October 27, 2012

"Not knowing exactly what was taking place, the two SEALs set up a defensive perimeter."

"Unfortunately Ambassador Stevens was already gravely injured, and Foreign Service officer, Sean Smith, was dead. However, due to their quick action and suppressive fire, twenty administrative personnel in the embassy were able to escape to safety. Eventually, these two courageous men were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers brought against them, an enemy force numbering between 100 to 200 attackers which came in two waves. But the stunning part of the story is that Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty killed 60 of the attacking force. Once the compound was overrun, the attackers were incensed to discover that just two men had inflicted so much death and destruction."

ScottOnCapeCod, via Instapundit.

The pre-Freakfest scene downtown.

We're snug at home this evening, while the revelry goes on here in Madison, but earlier this evening, we took a walk downtown, and we encountered this religious demonstration. Note the signs. Note the effort to get passers-by to look into the casket.

Untitled

Where there was a mirror. They just wanted to remind you. In case you forgot: You're going to die.

Untitled

As the younger folk scamper off, the older man is hoping they'll come to Jesus before it's too late.

(Click here for a large enough version to read the signs: "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God" and "Jesus said: I am the door: By ME if any man enter in, he shall be saved.")

The Des Moines Register endorses Romney.

"Our discussion repeatedly circled back to the nation’s single most important challenge:"
pulling the economy out of the doldrums, getting more Americans back in the workforce in meaningful jobs with promising futures, and getting the federal government on a track to balance the budget in a bipartisan manner that the country demands.

Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.

"We're the children of the future/American through and through/But something happened to our country/And we're kinda blaming you."

I find the enunciation a bit difficult here. Who are they blaming?



I had to read the lyrics — here — to figure out that they were blaming conservatives. As I listened to the song — a reader referred me to it — I thought they were complaining about how liberals like Barack Obama had sold out their future. Why didn't I immediately recognize the creepy use of musical children from the last election? I mean this:



I don't know! I guess I thought the other side might do some parody.

David Weigel debunks a video that has never been bunked in the first place.

Is there anyone who has ever thought that this was anything but a joke?

Crooks and Liars is laughing at the "morons"
who believe they're looking at "actual footage of Barack Obama's birth taking place in a hospital in Kenya." But as far as I can tell, they are morons for believing they are looking at actual morons who believe they are looking at actual footage....

He who laughs at morons should look to it that he himself does not become a moron. And when you gaze long into the idiocracy the idiocracy also gazes into you.

At the Rhymes-With-Cranium Café...

Untitled

... think of something to say.

Evidence that Romney is winning.

Paul Krugman has gone desperately juvenile.

"Embrace and celebrate" "Hetero-een."

An interesting Dan Savage rant about Halloween. Sorry there's no transcript, but click to listen and begin at 0:59. He takes on those who complain about the sexy costume for females (and females only) and argues that heterosexuals need a day to bust loose from all their usual inhibitions.

"I'm free and I love to be free/To live my life the way I want/To say and do whatever I please..."

Consider the use of the old Lesley Gore song — "You Don't Own Me" — for political, pro-Obama purposes:



Now, I love old Lesley and her classic song. And it's fine with me if the Democratic Party is her party — and she'll cry if Obama loses, cry if Obama loses, you would cry too if it happened to you. "You Don't Own Me" dates back to 1963 — pre-Women's Liberation, pre-Beatles. But let's consider the lyrics and the extent to which they express the values of the present-day Democratic Party.

By the way, Ms. Gore did not write "You Don't Own Me." It was written by 2 men, John Madara (who also wrote "At the Hop") and David White (who co-wrote "At the Hop" and was a member of the doo-wop group Danny & the Juniors who recorded "At the Hop"). Madera and White also co-wrote "The Fly," which was a dance that you could do at the hop, and here's Chubby Checker showing you how:



That was 1961, 2 years before Lesley sang Madera and White's declaration to female autonomy, which is no kind of dance song at all, though Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and Goldie Hawn manage to turn it into a dance for the purpose of bringing a close to the execrable 1996 movie "First Wives Club":



That movie is best described by David Rakoff in "Half Empty": "A gynocentric comedy predicated on the scenario where men are cheating bastards and middle-aged women the goddesses who best them while cementing their sisterhood with Motown-scored makeover montages, vengeful shopping sprees, warmed-over Lucy-and-Ethel hijinks, and random humiliations visited upon women who are younger and therefore by definition stupid whores."

Anyway, look at the lyrics to "You Don't Own Me," words which a couple youngish guys put in the female singer's mouth, as repurposed for the 2012 election "war on women" theme:
I'm young and I love to be young
I'm free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please
Sounds libertarian to me. But it's the Obama side using this, so presumably we're supposed to hear something like:
I'm free and I want my birth control to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please and have the government pay for it

The AP reports an increase in racial prejudice since 2008 (based on research that is at least somewhat scientific).

"Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly."
The explicit racism measures asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about black and Hispanic people. In addition, the surveys asked how well respondents thought certain words, such as "friendly," ''hardworking," ''violent" and "lazy," described blacks, whites and Hispanics. 
The same respondents were also administered a survey designed to measure implicit racism, in which a photo of a black, Hispanic or white male flashed on the screen before a neutral image of a Chinese character. The respondents were then asked to rate their feelings toward the Chinese character. Previous research has shown that people transfer their feelings about the photo onto the character, allowing researchers to measure racist feelings even if a respondent does not acknowledge them. 
I'm guessing that AP thinks this material is helpful to Obama, perhaps guilt-tripping Americans into voting for Obama as a way to say I'm not racist. But it can cut the other way, because Obama came into office at least in part because people believed in his seeming promise to take us to a higher ground racially, as if he had a special gift to cure racial ills.

Obama didn't give us that gift. We didn't get what we wanted for Christmas. But we're not children. Let's say we were deluded/misled into thinking this nice young man could solve old problems in some miraculous new way. It turned out that he was a normal politician, operating in a political mode, playing us on the issues he found playable. Fine! Okay. We're smarter now. We have more information. We don't want to be racist, but what's the non-racist response?

Judge him up or down on his actual performance. He is only a man, only a politician. Treat him accordingly. 

MORE: Detail on how the research was done here and here (PDF).

"Ronald Reagan's 'First Time' Vote [Joke] Was Dirtier Than Lena Dunham's."

Does that mean we can't criticize the Obama campaign for that Lena Dunham ad anymore?

Possible arguments:

1. Reagan was talking to guys in a working-class bar, not putting the smutty material in a carefully crafted, glitzy ad aimed at everyone.

2. If Obama got caught on an open mike saying something like "I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever; we begin bombing in five minutes," there would be nothing to complain about because Reagan did that.

3. We remember Ronald Reagan. We knew Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a friend of ours. Lena Dunham, you're no Ronald Reagan.

ADDED:

4. For Ronald Reagan's remark to be taken as sexual, we would need to believe that he wanted us to visualize him on the receiving end of sexual penetration, and he couldn't have meant that.

5. The comparison to Reagan's joke assumes that the criticism of Dunham's ad was based on prissiness about sexuality, but it was really about trivializing the election and treating women as if they vote based on their sexual attraction toward the President.

Swing state tracking poll: Romney 51%, Obama 45%

Romney's up 6 in today's Rasmussen swing-state poll. The last time anyone was up 6 in this poll, it was October 4 and Obama. That means Romney has gained 12 points in 3 weeks.

Romney is up 4 in the regular tracking poll. You might think that because Romney is further ahead in swing states that he does not have a problem with the Electoral College, but he does:
The Rasmussen Reports Electoral College projections now show the president with 237 Electoral Votes and Romney 206. The magic number needed to win the White House is 270. Eight states with 95 Electoral College votes remain Toss-ups. In addition to Florida, the battleground states are Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
There are 8 state's Rasmussen is calling toss-ups, but the swing state poll covers 11 states. The additional states are Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina.

I hope we don't get another misalignment between the popular vote and the Electoral College, and I hope the election produces a clear winner, so we don't need to feel that the outcome might have been affected by fraud or vote suppression of any kind. Or do you think that it's better for the winner to know he barely made it and needs to be more appeasing/compromising/reaching-across-the-aisle with the other side? Or is your answer to that last question yes only if your guy loses?

I really wonder why Obama has been able to keep it as close as it is. With the economy so bad, the unpopularity of Obamacare, and what happened in Libya, he should have fallen far behind by now. If the American people don't see fit to reject him soundly, we will either have 4 more years of Obama or a Romney administration with a paltry mandate.

Woman found guilty of giving cannibis to her baby... via breast milk.

In New Zealand, where the senior court official said: "Child abuse is family violence in these circumstances, and it is clear this baby and its mother needed help."

"Big Bird. Binders. Bayonets."

The GOP goes after Obama, using Obama's own line, from 2008: "If you don't have a record to run on, you make a big election about small things."



(Via Instapundit, who says "ouch.")

"For Tammy Baldwin to attack [Tommy Thompson] on anything related to Sept. 11 is so hypocritical, she should be ashamed of herself..."

Said Rudy Giuliani yesterday.
Baldwin ran an ad this week... saying Thompson personally profited from the attacks by making $3 million from a health care firm he led that scored a government contract to treat first responders.
Here's Baldwin's ad:



Now, that ad was provoked by a Thompson an ad that assailed Baldwin for voting against a resolution to honor the 9/11 victims. Baldwin did vote for other bills honoring the victims when they also included health care spending provisions related to first responders. Here's Tommy's ad:



At last night's debate, Baldwin said "I am outraged that Tommy Thompson would question my patriotism." Thompson said he was not questioning her patriotism. He was questioning her "judgment."

I don't have a transcript or video of the debate, but Tommy had a long segment in which he talked about all that he did (as Health Secretary) on 9/11.

More here:
The Thompson campaign hosted a conference call Wednesday afternoon with George Pataki, who was governor of New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Pataki praised Thompson as a "force of nature" in responding to the tragedy.

"He was the first member of the Cabinet to come to Ground Zero, where I had the privilege of talking with him," said Pataki. "And from the early moments, he activated -- in a way that I will always be grateful for -- the nation's medical response efforts to help us."

When a reporter pointed out that Baldwin voted many times for other bills honoring and helping 9/11 first responders -- and clearly stated why she opposed the one bill being highlighted by Thompson -- Pataki nevertheless defended the criticisms.

"It's not misleading at all," he said of Thompson's ad. "She was one of a handful who voted against a strong bipartisan resolution. I don't understand the logic of her explanation."

October 26, 2012

Tommy Thompson and Tammy Baldwin.

The last debate, streaming here.

UPDATE: Debate over. Site delinked.

"Obama's Ground Game Advantage May Not Be As Big As It Looks."

Says Kevin Drum (at Mother Jones), displaying a chart that's been "making the rounds."
Democrats tend to rely on paid, professional operations, while Republicans rely more on volunteer efforts, largely from evangelical churches. This is something that actually works in the Republicans' favor, since volunteer efforts from friends and neighbors tend to be more effective at switching votes than professional phone banks....

Petraeus: "No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate."

William Kristol: "So who in the government did tell 'anybody' not to help those in need? Someone decided not to send in military assets to help those Agency operators. Would the secretary of defense make such a decision on his own? No. It would have been a presidential decision. There was presumably a rationale for such a decision. What was it? When and why—and based on whose counsel obtained in what meetings or conversations—did President Obama decide against sending in military assets to help the Americans in need?"

Draw the necessary inferences. This is important.

"At worst, this is someone who has sexual fantasies...There is no actual crossing the line from fantasy to reality."

Says the lawyer for Gilberto Valle, the NY police officer arrested for kidnapping conspiracy. He "created a document on his computer, calling it a blueprint for 'Abducting and Cooking.'"
“I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus,” he wrote to a co-conspirator in one electronic communication recovered by law enforcement authorities. “Cook her over a low heat, keep her alive as long as possible.”

When the co-conspirator asked how big the officer’s oven was, Officer Valle replied, “Big enough to fit one of these girls if I folded their legs.”

"Wisconsin: Obama 49%, Romney 49%"

New Rasmussen poll.

If Romney wins Wisconsin and New Hampshire, he'll win the Electoral College even without Ohio. Right?

"CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack."

"There's a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. "But the basic principle here ... is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on."

Biden said "Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?”

... to the father of one of the former Navy SEALs killed in Benghazi.

Berlusconi, sentenced to prison for 4 years and barred from public office for 3 years.

A strange combination of terms of years, as if one could serve in public office while yet in prison. Hard to believe the man will actually end up in prison.
Angelino Alfano, the head of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, said the conviction was "unexpected and incomprehensible" and "the umpteenth" attack by a biased judiciary on Berlusconi.
To control you're overflowing sympathy for Silvio, here's a slideshow of beautiful women he has had. Also: "'Bunga bunga' parties were dignified soirées."

Camille Paglia, who voted for Obama in '08, delivers a fine rant about why she's not voting for him this time.

She's interviewed on video here, by Glenn Reynolds. Most of the interview is about art in America and her new book "Glittering Images" (which I just bought, in Kindle). But in the end, she's asked why she's not voting for Obama — she's voting for Jill Stein — and out flow the words, which I started transcribing without knowing how long she'd go on. I kept transcribing, because it was all such great material, so here it is (with a few screen grabs, taken from the art section of the interview):
I was very excited about him. I thought he was a moderate. I thought that his election would promote racial healing in the country. 
This is the point at which I started transcribing, thinking: This is how I felt, when I voted for Obama in 2008. Except I wouldn't say I was "very excited." I wasn't caught up in the ecstasy. I thought it was the better bet, compared to the GOP alternative, and I hoped for the moderation and advancement in attitudes about race.
It would be a tremendous transformation of attitudes. And instead: one thing after another. Not least: I consider him, now, one of the most racially divisive and polarizing figures ever. I think it's going to take years to undo the damage to relationships between the races. 


Yes, this hope for racial transformation got squandered early, over that awful Henry Louis Gates incident. Back to Paglia:
But beyond that, I am just sick and tired of endless war. I was in favor of bombing the hell out of the Afghanistan mountains after 9/11, but I would have never agreed to this land war in Afghanistan, this endless land war, as well as things like this Libyan incursion that Obama appears to have been pushed into by these women, like Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power, the chaos in foreign policy, the bowing to foreign leaders.

Also the Obamacare: of course, we need health care reform in this country. What a mess! Everyone agrees about that. But the Obamacare is, to me, a Stalinist intrusion — okay? — into American culture.

The creation of this culture of surveillance, from these bureaucracies, which is also carried over into Obama's endorsement of drones on the military level as well as for police control of the population. I mean, I don't understand how any... veteran of the 1960s who's a Democrat could not see the dangers here, that Obama is a statist. It's exactly what Bob Dylan was warning about in "Subterranean Homesick Blues," okay?
I paused the video at "It's exactly what Bob Dylan was warning about" and asked Meade what song she's about to name, and he said "Masters of War," and I said "That's what I thought." But it's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," and as soon as she says it, we know why. (Look out kid/They keep it all hid/Better jump down a manhole/Light yourself a candle...)
You don't want government agencies being empowered to intrude into people's lives like this. The controlling force in Obamacare is the IRS! Okay? This flies in the face of what the Free Speech Movement was about at Berkeley or about any of the values, I feel, of my generation.


Yes. Exactly. This is how the Democratic Party lost me — by trading freedom for statism.
So I feel the Democratic Party needs to be shattered and remade to recover its true progressive roots. I don't see progressives. All I see is white upper-middle-class liberals who speak in this unctuous way about the needs of the poor.
Unctuous. Yes. White upper-middle-class liberals lubricating themselves.
They have no connection whatever with the working class. Okay? It's the professional class gone amok. And that's why they don't notice what a bureaucratic nightmare Obamacare is.

"Wisconsin May Be the New Ohio."

Says Scott Rasmussen.

ADDED: Speaking of Rasmussen, the Rasmussen tracking poll today is the same as yesterday — Romney 50%, Obama 47% — which is interesting since today's poll includes — in its average of 3 days — 2 days of post-debate polling and yesterday's included only 1. That is, that last debate seems to have had little or no effect.

"Mr. Obama's was a White House that had—and showed—no respect for Republicans trying to negotiate with Republicans."

"Through it all he was confident—'Eric, don't call my bluff'—because he believed, as did his staff, that his talents would save the day. They saved nothing. Washington became immobilized."

Peggy Noonan, drawing on Bob Woodward's "The Price of Politics."

Also at the link: Noonan's analysis of the first debate and her basis for believing that the Obama we saw there was the "real Obama."

"I will not be bullied into voting for a gay man simply because I am gay."

Said Kyle Wood, a volunteer for Chad Lee (R), who is running against Mark Pocan (D), for the House seat in my district here in Wisconsin. It's the seat being vacated by Tammy Baldwin (D), who is running against Tommy Thompson (R), for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Herb Kohl (D).

Pocan (like Baldwin) is openly gay. Wood says a man — "white, 6 foot 2, with curly brown hair, a broad nose and a muscular build" — entered his home at 8 in the morning and beat him up, saying “You should have kept your (f------) mouth shut” and that he had been “warned.” Wood says the "warning" was graffiti on his car that said “house trained republican faggot,” “traitor,” and “ur like a jew 4 hitler.”

The police say they believe the injuries were "minor," but The Daily Caller report says Wood's "eyes were swollen shut by the beating, and he suffered a concussion along with neck and head lacerations." A photo at the Caller shows marks on Wood's neck made by what Wood terms "a ligature."

There you have it. Real or hoax? I don't know, but I remember Ashley Todd from the '08 election season.

UPDATE: Wood has recanted. More here.

Jacques Barzun has died... at the age of 104.

Here's the NYT obit for the grand historian/culture critic. Maybe you read his marvelous "From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present," which he published when he was 92. Imagine writing something that ambitious when you're in your 90s and still having more than a decade of life left.

Barzun was born in Paris, in 1907. His father, a diplomat and writer, was — according to the obit — an avant-garde salon, frequented by Jean Cocteau.
Mr. Barzun studied at the Lycée Janson de Sailly, only to find himself, he said, teaching there at the age of 9. After World War I broke out in 1914, many teachers were drafted into the military, and older students were inducted to teach the younger ones.
He contemplated suicide at the age of 11, and, at 13, in a classic alternative to despair, he traveled to the United States. How many individuals still live whose young lives were shaped by World War I? They have been leaving us in smaller and smaller droves over the years, and it's hard to say goodbye to the last few names that we recognize in the newspaper.

My son John has a tribute to Barzun's book about writing, "Simple and Direct," which he read when he was in high school and rereads "now and then."
I still try to follow his guidelines on how to use the words "the" and "a," which turns out to be a surprisingly difficult matter.
Should I have written the classic alternative to despair?

John's post has some quotes he's pulled from his copy of "A Jacques Barzun Reader." Here's one:
In a high civilization the things that satisfy our innumerable desires look as if they were supplied automatically, mechanically, so that nothing is owed to particular persons; goods belong by congenital right to anybody who takes the trouble to be born. This is the infant's normal greed prolonged into adult life and headed for retribution. When sufficiently general, the habit of grabbing, cheating, and evading reciprocity is the best way to degrade a civilization, and perhaps bring about its collapse.
Something is owed to particular persons.

October 25, 2012

"Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up."

"Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a 'you're on your own' society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party."

Said Barack Obama.

Voting is like having sex... says the Obama campaign.

With this ad, featuring Lena Dunham (of the HBO show "Girls"):



So, really, who do you want to have sex with, ladies? That is the question. Oddly, that was a big topic on the Rush Limbaugh show today.
CNN had to pull a story that they had on their website after reader backlash. "Following a firestorm of negative feedback, CNN hastily deleted from its website late Wednesday virtually all mention of a study about the effect hormones have on women’s political preferences. 'A post previously published in this space regarding a study about how hormones may influence voting choices has been removed,' a message posted on the website at 8:15 p.m. read. 'After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN...'..."

"Mitt Romney’s transition team... 'The Readiness Project..."

"... plans a series of modest but quick accomplishments if he were inaugurated, and is preparing for the likelihood that he will butt heads with the conservative wing of the House Republicans as he seeks a fiscal 'grand bargain.'"
Romney’s transition has grown to more than 100 officials, preparing dossiers on potential nominees and gaming out legislative strategy. Only a few weeks ago, the exercise had an air of make-believe, even to some of the participants. “Now, we’re shooting with real bullets,” a Romney adviser said. One Republican official said Romney doesn’t plan “an ideological crusade — he wants to come across as a problem solver, primarily on the economic side”: “Everything Romney does is going to be focused on bringing down barriers to economic growth and providing certainty to businesses.”

What the White House has to say about the email the State Department sent the Executive Office of the President during the Benghazi attack.

Nothing.

"You have to be a terrible monster to write."

"Someone might have told you something they shouldn’t have told you, and you have to be prepared to use it because it will make a great story. You have to use it even though the person is identifiable. If you can’t do it then writing isn’t for you. You’ve no right to be here. If there is any way I can help you get into law school then I will. Your morality will be more useful in a courtroom."

Nate Silver says the polls say "Romney's Momentum Has Stopped."

Because, you must understand, "a body in motion tends to stay in motion. That is, it ought to imply that a candidate is gaining ground in the race — and, furthermore, that he is likely to continue to gain ground."

Romney peaked last Friday, and the "slightly favorable trend" is Obama's. Obama's chance of winning is, as of yesterday, 71%, up from 68.1% Tuesday.

By the way, there is a 10.5% chance that Wisconsin's electoral votes will be decisive, making us the third most-likely-to-be-decisive state (after Ohio and Virginia).

And The Washington Post just endorsed Obama:
[E]conomic head winds and an uncompromising opposition explain some of [Obama's] failures — and render that much more impressive the substantial accomplishments of Mr. Obama’s first term....

What kind of case has Mr. Romney made for himself?... The sad answer is there is no way to know what Mr. Romney really believes.
ADDED: There's no way to know what Obama really believes either. It's mentally unbalanced to allow such pedestrian realities to make you sad.

"How to eat a Triceratops."

"Step one: get a good grip on the neck frill."

"The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy the heavens."

"There is no doubt of that, but it proves nothing against the heavens, for heaven simply means: the impossibility of crows."

"See No Evil, Say No Evil, Hear No Evil."

Embryonic bat version.

What's the point?

Drudge has everyone pointing:


(Click to enlarge.)

"'HE'S A BULLSHITTER'" goes to a Weekly Standard item, quoting Obama:
As we left the Oval Office, executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his six-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president. … [S]he said, ‘Tell him: You can do it.’ Obama grinned. … ‘You know, kids have good instincts,’ Obama offered. ‘They look at the other guy and say, “Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.”’
Nothing wrong with the word "bullshitter" in casual speech, and nothing special about a politician characterizing another politician as a bullshitter. It takes one to know one, and these politicians are all bullshitters. How could they be otherwise? What major-party candidate has ever not been a bullshitter?

But it is odd to imagine a 6-year-old child thinking "Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell." He was paraphrasing. Come on.

There's nothing here!

Now, quit pointing.

Quit pointing at nothing.

"Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!"

Frederick Douglass, quoted by Clarence Thomas.

"I have to suspend my brain and mingle the subtle essence of my mind with this air..."

"... which is of the like nature, in order clearly to penetrate the things of heaven. I should have discovered nothing, had I remained on the ground to consider from below the things that are above; for the earth by its force attracts the sap of the mind to itself. It's just the same with the watercress."

Socrates, in "The Clouds," by Aristophanes.

"A strange sort of Nothing is destroying everything!"



"Maybe our whole land is in danger. What can we do?"

"The Emptiest Candidate in Presidential Election History: Mitt Romney truly believes in nothing."

They've got nothing on him, so they call him nothing. Ah, well, Obama's opponents call him Zero. that makes it Nothing vs. Zero.

***
Too much of nothing
Can turn a man into a liar
It can cause one man to sleep on nails
And another man to eat fire
Ev’rybody’s doin’ somethin’
I heard it in a dream
But when there’s too much of nothing
It just makes a fella mean
***
"I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?"

"All you can do while you puzzle over it like a board game is try to figure out which member of the hammy all-star ensemble, unrecognizable in lurid makeup..."

"... wigs, period costumes and rubber prostheses, is playing which man—or woman—while the viewer-unfriendly screenplay squirts and splatters all over the place.... I mean, Hugh Grant as a bloodthirsty cannibal?"

Did you know Rex Reed was still writing movie reviews? 

Here are some trailers for "Cloud Atlas."

Are you still following the Wachowskis, who are no longer the Wachowski brothers?
On Saturday, Lana Wachowski (co-director of the "Matrix" franchise and "Cloud Atlas") received a "Visibility Award" from the Human Rights Campaign for her recent decision to publicly come out as transgender. In a powerful 25-minute acceptance speech, Lana spoke about the pain she went through growing up and how she developed self-acceptance. Video. Transcript. Q&A with the Hollywood Reporter.
From the transcript:
Andy and I have not done press or made a public appearance including premieres in over 12 years. People have mistakenly assumed that this has something to do with my gender. It does not. After The Matrix was released in ‘99 we both experienced this alarming contraction of our world and thus our lives. We became acutely aware of the preciousness of anonymity -- understanding it as a form of virginity, something you only lose once. Anonymity allows you access to civic space, to a form of participation in public life, to an egalitarian invisibility that neither of us wanted to give up.

"In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina"... to vote for Barack Obama.



"Carolina in My Mind" is one of my all-time favorite songs. Here are the lyrics, in case the parody gods inspire you. Can't you just feel the moonshine... the pot... and a little blow?
Dark and silent late last night
I think I might have heard the highway calling
Geese in flight and dogs that bite
Signs that might be omens say I'm going, going
I think I might have heard the highway calling....

October 24, 2012

The distinct possibility of a 269 to 269 tie in the Electoral College.

Yesterday, I clicked my best guesses on the "Create Your Own" Electoral College map, and it came up 269 to 269! (In case you're wondering: I gave Obama Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and I gave Romney Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida.) I was shocked!

We talked about this topic 3 weeks ago, when Nate Silver speculated about it (and noted that the constitutional method for producing an outcome is quite likely to give the election to Romney). At the time, Silver said it was "quite unlikely":
Of the 25,001 simulations that we ran on Monday, a 269-269 tie came up in 152 model runs, or about 0.6 percent of the time.

Still, this probability has roughly doubled from a few weeks ago, when the chances had been hovering at about 0.3 percent instead.
I have no idea what the probability is now, but I'm sure Silver could run thousands of simulations and wow us with a very specific number. I'll just note that last night, using my intuition, it was the most likely outcome.

Here's what the 12th Amendment says about determining the winner:
The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote...

Hey, you with the racist Halloween costume!

Jenée Desmond-Harris is tired of your defensive, I-am-not-a-racist routine.
[M]any seem to forget that one needn't be a card-carrying white supremacist to make a choice that imagines racialized communities as "other"; that plays upon a history of inequalities and stereotypes; that instigates, mocks and offends.

"There's this sense of 'I don't know why people have to make it a big deal,' " says Leslie Picca, associate professor of sociology at the University of Dayton in Ohio....

But [David J. Leonard, associate professor in and chair of the department of critical culture, gender and race studies at Washington State University, Pullam] hopes those who have problematic attire brought to their attention will, at the very least, reconsider using their relative privilege to dismiss criticism, and choose to listen rather than "hiding behind a mask of ignorance about racism in America."
And by the way, this means you don't get to wear a Barack Obama mask even if you love Barack Obama. If you think you do, you need to reconsider your relative privilege and listen.

AND: Wearing any mask might get you arrested in New York.
The ban on masks in New York State dates to 1845, when it was adopted in response to events in the Hudson Valley, where local tenant farmers disguised as American Indians had attacked and killed landlords. The law includes exceptions for masquerade parties and similar events.

The police have periodically used the law during political demonstrations....

The law has been litigated several times over the past decade or so, with state courts, federal courts and appeals panels seesawing back and forth over whether it can be fairly applied.

Perhaps the most vigorous challenge came in 1999, after police officials said Ku Klux Klan members could not wear masks during a rally in Lower Manhattan....

"If we don't, remember me."

A tumblr of "living movie stills" — beautifully done. Arrived at via TIME's "25 Best Blogs 2012."

Wait. Is this all Trump was talking about?

Or is there some other thing, withheld? This is completely stupid and amounts to nothing. (Trump offering to give $5 million to charity if Obama releases his birth certificate, college records, and passport application.) I can't believe this clown is given attention for that, and I wonder if this is all he had all along or if the rumored story about cocaine dealing or divorce were in the works and, when the rumor smoked out too much negativity, Trump cooked up this new nonsense.

Trump's teaser was "I have something very, very big concerning the President of the United States." "Have" suggested some item of evidence damaging to Obama, but if you look closely at the words now, you can see he might always only have meant what we're hearing now. He has something concerning the President. Not something on the President.

What idiocy! What a waste of time!

MEANWHILE: Gloria Allred is still at large.

"New Hampshire: Romney 50%, Obama 48%.

"The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely New Hampshire Voters, taken the night after the final presidential debate...."

The age-old problem of theodicy is injected into the American political discourse in a way that God is allowing to happen for reasons unknown.

"A theodicy... is an attempt to resolve the evidential problem of evil by reconciling the traditional divine characteristics of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience with the occurrence of evil or suffering in the world."

This is perhaps the most profound question in the history of religion and philosophy... so that makes it prime material for late-season political demagoguery.

Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock struggled or purported to struggle with his anti-abortion principles and the problem of rape. Should there be a rape exception?
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." 
And apparently, also, God intended — by Mourdock's lights — that Mourdock be kicked around for professing that everything that happens is something that God intended. God works in mysterious ways, or — as non-God-invoking folks say — everything happens for a reason.

Mourdock is up for election, and he's a Republican — so is Romney (have you heard?) — so this is excellent material for stirring up war-on-women emotionalism once again — all under the presumably watchful eye of God. What's HIS plan? Whatever His plan is — when is He mailing out His brochure, eh? — He's got a plan, and it's included rape and unwanted pregnancy since time immemorial. It might not be smart to come out and say that in the final throes of the campaign season. Silence was an option. So if you don't like what Mourdock said — as opposed to the fact that he said it — your alternatives can be selected from the philosophers' array of options: God is not omnipotent, God is not benevolent, or God does not exist.

Come on, everybody weigh in. It will be really helpful in deciding how to vote.

The NYT attempts an anecdotal argument against the law that lets you defend yourself in your home.

The anecdote simply does not convey the message the Times obviously believes it conveys.

Clint Eastwood does a Romney ad.



"In the last few years, America's been knocked down..." It's reminiscent of Eastwood's Super Bowl ad. Remember? "This country can't be knocked out with one punch..."



Many people perceived that Super Bowl ad as implicitly pro-Obama. Here's Slate, back on February 6th:
Did the first Obama re-election ad run during the Super Bowl? You might have missed it since the president wasn't even mentioned. It was a Chrysler ad, although even that wasn’t obvious. Instead, more than 111 million viewers were greeted by that tough-talking American icon Clint Eastwood as he delivered what amounted to a locker room speech to the country. “It's halftime in America,” he intoned... He heralded the auto industry’s revival and said it is a model for a nation poised for a comeback....

[A]s everyone knows, it’s hard to argue with Clint Eastwood. “This country can't be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again, and when we do, the world is going to hear the roar of our engines. Ya, it's halftime in America, and our second half is about to begin.” If Clint agrees with Obama—that America is on the edge of a return—how can Obama be wrong?
How? If Clint says so.

As it becomes apparent — is it apparent? — that Obama is likely to lose — going to lose? — the election...

... what should we expect to see?

1. Desperate attacks, material that otherwise would not have been dumped into the public discourse.

2. Liberals distancing themselves, saying things like "He hasn't presented us with a comprehensive plan for his second term," to preserve their ability to say, after the election, that the American people did not choose conservatism and they don't want conservatism; they merely selected what seemed to be a plan over the absence of a plan; they wanted change and we have a new plan for change.

3. ???

"Ohio: Obama 48%, Romney 48%."

A new Rasmussen poll of likely voters, "taken the night after the final presidential debate."

"Axelrod said all the 'empty binder' talk from the GOP didn’t prompt creation of the new brochure..."

Talking Points Memo gives the glossy pamphlet a glossy presentation. (Though not glossy enough to spell "brochure" correctly every time they used it. I corrected a misspelling in the quote I used for my headline.)
On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, top Obama adviser David Axelrod said the brochure is a version of the plan Obama has been “running on and talking about for months in written form.”

Read the whole document here.
But you can't read the whole document there. You can only flip through the pages and see the pictures and headlines. There's no click-to-enlarge to let you get to the text — minimal as it is — explaining how Obama will do things like "BUILDING THE ECONOMY FROM THE MIDDLE CLASS OUT." There's blurry fine print, but okay, I will stare it into some semblance of focus.

On page 2, "BUILDING THE ECONOMY FROM THE MIDDLE CLASS OUT" is the big headline and there are 7 subheadings, some of which become headlines on their own page of the brochure. The one that caught my eye was "Cutting the deficit by more than $4 trillion." There are 9 more pages to the brochure, but there's no separate page for that one.

Maybe if they'd bother to tell us how they planned to cut the deficit, they would have noticed that when they referred to it on the page-2 bullet-point list, they used the wrong number. The deficit under Obama is only — only!something like $1.1 trillion. That's bad enough, and Obama had promised, at the beginning of his presidency to cut it in half. Cut it $4 trillion! I know it's just another dimwitted use of "deficit" for "debt," but — good lord — it's a bullet-point in your glossy brochure. Get it right! It looks like you don't care. It looks like you think trillions are absurdities that can be thrown around or cut in half magically.

Paging through the brochure, finding every other bullet point has its own page, I see there is a page, with a different headline that corresponds to "Cutting the deficit by more than $4 trillion." The redone headline is: "A TAX PLAN THAT CUTS THE DEFICIT AND CREATES JOBS."



It's possible to read that text. With effort, I did it. That was very annoying, and I didn't find a plan, so let's talk about that photograph.

First, if you suddenly feel like you need to buy Dockers, please use my Amazon link: here. When you put on your pants, one leg at a time, check the rear view mirror. Is your ass is as appealing to 3 generations of women as Obama's plan for the middle class?

Now, let's look at these women. There's a boy there too, carrying on the family's horizontal stripes theme, but the picture's framed to exclude him, because... well... women.

This election is about women. There's grandma in thick peppermint stripes, clapping her wizened, insufficiently health-cared hands together with delight. There's the little girl in thin peppermint stripes, curling her palms around an invisible ball of light that symbolizes her future, empty but all aglow. There's mom, in her red dress and and squinty, flinty rictus, her right-breast gently clasped for comfort by the one female who is not moved to ecstasy by our President.

Who is this American traitor, this devil child? Whence the expression of dubiety that clouds her young visage? A red flower — inserted in her tawny locks by her hopeful red-clad mother — casts a fateful shadow over the brooding child's brow. Petulant pessimist! How did you find your way into Obama's glossy brochure!

With 2 words, Drudge evokes Watergate for Obama's Libya troubles.



The linked story is "White House told of militant claim two hours after Libya attack: emails."

The famous question from Watergate was "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
In 1973 and 1974 [Howard] Baker was... the influential ranking minority member of the Senate committee... that investigated the Watergate scandal. He is famous for having asked aloud, "What did the President know and when did he know it?", a question given him to ask by his counsel and former campaign manager, future U.S. Senator Fred Thompson.

October 23, 2012

"Austrian artist... built an installation at a Vienna café that allowed men in the adjacent restroom to see the inside of the ladies room through a two-way mirror."

Alexander Riegler was simply commenting on our "age of social media and omnipresent video surveillance," the “voyeurism and surveillance in everyday life." What philistines are outraged?
Though he has installed a sign alerting customers in the café bathroom that they are being watched, café owner Alexander Khaelssberg remains enthusiastic about the project. You could only see women “while washing or applying makeup,” he said. “95 percent of our clients, whether male or female, find it funny.”

"So you want to be the next top legal scholar?"

"Step 1: find some better friends."

Is Trump's bombshell old divorce papers of Michelle and Barack Obama?

That's what the Daily Mail is rumoring. Unless there is a revelation of some significant misbehavior, this isn't big at all. It mainly makes Trump look small. And it's not helpful to Romney's cause for Trump to claim the spotlight, in the last 2 weeks of the campaign, over this.

Who cares about the internal workings of a political marriage? I always assume there's some phony PR to it. But the fact is they are together, they've played the public role of married couple, and they have 2 very real little girls who don't deserve to be hurt. And because of that, Trump's news, if this is what it is, will only make moderate, middle-of-the road voters feel compassion for Obama.

Trump should crawl back into his hole right now, before he does any damage.

"You schunk my battleship!"



A propos of Obama's reference — at last night's debate — to the old kid's game Battleship.

Here's more (just picture Obama and Romney as the 2 kids):

"Do you think the campaigns made an agreement that the candidates would have the exact same interaction at the beginning and end of each debate?"

"They always pat each other on the side of the arm while laughing, as if one of them had said something funny in the previous split-second."

"Why is there something rather than nothing?"

Now, there's the question I wish Bob Schieffer had asked at last night's debate, but, failing that we have Jim Holt’s "Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story," which is based on asking a bunch of philosophers “Why is there something rather than nothing?” As Freeman Dyson summarizes:
He reports their reactions to this question, and embellishes their words with descriptions of their habits and personalities. Their answers give us vivid glimpses of the speakers but do not solve the riddle of existence.
They won't answer the question! This is an outrage.

At the Placidity Café...

Untitled

... enough obsessing about politics for now. Take a moment to breathe. Breathe the blueness.
Darkened red looks brown and whitened red turns pink, Dufy said, while yellow blackens with shading and fades away in the light. But blue can be brightened or dimmed, the artist said, and “it will always stay blue.”

"Stick with me, Ann," Barack Obama emails.

"Ann -- I don't want to lose this election."
Not because of what losing would mean for me -- Michelle and I will be fine no matter what happens.
Okay. Be careful. You know the reason many of us women feel inclined to stick with you is because we don't want you to have to feel bad. We don't want to hurt your feelings. We don't want you to think that we didn't think you were good enough.

But if it's all the same to you... well, then...

It's like your boyfriend is saying to you he could stay or go, it's all the same to him, but he doesn't want to hurt you. What girl doesn't say then get out so I can have someone with passion for this job?

The center of America, Obama wrote, is "a place where decency and endurance and the pioneer spirit were joined at the hip with conformity and suspicion and the potential for unblinking cruelty."

I'm just dipping back into "Dreams from My Father," looking for something — looking to see if the young Obama, the child Obama, ever played the Hasbro game "Battleship," which somehow sprang to his mind last night at the debate as he was talking about the military. That phrase has nothing to do with battles or toys, but it leaped out at me for its similarity to his old "bitter clingers" remark:
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them... And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Here's the larger context for the quote in the post headline:

Is this Trump's impending bombshell?

"Operatives close to the Romney campaign were contacted and rejected the information..."
“They didn’t want anything to do with it,” the source said. “They thought it was not anything they wanted to be associated with or anything their candidate would want to be associated with.”...

“The operatives close to the Romney campaign believed the man’s story would be the ultimate October Surprise but they got nowhere. People who would have taken the information to the highest levels of Romney’s campaign just wouldn’t touch it."
That's at Radar, linked in the top of the center column at Drudge with the teaser: "Romney says no to Obama cocaine hit..."

Meanwhile, Trump himself is teasing that he's got a "bombshell" he's releasing on Wednesday. It's "something very, very big... It's going to be very big. I know one thing - you will cover it in a very big fashion." It's "large, bordering on gigantic." So, I get it... huge, immense size.

Is "horses and bayonets" Obama's new thing — after Big Bird and Binders Full of Women?

Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams says these things aren't working:
Where are those glorious debate memes of times gone by?...

There was Battleship. And there was the night’s biggest winner, Obama’s smooth dis to Romney, “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.” Faster than you could tweet “Oh, snap!,” the inevitable Tumblr was born.

Yet the whole thing felt less fun this time around, and a lot more forced. 
Big Bird and Binders Full of Women were words that came out of Romney's mouth. "Horses and bayonets" was inserted by Obama. It's one thing to have fun with Romneyisms, quite another to accept a faux-Romneyism cooked up by Obama... especially when Obama is making fun of the military and what comes out of his head is an old children's game — suggesting that he thinks this real-life killing and dying is some kind of game — and an image of the historical military — which seems to be about the movies he's watched, not anything that about Romney.
Bob Schieffer was a little doddering, but couldn’t match Jim Lehrer for FAIL worthiness. Josh Romney did not make with the crazy eyes. In short, as we all learned long ago from “Mean Girls,” you can’t make a thing a thing any more than you can plan for spontaneity.
Speaking of movies, I've never seen "Mean Girls." I don't get the reference. I'm not in your "we all." Is it the making a thing a thing thing or the plan for spontaneity thing?

But back to the landscape of Obama's mind — where kids fiddle with plastic Hasbro toys and old war movies play, from which he concocted a Romney gaffe that Romney never gaffed — why is there no picture there of the horse soldiers of the Afghanistan War?
The U.S. special operations teams that led the American invasion in Afghanistan a decade ago did something that no American military had done since the last century: ride horses into combat.
"It was like out of the Old Testament," says Lt. Col. Max Bowers, retired Green Beret, who commanded the three horseback teams.

"You expected Cecil B. DeMille to be filming and Charlton Heston to walk out."
It was like a movie, but it really happened, and those men were heroes. Is it so hard to call them to mind, now — in these days of unmanned drones, who kill when you point at a name on a card, or hover overhead and watch as — it can't be real — our ambassador fights for his life for 7 hours?

"VIDEO: Romney Wins CBS Focus Group In Ohio..."

Drudge links us to this:



The silent sadness of the CBS newswoman's face at 0:29... hilarious. So funny that these newsfolk don't activate actorly skills to project the appearance of professionalism and neutrality.

"Romney made a strategic decision not go after the president on Libya, or Syria, or other areas where Obama could accuse him of being a Bush-like war monger."

Observed Charles Krauthammer — aptly, I think.

Obama didn't get much to fight against, and as the debate wore on, perhaps Obama worried that he might seem too much like the Obama who lost the first debate. Live-blogging, half an hour into the debate, I wrote: "They've stopped interrupting each other. No belligerence tonight. There's an evenness and similarity to the 2 candidates." 5 minutes later, Obama suddenly got really belligerent. That was odd. I'm thinking he decided he had to tear Romney down even if Romney gave him no useful material. Romney stuck to his game of giving Obama nothing, so Romney "won" by his own terms. He won the game he chose to play, and he didn't get distracted into playing Obama's game, though Obama tried to aggravate him.

Ironically, assuming Krauthammer is correct, Obama wanted belligerence (at the debate) about Romney's belligerence (in the world). Romney declined to be that belligerent — Bush-like! — guy Obama wanted to be belligerent with. Romney deprived him of the casus belli, but he went to war — the war of the debate table — nonetheless.

I'm looking at the transcript. What was going on when Obama suddenly broke the debate's placidity? The candidates were in the middle of chewing over the most abstract question of the night: "What do each of you see as our role in the world?" Most of the questions last night were, essentially, the naming of a country: Libya, Syria, Pakistan.... This was the big-picture question. Romney did his 2 minutes, which included a section about the American economy:
[To lead in the world], we have to strengthen our economy here at home. You can't have 23 million people struggling to get a job. You can't have an economy that over the last three years keeps slowing down its growth rate. You can't have kids coming out of college, half of them can't find a job today, or a job that's commensurate with their college degree. We have to get our economy going.
Obama's response included some domestic economics:
But what we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America, and that's what my plan does. Making sure that we're bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that we're creating jobs here, as we've done with the auto industry, not rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas.

Making sure that we've got the best education system in the world, including retraining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

Doing everything we can to control our own energy. We've cut our oil imports to the lowest level in two decades because we've developed oil and natural gas. But we also have to develop clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut our exports in half by 2020. That's the kind of leadership that we need to show.

And we've got to make sure that we reduce our deficit. Unfortunately, Governor Romney's plan doesn't do it. We've got to do it in a responsible way by cutting out spending we don't need, but also asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more. That way we can invest in the research and technology that's always kept us at the cutting edge.
That seems like way too much domestic policy, but maybe Obama realized that the election really is going to be about the economy. He wasn't getting any traction on the foreign policy material that is supposedly the topic of this third debate, and this is the last debate. The election won't be won or lost on who stuck to the foreign policy theme, and anyway, Romney started it. But Obama must have also realized that he was going on, as if on autopilot, and not addressing the big-picture question of the night: What does he see as our role in the world? The vision thing!

If "vision thing" doesn't ring a bell for you, here's the "Vision thing" Wikipedia article:
In the January 26, 1987, issue of Time magazine, in an article entitled “Where Is the Real George Bush?” journalist Robert Ajemian reported that a friend of Bush's had urged him to spend several days at Camp David thinking through his plans for his prospective presidency, to which Bush is said to have responded in exasperation, "Oh, the vision thing." This oft-cited quote became a shorthand for the charge that Bush failed to contemplate or articulate important policy positions in a compelling and coherent manner.
Obama collected his wits and, with a few seconds to go on the vision-thing answer, he said:
Now, Governor Romney has taken a different approach throughout this campaign. Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies. He's praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who's - who shows great wisdom and judgment. And taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st century.
The vision is: Bush was terrible! The familiar word string "got us into this mess" dribbles out of Obama's mouth for the thousandth time. I'm not Bush — that's the vision, and even though Romney failed — as Krauthammer pointed out — to be enough like Bush to give Obama a place to stand and declare I AM NOT BUSH, he did it anyway.

Schieffer turned to Romney and repeated the words "wrong and reckless policies." (Schieffer was brilliant, by the way. So minimal and unobtrusive, but absolutely there.) "I've got a policy for the future and agenda for the future," Romney said, launching away from the question and into his 5-point plan for the economy. He's not Bush either, and he doesn't bother to explain why. If the question was supposed to be about Bush-and-Cheney's warmongering, Romney ignores that. Obama responds using his 2 minutes to talk about the economy too — not to refocus us on Bush's belligerence. After the 2 men have consumed approximately equal time in this off-topic speechmaking, Schieffer breaks in:
SCHIEFFER: Let me get back to foreign policy.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: Can I just get back...

ROMNEY: Well - well, I need to speak a moment...

SCHIEFFER: OK.

ROMNEY: ... if you'll let me, Bob, just about education...

SCHIEFFER: OK.
Okay!
ROMNEY: ... because I'm - I'm so proud of the state that I had the chance to be governor of. We have every two years tests that look at how well our kids are doing. Fourth graders and eighth graders are tested in English and math. While I was governor, I was proud that our fourth graders came out number one of all 50 states in English, and then also in math. And our eighth graders number one in English and also in math. First time one state had been number one in all four measures. How did we do that? Well, Republicans and Democrats came together on a bipartisan basis to put in place education principles that focused on having great teachers in the classroom.
And here's where Obama goes for the interruption that broke the mood of placidity last night:
OBAMA: Ten years earlier...

ROMNEY: And that was - that was - that was what allowed us to become the number one state in the nation.

OBAMA: But that was 10 years before you took office.

(CROSSTALK)

[OBAMA]: And then you cut education spending when you came into office.

ROMNEY: The first - the first - the first - and we kept our schools number one in the nation. They're still number one today.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

ROMNEY: And the principles that we put in place, we also gave kids not just a graduation exam that determined whether they were up to the skills needed to - to be able compete, but also if they graduated the quarter of their class, they got a four-year tuition- free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.

OBAMA: That happened before you came into office.

SCHIEFFER: Governor...

ROMNEY: That was actually mine, actually, Mr. President. You got that fact wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: Let me get - I want to try to shift it, because we have heard some of this in the other debates.
As I put it last night, "Obama just did some sharp interrupting while Romney was rhapsodizing about education in Massachusetts." To restate my observation: Obama suddenly changed his tone, got belligerent, when Romney was just going on innocuously about education. There was no casus belli. Whatever happened happened inside Obama head. I need to be Debate #2 Obama, not Debate #1 Obama. He felt the placidity of the evening, the utter failure to ignite the BUSH!!!!! petard, so he made a fight out of nothing.

Romney 50%, Obama 46%.

The new Rasmussen tracking poll.

That's the first time Romney's hit 50, other than a couple days last May. Obama hit 50 one day in late September and a couple other times.

Romney's also at 50 in the new swing-state tracking poll, with Obama at 45%. That puts him up 2 from yesterday. 

October 22, 2012

At the Autumn Reflection Café...

Untitled

... it's a place for everyone who doesn't want to talk about the debate.

Live-blogging the big last debate.

7:06 Central Time: Get ready!

7:32: In the comments, Sorun said, "I predict a big Obama win tonight, since the only people watching will be single women (and Althouse)." Ha ha. Very funny. Right now, we are watching the baseball game. I know there's football too.

8:02: Bob Scheiffer introduces the candidates.

8:04: First question: Libya. Romney talking as Obama keeps an icy stare trained upon him. I don't hear Romney nailing any strong point. He's decided to be conciliatory here for some reason. Obama talking now, stressing liberating the people of Libya after 40 years of despotism.

8:14: Romney: "Attacking me is not an agenda." He corrects Obama about Russia. He certainly wouldn't say to Putin he'll have flexibility after the election. Now, there's a lot of overtalking about Iraq. Obama gains control and talks about being "clear" about foreign policy. The moderator is not intervening, so the topics are allowed to be completely mixed up.

8:17: Obama has picked up Romney's tic of ticking off 5 points.

8:18: Syria. "Syrians are going to have to determine their own future," says Obama. What we see in Syria "is heartbreaking," but it would be "a serious step" to get "more entangled." Romney says "Syria is an opportunity for us." It's "Iran's only ally," but we don't want to get "dragged into a military conflict." Romney's trying to be level-headed and presidential, not to shake anything up here tonight.

 8:21: Romney says we should "be taking the leadership role" in Syria, and Obama picks up that phrase: "We are playing the leadership role."

8:24: Romney doesn't have different ideas about Syria, because we're doing the right thing there, says Obama.

8:25: Egypt: Romney wouldn't have supported Mubarak. Basically, again, Romney agrees with what Obama did. Romney adds some aspirations about the Middle East, but not any real distinction from Obama.

8:29: "What is America's role in the world?" is Bob Schieffer's big, generic question. Romney, "America must be strong. America must lead." Obama says we're "the one indispensable nation... Our alliances have never been stronger."

8:34: They've stopped interrupting each other. No belligerence tonight. There's an evenness and similarity to the 2 candidates (not that there aren't a few disagreements).

8:39: Obama just did some sharp interrupting while Romney was rhapsodizing about education in Massachusetts.

8:43: Romney defends military spending. He emphasizes keeping the numbers of ships and planes up. Obama says Romney doesn't understand how the military works. "We... have fewer horses and bayonets..." he says sarcastically. It's not "a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships."

8:47: Question: Does an attack on Israel count as an attack on the United States? Obama doesn't give a straightforward yes, but says "I will stand with Israel."

8:48: Romney adopts the same "stand with Israel" language. Both stressed military intervention as the last resort.

8:52: Obama says the reports of an agreement with Iran are not true. "We would welcome Iran" into "the community of nations." He chides Romney for acting as though it would work to say the same things but say them "louder."

8:54: Iran "saw weakness," Romney said, harkening back to Obama's campaign 2008 statements about willingness to sit down with the leaders of Iran (and other places). Obama was silent on Iran's Green Revolution. Obama said he'd put "daylight" between the U.S. and Israel, and that encouraged Iran's defiance. We need to "show strength." We need the tightest possible sanctions. We need to indict Ahmadinejad.

8:57: Everything Romney just said is untrue, according to Obama, who claims he was "very clear" about the Green Revolution.

8:58: Romney: "The reason I called it an apology tour... You said America had been dismissive and derisive... America has not 'dictated to other nations.' America has freed other nations."

9:01: Schieffer wants to know what we'd do if Israel called up and said our bombers are on the way to Israel, and Romney rejects the hypothetical. That's not the relationship we have. It wouldn't play out like that.

9:06: Romney assures us we'll bring our troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. But what if the Afghans aren't ready? That was the question. Obama ignores the question the same way.

9:11: "Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?" asks Bob Schieffer. Romney: No, it's too important — nuclear weapons, terrorists.

9:13: Romney is asked about drone strikes, and he completely supports Obama's policy.

9:18: Obama defends fighting China when it dumped cheap tires here. Romney doesn't want "protectionism" against China, but finding mutual interests with China: We want a stable world, "but you've got to play by the rules." And Romney wants to declare China a "currency manipulator." Romney explains why that makes sense. "I want a great relationship with China" but "they can't roll all over us."

9:26: Lots of fighting over the auto industry. Obama says check the record and a bit later Romney says check the record. Romney's point is that government should not invest in business, while Obama is accusing him of willingness to let the auto companies go into liquidation.

9:30: Romney wants to get the private sector growing, which isn't done by hiring a lot of teachers, though he certainly does love teachers. Schieffer, rushing toward the finish line, says "I think we all love teachers," and announces it's time for closing statements.

9:36: Closing statements. Bob Schieffer ends with his mom's advice: Go vote.

9:40: Michelle Obama comes onto stage to greet Obama and about 10 Romney people — including a lot of kids — come up to hang out with Romney.

9:44: I watched on CNN (with that damn graph on the bottom showing how undecided males and females reacted to each moment), and afterwards James Carville yammered so much about how Obama won that I turned it off. I didn't think either candidate won. They seemed surprisingly similar. Obama certainly maintained eye contact. If it was an eye contact contest, Obama won.

9:52: Here's my bottom line: By adopting a strategy of only modestly challenging Obama and mostly seeming the same as Obama on foreign policy, Romney neutralized foreign policy as an issue and kept the election focus on the economy. He even refocused the discussion on the economy whenever he could over the course of the evening. The election is about the economy, and nothing either candidate said tonight will change that. The only way Obama really could have won is if Romney had tumbled into some kind of exploitable gaffe. That didn't happen.

"The White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and numerous military headquarters monitored the entire battle in real time via the phone calls from Benghazi and video from a drone overhead."

"Our diplomats fought for seven hours without any aid from outside the country."
Four Americans died while the Obama national-security team and our military passively watched and listened. The administration is being criticized for ignoring security needs before the attack and for falsely attributing the assault to a mob. But the most severe failure has gone unnoticed: namely, a failure to aid the living.

"Mitt Romney and the Republicans began October with a $34 million advantage over President Obama and the Democrats..."

"... according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday and Saturday, as heavy spending by Mr. Obama offset his stronger fund-raising in the past two months."

The "and the Republicans/Democrats" language is important. The Obama campaign, specifically, has much more money than the Romney campaign. The filings show $99 million for Obama and $62 million for Romney. But that doesn't stop the Obama campaign from emailing me today to try to scare me about the other side's "$34 million cash advantage." No mention of Obama's $37 million advantage.

ADDED: The Obama campaign's advantage over the Romney campaign — calculated as a percentage — is far greater than the Republican Party's advantage over the Democrats. The Republicans had $183 million, compared to the Democrats' $149 million. The Republicans began October with 23% more money than the Democrats, but Obama began October with 60% more than Romney.

Russell Means "styled himself a throwback to ancestors who resisted the westward expansion of the American frontier..."

"... and, with theatrical protests that brought national attention to poverty and discrimination suffered by his people, became arguably the nation’s best-known Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse."

Russell Means, dead from esophageal cancer at the age of 72.
He rose to national attention as a leader of the American Indian Movement in 1970 by directing a band of Indian protesters who seized the Mayflower II ship replica at Plymouth, Mass., on Thanksgiving Day. The boisterous confrontation between Indians and costumed “Pilgrims” attracted network television coverage and made Mr. Means an overnight hero to dissident Indians and sympathetic whites.

Later, he orchestrated an Indian prayer vigil atop the federal monument of sculptured presidential heads at Mount Rushmore....
Theatrical protests...

Retiring and living "home free," moving from place to place in other countries.

Could you see yourself retiring like this?
Our financial adviser sends us about $6,000 a month, generated from investments. We also collect Social Security and a small pension. We have a "slush fund" of about $20,000, which allows us to make advance deposits — for housing, cruises, flights, hotels and so forth — without affecting our cash flow.

We follow some simple strategies to keep our budget in line. Stays in more expensive locations, like Paris or London, are balanced by living in less pricey countries like Mexico, Turkey or Portugal....
Alternatively, would you do something like that but entirely within the United States?

"Colorado is the fourth swing state that has moved in Romney’s direction in the past week."

Says Rasmussen, with a new poll that has Romney at 50% and Obama at 46%. The others that have moved toward Romney are Florida, Missouri and North Carolina.

As long as we're looking at Rasmussen, the daily presidential tracking poll has Romney at 49% and Obama at 47%, and the new swing state tracking poll has Romney at 49% and Obama at 46%.

"Their ideas point to the way that agriculture has to be in the future."

"There’s wide consensus that we have to figure out this fusion of ‘organic’ and 'industrial.' They’ve illustrated what that fusion looks like. It’s power and efficiency."

It's a problem, making "political or philosophical" art when the market is "about hyper-capitalism" and the art is "poker chips for billionaires."

Nate Lowman is "bummed out" that "other people’s gambling habits change the meaning of paintings." Contemplate the pain of artistic success when the high prices paid "dictate how people perceive art."
Lowman’s work takes the shape of smiley faces, magnetized bullet holes, and Arbre Magique air fresheners. The images he gathers often come from the news cycle or the crime blotter (distressed blondes in general, among them Nicole Brown, murdered former wife of O. J. Simpson; “More or Less,” a 2003 show at Apex Art, featured bearded men such as John Walker Lindh, Jim Morrison, and Che Guevara), and he re-purposes “found” language that lies awkwardly between personal and impersonal, like the bumper sticker Jesus would use the turn signal, asshole.
ADDED: The linked Vanity Fair text is written by Edward Helmore, and he seems unaware of the political (and moral) incorrectness of referring to a murdered woman as a "distressed blonde."

"The twigs and acorns crunching pleasurably beneath his boots, Mr. Autumn Man Dennis Clemons, 32, reportedly strolled..."

"... down Massachusetts Avenue on Wednesday wearing a gray sweater over a plaid collared shirt as he cradled a cup of pumpkin-spiced coffee and relished the crisp October morning."
“Nothing beats autumn in New England,” said His Excellency, the Duke of Fall, who began the day swaddled in a warm flannel blanket, gazing out the window at the golden-hued landscape, as is his custom this time of year. “Everywhere the leaves are changing and the temperature is starting to drop off. You can smell it in the air.”

"Sexual violence is a way of denying women journalists access to the story in Egypt... It’s not accidental. It’s by design."

Says Lara Logan — who was attacked, sexually, by an Egyptian mob last year — about a very similar attack this past weekend on French journalist Sonia Dridi.

"Wisconsin Senate: Thompson (R) 48%, Baldwin (D) 46%."

Rasmussen, this morning. 
The latest findings mark the first time Thompson’s been in the lead in this race since mid-August just after he won a hotly contested state GOP primary.  He was consistently ahead in surveys prior to that time back to October of last year. Since August, however, Baldwin’s support has ranged from 49% to 51%, while Thompson’s has fallen in the 46% to 47% range.
An immense amount of money was dumped into attack ads against Thompson, and it seems he's finally digging out from under that. I think he assumed he could coast to victory on his old popularity and Baldwin's extreme liberalism. (She's been rated the most liberal member of the House of Representatives.) Turns out he actually needed to fight for the position. It was stupid to assume otherwise, and the Wisconsin voters who chose him in the primary (over the attractive newcomer Eric Hovde) are really the ones who made the assumption that good old Tommy would win easily. Now, we Wisconsinites are stuck with a choice between the 70-year-old former governor and the most liberal member of the House of Representatives. I'd like to say we deserve better, but we don't.

"Lance Armstrong stripped of Tour de France titles."

The president of International Cycling Union, Pat McQuaid, announces, saying "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling."
"The UCI has tested Lance Armstrong 218 times. If Lance Armstrong was able to beat the system...." 
Shouldn't the UCI be stripped of something for missing the evidence? I'd like damages for all the time I've wasted paying attention to this sport. If all those races are now to be understood as phony, all of the money that anybody made promoting and presenting this sport was a big fraud. Stripping Armstrong of his titles doesn't restore what we've lost.

Bill Keller of the NYT advises Romney, at tonight's debate, "to demonstrate that you understand the world is a complex, unpredictable, subtle and rapidly metamorphosing place."

There's a list of subtopics, beginning with "Go easy on Benghazi."

9-year-old girl in a skunk costume shot by a man who says he thought she was a skunk.

Sorry, I'm not believing this. How far away would the girl need to be to look like an actual skunk, and why would you shoot a skunk that far away? In fact, under what circumstances would you shoot a skunk? I don't hunt small varmints (if you will), but it seems to me that if you had a skunk in the vicinity, you wouldn't want to do anything to aggravate it.

Romney takes the lead in the Politico tracking poll for the first time since last May.

With 49 to Obama's 47%, Romney has picked up 3 points since the last poll, a week ago.
Women propelled Romney’s move into first place in the poll — a majority of which was conducted before the Hofstra debate. Obama’s 11-point advantage a week ago among the crucially important group dwindled to 6 points. The Democratic incumbent still leads 51 to 45 percent with women, but Romney leads by 10 points among men.
Here's Nate Silver's analysis of the gender gap — "'Gender Gap' Near Historic Highs" — published yesterday, using, among other polls — last week's Politico numbers:
The biggest gender gap to date in the exit polls came in 2000, when Al Gore won by 11 points among women, but George W. Bush won by 9 points among men — a 20-point difference. 
Silver had this year's gender gap at 18, with Politico contributing the number 20 to his average of 9 polls. He depicts the gap with 2 Electoral College maps, "recalibrated" to add 9 points to the polls in every state first to Obama and then to Romney, which might represent a hypothetical in which only women vote and a hypothetical in which only men vote, even though Silver doesn't say that — either because it's upsetting to talk about radical disenfranchisement or because the hypothetical would change the country so radically that it would make zero sense to plug in the numbers from existing polls.

In scenario #1 Obama is more ahead than Romney is in scenario #2. Silver's prestidigitations somehow, once again, hearten the Obamaphiles in the NYT readership, but the underlying numbers have shifted. Why, after all these efforts at making women feel especially bonded to Democrats, has the greater gap developed with men going Republican? Perhaps that question contains its own answer: The blatant appeals to women don't win women so much as they lose men.