Thursday, 27 December 2012

Jon Meacham, Jefferson, Practicable Fixes

I enjoyed this segment from MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, in which host Dylan Ratigan talks to Jon Meacham about Thomas Jefferson and his latest book, The Art of Power (Random House):

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I have an advanced reader copy of the book, which I picked up and got signed at BEA in early June 2012. (In fact, I rushed all the way from 118th St and Lexington to the Javitts Center, just so I could get the book signed by Meacham. I must have set a record for that trip…) I’ve had a few things that have got in the way of my starting the book, but I hope to get to it very soon – I really enjoyed Meacham’s previous work, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, and have been reading his journalism for years.

Meacham-ThomasJefferson

Romney Delusion – A Family Condition

The latest development in the ever-changing Why Mitt Romney Lost narrative being spun by the Romney campaign and family is frankly bizarre. Here’s the relevant part from the Boston Globe article, quoting Tagg Romney (the eldest son):

“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” said Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention.”

He’s been running for president for a decade. You don’t do that, and you don’t do the things Mitt Romney did, unless you want to be president. His issue flexibility was the clearest sign: he was willing to do and say anything to win votes. This latest claim is just another example of a Romney family reality deficit.

The Globe article has a lot of other information and details about the Romney campaign, and is well worth reading. What I took away from the piece was not that Mitt Romney didn’t want to be president (I’m afraid nothing will ever convince me of that), but that he and his campaign staff were astonishingly arrogant, feckless, unprepared for running a proper presidential campaign, and as politically tone-deaf as their candidate.

“a reconstruction by the Globe of how the campaign unfolded shows that Romney’s problems went deeper than is widely understood. His campaign made a series of costly financial, strategic, and political mistakes that, in retrospect, all but assured the candidate’s defeat, given the revolutionary turnout tactics and tactical smarts of President Obama’s operation.”

Exit polls told a stunning story. The majority of voters preferred Romney’s visions, values, and leadership. But he had clearly failed to address the problem that Romney’s own family worried about from the start. Obama beat Romney by an astonishing 81 to 18 percent margin on the question of which candidate “cares about people like me.”

Lawrence O’Donnell covered this latest ‘revelation’ from Tagg, too. The segment is… typical Lawrence, really, in that the snide comments are a little mean-spirited. At the same time, though, he and his two guests make some good points:

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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Shifting on Guns

This is a good segment from yesterday’s Rachel Maddow Show, in which the host outlines some of the interesting shifts in public opinion on guns and gun control, not to mention corporate shifts (from Cerberus divesting itself of its gun holdings, to stores ceasing gun sales in certain areas). There are also some parts of the segment that highlight some truly stunning areas of legislative ineptitude and fecklessness: the fact that it’s illegal to research gun control, the fact that (in this otherwise statistic-obsessed nation) the ATF is not allowed to release gun crime statistics.

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Friday, 7 December 2012

Fiscal Cliff – a Good Clip from earlier in the Week (Maddow)

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This segment, I thought, did a great job of laying out the insanity of the Republican’s proposals: They lost an election, and as a result are now offering LESS than they were offering as a way to convince people to vote for them? Their “balanced” proposal gives them everything they want, and only an undefined promise to address loopholes and deductions (part of what Democrats want). Eventually. So probably not.

And yet many of the Republican side are still not happy with this proposed “compromise”. They say they find the deal “wanting". As Rachel says, “Wanting for what?” They get everything they want. They give away nothing. This is not governing, and also more evidence that the Republican party are quite out of touch with reality.

Monday, 3 December 2012

“Citizen Soldier” by Aida Donald (Basic Books)

Donald-CitizenSoldierAn engaging, if flawed, short biography of President Harry S Truman

When Harry S. Truman left the White House in 1953, his reputation was in ruins. Tarred by corruption scandals and his controversial decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan, he ended his second term with an abysmal approval rating, his presidency widely considered a failure. But this dim view of Truman ignores his crucial role in the 20th century and his enduring legacy. In Citizen Soldier, Aida Donald shows that, for all his failings, Truman deserves recognition as the principal architect of the American postwar world. The son of poor Missouri farmers, Truman overcame professional disaster and personal disillusionment to become something of a hero in the Missouri National Guard during World War I. His early years in politics were tainted by the corruption of his fellow Missouri Democrats, but Truman’s hard work and scrupulous honesty eventually landed him a U.S. Senate seat and then the Vice-Presidency. When Franklin Roosevelt passed away in April 1945, Truman unexpectedly found himself at the helm of the American war effort—and in command of the atomic bomb, the most lethal weapon humanity had ever seen. Truman’s decisive leadership during the remainder of World War II and the period that followed reshaped American politics, economics, and foreign relations; in the process, says Donald, Truman delineated the complex international order that would dominate global politics for the next four decades.

Aida Donald’s previous book, The Lion in the White House – a short biography of Theodore Roosevelt – was a superb, engaging read. It is easily my favourite short-biography of any president. With this in mind, I was very much looking forward to Donald’s latest work: another short presidential biography, this time about Harry S Truman. Unfortunately, this book lacks the polish and consistent quality I found in The Lion in the White House. Donald argues that a reevaluation of Truman’s presidency is needed in order to fully understand the world he helped create. It is not without its strengths, but the “psychological” approach the author has taken was not as uniformly addressed throughout the text, and as a result we have a biography that is rather inconsistent.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Happy 50th Jon Stewart

I really wish I could take credit for finding these two clips, and even the idea of a Happy Birthday Jon Stewart post, but The Nation’s Greg Mitchell beat me to it (well played, professional journalist who’s way better at this than I am…!).

The Daily Show (and, later, The Colbert Report) have been staples of my political/comedy diet for as long as I can remember (I’m getting old, that timeframe is getting shorter every year…), and Stewart is at his best in election years and when he’s doing the analysis of Fox News that other media outlets are too scared of doing. Indecision 2004 was my first extended Daily Show experience (I even have the DVD set), and I’ve been hooked ever since. That it was not always easily available in the UK was most irksome, but it got better.

Here he is in one of the best scenes from his show, taking apart that most buffoon-like of conservatives, Glenn Beck:

And, in possibly the first time I ever saw him outside of The Daily Show, in which he takes apart the bow-tie-wearing Tucker Carlson on Crossfire:

This remains one of the strangest segments on any media I’ve seen. The fact that Carlson doesn’t seem to understand that the Daily Show is a comedy show, and that by definition his remit is completely different to that of a “real news” program…

Stewart: “I’m here to confront you, because we need help from the media, and they’re hurting us… What you do is not honest.”

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Dark Money & the 2012 Election

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A lot of people have spoken/written/pontificated about the impact of Dark Money in US elections – many on the left trumpet the fact that it “didn’t work” this time around (after all, President Obama was re-elected). But... what if it actually did have an impact? What would the results have been without the injection of billions of dollars of Super-PAC money? Would the demographics have been different? Would President Obama have won more of the White Male vote?

If there were fewer ads trumpeting his Kenyan-background, Nazi-Communist [sic] policies, would people have been able to form a clearer picture of what each candidate, and especially the President, actually stood for?

In the clip above, they discuss Karl Rove, and I thought it would be interested to include this link, to the breakdown of his American Crossroads Super-PAC finances/operations.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Mandatory Minimums, The West Wing, & US Political Stasis

Nation-20121112The other day, I was reading an article in that week’s issue of The Nation, and I was reminded of an old West Wing episode. The article in question was Judge Mark W. Bennett’s “Imposing Justice” (it has a different title online). What amazed me was how little the national discussion on drugs has changed since the episode of The West Wing – “Mandatory Minimums” (Season 1, Ep.20) – first aired, on May 3rd 1999.

“Never could I have imagined that by the end of my 50s, after nineteen years as one of 678 federal district court judges in the nation, I would have sent 1,092 of my fellow citizens to federal prison for mandatory minimum sentences ranging from sixty months to life without the possibility of release. The majority of these women, men and young adults are nonviolent drug addicts. Methamphetamine is their drug of choice. Crack cocaine is a distant second. Drug kingpins? Oh yes, I’ve sentenced them, too. But I can count them on one hand… I am greatly conflicted about my role in the ‘war on drugs.’”

Thursday, 1 November 2012

New York after Sandy

This is a clip from yesterday’s Rachel Maddow Show, in which she offers a stark video of the electricity situation on Manhattan:

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We’re in Astoria, which has been – amazingly – left largely unscathed by Sandy’s passage. We saw a few downed trees (below) and some downed power lines by the largest community church, but other than that we have escaped unharmed. I’ve said it in other venues, but it feels a little like we somehow cheated…

20121030-0619

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Post-Sandy, Gov. Christie on Obama, FEMA: “outstanding”

Via The National Memo:

Chris Christie has committed an almost unpardonable sin in the Republican Party: he’s given some honest praise to President Obama just days before the election.

On NBC’s Today Show Tuesday morning, Christie said,
The president has been outstanding in this and so have the folks at FEMA.

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Saturday, 27 October 2012

“China is… just ripping our heart out…”

… except when it’s making my new clothing line. Donald Trump really messed up on Letterman, and the host managed it very well.

Rachel Maddow’s show yesterday started with a clip of Donald Trump on Letterman, in which Trump continues the ever-idiotic political discourse on China.

Just watch the first couple minutes. It’s a good example, also, of the hypocrisy of the rhetoric (not that this should really be much of a surprise for anyone any more). It’s also interesting that China as an electoral issue (trans: punching-bag) has actually managed to stick around – usually, it’s a one-or-two-day story before it just fades away.

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The segment moves on to Mitt Romney’s Jeep lie/gaffe/ignorance (delete as appropriate dependent on your views).

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Huntsman 2012, New Hampshire – Working on the Campaign

HuntsmanNH1

by Eduardo Lopez-Reyes

Having lived briefly under Jon Huntsman’s tenure as Governor of Utah, and as someone who has a few things in common with the Governor – including his religious background, a life-shaping passion for rock music, and a conservative-but-libertarian-leaning, pragmatic approach to politics – I feel I was able to ponder what went wrong with the Governor’s presidential campaign from a fairly unique perspective; particularly as someone who served on the Jon Huntsman for President New Hampshire State Steering Committee.

The challenges I detected in New Hampshire included shifts through three different leadership styles in the campaign’s brief New Hampshire existence, an eventual single-state strategy, what I perceived as an apprehension to reach out to libertarian-leaning Republicans, and difficulty recognizing and properly capitalizing on new and (or) less politically seasoned supporters.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Salt Lake Tribune Endorses… President Obama.

This was a big surprise – the link I read was “Tribune Endorsement: Too Many Mitts”. Naturally, I figured Chicago Tribune, and immediately thought “Well, yeah.” As it turns out, though, it’s the Salt Lake Tribune, the home paper of Utah’s capital. (Which is apparently a wonderful city, and I would very much like to visit some time.)

The piece starts with the usual tale of Romney’s role in saving the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, a well-trod story – but also an oft-misunderstood one, as everyone seems to ignore the fact that a large reason for Romney’s ability to save it required the Federal Government to take on the debt…

Anyway, let’s move on to what the endorsement said next:

Romney managed to save the state from ignominy, turning the extravaganza into a showcase for the matchless landscapes, volunteerism and efficiency that told the world what is best and most beautiful about Utah and its people.

In short, this is the Mitt Romney we knew, or thought we knew, as one of us.

Sadly, it is not the only Romney, as his campaign for the White House has made abundantly clear, first in his servile courtship of the tea party in order to win the nomination, and now as the party’s shape-shifting nominee. From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: “Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?”

The piece continues, and things don’t get any better for Candidate Romney, as the piece echoes my own feelings about Mitt, a man who exhibits the courage of his ambitions and nothing more:

Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.

This is a very good piece, and one I think is devastating for Romney (although, I do wonder just how widely it will be read). I had to try really hard not to reproduce here with enthusiastic support and my own thoughts of agreement.

Every week at work we select our favourite article of the past week. A colleague mentioned today that I never select one that I can’t criticize first (invariably, my complaint is that the author takes too long to get to their point, or the article’s length is questionable). I think this piece will be my next selection – irrespective of its politics, it is also a very well-written piece. Whoever wrote it has a wonderful, clean and fluid style that any aspiring journalists should take a look at and learn from.

The piece really is good, and it makes it perhaps clearer – as Alyssa just said to me – that Obama’s policy-appeal may be more with moderates than hard-core lefties, his tougher stance on foreign policy is more popular with moderates, and that the vicious partisanship is, actually, recognized in states outside of the “more traditionally political” (a horrible way of my saying New York, California and so forth).

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Obama, Romney… Serenade

Got this photo on MSNBC’s homepage just a moment ago. Not been watching the debate (about to tune in), and I thought the image made it look like President Obama and Romney were singing to each other…

Romney-ObamaSerenade

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Matt Taibbi Says Biden “Absolutely Right” to Laugh at Ryan

20121012-JoeBidenHANDS

In the inimitable Taibbi’s latest blog-post for Rolling Stone, he turns his excellent attention and cutting wit onto the VP debate, and supports Vice President Joe Biden’s less-than-serious tone and demeanour:

I’ve never thought much of Joe Biden. But man, did he get it right in last night’s debate, and not just because he walloped sniveling little Paul Ryan on the facts. What he got absolutely right, despite what you might read this morning (many outlets are criticizing Biden's dramatic excesses), was his tone. Biden did absolutely roll his eyes, snort, laugh derisively and throw his hands up in the air whenever Ryan trotted out his little beady-eyed BS-isms.

But he should have! He was absolutely right to be doing it. We all should be doing it. That includes all of us in the media, and not just paid obnoxious-opinion-merchants like me, but so-called “objective” news reporters as well. We should all be rolling our eyes, and scoffing and saying, “Come back when you’re serious.”

Taibbi’s piece is, as always, highly quotable, and riddled with quotations and analysis and deconstructions of Ryan’s tax “plan” side-stepping and distortions. Here’s a bit from Ryan’s answer I thought didn’t get enough attention. It came after Raddatz asked for specifics on the obviously-non-existant Romney-Ryan tax plan:

Lower tax rates 20 percent – we raise about $1.2 trillion through income taxes. We forgo about 1.1 trillion [dollars] in loopholes and deductions. And so what we're saying is deny those loopholes and deductions to higher-income taxpayers so that more of their income is taxed, which has a broader base of taxation…” [emphasis mine]

There are $1.1 trillion worth of deductions out there? This is an interesting notion, seeing as before this nobody’s been able to mention any specific deduction that they are going to cut, and I can’t see them actually cutting the largest ones, because they are directly responsible for keeping Romney’s “income” taxes so damned low. At the same time, Romney has promised to explode Defense spending (graph, below, from The Rachel Maddow Show):

2012 - Romney Defence Spending.png

That’s about $350 billion in additional spending, on top of the vast defence budget that the US maintains (same as the rest of the world combined, if you didn’t already know that fact). Where’s that money going to come from? Oh, that’s right. “Deficits don’t matter…” (Dick Cheney) Also, bear in mind that the DoD hasn’t even asked for that raise. It has asked for pretty much what President Obama is prepared and willing to accept and sign into the budget.

Taibbi also takes a moment to discuss the much-discussed idea of media objectivity and how it is, perhaps going too far:

“Sometimes in journalism I think we take the objectivity thing too far. We think being fair means giving equal weight to both sides of every argument. But sometimes in the zeal to be objective, reporters get confused. You can't report the Obama tax plan and the Romney tax plan in the same way, because only one of them is really a plan, while the other is actually not a plan at all, but an electoral gambit.”

While you’re there, be sure to check out Taibbi’s response to the Presidential Debate and also why the 2012 Presidential Election should never be as close as it seems to be.

My favourite tweet from the VP Debate goes to Chris Rock:

Mark Bowden’s “Hunt for Geronimo” & “The Finish”

Bowden-TheFinishI’ve been on the fence about the books covering the raid on bin Laden’s compound. I just haven’t seen the potential value in these accounts. In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, though, Mark Bowden has a piece adapted from his new book, The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden (Grove/Atlantic). The piece is good, and it’s actually made me want to read the book. Bowden, most famously, is the author of Black Hawk Down.

President Obama saw it as a “50–50” proposition. Admiral Bill McRaven, mission commander, knew something would go wrong. So how did the raid that killed bin Laden get green-lighted?

The article is filled with well-written accounts of how the decision was made – it’s actually not long enough, of course, which is a large part of why I now want to read the book. I’m fascinated with how and why certain policies are made, not just what that policy is – this is something I’ve often thought is lacking in foreign policy-analysis, at least to the levels and details I’m interested in, or if it’s not a “scandal” (like the Iraq War decision…).

Monday, 8 October 2012

This is unconscionable…

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A car-parts manufacturer is basically telling its employees that if Obama is re-elected, they’ll get less pay, because there will be higher taxes and so forth, which the employees will have to pay for.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Brinkley on Morning Joe, New Fox TV Series on the Horizon…?

I read a very strange article in Vanity Fair the other day (it’s taken me a while to get around to this). It was about Joe Scarborough, of Morning Joe, and the chances that he might be running for president in 2016. The MSNBC show hosted by Joe and Mika Brzezinski is one of the more popular morning shows, and has enjoyed a pretty impressive roster of guests (recurring and special one-offs).

The article did nothing to improve my mixed opinion of the show, too. I enjoy watching it, from time to time (usually when I’ve caught up with Maddow, UP, MHP and Last Word, and have nothing else to watch), but the dynamic between Scarborough and Brzezinski is really strange.

Douglas Brinkley, who wrote the VF piece, refers to the show as “savvy, caffeinated”, and described the hosts’ dynamic thus:

“even though they are both married, with children, their on-air chemistry can come across as charged, even flirtatious, the cable equivalent of Nick and Nora Charles.”

I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve more often seen Joe shoot down or talk over Mika’s comments and analysis than I have anything else (except for a YouTube video clip of Mika shooting Scarborough down, albeit in a less-than-scathing manner).

I do think their new TV drama project sounds interesting, though:

“they have started a film-and-TV production company and the first proj­ect they’re developing and peddling is a TV drama about the life and times of their volatile competitor [Fox]. Philip Seymour Hoffman has been mentioned for the [Roger] Ailes character; James Gandolfini’s name has come up to portray Ailes’s pal Governor Chris Christie.”

That, I think, could be a very interesting TV show, and I’d certainly be interested in watching at least the first couple episodes to see if they manage to pull it off. (Hopefully it would be more settled and less silly that the high-profile media-focused Newsroom on HBO – I love Aaron Sorkin, but this show is damned uneven, and he has apparently forgotten how to write female characters that are anything but clichés and cartoons.)

Speaking of women and their portrayal in the media… The image below ran with Brinkley’s piece. It does nothing to improve matters or my impression of who’s the boss on Morning Joe and what Brzezinski’s role is actually meant to be. She’s a smart woman – why does she have to pose like that?

MorningJoeWTF

Monday, 17 September 2012

Coming October 6th: “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium”

This, I think, is going to be a lot of fun. And probably a lot more informative than the official presidential debates. Unless Romney lets some more of his personal beliefs slip through… Maybe if we populated the audience with only millionaires and his sort of people, then he’d feel comfortable and willing to tell us what he really thinks. Leave out the 47% who’ll never vote for him. Just the silver spoon brigade…

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Iowa, “Voter Fraud”, Judge Says No

I’ve been reading a lot about this at work, so I wanted to share this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show:

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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Romney deserves credit for killing Osama bin Laden. Wait, what…?

This segment from Monday’s Rachel Maddow Show episode is presented without comment. Because… well, it’s bonkers. A poll was conducted in Ohio and North Carolina, asking respondents a question that I would never have allowed through, but nevertheless produced some astonishing results. Here’s the question:

“Who do you think deserves more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden: Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?”

And the responses are just depressing. Have a look:

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Monday, 10 September 2012

Jeremy Scahill & UP with Chris Hayes

My Twitter stream was pretty busy yesterday and today over Jeremy Scahill, The Nation’s foreign policy journalist, and his stance on President Obama’s foreign policy which he voiced on Chris Hayes’s show, to much push-back from his fellow guests. The video’s split in two (both below), and I think Scahill makes a lot of very good points – some of which the other guests don’t want to accept, in turn reinforcing one of Scahill’s first points about the media and how they cover and represent President Obama’s foreign policy…

Clip 1:

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Clip 2:

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He finishes off with “I look forward to the ad hominem attacks on Twitter”… And he didn’t have to wait long…

On a personal note, I was very happy to hear China inserted into the debate right at the end – pity they didn’t have time to get into it any deeper, but maybe it’ll spur something more in the future.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Paul Ryan’s Stimulating Hypocrisy

This sort of thing is nothing new. Politicians try to fudge their records all the time (indeed, Candidate Romney is almost literally doing it all the time). But this is pretty bad for someone who has crusaded against President Obama’s stimulus (despite it being voted for before Obama was in office), while privately lobbying for stimulus funds for his district:

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A lot has been written about Ryan ever since he was picked as Romney’s running mate. I haven’t been able to read it all just yet, but I hope to do so in the next few days. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how this election shapes up, and whether or not Ryan helps or hinders Romney’s current bid for the presidency.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Is this technically “News” anymore?

MSNBC-RomneyObamaNotReallyNewsAnymore

In case that text is too small::

“Mitt Romney’s newest attack on President Obama is over a Republican idea that was supported by Governor Mitt Romney.”

This is something that has happened quite a bit over the Obama presidency – as the Democrats move more towards the centre and even, on occasion, to the right of centre (or, the right of Old Centre, perhaps), President Obama has found himself in a position in which he’s supporting formerly Republican position and proposals, while the Republicans and conservatives declare the idea to be socialist and a desire to destroy America (adjusting down for hyperbole, there…). Just one more example in which we see how the Republican leadership has no interest in governing and is solely interested in defeating Obama by any means necessary.

Here’s the clip on the Welfare reform attack (presented by Alex Witt, standing in for Lawrence):

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Friday, 27 July 2012

Mitt’s Charm Offensive: Definitely Offensive, not Charming

Mitt Romney continues to put his foot in his mouth on his trip abroad. Not exactly the best start or showing for someone who wants to be the Leader of the Free World. Prime Minister David Cameron had this to say in response to Weathervane’s rambling faux pas:

“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active bustling cities anywhere in the world, and of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”

No secret what he’s referring to, there… Romney’s trip has been surprisingly shambolic, which to me just raises even more questions (to add to the oh-so-many already being raised) about whether or not he is remotely prepared or even suited to be President of the United States. Here’s Ezra Klein’s segment from The Rachel Maddow Show:

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Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Last Word on O’Reilly’s Muddled Gun Control Position

Just wanted to share a segment from Lawrence O’Donnell’s The Last Word (July 25th episode), in which the host looks at Bill O’Reilly’s muddled recent coverage of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado and what should be done about gun control. It’s presented in O’Donnell’s signature, snarky style (which doesn’t really do anything for me), but there’s some good coverage and commentary:

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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

“Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (Nation Books)

I’ve been interested in reading this book for a while, but in advance of a review, I thought I’d share this book-trailer, narrated by Chris Hedges:

Here’s the synopsis:

Two years ago, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges and award-winning cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco set out to take a look at the sacrifice zones, those areas in America that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement. They wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks like in places where the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is the searing account of their travels.

The book starts in the western plains, where Native Americans were sacrificed in the giddy race for land and empire. It moves to the old manufacturing centers and coal fields that fueled the industrial revolution, but now lie depleted and in decay. It follows the steady downward spiral of American labor into the nation's produce fields and ends in Zuccotti Park where a new generation revolts against a corporate state that has handed to the young an economic, political, cultural and environmental catastrophe.

“Guns are already political”

This is an excellent segment, from Ezra Klein, MSNBC’s resident wonk:

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In typical (and excellent) Klein fashion, he trots out tons of statistics, painting a picture that can only be described as depressing. Beyond the specific event that sparked this debate, the truly depressing thing, though, is that none of this information is new – it’s updated, of course – and the arguments for tighter gun-control have been outlined, detailed and explained ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

There is a fundamental crack in American politics and society, into which collective sense and intelligence appear to have fallen. Reason and rationalism have fled the building when it comes to firearms in the United States, and as a foreigner, the continuing spiral of violence and entrenchment on this issue is most depressing.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Romney’s Personal Olympic Rescue

I’m glad someone’s actually talking about this, now – Matt Taibbi (I think – it could have been Tim Dickinson) wrote about Romney’s “rescue” of the Salt Lake City Olympics months ago, and it’s been driving me nuts that everybody is just swallowing Romney’s word hook, line and sinker.

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The fact of the matter is, Mitt Romney was only able to save the Salt Lake City Olympics by getting a huge loan from the Federal Government (it wasn’t all in response to 9/11, either, as some people have been led to believe – the vast majority came before it). Not only that, the debt was transferred across to the Government, too. This is just another example of “successful market capitalism” as it is practiced by oh-so-many Republican “successful market capitalists” – with the help and safety net provided by the Federal Government.

America’s political, historical and factual amnesia is becoming extreme. Something has to be done about this, and I think the media has definitely dropped the ball.

It is not “partisan” to state fact. It is not “partisan” to point out when a politician – Republican or Democrat – has either missed something, distorted something, or misunderstood something. They don’t have to editorialise it, if that’s what they’re afraid of – there are ways of phrasing and framing facts as… well, facts:

“Candidate/President/Congressperson X said this. However, records suggest that this is false.”

“X claimed Y said this. However, research has not found any evidence of this.”

“Romney claims he’s a Rand-ian, market capitalist. However, the record shows he’s everything under the political and economic sun.”

See? There are ways you can do this…

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A Valid (if Facetious) Point

Although, from what I’ve read and seen of the 2012 Presidential Campaign, facetious points seem to be the only ones being made… God knows, there is a lack of much of anything else going on. In fact, I’ve been entirely underwhelmed by this election campaign. It doesn’t help that President Obama is hyper-disciplined and seems to be, you know, trying to govern while also running; and Candidate Romney… well, he doesn’t really have anything new to say that he hasn’t said millions of time before, and even in the early days it was boilerplate, entirely predictable and pointless.

Anyway. This is what I meant to share, before I started writing the intro to this post…

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College/School Standards…

Another great cartoon from Steve Breen:

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Thursday, 12 July 2012

“It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs!” Except when it isn’t…

The Republican-controlled Congress have now tried to “fake repeal” Obamacare THIRTY-THREE times. Now, I use the word “fake”, because that is exactly what these votes are – the attempts to repeal are purely symbolic stunts. That is all.

Here’s Rachel Maddow on the bizarre, counterproductive behaviour from the Republican caucus:

The clip also has some interesting information about the Affordable Care Act, which has frankly been all-too-thin on the ground. Yet another great segment from America’s best news presenter/commentator. Also, Representative Peter Welch (D-VT), who is interviewed in the segment, provides some important points about Republican shortcomings in the healthcare debate – where are their alternatives? The simple fact of the matter is that they don’t have any.

One problem, of course (again mentioned in the clip), is the fact that the most successful Republican-created healthcare ‘alternative’ was… Romneycare. Which Candidate Weathervane has washed his hands of, despite its popularity in Massachusetts.

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UPDATE: More “Proof” it’s Not all about “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” (12/7/2012)

Rachel Maddow has long been pointing out how the Republican Congress and national Party are more interested in pandering to their base than helping fix the economy, and here’s a graph that speaks volumes:

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Now, imagine if they were investing as much energy into fixing the economy, rather than legislating on something like this…

The Power of SCOTUS

Found this in an Atlantic article, and it’s is an incredible statistic:

“The Affordable Care Act, according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, is now backed by 47 percent of Americans, up from 39 percent in April 2012. Opposition to the law in the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding it is also down, from 53 to 47 percent.”

The WaPo/ABC polling service is, according to the article, “the most accurate” polling outfit, so this could be a considerable boon for the President. It’s also an incredible statement on the power of the Supreme Court. And 8% bump in popularity because the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare was constitutional. Garance Franke-Ruta, the author of the article, suggests that the increased support came from Democrats who had originally been dissatisfied with the Act:

“Democratic unhappiness with the bill is more likely to have softened than GOP objections since it was upheld.”

However, I think it is possible that some independents and moderate Republicans, who genuinely were concerned about the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, may now be taking the Supreme Court’s lead and accepting that it is constitutional. Some Democrats will, of course, have come around, but if they were “dissatisfied” with the Act before the Roberts Court took a look at it, then I don’t understand how they will all of a sudden be satisfied with it? Nothing’s changed with the Act…

Franke-Ruta does, however, offer some evidence from the Washington Post that “independents don’t really like what either candidate is offering”, so maybe not so many independents have been brought into the fold.

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[Photo from the Atlantic piece, but sourced from Reuters originally.]