Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Tonight, you can mix your magical universes anyway you like. Go ahead... warp into Mordor! But keep an eye on the dilithium ch... er... candy bowl...

Starting Up The Election Theft: The Rmoney Campaign Misinforms Voters In Wisconsin

Think Progress has the details. No time to elaborate, but the article is short; go read it. Each item could at least slow down polling, perhaps enough to depress turnout... and each item involves some fraudulent or at least misleading statement. Damn the GOP to hell, already!

Rmoney's Fact-Free Jeep Ad Scares Jeep Factory Workers

How loooow can he go? David Dayen of FDL has some news on that:
There's a pic like this
in Rmoney's lying ad
Mitt Romney’s latest play for Ohio – which remains the touchstone of the entire election, desperate plays for Minnesota and Pennsylvania aside – apparently involves straight-up lying about the intentions of Chrysler to “build Jeeps in China,” to the extent that Jeep factory employees are calling their managers wondering if they still have a job.
[quote from UAW local president]
Fiat’s chief executive reiterated today that there are no plans to move Jeep production to China.

Dayen then describes the balance of forces in this war of truth vs. blatant falsehood: newspapers' pointing out Rmoney's ads as pants-on-fire class does not balance out the huge ad buys of the Rmoney campaign. On the one hand, a few calls to union shop stewards should set the record straight; on the other, maybe enough autoworkers will remain ignorant of the falsehood of the ad to be willing victims of it when they go to the polls.

Happy Halloween!
It's really difficult to campaign against a candidate willing to lie through his shiny white teeth about anything and everything to win. That is to say, it's really difficult to campaign against today's current focal GOP strategy. These people are neither honest nor well-intended, and there is real danger that they can persuade people to vote against their own interests for the worst reasons. We can only hope we can stop them. And Great Pumpkin, I'd also like a pony...

News From The Real World: You Think Our Press Has Police Problems, Look At Greece

On the evening of October 27, the Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis was awakened by police who arrested him and hauled him off to jail. The charge? Hot Doc, the magazine he writes for and edits, published portions of the "Lagarde List” containing the names of 2,059 Greeks who allegedly spirited money out of the country and into the warm embrace of UK-based HSBC’s Swiss offices.

Vaxevanis was charged with the publication of private data, although only names, and not account numbers or amounts, were listed. Vaxevanis did not allege that anyone on the list was guilty of a crime, merely that an investigation into the matter was in order. The List has been the talk of Greece, although not its newspapers, for months.

Interestingly, a website run by Makis Triantafillopoulos (, published the same list just hours before Hot Doc. No arrests have been made in that case. Triantafillopoulos is widely regarded as having close ties to Greece’s ruling class.

Private data, indeed... private only from the eyes of those asking unpleasant questions. It is a mystery to me why anyone should expect international transfers of large amounts of money to be a private matter. But what do I know of large amounts of money!

Sunshine is the only disinfectant, and the wealthy bastards know it. From journalists incarcerated by NYPD for covering Occupy events to Vaxevanis's publication of material he felt required investigation, today's journalists face a breadth of repression not seen in my lifetime since the 1960s. It's a tough time to be a truth-teller.

Aha! Coleman's Claim On Rmoney's View Of Roe Is... Not Operative!

Well, you knew it when he said it, but it's good to hear Coleman disclaim it explicitly:
Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) told the AP Tuesday that he wasn't speaking as a Mitt Romney surrogate when he told voters in Ohio that Roe v. Wade would be safe in a Romney administration.
In an interview on Tuesday, Coleman told The Associated Press he had been speaking on his own behalf, and not for Romney.
Coleman has always been a buttwipe from the very beginning. It is no surprise that Rmoney puts him out there to misrepresent him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Going Nuclear, American Style

Gregg Levine at FDL points us to his own article posted 10/29 on another site with the unlikely name of Capitoilette, regarding the status of the Oyster Creek, NJ nuclear generating station after its encounter with former hurricane Sandy and its wind, tides and storm surge. I'll let Gregg set the frame:
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reporting that an “alert” has been declared at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Ocean County, New Jersey. An alert is the second level on the four-point scale, a step above an “unusual event.”

The NRC declared the alert at 8:45 PM local time, as a combination of rising tides, wind and the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy caused water to rise above safe levels in the plant’s water intake structure. Sandy, which made landfall at around 8 PM in southern New Jersey with 90 mph winds, has caused power outages and widespread flooding along the Atlantic coast from Maryland to New York.

Oyster Creek is the oldest operating commercial reactor in the US. It is a GE boiling water reactor of similar design to the ones that failed in Fukushima, Japan during 2011′s Tohoku earthquake, though Oyster Creek is actually older. ...

Particular concerns were raised about Oyster Creek. The reactor is currently offline for maintenance, which means all the reactor fuel, along with generations of used fuel, is in the plant’s spent fuel pools. The plant itself is not generating any electricity, and so is dependent on external power. If the power were to fail, there would be no way to circulate cooling water through the pools.

Backup diesel generators typical to this design power the heat transfer from the reactor, but the so-called “defense in depth” backups for the spent fuel pools are the plant’s own electrical output and power from an external grid.

I think you have the picture. This could easily be Fukushima Two. In this case, the plant itself is momentarily out of service, but the spent fuel rods are vulnerable if the cooling water pumps don't get power from... somewhere, usually the plant itself, and as a backup, the grid. Grids are notorious in events involving hurricanes, exceptional tides and storm surges.

Defense in depth, indeed... I hope somebody remembered to put in a hand-crank. [/snark]

These half-century-old generators really need to be shut down permanently sometime other than during one or another storm-of-the-century. Even then, what to do with spent fuel is a good question.

Remember TV shows in the Fifties, titled things like Disney's "Our Friend the Atom," in which the catch-phrase about nuclear power plants (not sure it was used on that particular show) was "power too cheap to meter"?

Things have changed a bit. How about "power you can't afford at any price"?

AFTERTHOUGHT: it's not just Oyster Creek that is threatened. Sixteen (16) nuclear plants in all are or were in the projected path of Sandy. See the Democracy Now link above in the excerpt from Gregg's post. If I find more current info, I'll post it.

AFTER-AFTERTHOUGHT: none of this is a direct or indirect consequence of global climate change. Uh-uh. Noooo-way, no-how. Global climate change had absolutely nothing to do with Sandy. Sandy was a random event that will not be repeated. Global climate change isn't real. And besides, Al Gore is fat boring. [/snark]

When The 'Invisible Hand' Is Efficient AND Exploitative

In high school and college, most Americans studying the basics of economics are taught about Adam Smith's invisible hand of the market, and how the principle shows us how "competition channels ambition toward socially desirable ends," which no capitalist (and no successful student in Econ 101) denies it does.

Except when it doesn't.
Robert Reich has a good example involving his flight out of NYC just before Frankenstorm Sandy, one of the last flights for the West Coast before the route had to close because of the storm. He had purchased his ticket the week before, paying "a few hundred dollars" for it. As the storm loomed, the airlines raised the price of similar tickets to $4000, promptly oversold existing, known full flights, and started bidding up by offering small bonuses to few-hundred-dollars ticket-holders who would relinquish their seats on the last flight out for a ticket for the next flight out at some unknown future time, presumably after the storm passed... the bonus a pittance intended to compensate them for their inconvenience.

First of all, note that the storm makes all the difference. Under normal circumstances, the airlines have little motivation to overbook flights more than a small percentage, and passengers have ways of rebelling against airlines that overbook large numbers of seats as a standard practice. But with the storm, the airlines have the effective power to renege on the implicit commitment of a sold ticket, in the interest of obscene profits for themselves. They have to get the ticket-holder's consent, of course, by offering a small bribe, but the airlines still make several hundred percent profit on the deal in exchange for not providing the service they sold at a "fair price." Some free market! Here's Reich:
Assuming that the 47 extra passengers had each paid $4,000 to get onto the plane at the last minute, and the 47 who gave up their seats for them received $400 in return, the trade would have been “rational” in narrow market terms. After all, the seats were “worth” $4,000 to those who bought them at the last minute, and switching to the next flight (whenever that might be) was “worth” $400 to those who agreed to do so.

But the transaction was also deeply exploitative. The airline netted a huge profit because of the impending storm.

I couldn’t help think this was a miniature version of the America we’ll have if Mitt Romney is elected president. Rational and efficient in terms of supply and demand, guaranteed to maximize profits, but fundamentally unfair.
I don't know what capitalism was like one or two centuries ago; I suspect it was not much different from the version re-emerging in our shiny new American century. But in my lifetime, capitalism has yielded the best of all possible economic worlds for the capitalists... at the cost of a not-so-great world for workers selling their services and customers buying services and products. How much added service did the airlines provide for their extra several thousand dollars profit?

Think before you answer. If you are utterly convinced that the economic value of a prepaid flight out of NYC increases tenfold based on a change in the weather, to the extent that an airline company should be able to profit obscenely from the inconvenience of its own paying passengers, by all means, tell me that unregulated capitalism provides that best of all possible worlds.

But if you, like me, are unwilling to live that way, in a world in which your everyday purchase happens (or doesn't) on terms determined and potentially redetermined exclusively by the seller, entirely for the seller's benefit, please help me to avoid that world... the world of a President Rmoney. It isn't virtuous and it isn't the free market; it's just the same old exploitative flim-flam.

The Qualm Before During The Storm

Frankenstorm Sandy, 900 miles wide, is endangering a lot of people and damaging a lot of property. Every sort of emergency worker is working 24x7 attempting to restore public safety.

President Obama, as is appropriate for a president in a natural disaster, is being presidential.

Presidential contender Mitt Rmoney, as one might expect from a lying SOB, is trying to appear presidential, using surrogates to lie the lies he knows no one will believe, reassuring people of things of which they rightly should not be reassured, e.g., his claimed lack of intention to ax Roe v. Wade.

A random thought just hit me...

Where is Karl Rove, and what is he up to?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Absolutely Must-See Short Video By Michael Moore (NSFW!)

Here it is! (YouTube) Seniors, arise! You have nothing to lose but your... oh, never mind!

Sandy: What A Mess!

I spent an hour over dinner watching Diane Sawyer ramble on about the bravery of the rescuers... and the news crews... and it occurred to me that both groups signed up for this duty, many of them years ago. Some of them are brave indeed; I don't mean to minimize the dangers they face. I've wandered through thigh-deep water, pushing or carrying my bicycle (which I had ridden to work through the same park a few hours earlier), and you do really say your prayers that there are no downed electrical lines or poisonous snakes right where you happen to be.

This storm is bad enough; no doubt about it. But it is not worse than, say, Katrina, which got a lot less attention from the media and scarcely any from the feral gummint, thanks to the asswipe Republican president we had at the time, GeeDubya, who doubtless let NOLA drown because it was a "Democratic city." Tonight's most ironic line was a quote from Rmoney, who rambled a bit on what he would have had FEMA do in this circumstance, were he president. This is the same FEMA whose basic functions he would have offloaded (so he said a few weeks ago) onto individual state governments, who frankly mostly cannot afford to do what really needs to be done. But he expected us to forget he said that.

Dog help all of you who are in Sandy's path. Follow these simple rules.

  • Rule One of Big Storms is the same as for Boy Scouts: "be prepared." 
  • Rule Two is harder: "Don't do anything stupid." 

I'll never forget the story (true; I saw it on the local TV news) of the woman who worked in the Texas Medical Center, and tried to get home in the early part of Tropical Storm Allison, the biggest flood event Houston has ever known. She made it on sky bridges and elevated passageways from her hospital to the parking garage where she was parked... in the basement. Power was still working at this point. She unthinkingly got on the elevator, pressed 'B', settled in, rode to the bottom and waited for the door to open... only to be slammed full force against the back elevator wall by a wall of water that did not relent. Of course she asphyxiated.

I'll say it again: "don't do anything stupid."

This has been a PSA...

Rmoney's Lying Auto Ad

Rmoney Emblem
Few statements in this Rmoney ad (YouTube) are individually false, yet the statements are arranged in such a way that the whole ad tells several lies: "fact checkers confirm" (actually they don't; some are voicing outrage), "Mitt Romney has a plan to help the auto industry" (all best evidence is that when Detroit needed help, Rmoney advocated letting them go bankrupt with no assistance), that Rmoney's non-plan is supported by "Lee Iacocca and the Detroit News" (but NOT the Detroit Free Press), that "Obama took Chrysler into bankruptcy" (neglecting to mention that was with assistance and a bailout toward a structured bankruptcy and sale, rather than allowing catastrophic collapse as Rmoney advocated), that Chrysler was sold to "Italians" who plan to build Jeeps in China (neglecting to mention that this was part of the abovementioned deal that saved Chrysler, or that Fiat has no intention of closing its very successful Jeep manufacturing plants in the US... hey, even our tiny two-car household has one Jeep and one ancient Chevy).

By my count, that's one lie every five seconds, in a 30-second ad. And they wonder why I so often use the pants-on-fire symbol for Rmoney.

Sandy Advances, Campaigns Make Adjustments

Read here and here. The Rmoney campaign canceled some events “out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy” (yes, I can believe Rmoney canceled events because he was out of sensitivity; that's been evident for days) and the Obama campaign pared back its campaign activities because, um, a president has some, y'know, like, actual duties when a natural disaster strikes America. There is some speculation that Sandy will disrupt actual voting, but there's no way of knowing yet; storms are not in the habit of sending mere humans maps of their planned course. The best forecasts come from the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center (link is to the Sandy page), and that's where I suggest you keep track.

R.I.P. Krugman's Doris Lessing, Dead At Age 19

Paul Krugman, Robin Wells
in 2010, with cats
Doris Lessing, Albert Einstein
Grown men do cry. And I am not the only one who reports it. When our cats step on the rainbow bridge, we add our tears to the rain. Paul Krugman's cat Doris Lessing, age 19, who has suffered a tumor on her liver for several months, finally stopped eating a few days ago, and today Paul and Robin, following the only kind course, had her euthanized. I am sure I join with the entire left blogosphere in offering the Krugmans our condolences on the loss of one of their furry friends.

The Week From Hell

Good morning from Chaos House. For different reasons, Stella and I both were up almost all night; then she had to dash to work at a speed that frightened me just watching her. The cats are sensitized to changes in her frame of mind; cats are good at that... and sometimes a simple "Feed me NAOW!!" can help the human, at least, to focus on a seemingly impossible series of tasks to be crammed into an impossibly short time. Stella is on her way. (Whew!)

As the week of elections begins tomorrow, I have inserted a short list of independent tracking and other polls in the sidebar for your convenience. Needless to say, I haven't the expertise to endorse any of their numbers, but Krugman says they at least have an honest approach which they are willing to talk about. In an election involving Republicans, it is good to have something or someone that is honest. Regular international visitors, I suppose I needn't even remind you to expect the worst America has to offer in the coming week; some of you do (or don't) have similar circumstances surrounding your own elections.

Josh Marshall summed up Rmoney's closing message:
Mitt Romney is closing out with a big message which seems to be “Mitt Romney has a Big Message!”
No kidding! Meanwhile, the Rmoney campaign's Lies and Obfuscations Division is working round the clock, claiming things like this offered by TNR:
As you may have heard, Romney on Thursday scared the bejeezus out of Ohio autoworkers when, during a rally, he cited a story claiming that Chrysler was moving Jeep production to China. Thousands of people work at a sprawling Jeep complex in Toledo and a nearby machining plant. Many thousands more work for suppliers or have jobs otherwise dependent on the Jeep factories. It’s fair to say that they owe their jobs to President Obama, who in 2009 rescued Chrysler and General Motors from likely liquidation. If Chrysler moved the plants overseas, most of those people would be out of work.
The story is, as California girls are supposed to say, "totally bogus." Chrysler is in talks with China about starting up new plants to address the growing Chinese market, and has no plans to close down or reduce production at US plants. The whole thing was a complete and utter baldfaced lie... told by Myth in Ohio to autoworkers, where it would do the most damage, 9 days from Election Day. Multiply this phenomenon by a few hundred and you have an idea how the Rmoney campaign works. Get ready for nine long days fielding and returning lobs like this. Debunking a lie isn't quite enough; they're like zombies, coming back to life (undeadness?) many times through the right-wing noise machine for... well, for longer than the period between now and the election.

Then you have Sandy. Calling this storm a hurricane doesn't do it justice; it has characteristics of tropical weather and a nor'easter combined. Bryan and others are calling it "Frankenstorm"; he has a good explanation. The potential to wreak havoc on elections is very real, including places like New Jersey where Democrats don't need havoc worked.

Finally, there's voter suppression, Republicans' signature activity marking their lack of anything resembling Obama's much-vaunted ground game. Just read a few articles. It doesn't take long to get the idea that GOPers really don't want people to vote, if they can stop them. Yes, of course it's un-American; why do you ask?

So here I am, on my second cup of very strong coffee since about 3:00 AM; hoping for something like mental clarity (which is, notwithstanding Rethugs' claims to the contrary, my normal state). May you all manage to survive the week with your health intact... and with anyone but Rmoney as president-elect when it's over. I expect a repeat of 2000, when it took until the Supreme Court's Dec. 12 eleventh-hour ruling to learn that GeeDubya won by a vote of 5 to 4. Today's court is only marginally better than that one. But if Rmoney takes office (phrase chosen advisedly), and makes a few Supreme Court appointments, we can kiss free and fair elections goodbye... not to mention undoing most of three generations' worth of progressive jurisprudence:
Replacing even one of the liberal justices with a conservative, legal scholars and advocates across the ideological spectrum agree, would position conservatives to scale back the social safety net and abortion rights in the near term. Over time, if a robust five-vote conservative bloc prevails on the court for years, the right would have the potential opportunity to reverse nearly a century of progressive jurisprudence.

For all those reasons, conservative legal activists anticipate that a Romney win would be the culmination of their decades-long project to remake the country’s legal architecture.
And there you have it. This could be a very bad week... or not; not all the polls look terrible. We need anyone but Rmoney if our nation is to survive. Go out and make it happen!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The End Of Science In America?

Paul Krugman:

Like others doing similar exercises — Drew Linzer, Sam Wang, and Pollster — Nate[ Silver]’s model continued to show an Obama edge even after Denver, and has shown that edge widening over the past couple of weeks.

This could be wrong, obviously. And we’ll find out on Election Day. But the methodology has been very clear, and all the election modelers have been faithful to their models, letting the numbers fall where they may.

Yet the right — and we’re not talking about the fringe here, we’re talking about mainstream commentators and publications — has been screaming “bias”! They know, just know, that Nate must be cooking the books. How do they know this? Well, his results look good for Obama, so it must be a cheat. Never mind the fact that Nate tells us all exactly how he does it, and that he hasn’t changed the formula at all.

This is, of course, reminiscent of the attack on the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not to mention the attacks on climate science and much more. On the right, apparently, there is no such thing as an objective calculation. Everything must have a political motive.

This is really scary. It means that if these people triumph, science — or any kind of scholarship — will become impossible. Everything must pass a political test; if it isn’t what the right wants to hear, the messenger is subjected to a smear campaign.

This strikes me as yet another manifestation of the right-wing concept of science as simply a belief system, like Catholicism or Islam or Mormonism: as though, if you don't like one "faith," you can choose another; if you are offended by one scientific theory, you can replace it, based not on whether the replacement truly describes the world we live in, but on whether it is compatible with your political outlook. It's the same situation as in any other search for truth in reality: you don't get to choose your own facts. Honest seekers across the spectrum freely acknowledge this. Right-wingers, even the ones who are not utterly nuts, do not: the facts themselves, as they see them, are subject to reshaping based on one's political philosophy.

That simply doesn't work... at all... in scientific research. You cannot "pray away" global climate change. You cannot merely assert loudly, or even pass a law in Congress, that the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe has no ongoing environmental consequences. You cannot pass a law about when human life begins, and thereby change the physiology of the process. And as Krugman reminds us, you cannot legislate underlying motivations for human economic behavior, the ones that are truly wired in, as if they were simple matters of policy. You can't make trickle-down supply-side economics "true" by fiat. You can deny Keynes until you're blue in the face, but his message will nonetheless haunt you in the real world if you ignore it.

There have always been science deniers; this is nothing new. Indeed, before a few people in 17th-century England, Italy and Germany framed the basics of how one does science, of the notion of a hypothesis to be tested, of experimental confirmation, of mathematical description, there was not a great deal of science done anywhere. (The age of Archimedes, c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC, mathematically enlightened and technologically clever as he was, was all too brief, and had no thread of historical succession directly connecting him with the beginnings of science as we know it.) For millennia, most people did not think in scientific terms; those who did often paid dearly for their troubles. Today's science deniers would take us back to that time. (Hey, the torture apparatuses are already in place, thanks to the political system!)

And that is the crux (!) of what is frightening about right-wing politics: the wingers wish to establish a new age of "truth" by fiat, not truth through research in scientific matters, not even political truth by honest debate among people of differing interests, but truth by reference to authority. Regular use of the argument from authority leads almost inexorably to more emphasis on the authority than the argument. Spare us, please!

Court Unseals Testimony In Divorce Trial: Did Rmoney Lie Under Oath To Protect Friend's Financial Interests?

From Laura Gottesdiener at AlterNet:
Breaking Update: Court Unseals Potentially Devastating Testimony --
Romney Said Stocks Sold at 1/10th of Eventual Value Was 'Good Price'
Romney does appear to have covered for his friend.
October 25, 2012 |

[AlterNet] Editor's Update: The Boston Globe reports: "Mitt Romney testified under oath in 1991 that the ex-wife of Staples founder Tom Stemberg got a fair deal in the couple’s 1988 divorce, even though the company shares Maureen Sullivan Stemberg received were valued at a tenth of Staples’ stock price on the day of its initial public offering only a year later. At the time the Stembergs split, Romney suggested, there was little indication that Staples’ value would soon skyrocket. Romney’s testimony in a post-divorce lawsuit brought in 1990 by Sullivan Stemberg was unsealed on Thursday in Norfolk Probate and Family Court at the Globe’s request. Sullivan Stemberg sued unsuccessfully to amend the couple’s financial agreement after Staples went public in 1989 and closed its first day of trading at $22.50 per share, 10 times the value she had received."

According to the Globe, Sullivan Stemberg sold 175,000 shares of Staples stock at $2.25 per share, and sold 80,000 shares at $2.48 a few months later. “In my opinion, that’s a good price to sell the securities at,” Romney testified. "But on April 28, 1989, barely a year after Sullivan Stemberg sold more than half of her shares on the premise that they were worth less than $2.50 apiece, the company made its initial public offering at $19 per share and ended its first day at $22.50," the Globe reports.

I'm not an expert on investments, but this sounds like fraud coupled with a kind of insider trading: perhaps Rmoney knew of the firm's intent to go public at a dramatically higher price, and testified otherwise to save his buddy some money in the divorce. It also sounds as if it might be a very difficult thing to prove.

I'm convinced that guys (it's always guys) at Rmoney's high-rolling level do this sort of thing, and get away with it, all the time. There are probably few large financial transactions that would bear close scrutiny, but an overwhelming majority of them take place under no scrutiny at all. Even now, 20 years after the divorce, Rmoney could probably get away with an "everybody does it" argument. Or maybe not. Again from the AlterNet article:
In the testimony, however, Romney allegedly lied about the future of the company, saying it was “overvalued” and that Stemberg was a “dreamer” for thinking the company could grow large. As a result, Maureen received very little in the divorce settlement--only to learn that her husband and his cohort Mitt Romney quickly turned around and cashed in their own stocks in Staples for a small fortune right after the divorce was finalized.
Women, including those who routinely vote, are not keen on being ripped off in divorce settlements, and their empathy with other women in this matter is often understandably high. Rmoney has enough (pardon the expression) woman troubles already, without this. I've no idea how it will turn out, but it may be in the news, despite its being unfavorable to Rmoney, because the case has all the other ingredients: popular office supply store Staples, celebrity divorce lawyer Gloria Allred, Mittens, money, power, and legally questionable activity. How could a gossip-seeker ask for more?

Fifty Ways... Parody Doggerel

What would it sound like if we could listen in on Karl Rove's... seduction... of a new operative? (This looks best with a maximized window on a 1280-x-something display.)

Fifty Ways to Lose Your Conscience
"The problem is all inside your head,"
    Karl said to me;
"The answer is easy if you
    Act remorselessly;
I'd like to help you to
    Accept the GOP,
There must be...
    Fifty ways to lose your conscience."

He said "It's always been my habit to be blunt;
Furthermore, I hope that my directness
    isn't an affront;
But I'll repeat myself
Just in case that dog won't hunt,
There must be fifty ways
    to lose your conscience;
    Fifty ways to lose your conscience.

Just switch off some votes, Coates;
Break a few rules, Jules;
Issue some threat, Rhett;
    Now listen to me...
Bribe a guy with a car, Carr,
No need to go too far,
Just drop off their fee, Gee,
    And get yourself... free.

(repeat chorus)
Ooh, switch off some votes, Coates;
Break a few rules, Jules;
Issue some threat, Rhett;
    Now listen to me...
Bribe a guy with a car, Carr,
No need to go too far,
Just drop off their fee, Gee,
    And get yourself... free.

Karl said "It mustn't grieve you seeing peasants all in pain,
I'm certain something I can do will make you cold again."
I said "I appreciate that.
And would you please explain
    About the fifty ways?"

Karl said "why don't we both just sleep on this tonight, check your
Pockets in the morning, everything will be all right." And then he
Bribed me, and I realized he probably was right,
There must be...
    Fifty ways to lose your conscience,
    Fifty ways to lose your conscience.

Just steal a few votes, Coates,
Break a few rules, Jules,
Make a new threat, Rhett,
    Now listen to me...
Look, here's your new car, Carr,
You'll be like a rock star,
Just do what I say, Jay,
    You'll never be... free.

— SB the YDD
A huge H/T to Mr. Simon for writing the perfect vehicle for this parody!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Your Saturday Night Dessert

Tonight we feature baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, of (I believe) the SF Bay Area, in a group with which she often works, Voices of Music. Blumenstock is wonderful beyond belief, as a performer and as a teacher.

My fondest memory involving Ms. Blumenstock is from sometime in the mid-1980s at the Festival Institute at Round Top, in a masterclass taught onstage (students as well as teachers). The delightful thing about old instruments of a certain period is that they are in some ways musically interchangeable: a fine violinist has a great deal to teach an aspiring serious recorder player, about literature, period articulation and phrasing, matters of singing and dancing (the two basic idioms of music from about 1600 to 1750 or thereabouts)... in short, everything except the technique of playing the instrument. Ms. Blumenstock was (and doubtless still is) a superb teacher and a world-class performer. I was spellbound for well over an hour!

Here are your treats for the evening (all YouTube videos; I won't strain your RAM by putting them all here on the page):
My only regret is that I was unable to find Ms. Blumenstock's long-ago recording (1999?) of many short works by Nicola Matteis, another Italian very successful on the London music scene until his death in 1714(?). But that recording is itself "ancient music" even in my little collection; you'll just have to imagine it!

PS Please note the recorder-playing by Hanneke van Proosdij in the Voices of Music recordings listed above... and don't ever make a disparaging remark about recorder players again!

GOP Voter Registration Fraud In Virginia: The Scandal Spreads

Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog, posting on Oct. 25 on Salon, tells us as much as was known a week ago about the voter registration scandal that began with a simple case of a hired Republican voter registrar dumping completed Democratic voter registration forms in a dumpster... and has broadened to include reports of fraudulent voter registrations in Florida as well as reports of additional destroyed Democratic registrations in Colorado and Nevada. And that appears to be just the beginning. I expect to find follow-up information.

H/T Politics Plus
(click for TomCat's post)
A name that threads through all these allegations is Nathan Sproul. Through a series of shell organizations, Sproul set up a GOTV and voter registration organization for the benefit of the Republican Party, then was himself "fired" (but not really), leaving those GOTV/VR org's in place, doing dastardly deeds to voter registrations by prospective Democrats. Even in Texas you could go to jail for that kind of behavior. But apparently Sproul has been at it for years, and no door has clanged shut behind him.

I do not know what I shall do if I become convinced that a presidential election duly won by Obama was stolen by GOP voter registration fraud and GOP manipulation of the votes themselves. But unlike sElection 2000, I shall not take it lying down.

And You Thought Your City Police Force Was Bad! And Your Governor...

(WARNING: this post could be upsetting to young children, especially girls. Hell, it upset me badly enough...)

Jeebus! Via Lindsay Beyerstein at In These Times, from the NYT:

And then the officer, Gilberto Valle, a six-year veteran of the New York Police Department, created a document on his computer, calling it a blueprint for “Abducting and Cooking.” In one of the most disturbing and unusual arrests involving a police officer, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation took Officer Valle into custody on Wednesday after they uncovered several plots to kidnap, rape, cook and eat women.

“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.”

Two law enforcement officials familiar with the inquiry said the officer’s estranged wife recently contacted the F.B.I. to report that Officer Valle, 28, viewed and kept disturbing items on his computer. The couple has a daughter, age 1.

The criminal complaint suggests that Officer Valle, who worked in the 26th Precinct in Manhattan and lives in Forest Hills, Queens, never followed through on any of the acts he is accused of discussing.

His lawyer, Julia L. Gatto, said the officer committed no crime. “At worst, this is someone who has sexual fantasies,” Ms. Gatto said at a hearing on Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

“There is no actual crossing the line from fantasy to reality,” she added.

Somehow, I am not comforted by that assertion...

Perhaps every large enough society has nut-jobs as genuinely evil as this. Or perhaps, as seems likely to me, our society has developed a widespread pathological misogyny, a context in which truly sick woman-hating wackos can emerge who contemplate their most disturbed and violent fantasies with an eye toward actually carrying them out. Valle certainly qualifies as disturbed and potentially violent toward women.

Good Hair, Bad Heart
So does Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who would cut off Planned Parenthood from the state's Texas Women's Health Program, an act on his part permitted yesterday by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, thereby endangering the lives of about half of the approximately 130,000 low-income Texas women served by clinics that have nothing to do with abortion at all:
Planned Parenthood's clinics served roughly half of the program's 130,000 low-income Texans, with the federal government picking up 90 percent of the bill. The clinics provided contraceptives, cancer screenings, and exactly zero abortions. Planned Parenthood's surgical centers, which do provide abortions, have never received WHP dollars or any other federal funding.
The case is somehow "still open in the lower court where it originated." And Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas is still fighting like hell, in court and out.

No word on whether Gov. Perry plans to cook and eat tens of thousands of poor women... maybe he's content with merely killing them slowly, just like Officer Valle. [/irony]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thank You, John Sununu, For Admitting GOP Racism

Igor Bobic of TPM:
Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, a Romney surrogate, said on Thursday night that the reason former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed President Obama today was due to the color of his skin.

Yeah, that's why I endorse Obama, because the color of his skin is the same as mine: human. [/snark]

Stupid Man
Black Man
Look: Sununu's thinking is straight out of antebellum Mississippi, only worse. I don't know what Colin Powell's motives are for endorsing Obama, and neither does Sununu. If race enters into Powell's thinking, that's his business.

But Sununu's announcement, made in the role of surrogate of Myth Rmoney (he's co-chair of Rmoney's campaign), broadcasts to the world that great bit of Republican "wisdom" that you should vote your skin color, not your politics, when choosing the most powerful leader in the world. Great job, Johnny-boy. Such high-minded political thinking! [/snark]

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Reminder To Republicans On The Electoral College

It is possible for a candidate to win the presidency based on the count of electoral votes even if s/he loses the popular vote. This has happened three times, in 1876, 1888 and yes, 2000. George W. Bush received fewer popular votes than Al Gore, but eked out an electoral victory of 271. The minimum, then as now, was 270 to win, out of 538 electors. It is the way we run our presidential elections, for better and worse.

The system gives advantage to small states, as no state, no matter how small its population, has fewer than three electoral votes (corresponding to 2 senators and 1 representative), and there are enough small states to assure that a constitutional amendment reforming the presidential election system to reflect the popular vote can never happen. As I noted, this is our way, and it is unlikely to change.

Three out of three times that there has been a discrepancy between the popular and electoral vote outcomes, the system has elected a Republican president. I see this as the luck of the draw, not as a covert partisan plot by Republicans to steal the presidency. (Well, maybe sElection 2000 was stolen...)

Which is why, the first time a Republican howls to me in outrage at the not unlikely event that Obama wins the electoral vote without winning the popular vote, I shall take a corkscrew and gouge his tongue out...

The Republicans' God

Long-time readers know I am not particularly religious. On good days (at least I suppose they are good days), I am vaguely theistic, with no real enthusiasm for the concept; on bad days, I ain't talkin'. I can't really call myself one of the "people of the Book," the Abrahamic religions, because, well, because I am not. No Bible-thumper I, and no god-botherer either.

But I've been thinking about Richard Mourdock's God. I don't understand how a professed Christian can form a mental image of a loving God, while simultaneously attributing to that God a mean streak a mile wide. How could a loving God allow a woman to be raped, trip the switch that says "pregnant" and then force the woman to carry her rapist's child? That's a strange notion of "loving" if you ask me. Wouldn't it be better to go with Kurt Vonnegut's God the Utterly Indifferent, and admit that some bad things just happen, without any larger purpose?

Instead, Mourdock and others like him (it seems it's always a "him") appear to have a Bible with a different version of Genesis 1:27, attributed variously on the Web, but reading "Man created God in his own image." Maybe Mourdock and similar Republicans are just mean mofos, so they make their God similarly a mean mofo. It would explain a lot.

Mourdock is married, which means that one presumably masochistic woman must wake up with this moral lamebrain every day of the world. The GOP seems to be doubling down on Mourdock's batshit crazy statement, backing him with money and endorsements, so we can assume there are other women who awaken each day to the sight of a stern disciplinarian who admits of no exceptions to his anti-abortion rule, not for rape, not for the woman's health, not even if the woman will certainly die of the pregnancy.

If that's what the Republicans' God tells them to do, then it is incumbent on the voters to see to it that none of them... none... ever serves in a position of authority over any woman, let alone in the United States Senate. Flush them from that august body. Send them home; send them to Sunday school like small children, for a refresher course in treating other people as you would yourself be treated.

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XXXIX

... yes, Vol. 39. The list... this one, at least, is by Steve Benen, on the Maddow Blog. It lists 49 specific lies that Rmoney has perpetrated since... um, since the last list, together with specific debunking (text or links) for each Rmoney lie. I'm not going to trouble to call them "misstatements"; when you let fly with that many, you lose all claim to anything short of outright mendacity. Mittens is a liar... no 39 ways about it.

Feel free to follow up on the other 38 lists if you like; there are links in Benen's post to the whole series from the beginning. If you're anything like me, you'll quickly bore of the task: anyone who lies that often is, pure and simple, a liar, no two ways about it.

Rachel Maddow Discovers: Myth Rmoney Is Absolutely, Totally, Completely LYING About His Position On Contraception, With The Help Of (Among Others) Sitting Republican Senators

I missed this segment five days ago when it broke. I was foolish to put it aside, briefly so I thought, when it happened. Rachel Maddow was appropriately diligent about the matter, and found the truth: Rmoney is lying about his position on the Blunt Amendment, and hence about women's access to contraception through their employer-provided health insurance. Despite repeated disclaimers by Rmoney and other Rmoney surrogates (including, e.g., Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)), Rmoney would, in fact, allow employers to prevent women from obtaining contraception through their employer-provided health insurance. Contrary to what he and his surrogates have said, he believes it is, indeed, the business of employers... religious institutions or otherwise... to make that decision for a woman.

Please view Ms. Maddow's segment. And, as GeeDubya Bush once said, you "won't get fooled again." I know many women for whom this is a go/no-go issue, so it is very important to know that Myth is LYING about it. Please watch Maddow's segment, and be enlightened if you aren't already.

Lying, motherfucking bastard. Scheming, selfish, deceiving bastard! Lying-straight-in-your-face BASTARD!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recipe For A Thought-Provoking Hour Spent Reading About Economics, Theory And Practice

Start with "Neoliberalism Kills, Part One" and "... Part Two" by FDL's letsgetitdone (a.k.a. Joe Firestone). Follow some of the links until you understand what letsgetitdone means by "neoliberalism" and how the current crew in Washington preach the faith. Particularly read the Wikipedia entry on the Washington Consensus (mostly on the work of Pete Peterson via John Williamson). If you're not depressed yet, YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION! No, if you're not depressed yet, try to fit this into the context of the looming Grand Bargain, of which IMHO nothing good can come.

Then please explain it all to me...

'You Don't Own Me' - Lesley Gore

Thanks to l'Enfant for this one. Enfant knows my age, my politics and my taste in nostalgia music, and this one is on target for all three:

If you are younger than me (and Lesley, and l'Enfant), please be aware that this battle has been fought by women of perhaps a dozen generations, and as evidenced by fatuous twaddle spoken by Republicans Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock (not to mention Myth Rmoney, and probably a thousand other Republicans in positions of power), we are still fighting it today.

Women, it's up to you to put this one on ice; you have the votes to do it... at last, thank goodness, we've reached an era in which men can't (and shouldn't!) do it alone. Get out there and vote your self-interest. For what my opinion is worth... that self-interest isn't Rmoney!

GOP's Mourdock: Pregnancy From Rape Intended By God

First there was GOP Representative Todd Akin, who talked about the impossibility of pregnancy from "legitimate rape." Now there's GOP Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock (R-Indiana), who voices the opinion regarding pregnancy due to rape that "... even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." This spew comes in the runup to succeed moderate Republican, long-time Senator Richard Lugar, who was defeated in the primary

Do the GOP have a factory somewhere that turns out these mental defectives? How many more can we expect to see before the election?

Oh, and please note: Rmoney supports Mourdock in a campaign ad. Doesn't that put an end to all Rmoney's obfuscation about his positions on women's issues?

The irony is that Akin's and Mourdock's pronouncements are fully compatible with this year's GOP platform, which mentions no exceptions at all... not rape, not incest... to its advocacy against abortion.

Akin and Mourdock are more vocal about it than most. But threats to the rights of women are at the core of what the Republican Party advocates. It's who they are.

Women: if you hold yourself in high esteem, get out there and vote against Republicans!

UPDATE: Mourdock's opponent, Blue Dog Rep. Joe Donnelly, is also anti-choice. I swear, I no longer have a party that represents me in Washington.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Toeing The Line

Stella and I voted early today at the Fiesta Mart on Kirby just north of Reliant Stadium, which you may recognize if you follow pro football. (We don't.) Fiesta Mart caps one end of a gigantic shopping center. Fiesta alone is about the size of a typical Wal-Mart (but fortunately has no other characteristics of Mall-Wart); the rest of the center contains several useful and/or enjoyable places including Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet.

Anyway, back to voting. Today was the second day of early voting. As we often do, we waited out the first day to avoid the worst of the crowds. It didn't work. When we arrived sometime after 1:00 PM, the voting line began at the large main door of the store, but it did not go straight to the alcove containing the polling place. Oh, no, nothing so easy. It led about 100' to the right along the food court, turned toward the back of the store beside the international frozen foods (Fiesta's specialty, if it can be said to have one), ran straight toward the back of the store to the deli, angled further right past the bakery, and finally turned at last toward the front of the store and the large alcove containing the poll. All in all, the line ran several hundred feet, and only slightly fewer people than feet. Never in my life have I seen so many people voting at one place and time!

It took us about 1¼ hours to traverse the whole line and vote. By the end, there was very little left of either of us; indeed, everyone in line seemed in high spirits but... pooped! I was happy to note no shortage of cripples among the voters... we do vote; take us seriously! My booted foot ached. Stella felt, as my dear departed mother would have said, that "my tired hurts." But the deed was done.

There's a lot of good news here.

First, the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the voters today was vast. Part of that may have been the location of this particular poll at a multicultural grocery store: even on a normal Tuesday, thousands of people buy groceries there drawn from cultures including Mexican from various regions, African of several countries, various South American cuisines, British Isles specialities [sic], Indian and Pakistani fast food, several varieties of Middle Eastern food, and of course mainstream black and white American foods from several parts of the country. As a food store, Fiesta Mart is diverse beyond belief. One would expect that as a polling place it would draw Americans equally diverse in ethnicity and culture. From this I take it that just about every American is coming out to vote this year. That can't be a bad thing!

Second, the polls were run in an orderly and trouble-free manner. I saw none of the self-appointed poll vultures who said they would invade every poll in Houston to make sure no one committed (gasp!) voter fraud! I don't know if they were there yesterday, or there today but had been run off, or simply realized that with the sheer quantity and variety of Americans intent on exercising their right to vote, there was no real hope of creating a stir as they were said to have done two years ago. In any case, the absence of poll-wreckers was welcome indeed.

I suspect I'll have to rest my booted foot for several days to recover from this one. But damn, was it ever worth it! America was meant to be like this... and for at least a day, it was precisely what it was meant to be. May all of us see many more such days! Put off the fights over counting; they will come, and you will fight them as necessary. For now, it's YOUR turn, if you haven't voted yet...

Who Watches The Watchers... And Who Watches Them

Jeebus! It has come to this. Via Christian Dem in NC at Kos, we are directed to an article by Alexander Bolton at The Hill:
International monitors at US polling spots draw criticism from voter fraud groups
By Alexander Bolton - 10/20/12 12:00 PM ET

United Nations-affiliated election monitors from Europe and central Asia will be at polling places around the U.S. looking for voter suppression activities by conservative groups, a concern raised by civil rights groups during a meeting this week. The intervention has drawn criticism from a prominent conservative-leaning group combating election fraud.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a United Nations partner on democratization and human rights projects, will deploy 44 observers from its human rights office around the country on Election Day to monitor an array of activities, ...

Liberal-leaning civil rights groups met with representatives from the OSCE this week to raise their fears about what they say are systematic efforts to suppress minority voters likely to vote for President Obama.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP and the ACLU, among other groups, warned this month in a letter to Daan Everts, a senior official with OSCE, of “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans — particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.”

Astonishing. What's astonishing? First off, to me, the fact that The Hill labels the ACLU and the NAACP "[l]iberal-leaning civil rights groups": really? Is it "liberal" to defend the Bill of Rights and a couple of other amendments? Second Amendment nut-jobs would be surprised to hear themselves categorized as "liberal-leaning." And what, specifically, is "liberal" (or "conservative") about protecting the civil rights of people of color? But The Hill is what the Hill is; one can hardly expect anything else of them. At least they carried the story.

Equally astonishing, again to me, is that anyone thinks True the Vote (no link from here!), King Street Patriots, etc. are a good idea. Most polling place officials are willing to work with these groups as long as they do not repeatedly get in the way of the orderly flow of the voting process. But that is of course their very raison d'être: to interfere with the voting process at polls in neighborhoods likely to contain lots of Democrats... predominantly African-American neighborhoods among them. They're out there to prevent the n[BLEEP]s from voting, however much they may deny it.

So groups like NAACP and ACLU and six others join forces to "watch the watchers," as the old saying has it. After sElection 2000, I recall some leaders of African nations offering America assistance in monitoring elections. But they were joking. We are not. We need the help. Dammit!

If America has reached the point at which it cannot run fair elections with clean polling and counting processes, we may be done for. I'm not ready to quit yet. But if we can't answer the simple question "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" we are in sad shape indeed.

Bring in the international monitors. Fuck the self-appointed "voter fraud" detectives. If anyone tries to deny my vote, I swear I'll modify their dental work!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rmoney's Buzzwords: 'Peace' And 'Greece'

"Message: I care. I'm not scary." That seemed to be what Rmoney was trying to say, perhaps directed at women, who heretofore seemed to find his views on social issues more than a bit frightening. Several times, in the frame of one or another segment, Rmoney would say he wanted "peace"; in a few other places, he likened the allegedly collapsing American economy to that of "Greece." I suppose those words were focus-group-tested, but if I were Greek, or even Greek-American, I would certainly be insulted!

Offhand, I'd guess that this debate performance would not be a game-changer. Rmoney committed no horrible gaffes; Obama relentlessly defended his record and worked to show Rmoney as unqualified to be president. (Rmoney seemed to me to be on cocaine, but he often gives me that impression. Hey, he could afford the stuff...) If you went into the debate supporting one man or the other, you probably came out facing the same direction. Then again, I am not very good at applying the "who would I rather have a beer with" standard that seems ubiquitous among typical Americans. (I would think that Rmoney probably doesn't drink beer, at least not in public view. Then again, again, there's his appearance of speeding...)

In a few days we'll see if the polls change, but I'd be surprised if they change much. Polls of the popular vote continue to be very close; projections of the electoral vote continue to say that Obama should win unless Rmoney "runs the table" of swing states. Remember Rmoney's advantage, though: he doesn't have to win all those states; he can steal some of them... Republican right to rule, and all that shit.

I don't have much left in me, and tomorrow I have both a doc appointment and (possibly) a trip to the polls, so I'm going to defer further poo-flinging until tomorrow afternoon. I hope you feel the CPD debates were as worthwhile as I did (namely, not at all).

'I'm Mitt Romney, And I Approved This Message Pack Of Lies'

Rmoney's blockbuster closer is an ad with five statements about Obama... each of which is a baldfaced, unsubstantiated, indeed easily rebutted lie. Jed Lewison at Kos has the details. Here's the text of the ad:
If Barack Obama is reelected, what will the next four years be like? One, the debt will grow from 16 trillion to 20 trillion dollars. Two, 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based health care. Three, taxes on the middle class will go up by $4,000. Four, energy prices will continue to go up. And five, $716 billion in Medicare cuts that hurt current seniors.
In a way, this election will prove a test of several hypotheses that have been advanced by Rmoney and his henchmen:
  • The most obvious, of course, is that under the aegis of Citizens United, an American presidential election can be bought outright by a thoroughly unqualified candidate with access to effectively unlimited money.

  • Another assertion is evidenced in this Rmoney ad, a very old assertion extending back through every 20th-century totalitarian regime: that lies, repeated frequently and relentlessly enough to a passive public, can come to supplant truths, even in cases where the truths are easy to understand and explain.
I guess we'll find out soon, won't we?

Texans: You Can VOTE Starting TODAY!

This is it. In some states it's already been underway; in Texas, early voting starts today. If you need details, start with my early voting information post. If you vote today, expect a crowd, bring a book or magazine and wear comfortable shoes (heh... as if I have comfortable shoes). I am probably voting tomorrow instead.

Sweaters? jackets?
Not in Houston!
And remember to take your list along with your voter registration and, just in case (though it's not officially required), a government-issued photo ID which has your address on it, typically a driver's license. The self-appointed voter patrols (e.g., King Street "Patriots") are supposed to be out, checking up on everybody and making trouble. If someone hovers behind your polling station either to observe how you vote or to "advise" you, turn around and offer them instant dental work: you have an intrinsic right to a secret ballot, but that right is ill-protected in law. The bastards are probably just hungry anyway: offering to feed them a knuckle sandwich will likely make them go away.

If your poll has an e-voting system, in Texas, chances are good it's a Hart InterCivic eSlate. If you're inclined to vote straight-'D', remember that any subsequent selection of a candidate's name after you select the straight-party item de-selects that candidate.
May you be blessed with nothing worse than crowds interfering with your voting!

George McGovern (1922-2012)

From his Democratic nomination acceptance speech, 1972 (H/T Michael Moore):
From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America. From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America. From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick – come home, America. Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream.
He was clobbered by, of all people, Richard Nixon. McGovern was possibly the most under-appreciated American presidential candidate in history. R.I.P., Senator McGovern; you deserved better.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Good Discussion On A Thread Below...

... post here, comment thread here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Texas: It's Almost Time To Vote Early

Basic info and necessary links for Harris County residents are available in my earlier post here. Early voting starts Monday, Oct. 22, and ends Nov. 2. The romance of Election Day voting (Nov. 6) is pretty much gone, superseded by wholly negative practical considerations... long lines, possible voting system failures and "failures," possible voter ID challenges at the polls by Republicans who do not like your skin color, etc. The short version: vote early.

Even if you overcome those obstacles, your vote may or may not be counted. In Texas, more than 200 counties including Harris now use DRE (direct recording electronic) voting machines and systems made by Hart InterCivic, systems not without their problems over the years since their introduction after the 2000 debacle. Even at best, the systems generate no paper trail, and individual votes are aggregated by the polling-place-level system. Your individual vote disappears into the ocean the moment you press "Cast Ballot". But it's too late to request an absentee ballot, and those are fraught with problems of their own.

While not a catalog of the horrors of voting by DRE systems, this NYT article from 2008 has an assortment of examples. The history is not encouraging. Not only is stealing elections made easier than ever, but accidental loss of votes, sometimes whole precincts of them, is a possibility in ways it never was before.

How common is trouble with all sorts of voting systems in America? has a map of the status of voting systems in all 50 states; only five have the status "good." Expect problems, maybe in your state.

And Republican attempts to steal the election are already underway. Recently, for example, in Virginia, a Pennsylvania man working for a contracting firm in the employ of the Republican Party of Virginia was arrested after being seen tossing completed Virginia voter registrations (presumably by likely Democratic voters) in a dumpster. (The man's name is Colin Small; make of that what you will.) And this happened months after Myth Rmoney sent a letter to the Virginia attorney general asking for an investigation of alleged voter registration fraud by Democratic organizations. What GOPers do themselves is what they accuse their opponents of... isn't there a name for that phenomenon? other than "strategy," I mean...

When the CEO of Diebold, Wally O'Dell, told Republicans in a fundraising letter before the 2004 elections that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year," he gave a warning that all Democrats should heed. Heads up, Democrats (indeed any non-Republicans): your vote is in danger, more than ever before.

(I don't know about you, but I resent like hell having even to think about this. It just isn't right.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Avedon Carol And Stuart Zechman: Vote To Make A Statement, Knowing The New Deal Is Going Down No Matter How You Vote

Please read. Ms. Carol (interleaving quite a bit of Mr. Zechman's prose) has contemplated the same bone-chilling possibilities I foresee, whoever is elected. She comes to a different conclusion on whom to vote for, but only by a hair. You'd better start thinking about what life will be like without the crux of the New Deal to civilize the jungle that is America today, because neither major party candidate will keep it safe, and no minor party candidate has a chance in Hell. Go vote, and Dog preserve you all from the worst possible results.

Second Circuit Becomes Second Circuit-Level Federal Court To Dump DOMA

This is a victory for LGBTQs. And straights. And every American under the Sun, whether they know it or not!

Congrats to my good friend's daughter and her wife; you know who you are. You were "early adopters" in Massachusetts, if I recall correctly, and now you can move anywhere in the States you want to go.

Marriage is a human right. Depriving gay people of it is a human rights violation. Pretty simple, eh? If you don't like the new reality, you're in the wrong country!
Of course the Repugnicans wlll take it to the Supremes, and Dog knows what the Supremes will do to the two decisions... First Circuit and Second Circuit Courts of Appeal... striking down DOMA as unconstitutional. But as some commenters have pointed out, Kennedy is more libertarian in his inclinations than social conservative, so there is some hope. Meanwhile... to those who have always been married in their own eyes and in mine, congratulations on being married in the eyes of the law of the land!

Rmoney Myth #571428: Bain Was Ever A Small Business

Paul Krugman has the basics regarding Myth Rmoney's repeated claims to be a "small" businessman:
... making Bain sound like a scrappy little start-up. And it’s true it had only 10 people at first — that, and $37 million, yes, $37 million, in seed money.

Where did that $37 million come from? A large part from foreigners, in many cases investing via Panama-based shell companies. Also, funds from families of Central American oligarchs, who were sitting things out in Miami while death squads sponsored by their class, and in some cases by their relatives, were roaming their home countries.

Right. Myth started a $37 million "small" business underwritten by possibly unsavory MOTU outside the US.

Myth, boy, let me tell you something about REAL small businesses. I started mine with about $10,000 pulled out of my personal savings, an analytical mind, and the gumption to bet my livelihood on those two assets. I earned a respectable but not luxurious livelihood for 20 years that way, and I slept well at night because I had nothing like death squads on my conscience. My business did not just run itself; I had to beat the bushes for work on an ongoing basis. (Hey, I like the idea of beating the Bushes! What? oh. <emily_litella_voice> Never mind! </emily_litella_voice>) But I had never before experienced such professional satisfaction, and I didn't miss any meals. I believe I am more deserving of comparison to those Mom-and-Pop businesses you keep mentioning than you are... no one staked me $37 million, and my success was anything but assured.

Mr. Rmoney: you haven't a clue what it takes to run a small business. Not a clue. Some honest well-off business people will at least admit to their parental or other Head Start program. C'mon, Myth: 'fess up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

MassGAP: 'Binders' Incident Didn't Happen The Way Rmoney Described

Government employing women:
a great tradition!
One kindly disposed toward Myth Rmoney could overlook the discrepancy as a slip of his memory since 2002. Other possibilities suggest themselves. But a fairly diligent research effort by Evan McMorris-Santoro at TPM reveals that several people on the provider end of those "whole binders full of women" for use as cabinet appointees remember the episode differently: according to former officials of MassGAP, an advocacy group for more equitable participation of women in powerful government positions, the surveys (the "binders") were prepared prior to Rmoney's gubernatorial victory, and completely without Rmoney's participation. In other words, he did not seek them out, and he did not consult with them. Oversight, or lie? You decide.

One could partially credit Rmoney for some of the result of the process. From TPM:

The Romney source told CBS the new governor hired around 10 women to top gigs in his administration and “roughly two or three” of them were on MassGAP’s list.

CBS declared Romney’s statement at Hofstra “misleading.”

MassGAP points out that regardless of how his binders came together, Romney wasn’t all that successful by the end of his four-year term when it came to achieving MassGAP’s goal of putting more women in Massachusetts leadership.

“Prior to the 2002 election, women comprised approximately 30 percent of appointed senior-level positions in Massachusetts government. By 2004, 42 percent of the new appointments made by the Romney administration were women,” MassGAP said in the Wednesday statement. “Subsequently, however, from 2004-2006 the percentage of newly-appointed women in these senior appointed positions dropped to 25 percent.”

Rmoney's 42% of new appointments, the only number over which he had control, is greater than the 30% already in government that he inherited; I suppose that is creditable, though it still isn't 50%. But women appointees dropped over the next two years to 25%, which by my arithmetic is less than he inherited.

How Rmoney favors growth
In Rmoney arithmetic, however, 25% is greater than 30%. That's hardly surprising. I wonder why the other net 5% left... was it voluntary? were they canned? Presuming their departure was of their own volition, what were their motives, and what does that say about Rmoney as a supervisor of women employees? In any case, as those women left the Rmoney government, they clearly were replaced by men (or possibly not replaced at all). What does that say about Rmoney's true motives?

CBS calls Rmoney's story "misleading." I call it a probably knowing misrepresentation of the facts. How many Pinocchios does he get for this one?

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