Monthly Archives: January 2012

Which Is It, NOM?

National Organization for Marriage, from its website, in support of Chik-Fil-A's opposition to same-sex marriage:

"Buy a chicken sandwich, and thank the manager for the company's support of traditional family values."

National Organization for Marriage blog, April 27, 2011

National Organization for Marriage, through its President, in opposition to Starbuck's support of same-sex marriage:

"Americans should be able to drink a peaceful cup of coffee without worrying that a portion of the company's profits is going to be used to push gay marriage without a vote from the people."

National Organization for Marriage blog, Press release, January 21, 2012

What’s Good For The Goose…

This is pretty badass and hilarious.

The Virginia legislature is trying to pass a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound for having an abortion. According to CBS:

The legislation would require all women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound image taken to determine the gestational age of the fetus. It says each patient must be given the opportunity to see the image or hear the fetal heartbeat, but not required to do so.

After the ultrasound, women who live less than 100 miles from the medical facility would have to wait at least 24 hours before having the abortion except in the event of a medical emergency. Women who live more than 100 miles away would have to wait only two hours.

This is a tactic of legislators who are against womens' choice.  They believe that if a woman sees an ultrasound of their fetus, they won't have an abortion.  So, they are requiring ultrasounds, whether the woman needs it or not.

Senator Janet Howell didn't think this was fair.

So, she proposed an amendment that would require men to to undergo a digital rectal exam and cardiac stress test before being treated for erectile dysfunction.

Mass Hysteria Starts With Cheerleaders

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the strange situation in upstate New York, where twelve girls in the same junior-senior high school have developed strange tics, not unlike Tourette's, and nobody knows why.

It's now 14 girls, and possibly one boy, who have developed the strange behaviors.  One of them is posting her ordeal on YouTube.  

It's still a mystery about what is going on, but Slate tells us what the diagnosis is:

A doctor treating many of the students is confident that they are suffering not from poisoning, but from mass hysteria, also called mass psychogenic illness and other variants. Typically, symptoms—which can include Brownell’s Tourette’s-like movements, along with nausea, dizziness, cramping, and more—start with one or two victims and spread when others see or hear about them. Victims are often accused of faking it, but more often they are suffering real physical symptoms that are psychological in origin. The phenomenon has been observed for centuries, with the blame shifting to whatever specific anxieties are culturally pervasive at the time. But one theme has remained consistent: The victims are overwhelmingly female.

The most famous American incident of mass hysteria remains the events surrounding the witch trials in Salem, Mass., which began when several girls began suffering mysterious fits and outbursts. 

There is one thing we know about Salem, Massachusetts — the hysteria started with the older girls and worked its way to the younger girls. 

And there is a similarity between what happened in Salem centuries ago, and what is happening in LeRoy Junior-Senior High School — the most "prominent" girls are being afflicted first.  In Salem, it was the older girls of the community.  And the first girl to show signs of "tics" was at LeRoy was a popular cheerleader.

Is it possible that girls are "copying" the popular cheerleader?  Well, not intentionally.  It is an illness, some think, but the illness is mass hysteria — otherwise known as conversion disorder. It is a neurological condition in which psychological conflict or stress is unconsciously converted into physical symptoms that can include blindness, inability to speak or numbness.

Believe it or not, what is happening in LeRoy has happened elsewhere, recently.  In 2002, ten girls in a North Carolina high school started showing tics and epilieptic-type fits.  Guess what?  Once again, a cheerleader was first to manifest the strange symptoms, and once again other girls, some of them cheerleaders, were struck with the same condition.

If the North Carolina incident is to be a guide, this means that the LeRoy students are not in great or permanent danger.  The solution in North Carolina was to separate the students and treat each one individually.  (The symptoms went away over winter break).

Apparently, the parents in upstate New York are unhappy with the "mass hysteria" diagnosis, and it indicates there is something psychological, rather than physical, going on with their daughters.  Of course, this is probably one of those illnesses which rests in that gray area where "psychological" and "physical" overlap.

But it is an interesting development.

Fun Fact Of The Day

"Add up the wealth of the last eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. Then double that number. Now you're in Romney territory."

Associated Press story

It should be noted that Romney would be in the top 1% based solely on the income he receives in one week.

But I think Steve Benen is right:

The problem isn't that Romney is extremely wealthy. It's hard to imagine a significant number of voters saying, "I'm uncomfortable voting for a rich guy."

The problem is how Romney acquired his vast wealth (a vulture-capitalist firm), his frequent gaffes on the subject, and his policy agenda (which includes more tax breaks for the wealthy).

 

Details On The Rutgers University “Gay Bullying” Case

In late September 2010, many — myself included — were disturbed by the story coming out of Rutgers University regarding a gay freshman named Tyler Clementi who committed suicide (jumping off the George Washington bridge) after he learned his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had used a hidden webcam to secretly film Clementi engaging in homosexual behavior.

The New Yorker has a lengthy piece which separates the early reporting from the actual facts in the case.  Among the revelations:

* The web video was never actually broadcast, and Clementi apparently knew it wasn't broadcast.

*  Dharun Ravi, while culpable in many ways, wasn't particularly homophobic and didn't have a problem with his roommate's sexuality.

* Molly Wei, who was indicted with Ravi, had very little to do with the webcam transmission.

* There were two instances where Ravi had set up the webcam to "spy" on Clementi (occurring within two days of each other).  Clementi caught on to it after the first instance, but the people he told about it have since said that he didn't seem suicidal about it.

* Clementi was having a hard time adjusting to freshman life at Rutgers

* Clementi had "come out" to his parents only a few days earlier.  While his father took it relatively well, his mother — whom he adored — was less welcoming of the news.

* Clementi may have contemplated suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge before the events with his roommate took place.

The common belief at the time the story broke was that Ravi "bullied" his roommate to such an extent that Clementi committed suicide.  However, this seems not to be the case, and prosecutors have had a hard time making Ravi culpable for Clementi's death.  He has been charged with invasion of privacy and bias intimidation.  Bias intimidation is a sentence-booster that attaches itself to an underlying crime—usually, a violent one. Here the allegation, linked to snooping, is either that Ravi intended to harass Clementi because he was gay or that Clementi felt he’d been harassed for being gay.  

But there are very few facts to show that Ravi intended to specifically harass Clementi for his sexuality, in part because Ravi did not intend for the webcam to be discovered.  (Ravi has also been charged with witness tampering and evidence tampering, relating to his attempts after he realized that Clementi had killed himself, to delete certain tweets and to tell Molly Wei what to share with investigators).

This isn't to say that Ravi isn't guilty.  He clearly was a grade-A asshole.  But a bigot?  Probably not.  A bully?  It's questionable.  Which almost makes the suicide of Tyler Clementi more tragic, if not more mysterious.

Kudos to The New Yorker for adding facts to a matter which, like most sensationalist matters, is never as cut-and-dried or black-and-white as we think.

It’s Over For Newt

Tomorrow will make it official, but it's curtains for Newt.  Every available bit of polling data shows a strong trend in favor of Mitt Romney in the Florida. Nate Silver’s fairly conservative projections now indicate a 13-point win for Romney.

The inevitable end to Newt's campaign was also spelled out symbolically when he picked up the endorsements of Herman Cain and Sarah Palin.  ' Nuff said.

Not that he's going to go away.  No, sir.  That's not how Newt rolls.  But some aren't sure:

The most amusing meme of the weekend was the spate of stories questioning exactly how angry or crazy Newt actually is, given his predictable promise to stay in the race for months and months. I dunno: he has a long history of saying irresponsible things and then turning to the nearest observer—often one of the “liberal media” people he has just attacked—to ask how well he pulled it off. He easily could vow to plunge the Republican Party to the bottom of hell before giving up—and then the next minute endorse Mitt and head off with Callista for another Mediterranean cruise.

Obviously, the longer Newt stays in nipping at the heels of Romney, the better it is for Obama.  But I suspect this won't happen.  He's gone just after Super Tuesday, if I had to guess.

The Global Warming Hoax

In last night's debate, Santorum accused both Romney and Gingrich of buying into the "global warming hoax".  It's very disturbing that a presidential candidate still cannot buy into clear scientific data.  There is room for debate about the extent of global warming, and possibly even the root cause (although that latter point is almost universally closed as well).  But to say that it doesn't exist?  Crazy.

In 1880, when modern global temperature records began, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were at 285 parts per million. In 2011, they are were over 390 parts per million. We know this.  We can measure it.  It's not hard.  It's undeniable.

As we’ve spewed greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere at at a faster pace, global temperatures have accelerated upward, particularly since the 1970′s. To illustrate this rise, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies released this fascinating video earlier this week, showing 131 years of temperature records edited into a 30-second video:

 

Now, to deny global warming, you would necessarily have to take the position that NASA is either (a) making the numbers up or (2) miscalculating the numbers.  That is, NASA is either evil or stupid.

Until global warming deniers are unequovically take one of those two positions, and prove it, they need to shut up so the grown-ups can think and discuss a policy to fix the problem.

Last Night’s Debate

I missed it, but from what I gather, Santorum was the one who actually "won" (just like last one I watched), but nobody is going to declare him the victor because he has no chance of winning the nomination.

Apparently, I understand that Romney was more agressive against Newt, and some of Newt's attacks (like his now-expected attack on the media for asking dumb questions) fell flat.  So it was a good night for Romney. This attack from Romney was both brutal and effective:

ROMNEY: I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I'd say, "You're fired."

The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea, but it's not a good idea. And we have seen in politics — we've seen politicians — and Newt, you've been part of this — go from state to state and promise exactly what that state wants to hear. The Speaker comes here to Florida, wants to spend untold amount of money having a colony on the moon. I know it's very exciting on the Space Coast.

In South Carolina, it was a new interstate highway, and dredging the port in Charleston. In New Hampshire, it was burying a power line coming in from Canada and building a new VHA hospital in New Hampshire so that people don't have to go to Boston.

Look, this idea of going state to state and promising what people want to hear, promising billions, hundreds of billions of dollars to make people happy, that's what got us into the trouble we're in now. We've got to say no to this kind of spending.

Newt, as I noted, is already on the decline.  So this is playing out pretty much like I thought it would.  Romney will be the nominee. 

By the way, if you're interested at looking at the general election front, Obama wins in virtually every poll against any GOP candidate:

NATIONAL (NBC/Wall Street Journal): Obama d. Romney (49-43); Obama d. Santorum (53-38); Obama d. Gingrich (55-37); Obama d. Romney and Ron Paul (45-32-18)

NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama d. Romney (46-43); Obama d. Gingrich (48-41)

FLORIDA (Quinnipiac): Obama tied with Romney (45-45); Obama d. Paul (47-39); Obama d. Santorum (49-40); Obama d. Gingrich (50-39)

FLORIDA (Suffolk Univ): Romney d. Obama (47-42); Obama d. Gingrich (49-40)

MINNESOTA (PPP): Obama d. Romney (51-41); Obama d. Santorum (52-40); Obama d. Paul (51-38); Obama d. Gingrich (53-38)

That's pretty amazing considering that Obama has only just started campaigning.

 

“Ouch”: The Bob Dole Non-Endorsement of Newt Gingrich

I've emboldened my favorite parts.  Here it is

I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late.  If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.

Gingrich served as Speaker from 1995 to 1999 and had trouble within his own party. Already in 1997 a number of House members wanted to throw him out as Speaker.  But he hung on until after the 1998 elections when the writing was on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources.

Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall.  He loved picking a fight with Bill Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.

In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad.  He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty ice-bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it.

In my opinion if we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president we could have confidence in.

The Election Scam That Isn’t

Republicans are concerned, or pretend to be, about voter fraud.  They want voter ID laws to prevent all this fraud.  It just so happens that voter ID laws discriminate against minorities and the poor (who tend to vote Democratic), but that's not why Republicans are doing it.  It is because of the massive voter fraud.  Massive, I tells ya!

Like what just happened in South Carolina.  The South Carolina DMV produced a list of 957 dead people who they claim managed against all odds to vote in South Carolina’s primary last weekend.  But they only turned six of those names over to the South Carolina state elections commission.  And guess what?

One allegedly dead voter on the DMV's list cast an absentee ballot before dying; another was the result of a poll worker mistakenly marking the voter as his deceased father; two were clerical errors resulting from stray marks on voter registration lists detected by a scanner; two others resulted from poll managers incorrectly marking the name of the voter in question instead of the voter above or below on the list.

So, basically, of the six dead voters they looked at, the agency found every one of them to be alive and otherwise eligible to vote, except for the one who had voted before dying.

Zombies don't vote.  The more you know….

Gingrich’s Outrage Contained Lies

We all remember it.  It was just a few days ago.  John King asked Newt Gingrich about his second wife's allegations relating to an open marriage.  Gingrich clutched his pearls and said he was shocked, shocked, that such a question would be asked in a presidential debate.  He added:

"The story was false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story is false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren't interested."

Oh, that baaaad media.  They were so biased against Newt that they wouldn't even listen to the people that Newt offered to say the story is false.

Except for one thing… it never happened.  Gingrich's campaign never offered any "friends" to ABC to say the story was false, so ABC had nothing to show disinterest about.

The Gingrich campaign just now admitted it.

Lesson of the day: if you're going to attack the credibility of the media, don't invent lies to do it.

The SOTU

Missed the SOTU speech, but heard it was a barn-burner.  Some liberal commentators were concerned because he left nothing for the convention speech.

From what I understand, he tapped into the income inequality issue bigtime.  He didn't position himself as an anti-capitalist — he just wants to make it such that everyone pays their fair share and the burdens aren't placed on the lower and middle classes.  Six months ago, such a speech would have been used by the Republicans to paint Obama as a socialist, but now since the GOP candidates are talking about the same thing, that criticism is muted.

Also heard that he was no longer kowtow to the obsructionists in Congress, and maybe even made a veiled threat about going after insider trading by Congressman?  Cool.

Looks like Obama polled well.  I mean, really well:

According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 91 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks. Only nine percent disapproved.

Did well with swing voters, too. Here's a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner focus group in Denver for Democracy Corps, which found voters who “overwhelmingly liked what they heard” last night.

Dial testing and follow-up focus groups with 50 swing voters in Denver, Colorado show that President Obama’s populist defense of the middle class and their priorities in his State of the Union scored with voters. The President generated strong responses on energy, education and foreign policy, but most important, he made impressive gains on a range of economic measures. These swing voters, even the Republicans, responded enthusiastically to his call for a “Buffet Rule” that would require the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. As one participant put it, “I agree with his tax reform – the 1 percent should shoulder more of the burden than the other 99 percent. He [Obama] talked about being all for one, one for all – that really resonated for me.” These dial focus groups make it very clear that defending further tax cuts for those at the top of the economic spectrum puts Republicans in Congress and on the Presidential campaign trail well outside of the American mainstream.

More Conservative Values — Killing The Pets Of Liberals

This is sick:

RUSSELLVILLE—On the heels of a weekend of positive news coverage for the campaign of Democratic Congressional candidate Ken Aden, Aden’s campaign manager returned home to find his family pet slaughtered, with the word “liberal” painted on the animal’s corpse.

The Russellville Police Department is investigating, and a report will be made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Monday morning.

Jacob Burris, who has served as Aden’s campaign manager since late October, arrived home with his family Sunday evening, and his four children discovered the gruesome scene as they exited the family vehicle to enter their home.

The family pet, an adult, mixed-breed Siamese cat, had one side of its head bashed in to the point the cat’s eyeball was barely hanging from its socket. The perpetrators scrawled “liberal” across the cat’s body and left it on the doorstep of Burris’ house.

“To kill a child’s pet is just unconscionable,” Aden said Monday morning. “As a former combat soldier, I’ve seen the best of humanity and the worst of humanity. Whoever did this is definitely part of the worst of humanity,” he said.

“It is one thing to engage in civil political discourse, and for Republicans and Democrats to disagree with each other, which is an expected part of the political process. Taking it to this level is beyond unacceptable,” Aden said.

This is Arkansas, folks.

Warrants Needed For GPS Monitoring

It's kind of tough translating a 200+ year old document like the Constitution to modern-day technology.  Conservatives would rather we don't do it at all, sticking to the letter of the document (i.e., "if the Constitution was silent about privacy, then privacy is not protected").

But once in a while, the Supreme Court gets it right:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday the authorities need a probable-cause warrant from a judge to affix a GPS device to a vehicle and monitor its every move.

The decision (.pdf) in what is arguably the biggest Fourth Amendment case in the computer age, rejected the Obama administration’s position. The government had told the high court that it could affix GPS devices on the vehicles of all members of the Supreme Court, without a warrant.

“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search,’” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

In  a footnote, Scalia added that, “Whatever new methods of investigation may be devised, our task, at a minimum, is to decide whether the action in question would have constituted a ‘search’ within the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Where, as here, the government obtains information by physically intruding on a constitutionally protected area, such a search has undoubtedly occurred.”

In all, five justices said physically attaching the GPS device to the underside of a car amounted to trespassing and was a search requiring a warrant. The majority said “the present case does not require us to answer” whether police may employ GPS monitoring of a vehicle via an already onboard navigation system “without an accompanying trespass.”

Four justices, however, said the prolonged GPS surveillance in this case — a month — amounted to a search requiring a warrant. But the minority opinion was silent on whether GPS monitoring for shorter periods would require a warrant.

Full opinion (PDF) here.

UPDATE:  Some law geekiness is required here.  

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches without a warrant.  The exact holding of the case above is being wildly misreported.  The majority does not say that attaching a GPS device to the underside of a car is an unreasonable search, only that it is a "search" for Fourth Amendment purposes.  Specifically, five justices — Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Sotomayor — said the device constituted a search of private property. Four justices — Alito, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan — focused on reasonable expectations of privacy.

Strange goings-on with Sotomayor and Alito being in the places you wouldn't expect them to be.

Tennessee Tea Party Wants To Whitewash History

At a press conference, two dozen Tea Party activists presented their proposals — I’m sorry, their “demands” — for the new state legislative session. Among them are sweeping changes to school materials. Like this:

The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.”

Um…. okay.  But the founders DID, uh, "intrude" on the Indians (to say the least), and they DID own slaves, while at the same time signing (or writing) documents that "all men are created equal".  

Who Would Obama Rather Run Against: Newt or Mitt?

Answer: Mitt

First of all, Romney is a weak campaigner, as evidenced by his inability these past several months to "close the deal" with Republican voters.  Rhetorically, Obama can run rings around Mitt.

Secondly, Obama (and I mean, campaign-mode Obama) can still inspire, whereas Mitt cannot, even among his most ardent supporters.

Thirdly, there is a populist movement — which crosses party — lines relating to income inequality.  The Romney camp is already being beaten up about this, and their defense — "hey, don't punish success" — isn't going to fly.  Why not?  It's easily rebuttable.  Being successful in a capitalist system is fine, but being successful at the expense of the middle and lower classes?  Not so much. 

Fourthly, Romney can easily be painted as the class of person that was responsible for getting us into this financial mess in the first place.

Fifthly, Romney cannot go after Obama with any credibility regarding "Obamacare", since much of it is patterned after Romney's own plan.

Sixthly, although parties generally unify around their final candidate, the conservative base may not flock to Romney as much as he would hope.  They might sit out this election.

Seventhly, Romney can't connect to immigrants and minorities (Newt has better outreach because of his immigration policy).

Eighthly, Romney, unlike Newt, will not try to win votes by tapping into the racial divide.

Unless I'm wrong about this… in which case…

Answer: Newt

First of all, Newt's strongest appeal is with the conservative base.  His policies and his attitude may fire up that base, but he will have a much harder time reaching moderates, independents, and swing voters.  And (they say) elections are won or lost on the moderate, independent, and swing voters.

Secondly, Newt cannot reasonably call himself a leader, nor a Washington outsider.  As Speaker, he was ousted from the leadership.  And he has spent the last 14 years as a K Street lobbyist.

Thirdly, unlike with Romney, Obama can draw a deeper contrast between himself and Newt (and vice versa).  There is less chance that one will draw from the other's potential votes than in an Obama-Romney contest.

Fourthly, although he is a good debater, Newt has a propensity to shoot himself in the foot with his grandiosity.

Fifthly, Newt doesn't have the money or organization behind him.  While this might be seen as a virtue, it makes him more likely to make strategic errors.

Sixthly, there is a LOT of usable footage of Newt saying things that he totally disavows now (like how he was once in favor of an individual mandate).

Seventhly, Newt has a +34 unfavorable rating with the American public. The latest PPP poll shows that 60% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Gingrich, compared to only 26% who like him. Ouch. Mitt Romney's, meanwhile, is only +18 unfavorable

********************

And there it is.  My analysis.  What's THE answer?

Beats the hell out of me.

Last Night’s Debate

First of all, Santorum won.  The media is saying this morning that Gingrich won it in the first five minutes, but he didn't.  Santorum won, and I'll explain why shortly.  But let's talk about Newt's first five minutes.

Yesterday, there was breaking news about Newt's second wife, who told ABC that Newt, in the midst of his affair with the woman who would later become his third wife, asked to have an "open marriage".  So naturally, the CNN debate moderator, John King, asked Newt the question: Is it true?

Newt knew he was going to get the question.  Everyone knew he was going to get the question.  And he had response planned: "How DARE you ask that?  This is a PRESIDENTIAL debate!  The media is degrading and disgusting and I am disgusted at blah blah blah".  That's a paraphrase, but it not only got loud applause, but it got a standing ovation.

Of course it did.  Bashing and blaming the media is standard GOP fare.  Newt's response was predictable, and it would have been the same no matter when he was asked the question during the debate.  ("How DARE you ask me that question at the beginning of/in the middle of/at the end of this debate!!!")

Newt would like to pretend that personal failings have no place in politics, although he has run, and continues to run, on the sanctity of marriage and family values platform.  In fact, back when this conversation took place between Newt and Wife No. 2, Newt was leading the charge against Clinton in the Lewinsky affair.

Of course, any thinking person watching the debate was probably asking where was Gingrich condemning the "despicable" media when news organizations obsessed over Anthony Weiner's personal life? How about Eliot Spitzer? Or John Edwards?

More to the point, when Gingrich was helping lead an impeachment crusade against President Bill Clinton, and the media's obsession with a sex scandal was boundless, did Gingrich whine, "I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country"? If he did, I missed it.

Still, it was a legitimate and expected question, and Newt feigned outrage.  He complimented John King afterward and was perfectly cordial — yes, kids, the outrage at the question was all for show.

But Gingrich was far worse in other areas last night.  He just couldn't help acting like a pompous pious blowhard.  When all the candidates were asked "if you could undo ONE thing from this campain, what would it be", Newt's answser was basically, "At the beginning of the campaign, I shouldn't have listened to those advisors who were trying to get me to cover up my natural awesomeness."

He then closed with ridiculous hyperbole (but again, red meat for the masses): "Obama is the most dangerous thing ever".  Apparently, more dangerous than Hitler and al Qaeda.

Santorum won the debate for three reasons:

(1)  His ability to distinguish himself from Romney.  This part was pretty easy — Romney clearly is no conservative.

(2)  His ability to distinguish himself from Gingrich.  Here, Santorum deftly pointed out that Gingrich's "grandiosity" is somewhat unstable, that Gingrich's self-assurance is the kind of thing that can get him (and the country) into trouble, that Gingrich is a bit of a loose cannon.  It was a brilliant criticism, especially since we were all witnessing that in Gingrich right on stage.

(3)  His "everyman" demeanor.  The most telling part of the debate came when the group was discussing the release of tax returns.  Gingrich's people released his tax returns as the debate started.  Romney tried to joke and cajole about when his people would release his tax returns (nobody laughed), but said he didn't want to be exposed so early.  And Santorum?  He didn't talk about "his people" or "his accountants" or strategy… he simply said "I did my taxes myself.  They're at home on my computer.  When I get home, I'll get them off my computer and release them."  It was a perfect answer which made him seem like a real person, rather than a guy suirrounded by accountants and strategists.

So, that was the debate.  I was surprised by Santorum, but I don't know if his performance was enough to change anything.  He's not going to beat Newt in South Carolina, but maybe he will draw more votes from Newt than I previously thought, which will allow Romney to win.

Time will tell.

Oh, and Ron Paul took part in the debate too.

Best musical performance last night though went to Obama:

 

FURTHER THOUGHTS:  I should have mentioned what was (for me) the funniest line.  It came from Mitt Romney….

"[W]e need to send to Washington someone who has not lived in Washington, but someone who's lived in the real streets of America…. We need to have someone outside Washington go to Washington." [emphasis added]

Seriously? Romney has lived in "the real streets"?  Does any of his homes have streets?

Pictured:  Romney's $10 million summer home in Wolfeboro NH

 

Newt’s “Dirty Secret”

As mentioned below, GOP candidate Newt Gingrich's ex-wife (Marianne Gingrich) has given an interview to ABC news in which (she has alleged) will totally sing Gingrich's campaign.

Oooooh.  Just what "goods" does she have on Newt?

Apparently, he wanted to have an "open marriage" — i.e., have his wife (Marianne) and his mistress (Calista, to whom Newt is now married).  Marianne said "no".

My thoughts?  Of course it's ookey.  Of course it's going to get Newt in hot water with the "family values" people.  But I remain steadfast: what the hell does this have to do with Newt's ability to run (or in his case, ruin) a country?

Presidents are political leaders, not moral leaders.  You want a moral leader, there's a good one in the Bible.  Has the initials J.C.  I'm definitely no fan of Gingrich, but I don't think his moral failings — and WE ALL have moral failings — should preclude him from the presidency.

And here's my prediction — this attack on Gingrich will actually backfire.  He might even get some sympathy.

And to be honest, it's not even new.  We knew this about Newt already, right?

Off the soapbox.

Not. Buying. It.

Captain Francesco Schettino's reason for leaving the capsized cruise ship Costa Concordia while most of its passengers were still struggling to get off?

"I tripped".

Whew!  Good thing there was a lifeboat underneath him to catch his fall!

Wahlberg Thinks He’s Badass, But He’s Actually A Knob

"If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn't have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, 'OK, we're going to land somewhere safely, don't worry.'"

Mark Wahlberg, on the 9/11 hijacked flights, during an interview for Men's Journal.

Listen Mark.  When people get out of their seats and start murdering members of the crew, it wouldn’t have been particularly surprising if people were shocked enough not to react until it was too late. And as it turns out, they weren’t. The passengers on United 93, including a judo expert and a rugby player fought back against the men who hijacked their flight. As it turns out, people with weapons who are determined to die are decent at thwarting the people fighting back against them who want to live. The hijacker at the controls of the plane dipped and rolled to thwart the passengers’ efforts. And he crashed it before they could get to the cockpit.

This is just profoundly disrespectful to everyone who died on planes on September 11, whether they fought back or not. It shows no understanding of their ordeal, or their courage.

Perry’s Out & Other Tidbits

According to sources….

… oh, and rather than losing to Romney by 8 votes in Iowa, Rick Santorum actually won there by 34 votes 

… oh, and Marianne Gingritch, who once boasted that she could end her ex-husband's campaign with a single interview, has sat down for a two-hour interview with ABC… to be aired Monday (after South Carolina).  I don't know how much stock I would put in to an interview by a disgruntled ex-wife, but I'll keep an open mind….

… oh, and the jobless claims hit a 4-year low, which means that Obama wins the election.

Stupid Moviegoers Demand Money Back Upon Discoverin “The Artist” Is A Silent Movie

Philistines

The tribute to 1920s Hollywood, the black and white movie has already won three Golden Globe awards for its dazzling portrayal of the pre-talkie era.

But audiences at some Odeon Cinemas are unimpressed by the homage to the "Golden Age" of silent films and a smaller-than-usual screen.

Film-fan Nicola Shearer, 25, attended a screening at Odeon Liverpool One after a wave of complaints. She was asked by cinema staff if she knew "it is a silent film".

English graduate Nicola, from Liverpool, said: "Of course I knew it was and I asked the usher why she wanted to know.

"She then told me some people complained and asked for refunds because there is no sound and the screen is smaller."I thought it was really funny and laughed."

The film was purposely reduced to a smaller screen size to give it an authentic look of original silent films which were hugely popular from the late 19th century to the early 30s.

When Can You Start Crediting (Blaming) Obama For Jobs?

Steve Benen makes a great point which everyone needs to keep in mind this election season:

Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you could go back to March 1, 2009, when the global economy is on the brink of collapse. The White House's Recovery Act had just been signed into law, but the investments hadn't even begun, and President Obama, still unpacking, did not yet have his full economic team in place.

Then imagine a Republican arguing, "Mr. President, the economy has lost 726,000 jobs on your watch, and we're blaming you for the losses."

Would any serious person find this fair or reasonable? Of course not. And yet, it's the basis for the Romney campaign's entire economic critique of the Obama administration.

***

For Romney and his team, the clock started on Feb. 1, 2009, just 11 days after the Obama inauguration. Every job lost on Feb. 1, 2009, counts against the president, as does every subsequent job loss. Period. Full Stop.

And when you go by this measure, Obama is in the hole 1.66 million jobs (though that figure has shrunk every month for over a year).

But then there's a less ridiculous count. Obama took office when the global financial system was on the brink of collapse, inheriting a recession that began a year before his inauguration, looking at an economy in free-fall. A fair count would say the job losses from early 2009 couldn't possibly be blamed on Obama, since he'd just gotten there, and the crisis wasn't his fault.

Romney… say the clock starts on Feb. 1, 2009, but if you move the start date to July 1, 2009 — arguing, in effect, that Obama's first five months shouldn't be counted against him since he was dealing with a crisis that was not of his making — the economy has added over 1.4 million jobs. Looking only at the private sector, it's 1.97 million jobs.

And if we said Obama shouldn't be blamed for 2009 at all, the economy has added 2.58 million jobs overall, and over 3 million in the private sector.

That's not spin; it's arithmetic. Those numbers "speak for themselves."

Perry Needs To Bow Out

I still maintain that this is Romney's nomination.  The only chance that it is not is a slim one, and requires that two of the three conservatives bow out and unite behind the third (those three conservatives are Gingrich, Santorum and Perry).

If this is going to be an at-all interesting race, Perry needs to get the ball rolling by being the first to give up the ghost.  And now he has a good reason to…. he's running third in his home state of Texas.

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Forsyth County Prayer Case

Good local First Amendment news:

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a North Carolina county commission over the mostly Christian prayers offered at the beginning of its public meetings.

The justices on Tuesday left in place a federal appeals court ruling that held that the predominantly Christian prayers at the start of Forsyth County commission meetings violated the First Amendment's prohibition on government endorsement of a particular religion.

The commission said its doors have long been open to religious leaders of many faiths. But the appeals court in Richmond, Va., found that more than three-quarters of the 33 invocations given before meetings between May 2007 and December 2008 referred to "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," "Christ" or "Savior."

Here's the lower court opinion from last year (PDF) saying that Forsyth County's mostly-Christian prayers are unconstitutional.

Romney Admits His Effective Tax Rate Is About 15%

That's a lot lower than most American families.

 

And remember… when President Obama suggested the “Buffett rule,” aimed at ensuring that millionaires can’t pay lower taxes than middle class families, Romney derided it as “class warfare,” and “the wrong way to go.”

Now we know why.

You're going to be hearing about this 15% for the next few days.

Mars Is Throwing Rocks At Us

They found a rock from Mars in Africa.  It's not the first time it has happened, but it's pretty rare.

How did it happen?  A meteor hit Mars millions of years ago, kicking up debris.  Some of it — well, a few rocks of it — made it's way to Earth.  Pretty cool.

Full story.

Twelve Girls In The Same High School Suddenly Develop Tourette’s

Or, if it's not Tourette's, it's like Tourette's.  Any way you look at it though, it's weird:

Le Roy, N.Y.— ( By: Angela Hong courtesy: 13WHAM ) Wednesday night, James Dupont attended a meeting at Le Roy Junior-Senior High School hoping to find some answers about what may be wrong with his daughter.

Since the first week of December, his 17-year-old daughter suddenly had tics and showed signs of Tourette-like symptoms. But she isn’t the only one.

The York State Department of Health says since September, 12 girls suddenly developed tics. Some so bad, they have had to be pulled out of school and tutored from home.

“I worry about my daughter’s future,” says Dupont. “She's only 17. She can't even drive now… My daughter hasn't been able to go to school for a month because she's got this so bad.”

Dupont hoped that the meeting with the New York State Department of Health would give him some answers, but he says he’s more frustrated and confused than before.

“It's a tearjerker and it hits you in the gut at the same time. You feel frustrated and helpless because you don't know what you can do and you’re not getting any answers.”

During the meeting, Gregory Young from the state health department said that all 12 girls had been diagnosed and are being treated. Dupont says that he knows of no such diagnosis.

“Want to know something? If my daughter had a diagnosis and I knew about it, and I would as her parent, I would tell you that!”

Young told the audience of almost 200 parents and students that the diagnosis and cause of the mysterious illness could not be shared because of the HIPPA Privacy Rule.

“Anytime we deal with a small number of cases and a dozen is a small number in a small community, it's very easy for people to hear the diagnosis and tell people who that diagnosis belong to,” says Young.

Dupont believes that the health department doesn’t truly know what’s going on.

“The girls all go to the same neurologist and there is no diagnosis,” Dupont says. “They don't know what's causing it. That’s why we're all here at this meeting. It's not getting any better and they can't share a diagnosis because there is no diagnosis right now.”

During the meeting Young clarified that the cause has nothing to do with illegal drugs, legal drugs, environmental issues at the school or in the Le Roy community, or vaccines. He did say that stress could exacerbate the tics.

“Stressors can make these symptoms worse,” Young says. “I'm not saying they're causing it, but I'm saying that it makes it worse.”

 

The Tebow Endorsement

Pathetic:

Tim Tebow is already the hottest property in professional sports, and now Republican presidential candidates are lining up for the blessing of the Denver Broncos quarterback.

The “Mile High Messiah” told The Associated Press on Sunday that more than one of the GOP hopefuls has asked for his public support.

He declined their offers, and also wouldn’t tell the AP which candidates had reached out to him for an endorsement.

Because if Tebow endorses you, God endorses you.  I suppose that's the thinking.

Russian Satellite To Kill Us All

ProbeThere's a lot of space debris in space, orbitting the Earth.  When those orbits decay, as they do over time, the debris burns up upon re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.  

No biggie.

Unless the debris is really big to begin with — like an out-of-use satellite.  Some of the debris survives re-entry and crashes to Earth.  We've seen a few of those recently: An old NASA 6-ton atmospheric research satellite came tumbling down in September, and a 3-ton German science satellite followed suit in October.  The surviving parts of those old satellites ended up in the oceans.

But there's another killer out there: the Russian Phobos-Ground satellite.  It's way bigger than those other two satellites — it's 14.6 tons.

Also, it's not an old satellite.  In fact, it wasn't supposed to be a satellite at all.   It was launched in November 2011, and a glitch left it stranded in orbit around Earth instead of bound for Mars to collect soil samples.

And now it is coming back down to Earth, carrying within it about 12 tons of highly toxic fuel that was supposed to take it to Mars.  Some think that the fuel is probably frozen, and it will become UNfrozen during re-entry, and then spread in tiny droplets over some area — perhaps even a populated area.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos' latest forecast has the unmanned Phobos-Ground probe falling out of Earth's orbit Sunday or Monday, with the median time placing it over the Indian Ocean just north of Madagascar.  Of course, these is the same agency which built and launched the piece-of-crap probe, so who knows where it will come crashing down. 

London and New York are along its flight path.

More info here.

The New York Times Asks “Shall We Report The Truth?”

In a stunning editorial today, the New York Times ombudmen Arthur Brisbane asks TImes readers whether — hold on to your hats — whether or not Times reporters should state the facts.  He gives us an example of how it might work:

…Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:

“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”

The answer to Mr. Brisbane's question is, of course, YES.  Reporters should not be court stenographers, simply jotting down the he-said, she-said of political life.  Where there are discernable FACTS to be made or clarified, the Times should OF COURSE make or clarify them.

The responses in the comments section are almost universally the same, i.e.,

This is like a bad joke, except it's not funny. Are you seriously asking whether a journalist should point out when, for example, a candidate for president is lying to the American public? The answer is unequivocally yes. I also find it very disappointing that this piece is assumes that pointing out a falsehood would be considered biased or unfair.

I also think referring to the people on whom you report as "newsmakers" is misleading and problematic. The image is that the politician, whoever it may be, is the only active participant in the process, and that a journalist must simply passively report whatever the politician does or says.

and

This should not even be a question. Allowing blatant untruths to go unchallenged is not "objective reporting," it's merely lazy and irresponsible. You do seem to lead the discussion with the "apologizing for America" example–this is hyperbole rather than an outright lie, and a reasonable reader could conclude that Romney is giving his own spin on the president's words. There are, however, any number of outright falsehoods that have been spoken on the campaign trail, and even before–how much differently might have the health care debate played out if the Times and other news organizations had noted, in the body of their articles, that many statements by senators and congressmen and women simply weren't true? Or, how would an assessment for truth of politicians' words affected the lead up to war in Iraq?

In short: yes. Let bluster stand, but please, please, please verify that politicians' statements of fact are, in reality, factually correct.

and

How is it possible this is even a question? Of COURSE you should fact-check the the things people tell you, and inform readers if what they said is false. Your job is to tell us the relevant facts about a story, and if someone lies, that's an extremely relevant fact. 

If I want to know the he-said-she-said I can read twitter. The Times is supposed to be a news operation.

The sad state of journalism.  You can see what is going on here: the Times is worried that they will be accused of bias.  So they write things like "Mitt Romney says that two plus two equals five; Democrats disagree".  But as Jamison Foser explained very well this morning, he-said/she-said journalism makes matters worse through neglect.

When reporters omit reality from their stories in order to avoid being seen as "involved" or "taking sides," they are taking sides. And they are taking the wrong side. When you treat two statements — one true and one false — as equally valid and equally likely to be true, you are conferring an undeserved benefit on the false statement.

Journalism needs to hold politicians' feet to the fire (both Democrat and Republican).  When facts are stated incorrectly, this needs to be pointed out!

Ed Murrow is rolling in his grave.

Getting Interesting

The bash on Romney about the former governor's private-sector background at Bain Capital – primarily coming from Gingritch and Perry — is actually having an impact in the vital state of South Carolina:

Despite a historic sweep of the first two nominating contests in the GOP field, Mitt Romney holds just a two percentage point lead in South Carolina, his smallest lead of 2012.

Romney is the favorite of 23 percent of South Carolina voters, narrowly edging Newt Gingrich's 21 percent, according to the latest poll from Insider Advantage. Rick Santorum pulls 14 percent of Palmetto state voters, while Ron Paul rounds out the top four with 13 percent. Jon Huntsman's seven percent and Rick Perry's five percent trail the pack.

Two percentage points?  That's it?

If Romney loses South Carolina to Gingritch, and the pack thins out to just Gingritch and Romney, this GOP race is going to get bloody (and interesting).

NC Official Resigns In Protest of Marriage Amendment

Harnett County Director of Elections Sherre Toler has forcefully resigned so as to avoid having to facilitate North Carolina’s discriminatory marriage inequality amendment in May. In a letter of protest, Toler compared voting on same-sex marriage to voting on interracial marriage and announced she would be forming a political consulting business to “defeat the effort to write discrimination into the North Carolina Constitution.”

Pam Spaulding interviewed Toler about her decision. She explained her goals moving forward and also how she sees the amendment as discrimination:

TOLER: Discrimination is discrimination in whatever form it takes. The Supreme Court acknowledged in the Loving case that the “freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State” Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). The same constitutional provisions that led the Court to that decision most certainly apply to the “freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of [the same gender] resides with the individual…” We cannot allow the civil rights of a minority group to be put to the vote of a majority.

 Yup.

$50,000 To Victims Of North Carolina Eugenics Program

That's right.  North Carolina had an eugenics program which sterilized an estimated 7,600 people between 1929 and 1974, many of them against their will.  It was carried out by individuals, nonprofit organizations and the state government that felt that human reproduction should be controlled.  Social workers and the like could petition for the court-ordered sterilization of people who had epilepsy, sickness, “feeblemindedness” and other disabilities.  It is believed that 2,944 victims of North Carolina's sterilization program may be living as of 2010.

Other states had eugenics programs in the past, which focused on criminals and mentally ill people.  North Carolina's was much worse in that (1) it went on for decades after all the other states stopped doing it and (2) it extended to healthy women and children who were often poor and uneducated. Mothers were pushed or tricked into signing release forms for their young daughters to undergo the sterilization operation under threat of losing state-provided aid or custody.

Yes, it disproportionately disfavored African-American women.

And now, a five-member task force designed to compensate victims of the eugenics program have come out with their recommendation: $50,000 per victim.

That amount adds insult to injury in my view.

Talking A Little Football

I think it's great that God sacrificed his one and only son so that the Denver Broncos could get into the playoffs.  I really do.  

I'm sure that is what Jesus had in mind when they hammed spikes through his palms on the cross: not the famines, war, and disease which, every day, kill the faithful all over the world — but the ability of a man to throw an awkwardly non-spiral football to another man on the first play of overtime in the AFC Wild Card playoffs two thousand years hence into the future.

But seriously, I hate to say this because it sounds like trash talk against a team which is going up against my Patriots next week.  But I'll say it anyway.  If Tim Tebow is so good, why is his team always behind?  Or, if yesterday's game is the template, why can't his team hold a lead?

And, by the way, sports media, stop it with this crap:

Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow and the biblical verse John 3:16 have long been entwined. So why is it now trending on Google?

Turns out that the evangelical Christian — whose dramatic sideline praying on one knee has even spawned the phrase "tebowing" — churned out some timely 3-16s in his team's big playoff win over Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

Most notable, Tebow threw for a season-high 316 yards and set an NFL record with 31.6 yards per completion.

Seriously.  Stop it.

GOP Debates and A Look Ahead

I watched the GOP debate on Saturday night, and heard some of their debate held on Sunday morning.

And I have to say… even when serious, they are all serious douchebags.

It was seriously disturbing, and most distrubing of all was the frontrunner, Mitt Romney.  His doubletalk was in full force, especially when it came to the issues of privacy/abortion, as well as gay marriage.  On the latter point, here is what he said:

But — but to say that — that marriage is something other than the relationship between a man — a man and a woman, I think, is a mistake. And the reason for that is not that we want to discriminate against people or to suggest that — that gay couples are not just as loving and can’t also raise children well.

No, stop right there.  He does not want to suggest that gay couples aren't as loving and can't also raise children well.  He does not want to suggest that.  Got it?

But then, in the very next sentences, he suggests that.  Blatently:

But it’s instead a recognition that, for society as a whole, that the nation presumably will — would be better off if — if children are raised in a setting where there’s a male and a female. And there are many cases where there’s not possible: divorce, death, single parents, gay parents, and so forth.

But — but for a society to say we want to encourage, through the benefits that we associate with marriage, people to form partnerships between men and women and then raise children, which we think will — that will be the ideal setting for them to be raised.

Got that?  Society would be better off if children were raised in a man-woman marriage.

Let's put this in a different context — the racial one.  What Romney is saying (in doubletalk-ese) is this:

Oh, I don't want to suggest that blacks can't do jobs as well as whites, but I think as a society we want to encourage whites to have the better jobs because that is the ideal.

This is what happens when you try to straddle the conservative position on gay marriage along with the moderate position.  You simply can't.

And that's all I could think of as I watched Mitt Romney: "This guy just wants the gig.  He doesn't care about America."

The other things about Romney was his constant grandstanding about American freedom so that we can have more and better entrepreneurs living the American dream.  It was like he was running for the President of Future Enterprisers.  I wanted to jump through my TV set and tell him that "the American dream" doesn't just mean starting your own business.  99% of Americans don't aspire to that, and are quite content to raise a family, worship freely, and have a decent job.  Romney was serving up the ""what's good for GM is good for America" koolaid, and fortunately, I don't think that message is going to resonate far outside his circle of Wall Street cronies.

Anyway, the New Hampshire primaries are tomorrow, and they are not even worth nothing.  Romney wins there.  His poll numbers are slipping, but he still takes it by as much as 10-15 points.  The rest of the pack are kind of bunched below, noone breaking away significantly.

2012-01-09-Blumenthal-nhchart20120109.png

That puts all the eyes on conservative South Carolina.  Romney is polling ahead there, too, and if he takes South Carolina, it's pretty much over.  But taking South Carolina is far from a sure thing.  Gingrich is picking up steam there; so is Santorum.  A win, or even a close second, from either of those two will force Romney to keep on fighting (and moving to his right).

In the end, as we always knew, it will be Romney running against Obama.  It's just a question of how long it will take him to secure the nomination and how long he will have to pretend to be an far right conservative.

Patton Oswalt Tweets Downton Abbey

 "I never had an Anna to braid MY hair." — Willie Nelson, feeling maudlin on the tour bus. 

Edith just threw down in a 1916 equivalent of Russ Meyers' SUPERVIXENS. #DowntonPBS

Sorry ladies, for the earlier Molesley tweet. And Molesley? You do NOT mack on Bates' shorty. #TeamBates #DowntonPBS

"My hobbies are croquet, pressing flowers and failing to say what I mean." — Mary. #DowntonPBS

May I make a prediction? Matthey Crawley marries Mary and becomes the first host of the DAILY SHOW. #DowntonPBS

Mary is wearing a dress TWICE?!?! Well, there IS a war on. #DowntonPBS

"I may not be your superior in a Mayfair ballroom…" I have GOT to use that sometime. SOON. #DowntonPBS

Goddamit, now I like Thomas again. #DowntonPBS

"I pulled a child's belly skin over my bare skull for this walk. I hope you don't mind." — Sir Richard. #DowntonPBS

I wish I'D had a Carson when I was a gorgeous, 21 year-old heiress!#DowntonPBS

"MAIDS in the dining room? This is like watching FACES OF DEATH." – @timheidecker, just now. #DowntonPBS

Oh FUCK you, Edith! Fuck your crappy, peplum-effect plum dress and HELP CARSON! #DowntonPBS

Damn, Maggie Smith refuses sauce like a GANGSTA! #DowntonPBS

@pattonoswalt William and Daisy sex would be all elbows, chins, and pardons.

I forgot how much I love British people's pronunciation of "left-enant."#DowntonPBS

Smashing show, Thomas: I fucking hate you again. #DowntonPBS

I want to see The Dowager Countess & O'Brien in a Withering Stare Cage Match. #DowntonPBS

Wait, did they hire H.P. Lovecraft as the new Downton valet? #MrLang #DowntonPBS

Everyone in Mumford and Sons wishes they had that farmer's hat. #DowntonPBS

Mr. CARSON, what are you pulling on?!?! Oh, a wine work. Sorry. Never mind. #DowntonPBS

"Will this war effect my hat choices?" — every woman in the village. #DowntonPBS

rosannecash rosanne cash 

 by pattonoswalt

Did I mention that Vera Bates is DEAD TO ME? #TeamAnna #DowntonPBS

Here's how brilliant DOWNTON ABBEY is: I feel protective and anxious for an absolute shit like Thomas. #DowntonPBS

I've done one-nighters in Ohio worse than these trenches in the Somme. #DowntonPBS

Good Lord, I feel sorry for Thomas. #DowntonPBS

Hey ladies? Molesly's hot, too. #DowntonPBS

If they remake ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, I elect Maggie Smith to play Snake Plissken. #DowntonPBS

Dear Julian Fellowes — no way to have someone in the background yell, "Baldrick!" during the trench scene? #DowntonPBS

Daisy and William are an adorable couple, but I don't want to watch them fuck. #DowntonPBS

Okay, Bates? You're being a little too goddamn tragic right now. The game is the game. #DowntonPBS

Any self-respecting AgathaChristie villain would strychnine the fuck out of a cup of Assam and solve the "mad wife" poser. #DowntonPBS

Wait, why am I hearing distant traffic? How has L.A. not completely shut down while DOWNTON ABBEY is on? #DowntonPBS

Second Law of Service: A servant shall not allow a scone to go stale, unless it conflicts with The First Law. #DowntonPBS

Mary's sad eyes at the train station are every Belle & Sebastian album at once. #DowntonPBS

Did the Dowager Countess ever throw down in rap battles at Osborn High School in Detroit? #DowntonPBS

Are they hazing the new maid? #DowntonPBS

Woo Maids The Bates Way — THE Christmas bestseller of 2012. #DowntonPBS

I was given a white feather when I refused an extra order of Crazy Bread from Little Ceasar's. #DowntonPBS

Carson & Mrs. Hughes — twice the sexual tension of David & Maddie on MOONLIGHTING. #DowntonPBS

Wait, when did Matthew join Prince's band circa 1984? #DowntonPBS

"I want to rub my face on that goddamn wallpaper." – @aimeemann, just now. #DowntonPBS

morgan_murphy Morgan Murphy 

 by pattonoswalt

Downtown Abbey makes white nerds tweet like Kanye.

Sybil is the Silverlake/Park Slope trust-funder of 1916. #DowntonPBS

Bates! Walking through train steam! (Should've played him on with Zeppelin's "Black Dog") #iloveBates #DowntonPBS

"Maggie Smith's eyes look CGI." – @MPenn, just now. #DowntonPBS

Nobody lurks like O'Brien! #DowntonPBS

"Sometimes, it feels as if all the men I've ever danced with are dead." Me too, Sybil! #DowntonPBS

DOWNTON ABBEY — it's STAR TREK for tea drinkers! #DowntonPBS

Wait, the Dowager Countess reads Arthur Conan Doyle? #lostworld #DowntonPBS

Maggie Smith is the Brother Mouzone of withering quips. #DowntonPBS

Where are Mrs. Patmore's Janis Joplin sunglasses? #DowntonPBS

@MPenn, sitting next to me right now: "I WANT THAT CAR! I WANT THAT CAR!" #DowntonPBS

I would pay $1000 to watch Elizabeth McGovern butter toast. #DowntonPBS

Oh I DON'T like this new maid's attitude! #DowntonPBS

Can't believe they couldn't manage an Cpt. Edmund Blackadder cameo in the cold open. #DowntonPBS

 

Signs of Economic Recovery

The new jobs number for December is out, and while it doesn't show we're on the way to recovery, it shows signs of recovery, and so we have reason to smile.

The U.S. economy gained 200,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5%, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast the U.S. would add 150,000 jobs last month, with the jobless rate edging up to 8.7% from an initially reported 8.6% in November.

And now a chart, showing the number of net jobs gained/lost each month since this recession started.  Red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.

120106_jobs

Girls With Guns

Perhaps you've heard this story by now:

A young Oklahoma mother shot and killed an intruder to protect her 3-month-old baby on New Year's Eve, less than a week after the baby's father died of cancer.

Sarah McKinley says that a week earlier a man named Justin Martin dropped by on the day of her husband's funeral, claiming that he was a neighbor who wanted to say hello. The 18-year-old Oklahoma City area woman did not let him into her home that day.

On New Year's Eve Martin returned with another man, Dustin Stewart, and this time was armed with a 12-inch hunting knife. The two soon began trying to break into McKinley's home.

As one of the men was going from door to door outside her home trying to gain entry, McKinley called 911 and grabbed her 12-gauge shotgun.

Ms. McKinley asked the 911 dispatcher if she could shoot the intruders if one of them crossed the threshhold.  The dispatcher said "I can't tell you that you can do that but you do what you have to do to protect your baby".  When one of the intruders kicked down the front door, Ms McKinley shot and killed him.  The other intruder later turned himself into the police.

It's a good story, with a happy ending.  And I don't think anyone, regardless of their views about gun control or the Second Amendment, believes that Ms. McKinley was in the wrong.

But now the woman and the story has become a cause celebre for the right wing noise machine and pro-gun lobby.  Even Sarah Palin has weighed in:

“I love that young woman. I’m all in favor of girls with guns who know their purpose. She fulfilled a purpose of the Second Amendment. I’d advise my own daughters to do the same. This mom protected an innocent life. Kudos to the 911 dispatcher, too.”

That the McKinley story ended happily is great — but to draw some larger conclusion for it would be wrong.  Because for every McKinley story, there are several stories like the ones below, starting with this one which happened just after Christmas:

THREE RIVERS, Mich. (WOOD) – A woman allegedly shot her husband — the pastor of a local Baptist church — on accident while intoxicated on Monday night. 

Connie C. Tolbert of Three Rivers is facing felony charges stemming from allegations that she shot her husband in the shoulder after the couple heard a suspicious sound outside their home. Police said she was intoxicated at the time of the incident. 

Connie Tolbert, 54, has been charged with two felony counts: use/discharge of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol causing serious impairment and felony use of a firearm. 

She also faces misdemeanor careless discharge of a firearm causing injury or death and misdemeanor discharge of a firearm while aimed without malice but with injury. 

The suspect's husband Darryl Tolbert, 52, suffered a gunshot wound to his right shoulder, according to St. Joseph County Undersheriff Mark Lillywhite. He was treated at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo and released. 

The undersheriff said that the couple was in their home on Johnson Road in Flowerfield Township, just north of Three Rivers, when they heard a strange sound outside at about 7 p.m. on Monday. 

Darryl Tolbert told Connnie to get her .380-caliber handgun (which is legally owned and registered to her) and the two went out into their back yard. The couple was standing about three feet apart when another noise caused Darryl Tolbert to move suddenly, startling his wife and causing her to discharge her weapon, Lillywhite said. 

Lillywhite also said that alcohol was a main factor in the incident, which has been classified as accidental. 

Darryl Tolbert is listed as the pastor of the Bethel Baptist in Three Rivers, according to the church's website. Two parishioners also confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 that Darryl Tolbert was the pastor.

Or this, from last November:

A 56-year-old woman from the 2400 block of Burbank Street was arrested Nov. 17 at her home for reckless conduct after she allegedly shot her husband in the back. The man was transported to Provena St. Joseph Medical Center to remove the .38-caliber bullet and repair a broken rib. The woman reportedly was attempting to uncock a Ruger revolver when the gun accidentally fired.

Or this, from last month:

(CBS) DAVIE, Fla. – A 40-year-old man was reportedly rushed into surgery Sunday after he was accidentally shot in the stomach by his girlfriend, police say.  

CBS Miami reports 40-year-old Kristi Ellis was cleaning a handgun at 4 a.m. in her home Sunday morning when it went off, striking her boyfriend, 40-year-old Michael Allih, in the abdomen.

Ellis called police as soon as the weapon went off and hit Allih, said police Sgt. Christopher Chastain.

According to police, the injury did not appear life-threatening, but Allih was taken to Memorial Regional hospital where he underwent surgery to remove the bullet.

Or this, from last summer:

A family was grieving Monday after a Texas woman accidentally shot and killed her husband while trying to fend off a pit bull that threatened their grandchildren.

And so on.

So, Sarah Palin, before we get all Rambo'ed up on the idea of "girls with guns", let's remember that guns are dangerous in the hands of anybody – male or female — and accidents can happen even when the gun owners own them for the right purposes.  (Men are, of course, just as accident prone as women in this regard).  

The McKinley story had a happy outcome, but so often, these stories do not end that way (which, I submit, is why the McKinley story is national news, while the other ones never make it to mational acclaim).  And we're going to have an honest debate about gun ownership, we need to consider all these stories.

The Obama Scandal You Haven’t Heard About Yet

ObamaMarsThe lamestream media is trying its best to keep this hidden from we the people.  But it's only a matter of time before this story gets full-blown coverage, and takes down the current administration:

Two former participants in the CIA’s Mars visitation program of the early 1980’s have confirmed that U.S. President Barack H. Obama was enrolled in their Mars training class in 1980 and was among the young Americans from the program who they later encountered on the Martian surface after reaching Mars via “jump room.”

Andrew D. Basiago, 50, a lawyer in Washington State who served in DARPA’s time travel program Project Pegasus in the 1970’s, and fellow chrononaut William B. Stillings, 44, who was tapped by the Mars program for his technical genius, have publicly confirmed that Obama was enrolled in their Mars training class in 1980 and that each later encountered Obama during visits to rudimentary U.S. facilities on Mars that took place from 1981 to 1983.

***

Mr. Basiago and Mr. Stillings have each issued public statements confirming that they both attended Mars training with Mr. Obama and later encountered him on Mars during separate visits.

On August 21, 2011, Mr. Basiago stated:  "Something highly significant has happened, and that is that two individuals from the same Mars training class in 1980 (Basiago and Stillings) have met and are comparing experiences and are able to corroborate not only that they were on the surface of Mars together but that before reaching Mars via jump room they were trained with a group of teenagers that included the current President of the United States (Obama) and director of DARPA (Dugan)."

Mr. Stillings’ statement, released at the same time, read:  "I can confirm that Andrew D. Basiago and Barack Obama (then using the name "Barry Soetoro") were in my Mars training course in Summer 1980 and that during the time period 1981 to 1983, I encountered Andy, Courtney M. Hunt of the CIA, and other Americans on the surface of Mars after reaching Mars via the "jump room" in El Segundo, California.”

In a statement made Sept 20, 2011, Mr. Basiago confirmed Mr. Obama’s co-participation in the 1980 Mars training class, stating:  “Barry Soetoro, a student at Occidental College, was in my Mars training class under Major Ed Dames at The College of the Siskiyous in Weed, California in 1980. That fact has been corroborated by one of my other classmates, Brett Stillings. Two years later, when he was taller, thinner, more mature, a better listener, using the name ‘Barack Obama,’ and attending a different college, Columbia University, we crossed paths again in Los Angeles and I didn't recognize him as the person that I had been trained with in the Mars program and encountered on the surface of Mars. In fact, doing so would have been virtually impossible in any case, because measures had been taken to block our later memories of Mars shortly after we completed our training in 1980.”

Mr. Basiago states that during one of his trips to Mars via “jump room” that took place from 1981 to 1983, he was sitting on a wall beneath an arching roof that covered one of the “jump room” facilities as he watched Mr. Obama walk back to the jump room from across the Martian terrain. When Mr. Obama walked past him and Mr. Basiago acknowledged him, Mr. Obama stated, with some sense of fatalism:  “Now we’re here!”

Why is Obama covering up his trip to Mars?  And why did he go?  Was he trying to spread socialism to the red planet?!?!?

Racist Statement of the Day

Newt Gingrich, campaigning in New Hampshire today:

"I will go to the NAACP convention, and explain to the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps"

Right.  Because only the black people are on food stamps.

The Obama Campaign Awakens

With the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (after the GOP minority in the Senate essentially filibustered the appointment), it's clear that the Obama campaign is awake and feisty.

Mitt Romney responded to the appointment with hyperbole:

President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is perhaps the most powerful and unaccountable bureaucracy in the history of our nation, headed by a powerful and unaccountable bureaucrat with unprecedented authority over the economy. Instead of working with Congress to fix the flaws in this new bureaucracy, the President is declaring that he ‘refuses to take no for an answer’ and circumventing Congress to appoint a new administrator. This action represents Chicago-style politics at its worst and is precisely what then-Senator Obama claimed would be ‘the wrong thing to do.’ Sadly, instead of focusing on economic growth, he is once again focusing on creating more regulation, more government, and more Washington gridlock.

[Emphasis added]

I don't know how Romney thinks this will play successfully.  The CFPB was put in place to protect against the kind of Wall Street abuses that led to this economic crisis in the first place.  Romney, who most people (correctly) believe is a Wall Street crony anyway, is standing up against the CFPB, thus solidifying his creds as a Wall Street one-percenter crony.  How does that help him?

But the Obama campaign is hitting back, and right on target:

“Mitt Romney today stood with predatory lenders and Republicans in Congress over the middle class. He doubled down on his promise to eliminate the Wall Street watchdog and allow Wall Street to write its own rules again, leaving consumers vulnerable to hidden fees, financial traps and excessive risk taking that will hit their pocketbooks. Governor Romney has made clear he has not learned the lessons of the economic crisis, instead, he’s giving the most irresponsible financial actors a bright green light to pursue profit at any cost to communities across America.”

Bullseye.  More like this please.

GOP Primaries

By now, everyone knows the results of the Iowa caucus.  Romney and Santorum virtually tied (with Romney technically "winning"), Ron Paul a close third, and everybody else sucking.

What does it mean?  Pretty much like I said.  It just means the end, or the beginning of the end, for several candidates.

Michele is out….

 

… and Rick Perry should be out, but he's hoping for a miracle in South Carolina.  He won't get it.

[QUESTION: When Michelle Bachmann announced her candidacy, she told supporters and press that "God asked her to run".  So I'm left to wonder… did that really happen and God changed His mind about her candidacy, or did she just invoke God in a shameless attempt to woo Christian voters?]

The New Hampshire primary is over, even before it is being held.  Romney wins big there.  That's the news, and it's not news.  Huntmen will do well enough, but NH will be his high point.

All eyes are on the conservative South Carolina primary.  Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry hope to tap into that conservative state and come out with a win, hopefully keeping their campaign alive.  Gingrich or even Santorum might.  But it won't last long.  Romney will be the nominee.

Who have I forgot?  Ron Paul.  Interestingly, I haven't heard his name mentioned once on the news since his third place showing in Iowa.  But he too is an also-ran.  He has the organization to last a while, even past South Carolina.  But at the end of the day, he will run out of steam and money.

Iowa – Finally!

2012-01-03-Blumenthal-IAchart20120103

This is the final snapshot from Pollster (which isn't a poll itself, but a conglomeration of all polls).

As you can see, Gingrich's surge is all but over, and Paul's is on the decline.  Santorum's surge is well-timed.  He could even win.  The top tier is Romney, Paul and Santorum.

Don't be surprised if Santorum wins.  This is an evangelically conservative state — in 2008, their man was Mike Huckabee (and look what happened to him).  People might be concerned about Santorum's positions (most recently, he's saying that states should have the power to outlaw birth control), and those positions might fly in Iowa.  But Iowa is hardly mainstream America.

What else can be said?  Things looks bad for Perry and Bachmann.  Iowa may be the end of the road for them.  Huntsman is of course doing badly in Iowa — he barely campaigned there.  So it won't be "bad" if he makes a bad showing. 

Also, Romney is sitting pretty.  Even if he comes in second, or even a tight third, he's going to do well in New Hampshire — a landslide according to the latest polls.  Huntsman is polling third in NH, which means he'll still have life — barely — especially if other candidates drop out.

Gingrich can last a while, even with mediocre showings in Iowa in New Hampshire.  He doesn't have a lot of money, but he doesn't spend a lot of money either.  South Carolina is going to be his mother's milk.

But Iowa, I believe will be the beginning of the end, if not the actual end for Bachmann and Perry.  That will be its significance — not, who won.

By the way, this might be a good time to remind ourselves on the f'ed up way that Iowa caucuses operate.

Set Your Clocks

If you have trouble sleeping, or if you are into this sort of thing, try to step outside at 3 am.  (You can of course go out earlier and later, but 3 am is peak time):

Meteor watchers in North America can expect to see 60 to 200 meteors an hour streak across the sky early Wednesday.

NASA says the Quadrantid meteor shower should be perfect for viewing around 3 a.m. local time Wednesday after the waxing gibbous moon sets.

But the light show won't last long, NASA says  only a few hours.

The Quadrantids were first noted in 1825 and got their name from the constellation of Quadrans Muralis, which is no longer considered a constellation by astronomers, according to NASA.

The material that is burning up in Earth's atmosphere during the Quadrantids likely comes from a comet that broke into fragments centuries ago, NASA says.

"After hundreds of years orbiting the sun, they will enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth's surface," a NASA press release says.

If you've never see a meteror shower, you really need to.

UPDATE:  More on the Quadrintids…(in response to comments below)

Just to reiterate, this will peak tomorrow (Wednesday) morning as early as 2 am.  That's the peak time — you could probably see meteors earlier, but it will be a random one or two here and there.  That's not only because there will be fewer meteors, but also because the moon might blot them out.  At peak time, however, you can spot (ideally) 60 to 120 per minute, not only because there will be more of them, but also because the moon will have set.  And viewing favors the east coast.

This is the star map…

2012-quadrantid-meteor-shower-sky-map

Don't worry if you don't know your way around the sky.  After all, this only shows where the meteors will emanate from.  If you look generally to the north or northeast sky at peak, and wait (let your eyes adjust and of course, the darker spot away from the city the better, you'll see them.)