a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Poor Romney. Maybe.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th November 2012

The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Murray and Patrick O’Connor propose a surprising, but well-reported theory why Romney lost the 2016 election. Despite 2012 being the most expensive election in American history at $6 billion (NYTimes), Romney’s campaign failed for lack of money! — lack of money at the right time, that is:

The GOP nominee emerged late last spring from a long and bruising Republican primary season more damaged than commonly realized. His image with voters had eroded as he endured heavy attacks from Republicans over his business record. He also felt compelled to take a hard line on immigration—one that was the subject of debate among his advisers—that hurt his standing with Hispanic voters.

The Romney campaign decided to prioritize fundraising, but…

… in the eyes of top aides in both campaigns, that early summer period when Mr. Romney was busy fundraising was perhaps the biggest single reason he lost the election.  The Obama campaign spent heavily while Mr. Romney couldn’t, launched a range of effective attacks on the Republican nominee and drove up voters’ negative perceptions of Mr. Romney.  The problem: Mr. Romney had burned through much of his money raised for the primaries, and by law, he couldn’t begin spending his general-election funds until he accepted the GOP nomination late in the summer.

Digby, at “Hullabaloo,” dismisses the theory (“the silliest rationalization for his loss yet”), wondering why Romney didn’t dip into his own millions, if he was in such dire straits in the early summer.  She’s one of my favorite pundits — she ought to be writing for the Post or the Times — and this is a good question that should have been answered in the article. (A possible answer is that even rich people prefer spending other people’s millions when possible, and their own only when necessary.) But Digby might also admit it’s pretty telling that what Romney actually did — whether because he was cheap, or because he had to — was to fundraise in the early summer, instead of campaigning in swing states or fighting back hard with ad buys of his own.

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GOP soul searching is something to see

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th November 2012

After Romney loss, GOP soul searching begins” (CBS); “Election aftermath: GOP soul-searching: ‘Too old, too white, too male’? “(Politico); “After stinging loss, GOP soul searching begins” (USA Today); etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  It’s tempting to suggest there’s an unproven premise in each of these headlines, but I’m not theologically qualified to go there.  Instead, I want to discuss just a few of the more archetypal, classic conservative responses I’ve run across to Obama’s workmanlike defeat of Romney on Tuesday.  I have no idea if any of them will feature as the Right’s deepest response to “What just happened to us? What now?”  It may be that Republican stalwarts will simply choose first one and then another from one occasion to the next, as needed, convenient, and/or comforting.

America was not worthy of us (Kevin Williamson, National Review):

“…offering Americans a check is a more fruitful political strategy than offering them the opportunity to take control of and responsibility for their own lives. This is what Oakeshott had in mind when he wrote that liberty was something that many people simply are not equipped to “enjoy as an opportunity rather than suffer as a burden.[…]

Though the article is ostensibly about “How Romney Lost,” this passage is clearly more about Mr. Williamson’s self-image and outraged sensibilities than it is an attempt to understand events around him.  In the “Easy to be Hard” chapter of his extremely interesting book “The Reactionary Mind,” Corey Robin summarizes this kind of thinking as one of the central features of conservatism (which, in his well-argued view, almost always boils down to a reactionary response to class insubordination).  Robin writes: “If the ruling class is to be vigorous and robust, the conservative has concluded, its members must be tested, exercised, and challenged” — the burden must be borne.  He also quotes ur-conservative Edmund Burke: “The subordinate turn on reliefs, gratifications, and indulgences; and are therefore more lovely, though inferior in dignity.  Those persons who creep into the hearts of most people, who are chosen as the companions of their softer hours, and their reliefs from care and anxiety, are never persons of shining qualities, nor strong virtues.” It’s as if Burke was there on the FOX News set with O’Reilly and Rove on Tuesday night, shaking his head as soft America scorned the virtues of shining, predatory capitalism.

They lie! they’re the ones who do the stuff they say we do (Karl Rove):

“The president, he succeeded by suppressing the vote. By saying to people, ‘you may not like who I am and I know you can bring yourself to vote for me, but I’m going to paint this other guy as simply a rich guy who only cares about himself.’ 53% in the exit polls said that on election that Mitt Romney’s policies only helped the rich and they voted for Obama by a 9-1 margin,” Karl Rove said on FOX News today.

As Joshua Green noticed back in 2004, Rove loves to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable,” e.g., start a whisper campaign that an opponent known for caring about children’s issues is a pedophile.  This is a related tactic: take charges leveled against his side — e.g., vote suppression in this case — and simply recycle them as charges, however absurd, against his opponents.  It’s a neat verbal trick — simultaneously minimizing the meaning of the concept of vote suppression, and turning it to his own advantage.  But it’s a tactician’s reflex, not a leader’s answer.  Democrats should hope Rove — a now discredited wielder of SuperPAC millions — stays in the discussion with his empty rhetorical gimmicks and grifter’s mentality.

We didn’t lie enough (Tom Knapp, “Libertarian Republican”):

“This takes me back to January, when I asserted that Newt Gingrich was the only candidate who had both a shot at the GOP nomination and a chance of beating Obama. Gingrich will piss down your back and tell you it’s raining — and if you turn around and catch him with his pecker still out and dripping, he’ll get huffy and ask you if you believe him or your own lying eyes. The only time Romney showed that kind of backbone was with his “Jeep is getting ready to move to China” play, which failed not so much because it was a bald-faced lie as because it was a bald-faced lie aimed precisely at the only constituency in America who knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that it was a bald-faced lie (voters in Ohio’s auto manufacturing areas).”

Nixon biographer (“Nixonland”) Rick Perlstein , writing for Baffler, tells of a conservative conference he attended as a speaker.  After listing example after example of conservative “exuberants” (Nixon’s term) blithely lying , cheating, and ratfucking their way to victory, the first prominent conservative rose to tell him during the question period, “I didn’t like Nixon until Watergate.”  Perlstein’s contention: “Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite. In this respect, as in so many others, it’s like multilayer marketing: the ones at the top reap the reward—and then they preen, pleased with themselves for mastering the game. Closing the sale, after all, is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing that you have the skill and the stones to just brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher.


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Pre-debate prep

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd October 2012

“Heyyy wealthy ladies!”

“Sometimes I think that peace prize winners shouldn’t have a kill list”

“US political system is hostile to Americans.”
Wait, what? Oh. This one won’t be at the debate, but have a look…

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“Hard, hard decisions”

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th August 2012

As ever, the Republican National Convention is a target-rich environment for fact-checking.   This time, it’s Paul Ryan’s speech in particular that has come in for a great deal of well deserved — and unusual* — criticism in the media for Ryan’s outright lies and hypocrisy.

Condoleeza Rice addresses RNC (ABC News); speech as prepared (Washington Post);
speech as delivered (transcript by FOX News)

Condoleeza Rice, by contrast, received accolade after accolade for a speech variously characterized as “professorial,” “statesmanlike, stirring and secure“, even “the sort that gets collected in books, and studied by speechwriters.

And so Rice appears to have avoided any serious scrutiny for her speech, which — though largely free of Ryan-esque whoppers — contained plenty of half-truths, contradictions, and sleights of hand of its own.

Some of these are perhaps relatively minor (to Americans, if not to the people involved).**   But one assertion in particular stood out for me.  Rice began, “America has met and overcome difficult circumstances before.  Whenever you find yourself doubting us – just think of all the times that we have made the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect.” Then, after invoking the Revolution, the Civil War, and the demise of the Soviet Union, Rice got to her own blow for freedom and the American Way:

“…the willingness to take hard, hard decisions in the aftermath of 9/11 that secured us and prevented the follow-on attacks that seemed preordained at the time.”

It’s clear enough what she’s talking about.  And so we endure, once again, a Secretary of State defending torture despite U.S. agreement with the Geneva Conventions. It’s entirely possible for even undergraduate students — in fact, even 4th graders — to take Condoleeza Rice down on this issue when given a chance.  But the American news media generally don’t have the will or the attention span necessary to do so.  (I’m reminded of the old Groucho Marx routine with a nincompoop general exclaiming, “Why, a four year old child could understand this! …Run out and find me a four year old child.”)

So maybe TIME’s Michael Scherer was right, maybe Condi Rice’s speech will get featured in a history book some day — as the speech marking the final, all but unnoticed triumph of the Bush/Cheney administration torturers over their adversaries.

(image via

* Even FOX News got in on the bashing: Sally Kohn characterized Ryan’s speech as “deceiving”: “On the other hand, to 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. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.”
** For example, while the average news reader may agree that Russia and China are preventing an international response to the civil war in Syria, it’s also true that U.S and Turkish intransigence about Assad stepping down before talks begin has been a position designed to get “no” for an answer. Some of Rice’s comments were the kind of familiar, somewhat eye-rolling pablum about America’s central, allegedly indispensable, always benign and freedom-loving role that we’re likely to hear again from, say, Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention in Charlotte; others were more on the order of “but, but you just said,” e.g., talking about her life under Jim Crow after talk of a “second founding” overcoming the scourge of segregation.

UPDATE, 8/30: Peter Beinart (Daily Beast) and Fred Kaplan (Slate) also critique Rice’s speech, though not for the “hard decisions” language. Beinart points out the lack of any discussion of Iraq. Kaplan says Rice is off base about ‘failure to lead’ because of things like Obama’s favorable ratings overseas and the Libya intervention, which Kaplan believes was done rightly.

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Eisenhower Democrats

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 27th August 2012

It’s easy to dismiss the froth of election-related ads, articles and Internet campaign memes that’s accumulating as the November election approaches, but if nothing else, it can show how candidates and their supporters would like to appear.  For Democrats — and unfortunately, even for ones in the White House — the answer often seems to be: I’d like to be an old school Republican — I like Ike.

This is a really stupid message

Popular and well-spoken pundit Rachel Maddow, for instance, once famously defined “liberal” as being “in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform” ; the quote is making the rounds again in 2012.  Chalk that up as one last victory for 1956 Republicans; Ike was probably a better Republican than most of the current crop, but that’s no reason to hold him up as an icon to the left.

Sure, I get it: the intent is to say “Republicans used to agree with us on things they don’t now.”  On the other hand, of course, those Republicans are all dead.  And even with the “almost” Maddow wisely includes, the main thing this approach accomplishes is to shrink away from what Democrats do or might stand for, adopt past Republican views as a “good enough” standard, and give a pass to Republican disasters like the Taft-Hartley Act or interventions in Guatemala and Iran.*

And it’s not just Maddow.  After the debt ceiling debacle of 2011, the Obama White House itself invoked the good old days of Eisenhower to defend that disastrous deal.  Touting the outcome as a “bipartisan compromise,” the White House fact sheet “Bipartisan Debt Deal: A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline” trumpeted the bullet point “Domestic Discretionary Spending to the Lowest Level Since Eisenhower.” Like Maddow, the Obama White House effectively abandoned the goals of Eisenhower-era and post-Eisenhower *Democrats*; using Eisenhower-era spending as a benchmark all but conceded that worthy, signature Democratic efforts like Medicare or the Great Society were wastes of time.

Nevertheless, “Eisenhower Democrats” have taken up points like this one as some kind of triumphant vindication of the Obama team’s economic policies.  This May, Forbes columnist Rick Ungar relayed a Marketwatch finding pointing out that Obama’s own year-over-year budget increases were the lowest of any post-World War II president —  — as if that were a good thing during a crippling recession with hundreds of thousands mired in debilitating, long term unemployment.

So is this

The graphic to the left may mark some kind of low point in the trend of Democrats trying to out-Republican the Republicans.  Think about its message for a second:

“The next time someone tells you that Obama is destroying the economy, remind them that the stock market and corporate profits are at all-time highs.  When they tell you that this hasn’t helped them any, remind them they’ve just admitted Trickle-Down Economics doesn’t work.”

With friends like these, Democrats don’t need any enemies. Corporate profits and the stock market index aren’t the measures of the economy’s health that Democrats should be watching — employment, inequality, and access to baseline public goods should be.  To me, the statement just proves (1) Obama executes Republican goals well, (2) it doesn’t do regular folks (like Obama’s *opponents*!) any good, and (3) Obama’s *supporters* don’t seem to get that.   It’s a really, really strange argument to showcase. “Boom.” Actually, if someone’s telling you these days that the economy is being destroyed, chances are they’re not “admitting” trickle down economics doesn’t work — that’s their whole point.  It just doesn’t seem to be Obama’s.  Or, it would seem, many Democrats’ points either.

Defense spending, 1970-2011 in 2011 dollars.
Note the final three years, 2009-2011.
(Source: Defense Department via CATO Inst.)

While more and more of them are apparently adopting the Eisenhower-era slogans “I like Ike” or “what’s good for corporate America is good for the country,” one thing Democrats ought to remember the Eisenhower era for generally goes unheeded — his warning about the military-industrial complex and the vast amounts of money the nation squanders on defense spending. Instead, the typical Democratic talking point these days boils down to “we are *so* spending too much on the military!”  The syndrome is perfectly illustrated by a February, 2012 Center for American Progress headline “Wall Street Journal Graph Falsely Suggests Military Spending Is On The Decline.”

Indeed it isn’t. But that’s not something for progressives to adopt a tone of injured pride about.

The 1956 GOP platform included paeans to brutal and/or anti-democratic US interventions in Guatemala and Iran. Also, as the 1956 Democratic Party platform notes, the Republicans were taking credit for a minimum wage hike they wanted to be lower than the Democrats who passed it did.  Similarly, Democrats wanted to repeal the disaster for labor that was the Taft-Hartley Act, while Republicans wanted to improve it to better protect the rights of management.  Democrats were no cup of tea in the 1950s either, but there was still a reason they were FDR’s and Adlai Stevenson’s party, not Ike’s: they were more consistently on the side of the average American, not the one percent.


UPDATE, 8/31: more and better on the Democratic Party’s adoption of deficit-reduction ueber alles by Corey Robin (“We’re Going To Tax Their Ass Off!”)  and Alex Gourevitch (“Pastiche without Purpose: Democrats and the Politics of Debt”).

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Todd Akin: the best opponent a corporate Democrat could buy

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 22nd August 2012

In the so-called false good Samaritan con, one con artist first creates a problem (e.g., steals a wallet, lets rats loose in the neighborhood), then another rides to the rescue (e.g., retrieves the wallet, offers pest control services) and demands a reward.  Something similar is happening in Missouri’s Senate race: a created problem, a less than fully deserved reward.

Over the weekend, Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin repeated a revealing, reprehensible, and medically false statement* popular among pro-forced birthers about how “legitimate” (read: forcible) rape was somehow different from other rape and was less likely to lead to conception.  He has since compounded the insult by saying what he really meant was that women often lie about rape.  The result has been a well-deserved firestorm of disapproval, thereby considerably boosting beleaguered incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill’s chances: one poll showed Akin losing 8 points overnight, dropping him into a statistical tie with Senator McCaskill.

The thing is, though, that Akin became the Republican candidate with help from… Claire McCaskill and the Democratic Party.  On August 8, Sunlight Foundation’s Keenan Steiner reported:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Democratic outside groups, pouring in over $1 million during Missouri’s Republican Senate primary, got the guy they wanted: Rep. Todd Akin, who Tuesday upset two other Republicans to take the GOP nomination.

The thinking was he was more beatable by Democrats than the Republican frontrunners he defeated. So as Akin portrayed himself as the most conservative candidate to Republican primary voters, McCaskill ran ads agreeing with him.

Now Akin is definitely a misogynist moron. But that’s what makes him so very useful to nebbishy corporate-Democratic politicians like Claire McCaskill, who among other things sponsored “CAP Act” legislation essentially putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, who helped kill an “audit the Fed” bill for bailout transparency, and who boasts companies like Monsanto, Boeing, and (wait for it) Bain Capital among her top 20 campaign contributors.  If it weren’t for crazy Akin, a lot of people would notice McCaskill looks a lot like a Republican herself. And as another Missourian once said, “if it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.”

So let’s get off our high horses about Akin for maybe just a minute or two, and not pretend real Democrats and/or progressives benefit much when Democratic backroom political decisions court disasters like him.

First of all, of course, Akin might still hang in there and win.  What does that say about Democrats stewardship of women’s reproductive rights as opposed to stewardship of Senate seats?  Should running this kind of risk really commend McCaskill to her number one contributor: Emily’s List?

But focusing on extremists like Akin also lets McCaskill and elected Democrats like her avoid defending, discussing, or above all recalibrating their own conservatism: they don’t need to.   To the extent rank and file Democrats have one or two other issues on their minds every six years besides post-rape abortions, that’s an important opportunity lost for those voters, and an all-too useful pass for their Senator.

UPDATE, 9/8: Don’t Look Now But Todd Akin Has Crept Back Into the Missouri Senate Race (Voorhies, Slate): “McCaskill enjoyed leads of nine and ten points in a pair of polls taken last month as Akin was being hit from all sides. But the two most recent polls show a different story, with Akin clawing his way back within one point of the Missouri Democrat in the (liberal-leaning) PPP survey and into a three-point lead in the (conservative-leaning) Wenzel Strategies poll.”

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How’s that lesser evil thing working out?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th January 2012

Welcome to your new country, where speaking loudly about losing your guaranteed right to trial
gets you arrested within minutes.

“Occupy Wall Street Protesters shout warnings of a creeping police state in Grand Central terminal and are
themselves quickly arrested for speaking in public.” —

It’s an even numbered year, so it’s time again for leftish pundits of every shade — from Democratic blue to radical red — to warn their angrier, more fed-up friends that we must choose the lesser evil within this political system, or bear the blame for the results. Thus we have digby writing in her blog “Hullabaloo”:

Unless you believe, as some do, that we must get on with our impending dystopian nightmare so that we can rebuild from the rubble (sometimes known as destroying the village in order to save it) this is probably a useful group of articles.

The articles are from a Washington Monthly issue on the topic “What if Obama Loses?”, and they complete the arc of the argument: you just don’t get how really bad a Republican win would be.  Either that or, to paraphrase digby’s charge, you must be some kind of irresponsible nihilist itching to zippo-raid the hooches of the American political system — probably just because you like to see stuff burn.

Now it is undoubtedly true that Republican candidates up and down the 2012 ballot will generally be a bunch of pinch-souled corporate lick-spittles, pious frauds, and incoherent cranks.  In a sane world — and judging mainly by their presidential candidates — they’d be fit at most to write daily letters to the editor or mutter about the slow service at McDonald’s.  In our world, however, their political prospects are good, “thanks” in part to the diarrheal eruption of campaign cash unleashed by the Citizens United ruling.

The life cycle of the Democratic base
The life cycle of the Democratic base

But “thanks” — regrets really — are also in order about the quality of their opposition.  And what’s remarkable is that if you read some of the “What if Obama Loses?” articles, that comes through just about as clearly as the intended “barbarians at the gates” message.

In what seems the most widely linked (hence presumably most persuasive) of the Washington Monthly articles, Dahlia Lithwick (whose coverage of the Supreme Court and civil liberties issues I truly admire) warns that Justice Ginsburg is 79 years old, ergo it had better be Obama who nominates her successor and not Romney.  So far, so unremarkable — but then she starts to discuss who’s manning the castle walls, as it were:

Imagine a Democratic presidential nominee running on promises to reshape, remake, make over, hog-tie, or even just refinish the federal bench. It doesn’t happen. And so, even though the most conservative Supreme Court in decades sits poised to decide cases ranging from the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care legislation to the future of affirmative action in schools, the rights to gay marriage, and the fate of the voting rights act, Republicans portray both the Supreme Court and the lower courts as a collective of lefty hippies. And Democrats mainly just look at their fingernails. If you care about the future of abortion rights, stem cell research, worker protections, the death penalty, environmental regulation, torture, presidential power, warrantless surveillance, or any number of other issues, it’s worth recalling that the last stop on the answer to each of those matters will probably be before someone in a black robe. Republicans have understood that for decades now, and that’s why the federal bench—including the Supreme Court—is almost unrecognizable to Democrats today. (emphases added)

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Wisconsin union buster legislators greeted by protesters

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th March 2011

On Wednesday, many of the key GOP legislators who voted to end collective bargaining for public unions in Wisconsin planned on coming to DC for a March 16 fundraiser — essentially sneaking into DC to pick up their checks for their sneak vote against labor.  A lot of different groups — AFL-CIO, MoveOn, Public Campaign — started telling their supporters to show up at the site of the fundraiser: the BGR lobbying firm headquarters, at 601 13th St NW in Washington DC.

I was among those who joined the demonstration.  As ever, I brought along my camera and video camera.

At first we just walked up and down in front of the building, I’d guess maybe five or six hundred people all told.  Then all of a sudden a guy standing at the door starts waving people in, so everybody so inclined crowded inside, chanting, blowing whistles, etc.

What greeted us was an all but perfect stage setting for a confrontation with the ruling class, something out of Bertolt Brecht’s wildest dreams: a marble and glass indoor atrium, lined with palm trees below, stretching up for ten stories above, each floor with balconies at which startled denizens of the building gathered to view the impromptu occupation. A heroic statue* stood at the center of a stairway reaching up several stories; a “Respect Workers Rights” banner was quickly hung on the balustrade in front of it. It developed that three or four hundred people can really raise a pretty deafening ruckus if they are so inclined.

The organizers showed a deft touch with the whole thing in that they did *not* stay in any one place for long.  After a few remarks by an AFL-CIO organizers, a Wisconsin teacher, and a Sheet Metal Worker union official, the word was OK, we’re leaving now, clean up, leave it better than you found it.

At this point many hundred more had gathered outside, and the DC police decided to just cordon off the block and give it over to the protest.  So that’s what happened — but after a few minutes the crowd proceeded away from that as well, heading straight to the White House.  We got there in about ten minutes, stood there doing many of the same chants — “What’s disgusting? Union busting” etc. — and then left *again* along a diagonal path through Lafayette Park, away from the White House.  I had no idea where they were headed and tagged along.  But when they got to H Street they doubled back heading east — towards the US Chamber of Commerce.  And by golly if they didn’t head straight in there too!  So I did as well.

This time the place was smaller, a regular lobby maybe forty feet by forty feet, with several dozen of us inside, one guy banging a drum for all he was worth, everyone else chanting “hey hey ho ho” and “people united will never be defeated” and whatnot.

One security guy was apparently steamed about it all — and decided he’d pull a fast one on us and close and lock the doors with us still on the inside.  I started to leave, but he blocked me — and he was a *big* guy, bound and determined to keep me from leaving and on bottling up everyone else behind me.   At no time did I hear him or anyone else request that we leave, though I may have missed that part, I was maybe the 30th person to go in.

By the time he was trying to shut the doors, there were about three or four dozen of us inside.  One guy ducked under his arm, he tried to stop that (so he wasn’t just trying to block further entrants). A bunch of us started to press out, me in the lead (I didn’t want to get trapped in there).  A bit of a nonviolent scrum ensued, him and one or two security guards on the outside trying to close the doors on us, 4 or 5 of us pushing out, me getting pushed from both sides — kind of the cork in the bottle — thinking hmm, this is the proverbial tight squeeze.  But our push won, the door stayed open.  On the outside, people began chanting “let them out,” and as far as I know everyone did stream out — and dispersed, this time for good.

In just a few minutes my friend Tim and I had left as well.  We headed over to a bar, and celebrated the day with some beers and fish and chips.  I gave away my “We Are One” ATU sign — which someone else had given to me — to some tourists who asked me for it.

I’ll post some videos below.  The first two are fairly raw footage — i.e., sometimes I forgot the camcorder was on and you’ll see the bag or my feet or the world turned upside down.  But in a way, it was, and the topsy turvy videography almost gets across the spirit of the moment as well as anything else.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Other accounts of the protest:

* The statue in the center really was magnificent, it seemed all but designed for the occasion. It turns out it’s called “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves,” by Donald De Lue; perhaps sadly, the original is at the Normandy American military cemetery in France. I like to think this was its happiest day in many a year.

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Annals of Truthiness: the Jack Conway ad, its Rand Paul subject

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th October 2010

truthiness (n.) – the alleged emotional or “gut” level truth of a statement or proposition, rather than its actual, verifiable truth.*

Conway ad text (corroborating links added):

“Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the holy Bible “a hoax,”
that was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ? Why did Rand Paul once tie
a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol, and say his god was “Aqua
Why does Rand Paul now want to end all federal faith-based initiatives
and even end the deduction for religious charities
? Why are there so many questions
about Rand Paul?”

The political ad of the year so far appears to be this one, to the right, run by the Democratic Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway in his contest with Republican-slash-Tea Party-slash-libertarian Rand Paul.

While any ad short of enthusiastic Paul-adulation would likely be met with outrage on the right, this one has caused some jaws to drop even on the left side of the political commentariat, and has been fiercely condemned.  See, e.g., Jonathan Chait, who calls it the “ugliest, most illiberal political ad of the year” and — not to be outdone –Jason Zengerle, who goes with “The Most Despicable Ad of the Year“:

First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits. If it’s disgusting when conservatives question Barack Obama’s Christianity, then it’s disgusting when Jack Conway questions Rand Paul’s.

…an opinion perhaps all the more credible for coming from the reporter who actually broke the bizarre, disturbing “Aqua Buddha” story last summer. On the other side, Theda Skocpol — sociologist and academic by day, unsuspected political firebrand  by night — rejoins:

People are acting as if it is some kind of political sin to point out to ordinary Kentucky voters the kind of stuff about Paul’s extremist libertarian views that everyone in the punditry already knows. This does not amount to saying that Christian belief is a “requirement for public office” as one site huffs. It is a matter of letting regular voters who themselves care deeply about Christian belief know that Paul is basically playing them. No different really than letting folks who care about Social Security and Medicare know that Paul is playing them. (link added)

Now, Conway’s ad actually gives me the first few reasons I’ve had to favor Paul — I think faith-based initiatives mix church and state far too much, and I think that churches shouldn’t be tax exempt, given that they engage in political activity one way or the other.

But like Rand Paul, I’m not from Kentucky —  and unlike him I’d hesitate to put myself forward as a candidate for one of its Senate seats.  Put me down on Conway’s and Skocpol’s side — it’s completely fair game for Conway to place this ad.

Bluegrass Values
Rand Paul’s purist-libertarian ideology is a a foreign transplant in Kentucky — and most other places, for that matter.  I’d personally pick other Kentucky-clueless stuff of Paul’s, such as not knowing what Harlan County is famous for.  But this fits the “really from KY?” theme well too — the more so since ‘out of touch with heartland values’ is such a frequent GOP refrain. Read the rest of this entry »

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2010 “newsrack” congressional candidate updates

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th October 2010

Great news: we’ve now raised $1234 for our list of progressive candidates around the country! And in a second fundraising drive — one for Russ Feingold done in coordination with “Get FISA Right — we’ve raised another $1102 for Russ Feingold!

Thanks to all who’ve contributed; join us if you haven’t!

Here are updates on Senate races with “newsrack actblue” progressive Democratic and Green candidates…

  • Russ Feingold (WI) — The New York Times still rates him a “tossup” with challenger Ron Johnson, but Nate Silver’s analysis gives the Republican an 89% chance of victory as of today, up from 80% a couple of weeks ago. A PoliticsDaily poll (via RealClearPolitics) put Feingold behind by 12 percent as of 10/1, but a CNN poll had the race even. Feingold and Johnson debated on Friday night, and I wrote about that debate in the prior post.
  • Joe Sestak (PA) — The New York Times rates him a “tossup” with opponent Pat Toomey, and Nate Silver’s analysis gives the Republican an 94% chance of victory as of today, up from 80% a couple of weeks ago. The latest poll results I found (via RealClearPolitics) put Sestak behind by 7 percent as of 9/28-10/4.
  • Tom Clements (SC) — Neither the Times nor Nate Silver rate him at all; DeMint is a prohibitive favorite over Democratic challenger Alvin Greene.

In House races…

  • Tarryl Clark (MN-6) — The New York Times rates her race against Michele Bachman as “lean Republican” , and Nate Silver’s analysis gives the Republican an 99% chance of victory as of today. The latest poll results I found put Clark behind by 9 percent as of 9/17.
  • Alan Grayson (FL-8) — The New York Times rates him a “tossup” with challenger Daniel Webster, and Nate Silver’s analysis gives the Republican an 68% chance of victory as of today – up 16% from a couple of weeks ago. The latest poll results I found (via RealClearPolitics) indicate Grayson has lost the soft lead he held a couple of weeks ago and is now behind by 7 percent as of 9/25-27.
  • Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15 ) — The New York Times now rates her race against Steven Stivers as “leaning Republican”, and Nate Silver’s analysis gives the Republican an 90% chance of victory as of today. The latest poll results I found put Kilroy behind by 9 percent as of 9/28-30.
  • Patrick Murphy (PA-8) — The New York Times still rates him a “tossup” with challenger (and former incumbent) Mike Fitzgerald, Nate Silver’s analysis gives the Republican an 70% chance of victory as of today — more or less unchanged from a couple of weeks ago. The latest poll results I found (via RealClearPolitics) put Murphy behind by 14 percent as of 9/14-19.
  • Bryan Lentz (PA-7) — The New York Times still rates him a “tossup” against Pat Meehan in the race to fill Joe Sestak’s seat.  Nate Silver’s analysis gives the Republican an 70% chance of victory as of today. The latest poll results I found (via RealClearPolitics) put Lentz behind by 4 percent as of 10/4-6.
  • Manan Trivedi (PA-6) — The New York Times rates his race against incumbent Jim Gerlach “leaning Republican,” and Nate Silver’s analysis gives the Republican an 93% chance of victory as of today. I’ve not found poll results for this race.

You can update all of the above by going to a special “2010 Elections” page I’ve set up here; you’ll find other useful links as well. Most poll results above are via RealClearPolitics; use the “@” link next to candidate names on that page to get the latest on their contests from that site.

The upshot is that things are tending in the wrong direction in the polls for many of these candidates. Each donor will have a different response to what to do about that: help those who still seem to have a chance, or stand by everyone — these are all fine candidates, and there’s still plenty of time for turnarounds, whether locally or nationally.

So give what you can, right now.

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