Monday, October 31, 2011


Kevin Williamson of National Review's Corner expresses skepticism about Herman Cain:

Here is what troubles me. Mr. Cain says: "If the Restaurant Association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it, and I hope it wasn't for much, because nothing happened. So if there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other offices that worked for me at the association, so the answer is absolutely not."

Okay, so if I’m reading that quote right, then:

1. Herman Cain, in his role as head of a major trade association, did not bother to learn how a complaint or complaints of sexual harassment against him was resolved.

2. Herman Cain, not bothering to have learned how a complaint or complaints of sexual harassment against him was resolved, decided to run for president without bothering to learn.

I got a lot of grief for writing that, based on my interaction with Mr. Cain, I would have hesitated to hire him to run a pizza company. I am feeling more comfortable in that judgment.

Mr. Williamson posts this under the headline "Why This Could Be the End of Cain."

But why would this be the end of Cain? Because it demonstrates that he has no management skills? Nobody who supports him cares about whether he really seems to have management skills, based on, y'know, empirical evidence. All they care about is the fact that he says he has management skills. He says it really, really insistently. That's enough for right-wing voters!

Ronald Reagan said he was a fiscally responsible leader who abhorred deficits. George W. Bush said he was a tough terrorist fighter who was going to get bin Laden dead or alive. Did either one of them live up to their talk? No. Did right-wing voters care? No. Delivering on promises doesn't matter. The voters wanted someone who talked the talk. That's all.

Herman Cain, therefore, is in the time-honored right-wing tradition. He doesn't have to be a good manager, or even a competent one. He just has to say he has management skills. That's enough.


Is the wingnut electorate going to abandon Herman Cain just because of reports that he has a history of sexual harassment? Not after this:

Herman Cain may be the only presidential candidate in history to actually benefit from a sex scandal.

Just hours after Politico broke a story about accusations of sexual harassment against Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO
killed it during a luncheon speech at the National Press Club. And then to top it all off, he SANG.

... Cain launched into a surprisingly beautiful rendition of the hymn "He Looked Beyond My Faults" — an interesting choice given the sex scandal.

Oh, this is genius. It's not just that he sings a gospel song -- and not just any gospel song, but a gospel song that both acknowledges personal sin and proclaims that God has already forgiven that sin (implication: so what's your problem, Mr. Godless Humanist?). It's that he picks one of the the best-known songs written by a gospel legend who died tragically in a bus crash a few years ago -- which means the song is a huge classic hit for a lot of people, but is virtually unknown to disgusting urbane sophisticates like you and me, which just goes to prove that we liberal scum have contempt for cultural genius and for people of faith. Like Herman Cain!

I've been pondering a response to Dave Weigel's post "Why Cain Won't Get a 'High-Tech Lynching' Sequel." One of the reasons Weigel gives for his assertion that Cain can't push the Clarence Thomas analogy is the following:

Thomas had no enemies to the right, because his ideological allies wanted him on the court -- no exceptions. Four years after the Bork disaster, they would not let a young African-American court candidate go down. Cain has lots of enemies on the right -- fellow candidates, movement diehards who think he'd lose the general election.

But I'm not sure there are any "movement diehards" who will abandon him. That's for two reasons: first, every other possible purist candidate for president has either refused to run (Palin, Christie, Ryan, Daniels), expressed conservatively incorrect views (Perry, Gingrich, Paul), flamed out (Trump, Bachmann), or failed to catch fire (Santorum). The wingers still run everything else, but when it comes to the presidential race, if they want to save themselves from Romney, Cain's all they've got left. The second reason is that you never want to be caught on the wrong side of any ideological fight, so non-Rovebot righties have immediately gone into wingnuttier-than-thou mode (see, e.g., Rush Limbaugh's defense of Cain).

The two people who might be hurt by this are Karl Rove and Mitt Romney. This is going to make a lot of wingnuts really feel their tribal loyalty -- which is to conservatism as they understand it. They think Republicanism is whatever they stand for. If Karl and Mitt don't live up to their standards, and if Mitt wins the nomination, enough of them may decide that some fringy candidate is the "real" Republican -- maybe as many as decided that Nader was the real Democrat in 2000.

In The Washington Times, Joseph Curl pushes a meme the right really thinks will pump up the base in November:

The very angry first lady Michelle Obama

Michelle's back, and she’s madder than ever. She was already pretty angry, seemingly unhappy with just about everything. As her husband wrapped up the Democratic nomination in 2008, she let fly her real feelings: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country." ...

Now, she is ready to spew her bilious disgust with America on the campaign trail. A dignified, transcendent first lady? No chance. Michelle is going to break with a hundred years of tradition and play the role of attack dog, heaping derision on her husband's political opponents like no other first lady before her.

And it's already begun. Mad Michelle this week popped down to Davis Island, Fla., to hobnob with the very people her husband despises - the 1 percent. At a massive mansion on the bay, filled with the wealthiest of the wealthy, America’s first lady launched into a tirade about "them" - the Republicans.

And wow, does she let loose. Get a load of this -- it's unprecedented for a first lady:

"I don't think it's fair to really lie about allegations about someone like the Republican national chairman did," she said. "Well, he made it up, I guess I should say."

She's not concerned about her husband's declining poll numbers.

"I think part of the reason he has is because the Republicans have just spent over $100 million campaigning," she said. "And their main campaign issues have been to beat Barack Obama. That's all they really talked about."

.... Er, no wait. That wasn't Michelle Obama making an "unprecedented" "angry" statement at a campaign appearance -- that was Laura Bush in 2004 in an ABC News interview, in which she accused then-Democratic chairman Terry McAuliffe of lying about W's Texas Air National Guard AWOL status. (I changed the party name and the name of the president.) Here's what Michelle actually said that was so "angry":

"Let's not forget about what it meant when my husband appointed two brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history, our daughters - and our sons - watched three women take their seats on our nation's highest court. But more importantly, let’s not forget the impact their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come - on our privacy and our security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly and love whomever we choose. That is what's at stake here," she said to applause....

"Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to just the few at the top? Who are we? Or will we give every child a chance to succeed no matter where they're from, or what they look like or how much money their parents have. Who are we?"

Wow -- feel the hate!

Curl continues:

So, America's first lady will travel the country this election season to tell her fellow Americans just how bad it is out there (between lavish vacations, of course). Unlike President Ronald Reagan, who saw morning in America - that great shining city on a hill - Michelle will tell all who will listen that Republicans want to poison the air and water, stifle free speech, oppress the religious. She will offer not an uplifting vision of what her husband's America could be but only a vapid view of what Republicans' America would be.

Yeah, that's right! Get a load of this. Where's the Reaganesque uplift?

The choices this year are not just between two different personalities or between two political parties. They're between two different visions of the future, two fundamentally different ways of governing -- their government of pessimism, fear, and limits, or ours of hope, confidence, and growth.

Their government sees people only as members of groups; ours serves all the people of America as individuals. Theirs lives in the past, seeking to apply the old and failed policies to an era that has passed them by. Ours learns from the past and strives to change by boldly charting a new course for the future. Theirs lives by promises, the bigger, the better. We offer proven, workable answers....

We've heard a lot about deficits this year from those on the other side of the aisle. Well, they should be experts on budget deficits. They've spent most of their political careers creating deficits....

And for almost all of those 50 years, deficit spending has been their deliberate policy. Now, however, they call for an end to deficits. They call them ours. Yet, at the same time, the leadership of their party resists our every effort to bring Federal spending under control.

So hate-filled! So un-Gipper-esque!

... No, wait -- that wasn't Michelle either. That was Ronald Reagan's 1984 Republican convention speech.

I keep saying that right-wing racism has a huge carve-out for black right-wingers, who are issued a special exemption. But if you're liberal or moderate and you're black, all stereotypes are considered suitable for deployment by the right. "Angry black woman" is one right-wingers are going to try to hang on Michelle -- facts be damned.


I find the Herman Cain harassment story plausible -- I'd find it plausible in the case of just about any male politician or CEO, narcissists that they are. But I suspect it's not going to be a death blow to his campaign, and I'm not sure it's even going to cost him his lead in the polls.

During Herman Cain's tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association....

Let's start with the fact that a lot of right-wingers probably don't believe there's any such thing as sexual harassment, or don't think it's any big deal. Let's proceed from there to the fact that Cain is a candidate a lot of people like rather than merely support, a "hope" candidate for his fans, which means that they want this to go away, the way Bill Clinton fans wanted his sex scandals to go away. (Also, Cain fans see him as a bulwark against rampant liberalism, just as Clinton supporters saw Bill, naively or otherwise, as the guy standing between us and an ever-more-radical conservatism.)

And the race factor plays in Cain's favor, because right-wingers have always enjoyed feeling self-righteous about Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings, and they see an analogy here. On cue, here's Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media with a column titled "Politico and Cain: Return of the High Tech Lynching." And Ann Coulter -- who repeatedly called the young black men wrongly convicted in the Central Park Jogger case "savages" and who wrote a column in the early days of the financial crisis titled "They Gave Your Mortgage to a Less Qualified Minority" -- is defending Cain by arguing that "liberals are terrified of Herman Cain -- he is a strong, conservative black man."

This kind of scandal can be managed, unless the evidence comes to light and is so undeniable (as in the case of John Edwards) that nobody wants to defend the man at the center of the story. Wingers will abandon Cain if really bad stuff is proven -- perhaps if the women themselves come forward.

On the other hand, Coulter is saying that what's alleged isn't really harassment -- "it isn't touching, it isn't groping, it's 'Ooooh, you said something and we thought it was inappropriate.'" Watch her roll her eyes as she says this (at about 1:29 in the clip below):

That's likely to be to the winger reaction to this. Which is why this won't sink Cain. Hey, it's not as if he did something nice for undocumented-immigrant college students, or refused to back a border fence. Those are serious character flaws! Those can sink a campaign! Wingnuttia will probably say this isn't in the same league.

I say all this with one caveat: Cain has to worry about Cain. He probably won't have the sense to come up with one response and stick with it. He'll probably deny the charges, then half-admit them, then deny them again, then half-deny them, and so on and so on. This story could disappear quickly if nothing new comes out, the way the McCain infidelity-with-a-lobbyist story disappeared in 2008 -- but Cain, being Cain, may very well keep it alive by struggling (as he often does) to keep his story straight. But even so, I think his loss of standing in the polls won't be as great as Perry's has been.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Rick Perry's campaign is taking on more and more water. Here's the latest:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry raised some eyebrows Friday night with a speech performance in Manchester, N.H., that was unusually expressive....

The video below is not a full version of his remarks. It is a carefully edited montage designed to highlight the giddiest and strangest moments of a roughly 25-minute speech....

Gawker was more succinct, asking, "Just How Drunk Is Rick Perry in This Video?"

See, I don't think he's necessarily drunk. What he reminds me of is a slightly less amped-up Glenn Beck:

Do you see it? Same compulsive, jittery jokiness. Same hyper gestures. No, he didn't pretend to set anyone on fire, but this clip is extreme even for Beck. Perry's like Beck on a (for want of a better word) normal day. And his style has just a bit more drawl in it. So think of it as a combination of Beck and George W. Bush -- two ex-substance abusers, for what it's worth. But I'm not sure he's drunk so much as clinically manic.

Frank Bruni today:

The disconnect between the seriousness of our angst and the silliness of our politics -- between how big our problems are and how hopeless or just plain stuck the people who are supposed to address them seem -- defies belief. Right now the system isn't working, and a recognition of that is one of the ties that bind Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. They don't identify the same villains or promote the same solutions. But they're flowers of a shared frustration.

That's utter bollocks -- and really, why is it so important for so many people to find common ground between the tea party and angry people on the left?

I'm sorry, but the teabaggers didn't mobilize -- or perhaps I should say weren't mobilized -- until after the inauguration of Barack Obama, even though most of the the things they complained about (deficit spending, the Wall Street bailout, the very existence of taxation or a social safety net) predated Obama's election. And they've never felt the level of disgruntlement with the sytem that Occupy does -- from the beginning they've found dozens of elected officials who suit them just fine, many of whom have actually been elected. You can't possibly say that about the Occupy protesters, whoknow they're well to the left of President Obama and the Democrats, even if the GOP is much further to the right.

The Occupy protesters are upset at a system that's failed them under both Republican and Democratic presidents. The tea party will utterly vanish the second its ideological soul mates seize control of what few parts of the government they don't control already, even if those soul mates don't enact a tea party agenda. (Did we hear a peep from any of these people when George W. Bush was running huge deficits or expanding government health care with the Medicare prescription drug plan?)

Occupy wants real change. The tea party wants a change in political control. That's it. End of story.

I have no particular objection to what Nicholas Kristof writes in today's column, and I suppose he's written enough columns on life-and-death issues to take it easy today and publish one about addictions to things that aren't ingestible (and to ask, Gosh, could I possibly be an exercise addict?) -- but really: is this guy, who occupies prime op-ed space in one of the most important newspapers on the planet, so unworldly, so out of touch, that he can actually write the following?

Who knew that orgasms, in men and women alike, light up the pleasure centers much like cocaine? (And who knew that researchers immobilize subjects in a lab, hook them up to a brain scanner, and then instruct them to engage in sexual activity?)

To answer the second question firs, um, anyone who knows the first thing about Kinsey or those who've followed him in the field of sex research? Anyone who's read Mary Roach's bestselling book Bonk? Any adult (or, presumably, any teenager) who has even a moderate level of familiarity with the social history of the West in the past century?

And the same goes for orgasms as chemical analogues of cocaine ingestion -- how do you manage to live in this society and not come across this knowledge? At the very least, how can you live in this society and imagine that hardly anyone knows this, even if it's only now coming to your attention? Didn't Kristof ask anyone of his acquaintance, "Hey, did you know this?" Didn't his editor tell him that it's common knowledge?

Look, I suppose the world really is divided into hedgehogs and foxes, but this is ridiculous -- if Kristof knows everything about the grinding misery of the world's desperately and knows very little about anything else, maybe he should stick to what he knows.
Even in Kentucky, Repugs Have to Cheat

My first reaction when this story broke last week was: He's lying - no way David Williams' father-in-law has $1.3 million to waste on a losing campaign, even to make his daughter happy.

But then I learned that the man has actually thrown more than two million bucks down the Williams shitter.

So I revised my reaction to: How pathetic is your campaign if the vast majority of your donations come from your Daddy?

Now it's Just how stupid do you think Kentuckians are to expect us to believe you're not consulting with your biggest donor who also happens to be your father-in-law?

From the Courier:

The Kentucky Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the state Registry of Election Finance alleging that Republican David Williams' campaign, his father-in-law and the group Restoring America are involved in an illegal coordinated effort to elect Williams.

Williams’ father-in-law, Russell Springs businessman Terry Stephens, has given more than $2 million to Restoring America, which has run ads criticizing Gov. Steve Beshear and supporting Williams for the past month.

In the complaint, Democrats offered no proof of collusion, instead producing only circumstantial evidence.

The latest move comes a week after the two sides ended a battle in Franklin Circuit Court that resulted in Restoring America filing a report with the registry naming Stephens as the sole contributor to the organization, which is based in Ohio.

The group and another organization funded by Stephens through the Republican Governors Association have spent about twice as much money helping Williams as he has raised and spent himself.

In a press release announcing Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Logsdon’s latest salvo, the party said Stephens was Williams’ “sugar daddy.”

Williams is 28 points down to Beshear in the latest poll. Meanwhile, Democratic voters all over the state are being intimidated away from the polls - Democratic voters, that is, who are not so discouraged and disgusted by the moribund state of the Kentucky Democratic Party that they're not planning to go to the polls at all.

Yes, of course Williams is engaging in election fraud - he's a repug running for office, so that's a given. But with Democratic voters and county parties starving for support all over the state, this is what the KDP thinks is a good investment of time and money?

Saturday, October 29, 2011


It appears that a big reason that this photo of an Elizabeth Warren for Senate volunteer meetup in Framingham, Massachusetts, is going viral is that the crowd is so large -- unusually large for any campaign thirteen months before the election, and in a town that's not close enough to Boston and Cambridge to draw naturally on that large urban concentration of people

But the reason it excites me is the appearance of the crowd.

College students and recent graduates are citizens. People with dreadlocks are citizens. Drum-circle participants are citizens. Everyone's vote is equal. We all know that -- but we also know that, in reality, people are pigeonholed and stereotyped by demography. The Occupy protesters don't all fit into the categories I've listed by any means, but it's easy for casual observers to see video and news photos of their gatherings and think that they do. That hasn't caused much of the country to dismiss the movement -- I think an awful lot of people are thinking, "Those hippies are saying what I'm thinking" -- but it does open the movement up to charges that it's unrepresentative of America as a whole. And some people will come to that conclusion.

I don't think those people will look at the photo above and say the same thing.

I'm just looking at the woman dead center, in pink. If you got into the typical Fox viewer's brain and could pinpoint that viewer's stereotypical image of an Occupy protester, and then could determine what kind of person would be 180 degrees different from that stereotyped Occupy protester, I think it would be the woman in pink. And there she is, coming out to volunteer for a candidate whose positions are very much in sync with Occupy's.

If there could be crowds like this turning out to back progressive causes and truly progressive candidates nationwide, this country would finally be on the road to sanity. So I love this photo.
Terrist-Killing Jeebus Keeps Kentucky Safe

Kentucky's warriors against commiemuslinterrists don't have to resort to murdering American citizens without due process; they can just pray the motherfuckers into submission.

From the Herald:

The Kentucky Office of Homeland Security has the right to publicly declare "dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth," the state Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

State law requires the Office of Homeland Security to publicize God's benevolent protective powers in its official reports and on a plaque posted outside the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort. State Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, a Southern Baptist minister, placed the "Almighty God" language into the law establishing the office without much notice at the time.

A group of atheists sued after the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote about the law in 2008. They argued that the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions prohibit the government from endorsing religion or conveying messages of mandatory religious belief. In 2009, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate sided with them and struck down the law.

But in a split decision, a three-judge appellate panel ruled Friday that the state law is constitutionally harmless.

The appellate judges compared Kentucky's law to Ohio making "With God, All Things Are Possible" its official state motto, which the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld as constitutional in 2001, they wrote.

"The Kentucky legislature has not attempted to compel belief or participation in any form of religious exercise, nor does it seek to prefer one belief over another. A simple reference to a generic 'God' acknowledges religion in a general way," Judge Laurance VanMeter of Lexington wrote in the majority opinion. VanMeter was joined by Judge Thomas Wine of Louisville.

In a dissenting opinion, Special Judge Ann O'Malley Shake of Louisville said Kentucky's law crossed a constitutional line. Among other things, she said, the law has criminal penalties, including up to 12 months in jail, for anyone who fails to comply.

Unlike the Ohio state motto, which is "passive," Shake wrote, Kentucky's law "is a legislative finding, avowed as factual, that the commonwealth is not safe absent reliance on Almighty God. Further, (the law) places a duty upon the executive director to publicize the assertion while stressing to the public that dependence upon Almighty God is vital, or necessary, in assuring the safety of the commonwealth."

One of the plaintiffs, American Atheists, plans to appeal Friday's decision to the Kentucky Supreme Court, said its president, David Silverman. American Atheists is a national non-profit advocacy group.

The fact that two Kentucky judges have said the law is constitutional and two other judges have disagreed "just shows the very deep division over religion in our society," said Edwin Kagin of Union, an attorney for American Atheists.

"What if the law required that Kentucky acknowledge our reliance on the benevolent protection of Allah? Would everyone still be in favor of it then?" Kagin asked. "Of course not."

Riner, the legislator who added the Almighty God section to the homeland security law, said the nation's founding documents refer to "Our Creator" and "Divine Providence." Kentucky state government should be free to do likewise, he said.

"I'm very thankful for judges who take into account the original intent of our Founders when interpreting the intent of the Constitution," Riner said.

As I wrote three years ago:

You may also believe this. If you do, please paint "We put our faith in god" on your front door, back door, roof and car so that the next time you need help from the actual human beings who work emergency rescue, they'll know to pass you by to help people who put their faith in government services.


Stressing dependence on god is the department's initial duty? Really? Because when I'm trapped under tornado wreckage, or seeking shelter from a train wreck's poisonous gas cloud, or hoping the security at the neighborhood chemical plant is tighter than it looks, what I really want to see first is the Department of Homeland Security's overpaid executives down on their knees praying to an invisible sky wizard.

I'm a die-hard fan of public servants, and will defend them and their work to the death.

But I'll make an exception for those who think their irrational fantasies take precedence over doing their job. Them, I say fire immediately. They can find out for themselves how much their precious private sector appreciates that kind of stupidity.

Friday, October 28, 2011


This morning I took issue with a Dahlia Lithwick column about Occupy Wall Street, and now Gordon Lafer makes arguments similar to Lithwick's in The Nation:

What makes OWS different from the mass marches against the Iraq War or at the 2004 GOP convention is not just that it's an ongoing occupation rather than a one-day affair. It's that this protest is not, at its core, voicing an appeal to lawmakers.

The OWS turn away from the political system began with the choice of location -- Wall Street rather than the National Mall. It is driven home, above all, by the refusal to encapsulate the protest in policy demands aimed at Congress. I don't know whether the absence of specific policy proposals is intentional or accidental. But I do know that it's part of what lends such power to the occupation and renders its targets so palpably uncomfortable.

The "demand for demands,"
The Nation’s Betsy Reed has noted, is misplaced. What would our rallying cry be? "The people demand a .05 percent transaction tax on stock purchases held for less than fifteen days"? Everyone knows what OWS is for. And its essential demand is powerful precisely because of its startling simplicity: "You know what you did. You have our stuff. Give it back."

A call for a transaction tax wouldn't be sexy, but why shouldn't it be one of several demands -- as opposed to none at all? Lafer's answer is that such a call is futile because of the hopelessness of our political system, and says OWS is doing what it's doing precisely because it recognizes how absurd it is to expect our politicians to do the right thing. I agree with him about the system:

Indeed, almost every policy demand that OWS might possibly voice has already been proposed, debated and defeated-- at a time when Democrats controlled all branches of government. Members of Congress considered but declined to enact proposals to impose a tax on Wall Street transactions; to limit executive compensation; to fund a mass WPA-style jobs program; to allow bankruptcy judges to mark underwater mortgages to market; to make it easier for Americans to form unions and bargain for better wages; to eliminate tax benefits for companies that transfer our jobs overseas; and to forswear any more NAFTA-style trade treaties. The OWS refusal to articulate policy demands reflects the conviction that any remedies that fit the scale of the problem are impossible to pass -- not only in the current Congress but in any Congress we can realistically imagine.

Yes, and so what? You shouldn't make a demand just because it will never be met by the political system? We've gone from "Be realistic -- demand the impossible" to "Be realistic -- demand nothing"? Why not make demands knowing full well that they're impossible in the current system, as a means of making them somewhat less impossible? Isn't that what movements have always done? At the very least, doesn't that clarify for observers just how reasonable many of these "impossible" demands are? And isn't that worthwhile?

Isn't "demanding the impossible" what the teabaggers did when they began demanding the repeal of the health care law (and shook up American politics, while also emboldening elected Republicans to challenge the law)? More nobly, isn't that what the civil rights movement did when it demanded voting and accommodations equality from vicious racists in the Deep South? What seemed more impossible than that? And yet by demanding this, they made observers question why it was impossible, and helped get us to the point where many of the demands weren't impossible.

Lafer argues that OWS may target the corporations directly:

If the movement moves beyond the occupied squares and into foreclosure defense (as has already begun in Los Angeles and New York) and student debt strikes-- if it becomes not only the voice but the arm of those resisting immiseration at the hands of the 1 percent -- then it may achieve by popular action what the political system is incapable of accomplishing.

That works for me. I just think, at some point, the movement has to announce some specific goals, and then fight for those goals -- even if, at this point, those goals are impossible.

Is anyone else having trouble reading the blog or commenting? I've heard from our old pal c u n d gulag, who says the new design is resulting in "Blogspot not responding" messages. He's also been having trouble commenting via OpenID.

Anyone else? Let me know at nomoremister (at) hotmail (dot) com. Thanks....

Someone at Zuccotti Park threatened to stab a local Fox reporter in the neck with a pen, and a reporter covering the story buried the lede, leading not with the assault but with reports that the cops are removing protesters' generators. What's more, this squish reporter downplayed the assault, defended #OWS, and suggested that the assailant wasn't really a protester.

Can you imagine how Fox would howl about a report like that if it appeared on a non-Fox channel? But the thing is, the reporter who was threatened -- John Huddy of Fox's New York affiliate -- is the same reporter who's downplaying the threat and defending the majority of the occupiers. So maybe it's OK!

Fox 5 News Reporter Assaulted At OWS:


Thus far, this has been peaceful here in the park. Unfortunately, I had an encounter with one of the protesters who's been here. This is somebody that I've come across several times in the last few days. And I want to be very clear about this: This person is not representative of the overall group here. This is one person that unfortunately I had this situation with -- he threatened to stab me in the throat -- but, as I discussed with several of the protesters who apologized to me, that, again, this person doesn't represent the whole....

That person -- I'm not sure what his name is -- he was arrested, detained by police. It is unfortunate -- listening to that and looking at the video -- it's very unfortunate, because, in the experience that I've had covering this now for six weeks, I've not had any confrontations, not had a problem. In fact, quite the opposite. When we've gone in there -- we've gone in there multiple times -- the folks in there have been gracious, they've been accommodating, they've answered all our questions, I think not only myself but some of the other reporters. So, again, I don't think this person represents the whole, but it's a part of an element that officials, NYPD officials and city officials, have been concerned about, some folks coming here for the accommodations, to sleep here, for free food and that kind of thing.

He's implying that this guy isn't a protester but a homeless person, possibly mentally unstable. He's letting the actual protesters off the hook.

Yeah, I suppose even this fits into a Fox-style narrative in which even law-abiding activity by these protesters breeds societal chaos. But Huddy's not blaming them. He's taking great pains not to hold them accountable. Can you imagine the grief he'd get on the right if he weren't a Fox employee?

Dahlia Lithwick's message is a bit muddled here, but I have to say I disagree with the main thrust of what she's saying (even though I wish she were right):

I confess to being driven insane this past month by the spectacle of television pundits professing to be baffled by the meaning of Occupy Wall Street. Good grief. Isn’t the ability to read still a job requirement for a career in journalism? ... I feel it's time to explain something: Occupy Wall Street may not have laid out all of its demands in a perfectly cogent one-sentence bumper sticker for you, Mr. Pundit, but it knows precisely what it doesn't want. It doesn't want you....

Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message. It's a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It's a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be....

The mainstream media thrives on simple solutions. It has no idea whatsoever of how to report on a story that isn't about easy fixes so much as it is about anguished human frustration and fear....

It must be painful for the pundits at Fox News. The more they demand that OWS explain itself in simple, Fox-like terms, the more cheerfully they are ignored by the occupiers around the country....

Mark your calendars: The corporate media died when it announced it was too sophisticated to understand simple declarative sentences. While the mainstream media expresses puzzlement and fear at these incomprehensible "protesters" with their oddly well-worded "signs," the rest of us see our own concerns reflected back at us and understand perfectly....

By refusing to take a ragtag, complicated, and leaderless movement seriously, the mainstream media has succeeded only in ensuring its own irrelevance....

Something's going on and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

Well, It's exhilarating to imagine that Mr. Jones is doomed. It's exhilarating to imagine that the media as we know it becoming irrelevant. But we're about to have elections pitting an unabashedly corporatist, pro-Wall Street party against a party that's only slightly less so. The presidential and congressional winners in these elections will, if they choose, actually be able to do something about the issues the Occupy movement talks about -- and, so far, little or nothing Occupy has done has affected how those elections are going to proceed. Oh, sure, President Obama is making Occupy-esque noises (though he did the same in '08), and Elizabeth Warren is expressing her support. But that's about it. Meanwhile, we're having budget negotiations that are proceeding as if the Occupy movement doesn't exist. The press isn't irrelevant, or in danger of becoming so. The press is still focused on what existed before Occupy, and what existed before Occupy still rules our lives.

Yes, Occupy has changed the subject for a lot of people in Main Street America, and has become nettlesome in D.C. Occupy has begun the work of changing things in America.

But the representatives of the status quo are still strong. Occupy has only slightly bruised them so far. And to the extent that it's gotten its message out, it's gotten the message out through the media. (Most Americans have never been to an Occupy encampment.) And polls showing continued confusion about Occupy's message on the part of a large percentage of America suggest either that Occupy isn't communicating well or the obtuseness and obfuscation in the press is working.

The kids are all right. But they haven't upended the system yet. And whether or not they're really acting as if the mainstream press is irrelevant (I don't agree that they are), they may have to come to terms with the press, because it really isn't going away.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I tried to tweak my sidebar, and as a result my sad but beloved old Blogger template was forcibly taken away from me -- which unfortunately means I've lost all the old comments and my blogroll.

I'm not at home, and I think I've got the old blogroll on my home computer, so I'll restore that soon enough, I hope, but I think all your stored pearls of wisdom are gone. I thought I turned on Blogger comments, but I can't seem to get them to work. I'll keep trying....

UPDATE: Well, apparently this post has comments, but no others. I'll see what I can do to fix that. (Oh well -- I hated Echo anyway.)

I'm going to try to keep this message at the top of the blog for a while, so you'll feel sorry for me understand why things are askew.


And I will try to get the old comments restored, though I'm not optimistic. And please e-mail me at nomoremister (at) hotmail (dot) com if you can't comment now....

The Hill reports:

President Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill are increasingly referring to the Congress as "Republican" even though their party controls one-half of the unpopular institution.

Obama and his allies have started to deploy the phrase "Republican Congress" in what some experts see as a clear attempt to gain a political advantage.

"'m the first one to acknowledge that the relations between myself and the Republican Congress have not been good over the last several months, but it's not for lack of effort," Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos earlier this month....

And other Democrats have used the term.

"I'm sure the president would like it to be creating jobs more quickly. And if the members of the do-nothing Republican Congress would actually put a couple of oars in the water and help us, [we could] do these things like [Mississippi] Gov. [Haley] Barbour mentioned that make so much sense," Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said on CBS's "Face the Nation" earlier this month....

Other examples are given, and yes, I think it's a deliberate strategy. A good one, too, because, as The Hill tells us, "polls taken over the last several years show that many voters are unclear which party runs the House and/or Senate." (Wow, imagine: U.S. voters aren't up on their civics. Newsflash!)

And no, I don't care that Republicans technically don't control the Senate -- with the filibuster, obviously, they do. In reference to the Senate, Steve Benen puts it nicely:

Dems are in the majority only to the extent that they have the luxury of picking which bills Republicans will kill and which nominees Republicans will block.

I'd argue that that's was true even in the first two years of the Obama administration -- as long as all Republicans vote as a bloc on every key issue and LieberDems peel off on most issues (or at least whine and stomp their feet and get every key bill watered down), you'd probably need to have a 70%/30% nominal Democratic majority in both houses of Congress before you'd truly have a Democratic Congress.

So, yeah, this one's Republican. And so, for the most part, was the last one.

Rick Perry is apparently serious about skipping some upcoming debates:

After a series of poor debate performances in the early months of his presidential campaign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is backing off the upcoming GOP debate schedule, committing to just one of the next three events between now and Nov. 15....

Perry hinted at his frustration with the debates earlier this week when he told Fox News that participating in them was a "mistake."

"These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates," Perry said. "...All they’re interested in is stirring it up between the candidates."

If so, then g'bye, Rick, and thanks for playing. Oh, sure, his people are trying to spin it as just what he did in Texas, and absolutely not being a yellow-bellied wussy:

But it's possible that Mr. Perry and his strategists could conclude that the risk is worth it.

When running for governor last year, Mr. Perry managed to avoid debating his Democratic rival, Bill White, by linking his participation to the issue of Mr. White's release of financial disclosure information. Mr. Perry refused to debate until Mr. White, the former mayor of Houston, released more information. Mr. White accused Mr. Perry of being afraid to debate.

"It’s not about this good ol' fighting Texas Aggie being afraid to [engage] that Harvard boy," Mr. Perry told The Dallas Morning News at the time. "That's not what it’s about at all. I've engaged in debate in all of my" statewide campaigns.

In the presidential campaign, Mr. Perry has already begun to lay the groundwork for what could be a similar argument. He has asked Mr. Romney to release his personal tax returns, something that Mr. Romney has not done.

Asked whether Mr. Perry might refuse to debate until Mr. Romney releases the returns, Mr. Miner declined to say.

"Debates our not the issue here," Mr. Miner said. "Mitt Romney should follow Governor Perry's lead and release his tax returns. What does he have to hide?"

That dog absolutely will not hunt. Peggy Noonan wrote on Friday, "I've never seen TV debates play such a prominent role in a nominating process," and I agree with her, even though she's Peggy Noonan. I think it's because, for Republicans, all political ideas are now filtered through Fox News -- if you didn't see it on Fox, it didn't happen; if people on Fox didn't weigh in on it, you don't know what to think about it. And now even the debates that aren't on Fox are seen as an extension of Fox -- they're on TV and they're wall-to-wall Republican. Also, I think, the GOP voter base is aging, and is just at home a lot watching TV as a result.

That's why, as I said in my last post, a virtual candidate like Herman Cain, who's barely doing any face-to-face campaigning (at least in the correct states) can be at or near the top in every poll.

So if Perry really does duck the debates, he's essentially declaring defeat, whether he knows it or not, just the way Giuliani effectively declared defeat four years ago when he said he was blowing off all the pre-Florida states. Voters want the candidates in the arena. Giuliani, though he was allegedly a tough guy, wimped out. Perry, though he's allegedly a tough guy, seems on the verge of doing the same.

The New York Times tells us today that Herman Cain -- who's touting himself as a guy who should be president because he used to be a CEO -- has an astonishingly mismanaged campaign operation:

Mr. Cain has hardly shown up in New Hampshire and Iowa, ... spending the bulk of his time on a book tour through the South. He occasionally mishandled potential big donors or ignored real voters. His campaign churned through the small staff; last week, his campaign announced the appointment of the veteran campaigner Steve Grubbs, his third Iowa leader in four months.

Even bumper stickers have been hard to come by.

There's comedy gold in the story. (How did Cain "mishandle" those potential big donors? He scheduled a dinner with them and forgot to show up.) I think Barbara at the Mahablog has the best take on the Myth of the CEO-as-Demigod:

Most big companies don't get things done because of the brilliant leadership of the head of the corporation. They get things done because over time they've put procedures in place that delegate responsibilities and that enable staffs to work together to accomplish complex tasks without having to re-invent the wheel every other day. Institutional memory helps, also, as do having competent employees in key positions far, far below executive level....

In my experience, CEOs rarely come up through the ranks of production, manufacturing or engineering. They come from finance, advertising, marketing. They make decisions about money, sales, acquisitions. Often they have only a vague idea how the products their company sells actually get made. Nor do they care. As a rule they don't deal with employees below the upper management level. Often they aren't even that bright; they're just really aggressive and narcissistic and intimidate everyone around them into obedience. Their success often depends on the quality of the staffs they assemble around them who take care of the details, like actually managing....

Talk to just about anybody who has worked in the product development, engineering, production, or manufacturing department of a big corporation, and they'll tell you the same thing. The people at the head of the company were completely cut off from the process of making the products and getting them on the shelves. Their only involvement with products is to declare they want X product on the shelves in 3 months, even though the process would normally take 9 months. They don't care, and nobody ever says no to them. So the little ants in the cubicle farm spend the three months working 12-hour days and cutting every corner in creation, praying that nobody makes a mistake and orders bottle caps that don’t fit the bottles.

In my experience, the fear factor actually does motivate people, and that probably counts for something -- but good, smart, responsible, competent drones who have (or sustain) institutional memory keep the wheels turning, not genius CEOs. Which is why someone who was good (or at least competent) at an established firm is quite likely to be clueless in trying to establish a start-up. And that's essentially the way Cain is failing now.


And yet he's not failing. He's topping the charts. I don't know how he intends to get out the vote, but if that weren't a problem, he might actually win this nomination.

Nate Silver can't figure it out -- he says:

Has there ever been a candidate with such strong polling but such weak fundamentals? Almost certainly not, at least not at this relatively advanced stage of the race.

David Weigel puzzles over this (and over the fate of Newt Gingrich, who, like Cain, is doing more book promotion than real campaigning, and in the wrong states, and is also gaining in the polls). Weigel concludes:

.. there must be some ... reason why this is happening -- why we’re this close to the caucuses and 35 percent or so of Republicans in key states are still smitten with Cain or Gingrich. It's obvious. It's the Tea Party. For nearly three years, the GOP's base has believed, and been told to believe, that it is in an existential battle for civilization, that politicians who got a few things wrong can never be trusted again. (Sorry about that, Rick, Rick, and Michele.) They joined a movement that they could spend all of their media-consuming minutes on, whether it meant watching Fox News or joining Glenn Beck’s 9-12 book clubs. They don't need Herman Cain to work them over in person, carrying volunteer sign-up sheets, like Tim Pawlenty did. They know him well enough already. It might not last, and it might all end with a Romney nomination, but they're not going to give up on it.

Which means Cain is apparently living Sarah Palin's dream. Remember the articles in 2010 and early this year that noted her lack of campaign prep, then quoted Palin insiders as saying that if she ran, she'd run a campaign that was really, really nontraditional, and didn't need all that silly old campaign apparatus? Well, I suspect they were serious. I suspect they intended to go for it, but abysmal polls and poor sales for Palin's second book deterred them.

And now, I think, Cain is running Palin's no-campaign campaign. And it turns out Team Palin wasn't crazy to think a non-campaign might work.

Look, Fox, talk radio, and the online wingnuttosphere can nationalize pretty much anything, at will. A local guy like Allen West can become a wingnut superstar across the country. Wingnuts nationwide knew Cain when you and I didn't. And why shouldn't this be happening? It's 2011, fer crissake.

Yeah, I know: Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire still want you to show up and prostrate yourselves before them. Well, maybe they don't anymore. They have TV and computers and smartphones, too. Maybe they're ready to go virtual.

Hell, I live in a reliably blue state, which means I can't even dream of a presidential candidate in a general election showing up and asking for my vote. And I live in a big city, which means a personal appearance even by a candidate for state or citywide office is far from assured. I think a lot of us live that way. Maybe primary voters in, say, Iowa are just joining the rest of the ciountry.

I keep thinking Rick Perry can make a comeback, but I'm looking at the crosstabs of the new Fox News poll (which, naturally, has Herman Cain in the lead nationally among GOP primary voters) and the numbers look pretty dire for Perry. It's not just that he's fourth in the GOP field, at 10%; it's that his favorable/unfavorable numbers are awful in the public at large -- 23% favorable, 44% unfavorable. (By contrast, Cain and Romney are both in positive territory.) What's more, Perry's numbers are abysmally low among key groups -- you'd think men, at least, might like his act, but he's at 26%/46% favorable/unfavorable with my gender. Independents? Even worse -- 18%/53%. (That alone might explain why folks like Karl Rove and Jennifer Rubin are trying to destroy his candidacy.) He's not even in positive territory among self-described conservatives (31%/36%), and he's barely in positive territory among Republicans (40%/33%; by contrast, Cain is at 54%/17% in his own party and Romney is at 60%/24%).

Perry seems to have very rapidly become what it took Sarah Palin a couple of years to become: someone Republicans shun because they perceive (correctly) that the person has become a national punch line, and doesn't do much to dispel that impression. So maybe he really has fallen too far to mount a comeback.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Yeah, I know -- "Glenn who?" But he's still out there, doing online TV that nobody pays for and radio that stupid people listen to while ironing, or whatever it is they do while he's on, and his latest freakout comes in response that there's going to be -- hold on to your hats, kiddies -- a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

Well, OK, not just a test but a national test, on November 9, on every broadcast station simultaneously, which is apparently a first. No, wait -- don't fall asleep, let me finish. And apparently it's now called the Emergency Alert System. Hello? Are you still awake? In any case, it's all explained at the Web sites of the FCC and FEMA, if you can stand the excitement.

It sounds boring and unremarkable if you're a rational person, but it's freaking Beck out:


The Blaze recently reported that at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 9th, The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission will conduct the first-ever national test of the Emergency Alert System, where radio and televised broadcasts across the country will be disrupted for roughly...three-and-half minutes:

"In essence, the authority to seize control of all television and civilian communication has been asserted by the executive branch and handed to a government agency," wrote Buck Sexton in our earlier report....

While emergency broadcast tests are typically used by state and local governments to issue severe weather alerts and other emergency information, there has never been a nationwide activation of the system before. Federal agencies cite the reasons for the national test are to ensure emergency preparedness and to pinpoint flaws in the new EAS system.

Meanwhile, the thought of the nation's broadcast systems being completely cut off for nearly four minutes -- in addition to broadcasters being stripped of control -- has left many, including Glenn, feeling unsettled over who,
exactly, will have power over our airwaves.

When speaking about the old EBS tests, Glenn said that it "didn't take control away from the broadcaster." The new system, however, "seizes control of the broadcast frequency."

"If the state wants to take control...they can just take it and there is nothing I can do about it" Glenn stated....

The clip below is weird. Like other clips from Beck's non-Fox work, it has (in part) a Morning Zoo vibe that hints at the sane person coexisting with all those layers of barking lunacy. And then, near the end, Beck plays down the import of all this, saying we'll be as free after it's over as we are now. (Though considering what a fascist tyranny he thinks we live in, I'm not sure that's meant to be reassuring.)

But in between is the freakout -- no he doesn't flail and cry the way he did on Fox, but he just can't believe that we're doing this when we didn't even do it during the Cold War, when we could have been nuked, dammit!

So I guess (a) we're not facing any threats as a nation, and (b) we shouldn't ever do anything technologically that we didn't do in, say, 1961, because to do so would be fascist and totalitarian.

In any case, watch the clip and learn how we're going to head just that much further along the road to serfdom in a couple of weeks because the government wants to test an emergency messaging system.


Rick Perry has now rejected birtherism, while Donald Trump, whose ring Republican candidates still seek to kiss, just told Greta Van Susteren that he's still a birth certificate skeptic. Dan Abrams (ex-NBC, now at Mediaite) thinks the lesson to be learned from the past few days is leave birthers alooooooone!

Lets be clear, [Perry] didn't bring up the issue, the media did. Now they --we-- are taking his casual, even lighthearted comments and treating them far more seriously than he, or anyone else ought to be.

Lets start by agreeing that reasonable people now consider this to be beyond a silly issue. President Obama is a U.S. citizen with a valid birth certificate. Done. So then why are members of the media, not the Republican candidates, still spending so much time on it?

Because "reasonable people" obviously don't include all A-list Republicans -- and absolutely don't include one past front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, if not two.

Writing about Perry's Parade interview -- in which he said "I don't know" or "I don't have any idea" three times in response to questions about whether Obama's birth certificate is real -- Abrams harrumphs:

So the reporter, not Perry, raised the issue which, of course, can be a reporter's duty on important issues candidates are reluctant to discuss.

What, the fact that a possible major-party presidential candidate might believe conspiratorial nonsense isn't an important issue?

...the mainstream media in particular, has an obligation to stop the cycle of speculation. Instead, they are fueling it.

No, the mainstream media does not have an obligation to stop the cycle of speculation -- Republicans do. Far too many of them have been slow to condemn birtherism and prone to use word games and euphemisms (variants on "As far as I know," for instance, when asked to affirm Obama eligibility) And there's a simple way to stop the cycle of speculation -- give no quarter to birtherism. Do you think any of the major Democratic candidates for president in 2008 would have hesitated to condemn 9/11 trutherism if asked? Would there have been nods and winks and backhanded attempts to play to the birther base on the part of Obama and Clinton and Edwards and Richardson and Biden? It wouldn't have been an issue at all -- they all would have rejected trutherism outright and in the strongest possible language. Why the hell can't Republicans all do the same? And why is it unfair to ask them to do so?

There's a lot of flip-flopping going on out there: Mitt Romney once said he supported Iowa Ohio governor John Kasich's union-busting law, then failed to endorse the law in a campaign appearance at a phone bank where Republicans were making calls hoping to save it from being overturned in a referendum, but now says he's "110 percent" behind it. Rick Perry goes birther-curious in a couple of interview but now says, "I have no doubt" that Barack Obama is an American citizen. Herman Cain gives a fuzzy answer on abortion, then says he's unswervingly anti-abortion, and now does both at the same time:

I am pro-life from conception. Abortions, no exceptions. That has been my official stand from the beginning. What Piers Morgan was trying to do was to pigeonhole me on, "Well, what if this was your granddaughter?" You know what? If it's my granddaughter? Yes, this is my official position, and it's always been that. If it's my granddaughter? I used the word "choice." And that's where they jumped all over it. A family will make that choice. I was not talking about the whole big issue.

The Romney flip-flop seems like a problem for him only because it suggests that he's likely to make more such mistakes in the future. I can't really believe anyone (read: Perry) is going to be able to make much of this particular flip-flop. Yes, the wingnut population rallied around Scott Walker in Wisconsin -- but similar efforts in Ohio have gotten less public attention. Rank-and-file wingnuts are very much in favor of busting public-sector unions, but the Ohio bill simply isn't a national hot-button issue on the right. And now Romney is (finally, and I presume permanently) on the conservatively correct side of the issue. So that's settled, months before any primary or caucus votes are cast. The flip-flop may show up as part of a laundry list in a "Can we trust Romney?" negative ad, but it won't stand out. Minor damage done, at worst.

Perry, I think, has also put the birther issue to rest -- he's daring everyone to prove he was serious, and we can all parse his words forever, but he's moving on -- again, months before anyone votes.

Cain? He's the most vulnerable, because he's flopped back into conservatively-incorrect territory by suggesting he's antichoice except for his own family. So I expect one final flop, in which he says he'd say within his family that life begins at conception and abortion is very, very wrong. And that will be that.

He really might be vulnerable if there were someone in the race who really had the voters' trust and had it especially on this particular issue. Imagine if he were running against pre-disgrace Sarah Palin, she of the not-aborted Down's syndrome baby. But the holier-than-thou competition consists of Rick Santorum, whom nobodylikes, and Michele Bachmann, whom nobody likes anymore.

So these are all non-issues, I think, The critical stuff is to come.

As you probably know, Elizabeth Warren has linked herself to Occupy Wall Street:

Warren was asked by the Daily Beast for a comment on the protests. She said: "I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do. I support what they do."

I'm heartened by this, but is it a smart political move? Your answer to that is probably based on your perception of current attitudes -- either you think that the public generally agrees with OWS (or at least isn't in opposition) or, if you're right-wing, you think that Reg'lar Amurricans hate those smelly hippie drum-circle deadbeats. At this point I'm in the former camp. (In the new New York Times/CBS poll, 46 percent of respondents said that the views OWS "reflected the sentiment of most Americans," according to the Times.)

But if OWS gets traction -- if it doesn't disappear by spring, a victim of police crackdowns, cold winter weather, and so much focus on logistics that the actual message never really gets out -- the right, I think, will be hell-bent on demonizing it by any means necessary. The GOP and the right-wing noise machine are gearing up to do it what was done to ACORN and to Park51.

I don't know if this effort will be a success. But if so, there's risk in embracing the movement -- maybe a risk well worth running, but a risk nonetheless.

A couple of days ago the New York Post argued -- as many on the right nodded in agreement -- that deployment of police resources to OWS was causing an uptick in crime in New York City. As I noted, those were cherry-picked numbers -- in major categories, crime has been down in New York over the period of the OWS occupation.

But now the meme has spread to Massachusetts -- and gosh, you don't suppose Scott Brown's campaign, or the national GOP, had anything to do with spoon-feeding this story to a local TV news outlet, do you?

Store's First Break-Ins In 23 Years Coincide With Arrival Of Occupy Boston

Linda Capillo doesn't know why, after 23 years, her small convenience store on Congress Street is being targeted by thieves.

"After they came through the door, I put bars on it," said Capillo. "Then, they start coming through the window."

In 23 years, she had never had a break-in at Congress Card & Tobacco on 230 Congress Street. But in the past month, there have been four. Each time, the thieves took nothing but cigarettes, scratch tickets and/or cash...

Capillo isn't pointing any fingers, but the breaks have coincided with the arrival of the Occupy Boston movement....

OK -- wait for it:

...with the notable exception being first break-in on Sept. 29, the day before the protests began.

Oh. So this crime spree doesn't fully coincide with the Boston occupation -- unless you're arguing that occupiers broke in on September 29 as part of their pre-occupation preparations. ("Hey, before we sit in, let's attract some suspicion from the cops by committing a petty crime!" "Sounds like a plan!")

The story, admittedly, didn't run on a Fox affiliate (though Fox Nation has eagerly picked it up), but it does get a lot of time on the broadcast:

You know what? When I was younger, I lived in a couple of places that were subject to multiple break-ins, so I know from experience that this happens. (There were no mass political occupations anywhere nearby.) The way I see it is, if you're a petty crook, you decide on a target, you figure out how to break in, and you don't clear the place out, you're probably very likely to go back. You've already done the work of scoping out the vulnerabilities. You know the cops don't take crimes like this all that seriously -- they're not going to do a stakeout for a little break-in. And it's probably fun, if you're a knucklehead, to go after the same vic more than once.

But the right thinks this is a promising narrative -- and, as we know from ACORN and Park51, if the right decides to crank up the noise machine to 11, the facts don't really matter. I don't know if that can happen with the Occupy movement, but it's something to be prepared for -- siding with the Occupy folks is going to be politically toxic if the right scores a big win in the message war. We have to prevent such a win -- but we also have to be ready for it.


UPDATE: As I was saying:

EXCLUSIVE: ACORN Playing Behind Scenes Role in 'Occupy' Movement

The former New York office for ACORN, the disbanded community activist group, is playing a key role in the self-proclaimed “leaderless” Occupy Wall Street movement, organizing “guerrilla” protest events and hiring door-to-door canvassers to collect money under the banner of various causes while spending it on protest-related activities, sources tell

The former director of New York ACORN, Jon Kest, and his top aides are now busy working at protest events for New York Communities for Change (NYCC). That organization was created in late 2009 when some ACORN offices disbanded and reorganized under new names after undercover video exposes prompted Congress to cut off federal funds....

I don't know how much of an "exclusive" this is -- Kest wrote "Why We're Joining #OccupyWallStreet" for the Huffington Post nearly a month ago, and the blog of World Net Daily's Aaron Klein went all McCarthyite on the Kest-OWS connection a few days later. A current headline at Klein's blog is "Islamic Connection to Wall Street Protest: Firm Tied to Movement Spearheaded Campaign to End Gaza Blockade."

The wingers are going to try to work these angles until OWS goes away or the McCarthyism bears fruit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In the spring, when Donald Trump was riding high and we still hadn't seen President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Doug at Balloon Juice wondered aloud whether birtherism could ever go mainstream:

The corporate base won't want to embrace birtherism the way they've embraced global warming denialism, but the teatards might. If there’s no way to tamp down birtherism, then why not double down on birtherism? The Wall Street Journal editorial page could express doubts about authenticity of the records. Instapundit, Charles Krauthammer, and Marc Thiessen could heh-indeed the doubts, and bingo it's a real issue. Conor Friedersdorf could link to Dennis Prager's thoughtful concerns. Authenticity of records, view differ.

I don't see why we can't end up at least part way down this road.

Birtherism was supposed to be dead after Obama trumped Trump, but then Rick Perry brought it back -- first in a Parade interview, and now in an interview with John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times.

Q. Why did you choose to keep the birther issue alive?

A. It's a good issue to keep alive. You know, Donald [Trump] has got to have some fun. It's fun to poke him a little bit and say "Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate." I don't have a clue about where the president -- and what this birth certificate says. But it's also a great distraction. I'm not distracted by it.

Now, here's the thing: Perry said this on the day he announced his flat-tax plan. The story could have been "Perry steps all over his tax-plan release with embarrassing birther comments." But I'm over at Memeorandum looking at the print and online responses to both, and the tax plan is getting far more attention. It looks as if it's now more or less OK to talk birther, at least if you've just hired a lot of mainstream-GOP campaign hotshots for a campaign reboot and Steve Forbes is endorsing you and Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth think your tax plan is the bee's knees.

Or at least it's OK to talk birther if you seem like an A-lister and you discuss birtherism is a way that allows for the interpretation that you're not really taking it seriously. That's what we're told by Michael Brendan Dougherty of Business Insider, and he extends the can't-you-take-a-joke? interpretation, retroactively, to the vast majority of other birthers:

... some birthers -- the ones that look up typography on typewriters available in Hawaii -- are deadly serious about their wild theory. But a curious thing happens when you talk to most birthers: they smirk.

"I'm really not worried about the president’s birth certificate [but] it's fun to poke at him a little bit and say 'Hey, how about let's see your grades and your birth certificate'," Perry said to Harwood. That's the smirk. It's "fun." This is exactly the spirit in which most birtherism is offered.

In his interview with Parade magazine which revived this "issue," Perry tried taunting the president in a schoolyard style.
Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That's not a definitive, "Yes, I believe he..."
Well, I don't have a definitive answer, because he's never seen my birth certificate.

But you've seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?
We've seen this back in the playground. "I know you are but what am I."

So, see, it's all just harmless fun. It's never been more than that. And if you thought Orly Taitz and Jerome Corsi and Trump and that birther colonel who got court-martialed and received a six-month sentence and a forcible discharge that deprived him of his military pension were serious, well, you're just being a typical humorless liberal.

That, perhaps, is how birtherism goes mainstream.

Mark Block, chief of staff for Herman Cain's campaign, in Cain's new Web ad, and a famous (at least to us old farts) public service ad from the early 1970s.


I keep trying to figure out what's going to happen to all that support for Herman Cain. On the one hand, I think the Cain excitement is real. On the other hand, he obviously (as Talking Points Memo and Time have pointed out) has no real campaign on the ground in much of the country, including most of the key early states. Rachel Maddow argued last night that the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity is Cain's campaign -- an assertion she backed up by noting the large number of Cain advisers who came from AFP.

(By the way, Betty Cracker, in the comments to my last post, points to an AP article in which it's argued that Cain's Koch ties could actually hurt him with GOP voters because these voters "detest politics as usual and candidates connected with the party machine." No, I'm not joking -- an AP reporter actually thinks wingnuts will see the Kochs as the Establishment, rather than as brave freedom fighters speaking truth to power. Seriously! I say if one of the Kochs ran personally for the GOP nomination, he'd clear the field. But I digress.)

I suppose Koch-funded volunteers could swoop in at the last minute and get Cain voters to the caucuses in Iowa, to the polls in New Hampshire, and so on. But it doesn't seem like a sensible plan -- it doesn't seem like a substitute for a real campaign organization made up of people who've been working together on the task for a while and who know what they're doing. So a guy who could win Iowa easily -- he's leading by 10 points in the latest poll -- and who's close enough to embarrass Romney in New Hampshire according to the latest poll, probably can't really be competitive.

This leads Ross Douthat to say that Mitt Romney will inevitably be the GOP nominee. It leads to Steve Kornacki to argue that Romney will probably win while also asserting that the tea party has won, because now even Romney is a teabagger, or at least is sufficiently in sync with tea party thinking that the 'baggers will accept him as the nominee, and will in some cases even vote for him.

But I think the strength of Cain's campaign means that there's far too much distrust of Romney to just be wished away. Before Cain it was Perry, and before that it was Bachmann. (If Romney does win the nomination, I'm starting to think he's going to have to put someone extremely 'baggy -- Cain, Paul Ryan -- on the ticket with him just to avoid third-party defections in the general election.)

So Rick Perry's restaffing may be a harbinger of a comeback. He's smart to embrace a flat tax -- he spells out his plan today in a Wall Street Journal editorial, and it's not as radical as some of his competitors' plans, but maybe that means he'll be extreme enough. (Think of 2000, when George W. Bush wasn't the most Jesusy candidate, but was plenty Jesusy, certainly enough to please the Jesus base, especially when they saw that he looked a hell of a lot more electable than, say, Alan Keyes.)

I think having a tax plan of the flat or "fair" variety will become a litmus test in this campaign -- I'm predicting that Romney will eventually bite the bullet and offer one, or suffer as a result. It may be the latter because, as The New York Times reported yesterday, he's fudging on this in an embarrassing way:

"I love a flat tax," he said in August.

...But flat taxes, despite Mr. Romney's favorable comments, are not part of his campaign plan, which calls for extending Bush tax cuts and lowering corporate tax rates. Some conservative tax activists say his murky flat-tax stance highlights a broader complaint: his lack of consistency on conservatives’ core issues, like abortion.

Taxes are this year's Saddam for the GOP; Romney remains squishy at his peril. And Perry may be beginning to grasp what he needs to do to win. He's still the weakest aspect of his own campaign, but if he can solve that problem, he can win this, because the candidate these voters want is the guy they thought he was a couple of weeks ago. It's certainly not Romney.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Every so often we still hear nonsense like this, from NPR over the weekend:

Members of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party may disagree on many issues, but there's one thing that unites both groups: distrust in concentrated power.

Really? And by "concentrated power," surely you'd be referring to Wall Street, right?

Well, a new CNN poll about Occupy Wall Street and Wall Street itself makes clear -- if it wasn't obvious by now -- that that's not true of the teabaggers. Look at the PDF of the poll results and it won't surprise you that tea party supporters have a much more negative opinion of OWS than the country as a whole (12% favorable/65% unfavorable, versus 32% favorable/29% unfavorable for the whole country). But their view of "Wall Street bankers and brokers" is similarly out of step with the rest of the country -- and out of step with a group you might think would be more pro-Wall Street, namely Southerners.

A few sample questions:

Overall, how much do you trust Wall Street bankers and brokers to do what is best for the economy -- a great deal, somewhat, a little, or not at all?

Not at all:

Everyone: 53%
Southerners: 53%
Tea Party Supporters: 38%

Please tell me whether you think each of the following descriptions apply or do not apply to Wall Street bankers and brokers:

A. Greedy

Everyone: 80%
Southerners: 81%
Tea Party Supporters: 62%

D. Dishonest

Everyone: 65%
Southerners: 68%
Tea Party Supporters: 47%

E. Overpaid

Everyone: 77%
Southerners: 78%
Tea Party Supporters: 58%

It may not be fair to say that teabaggers love the banksters, but they distrust them measurably less than the rest of America -- and measurably less even than the most solidly Republican region of the country. Maybe that's no surprise to you, but if so, it's probably because you're not a professional pundit.

This ran in the New York Post over the weekend, under the headline "Shootings Are Up and Cops Blame Protests":

Bullets are flying over Broadway -- and everywhere else in the city.

The number of people shot surged 154 percent two weeks ago -- to 56 from 22 over the same week last year -- and spiked 28 percent in the last month.

Last week tallied another increase in victims -- 22 people had been hit through Friday, including the three victims gunned down outside a Brooklyn school Friday.

Last year, only 17 shooting victims were logged for the entire week.

The recent gunplay has now pushed the number of shooting victims this year slightly above last year’s tragic tally -- to 1,484 from 1,451 -- through Oct. 16.

Four high-ranking cops point the finger at Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying their rallies pull special crime-fighting units away from the hot zones where they’re needed....

Only two of those alleged sources are quoted, of course, and only one by name (though that's one more than you'd probably expect from a Murdoch hit job like this). The odd thing about all this is that if you go to the NYPD Web site and check the main crime statistics the city releases to the public every week (PDF), you see that nearly every key category reported is down for the week ending October 16 over the same week last year:

Numbers for the 28-day period ending October 16 are also down in nearly every listed category.

Here's the lone quote from a named police source:

"The city is going crazy with demonstrations and protests, and I'm lucky if I can get four cars out there," said Deputy Inspector Ted Berntsen, commander of the 13th precinct in Chelsea.

Go to the stats for his precinct (PDF) and you'll see that reported crimes in the key categories are down 30% over the same week last year, and down 10% in the past 28 days compared with the same period in 2010.

Never mind the notion that the First Amendment right to protest should be limited in America out of concern that it wastes police resources. (Gee, I guess we shouldn't have had the entire civil rights movement, either -- what an expenditure of law enforcement time that required!)


Elsewhere in Murdoch Land, there's this story:

The number of law enforcement officers who were killed nationwide have jumped nearly 17 percent.

Newly released statistics from the FBI show that 56 officers were murdered in the line of duty last year. That a jump from 48 in the previous year....

The South saw the greatest number of killed officers with 22 of the felonious deaths....

Let me guess: Southern criminals, anticipating the deployment of (mostly non-Southern) cops to Occupy protests nationwide, took advantage of the expected thinning of available ranks to mount their attacks. Am I close, Rupert?

(Via NewsBusters and Fox Nation, as well as Memeorandum.)