Friday, August 31, 2012

Sunday Classics preview: "We'll live in Paris, together" -- a mystery theme and a mystery duet-fragment


Or, more properly, Andante sostenuto:

by Ken

For tonight's preview, we have a mystery theme, above, and a mystery duet-fragment, below. Before we proceed to it, though, I thought we might hear a somewhat fuller setting of our above theme -- starting a bit earlier in the piece and continuing on a bit longer, though still not quite to the end. We'll hear the whole thing (a whopping four minutes at its most drawn-out), properly identified, in the click-through. I think this is some of the most beautiful and moving music ever written, and its source is a piece that has a somewhat grudging place in the standard repertory but for a number of reasons doesn't get the respect I think it deserves.


We'll have these same performances, properly identified, in the click-throughd, so if you're not interested in hearing them blind, as it were, you can skip straight to there.

"Nous vivrons à Paris, tous les deux!"
("We'll live in Paris, together!")

HIM: We'll live in Paris . . .
HER: Together!
HIM: . . . together, and our loving hearts . . .
HER: In Paris!
HIM: . . . bound to one another . . .
HER: In Paris!
HIM: . . . for ever reunited . . .
HER [together]: We'll have only blessed days!
HIM [together]: . . . there we'll live only blessed days!
TOGETHER: In Paris! In Paris, together!
We'll live in Paris! Together!
HIM [approaching HER tenderly; soulfully]: And my name will become yours!
[then coming back to himself; half-spoken] Ah, pardon!
HER: In my eyes you must see well
that I am not angry with you.
And yet, it's wrong!
HIM: Come! We'll live in Paris . . .
HER: Together! &c.







The horror in Syria reminds us of the way the lust for power brings out the worst in humankind


"In this kind of war, it's not about winning hearts and minds. This is old-school: you don't try to win over your enemies and their family members, you kill them."
-- Jon Lee Anderson, in his blogpost
"The War Against Syria's Civilians"

by Ken

The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson has been reporting regularly from Syria for quite a while now, mostly online but occasionally creeping into the print edition. For months now the reports have been increasingly grim, but today's post, "The War Against Syria's Civilians," is an unmitigated stomach-churner.

It reminds me of the horror I feel when I read or hear, notably in the ongoing battle for the country's largest city, Aleppo, about aerial bombardments unleashed by the Assad regime on its own cities. It's not even necessarily the most destructive or destabilizing form of war the regime is waging as it presses its death struggle to hold on to power, but still, there's something about a government bombing its own people.

"It's becoming increasingly clear in Syria," the new post begins, "that the Assad regime has adopted a strategy of total war to stave off its collapse."
If the claims made by opposition activists are true, last weekend's mass executions of as many as four hundred suspected rebels and civilians, including children, by regime forces in the town of Daraya near Damascus, was the single largest atrocity yet committed in the eighteen-month-old conflict. There is no reason to believe that it will be the last.
At this point Anderson continues with the quote I've put at the top of this post: "In this kind of war, it's not about winning hearts and minds. This is old-school: you don't try to win over your enemies and their family members, you kill them."

Anderson underscores "the exponential quality" of "everything about Syria's carnage," including a death toll rapidly approaching 21,000. "Around two hundred people, mostly civilians, are reportedly dying every day now, twice as many as in June."
Until Daraya, the hallmark horror was the May 25th massacre of a hundred and eight civilians in the town of Houla. The new standard is four times that.

What happened in Daraya follows a pattern that is becoming chillingly routine. Last Saturday, after a withering five-day bombardment, Syrian Army forces entered Daraya and conducted a "mopping-up" operation. What occurred there can only be imagined, but the results are visible in YouTube videos that have been uploaded by activists in the days since then: hundreds of bodies piled up inside houses, in basements, and in a mosque. Many of the bodies were those of young men of fighting age, but there were also children there, and at least one toddler. Many of the victims, as in so many other body-dumps showing up in the environs of Damascus in recent weeks, bore the telltale signs of bullets to the head, fired close-up, execution-style.

Increasingly, Anderson reports, the regime no longer counts on low-tech military hardware like howitzers and tanks to isolate rebel strongholds and leave the inhabitants to the mercies of the shabiha, "its paramilitary thugs," who he says "carried out the Houla massacre" along with Army units.
[D]uring the spring, and the hemorrhaging chaos of the long Homs siege -- and assaults on Hama and other cities too -- the regime began what has become a steady escalation of the conflict by introducing to the battlefield its Russian-made helicopter gunships. Though this was sure to mean a rapid increase in the civilian death toll, it did not represent a red line for the hand-wringing policymakers in Western capitals, who had allowed the futile diplomatic efforts of Kofi Annan to stand in place of any concerted action by their governments. Nor did the killings in Houla.

So the regime felt free to begin another escalation after the spectacular July 18th rebel bombing of an intelligence building in Damascus, in which four of Assad's top security advisors were killed. That strike -- which was accompanied by audacious rebel assaults into the heart of Damascus and Aleppo, where fighting has continued ever since -- has been countered by the introduction of the regime's jet fighters into the conflict. The initial appearance of a sole MiG over Aleppo in the last week of July has been followed up by daily air strikes against rebel positions, and civilian targets: hospitals where the wounded are being treated, bakeries where Syrians queue up for their morning bread, and civilian neighborhoods where the families of rebels live.

It is a cruel tactic, as old as war itself, to target the homes of enemy warriors so as to weaken them on the battlefield. But the surging numbers of civilian refugees fleeing into neighboring Turkey since the air strikes began with a vengeance two weeks ago are a testament to its brutal efficacy, especially when modernized, as it has been here, with unbridled combat air power.

Where the regime still has sufficient ground forces and the ability to deploy them as killing squads into target neighborhoods, it is doing so, usually after withering bombing and shelling assaults. This appears to be what happened in Daraya, which had been perceived as a rebel stronghold, and was taught a lesson for its stubborn resistance. The leaflets now being dropped on other Damascus neighborhoods are printed with messages urging rebels to give up or face "inevitable death." What happened in Daraya is not mentioned on the leaflets; there is no need.

It seems clear that poor Kofi Annan came to understand that he was being cruelly used by, well, everyone involved in the situation, or not involved and wanting to keep it that way, as a lightning rod sparing them from having to think further about what to do, what to do.

The situation is mind-numbingly complex, with so many religious and political factions in crazy-quilt patchworks of alliances and hostilities on all "sides." At the moment "sides" tend to reduce to "for the regime" and "against the regime," but that masks an endless pattern of seemingly irreconcilable factions with the "sides." There's still no reason to believe that a realistic alternative to the Assad regime can be assembled to replace it.

But it's not hard to understand why the regime has dug in, and isn't likely to have second thoughts about the strategy. And I doubt that it has much to do with Assad himself, who may not be much more than a figurehead for the people around him, who have been clinging to power since the days of Bashar Assad's father, Hafez. (Bashar has, however, almost surely earned his place in history as its most violent, ruthless, destructive, and murderous ophthalmologist.) The Alawite faction behind the Assad dynasty represents such a limited minority of the country's population, and has dealt so ruthlessly with its enemies for so long in the history of the Assad dynasty that those people have every reason to be confident of equally brutal payback if they lose their hold on power.

Is it any wonder that growingh hordes of Syrians are doing everything in their power to flee the country, even if it means trying to squeeze into countries they know really, really don't want them? As the Assad regime enters its end-game stage, there's less and less reason to believe there will be much in the way of pieces left to pick up.


The Irony Of The Astroturfed Teabeaggers Being The Agents For The Ultimate Disembowelment Of The Constitution


The last thing in the world most of the Founding Fathers wanted-- and certainly most of the non-Southern Founders-- was the establishment on our shores of an hereditary aristocracy. But with our long-cherished meritocracy failing dismally-- you should treat yourself to Chris Hayes' book, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy-- the plutocrats see an opening for themselves, And they have a political party more than willing to carry their treacherous banner... or, more accurately, a party and a half.

Perhaps you heard one of the overfed slobs-- not sure if it was Christie, Ted Cruz, Huckabee or Ayn-- whining about the horrors of guaranteed income equality. Probably few of the overfed delegates in the convention hall ever saw the chart on the right or are even vaguely aware of it's facts... or implications. Of the 30 most advanced countries in the world, only one-- Mexico-- has greater social and economic inequality than the United States. I'm sure Romney and Ryan will get to work immediately beating Mexico out.

I'm on some progressive committees that include political operatives from national labor unions. They always tend to be the most conservative people in the room... and the least knowledgeable. Sad-- and eye-opening. But there has been one consistent exception. The Steelworkers Union are militantly progressive and the sharpest folks in any coalition. Unlike the other unions, who speak from positions of fear, disunity and astonishing ignorance, the Steelworkers are steeped in facts and analysis... and fearlessness. I love that union and I would fight any battles they were behind any time. Yesterday, their president, Leo Gerard, addressed the implications of engineered social and economic inequality for our country and our increasingly fragile democracy.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. What this nation needs now is separation of wealth and state.

Without such a protection, Americans stand to lose their democracy. They'll be ruled instead by an aristocracy of 1 percenters.

That's the 1 percenters' plan. To them, it was no more than a perk when the U.S. Supreme Court enabled politicians to open their wallets for unlimited, anonymous campaign contributions. That's because way before the 2010 Citizens United ruling, 1 percenters were working on a takeover. If the 99 percent don't stop them soon, don't establish some sort of separation of wealth and state, then the nation will lose its founding precepts-- that all men are created equal and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Aristocracies can ignore the governed.

Already the 1 percenters have been extraordinarily successful. The rich really do enjoy advantages. They've succeeded in stuffing Congress with their peers. In America, fewer than 1 percent of all people are millionaires. In Congress, 47 percent are. The median net worth of a U.S. senator in 2010 was $2.56 million.

Those guys haven't experienced what it's like to try to pay a mortgage, fix the car and keep food on the table for the average household with a median income of less than $52,000. They're completely out of touch with the 50 million Americans who don't have health insurance.

In addition, the 1 percenters implemented a system to influence even those lawmakers who are not millionaires. It's called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Corporations and the rich, like the billionaire Koch brothers, give ALEC money, which it uses to write "model" legislation, like voter suppression laws. ALEC's lawmaker members, mostly conservative Republicans, pay dues of $50 a year. ALEC entices them to attend swanky conferences with freebies, like ALEC-paid hotel rooms, ALEC-paid plane rides and God knows what else ALEC-paid. Of course, those aren't bribes. But the free vacations may incline lawmaker members to introduce ALEC-written legislation.

ALEC is sly. It doesn't come right out and say its "model" voter identification laws are intended to suppress balloting by Democrats. ALEC contends they're designed to prevent voter fraud. Within the past two years, 10 states passed these laws.

...A handful of one-tenth-of-one-percenters, including billionaires Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers, and hedge funders Kenneth Griffin, Cliff Asness and Paul Singer, will spend $500 million to install their chosen candidates in the White House. Adelson by himself is expected to give $100 million to elect Romney and Paul Ryan, one tenth of the billion the Republicans are expected to spend. That kind of money will buy Adelson a little more than a couple of overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom.

...They're willing to buy influence, but not pay taxes to support their country. The Ryan Roadmap budget would reduce millionaire Romney's tax rate from about 14 percent to less than 1 percent. And, for the 99 percent, Ryan would destroy Medicare as we know it.

In the early days of this republic, John Adams worried about the country creeping toward aristocracy. As he prepared to take the office of vice president, some leaders, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, argued that government officials should serve without pay. Here's what biographer David McCullough wrote about the incident in his biography of Adams:

"Were a law to be made 'that no man should hold an office who had not a private income sufficient for the subsistence and prospects of himself and family,' Adams had written earlier while in London, then the consequence would be that 'all offices would be monopolized by the rich; the poor and the middling ranks would be excluded and an aristocratic despotism would immediately follow.'"

Here's the difference between George Washington and John Adams. The general was a wealthy Virginia planter whose riches were made in part on the backs of slaves. Adams was a middle-class Massachusetts farmer who opposed slavery and never owned a human being.

Congress agreed with Adams. Aristocracy was forestalled. Today's middle-class farmers, mechanics and nurses now inherit that responsibility to separate wealth and state.

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Was Clint Eastwood In The Tank For President Obama?


Clint Eastwood is an American icon. Roland wouldn't go have dinner because he wanted to watch either the Reagan hologram or the Eastwood performance, whichever the GOP decided to go with as the much-touted "mystery guest" for closing night at their ill-starred convention in Tampa. Unfortunately for them, they scrapped the hologram. Clint's routine was a sad, unscripted attempt at comedy that barely made any sense and was kind of embarrassing.

Remember how Romney turned Ron Paul down when he requested an opportunity to speak at the convention? He turned him down twice because Paul wouldn't agree to turn over a speech and endorse Romney. (He wants Romney to release his tax returns and, as of now, Paul says he's "undecided.") Eastwood isn't really even a Republican; he's a libertarian, and at one point in his crazy monologue he seemed to be advising the Ron Paul supporters embedded at the convention to not settle for Romney. Anyway, for all the vetting and editing the Romney campaign honchos wanted to do to Ron Paul-- and they did make Huckabee swear on a stack of Bibles not to bring up Todd Akin-- they just let Eastwood get up on stage and say whatever he damn well pleased. What an ad lib disaster from a guy too old to be doing that kind of thing! Romney's management style? You betcha!
Convention planners had assumed the Hollywood legend would reprise the powerful and typically gruff/charming performance he delivered at the beginning of August when he showed up out of the blue at a Romney fundraiser in Idaho and said he was backing the Republican.

Romney aides played down the impact Eastwood’s odd turn might have on Tampa’s positive impact, but they acknowledge that the empty-chair monologue came as a complete surprise to them. They simply turned the podium over to an iconic superstar and expected him to stand and deliver.

Remember not that long ago when Eastwood did one for Obama? It was very much scripted-- and very, very effective.

And what about Trump? Is he working for Obama too?


What Good Does The DCCC Do?


It's only a 30 second clip but a lot of Democratic Party congressional candidates think the only way they can win in November is to have the DCCC make one of these for them and then spend a million dollars (or two million dollars) on broadcast TV ads in their district. Candidates positively obsess over getting on "the list," in this case mostly the Red-to-Blue list which is where money for challengers goes. The time and energy that goes into "working" the DCCC and kissing up to Steve Israel and his cohorts would be much better spent campaigning. Plenty of candidates-- especially independent-minded progressives who overwhelmingly can't get the time of day from Israel (an "ex"-Blue Dog with outsized career pretensions)-- learn this... sooner or later. The smart ones spend as little energy as they can pursuing the DCCC and communicate with voters instead.

So far this cycle (as of July 31), the DCCC had raised $115,499,329 and spent $80,132,768. Of that $25.4 million has gone into the salaries of the employees and other administrative expenses (like rent, utilities, travel, etc) and $16.1 million has gone into raising money. That's over half. They spent another $1,714,644 on polling and $1,072,809 on their consultant buddies (who worked at the DCCC last year and will work at it next year when the current crop is looking for work... as consultants). And so far they've contributed $1,987,973 to candidates and put $3,309,709 into independent expenditures. An independent expenditure is, for example, when they make a spot like the one above-- paying a gigantic premium to a video maker with little or no talent to come up with an ad that will do little to no good for the candidate and then run it on TV. Lots of people make lots of money but the candidate doesn't get much benefit.

Right now there are 47 candidates on the DCCC's list, the Red-to-Blue list. Of the 47 there are 25 Blue Dogs and New Dems-- some of whom are both Blue Dogs and New Dems and one of whom is a Republican vaguely trying to make believe he's a Democrat, Steve Israel's favorite kind of candidate. On the other hand, there are 5 grassroots progressives on the list-- just 5: Mark Takano (CA-41), Joe Miklosi (CO-06), David Gill (IL-13), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Annie Kuster (NH-02). I was told by one of Israel's staffers that if I held my breath long enough today I would see Joe Garcia (FL-26) finally added to Red-to-Blue as well. [I wrote that yesterday and, sure enough, Joe was added to the list, as was another progressive Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.]

People often ask me what the difference is between a Blue Dog and a New Dem. There isn't much but there is some. Both are strictly corporate-oriented and do not ever represent ordinary working families, only Big Business interests and both groups are driven by corporate donors. With just one or two odd-ball exceptions, the Blue Dogs also tend to be social conservatives-- so anti-Choice, racist, homophobic... all that stuff-- and tend to vote with the GOP over half the time, sometimes more than 80% of the time. New Dems tend to be less socially conservative, but just as corrupt and venal, often tools of Wall Street, the US Chamber of Commerce and Big Business in general. They're driven by careerism and usually vote with the Democratic leadership more frequently than the Blue Dogs and do their most destructive work in committees, where they always act as a bloc to water down and destroy progressive legislation. It's not likely that the Blue Dogs will survive another year and all the garbage in that caucus that's left will just migrate over to the New Dems and make that caucus worse than it already is. The New Dems are headed by Joe Crowley, widely considered one of the most corrupt individuals to have served in Congress in the last 3 decades, on a par with crooks like Tom DeLay and the whole Abramoff batch of criminal legislators. He he's very bipartisan in his support for monied interests. The photo of him above is of him playing in a band with Mike Huckabee, another fraud putting it over on ordinary working Americans.

I used to watch every video made for Warner Bros Records when I was running Reprise. If someone walked into my office with one like the above 30 second spot, I would have called our video department head and asked her to have it done over by a different vendor and to cross this vendor off the list. Friends of mine in Illinois say I'm being too harsh and that folks in Illinois are sick of seeing their governors go to prison. OK, I get that... but what does it have to do with electing David Gill to Congress? David Gill, the progressive running for the same set as Rodney Davis but who isn't mentioned in the ad. David's own ad isn't as slick or fancy-- and not nearly as expensive-- as the DCCC ad, but something tells me this is more likely to help him get elected. Please watch it and consider contributing directly to his campaign to he has the funds to run it on TV. You can find David Gill here on the Blue America page for progressive House candidates.

UPDATE: An Answer To My Question-- Here's What The DCCC Does For Their Candidates

I stopped counting how many identical hack-jobs from Debbie Wasserman Schultz like this I got yesterday:

When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan, he made this race about Medicare and an end to our nation's most sacred promise.

That’s why I am supporting my friend Louise Slaughter because I know she will stand up for Medicare and be a partner to President Obama to protect the middle class -- while the Romney-Ryan plan takes away the Medicare guarantee and turns it into a voucher system while giving huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

With the Republican convention this week, and a huge fundraising deadline on Friday, all eyes are on Democrats’ fundraising. Louise urgently needs your help right now.

The next 48 hours are critical. Please make a donation to Louise Slaughter now.

Thank you for standing up for what we believe in.


Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz



When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan, he made this race about Medicare and an end to our nation's most sacred promise.

I am supporting my friend Patrick Murphy because I know he will stand up for Medicare and be a partner to President Obama to protect the middle class -- while the Romney-Ryan plan takes away the Medicare guarantee and turns it into a voucher system while giving huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

With the Republican convention this week, and a huge fundraising deadline on Friday, all eyes are on Democrats’ fundraising. Patrick urgently needs your help right now.

The next 48 hours are critical. Please make a donation to Patrick now.

Thank you for standing up for what we believe in.


Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz



When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan, he made this race about Medicare and an end to our nation's most sacred promise.

That’s why I am supporting my friend Annie Kuster because I know she will stand up for Medicare and be a partner to President Obama to protect the middle class -- while the Romney-Ryan plan takes away the Medicare guarantee and turns it into a voucher system while giving huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

With the Republican convention this week, and a huge fundraising deadline on Friday, all eyes are on Democrats’ fundraising. Annie urgently needs your help right now.

The next 48 hours are critical. Please make a donation to Annie Kuster now.

Thank you for standing up for what we believe in.


Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Damn! I wish I got a dozen like these from Joe Crowley too!

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Exercise In Mendacity


That could be a description of the convention, the Republican Party, Ryan, Romney, Ayn Romney, Chris Christie, Huckabee, coverage of the convention... People try to engage me in a discussion of the Tampa Hate Fest and they're shocked when I tell them I didn't turn the TV on once. I heard some of the radio, saw bits in news coverage and lived it in real time on my twitter feed. But watch it? I've heard all their lies before... why bother? A journo I follow on Twitter, Dave Weigel summed up Ryan's speech more succinctly than anyone:
Most of the millions of people who watched the speech on television tonight do not read fact-checks or obsessively consume news 15 hours a day, and will never know how much Ryan's case against Obama relied on lies and deception. Ryan's pants are on fire, but all America saw was a barn-burner.

In terms of the depth of Ryan's studied deception-- well, everyone has taken a hand at it. Andrew Sullivan, like most people, tried reason: "If you ignore the details, and wipe your memory like an Etch-A-Sketch, it can sound like a wonderful return to fiscal responsibility. But slashing more taxes for the very wealthy, boosting defense spending, keeping Medicare intact for the current elderly, and gutting Obamacare's savings is a return to supply side fantasy, not a serious alternative to getting us back to fiscal sanity." The editorial board of the Washington Post condemned the speech as "misleading" and a Post columnist, Jonathan Bernstein dismissed the whole thing as "a staggering, staggering lie" ... "lazy mendacity, incredibly lazy mendacity." Within an hour of his having finished delivering it to his adoring fans, it was torn apart, lie by lie, on TPM by Brian Beutler, Top 5 Fibs In Paul Ryan's Convention Speech. And, as you would expect, Steve Benen did an excellent job demonstrating how Ryan's speech was merely an "endless string of lies... packaged well and presented with conviction." Wisconsin papers and even FOX News (!!) were all remarking this morning how Ryan's whole shtik is built on a tissue of outright lies and deception. Fox: "[T]o anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech."

But everyone-- sorry-- seems to agree that it was Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic who did the best job with Ryan: The Most Dishonest Convention Speech... Ever? Not sure why he decided to end it with a question mark. He's uninterested in how the speech played out, just how Ryan was "so brazenly willing to twist the truth." Perhaps he's new to Ryan-watching? Wall Street created him for just such an endeavor.
At least five times, Ryan misrepresented the facts. And while none of the statements were new, the context was. It’s one thing to hear them on a thirty-second television spot or even in a stump speech before a small crowd. It’s something else entirely to hear them in prime time address, as a vice presidential nominee is accepting his party’s nomination and speaking to the entire country.

Here are the five statements that deserve serious scrutiny:

1) About the GM plant in Janesville.

Ryan’s home district includes a shuttered General Motors plant. Here’s what happened, according to Ryan:

A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

It’s true: The plant shut down. But it shut down in 2008-- before Obama became president.
By the way, nobody questions that, if not for the Obama Administration’s decision to rescue Chrysler and GM, the domestic auto industry would have crumbled. Credible estimates suggested that the rescue saved more than a million jobs. Unemployment in Michigan and Ohio, the two states with the most auto jobs, have declined precipitously.

2) About Medicare.

Ryan attacked Obama for “raiding” Medicare. Again, Ryan has no standing whatsoever to make this attack, because his own budget called for taking the same amount of money from Medicare. Twice. The only difference is that Ryan’s budget used those savings to finance Ryan’s priorities, which include a massive tax cut that benefits the wealthy disproportionately.

It’s true that Romney has pledged to put that money back into Medicare and Ryan now says he would do the same. But the claim is totally implausible given Romney's promise to cap non-defense spending at 16 percent of gross domestic product.

By the way, Obamacare's cut to Medicare was a reduction in what the plan pays hospitals and insurance companies. And the hospitals said they could live with those cuts, because Obamacare was simultaneously giving more people health insurance, alleviating the financial burden of charity care.

What Obamacare did not do is take away benefits. On the contrary, it added benefits, by offering free preventative care and new prescription drug coverage. By repealing Obamacare, Romney and Ryan would take away those benefits—and, by the way, add to Medicare's financial troubles because the program would be back to paying hospitals and insurers the higher rates.

3) About the credit rating downgrade.
Ryan blamed the downgrading of American debt on Obama. But it was the possibility that America would default on its debts that led to the downgrade. And why did that possibility exist? Because Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling, playing chicken not just with the nations’ credit rating but the whole economy, unless Obama would cave into their budget demands.

4) About the deficit.

Ryan said “President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him” and proclaimed “We need to stop spending money we don’t have.” In fact, this decade’s big deficits are primarily a product of Bush-era tax cuts and wars. (See graph.) And you know who voted for them? Paul Ryan. 

5) About protecting the weak.

Here’s Ryan on the obligations to help those who can’t help themselves:
We have responsibilities, one to another-- we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves. … We can make the safety net safe again.

The rhetoric is stirring-- and positively galling. Analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 62 percent of the cuts in Ryan budget would come from programs that serve low-income people. And that’s assuming he keeps the Obamacare Medicare cuts. If he’s serious about putting that money back into Medicare, the cuts to these programs would have to be even bigger.

Among the cuts Ryan specified was a massive reduction in Medicaid spending. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Urban Institute, between 14 and 27 million people would lose health insurance from these cuts. That’s above and beyond the 15 million or so who are supposed to get Medicaid coverage from the Affordable Care Act but wouldn’t because Romney and Ryan have pledged to repeal the law.

I realize conservatives think that transforming Medicaid into a block grant, so that states have more control over how to spend the money, can make the program more efficient. But Medicaid already costs far less than any other insurance program in America. And even to the extent states can find some new efficiencies, the idea that they can find enough to offset such a draconian funding cut is just not credible.

Democrats are hopeful that Ryan's presence on the ticket will help galvanize self-interested voters to rise up on election day and banish the GOP from control of Congress, primarily because he wants to abolish Medicare and Medicaid (and, let's be honest, Social Security as well). Pollsters report that Ryan's Medicare position isn't harming Romney yet but that "down the ticket, Medicare attacks are taking a serious toll on Republicans." And they point to red-leaning districts where Democrats are picking up momentum, mostly helping ConservaDems like Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT), Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), and Gary McDowell (Blue Dog-MI). Maybe. But I was privy to some private polling that shows that even voters who disagree with every stand Ryan takes, still like him and are still willing to vote for him! I'm thinking someone might have shown Aaron Blake the same polling, although what he wrote about in his column was public polls.

A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll asked Americans to say what one word comes to mind when they think about the GOP vice presidential nominee. And people have a hard time finding negative things to say about him.

None of the top nine words people use to describe Ryan are negative, and six of the nine are positive (“intelligent,” “good,” “energetic,” “honest,” etc.).

Not until you get to the 10th- and 11th-most-cited words do Democrats’ attempts to define Ryan begin to register. That’s the point at which people start describing Ryan as an “idiot” and “extremist.”

And of the top 27 most-cited words, twice as many are positive-- 16-- as negative-- eight.

All of this from a guy who starts out with positive marks, though not overwhelmingly so. In fact, the positive words used to describe Ryan suggest a politician whose favorable rating is far better than it currently is.

In other words, it seems clear that many people have processed positive GOP messages about his intellect and his life story.

More than anything, though, it shows that Democratic attacks have yet to really sink in. Respondents actually offered nearly as many negative words as positive words, but the negative reviews are far more diffuse. Most negative words were only mentioned a handful of times, with little consensus on what’s bad about Ryan.

If Democrats’ efforts to label Ryan as an extremist who wants to end Medicare were really catching on, we would be seeing “extreme” and “Medicare” up higher. (In fact, “Medicare” wasn’t even mentioned.)

On the other hand, my masseuse watched the proceedings the way someone would watch an Emmy Awards show, spotting celebrities, commenting on clothes... "I saw that Condi from Bush," she told me as I was trying to doze off while she did my feet. My old boss-- I'm reluctant to name him-- but people who know, will know-- called and left a message while I was out for dinner. "What state, a southern state I think, was that Attorney General from, the one with the woman from Florida? Where was he from? I missed it. But what a queen! His mouth looked like it would be good for a blowjob." He was talking about Sam Olens of Georgia. I guess that's as good a way to watch a convention as any other-- and as enlightening.

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Convention Report: Is today's strikedown of Texas's voter-ID law just a temporary setback in the GOP's crusade to put a lid on democracy?


Is it all that darned Isaac's fault that the R's didn't have time at their convention to celebrate their historic victories in election stealing and voter suppression?

"Texas is the largest state covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal approval or 'preclearance' of any voting changes in states that have a history of discrimination. Because of Texas’s discrimination history, the voter ID law signed last year by its Republican governor, Rick Perry, had to be cleared by the Justice Department."
-- from "Texas voter ID law is blocked," by Sari Horwitz
and Del Quentin Wilber, today on

by Ken

I don't know, maybe they will be talking about it in today's final session of the Republic presidential nominating convention. I mean, the decision announced today by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia turning thumbs down on Texas's voter-ID law, on the ground, as the Washington Post's Sari Horwitz and Del Quentin Wilber put it (see link above), "that the state failed to show that the law would not harm the voting rights of minorities." It's possible that those strict constitutional constructionists (you know, the ones who don't seem ever to have read anything but selected bits and out-of-context pieces of the Constitution) will be fulminating about those damned courts and their damnable overreach.

After all, Texas's attorney general, Gregg Abbott, who I'm guessing has been to law school and everything has already announced: "Today’s decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana -- and were upheld by the Supreme Court."

But in general the R's don't seem to have been surprisingly modest at this year's convention in celebrating one of their great triumphs of recent years: their nationwide campaign of election-stealing, with its new legal cornerstone, voter disenfranchisement. Why, this historic accomplishment is right up there with heroic campaign to prevent any Obama administration initiatives from having any chance of succeeding, starting with the basic job of staffing the administration. Come to think of it, they haven't been celebrating that accomplishment either, somehow managing to forget it entirely when their silver-tongued orators engage in their ritual denunciation of the administration's failures. It must be old-fashioned Republican modesty.

Which is why today's Convention Report, and very likely tomorrow's Convention Follow-Up, will be concerned with a matter whose importance to the convention is underlined by its neglect: today's unanimous ruling by that panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Here are the New York Times's Charlie Savage and Manny Fernandez {"Court Blocks Texas Voter ID Law, Citing Racial Impact"):
WASHINGTON -- A federal court on Thursday struck down a Texas law that would have required voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting their ballots in November, ruling that the law would hurt turnout among minority voters and impose "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor" by charging those voters who lack proper documentation fees to obtain election ID cards.

The three-judge panel in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia called Texas' voter-identification law the most stringent of its kind in the country, though Gov. Rick Perry and the state's attorney general vowed to appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court. The judges' ruling came just two days after another three-judge panel in the same court found that the Texas Legislature had intentionally discriminated against minority voters in drawing up new political maps for Congressional and legislative districts, citing the same section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Known as Senate Bill 14, the state's voter-identification law requires voters who show up at the polls to identify themselves with one of five forms of ID, including a driver's license or a United States passport. Those lacking one of the five types of identification must obtain a so-called election identification certificate, a government-issued card similar to a driver's license. Prospective voters would need to travel to a state Department of Public Safety office to get an election ID card, and, although the card is free, they would have to verify their identity to obtain one, in some cases paying $22 to order a certified copy of their birth certificate.

In its unanimous 56-page ruling, the federal judges found that the fees and the cost of traveling for those voters lacking one of the five forms of ID disproportionately affected the poor and minorities. "Moreover, while a 200 to 250 mile trip to and from a D.P.S. office would be a heavy burden for any prospective voter, such a journey would be especially daunting for the working poor," the decision read. . . .

This is good news, I guess, just like that earlier decision the NYT reporters refer to, which denied "preclearance" to the redistricting maps concocted by the Texas Legislature for the purpose of under-enfranchising voters it doesn't like. And it could just be because we're so unused to hearing good news from the federal courts that I'm not inclined to celebrate. Maybe it's just grumpiness; maybe it's paranoia. But I look, for example, at that chunk of the WaPo account I put at the top of this post, and I think of the way Chief Justice "Smirkin' John" Roberts likes to work, finding cases that could be decided on narrow, even "strictly constructed" legal grounds and by adjudicating them instead as broadly as possible rewriting the law, and the Constitution, to suit his tastes better.

It's already clear that with so many states passing laws like Texas's, and with so many of those laws being challenged in the courts, and with diverse rulings that will need to be reconciled, the matter of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is going to be under scrutiny by the Roberts Five. And I'm already imagining a scenario, possibly involving yet another of those famous opinions from "Slow Anthony" Kennedy -- of the "discrmination? what discrimination?" variety -- which will belatedly figure out that the provisions of Section 5, or maybe the whole damned Voting Rights Act, were never constitutional. Or maybe that they were just barely constitutional for a while but that while has passed.

After all, in a free society, what freedom could be more important than the freedom to discriminate against people who can't protect themselves? Does anyone want to bet that we don't have five Supreme Court justices who feel that way?


Our first-ever incorporated presidential nominee fibbed his way through yet another public obfuscation. Howie wrote earlier today about Matt Taibbi's incredibly important new Rolling Stone piece, "Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital." It should constitute an absolute disqualification for Willard Inc. from holding any public office, and should be required reading for anyone even contemplating voting in November. I want to come back to it tomorrow. For now, if you haven't already read it, do yourself a favor.

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Green Day Guitar Winner Will Be Announced Tomorrow


Guitar lovers, Green Day fans, Alan Grayson supporters, eBay investors... have until midnight tonight (any U.S. time zone) to get in a last minute contribution to Alan Grayson's campaign and be eligible to wind up with the beautiful blue and white Squier stratocaster that was autographed by all three members of Green Day. Friday morning we'll announce who Blue America randomly selected to give the guitar to. Alan's final e-mail on the subject Monday night was pretty funny... and what an honor for me personally. But what this is all about is neither Green Day, the guitar nor me. It's about getting Alan Grayson, one of the most effective leaders progressives have had in my lifetime, back into Congress. (And I'm old.)

We want Alan in Congress for a lot of reasons, and it's not just because he can be counted on as "a good vote on progressive issues." Much more valuable than that is Alan's ability to figure out how to approach problems and come up with solutions, his abilities as a galvanizing leader and his unshakable integrity. There's an incredible behind the scenes cat fight going on in the Democratic House caucus to determine who will be the next leader-- and perhaps Speaker-- after Nancy Pelosi retires, something her daughter flatly stated would be soon. The prospects are horrifying. All the most corrupt hacks vomited up from the bowels of empty, cash-driven power politics think it's their turn: Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Steve Israel, Joe Crowley. This is the bottom of the barrel, not just of the Democratic Party, but of our whole model of national politics-- an ugly dead end. Is there a giant progressive leader waiting in the wings, building power the way Pelosi did? Not that I've noticed. Is there even someone grassroots Democrats would rally behind?

That's why I was happy to contribute one of my most prized mementos of my years at Warner Bros, the beautiful signed Green Day guitar that the band gave me as a retirement present. I want to see Alan Grayson back in Congress-- and back in Congress with a safe seat this time like the Florida legislature drew him in the Orlando area. So, like I said... you have until midnight your time. Any amount gets you a chance at the guitar. And any amount gets our country a chance at leadership that isn't based on grotesque corruption and the art of asskissing.

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America Formally Meets The Official Construct Of The Romneys And The Ryans


We've been telling the Paul Ryan story here for six years. He's the ultimate Wall Street take over of America, a manufactured product, a Frankenstein monster made to serve the interests of the plutocracy. The black-and-white 40's cinéma vérité style newsreel above wasn't shown at the convention yesterday and it won't be shown today. And I doubt many Americans will be troubled with any visions of that Paul Ryan before November... nor this Paul Ryan, the one wrapped up in a Randian philosophy of life that is "nothing more than the idolatry of self and selfishness." Exposing deep stuff like that... that isn't how the Village rolls.

I was driving from restaurant to grocery store to home last night when Ann Romney gave her speech and missed a lot of it. But I certainly heard the breathless adulation from the NPR pundits covering it for the radio audience. "A new political star is born!" Really? Her job, I was told my the disembodied talking head, was to persuade America that her husband wasn't a millionaire plutocrat and she did a great job. She did? But he is a millionaire plutocrat. And so is she. This week Matt Taibbi wrote the ultimate who is the real Romney story for Rolling Stone. Again, it's not something you'll be seeing in Tampa and it's not something the Village will be sharing with the public. Taibbi's well-documented point is that Romney is far worse than just being the flip-flopper, the lightweight, and the cardboard opportunist who'll say anything to get elected. "Romney," he writes, "is no tissue-paper man. He's closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren't the lies of a bumbling opportunist-- they're the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he's trying for something big: We've just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we've been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation." And then he moves on to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney.
Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.

By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions -- placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.

The unlikeliness of Romney's gambit isn't simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset-- it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and-- most notably-- wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions-- it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.

Mitt Romney, it turns out, is the perfect frontman for Wall Street's greed revolution. He's not a two-bit, shifty-eyed huckster like Lloyd Blankfein. He's not a sighing, eye-rolling, arrogant jerkwad like Jamie Dimon. But Mitt believes the same things those guys believe: He's been right with them on the front lines of the financialization revolution, a decades-long campaign in which the old, simple, let's-make-stuff-and-sell-it manufacturing economy was replaced with a new, highly complex, let's-take-stuff-and-trash-it financial economy. Instead of cars and airplanes, we built swaps, CDOs and other toxic financial products. Instead of building new companies from the ground up, we took out massive bank loans and used them to acquire existing firms, liquidating every asset in sight and leaving the target companies holding the note. The new borrow-and-conquer economy was morally sanctified by an almost religious faith in the grossly euphemistic concept of "creative destruction," and amounted to a total abdication of collective responsibility by America's rich, whose new thing was making assloads of money in ever-shorter campaigns of economic conquest, sending the proceeds offshore, and shrugging as the great towns and factories their parents and grandparents built were shuttered and boarded up, crushed by a true prairie fire of debt.

Mitt Romney – a man whose own father built cars and nurtured communities, and was one of the old-school industrial anachronisms pushed aside by the new generation's wealth grab – has emerged now to sell this make-nothing, take-everything, screw-everyone ethos to the world. He's Gordon Gekko, but a new and improved version, with better PR-- and a bigger goal. A takeover artist all his life, Romney is now trying to take over America itself. And if his own history is any guide, we'll all end up paying for the acquisition.

If you know anyone harboring any inclinations to maybe, possibly vote for Romney... get them to read Taibbi's whole article. They won't see that kind of analysis anywhere else.

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The New American Left


Nick'n'Nancy-- write your own caption

-by Nick Ruiz

The working class embodies a huge swath of people. Poor people, rich people, people between. That's because the working class is not a number: $0-25K per year, $250K per year, $25 million per year,, instead, the 'working class'-- is a sensibility. It's a conscience, and a human one at that.

One thing is for certain, the New American Left will come from the working class-- or it will not come at all.

The Democratic Party claims to stand for the working class. So do most progressive candidates and progressive organizations. Even the Republicans claim to stand for the working class! See Mitt Romney's new banner ad-- "More Take-Home Pay!" Vote Romney/Ryan!

Yeah, sure. The ad appeals to the working class crowd, with it's working class language and blue collar sentiment. It's also complete bullshit, coming from the most potentially tyrannical Republican ticket in modern history. Connie Mack IV (R-FL), also tapped the same sentiment by having Lynyrd Skynyrd play a benefit in Tampa this week, along with other acts, like Kid Rock, Trace Adkins, who are/were scheduled to play the RNC convention. Some acts were canceled I believe, due to Hurricane Issac.

Now, I like all kinds of music, including Lynyrd Skynyrd-- but their politics are ass-backward, and they are totally selling out the working class, by agreeing to appear at an event like the RNC convention, and lulling people into thinking that the Republicans will do anything other than threaten the working class' very existence. But the list of musical geniuses who are political idiots is long and varied, no?

But so much for the Republicans.

The point for us here and now, is to discuss where we've been, and possibly going. Liberals and progressives. The greatest problem I see that we face is that the Democratic 'territory' has been defined by a false map. A map, which is only ever that, a guide, and specifically, not what is real or possible. After all, it's just a map. If a culture cannot see past its map, however useful it may be at times-- we are doomed. Because the map installs a false limit on what is possible.

The liberal and progressive map is littered with the detritus of past failures. It's piled so high, that it's become part of the map, which consultants, candidates and organizations follow. Look at all the failed progressive candidates this cycle. Think of all the money spent. Here is the number one reason progressives haven't gotten anywhere in fifty years: their comfort level is way too high, their presentations way too canned, and their primadonna sensibilities far too bourgeois. 

Consider some real examples of people who proceeded in politics without the false example and assurance of a ready-made, primadonna victory map. FDR. MLK. Gandhi. And whether you agree or not, with the decisions and practices some of these examples represent-- one cannot argue against the fact that these people heralded epic changes. Without a map. In fact, in spite of the map, for its falsity and limitations.

In my race for Congress-- we were essentially shunned by the establishment's map. Meaning, there was zero support for my campaign from the progressive and Democratic cronies, despite the fact, that I was easily one of the best liberal and progressive candidates running this cycle.

Instead, the liberal cronies and progressive cartels went to parties, and sat on their 'maps.' Nonetheless, we did relatively well, especially considering my crystal clear, unapologetically liberal and progressive campaign. Make no bones about it-- with Blue America's help, the people who voted for me, knew exactly what they were voting for, and they were excited about the liberal and progressive representation they knew I would provide-- all 8,188 of them. We only needed an additional 2,365 votes to win. Considering that the voter turnout was at a record low, comprised of a tsunami of mass media driven, stick in the mud, conservative elderly votes-- we did quite well. But don't misunderstand, because I certainly will not stereotype-- many of our most dedicated supporters were seniors-- but as a demographic voting block, many of them are easily swayed by Anglo names, and well-scrubbed Tea Party faces and talking points. Which means, we'll have to work a little bit harder than average to reach more people. Never forget-- it is a numbers game, as much as anything else. And with a tiny bit of help from the so-called 'liberal' cronies and 'progressive' cartels, and the 'Democratic' establishment, we would easily have won. But that is history, now. We'll run again in 2014-- not out of a primadonna ego trip, or anything at all banal, but simply because I feel its necessary to help guide our country, indeed, our civilization, and I want to help with that in any way I can; and the people want me to as well.

But the issue of liberal and progressive fear and ineptitude will have to be addressed if we are ever to succeed collectively as a legislative force. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind. Especially, those that would best spearhead liberal and progressive intervention.

The New American Left is still in the making. But as long as progressive cartels and liberal cronies play interference for the Democratic establishment, which refuses to back up their working class rhetoric, with ironclad support for working class legislation, and qualified, authentic candidates - then the progressive grassroots will never see the light of day. Until this changes, true liberalism and progressivism will always be trampled under the feet of well-heeled careerists, opportunists, aspiring comedians, political cocktail circuit enthusiasts and the chamber of commerce peanut gallery. Plantation politics 101.

Amidst the Democratic and progressive pageantry of hotel conventions, conferences and meetings, there is a sense, especially among the recent grads, and newly initiated, that 'times are a changin'. They are not. And if they are, they are getting worse. Democratic corruption and unreliability, along with progressive collusion and complicity on an individual and collective level, has so emboldened and empowered the Right and their well-financed media sphere (which now extends into the purported Left and its media sphere), that a free market fascist Tea Party was born, continues to be hyper-funded, and corrodes Democratic potential every single day. Too many voters are confused and feel unengaged, unimportant and unwanted. Certainly, they know they are under-represented. 

All the while, too many Democrats lie and cheat the public out of democracy and progress. They extend an olive branch in one hand to the Republican oligarchs, while they slap the faces of the working class with the other hand. The corrosion extends downward, diluting the nature of so many Democratic candidates, to the effect that no one truly knows where they stand, not even themselves, since they are so often implored, and willing, to become more Republican, as a means to being elected as a 'Democrat.' I tell you, the Democratic map is broken.

We will have to change. We cannot emerge as a liberal and progressive legislative force, without a more resolutely agile Democratic body. There is still debilitating and palpable racism, homophobia, disdain for the poor, primadonna elitism and more, within our ranks. For now, we have failed. And Republicans are filling the vacuum left by Democratic failure. In the absence of visionary leadership and inspiration, the people will accept whatever this way comes-- we've seen the worst of it in recent wars and history. The working class is counting on us. But will we continue to fail them? That is the real question.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How Many IQ Points Will You Lose If You Smoke Pot And Read Ayn Rand Books At The Same Time?


Yesterday all the English papers carried news stories about how long term pot use by teenagers can permanently lower their IQs. Take it from me, DMT is much worse. I haven't used any in over 4 decades and I'm still suffering from having spent a semester smoking it in a redoubt in the woods behind a cluster of dorms when I was pretending to be "a student." I haven't smoked pot for almost as long. The desire just disappeared but I have no regrets I ever smoked it. (DMT, on the other hand... stay the hell away from that!)

The link above is to the BBC story. This one comes from a fella named Leaf writing for The Guardian and commenting on the same report and the same conclusion, namely that "cannabis has a deleterious effect on intelligence, attention span and memory for youngsters under 18 who use the drug." The study followed pot smokers starting in 1972. Leaf's experience was something like mine, except I started when I was 16 instead of 18. I did it intensely for a few years and quit permanently a couple months before my 21st birthday. Leaf started in 1967 and quit last year. He says he "enjoyed the experience-- it seemed to heighten my sense of aesthetic appreciation and stimulate my creative juices. He found the governmental warning about pot hypocritical because society condones tobacco and alcohol and, like everybody, he ignored them.
I believe that my long-term use of cannabis, while being bad for my lungs, has had no adverse effect on my mind, but two factors have made me consider again the potential problems of cannabis. I was an adult when I began smoking hash and grass and so were the friends I smoked with. Cannabis at this time was little known outside the Jamaican community in the UK and was not a drug taken by children or youngsters. That changed with time.

The other change is the wider availability of high-strength varieties of cannabis, known as skunk. These produce a range of effects which vary from the psychedelic to the catatonic. It is difficult to think, let alone talk, under the influence of many of these powerful substances. Even so, experienced adult users can generally handle and enjoy the mind-bending effects of skunk. It's a different matter with neophytes and youngsters.

I smoked openly in front of my daughter, but never encouraged her to follow my example, thinking that she would be able to make up her own mind when she was an adult. She did, deciding it wasn't for her. At that stage I had no scientific basis for my decision, it just seemed right.

All parents know that teenage brains don't work in the same way as adult brains. If you accept the findings of this study-- as I do-- it would appear that the best thing you can do for your children is to explain to them why premature use of these psychoactive substances could have a negative effect on their future prospects.

That's what the study-- which included around 1,000 New Zealand potheads-- finds that the risk of "significant and irreversible reduction in their IQ" is very real-- and the more one smokes and the younger one starts, "the greater the loss of IQ." Average IQ drop for long-term pot smokers who started in adolescence was 8 IQ points and stopping doesn't bring the points back. The study seems to indicate that pot smoking after 18 doesn't do any harm to the brain.
The researchers, writing in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that: "Persistent cannabis use over 20 years was associated with neuropsychological decline, and greater decline was evident for more persistent users."

"Collectively, these findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects."

..."It is such a special study that I'm fairly confident that cannabis is safe for over-18 brains, but risky for under-18 brains."

Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research [explained] "There are a lot of clinical and educational anecdotal reports that cannabis users tend to be less successful in their educational achievement, marriages and occupations.

"It is of course part of folk-lore among young people that some heavy users of cannabis-- my daughter calls them stoners-- seem to gradually lose their abilities and end up achieving much less than one would have anticipated. This study provides one explanation as to why this might be the case.

Not all Ron Paul supporters started smoking weed as young as I did, and Newark Star Ledger political columnist Paul Mulshine, a Paulite himself, suggests that it's Paul and his followers who are stopping the conservative movement from completely falling off the cliff into idiocy. He seems to be implying that without the Paulistas, the whole movement could wind up as dumb and irrelevant as Sean Hannity.
Where is the fresh thinking and intellectual direction? This guy's gotta be kidding. The Ron Paul candidacy has half the college kids in America talking about ideas that were unknown on campuses just a few years ago.

There's the entire attack on crony capitalism, for example. Both the Democrats and Republicans love making deals with the ethanol interests, the energy industry and so forth. Only the Ron Paul crowd criticizes this rent-seeking and all the other ways in which businesses collude with politicians to defraud the public.

The intellectual ferment's never been stronger among conservatives-- though you certainly won't hear it from mainstream Republicans and the mainstream media. Both did their best to bury the Paul candidacy. 

But there's no excuse for a writer not to know about this. Where could John Cassidy learn about that sort of thing?

He could click the link right next to his piece and read Amy Davidson's write-up of Ron Paul's speech to the faithful in Tampa:

They listened attentively while he talked about novels (“I remember one line in there, when Lara was talking to Zhivago…”); cheered when he said our troops shouldn’t be “the policemen of the world” (including in Syria), chanting in unison, “Bring them home!”; seemed amused when he talked about “the zinc standard”; booed on cue when he said “what about 1913?”; and applauded both when he attacked F.D.R.’s monetary policies and when he promised that, with the victory of “personal liberty,” “once again, you’ll be able to drink raw milk.” (Raw milk came up a couple of times; so did drug legalization.) There was praise for Bradley Manning and Steve Jobs, which the crowd welcomed, and, notably, none for Mitt Romney, which no one seemed to miss. But some of the loudest roars came when Paul talked about how the leadership of the Republican Party-- at whose convention many of his followers will be delegates—could not be trusted.

So there is your conservative intelligentsia. The problem is that liberals don't want to acknowledge its existence. If they did, they'd have to acknowledge they have a lot more in common with the neocons like Bush and Lieberman than we genuine conservatives do.

I bet this yacht flying the Cayman flag-- or the Bermudan flag-- on which Romney fundraisers had an exclusive blast off the coast of Florida today, only smuggles cash out of America, not drugs. Well... maybe I wouldn't bet on that, now that I think about it.

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Convention Report: The GOP's make-believe biggish tent, George W. WHO?, the Horse-Dancing Lady, nutjob NJ intruder, plus platform funnies


The Onion reports: "According to numerous sociologists and political experts, things that should never under any circumstance be spoken aloud in modern society will be said no fewer than 1,400 times this week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL."

"Mitt Romney is like you or me -- he puts his pants on one leg at a time. Oh, wait. He has a fellow who does that for him. My bad."
-- Ann "The Horse-Dancing Lady" Romney,
quoted in The Borowitz Report (see below)

by Ken

In my Convention Report last night ("OMG, it's Willard!"), I asked:
Hmm, what's wrong with this picture?

No, I wasn't thinking of the phenomenon of an apparently sizable number of people holding up signs that say "MITT!" This is pretty peculiar, I admit, especially for people who show no obvious signs of being either drugged or blackmailed or paid. (But then, would there be visible signs in the event of blackmailing or payoffs?)
UPDATE: Looking at the picture again, I'm not so sure there are no visible signs of drugging. Actually, don't all those people look to be on something?

Nor was I thinking particularly of the content of those signs, though I do wonder if there isn't something more to be said about the man of the hour. Okay, nothing springs to my mind either, at least nothing good -- and true. I'm guessing that the Willard campaign wouldn't be enhanced by placards reading "MITT! IT'S ALIVE!"

No, what I was thinking of was the dazzlingly prominent presence of those two joyful African-American Willard-lovers right smack in front of the camera -- with, um, well, no others that I can see. Let's see, if this proportion of Highly Visible African-American Willard-Lovers were extrapolated to the entire Republican National Convention, the result would be . . . oh, for goodness' sake, let's not be dense. There's no extrapolating to be done at the Republican convention. In fact, there's probably a party platform plank that prohibits it.

What we see here is, of course, that finely honed right-wing sense of optics. You can ignore and even revile people all year long, but then there are those rare moments when it's of strategic value to fake a show of inclusiveness, diversity, whatever you want to call it. And when party duty calls, nobody can fake a show of inclusiveness like Republican Party faithful.


You don't have to struggle quite so hard to stage-manage the wimmins into Republican-convention photo oppery. There are, after all, Republican wimmins all over the joint, smiling and cheering and cussing Obama and generally making sure they don't interfere in any way with what passes for "thinking" at the shindig.

In The Onion's "GOP Convention To Feature Strong Lineup Of Conservative Women Listeners" we're told by "RNC communications director Sean Spicer": “A veritable who’s who of conservative women are scheduled to stand on the convention floor and listen attentively to what each male speaker has to say about the major issues facing our country.” This Spicer, we learn,
confirm[ed] that an impressive variety of blond, smiling women with perfectly maintained hair and jewelry will be on prominent display and seated near television cameras. “I would say this is one of the most impressive rosters of dead-silent female Republicans wearing nice dresses that we’ve ever had at the convention.” Spicer also reassured convention-goers that the solid roster of women listeners had all been informed not to get in the way too much and, if possible, to show slightly more cleavage.


Over at HuffPost our colleague Sam Stein takes a long look at another curious phenomenon at a convention that admittedly is almost nothing but a collection of curious phenomena: the surreal nonpresence of the Republican Party's last president, a two-termer who left the White House not even four years ago, who for at least five or six years out of his eight in office was regarded by all his party's faithful as a god among men, so lofty a personage that the mere utterance of an unkind word constituted a crime against humanity called "bashing," which was punishable by, well, extreme measures. OK, I'm stalling because I can't remember his name either. It has been expunged from the historical record, or at any rate from the minds of his fellow R's. "George W. Bush: The President Who Must Not Be Named At Republican Convention" is the head on Sam's piece.

"The Bush name and legacy are noticeably absent from the 2012 Republican convention," Sam notes, and among the many people he talks to, hardly anybody seems to think it's peculiar. For example:
"I think it is best for the whole party for him to step aside," said Christine Sutton, 62, of Honolulu. "The candidate we have now doesn't need support from anybody else and why should a former president or a vice president appear. ... Bush did his thing and he was a wonderful president, a wonderful president. We will talk about him, but he's not the issue now. The issue is to get our candidate elected."
See, those GOP wimmins have something to say after all. Sort of.


Luckily, the Borowitz Report has this angle covered:
Romney Hailed as Regular Guy by Woman with Horse in Olympics

TAMPA (The Borowitz Report) -- On the opening night of the 2012 Republican National Convention, the Presidential nominee Mitt Romney received fulsome praise for being a "regular, down-to-earth guy" from his wife, Ann, whose dressage horse, Rafalca, competed in the London Olympics.

"Mitt has never let his success go to his head," Mrs. Romney said. "Take away the seven-thousand-square-foot house in La Jolla and the bank account in the Caymans, he’s still the same fun-loving boy who pinned a gay kid to the ground and cut off his hair."

Mrs. Romney adopted an intimate tone as she attempted to describe "the Mitt only I know."

"Every now and then, Mitt will give me this devilish smile of his, and I know that can only mean one thing," she said, flushing slightly. "He just fired someone."

In a small flub that many delegates found endearing, Mrs. Romney said, "Mitt Romney is like you or me -- he puts his pants on one leg at a time. Oh, wait. He has a fellow who does that for him. My bad."

But the nominee’s wife brought the convention audience to its feet with her closing endorsement of her husband: "I promise you that if you elect Mitt President of the United States, he will never give less than thirteen per cent."


"Disturbed Man Gets Past Convention Security, Gives Keynote Address"


I doubt you've read the full Republican platform, have you? Brad Plumer has, and has posted "The 10 oddest items in the GOP platform" on Ezra Klein's Wonkblog on

You probably won't be surprised by, say, Brad's no. 7, "Step up the war against pornography," or his no. 9, "Reconsider the gold standard." Perhaps more unexpected is his no. 4, "End our dependence on foreign . . . fertilizer?" And then there's this:
2) Police the universities for liberal bias. “Ideological bias is deeply entrenched within the current university system. Whatever the solution in private institutions may be, in State institutions the trustees have a responsibility to the public to ensure that their enormous investment is not abused for political indoctrination. We call on State officials to ensure that our public colleges and universities be places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance favoring the Left.”
As usual with right-wing divinations of "liberal bias," the source of the problem is generally contact with reality, which is forbidden on the Right, on penalty of incorporation into the Republican platform in an unflattering way.

Left unmentioned, however, is the tireless crusade actually being waged in legislatures and school boards in all 50 states to transform the public schools into indoctrination centers for every variety of anti-factual insanity and delusion currently in vogue among the thugs and delusionals of the Right.

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