He told us what we needed to hear. He told us that a lot of us thought that when we won in 2008, our work was over; that we had crossed some sort of finish line, when the truth was that we had only crossed a starting line. We did not cross the finish line of guaranteeing action on progressive policy; rather, we approached the starting line of ensuring that we even had a chance of winning that metaphorical race to begin with. And while it’s much, much easier to find those last extra reserves of energy when you’re trying not to drown than it is when you’re trying to scale a mountain, it’s crucial that over the course of these last 95 days, we make that last extra push. As Jones said: whether or not this country goes back to despair is largely up to you…if you keep the hope alive, then change is still possible. Van Jones is right. It’s up to us and this movement to keep the hope of progressive change alive. And when we convene in Minneapolis on June 16, 2011, there’s only one narrative to which we should aspire: Last year, we took their best shot. The hardest haymaker that the conservative movement has to offer. The full brunt of a Fox-fueled astroturf campaign designed to inflame the rage of an emboldened minority that just can’t deal with the fact that their country doesn’t look they think it should–and neither does their president. The most outrageous slings and arrows of Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. The countless millions of dollars spent by corporate citizens united in their attempt to defeat any hope of permanently loosening their golden grip on the halls of Washington’s power. And we came out clean on the other side. And not just clean, but stronger. Stronger in the knowledge that even with all the odds seemingly lined up against us, we pulled through and put ourselves in a position to continue to advocate forcefully and responsibly for even more progressive change. It may not be exactly what we like. It may not be as fast as we like. But at least the other side will know that when they were supposed to be at their most powerful, and when we supposed to be at our most despondent and distressed, our movement was strong and our cause can still prevail. Inspiring thought, isn’t it?
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No time to quit
Wasilla political queen-maker Sarah Palin endorsed a candidate for governor last week, but it wasn’t her old sidekick Sean Parnell, Alaska’s governor. Palin, who quit as Alaska’s governor halfway through her first term to become a national political pundit and celebrity, reached south to bless Wyoming state auditor Rita Meyer’s Republican primary bid for the governor’s office in the Cowboy State. Palin called Meyer a “unique blend of steel magnolia and mama grizzly.” The latter characterization might not have been exactly well timed. Two days earlier, a real “mama grizzly” tore through a Montana campground only a few miles north of the Montana/Wyoming border and did what mama grizzlies do. It killed one person and injured two. The bear itself was later trapped and executed by authorities. Palin, however, has been on a “mama grizzly” kick since unveiling a SarahPac video in late June urging “common-sense conservative women to rise up in a “mom awakening” to declare “we have had enough already.” She has since crisscrossed the country trying to form a coalition of mama and papa grizzlies. At last count she had declared more than a dozen Republicans members of the grizzly collective. Of her endorsements to date, most have been rock-solid conservatives, but a few not. Some national observers have theorized Palin, the unsuccessful candidate for vice-president on the Republican ticket in 2008, is trying to build a national base of supporters who’ve won office with her help. She appears to have been succeeding. So far, among her more than 30 endorsements, 10 won, five lost, and the rest are in elections yet to be resolved. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Friday he expects Palin to run for President in 2012. If she does, it won’t hurt to have a bunch of allies who think their success is wholly or partially due to her charms. Noticeably absent from Palin’s endorsements, however, is Parnell, who took over in Alaska when Palin fled before a tidal wave of ethics complaints almost a year ago. Palin said the ethics complaints were all made up, and that she was leaving to avoid the fuss and cost of dealing with them. Most of the complaints have indeed been found baseless, but the state remains sharply divided in opinion on the ex-governor. Read the rest of this story at AlaskaDispatch.com. More on Sarah Palin
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AlaskaDispatch.com: Why Isn’t Sarah Palin Endorsing Alaska Gov. Parnell?
I’ve been thinking about this paradox: the most important political ad of 2010 so far did not play on television, and came from someone not currently running for any office. It was Sarah Palin’s latest web video , “Mama Grizzlies.” For those who haven’t seen it yet, the video features footage of women of various ages taken at an assortment of Tea Party and Palin rallies, accompanied by audio clips from a recent Palin speech. Among the choice sound bytes: “It seems like it’s kind of a mom awakening…women are rising up.” “I always think of the mama grizzly bears that rise up on their hind legs when somebody is coming to attack their cubs.” “You thought pit bulls were tough? Well, you don’t wanna mess with the mama grizzlies!” It’s classic Palin. And, as often is the case with Palin, the video doesn’t feature a single word about policy — as many of her critics have pointed out . But they are completely missing the point. Indeed, this video and the response to it are a perfect illustration of why we need to widen the scope of our political analysis. We are awash in crises right now — crises that require smart and creative policy fixes. So why is somebody who so rarely deals in policy fixes so popular? It’s because Palin’s message operates on a level deeper than policy statements about the economy or financial reform or health care or the war in Afghanistan. To really understand her appeal, we need less policy analysis and more psychology. Specifically, we need to hear from that under-appreciated political pundit Carl Jung. It’s not Palin’s positions people respond to — it’s her use of symbols. Mama grizzlies rearing up to protect their young? That’s straight out of Jung’s “collective unconscious” — the term Jung used to describe the part of the unconscious mind that, unlike the personal unconscious, is shared by all human beings, made up of archetypes , or, in Jung’s words, “universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” Unlike personal experiences, these archetypes are inherited, not acquired. They are “inborn forms … of perception and apprehension,” the “deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity.” This is the realm Palin is working in — I’m sure unintentionally — and it’s why she has connected so deeply with a large segment of the public. In fact, her evocation of mama grizzlies has a particularly resonant history in the collective unconscious. According to the Jungian Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism , “The bear has long fascinated mankind, partly because of its habit of hibernation, which may have served as a model of death and rebirth in human societies.” As a matter of fact, another very popular Republican politician once used the image of a bear in an ad. The bear was used differently, but to powerful effect . “There’s a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear…” Simple. Forceful. Policy-free. And a very successful ad for Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984. It raised the question of whether Walter Mondale would be strong enough to stand up to the lurking bear — in this case, the Soviet Union. Reagan won 525 electoral votes to Mondale’s 13. Like Palin, Reagan was not thought to be a policy heavyweight, and, like her, he was often ridiculed by the punditocracy. And, like Reagan, Palin has come to prominence in a time of national crisis, a state of affairs in which appeals to the collective unconscious are much more powerful — and dangerous — than in normal times. Jung himself was exquisitely aware of such a possibility, saying that during troubled conditions experienced by large numbers of people “explosive and dangerous forces hidden in the archetype come into action, frequently with unpredictable consequences. There is no lunacy people under the domination of an archetype will not fall prey to.” What’s more, Palin not only has the ability to tap into archetypes, she also has a variety of social tools ready to help her do so. It’s impossible to “refudiate” her mastery of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And, as Michelle Cottle writes in The New Republic , Palin is using them to speak directly to her audience, going around the filter of the mainstream media: “It’s an unconventional media strategy … Yet it’s hard to deny that Palin’s p.r. approach has not only succeeded but succeeded brilliantly. How? The most obvious element at work here is that Palin operates not as a politician but as a celebrity … The rules are different for celebrities: Palin’s megawattage enables her to command attention for every word and gesture, even as she largely stiff-arms the New York Times and Meet the Press .” Which leads Cottle to conclude : “Any political strategist who orchestrated such brilliant success via such unconventional means would instantly be dubbed the p.r. genius of our time. But, as far as we know, there is no crack communications team charting Palin’s course. At some point, even Palin haters may have to face the possibility that the p.r. genius is Sarah herself.” And, as Dave Weigel put it in The Atlantic , it’s not as if the media really even cares about policy as much as it likes to think it does. “This media is not going to care about her policies,” he writes. “If policies come up during debates, and she gives the same answers she gives on Fox now, and Mitt Romney pounces on her, the story will not be that the GOP’s frontrunner gave a pallid answer. The story will be that Mitt Romney pounced.” In the end, Weigel concludes, “it’s hard to imagine Palin competing at the policy level the press claims she needs to get to, but easy to imagine her competing at the level they actually play on.” So if you think Palin’s lack of policy prowess is somehow going to slow her ascent, think again. With unemployment predicted to hover just below double digits for possibly years to come, our vaunted recovery acknowledged to have stalled, and Americans’ faith in practically every economic and political institution at an all time low, it’s no surprise that people might respond irrationally. That’s what people do when they’re afraid. And in the absence of a coherent narrative that makes people feel reassured and hopeful about their lives and their futures, they’ll gravitate to whatever fills the vacuum. Especially mama grizzlies. So isn’t it wise to get a handle on Palin’s true appeal sooner rather than later? Because, to quote that other archetypal ursine ad: “Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear?” More on Sarah Palin
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Arianna Huffington: Sarah Palin, "Mama Grizzlies," Carl Jung, and the Power of Archetypes
Back in February, Sarah Palin was widely mocked for writing crib notes on her hand for an appearance at a Tea Party convention. Now the former vice-presidential candidate has used the trick again . Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Palin criticized the Obama administration’s plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year. “[Obama's] commitment to let previous tax cuts expire are going to lead to even fewer job opportunities for Americans,” Palin said. “It’s idiotic to think about increasing taxes at a time like this.” “My palm isn’t large enough to have written all my notes down on what this tax increase, what it will result in,” Palin continued. Host Chris Wallace noticed that Palin did indeed have something written on her palm. “Can I ask you, what do you have written on your hand?” he asked. “$3.8 trillion in the next 10 years,” Palin responded, “so I didn’t say $3.7 trillion and then get dinged by the liberals saying I didn’t know what I was talking about.” WATCH: ( h/t Think Progress ) More on Sarah Palin
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Sarah Palin Uses Hand Notes To Defend Bush Tax Cuts On ‘Fox News Sunday’ (VIDEO)
Ever since Sarah Palin opened her stupid tweet hole a few weeks ago to refudiate the not-a-mosque being constructed near Ground Zero, the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from the right has grown increasingly heated . And it’s not just the usual suspects . Even the once respectable Anti-Defamation League has weighed in against teh Muslims . Can’t we all just get along?
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Sunday Talk - In the Spirit of Uni-Tea
Ever since Sarah Palin opened her stupid tweet hole a few weeks ago to refudiate the not-a-mosque being constructed near Ground Zero, the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from the right has grown increasingly heated . And it’s not just the usual suspects . Even the once respectable Anti-Defamation League has weighed in against teh Muslims . Can’t we all just get along?
Sunday Talk - In the Spirit of Uni-Tea