Friday, September 28, 2012


Not what your average presidential candidate wants his spouse to say:
In an interview Thursday with television station KTVN, Mrs. Romney was asked what her biggest worry was should Mitt Romney be elected to serve in the White House.

"I think my biggest concern obviously would just be for his mental well-being," she said. "I have all the confidence in the world in his ability, in his decisiveness, in his leadership skills, in his understanding of the economy. ... So for me I think it would just be the emotional part of it."
This sort of comment shouldn't matter at all. It's just a wife being concerned for her husband, and isn't that what we want wives to be? (And vice versa, I should add.) Somebody will try to make political hay out of it, but not me.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Camera in My Pocket

Having a cell phone in your pocket can come in handy. Here are a couple of things spotted when out walking.

Mitt Romney is infamous for 1) his 47% remark, and 2) making his dog ride in a cage on the top of his car during a family vacation. He defended it by saying the dog liked it up there. Somebody thought that was a good idea for a political comment.

1%rs Only in the Cab

Click on it if you can't make it out.

For months I've been thinking about creating a photo essay showing how the public idea of what's appropriate to do with an American flag has changed. I hate to see somebody wear a flag as a bandanna, for example, but I'm pretty sure it's usually meant to be an expression of patriotism rather than disrespect.

You have to admit it's at least ambiguous, though.

Here's another ambiguous one:

Dumpster Flag

Jesus' Wife

I have no dog in this fight, but ...

By now you're familiar with the news story about a 4th century papyrus fragment which has been translated as having Jesus say, "My wife ...."  Whatever he said about "his wife" is unknown, because it's just a papyrus fragment, and the rest of the document is probably dust now.

I've read quite a bit about the early years of Christianity, and I know enough to say there were all kinds of Christians who believed all kinds of stuff about Jesus in those days, quite a bit of it ridiculous. (And quite a bit of the ridiculous stuff got into the main narrative.) This papyrus fragment, if authentic, means no more than there was somebody in the 4th century who thought Jesus had a wife.  [It could mean less. See Jon Stewart's riff on that.] And that's all the scholar who announced it claimed.

So it seemed kind of silly to me that the Vatican has (predictably, I guess) overreacted to the story.

But there was a section of the Washington Post story about this brouhaha that caught my attention. I'll quote a long section of the article to put it in context:
[Harvard scholar Karen] King has said the fragment doesn’t prove Jesus was married, only that some early Christians thought he was. She has acknowledged the doubts raised by her colleagues and says the fragment’s ink will be tested to help determine when it was written.
Some scholars attending the conference questioned the authenticity of the fragment, noting its form and grammar looked unconvincing and suspicious. Others said it was impossible to deduce the meaning of it given the fragmented nature of the script.
Camplani, a professor at Rome’s La Sapienza university who helped organize the conference, cited those concerns and added his own, specifically over King’s interpretation of the text — assuming it is real.
Rather than taking the reference to a wife literally, he wrote, scholars routinely take such references in primitive Christian and biblical literature metaphorically, to symbolize the spiritual union between Jesus and his disciples.
The absence of any reference to Jesus being married in historic documents “seems more significant than the literal interpretation of a few expressions from the new text, which by my reading should be understood purely in a symbolic sense,” he wrote.
Camplani nevertheless praised King’s academic paper on the subject as scientific and objective.
Maybe, instead of routinely taking "such references in primitive Christian and biblical literature metaphorically,"  scholars should take such references on a case-by-case basis. It would make them better scholars.

Bad Language in a Good Cause

Sarah Silverman is cute as a kitten. But she has a mouth on her that you have to be in your 20's not to recoil from.

So, sad to say, I can't show this video about voter suppression on Sempringham, because – as everybody knows – this is a high-class place.

But if you wanted to go see the video on your own, there's nothing I could do to stop you. And don't say I didn't warn you.

I Like It

As Sempringham pontificated last week, the 47% video was Mitt Romney's "crash and burn event. The gift for Obama that keeps on giving."

Since the video was released, the polling has been all-Obama. In "the all-important state of Ohio," Obama is now leading by 10% in one poll.

Today, the Obama campaign released the following video, which is simply Mitt Romney speaking Mitt Romney's words.

According to Talking Points Memo, "The Obama campaign told NBC the ad will run in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia."

Josh Marshall's headline: It Must Focus Group Real Well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chris Stevens and the Arab Street

Tom Friedman does a roundup of some interesting reactions to the Muhammad video riots, from publications in the Arab world. A sample:
The Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef wrote in Al Shorouk, translated by Memri, on Sept. 23: “We demand that the world respect our feelings, yet we do not respect the feelings of others. We scream blue murder when they outlaw the niqab in some European country or prevent [Muslims] from building minarets in another [European] country — even though these countries continue to allow freedom of religion, as manifest in the building of mosques and in the preaching [activity] that takes place in their courtyards. Yet, in our countries, we do not allow others to publicly preach their beliefs. Maybe we should examine ourselves before [criticizing] others.”
Maybe things are really changing in the Middle East. We'll see.

This seems as good a time as any to bring up Memri, which Friedman refers to. The Middle East Media Research Institute provides translations of articles that appear in the Arab press. According to their web site:
MEMRI's work directly supports fighting the U.S. War on Terror. Highly trained staff thoroughly translates and analyze open-source materials that include television programming, radio, newspapers, textbooks, and websites. Every single day, MEMRI receives requests from members of the U.S. government, military, and legislature. Since September 11, 2001, the demand for this material has significantly increased – providing thousands of pages of translated documents of Arab, Iranian, Urdu, Pashtu, Hindi, Dari, and Turkish print media, terrorist websites, school books, and tens of thousands of hours of translated footage from Arab and Iranian television.
And little 'ole us can access a lot of this stuff, too. Most of the items translated there don't hold out that kind of hope for the Middle East, however.

Romney as Charly

I know these Jon Stewart out-takes are all over the Internet, but some of my (four) readers actually work for a living, and may not have time to go looking for them. So Sempringham is your one-stop shopping place for the best political humor.

Extra Bonus!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the stupidest thing ever said on broadcast television: "Lucky lady!"

I love the American Meritocracy!

This Will Change. Don't Panic When it Does.

But don't get complacent, either.

These are the RealClearPolitics (RCP) polling averages of the nine states Politico thinks are swing states, where the election will be won or lost.

RCP Poll Average Electoral Votes
States Obama Romney Obama Romney
Colo. 48.3% 46.0% 9 0
Fla. 48.8% 46.3% 29 0
Iowa 48.3% 44.3% 6 0
Nev. 49.0% 44.8% 6 0
N.H. 46.0% 45.0% 4 0
N.C. 47.8% 46.8% 15 0
Ohio 48.7% 44.3% 18 0
Va. 49.6% 45.1% 13 0
Wis. 51.5% 43.7% 10 0
Swing-State Votes 110 0
Leaning/Likely State Votes 237 191
Total Overall Votes 347 191

There are many reasons to be wary of this. Scariest to me is that many of these are states where the Republicans have conducted successful voter suppression activities. We face the prospect, on election day, of tens of thousands of voters being turned away at the polls. That could make a significant difference.

Roger Simon is a Funny Guy

I don't usually read Politico, an inside-the-beltway blog, but several people pointed me to Roger Simon's post about Paul Ryan.

"Paul Ryan has gone rogue," Simon writes. "He is unleashed, unchained, off the hook."

Apparently, it all began after Ryan's talk last week at the AARP convention, where he was roundly booed. His speech there was tightly scripted by the Romney campaign, and he was warned not to go off message.

These days, Simon reports, Ryan refers to Mitt Romney as "The Stench," a reference to a comment made about the Romney campaign by an Iowa Republican. (In fairness to Ryan, Simon reports that at Romney campaign headquarters Congressman Ryan is referred to as "Gilligan".)

What does an unleashed Paul Ryan look like?
He did a PowerPoint presentation for the crowd. According to the National Journal, be began thusly: “ ‘I’m kind of a PowerPoint guy, so I hope you’ll bear with me,’ Ryan told the audience as he began clicking through four slides, which showed graphs depicting U.S. debt held by the public from 1940 to present, debt per person in the United States, percentage of debt held by foreign countries and a breakdown of federal spending. He then launched into a 10-minute monologue on the federal debt.”

A word about PowerPoint. PowerPoint was released by Microsoft in 1990 as a way to euthanize cattle using a method less cruel than hitting them over the head with iron mallets. After PETA successfully argued in court that PowerPoint actually was more cruel than iron mallets, the program was adopted by corporations for slide show presentations.

Conducting a PowerPoint presentation is a lot like smoking a cigar. Only the person doing it likes it. The people around him want to hit him with a chair.

PowerPoint is usually restricted to conference rooms where the doors are locked from the outside. It is, therefore, considered unsuited for large rallies, where people have a means of escape and where the purpose is to energize rather than daze.
I'm sorry to hear this about PowerPoint presentations, because I've certainly given my share of them over the years, and I thought they were wonderful!

In Simon's post, as with most articles about Congressman Ryan, it's hard to tell where truth ends and satire begins. [See update, below.] Simon concludes:
The Romney campaign was furious. But Ryan reportedly said, “Let Ryan be Ryan and let the Stench be the Stench.”
According to Ryan’s official schedule, on Wednesday he “will attend a Victory Town Hall at Walker Manufacturing in Fort Collins, Colorado, and a Victory Rally at America the Beautiful Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado.”
Sources close to the Ryan campaign tell me his two new PowerPoint presentations will be: “How a Bill Becomes Law” and “Canada: Friendly Giant to the North.”
Ryan Fever. Catch it!
Update: Paul Krugman says Simon's column was a clumsy attempt at satire. [Sigh.] It seemed so real!

2nd Update: Steve Benen says,
There's apparently some debate about whether Roger Simon's column is satire. I'd just note for context that the piece isn't identified as satire, Simon is a chief political correspondent and not a satirist, and the column is filled with details and anecdotes that are, in fact, accurate. If it is satire, it's awfully tough to tell.
3rd Update: It was satire, but "a host" of "credulous" bloggers and journalists thought it was real. One of the reasons I rarely read Politico – I have trouble judging what's real there, and what's satire.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

♫ Don't Know Much About Econ-o-my ♫

Paul Krugman points us to a hilarious illustrated bestiary of economics blog trolls.

A sample:


"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter."

How they see themselves:

How the world sees them:

I admit to missing at least half the references, but it was funny, anyway! 

David Brooks' Conservative Mind

My love/hate relationship with David Brooks continues. I was amazed at this morning's column, The Conservative Mind, in which he identifies the two strains of conservative thought:

The Economic Conservative –
These were people that anybody following contemporary Republican politics would be familiar with. They spent a lot of time worrying about the way government intrudes upon economic liberty. They upheld freedom as their highest political value. They admired risk-takers. They worried that excessive government would create a sclerotic nation with a dependent populace.
The Traditional Conservative –
[I]ntellectual heir to Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, Clinton Rossiter and Catholic social teaching. This sort of conservative didn’t see society as a battleground between government and the private sector. Instead, the traditionalist wanted to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government.
Because they were conservative, they tended to believe that power should be devolved down to the lower levels of this chain. They believed that people should lead disciplined, orderly lives, but doubted that individuals have the ability to do this alone, unaided by social custom and by God. So they were intensely interested in creating the sort of social, economic and political order that would encourage people to work hard, finish school and postpone childbearing until marriage.

This conservative believes in prudence on the grounds that society is complicated and it’s generally best to reform it steadily but cautiously. Providence moves slowly but the devil hurries.
In the polarized political conflict with liberalism, shrinking government has become the organizing conservative principle. Economic conservatives have the money and the institutions. They have taken control. Traditional conservatism has gone into eclipse. These days, speakers at Republican gatherings almost always use the language of market conservatism — getting government off our backs, enhancing economic freedom. Even Mitt Romney, who subscribes to a faith that knows a lot about social capital, relies exclusively on the language of market conservatism. 

It’s not so much that today’s Republican politicians reject traditional, one-nation conservatism. They don’t even know it exists. There are few people on the conservative side who’d be willing to raise taxes on the affluent to fund mobility programs for the working class. There are very few willing to use government to actively intervene in chaotic neighborhoods, even when 40 percent of American kids are born out of wedlock. There are very few Republicans who protest against a House Republican budget proposal that cuts domestic discretionary spending to absurdly low levels.

The results have been unfortunate.
Read the whole thing here.

And don't miss the three part response of reader Dave Scott of Cornwall Bridge, Conn., which begins:
Traditional conservatism is impossible these days because of technological change. Traditional conservatism assumes that the basic parameters of life do not quickly change, and this is just not true. The Internet is a huge change in the basic parameters of life, and may be as big a change as literacy in our social nature. These huge changes have been coming fast the last century. Antibiotics, atomic bombs, movies, radio, television, automobiles, computers, passenger jets, cell phones, the Internet, space flight -- technologically, a continuing avalanche of change.

In such an environment, traditional conservatism is utterly detached from reality. We have no customs for twitter except by analogy, and if analogy is allowed clever people can justify anything. Traditional conservatism might be very good at creating rules for the new realities, but it will refuse to do so because it is traditionally conservative and does not like new things.

Our reality changes rapidly and we are going to have to create new rules. Conservatives are just going to have to accept this.
Without government regulation, the free market self-destructs. Somebody wins, and competition doesnt happen any more. Or a small group win and cooperate with each other, like OPEC. Or they kill the goose that lays the golden egg, like overfishing codfish. Or scams proliferate and huge resources are devoted to scamming and not being scammed. Or contracts are enforced only for those who pay more than those on the other side.
and ends:
The traditional conservatives now belong in the Democratic party. Mr. Brooks is becoming -- is perhaps already -- a closet Democrat, albeit a conservative one. The country lacks decisive leadership and needs it, so Mr. Brooks can set an example and inspire others by coming out of the closet. Or he can continue to stay in the closet and illustrate one of our biggest problem[s].
 Interesting stuff.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Was it only a year ago?  Jay Root reminds us of the fun we had when Texas Governor Rick Perry was front runner for the GOP nomination. From the September 22, 2011 debate:
“I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it before he was before the social programs from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade — he was for Race to the Top — he’s for Obamacare and now he’s against it — I mean we’ll wait until tomorrow and see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.”
Root attributes it to sleep apnea. I'm not convinced. I think he was channeling Sarah Palin.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

An Appeal to "Persons of Faith"

Okay, this is a campaign commercial, so bring to it as much cynicism as you think that warrants. And it's directed at what's being called "persons of faith." So add as much cynicism as you think that warrants.

And I'm a pretty cynical person. But I liked this commercial.

Here's why:

1) Too many people think "morality" refers exclusively to sexuality. It's a much bigger idea than that, and this commercial acknowledges that.

2) It addresses (obliquely) the American Roman Catholic bishops' "religious freedom" canard, which is simply an attempt to change the subject from their own irresponsible, immoral behavior.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Special people

There was an interesting contrast in the editorial section of the NY Times today. Paul Krugman and David Brooks talked about the same thing, but from their own perspectives.

...[T]he fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn’t have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party’s affection is reserved for “job creators,” a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families — who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans.

Am I exaggerating? Consider the Twitter message sent out by Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Labor Day — a holiday that specifically celebrates America’s workers. Here’s what it said, in its entirety: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yes, on a day set aside to honor workers, all Mr. Cantor could bring himself to do was praise their bosses. 


The G.O.P.’s disdain for workers goes deeper than rhetoric. It’s deeply embedded in the party’s policy priorities. Mr. Romney’s remarks spoke to a widespread belief on the right that taxes on working Americans are, if anything, too low. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal famously described low-income workers whose wages fall below the income-tax threshold as “lucky duckies.”

What really needs cutting, the right believes, are taxes on corporate profits, capital gains, dividends, and very high salaries — that is, taxes that fall on investors and executives, not ordinary workers. This despite the fact that people who derive their income from investments, not wages — people like, say, Willard Mitt Romney — already pay remarkably little in taxes. 

Where does this disdain for workers come from? Some of it, obviously, reflects the influence of money in politics: big-money donors, like the ones Mr. Romney was speaking to when he went off on half the nation, don’t live paycheck to paycheck. But it also reflects the extent to which the G.O.P. has been taken over by an Ayn Rand-type vision of society, in which a handful of heroic businessmen are responsible for all economic good, while the rest of us are just along for the ride.
 The whole thing is here.

I guess we’re all supposed to be talking about how to build the middle class these days and look askance at the top 1 percent. But would you mind if I interrupted this cultural moment to point out that capitalism is an inherently elitist enterprise?

Prosperity is often driven by small enclaves of extraordinary individuals that build new industries and amass large fortunes. These driven, manic individuals are frequently unpleasant to be around. But, if your country is not attracting and nurturing them, you’re cooked.
He talks about an interesting 'job creator" [my choice of words] named Elon Musk, and concludes:
Today, grandiosity is out of style. We’ve just been through a financial crisis fueled by people who got too big for their britches. We’ve got an online and media culture that specializes in ridiculing grand people.


But, if growth is ever going to rebound, the U.S. will need a grandiosity rebound and the policies that encourage rich people with brass: immigration policies that attract people like Musk, tax rates that encourage risk and government policies that boost them along (SpaceX has benefited greatly from NASA, and Tesla received a big government loan).
Most of all, there has to be a culture that gives two cheers to grandiosity. Government can influence growth, but it’s people like Musk who create it.
The whole thing is here.

I disagree with neither.

It's a Problem, All Right

Australia's deputy prime minister, Wayne Swan:
"Let's be blunt and acknowledge the biggest threat to the world's biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over the Republican Party."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yeah, I Guess This is True

Kevin Drum on Obama's 1998 "redistribution" video:
I don't really blame Republicans for desperately trying to change the subject after the release of the secret Romney fundraising video, but it cracks me up that they're trying to make hay out of this 1998 statement from Obama:
I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot. How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities.
It's not just that this is 14 years old. It's not just that Obama extols competition, the marketplace, and innovation. It's the fact that this is basically buzzword central. I mean, this is a guy who's obviously trying to make it sound like he has some kind of actual governing philosophy, and tossing in every piece of MBA-speak he can think of to hide the fact that he's saying nothing. If he had immediately followed this up with a reading of "Jabberwocky" I wouldn't have been surprised.

And this is supposed to be the evidence that Obama is some kind of radical socialist who hates the free market? Sure. In reality, it's evidence that he was spending a little much time back then in the pop business aisle at Barnes & Noble.
I have to admit, I found it hard to find anything concrete in the statement.

Stewart on Fox on Romney!

Jon Stewart again! This was too good to die in just one news cycle. Here, he covers Fox News' coverage of the Romney video. He calls it: Chaos on Bulls--t Mountain.

Colbert's latest is here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Very Funny

Don't miss Gail Collins:
Our topic for today is: When Bad Things Happen to Mitt Romney.

Really, it’s been the worst run of disasters this side of the Mayan calendar. The Republicans’ woes started last Friday, when Ann and Mitt filmed a TV interview in which they entertained the kind of personal questions that most candidates learned to avoid after Bill Clinton did that boxers-versus-briefs thing. Asked what he wears to bed, Mitt said: “I think the best answer is: as little as possible.”

 The rest is here.

Easiest Call I've Made All Year

What Obama said:
“[T]he trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot.”
Sempringham, earlier today:
It's fair to expect, given their history so far in this campaign, that the phrase "at least at a certain level to make sure everybody's got a shot," will be deleted when the video makes its appearance in campaign ads.
Romney campaign, this afternoon (you'll need to click on it to make it readable):

George Romney Was in the 47%

This is not one of Jon Stewart's best, but it's funny enough. The really interesting thing, though, is the revelation (to me, anyway) that Governor Mitt Romney's dad, Governor George Romney, was once on public aid.

Oh, this is such fun!

Colbert Has Some Fun

This is such fun!


Governor Romney has less than seven weeks to convince the undecideds that he's their man, and he's up to his waist in his own, uh, poo. So what should he do?

This morning Matt Rhoades, his campaign manager, released a memorandum describing a "newly-unearthed set of remarks [where] we can hear Barack Obama in his own words advocating for government as a means to redistribute wealth."

Here's what Rhoades thinks is the money quote. Obama says:
“[T]he trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot.”
What makes this quote so appealing to Rhoades and the Romney campaign is the word "redistribution." Years ago redistribution was a benign term used by tax policy wonks to describe what tax policy is, and how different tax policies work. Because taxes are, by definition, "redistribution." I have no children, but for most of my life I have paid taxes to support public schools. I pay them still. My income is being redistributed! (Yawn.)

But these days the word "redistribution" is a red flag to people on the extreme right. There are the libertarians, the perpetual adolescents, who say what's theirs is theirs, and any attempt to get them to participate in a "greater good" is tyranny. And there are the Romneys, who apparently see the 47 percent who pay no income taxes as freeloaders in an "entitlement society," envious of the Romney's riches but unwilling to get off their duffs to earn their own. And it's just a small step from there to even uglier Tea Party descriptions.

One conclusion some of those people on the right are making, if you haven't noticed, is that we should not fund public schools. That's how far this goes.

It's fair to expect, given their history so far in this campaign, that the phrase "at least at a certain level to make sure everybody's got a shot," will be deleted when the video makes its appearance in campaign ads. What we'll see is a black man saying the phrase "I actually believe in redistribution." Or wait, did he say "Reparations"?

Will it change anybody's mind? I don't think so. I think everybody who wets their pants every time they hear the word "redistribution" is already firmly in the Romney camp. Will it make a difference in the election? It might fire up the extreme right wing, who have been cool toward Romney up until now. But they hate Obama so much, I don't think they'd miss an opportunity to vote against him, anyway.

We'll see.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Statistics, Sometimes Weird

In the week from September 11-September 18, Sempringham had 164 pageviews from the United States, and 104 from Russia. (Sorry, don't have a clue!) Additional pageviews were from the UK, Germany, France, Philippines, China, Malaysia, Poland, and Ukraine.

In the same week, the most popular operating system of Sempringham viewers was Microsoft Windows (54%), followed by Linux (26% - those Russians?), followed by Macintosh (10%), iPad (7%), Android and iPod (less than 1% each).

In the same week, the most popular browser software of Sempringham viewers was Firefox (55%), Internet Explorer (29%), Safari (9%), Chrome (5%), Opera, and Mobile Safari (less than 1% each).

Google search keywords that resulted in a Sempringham pageview include, but are not restricted to,  "prostitutes," "hard art groop," and "fox news lies."

The Gift That Keeps Giving

The Washington Post has more information about the host of the fund-raiser where Romney called 47% of Americans deadbeats:
The reported host of a private $50,000-a-plate fundraiser that has come to haunt Mitt Romney this week is a prominent Florida private equity manager who has attracted media attention for partying with the rich and famous.

[Marc J.] Leder, who has given nearly $300,000 to Romney and other Republicans this cycle, used part of his fortune to become a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team and has become a fixture of New York tabloid reports, hobnobbing with rap mogul Russell Simmons and other celebrities. The New York Post dubbed him a “private equity party boy.”
In August 2011, the same tabloid reported on a Hamptons bacchanal at a $500,000-a-night oceanfront mansion rented by Leder, “where guests cavorted nude in the pool and performed sex acts, scantily dressed Russians danced on platforms and men twirled lit torches to a booming techno beat.” [my emphasis]
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mitt Romney's meritocracy.

As Paul Krugman says, "Clearly, we’re living in a bad political novel written by some kind of liberal. I mean, things like this don’t happen in real life."

Oh, this is such fun!


The Tax Foundation prepared a pretty map that can help us get a fix on where the 47 percent who pay no income tax live.

The red states are the 10 states with the highest percentage of non-payers; the blue states are the 10 with the lowest percentage of non-payers.

 Mitt says,
"These are people who pay no income tax... my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
I strongly object to Mitt Romney calling Southerners a bunch of moochers.

Oh, this is such fun!

Romney's 47%

Talking Points Memo points us to the following graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

It should be pointed out, I think, that in most states the 30% of 47% who don't pay payroll taxes DO pay sales taxes (as do the other 70% of 47%). I'll bet some pay property taxes, too.

Arch-conservative William Kristol in the arch-conservative Weekly Standard:  "Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him."

But Was It True?

Here's what Romney said in the video (see prior post):
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax... my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives…. The president has been a disappointment. He told you he’d keep unemployment below 8 percent. Hasn’t been below eight percent since. Fifty percent of kids coming out of school can’t get a job. Fifty percent.”
Here's what the Washington Post's Fact Checker says about it:
First, let’s start with the notion that nearly half of Americans do not pay income tax. This is one of these “facts” that is not very informative. “Income taxes” are just one type of tax that people pay, and for most working Americans, payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare far exceed what they pay in income taxes. Moreover, if some people do not pay income taxes, it is because of policies often advocated by Republicans.
Some 44 percent of those who do not pay income taxes are because they benefit from tax benefits aimed at the elderly, while another 30 percent benefit from tax credits for children or for the working poor, according to a paper published by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
But not all of these people are automatically Obama supporters. In fact, according to a map published by the Tax Foundation, eight of the top ten states with the lowest income-tax liability are the heart of Romney country — the deep south. The only exceptions are Florida, a battleground state, and New Mexico, which leans toward Obama. Meanwhile, most of the states with the lowest level of nonpayers are Obama states. [my emphasis]
As for the claim that Obama promised that unemployment would be below 8 percent, Romney has already earned Two Pinocchios for that. 
So, you'd think that Mitt would be in trouble with his base for insulting them like that. But no. When his base hears him talk like that, they know who he's really talking about.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Mitt Says in Private

Videos of Mitt talking to the converted are starting to their way to the internet. First, there's this video of Mitt saying that Obama's supporters are all on the dole:

More to come.

Update: Mitt has held a press conference about this video, and he had not thought out what he had to say, so it just made things worse.

This is Romney's crash and burn event. The gift for Obama that keeps on giving.

"Do you get a Social Security check that you worked hard all your life to get? Well, Mitt Romney thinks you're a moocher!"

"Do you have Medicare? If you do, Mitt Romney thinks you're a moocher!"

The Patriot Game

Play The Patriot Game – a musical mash-up of the conventions.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Murder One

A week ago I had the "opportunity" to serve on a criminal jury trial. The charge was first degree murder.

The defendant was 18 years old at the time of the murder in 2009. The victim was 17.

If you're interested, the following is how the trial went. I'm including some links to news stories about the murder. I did not know about these until after the trial was over because I made no attempt to learn anything other than what was presented in court. Wasn't that good of me?

I was called for jury duty at the criminal court building at 26th and California. When you say "26th and California" to a Chicagoan, it sends a chill down their spine. I’ve been called for jury duty about five times before, though always at the civil court downtown. There's definitely a different group of people hanging around the streets and halls at 26th and California.


When I entered the jury waiting room I was given a slip of paper that said Group 4, then sat down with about 300 other prospective jurors. We sat for two hours,  waiting and watching a video by the chief judge telling us how cool and patriotic we were to be on jury duty. I had just texted my significant other that nothing was happening, and that I hoped I hadn’t jinxed anything, when Groups 4 and 32 were called.

We were escorted from the waiting room to courtroom 604. There the judge, William Lacy, advised us that we were there for a murder trial, and called 28 of us (of about 50) by name to sit in the jury box and in chairs lined up in front of the jury box. Each of the attorneys and the defendant identified themselves to the jury, then the judge reviewed the forms we had filled out in preparation for jury duty, and basically asked us each question on the form, but in greater detail. Had you ever "been indicted" apparently meant “have you ever had a traffic ticket?”

After the judge’s questions, the State’s Attorney and defense attorney asked us questions. The States Attorney asked two questions. I can’t remember the first, but the second was: “What did you bring with you to read today?” Some people brought puzzle books, some brought newspapers, some brought novels. I had a history of World War I.

I believe it was the defense attorney who asked something about whether, if the defendant did not testify, we would take this as evidence of guilt.  Nobody said they would, but two individuals said they would take the police’s word over anyone else’s, regardless of what other evidence showed. Two Hispanic women could not understand the questions that were being asked, because they barely spoke English.

The judge, States Attorney, and defense attorney then retired to the judge’s chambers, and we were all told to wait in the hall. After a while, a sheriff’s deputy came out and called my name. She took me back to the judge’s chambers, where the judge said I had a very common name, and asked if I had ever lived in New York. I said I had lived there in 1971 for a few months. He asked if I had ever been in trouble with the law there, and I said no. I was then sent back out to the hall.

After a while we were called back into the courtroom, and 12 names were read out, including mine. We took places in the jury box, were told we were the lucky ones, then sent back to the jury deliberation room. Out in the courtroom, they were selecting another two jurors as alternates, and they ultimately joined us.

We were 6 women, 8 men, two black, ten white, and zero Hispanics.


The trial began. We heard opening statements from the prosecution and the defense. The defendant chased down the victim on the street, the prosecution said, firing repeatedly. Then, when the victim fell, the defendant stood over him and fired a bullet into his head. A news story about the case is here. This was a typical gang-type shooting that we read about in the Chicago papers every day.

The defense attorney stood up and said the prosecution did not have sufficient believable evidence to prove their case, and they could not, because the defendant was not guilty of the crime.

The prosecution presented several witnesses who had seen the murder, which occurred in front of a corner store. The man who was closest claimed he had seen nothing because he pressed himself up against a delivery truck. A second man had apparently identified the shooter to police from a photo the evening of the shooting, but during the trial claimed he had indicated only that the person in the picture “looked familiar.”

Two other persons were eyewitnesses to the murder, however, and identified the defendant as the shooter. Another person had seen the defendant exchanging guns with a companion shortly after the murder.


The trial continued.

The prosecution presented two young women (in their 20’s) who told a story about how, at a time shortly after the shooting, they observed the defendant and a second person going first to the second person’s house, a few houses down the street, then the defendant came over and asked for a ride out of the area, saying someone had tried to shoot him. One woman testified that she had seen the defendant bent over beside the house, like he was throwing up, and that the crotch of his pants was wet. They gave him a ride out of the area, during which he borrowed one woman's phone and made several calls. They could not hear what was said. One woman testified that the defendant called her several days later and warned her not to use his name if the police talked to her.

You can find a video that includes the defendant here.

After the women’s testimony, the prosecution presented witnesses from the crime lab and police department. There were no fingerprints on any of the shell casings. All shell casings were fired by the same gun, and all bullets were fired by the same gun, but since the gun was not recovered, there was no way to tell whether the bullets and shell casings were fired by the same gun. (Duh?)

An officer presented a videotape of the crime scene that was taken by a security camera across the street. He described the video as “poor,” and it was, but it was possible to make out the two men walking a dog, then splitting up. Two other men came across the street from the gas station, and someone started running after them. The pursued men split up, and the man in pursuit chased one of them behind two delivery trucks in front of the grocery store.

Another officer testified that the defendant was apprehended in Champaign.

The prosecution then rested.

The defense attorney stood up and said he had no witnesses to call, but wanted to introduce a stipulation that one of the prosecution’s witnesses had given an incorrect date of birth to the police. After which the defense rested.

The judge announced that we would hear closing arguments on Friday morning.


We were told to be at court at 11 a.m. for closing arguments, but weren’t called in to the courtroom until about 11:30. The female State’s Attorney, who appeared to be the junior member of the team, used the large television screen to show  a Powerpoint presentation that listed the charges (there were three) and evidence for each charge.

The defense attorney’s argument was that the witnesses were unreliable. Two had previous convictions for drug offenses. One said he could not identify the shooter. Another gave an incorrect date of birth to the police when he was being questioned. None of the witnesses went to the police; the police came to them. What was the defendant doing in Champaign if the murder was committed in Chicago?

The senior State’s Attorney then gave his rebuttal, which was that the witnesses saw what they saw. They all told the same story, but from different positions. There was no inconsistency between their testimonies, or with video or other evidence, and for that to be the case they had to either be in a conspiracy together, or telling the truth.

At about 12:30 the judge sent us to the jury room to deliberate.

Deliberations were painstaking. We had to draw out a map of the area so we could all visualize where all the witnesses were. We watched the video several times, looking for something that contradicted any of the testimony. We found only corroboration of the witnesses’ testimony. We went over the two young women’s phone records of that day, and the records corroborated – or at least did not contradict – their story. Several calls were made from one woman’s phone to the defendant’s mother. We discussed whether the fact that none of the witnesses went directly to the police lessened the probity of their testimony.

There were two jury members who were reluctant to vote guilty, and the jury foreman was careful to let them fully explore the uncertainties they had.

At about 5:15, the deputy sheriff brought in our dinner (white bread sandwiches) in styrofoam containers. “I think the judge is sending us a message,” I said to the deputy. She smiled and said, “That’s right!”

Before we sat down to dinner, the foreman polled the jury again, and everyone was ready to vote guilty. We took care of signing the forms, then pressed the button that advised the deputy sheriff that we had reached a verdict. She came quickly and said she would advise the judge, but that it would be a while before all the parties involved could be called back together. Then we sat down to our "dinners" – sandwiches, chips, and soda.

At about 6:00 we were called into the courtroom and the decision for each count was read aloud. The defense attorney asked to have the jury polled, and each member of the jury confirmed that he/she had found the defendant guilty.

The judge then dismissed us, and we returned to the jury room. From there, the (armed) deputy sheriff escorted us outside and across 26th Street to the jury’s parking garage.

I'm glad to have done it. I was impressed with the whole process. The trial was fair. I still marvel at the courage of the people who stepped forward to testify. That's a dangerous neighborhood, and their names are known.

Everybody took this whole thing very seriously, as they should.  In it's deliberations, every member of the jury was careful not to get ahead of the facts, and looked for reasons to question the evidence presented. In the end, we agreed there was no "reasonable" reading of the evidence except that the defendant was the person who killed the 17-year-old. I was at peace with myself.

Wouldn't want to do it again, though.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just in Case You Still Don't Think Fox is Doing It Intentionally

I have a dream. My dream is that Obama blows Mitt and Pinnocchio Paul so far out of the water that the GOP finally decides to throw the wackos out of the party. That's some dream, huh?

But really, the country is in real danger if politicians and the press can repeatedly lie and distort and get away with it. .

Steve Benen brings this headline to our attention:

Benen says:
I should note that the headline not only seems to accuse the president of being some kind of traitor, it also underscores a striking ignorance -- Libyan officials are mortified by Tuesday night's violence, support the U.S. presence in the country, and have begun making arrests as part of the investigation into the murders. Under the circumstances, having the U.S. president call his Libyan counterpart to reinforce the diplomatic ties is hardly controversial -- it's no different from George W. Bush calling Iraqi leaders after violence that killed Americans during the war in Iraq.
But the truth is neither provocative nor scandalous, so Fox Nation has to give reality a little touch up. At most news organizations, a headline like this would lead to dismissals. At Fox Nation, a headline like this is called "Thursday." [my emphasis]
Kent Jones has taken to calling Fox's headline writers, "news alchemists." It's a title that's well deserved.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hillary's Comments on Libya Attack

A must-see.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wow. Where did Obama find this lady?

Update: There has been some confusion about whether I liked this talk. I did.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fox News Caught Lying AGAIN

Anyone who thinks this was just an accident on Fox News' part hasn't been paying attention.

As with the videos they've falsified, they'll probably issue some kind of corrective statement. And once again they'll warn their staff to never, never do that again.


Monday, September 10, 2012

I Wish I'd Known Before the Season Started

To me George Will has always been the personification of the effete snob – the kid named Sidney who wore a suit with shorts and knee socks and ate watercress sandwiches. A real-life Chadsworth Osborne, Jr.

But I didn't know he was tin-foil hat crazy!
College football became a national phenomenon because it supposedly served the values of progressivism, in two ways. It exemplified specialization, expertise and scientific management. And it would reconcile the public to the transformation of universities, especially public universities, into something progressivism desired but the public found alien. Replicating industrialism’s division of labor, universities introduced the fragmentation of the old curriculum of moral instruction into increasingly specialized and arcane disciplines. These included the recently founded social sciences — economics, sociology, political science — that were supposed to supply progressive governments with the expertise to manage the complexities of the modern economy and the simplicities of the uninstructed masses.

Football taught the progressive virtue of subordinating the individual to the collectivity. Inevitably, this led to the cult of one individual, the coach.


Progressives saw football as training managers for the modern regulatory state. Ingrassia says that a Yale professor, the social Darwinist William Graham Sumner (who was Camp’s brother-in-law), produced one academic acolyte who thought the “English race” was establishing hegemony because it played the “sturdiest” sports.
Well, there you have it, guys. He has a regular column in the Washington Post and appears weekly on one of the Sunday talking head shows. There's really nothing I can say.

Speaking of Brass

This morning's Washington Post has an "adaptation" from Bob Woodward's new book, The Price of Politics. It concerns the debt ceiling crisis of July and August 2011, when the Republicans threatened to blow apart the world economy if they didn't get their way.
“[A veto of the Republican plan] would have massive effects,” Geithner said. Treasury had to conduct a bond auction in the open market in about five days, the regular Tuesday auction, with settlement on Thursday. That first auction could be a kind of tripwire, setting off a chain reaction. The federal government couldn’t pay its bills. “Why would anyone buy U.S. bonds if it’s an open question whether we are going to have the authority to pay for them?”

Another possible outcome, Geithner said, was perhaps worse. “Suppose we have an auction and no one shows up?”

The cascading impact would be unknowable. The world could decide to dump U.S. Treasuries. Prices would plummet, interest rates would skyrocket. The one pillar of stability, the United States, the rock in the global economy, could collapse.

“So,” the president said, “if we give $1.2 trillion now in spending cuts” — the amount in the House bill to get the first increase in the debt ceiling for about six to nine months — “what happens next time?” The Republicans would then come back next year, in the middle of the presidential campaign, and impose more conditions on the next debt ceiling increase. He could not give the Republicans that kind of leverage, that kind of weapon. It was hostage taking. It was blackmail. “This will forever change the relationship between the presidency and the Congress.

“Imagine if, when Nancy Pelosi had become speaker, she had said to George W. Bush, ‘End the Iraq war, or I’m going to cause a global financial crisis.’ ”

So, Obama said, they had to break the Republicans on this. Otherwise, they would be back whenever it suited them politically.

They were out of options, Geithner said. The only one might be accepting the House bill, loathsome as it might be. “The 2008 financial crisis will be seen as a minor blip if we default,” he said.

The president said, “The Republicans are forcing the risk of a default on us. I can’t stop them from doing that. We can have the fight now, or we can have the fight later on, but the fight is coming to us.”

So, no, Obama said, he was not going to cave. Period. He said good night, got up and left.
... Obama never had to confront the veto question. A few days later, House Republicans dropped their insistence on the two-step plan. The final plan accepted a debt limit increase that would take the country through the 2012 presidential contest. It also postponed $2.4 trillion in spending cuts until early 2013.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Credit Where Credit is Due

At a wonderful Bat Mizvah luncheon yesterday, I mentioned that some wag had suggested that Bill Clinton be appointed to the Cabinet as "Secretary of Explaining Stuff."

It turns out that "wag" is the President of the United States, whose staff had apparently read it on a tweet; only the tweet didn't say "stuff."

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Romney got next to no bounce in the polls from the Republican convention.

Things are looking much better for Obama.
[T]he key to understanding these numbers is to remember that these are tracking polls. So a significant amount of the data in each is from calls prior to the big speeches at the Democratic convention, especially for Gallup which has the longest collection interval. Nate Silver calculates that to get the numbers to move that quickly Obama has likely been up between 7 to 9 points since the Clinton speech.
Nate Silver's comment is important. Silver understands polls better than anyone.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Are We Better Off?

Nicholas Kristof:
On a backpacking trip once, I slipped on a steep ice sheet and began sliding uncontrollably toward the edge of a cliff overhanging an icy river.

Luckily, my son pulled me to safety with his trekking pole. Am I better off now than I was when I was sliding toward the abyss? Duh! 

Fact Checking the AP Way

Tom Raum (who grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey – more's the shame! – and is getting kind of crotchety) and Matt Apuzzo fact-checked Bill Clinton's speech last night.  Read it if you want to waste your time (example: Rahm Emmanuel is a well-known mean guy, so Congressional impasse is as much the Democrats' fault as the Republicans'); but in case you have a life worth living, here's the only taste of it you'll need:
CLINTON: "Their campaign pollster said, 'We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.' Now that is true. I couldn't have said it better myself - I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad."
THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton told television viewers. Later, after he was forced to testify to a grand jury, Clinton said his statements were "legally accurate" but also allowed that he "misled people, including even my wife."
At the Associated Press, that's called "fact checking." See Paul Krugman in the post just below this one.

Incidentally, Neil Newhouse, the Romney campaign pollster in question, did say that. You could make an argument that Clinton took the quote out of context, though the context is just self-serving twaddle. But be my guest.

Update: This "fact check" is apparently getting a lot of attention around the internet. There are some pretty good tweets here.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Krugman is Absolutely Right

Thank goodness for Paul Krugman. He's not the only one who has called out Pinocchio Ryan, but he's the only one I know of who's calling out the political columnists, who don't like to have their wisdom questioned.

Everybody Does It

That seems to be the new Beltway line, now that the shock over the lie-fest in Tampa has died down a bit. At the Washington Post (except at Ezra’s blog), at Politico, and so on, it’s excuse time — sure, Ryan and Romney told a few whoppers, but isn’t that just how politics is?

It’s not hard to understand why this is happening. For one thing, there’s the views-differ-on-shape-of-planet ethos that has imbued political journalism for many years now. On top of that, a lot of people in DC have major reputational capital at stake. After all the puff pieces on Paul Ryan, after all the op-eds praising his truthfulness and responsibility, after not one, not two, but three Pete Peterson-backed deficit-hawk organizations gave Ryan an award for fiscal responsibility, admitting that he’s actually a big low-body-fat liar would be extremely painful.

But the excuses just aren’t true. Read Dylan Matthews on the amazing string of false or misleading statements in Ryan’s speech; look at how Mitt Romney flipped from government spending is good to government spending is bad in just a few sentences. Can you find stuff like that in previous conventions, and in particular on the Democratic side? I don’t think so.

Yes, Bill Clinton and John Edwards lied about sex. Shame on them, but what does that have to do with policy?

This is something new in American politics, and everyone trying to deny that fact is in effect an enabler.
Italic emphasis is mine.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Clint Eastwood

A good friend wrote to ask what I thought of the Clint Eastwood fiasco at the Republican National Convention.

Well, I really LIKE Clint Eastwood, in spite of his political leanings. He is a fine director and there are worst actors. I was embarrassed for him.

But I am pleased as punch that when the national networks finally tuned in to the RNC Thursday night, to cover Romney's speech, everyone got to see Clint's performance first. From a Romney Campaign pespective, it was a disaster. So that's good.

Jon Stewart has the best coverage, as usual:

Via Crooks and Liars.

A Modest Suggestion for President Obama

Last night I got to watch two Beltway thinkers, David Brooks and Mark Shields, discuss the prospect of a second term for President Obama. As I recall it, they agreed that the Republican Party was full of Bold Ideas, but that Obama really had nothing.

If Obama is really hard-pressed for ideas, I just happen to have one for his acceptance speech this Thursday: tackling the Medicare problem – no vouchers allowed.

They said only Nixon could go to China, by which was meant that only a veteran Commie-hater president could visit China without the right wing being hysterical that he was secretly planning to turn America over to the Peoples' Army. And "they" were right.

By the same token, only the Democrats can "reform" Medicare. The Republicans are determined to end it, replacing it with a voucher system. What Obama needs is a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House, and he should say so.  A continuation of a divided Congress is not a check-and-balance so much as it is a recipe for more stalemate.
"Give me a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, and we'll tackle this problem, but we'll tackle it with the idea that we'll do what we need to to save as much of it as we can. We won't be like the Republicans, who think America is incapable of solving this problem and have already given up on it. And this way you'll know, if cuts truly are necessary, that they're unavoidable cuts, and the least painful cuts – not just cuts designed to lower Mitt Romney's taxes – because the Democrats built it and we want to save it."