We are a completely ridiculous people

All these things have happened in the last week or so:

A “pro-Life” Tea Party Republican Congressman from Tennessee got his girlfriend pregnant and then strongly urged her to get an abortion so his wife wouldn’t find out about it. The Huffington Post describes the recently-released transcript of a phone call:

“You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” DesJarlais tells the woman at one point in the call while negotiating with her over whether he’ll reveal her identity to his wife. They then discuss whether he will accompany her to a procedure to end the sort of life the congressman now describes as “sacred.”

“You told me you would have time to go with me and everything,” the woman complains.

“I said, if I could, I would, didn’t I? And I will try,” DesJarlais says. “If I can [find] time, you’re saying you still will?”

“Yeah,” the woman answers.

The two bicker over when they can meet to hash out a solution, and they make clear the nature of their relationship when DesJarlais says delaying a resolution isn’t fair to his wife.

“This is not fair to me. I don’t want you in my life,” the woman says.

“Well, I didn’t want to be in your life either, but you lied to me about something that caused us to be in this situation, and that’s not my fault, that’s yours,” the doctor responds.

“Well, it’s [your] fault for sleeping with your patient,” the woman fires back.

After arguing for a bit about who came on to whom — with the woman seeming incredulous at DesJarlais’ interpretation that she made the first move — he gets back to the abortion.

“If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it,” DesJarlais says.

Moving right along, we have the story of Republican Congressman Paul Broun who told a gathering of supporters this:

“God’s word is true,” Broun said, according to a video posted on the church’s website. “I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

Here’s that video:

Mr. Broun is running for re-election unopposed, by the way.

Finally we have the story of Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz, two Republican congressman on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee who, in their rush to find anything at all with which to attack the president, held a hearing in which they accidentally blew the cover on a CIA operation in Libya.

In their questioning and in the public testimony they invited, the lawmakers managed to disclose, without ever mentioning Langley directly, that there was a seven-member “rapid response force” in the compound the State Department was calling an annex. One of the State Department security officials was forced to acknowledge that “not necessarily all of the security people” at the Benghazi compounds “fell under my direct operational control.”

And whose control might they have fallen under? Well, presumably it’s the “other government agency” or “other government entity” the lawmakers and witnesses referred to; Issa informed the public that this agency was not the FBI.

“Other government agency,” or “OGA,” is a common euphemism in Washington for the CIA. This “other government agency,” the lawmakers’ questioning further revealed, was in possession of a video of the attack but wasn’t releasing it because it was undergoing “an investigative process.”

Such patriotism.

That’s Republican governance folks. While all that is going on, I’m being told that if Joe Biden has a bad 90-minute performance in tonight’s debate against Paul Ryan, then Democrats are doomed and Republicans will probably retake the White House.

Sounds reasonable.

Tonight is debate night

Well, I mean, maybe for you it is. For me, tonight will be dinner with my wife celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary, which is actually tomorrow, but tomorrow night is a parent-teacher conference, so I’ll miss watching the debate live. This was not a hard decision. Interestingly enough, tonight is the 20th wedding anniversary of Barack and Michelle Obama. He’s not skipping the debate for his anniversary but I am. I told my wife this means I’m a better husband than the president; she remains skeptical.

Some of you have noticed (as evidenced by my inbox) that I haven’t posted for a couple of days. I am busy finishing up a project at work and haven’t been able to spend my usual time banging angrily on the keyboard at home before going in. Luckily, my fellow bloggers have filled in nicely. Oh well.

Because I still hate my brain, I have been listening to the talking heads on the TV talk about what to expect tonight. Much has been made about Mitt’s campaign talking about how he is practicing “zingers” for tonight’s contest. A few days ago Howard Dean was on MSNBC saying that you can tell who is winning a debate by watching without sound. (“Yeeeeeeeeargh!” he added, probably.) These are the things that make me yearn for the life-ending meteor strike.

I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow morning, assuming I actually am able to watch any of what happens tonight. I promise to watch with the sound up. If you want body language analysis, I guess that’s what cable TV is for.

A sneek peak at the conventional wisdom six weeks from today

Things are looking good.

(CBS News) With less than six weeks until Election Day, President Obama has opened up significant leads over Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, according to a new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll of likely voters.

Unlike Nancy Pelosi, I’m not making any definitive statements, and I still maintain that nothing is settled and that Romney can win this election, but as of right now, it seems very likely that Barack Obama will be reelected in November.

inuyesta has been crowing (privately) that his electoral prediction (332 EV for Obama) is looking a lot more likely than my my own (303 EV for Obama, which is inuyesta’s prediction minus Florida). In fact, according to Nate Silver, it is now more likely that Obama will win all of inuyesta’s states plus North Carolina and receive 347 EV than the chances of my prediction of 303 being correct.

It has gotten dire enough for Republicans that they have started to grasp onto wildly implausible conspiracy theories to explain the polling. Make sure you have no liquids in your mouth and visit this site: unskewedpolls.com. There you will learn that all the pollsters (including FOX News) are (deliberately?) skewing the sampling from their polling and that this results in the leads for Obama that we are seeing. The analyst there has helpfully applied his own turnout models to these polls and publishes the “real” numbers: Romney is currently leading by 7.8 points in the unskewed average of polls. Swell.

It’s not really surprising that a site like this would exist. There will always be people who try to point to media conspiracies to explain uncomfortable realities. What is kind of shocking is that unskewedpolls has started to get a lot of attention due to (often indirect) mentions by Republican strategists on TV. Bay Buchanan is the last pundit I’ve seen (because I hate my brain) to push this theory, just this morning. The first rule of epistemic closure is that you don’t talk about epistemic closure.

You can usually tell a candidate is losing or worried if he says something like, “the only poll that matters is on election day.” That’s pretty much shorthand for “we’re screwed.” I’m not sure how to even interpret what it means when supporters start talking about conspiracy theories among pollsters. Whatever it means, I don’t think it means Romney is winning.

So, assuming that things hold up, and President Obama wins in November, here is my prediction for what the conventional wisdom will be on November 7th. This next paragraph is a quote… from the future:

President Obama won a narrow victory over Mitt Romney yesterday with 52% of the popular vote and 332 electoral votes. While the mood in Chicago is understandably celebratory, officials in the White House are likely more relieved than elated. The president becomes the first president since FDR in 1940 to be reelected with a smaller share of the popular and electoral vote than in his initial election. Some critics argue that this confirms that the public remains deeply skeptical of the president’s agenda, and that his victory clearly falls short of a mandate. “The president squeaked by, barely,” said [random GOP staffer/Steve Schmidt/Lanny Effing Davis/Mark Halperin/Evan Bayh]. “These results are more evidence that he needs to move to the center if he wants to effectively govern.”

You see, while George Bush claimed a mandate for his 50.7% and 286 EV in 2004, bragging that he had earned political capital and declaring his intention to spend it, our so-called liberal media will never stop claiming that America is a center-right nation and that the only acceptable policy strategy for any Democratic president should be to always move to the center.

Oh, yeah: 41 days to go. Get to work.

What is this… I don’t even…

Okay, look. I sat down last night ready to watch the last night of the RNC and to make some notes on what Romney spoke about so that I could write about it this morning. There was a plan. It was a good plan.

Then this happened.

Sorry, folks. I got nothing. We live on a planet where this can happen at a convention meant to introduce the general public to one of the candidates who just might be the next leader of the free world.

I did watch Mitt Romney’s speech; I swear. After Clint’s performance, my brain became temporarily incapable of creating new memories, like that guy (Guy?) in Memento.  The only thing I clearly remember is that at one point he seemed to be mocking the idea that we should maybe do something about Global Warming, which later prompted Chris Hayes to say this:

I thought the ‘woah’ moment was [about oceans rising]. In documentaries about America at this period of time, the line in which a hall full of people laugh at the notion of stopping the oceans from rising – when I can tell you there are engineers right now working on making sure the subways of lower Manhattan do not flood in the near future because of that – that will be in documentaries as a moment of just what-were-they-thinking’ madness.

One way we can make sure that Mitt Romney doesn’t star in any end-of-the-century documentaries about our complete lack of response to the threat of Global Warming is to make sure he remains unemployed on January 21, 2013.

Other than that…

That’s all I got.

Back from vacation just in time to kill my brain

Hello Disagreeables! I’m back from the family vacation in Florida, getting out of there a few days before Isaac was due to hit right where we were. (Since then it moved West, but for a while it was coming right at the Destin/Fort Walton Beach area.) We actually got back home on Saturday evening, and then Sunday of course was the day to recover from the vacation.

So what happened to Monday, you might ask. Well, funny story. After getting back in town I looked at the jury summons notice that was on my fridge. When I had received it a couple months ago, I did a cursory check to make sure there was nothing interfering with the date on it, and stuck it on my fridge. Looking at it Sunday morning after being off work for two weeks, I realized the summons was for yesterday, and I really needed to get back to work.

So anyway, I spent yesterday morning driving to the OC courthouse in Santa Ana and waiting in the security line before making my way to the jury waiting room. There, I waited in another line to speak to someone at Window 2, ready with my apologetic story about why I needed an emergency postponement. So I get to the front of the line, and say, “I’m sorry, but I need a postponement. I didn’t realize…” and there I was cut off when the extremely pleasant and helpful person at Window 2 nodded and said, “how is January for you?” Um, sure, that’s cool. Done. “Wait, let me validate your parking,” he said as I had started to walk away. Oh, thanks.

There’s been a concerted effort by conservatives over the last 30 years to portray dealing with the government as a bureaucratic nightmare, and there are definitely times when it can be frustrating. But this wasn’t one of those times. The evil government statists were fast, helpful, courteous, and accommodating. No point, just a story.

So much has happened in the last two weeks, and I only made a couple of posts, but I’m sure that inuyesta and snarkologist posted every day while I was gone. Hahaha. Oh man. Anyway…

I’m not even sure where to begin, honestly, with the Paul Ryan selection, Todd Akin comments, and then Mitt going birther in Michigan.

I just… I mean… so here’s the thing about that video. I know you’ve already seen it, but do me a favor and just watch it again. Afterwards, when Mitt was asked about this swipe at the president, he said it was just a joke, and humor goes a long way, and the crowd loved it. Well, okay, yes, the crowd loved it. But did the crowd laugh? Not really; some did, but that wasn’t the primary reaction of the crowd. You see, jokes are supposed to make you laugh. Did Mitt laugh? No. What the crowd did is, the crowd cheered. And Mitt didn’t laugh to let us all know he was joking, he dropped the mic to his side and nodded along to the cheering crowd. That was not a joke; it was an exhortation.

But anyway, old news, right? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I don’t think it was an isolated incident or Mitt making an awkward joke. I think that birther comment was a preview for what we will be seeing for the next three days in Tampa. Not birther comments exactly, but a concerted effort to portray Barack Obama as not American, as an Other. Chris Matthews, of whom I am not a huge fan, laid into GOP Chairman Reince Preibus for this on Morning Joe yesterday (yes, I hate my brain).

You’ve probably seen that too, but the important part for me was that even after Preibus echoed the “official” position that the GOP believes that yes, Obama was born in the United States, he immediately started talking about Obamacare as a European-style healthcare takeover, and therefore the “foreign” description of Obama is valid. Matthews was having none of it. How is Obamacare foreign when it is based on an idea cooked up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, proposed by Republican Senators in 1996, and implemented by Mitt Freaking Romney in Massachusetts? How is that a foreign plan? What is it about Barack Obama that turns Republican plans into “foreign” plans? What is it?

This is what the next three days will be like. Republicans have been tuning their dog whistles and the orchestra is ready to start blowing. It’s going to be ugly, and I’ll probably be watching way too much of it, because, wait for it, I hate my brain.

Romney’s strategy is working

Way back in the ancient days of April I wrote about Mitt Romney’s interesting strategy of lying so early and so often that journalists and bloggers will just get tired of writing about how often he lies. Here’s what I said:

By the time September rolls around, the campaign will have overwhelmed all the actual journalists and basement bloggers with so many of these ridiculous statements that we will have stopped cataloging the mendacity.

It has been well established by now that I hate my brain, and that I have been rather diligent in subjecting it to regular doses of Mitt Romney over the course of this campaign. But even my cold heart is starting to thaw at the desperate pleas of my brain to just stop the pain. When Romney launched his latest attack on the president, yet another outright lie, I found the prospect of writing about it painful to contemplate.

Here’s the ad. Spoiler alert: it’s an outright lie.

But wait, I hear our conservative Disagreeables saying, is that really a lie? Sure, it’s hard-hitting, but politics ain’t beanbag, and perhaps the truth could be not quite as clear as you’re implying, Wiesman.

Um, no. It’s exactly that clear. This ad is a lie.

President Obama has not removed the work requirement for recipients of welfare. Some states have requested waivers to the federal requirements, but those waivers are only granted if the states can show that their programs are better at putting people back to work than the federal requirements. From the Washington Post, back in July:

The actual language is rather strict and rules out a number of potential waiver applications. For example, the memo states, “The Secretary will not use her authority to allow use of TANF funds to provide assistance to individuals or families subject to the TANF prohibitions on assistance.” Translation: people who aren’t on TANF because they didn’t meet the work requirements aren’t going to get bailed out here. Proposed waivers also must include concrete methods of evaluating performance, and set standards that the new programs must meet for the waiver to continue.

In fact, the governors who requested the waivers that were granted by the Obama administration were Republicans of Utah and Nevada. So, yeah, pretty clearly a lie. And a very specific kind of lie, designed to tap into class resentment over government benefits to The Poors that Republicans have been exploiting for 40+ years.

But wait. The lie gets worse. How could it get worse? Surely Mitt Romney couldn’t possibly have requested a waiver to the federal guidelines while he himself was governor, could he? Of course he did. This is what I’ve been trying to tell you. Romney is so shameless that he very nearly overwhelms my hated brain’s capacity to identify shamelessness.

I was able to force myself to write this post, but Romney’s strategy of just flooding the media with outright falsehoods is clearly working. They just don’t know how to deal with it. Because, as mentioned, I hate my brain, I was watching CNN this morning and the horrible awful talking head lady on that awful channel showed a pro-Obama Priorities USA ad that has been criticized, and then showed this latest Romney ad, as if “both sides do it.”

Here’s the Priorities USA ad:


First of all, CNN, comparing a SuperPac ad with an ad by Romney with the “I approved this message” tag on it is not quite equivalent. But even beyond that, even if both ads were produced, paid for, and approved by the respective candidates, the Romney ad is verifiably false. The CNN anchor herself said the pro-Obama ad was wrong because the woman died 5 years after leaving Bain, and that there were times in those 5 years when she had insurance. She then played the Romney ad. She didn’t call it wrong; instead, she said, “Bill Clinton has called this ad a lie.” Do you see what just happened there? The anchor makes a judgement call on an ad with no untrue statements (if the ad is misleading, it’s because of omitted information, not any outright false information), but then when talking about Romney’s ad with actual verifiably false statements, she says that a known partisan calls the ad a lie, not willing to say that it is factually wrong herself, and not explaining why Bill Clinton called the ad wrong.

The Romney campaign has found a brilliant side effect of the current media environment and they are exploiting it deliberately. The number one rule that cannot be violated in CNN’s universe is that both campaigns must be equal. If the Romney campaign does something extremely dishonest, in the CNN worldview, this must mean that the Obama campaign must also have done something extremely dishonest. Never mind that Romney himself approved the one message and President Obama did not. Never mind that the Romney ad contains actual false information and the pro-Obama ad instead has incomplete information. The only rule that applies in CNN-land is that both campaigns must be presented as equally complicit in misleading voters.

You may think I’m joking here. I’m not. As I wrote before, with a sluggish economy and networks like CNN that seem locked into a “both sides do it” mentality, Romney’s boldly dishonest strategy seems to be working. He might win this thing.

Some Tuesday morning navel gazing

I’m sorry for the lack of updates from me lately but I’ve been busy getting ready for a 2-week family vacation. Oh, and by the way, I’m not sure how much posting I’ll be doing starting Saturday because I’ll be on a 2-week family vacation.

Anyway, because I hate my brain, I was watching The Last Word last night on MSNBC. Lawrence O’Donnell had the night off and Alex Wagner was guest-hosting. I like Alex Wagner, I guess. I mean, she seems intelligent and funny and she smiles a lot, which is a plus. Last night she had Ana Marie Cox and Jonathan Capehart on the panel and they were talking about a ridiculous trip Mitt Romney took to the supermarket and the hardware store to buy stuff. They all had a good time mocking Romney because, I mean, he’s Mitt Romney.

Here’s how the International Business Times described it:

Mitt Romney Goes Shopping, Successfully Executing The Lamest Photo-Op Of 2012

And there are pictures there. MSNBC showed some awkward video of Romney carrying a bucket out of the hardware store and answering the question of what he bought with, “um, hardware stuff.” If he had answered, “I haz a bucket!” I may have switched my vote.

All this stuff is kind of funny, I guess, but I couldn’t help being pretty disgusted by the whole thing. This guy is running for president, and the talking heads are talking about whether he “connects with the average voter” and whether his trip to the store is an obvious photo op, and blah blah blah. Jonathan Capehart actually dug deep into plucked the top item from the Big Book of Presidential Campaign Media Coverage Cliches and said, I am not making this up, “Mitt Romney is not…,” wait for it, “… comfortable in his own skin.” Did you throw up in your mouth a little? I sure did!

Look, I want Barack Obama to get re-elected. I think Romney would be a disaster for this country. But I have actual policy reasons for that. Romney’s tax plan would actually raise taxes on middle class families with children by an average of $2,000 while cutting taxes for millionaires beyond what the Bush Tax Cuts did. Polls have shown that when shown that information, people have two reactions: 1) they are strongly against it, and 2) they don’t believe that is his actual plan.

But! It is his actual plan. In fact, the Obama campaign put that into a commercial:

This commercial was evaluated by the Washington Post fact checker Glen Kessler and given a rare Gepetto rating for its accuracy. It would be nice if, when polled, independent voters were aware of what Romney’s tax plan would do, rather than whether or not he can naturally pull off a hardware store shopping session in Mom jeans.

I’m pretty sure the entire panel of Alex Wagner, Ana Marie Cox, and Jonathan Capehart are going to vote for Barack Obama. Nobody watching that show last night would come away thinking they are presenting an objective news show, and MSNBC isn’t hiding the fact that they are programming for liberals and progressives in that time slot. So maybe it really doesn’t matter what sermon MSNBC chooses to preach to its choir, and showing Romney being Romney can be pretty entertaining. Ultimately, MSNBC exists to make money, not to inform its viewers, and not to secure some liberal agenda, and not to help electoral prospects of Democrats.

Still. I complained when the media focused on Al Gore’s “earth tones” and the endless replaying of the debate sighs, and Howard Dean’s scream, and John Kerry’s gaffes. I honestly don’t care at all whether Mitt Romney does his own shopping or what he wears when doing it. I care about the policy. In the case of Mitt Romney, the media focus on his gaffes rather than his policies actually helps him.

On a related, I-hate-my-brain note, I’m ready for the Olympics to be over. As bad as MSNBC is in the morning (and yes, it’s awful) I’ve been forced to alternate between CNN and FOX News in the morning while MSNBC shows Olympics coverage, and holy crap are those two networks terrible.  I can only hope that some day they will all be held accountable for their crimes against humanity.