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Climate Criminals — A preliminary to-do list

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This almost counts as a "notes to self" list, but if anyone wants help with the information, please do.

This is the first set of data needed to start a Climate Criminals project — an operation that names and publicizes who's really bringing the planet so close to climate catastrophe.

To publicize the first group of perpscarbon CEOs — I think the following is needed:
  • The top ten carbon extraction companies by income
  • The CEOs of those companies
  • The total compensation of each CEO
  • The total wealth (if available) of each CEO
  • Public domain pictures of each
This would allow us to put them in some kind of order.

Click here for more on this group and what I suggest we do. These are the real bad guys.

To deal with the second set of perpspolitical enablers and fence-sitters — I think the following would be useful.
  • A list of the five most egregious anti-climate politicians (names like Inhofe come to mind, but the list should be longer)

  • A sharpened "elevator speech" that makes the urgency case for the fence-sitters

  • Confirmation that the following fence-sitters are the place to start — Barack Obama (or whoever secedes him), Hillary Clinton (or whoever is Secretary of State), Bill Clinton, Harry Reid, Joe Biden.
More on the plans for this group here. The proposed way to take the fence-sitters off the fence is Keystone Pipeline approval.

For the third group of perpsmedia enablers and fence-sitters — it would be nice to have the following:
  • A list of the five most egregious anti-climate media pimps, people like George Will. We want the worst ones for this list.

  • The sharpened "elevator speech" for the fence-sitters (same as above)

  • A list of the key media people to be taken off of the fence and/or educated. My first suggestions included David Gregory, followed by Chris Matthews and Chris Hayes, maybe a CNN anchor, and some entertainment people like Leno, Letterman, Colbert and John Stewart.

    I think we need some people who are a likely Yes (like Matthews and Hayes), and some in key positions we can put on the spot (like Gregory). The goal is to get advocates and also to apply pressure. Suggestions appreciated.
Click here to see what the plan for this group is.

For the fourth group of perpKoch-funded denier scientists — it would be good to have the following:
  • A list from the scientific community of Heartland-paid or Koch-paid (etc.) scientists who are doing the most damage with the least apparently integrity

  • A list of the primary denier-funding institutions (places like Heartland)

  • A list of the primary funders of those institutions, with amounts if possible
As we noted here, we would push for the scientist to reject the suspect funding in order to "clear up any confusion about their motives."

The attack is only peripherally on the "tobacco scientists" in the climate field. The real push is to publicize the financing sources and help to deactivate them.

Note the similarity to the ALEC defunding campaign that has had such great success. If taking suspect money appears to be a black mark on integrity, it will make it more difficult for these funding operations to continue.

Will some "scientists" quit the field if they can't get Koch Bros financing? If they do, that's not a problem.

The effort to unconfuse the people offers different challenges. Here we will need information culled from a number of sources and assembled in an apples-to-apples way.

The list is long, but key elements are:
  • How long before 1½°C arrives?
  • At the current rate of carbon-dumping, how long before 3°C arrives?
  • What does a 3°C world look like?
And so on. There are a great number of good studies, but it's difficult for the layman to evaluate them relative to each other, since each uses individual scopes, methodologies, and metrics.

For more on this, click here.

That's the last for now. With this information, a Climate Criminals project could boldly take the next steps. I'm going to be working on this myself.

If you'd like to help out, feel free to send information as you wish. Put "Climate Criminals to-do" in the subject line, and wse the lists above as a guide unless you think I've missed something important. I may not be able to reply, but I appreciate all the assistance that's offered.



To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius
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Video: Tommy Thompson asks "who better than do away with Medicaid and Medicare?"

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Unlike the James E. O'Keefe edited videos that distorted the truth, Republicans like Tommy Thompson are getting caught with their own words, unedited. They're afraid of speaking like this in public because they know they are highly unpopular. We know that the Republicans want to destroy Medicare and anyone who votes for them, better be clear that destruction is their mission. Read the rest of this post...

Ryan to join Romney on the road to rescue lack of interest in Romney

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Oh dear. It's John McCain and Sarah Palin all over again.

The crazies want the "numbers guy" who can't get his numbers straight, but they're stuck with the guy who could buy his way into the prime position. This is what happens when you let your party get taken over by extremists. If your top person can't even fire up your own team, how can you win over the rest of the country?
For the first time in almost a month, Mitt Romney reunited on Tuesday with the man who many Republicans thought would charge up the presidential campaign: Representative Paul D. Ryan, the charismatic PowerPoint-wielder who can draw thousands to rallies that are really mostly giant question-and-answer sessions where they can ask “Paul,” in effect, how to save the party, and the country.

The question now is whether Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, can save his own ticket.

Mr. Ryan often seems to get people more fired up about Mr. Romney’s message than Mr. Romney does at his own rallies. But the last few weeks have been one step forward, two steps backward for the Republican ticket, capped by the disclosure of a video showing Mr. Romney telling people at a high-dollar fund-raiser that 47 percent of Americans consider themselves “victims” and are dependent on the government.
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Six in ten think Romney is running a bad campaign

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Mitt Romney sure knows how to win over the public. Americans are liking him less by the day.
Public criticism of Mitt Romney's race for the White House has risen sharply, with six in 10 Americans expressing a negative opinion of how he's handling his campaign and a majority responding unfavorably to his comments on people who don't pay income taxes.

Sixty-one percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll hold an unfavorable view of how Romney's handling his presidential campaign, up by 12 percentage points since mid-July. Far fewer, 35 percent, rate Romney's performance positively, essentially unchanged.

Barack Obama's ratings for handling his campaign are substantially better, 54-43 percent, favorable-unfavorable. And while ratings of Romney's campaign have grown more negative, favorable ratings of Obama's campaign efforts have gained 8 points since July.
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Study: Fox and WSJ overwhelmingly wrong about climate change

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Remind me again what the common denominator is again between Fox News and the Wall Street Journal?

Rupert Murdoch may have bought his way into US nationality but he certainly doesn't understand traditional American values. Believing in science and facts used to be a matter of pride in America but Murdoch's distorted view has been a radical and unhealthy addition to the American way.

This trend of promoting lies by the Murdoch empire has to change. It's hurting America, but Murdoch's mission has nothing to do with helping the country. Much like Mitt Romney, Murdoch's mission is to make money. It's sick, but for him, the best way to accomplish that goal appears to be distorting reality.

Why does Rupert Murdoch hate America?
Primetime coverage of global warming at Fox News is overwhelmingly misleading, according to a new report that finds the same is true of climate change information in the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages.

Both outlets are owned by Rupert Murdoch's media company News Corporation. The analysis by the science-policy nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) finds that 93 percent of primetime program discussions of global warming on Fox News are inaccurate, as are 81 percent of Wall Street Journal editorials on the subject.

"It's like they were writing and talking about some sort of bizarre world where climate change isn't happening," study author Aaron Huertas, a press secretary at UCS, told LiveScience.
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Mitt Romney's "blogger" talks about Obama being kneecapped, hates Romney

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Romney publishes this on his campaign site.

It's the exact same blog post (half of it) as this at conservative site

It's written by "professional blogger" John Hawkins.

Hawkins run RightWingNews, an outfit whose slogan is "Kneecapping Barack Obama at every opportunity." A bit violent for the Romney campaign to be endorsing about the President of the United States.  This is on their Web site right now:

Seriously, Mitt, is this guy your campaign blogger?  Hawkins argues that the piece is simply excerpted on Romney's site, so he's not a blogger for Romney.  Okay.  So is Romney endorsing his violent language?  Now that Romney knows he's promoting the work of someone who talks of "kneecapping" the President of the United States, when that President has faced an unprecedented number of violent threats, is Romney you still going to leave the blogger's work up on his campaign site?  Mind you, publishing something on a campaign site is endorsement - it's not exactly a free speech zone, a campaign Web site, you publish what you agree with, you don't just publish anyone or anything.

Oh but it gets better.  Hawkins wrote what many consider the most scathing anti-Romney piece on a top conservative Web site.  It's still up on Townhall - not anymore!  Townhall pulled the story down and replaced it with a pro-Romney story!  Holy Stalin, Batman.  Seriously, the largest conservative Web site is now pulling down stories that have been up there forever criticizing Romney, in the hopes they simply disappear down the memory hole?  Geez.

Wait, it's back!  Though maybe this will disappear too.  This time I have a copy.

And here's two of the best grafs that I grabbed before they pulled it:
If you were trying to come up with the most atrocious candidate imaginable to go toe-to-toe with Barack Obama in 2012, you couldn't do much better than Mitt Romney. He was an unpopular moderate governor who lost 2 out of the 3 major elections he's run in and whose signature issue Romneycare is an enormous failure. Moreover, he's so uninspiring that he makes Bob Dole look like Ronald Reagan and that's before you consider his incessant flip-flopping that makes it impossible to really know where he stands on any issue.
If you don't want to spend the better part of the next year trying to drag this sad sack of Mitt across the finish line so he can disappoint us for the next four years, then stand up, speak out, and stop letting the mainstream media and a bunch of Beltway conservatives tell you that the race has to be over with just 1.8% of the delegates needed for a victory awarded. The Tea Party didn't rise up, fight Barack Obama, and help the GOP have its best year in half a century just to see the Republican Party ideologically slide all the way back to the pre-Reagan years as a reward. If the establishment manages to grease the wheels for Mitt to such a degree that it turns out he's unstoppable, then it's still better to go down brawling instead of supporting a candidate you know is a mediocrity because you think he's "probably going to win the nomination." Given the type of man he is, whether Mitt wins or loses, you're unlikely to look back at fighting like hell to get another nominee with anything other than pride.
It gets worse from there. Please do read the entire thing.

And, Hawkins even launched a Web campaign to stop Romney from getting the GOP nomination.

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Romney in free fall in Gallup poll

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Steven Dennis, White House reporter for Roll Call tweets:
LAST night on Hannity, Sununu says only 2 polls he trusts are Rasmussen & GALLUP. Gallup 7-day tracker blows open overnight to 50-44. Note Gallup is a 7-day tracker. That means yesterday likely sucked even more for Romney than 50-44.
Gallup 7-day tracking poll

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Romney's Staples closing 60 stores around the world

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Romney is a jobs creator, you know. As a vulture capitalist, surely you can't expect him to be more concerned about jobs for working families over his own wallet. This brings us back to what I wrote about the other week. The skills that made Romney a successful CEO would make him a terrible president. Romney's core focus is not about, nor has it ever been, about creating jobs. Romney's focus has been on making money and lots of it.

Again, he is an awful candidate for president but it wasn't a fluke that he built a fortune of up to $378 million. If chopping jobs could make him a few more dollars, Romney would and has consistently taken the money. As the CEO of Bain Capital, his exclusive focus was money. Period. For a person like Romney that lacks empathy, it was the perfect job.

Anyone who thinks Romney can suddenly change and show compassion or care about jobs is kidding themselves. Running a country where you have to care about everyone and not just the select few is radically different from running a venture capital firm. Ten times out of ten, Romney would chop jobs the way Staples is doing now.
The chain expects the U.S. store closings will result in a charge of about $35 million in the fourth quarter. For fiscal 2012, it anticipates about 30 U.S. store closings. Staples also expects 30 stores will be scaled down and stores being relocated.

In Europe, the store closures are expected to occur before the end of fiscal 2012. The company has also tapped John Wilson to serve as president of Staples Europe. Wilson succeeds Rob Vale, who is retiring.
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The Climate Criminals project: A five-pronged approach to climate solution

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This falls under the heading "wouldn't it be nice." I think the proposal below, if executed, would add considerable muscle to the existing (and frustrated) climate crisis movement.

I'm calling this proposal the "Climate Criminals" project — a label for the five-pronged approach to a climate solution that I've been writing about — for example here:

I won't detail the project's tactics yet — this piece is already long enough — but I do want to identify the targets of those tactics, show how those targets would be approached, and set up the next few posts in this series.

First, though, two reminders — what problem are we solving, and what strategies don't seem to be working?

(To skip immediately to the project itself, click here.)

The problem, the solution, and the "ask"

Before going further, let's make sure we're on the same page — all of us solving the same problem. For example, I'm not solving this problem:

How to keep the Koch Bros rich while transitioning to alternate energy sources.

Instead, I'm solving this:

The problem — Humans continue to put carbon into the air. What's already there is too much.

Even if we stopped tomorrow, we've still created a terrible mess that we'll need to adapt to. That adaptation will not be easy. What you've seen through the past few summers is exactly half the warming we're already predestined to get. The other half is in the pipeline, just waiting to show up.

Defining the problem the way I have makes the solution-statement obvious:

The solutionPut the carbon industry out of business. Completely.

As long as the carbon industry is open for business, carbon will be added to the air. Zero new man-made carbon is the right number; any greater number is the wrong one.

Which means there's only one thing the climate crisis movement should ask for:

The right "ask" — "Stop now." Stop putting man-made carbon into the air at the most-strictly-defined earliest-possible moment.

The consequences of not stopping are far more important than the profits of a handful of super-wealthy egomaniacs.

In addition, the disruptions to us all of an abrupt stop and energy conversion, however great, will be minor compared to life in a chaotic 3°C, 4°C, or 6°C warmer world. Life in those worlds will be hell.

As noted above, we're at "only" .8°C warmer now. Any less discomfort we seek for ourselves now will come at a huge price in the years to come.

Put another way, the decision to "stop later" is the decision to make our own lives marginally less bad by pushing the disaster (including a possible "mass extinction" event) onto our children.

Some would call that victimizing the next generation. It's at least a very unfriendly act. I assume we won't be thanked for it.

What doesn't work; what isn't sufficient

Before we look at what I'm recommending, let's look at what doesn't work and why:
  1. Personal behavior change — individual action — is not enough. That discussion is here. The bottom line, even if you went totally green, you'd have to get power from somewhere. And that "somewhere" is under political control, not personal control. Behavior change is critical, but not enough.

  2. Technology alone is not going to save us. That discussion is here. New technology is critical, but again, not enough. Even if the needed technology were available now, deploying it quickly is a choice between relative discomforts, not benefits — some discomfort now forestalling huge problems later. "More discomfort now" is a very hard sell, even if the political forces weren't arrayed against us.

  3. A carbon tax is not the answer. That discussion is here. First, markets don't work in an orderly way, so a market-based solution can't be counted on (for example, see here). Besides, giving people permission to emit carbon is not our goal; our goal is the opposite — forcing the end of all new atmospheric carbon. (And yes, it will take force.)

  4. Mass protest and awareness movements are not going to solve the problem by themselves. They're a vital part of the effort to "unconfuse the people" (one of our goals). But raising awareness isn't enough by itself to change the behavior of politicians.

    Three examples should suffice: (1) Recent mass protests against the Keystone Pipeline, which only delayed approval. (2) Worldwide mass protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (3) Comparison of "will of the people" polling on economic matters — e.g., Bush-Obama Tax Cuts, banker bailouts, cuts to the safety net — versus the desires and actions of our rulers.
What is the five-pronged approach?

The Climate Criminals five-pronged approach is a plan for a cadre-led movement to:
  • Target the perps, the "carbon criminals"
  • Catalyze leadership among on-the-fence politicians and media
  • Unconfuse the people about global warming consequences
The Climate Criminals project is conceived as a supplement to current action, not a replacement. It attempts to "up the ante" on consequences to produce a more effective result and more effective messaging.

This is a U.S.–based project, under the assumption that if the U.S. can't be changed, no leveraged worldwide change is possible.

The first four prongs target four groups of perps who are blocking all attempts at climate solution and mitigation — carbon CEOs; their political enablers and retainers; their big-media enablers and retainers; their bought climate scientists (the paid "tobacco scientists" of our day).

The approach targets individuals in each group — perps in the crisis, the reason world climate is getting worse, plus key fence-sitters — for public identification as "climate criminals" and for non-violent but effective action.

The approach also attempts to recruit "climate converts" and leaders among the perps, especially within the political and media classes.

The fifth prong is aimed at the people themselves. At the moment the mass of people are terribly confused — partly because writers and communicators have not told the real story well, and partly because the four groups of perps have deliberately reinforced the confusion.

This approach attempts to change that — to unconfuse the people with clear messaging.

Now the details, target by target:

Perp 1 — Carbon CEOs. These are the main "climate criminals"— the core reason we haven't solved this problem already. The greed and megalomania of less than 100 humans is what stands between 7 billion humans and a climate solution.

Even though global warming and the greenhouse effect were identified as early as 1861, today's carbon CEOs make obscene personal profit by continuing to monetize the greenhouse chemicals under their control. They've shown by their behavior where their loyalty lies.

Carbon CEOs are the primary reason carbon is still going into the air. They control the political and media classes to make sure their wishes, and no one else's, become the public policy and message. They also control a number of paid-off scientists (the tobacco scientists of our day) who make sure the science messaging appears confused.

When the generation alive in 2100 wants to know who gave them their hot chaotic world, these criminals will head the list.

A Climate Criminals project would identify each of these people by name, starting with the top 10 or so; identify how much money each is making from global climate destruction; identify how much wealth each has extracted from the misery of future generations; and ask — probably in vain — for a conversion of conscience to help aggressively solve the problem each has caused.

Carbon CEOs need to be made the permanent face of the catastrophe. Every time bad climate news appears, the people need to see these faces as the perps.

Perp 2 — Political enablers. This group includes two types — known climate criminals like James Inhofe, whose record is clear, and supposed fence-sitters like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (who will soon get to approve — or disapprove — the Keystone Pipeline from her perch in the State Dept).

A Climate Criminals project would name important enablers like Inhofe — treating them just like the criminal CEOs — then take the important fence-sitters off the fence by putting people like Barack Obama, the Clintons, Harry Reid and others, one by one, firmly on the record.

The key to putting people like Obama on the record is the Keystone Pipeline. I would start with Obama — first by stating the climate case vis-à-vis Keystone, then by asking:
"Mr. Obama, will you swear to veto any legislation that contains any approval for the Keystone Pipeline in the United States, regardless of whatever else the legislation contains?"
A Yes makes him a Climate Protector and the project would publicize him as such (thus keeping him on the record).

A No or a waffle — either — makes him a Climate Criminal. This is entirely fair. Keystone Pipeline approval is a guarantee of 3°C or greater global warming and the mass extinction that will follow.

After Obama, similar questions should be put to the Clintons, Biden, Reid. The process could be continued as necessary. Fence-sitting senators up for election in blue states are especially interesting, as are congresstypes on environmental committees.

Perp 3 — Media enablers. The model for action is the same as for the political enablers. Again, there are two groups — the known bads like George Will and those who can be put on the record, one by one.

For the second group, I'd start with one of the primary network anchors — David Gregory comes to mind — then pick someone from MSNBC like Chris Matthews. Entertainers like Jay Leno and David Letterman should also be included. At Comedy Central I'd start with Colbert, who probably gets it, then move to Stewart, who may or may not.

The ask:
"Do you agree with the climate assessments and the timetable? If so, do you agree that every time the subject comes up, it needs to be framed in a way that correctly represents the situation — in a way that unconfuses people, not further confuses them?"
To be clear: Handling the news or the comedy is up to them. We're only asking that they not confuse people with contra-factual framing.

The goal is to seek new protectors, people who will agree and follow through with clear recognition that this is indeed a crisis. Only those like George Will who are died-in-the-wool deniers should go into the criminals group. Perhaps a third group — "climate fence-sitters" — might be useful here, especially as evidence from places like the Arctic mounts.

Perp 4 — Paid science deniers. Similar to groups 2 and 3, people should be put on the spot, then classified. Here, the question isn't about the intention behind a climate denial position — that's hard to determine — but the funding, which is easy to discover.

Starting with an empty deniers' Climate Criminals list, I'd approach any prominent researcher who takes money from Koch Industries, the Heartland Institute or a similar organization and simply ask them to reject the funding in order to clear up any confusion about their motives.

A researcher's motives are only suspect if known-denial-funding changes hands. Otherwise, they're presumed to be simply a contrarian, a perfectly fair position in science. The ask is therefore:
"Will you reject and return all funding from [denier funding org] so that your motives will not appear to be compromised?"
A researcher who agrees to reject denial funding should be presumed sincere. Paid contrarians, however, are a different beast, and should be moved from "unknown" to the Climate Criminals list.

The people. There has to be a strong program to "unconfuse the people." The goal is not to terrify, but to make people appropriately concerned — concerned enough to hug the monster and act with urgency.

This brings in the writers, filmmakers and other professional communicators. The message:
"We're facing a serious problem. These are the timelines.

"We better get our house in order because anyone who lives through most of the current century will experience the start of the climate chaos era. That means our children.

"Help us paint that picture before it's too late to act."
All five prongs work together in this part of the effort. Finding climate protectors among politicians and media would give mainstream cred to the "unconfuse" messaging. As interest mounts, people could even make money at it.

Bottom line

I've been writing for a while about the problem — we're less than a generation, perhaps less than a decade, from watching the climate start to spin out of control.

Once 3°C — 5½°F — is inevitable, the only option left will be to mitigate and survive. And a decade or two after that, when 3°C does arrive, it will bring degrees and levels of chaos that will make global coordination impossible. At least in my view.

So the time to act is now, before 3°C is inevitable. Is current effort going to be enough? In my opinion, no. Ultimately, nothing but force will budge the CEOs and their paid politicians. Time to add (completely non-violent) force into the equation.

A Climate Criminals project, or something similar, would be one way to up the pressure. A project like this would highlight the true perps, make them the face of the crisis, and allow all kinds of other actions to take place around that understanding.

It would also put politicians and media on the record — and on the spot — in a way that isn't happening now.

Again, my proposed Climate Criminals project is a plan for a cadre-led movement to:
  • Target the perps, the "carbon criminals"
  • Catalyze leadership among on-the-fence politicians and media
  • Unconfuse the people about global warming consequences
I hope, if it gains momentum, you give it your support. The next posts will include a to-do list and some examples of using force that, under the right circumstances, could very well work.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius
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Romney admits Obama didn't raise taxes, after claiming he did

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As we've said before, just hand Mitt Romney a microphone and step away. So Mitt Romney is now admitting that President Obama didn't raise taxes during his four years in office, even though up until now that's exactly what Romney has been telling people, that Obama did raise taxes.

This is the problem with lying about pretty much every position you claim to hold. No human being is capable of keeping that many lies consistent. You eventually get caught.

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Angela Merkel remains as clueless as ever about austerity

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No matter how bad the economy looks in austerity-hit Europe, Merkel does not and probably never will understand economics. She's played to the pro-austerity crowd - fanning the flames with expertise - and there's almost no way she can work herself out of that position.

In Merkel's eyes, austerity worked well for Germany and now it's working well in places such as Spain. Except it's not. Yesterday the NY Times ran a depressing article about Spaniards now searching for food in trash bins. (And remember, Spain's budget had a surplus before the crisis.) In Greece, the plan to pay back the impossible loans is far off track but again, we all knew it would be that way at the start.

Even in the non-eurozone UK, austerity is now costing the country billions due to families quitting work to help sick family members. This means no more tax revenue and more stress on the system. It's not working and it won't work. There are countless examples of austerity failing miserably in a shrinking economy. Austerity has only worked during a growing economy and that does not exist in Spain, Greece, Portugal or the UK.

With this attitude, things will only get worse in Europe. Let's not forget who keeps insisting on driving the EU economy into the ground. The bankers caused the crisis, but it's Merkel who is making a bad situation worse.

How could anyone think this is the picture of success?
The Chancellor made her remarks in a speech to the Federation of German Industries on another day of turmoil in the currency bloc. The Spanish government faced mass anti-austerity protests in Madrid, while Greece was reported to be billions of euro off-track in meeting the terms of its bailout. Meanwhile, the ratings agency Standard and Poor's once again highlighted the grim state of the EU economy, forecasting that the eurozone would not return to growth until at least 2014.

Against such a gloomy backdrop, Ms Merkel insisted: "We need to take a deep breath to overcome this crisis. We must make the efforts that will allow Europe to emerge from the crisis stronger than it went in."

The German leader conceded that hard-won reforms in southern Europe had helped, but said there was still work to do. The markets, she added, had doubts about their ability pay back their debts. Her comments were overshadowed by the continuing crises in Spain and Greece. The government in Athens conceded yesterday that it would need between €13bn to €15bn more in funding if it were given the two-year extension to the bailout plan it has been requesting.
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Video: Pomeranian pup terrorizes Doberman

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I love this.

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Obama helps fix the US Patent system

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We have two really important pieces of good news for the US patent system today. The first is that the US PTO is finally going to adopt the same principle as the rest of the world and allow (no encourage!) public comment on patent applications. The second is that they chose Joel Spolsky one of the most clueful people in the business to build the site.

The US Patent system has been badly broken since the Reagan administration decided to turn it into a profit center. It is broken for genuine inventors, it is broken for legitimate plaintiffs in patent disputes and it is completely broken for defendants.

The only group that is actually served by the current system is patent trolls. I work as an expert witness in patent disputes a typical case involves a patent application that was originally filled before 1990 that essentially claims 'do something people have done for decades on the Web'. Such a patent would of course be highly novel given that the Web did not exist in any form until 1989 and was only announced to the public in 1992. Until the patent system was reformed during the Clinton administration, an application could be amended to add in extra claims after filing. So in the typical case the claims at issue have been added into a prior application on an unrelated invention after the 'inventor' read about the Web in a newspaper.

In theory the defense should be able to win a case like this pretty easily. In practice it costs at least $2 million to bring a defense to the point where these issues are considered. Damages in these disputes may be a hundred million dollars or more.

The backdating loophole has been closed but the fundamental problem remains, the US still issues far too many patents that are too broad or obviously not novel. Patent examiners do their best but the system simply does not give them enough time to do a proper job. I paid less than $1000 each in patent office fees to file two patents in 2010. At $100 an hour (cheap for a lawyer) the USPTO examiner has less than ten hours to read, understand and write a report on the application and to handle all the subsequent correspondence. I typically spend 20-30 hours on a similar exercise.

The system is set up to fail, the question is how it will fail. Examiners can process applications quickly by accepting almost anything that is not a perpetual motion machine or they can take longer than the time allowed and let a backlog build up. During the dotcom bubble the USPTO took the first approach. More recently it has switched to the second. Both of my applications have been waiting on a first office action for over two years. That is two years in which I have been unable to market the idea or collect any royalties. One of my issued patents took five years.

One of the main reasons for that backlog is that companies are still applying for patents on every idea no matter how ridiculous or stupid it might appear. There is a beggar-thy-neighbor aspect to this. If my company does not apply for a patent a competitor will.

Not only is the US patent system set up for failure, it operates in a unique way. In every other country the patent process involves a period of public review. This takes the responsibility for vetting applications away from a lawyer who is often not an expert in the field in question to the public reviewers. When I worked for a chemical manufacturer in the UK, there was a patent bulletin circulated each week alerting the research staff to the patent applications made by competitors.

The USPTO has been fighting a losing battle against prior publication for the past twenty years. First they resisted publishing applications before patents were issued, then they agreed to publish applications but stated that they would ignore any communication from the public that purported to show prior art. The new site will put the USPTO ahead of other patent offices in this respect. There remain a few oddities that make the US Patent system broken in unique ways but these are minor in comparison.

This change may reduce my income as an expert witness but opens up a new opportunity providing clients with documented prior art to challenge spurious applications. It is unlikely to be as profitable but I would rather help create new mess than clean up an unnecessary one. Read the rest of this post...

What is Romney's hang up with Jews?

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I'm not Jewish. I'm Greek Orthodox. But I spent my younger years, a few decades ago, often being confused for someone Jewish, and more than a few times getting some pretty nasty comments as a result (someone actually called me the k-word once, but usually I'd get asked my last name, which I learned was code). That, and being gay, I like to think I'm somewhat more attuned to prejudice than the average straight white guy.

So I'm curious about the way Mitt Romney talks about Jews, and Israel.  It always seems to be about money and business for him. And he's a businessman, so that's partially excusable. But when you talk about a particular race of people being particularly good at business, and the people just happen to be Jewish, and you keep saying it, my jewdar goes off.

First there was this a few months ago, when Romney went to Israel:
Romney said some economic histories have theorized that "culture makes all the difference."

"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence." He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.
Just struck me funny talking about Jews are 'culturally' good at business (and Mexicans aren't). I asked some Jewish friends, they agreed.

Then there's this, today. Romney's message to the Jewish people for their holiday season, taking place right now. Mitt yet again hit's that familiar them when talking about Israel and Jewish-Americans. The they're-good-at-business meme seems to permeate his thinking.

One more thing. Why is Romney's message to Jews hidden on his YouTube channel? If you go to the video, you'll see this this at the top of it:

Why is it unlisted?  Why is it only for those with the link?  I went through Romney's public YouTube page and couldn't find the video listed.  Any reason the Romney campaign isn't including a video about the Jewish people alongside the rest of their videos, since they're so proud of Jews' innate ability at business.

Like I said, just strikes me funny.

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Ohio Teabaggers attempt to intimidate Ohio State students to block their votes

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There's nothing quite like the smell of hypocrisy with the Teabaggers.

As the article mentions, can you imagine being a young, poor student and receiving a legal-looking document challenging your voter registration? If you're a student, you're probably wondering how you could afford legal counsel to defend your registration, which is already legal.

The Teabaggers, like the rest of the GOP, can't win on issues so they're determined to disrupt the vote.  Remember what John always say: The Republicans accuse us (read: ACORN) of things we're not doing, but they are.

How very patriotic of them.
On September 13th, Hilliard Tea Party member Carol D. Bicking submitted a voter challenge to hundreds of OSU students. Bicking appears to be following the strategy promoted by True the Vote which aims to intimidate Democratic voters, like students or African Americans, into staying away from the polls this November.

If the Board of Elections accepts the challenge, students would be sent a subpoena to appear at a hearing to question their voting status. Students would then have a minimum of three days to prepare for the hearing, and possibly hire legal counsel, all because some nasty Tea Partier didn’t like the way their address appeared on the voting registration form.

According to documents obtained by Plunderbund, the bulk of the challenges (246) are for students who registered to vote at their dorm buildings at OSU but failed to provide a specific room number on the application. We confirmed with OSU’s Housing Department that “as long as everything else is accurate including their name” the students will, most likely, still receive their mail even without the room number.
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Romney paying staff twice as much as Obama

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Romney is seriously overpaying his own staff.  That is the only conclusion that you can make after looking at the figures.

The Obama campaign is spending slightly more than the Romney campaign ($4.04 million compared to $4.37 million last month), but the Obama team is much larger. When you look at the results, the Obama team is also much more effective. For a business expert, Romney doesn't get much value out of his investment in his own team.

LA Times:
According to an analysis by the Times Data Desk, part of the Los Angeles Times, the Obama campaign had 901 people on its payroll last month, and paid them a median salary of $3,074 a month, or $36,886 a year.

The Romney campaign, in contrast, had 403 people on its payroll, and paid them a median salary of $6,437 in August, which would mean $77,250 a year.

A Romney campaign official said the median staff salary is actually $51,500 a year. The August payroll may have been inflated by back pay owed to new employees, the official said.
What makes this more eye raising is that the LA Times review does not include the surprisingly high $207,500 bonus money that was handed out to Romney staff last month. Read the rest of this post...

273m people can't be wrong about this video (but is it racist?)

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I love this video, see below.  Makes me want to dance.  Funny too. The Daily Beast has an interesting analysis about what the video is really about. Before clicking over, what do you think it's about?

More background from MoJo:
If you haven't been following South Korean rapper PSY's meteoric ascent to transcultural ubiquity, allow me to get you up to speed: "Gangnam Style" is now the most-watched Korean pop music video on YouTube, and as of last Thursday, the most-liked of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The song, which currently tops the iTunes charts in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and a half-dozen European countries, just jumped to the 11th spot on Billboard's Hot 100 after debuting at No. 64 hardly a week ago.
Some worry that there's a darker, racist, meaning as to why we find this video fun:
You only have to look at a handful of other Asian and Asian American men that have made any impression in mainstream American music to guess what role PSY fits. Just this year, Korean American Heejun Han made it to the elusive top ten of American Idol and, while his buttery baritone did cut muster, it was his off-stage antics as a hilariously deadpan prankster that the public particularly reacted to. Before Han, the other Asian male that made any particular impact in American mainstream music was William Hung. Yeah.

That’s right: alongside clowns from other mediums like Ken Jeong (and yellow-face disgraces like Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunoishi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), PSY fits right into the mainstream-friendly role of Asian male jester, offering goofy laughs for all and, thanks to PSY’s decidedly non-pop star looks, in a very non-threatening package. Psy doesn't even have to sing in English or be understood because it’s not the social critique offered by the lyrics that matters to the audience, but the marriage of the funny music video, goofy dance, and a rather catchy tune, of which two of the elements are comical and, again, non-threatening.
Maybe. But coming from the "gay child molester out to destroy your marriage and America as we know it" brigade, "funny" and "smart" would be a step up.  That doesn't make it make it right, but I'm also wondering how "wrong" it is as well, in the grand scheme.  I mean, I think Italians, as a rule, are hot.  And Swedes, as a rule, are far calmer than any Greek I know.  Is that stereotyping, or is it true?  And even if there is a kernel of truth, is it wrong to generalize about something even if it's kind of true (e.g., I can generalize about Greeks (my people) all day, and I think I'd be right.)

Oh, and btw, the video might not be funny because he's Asian. It might be funny because he comes off awfully gay.  So the stereotyping might not be racist, it might just be homophobic. (But even if it is, I really like it.)

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Obama may cut Social Security benefits during Lame Duck session following election

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Not good. After November, Obama will never again face the electorate. He's free to do as he wants.

The Lesser Evil is still evil, folks. If you vote for it, it's your job to save us from it.

Huffington Post:
Obama May Do Social Security Reform During Lame Duck Session, Senate Democrats Worry

Concern is mounting among some Senate Democrats that President Barack Obama will make a deal with Senate Republicans during the lame-duck session that would result in changes to the benefit structure of Social Security.

[A snipped paragraph about how Obama said nice things before the AARP about what he's "open" to doing — without making a single promise.]

But the Vermont Independent worried that all of this could be posturing for the lame-duck session immediately after the election, when lawmakers are expected to rush to find another "grand bargain" on tax and entitlement reform to stave off the so-called fiscal cliff.

"That's exactly what's going to happen," Sanders said of Social Security being on the proverbial table, "Unless someone of us stops it -- and a number of us are working very hard on this -- that's exactly what will happen. Everything being equal, unless we stop it, what will happen is there will be a quote-unquote grand bargain after the election in which the White House, some Democrats will sit down with Republicans, they will move to a chained CPI."
Read more about the "chained CPI" proposal here. All you need to know — it changes the cost of living adjustment so retirees get a lot less money.
When the president and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) attempted to craft a deal on the debt ceiling last summer, Obama offered the chained CPI as a concession.
So there. As we wrote months and months ago, Obama's original Grand Bargain is still on the table.

And Daddy Koch (sorry, David Koch) — soon-to-be operational head of the Republican Party (sorry, "one of the most influential donors in the Republican Party") — has given his blessing to the fig leaf (sorry, "tax increases") Obama needs to sell his surrender to us as some kind of benefit.

Barring an open Democratic office-holders rebellion, this is starting to look like a done-deal. Even Nancy Pelosi, judging by her words, is on board as well.

Hmm, "open rebellion" by office-holders against DLC and NeoLib party leaders. Maybe that's what we need from our good progressive electeds ....

UPDATE: There's quite a good discussion going on in the comments, with a number of positions debated. I've weighed in several times myself. Do click through if this subject interests you.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius
  Read the rest of this post...

GOP hero Nikki Haley put 14 year old daughter on state payroll

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Was Haley's 14 year old daughter really the most qualified for the job?

I never understand how the Republicans can so often criticize government and government workers yet so easily provide jobs for their family inside government. Dick Cheney was no stranger to it, having his daughter Mary run his re-election campaign, and now the Tea Party and Sarah Palin hero, Nikki Haley, is doing the same.

The unemployment rate in South Carolina remains above the national average, so why is the governor giving a job to her daughter when so many others need work?

Gov. Nikki Haley’s 14-year-old daughter having a summer job at the State House gift shop is a tad more unusual than some may have thought.

Haley’s daughter was, in fact, the only 14-year-old to hold a state job as of July 2012. And no 14-year-olds were employed by the state in either July 2011 or July 2010, according to data from the State Budget and Control Board.

UPDATE: A reader notes:
Dick Cheney's other daughter, Elizabeth, was also on the public payroll. She was a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department. She was in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, as I recall. This is a matter of public record.

In my humble opinion, it's one thing to put your own relative on your campaign payroll. If the donors don't like that, well, they can effectively voice their concern. And if the media doesn't like it, well, they can report it. In the end, not a big deal.

But it's another thing entirely when it's taxpayer money.
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Fighting continues in Syria as Assad uses air force to terrorize

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The world's attention has shifted to other critical issues, but the problems continue in Syria. Assad continues to use the full force of his military against civilians but the fight continues. He has the hardware but in the long run, he doesn't have the numbers to win the day. Not that it matters for now though, because civilians are being butchered on a daily basis. The Guardian:
The Local Co-ordination Committees, an opposition network, reported on Monday that at least 58 people had died, including the 15 in Aleppo, where two buildings were hit by bombs dropped by government planes in the southern suburb of Maadi. Video posted online showed people digging through rubble searching for survivors.

Mohammed Saeed, a local activist, said the pre-dawn raid was intended to "terrify the people and try to turn them against the Free Syrian Army", the Associated Press news agency reported.

Attacks by government troops backed by helicopter gunships were reported in the southern town of Sheikh Miskeen in Daraa province. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels and troops were fighting near the airbase of Tabaqah in the northern province of Raqqa. Last week, rebels captured a key border crossing with Turkey in Raqqa.
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Romney support from seniors crumbling rapidly

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It should not have been a surprise that Paul Ryan was booed on Friday at the AARP convention. There's no way to sugar coat the Romney/Ryan plan to dismantle Social Security. It is an assault on seniors and a system that has been working well. After the beating everyone took in recent years (including many seniors) who in their right mind would want to outsource Social Security to Wall Street?

New polling by Reuters/Ipsos indicates that during the past two weeks - since just after the Democratic National Convention - support for Romney among Americans age 60 and older has crumbled, from a 20-point lead over Democratic President Barack Obama to less than 4 points.

Romney's double-digit advantages among older voters on the issues of healthcare and Medicare - the nation's health insurance program for those over 65 and the disabled - also have evaporated, and Obama has begun to build an advantage in both areas.

Voting preferences among seniors could change in the final six weeks of the campaign, but the polling suggests that a series of recent episodes favoring Obama and the Democrats could be chipping away at Romney's support among older Americans.
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"Improperly veiled" woman assaults Iranian cleric

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One of the many problems for women living in Iran is gangs of so-called 'religious' thugs who harass them for infractions of the dress code.

One particular mullah got more than he bargained for when a woman he was publicly chastising responded with an attack that put him in hospital for three days. This story is from a few days ago, but it's an interesting one and I wanted to make sure people didn't miss it. The pictures of the result are pretty gruesome (H/t Boing Boing.) Read the rest of this post...

Mitt Romney upset that airplane windows don't open

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Because apparently he's never watched a movie or TV show in his entire life.

I meant to write about this earlier today, but was busy dealing with more serious news.  Still, what is this guy thinking?  He's a walking gaffe-machine of late.

In his latest, Romney was talking about his wife's aircraft that had some serious trouble last Friday with an electrical malfunction and had to conduct an emergency landing.

From the LA Times:
“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”
As HuffPo points out, Romney has his facts slightly off:
The main reason airplane windows don't open is because there isn't enough oxygen at cruising altitude to keep passengers alive. (The fear of window or cabin failures, which would lead to potentially fatal hypoxia, is why many planes are equipped with emergency oxygen masks.)

"You can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open," Romney told the Times, suggesting that additional oxygen in the cabin during the electrical malfunction could've alleviated the problem. In fact, if there were an electrical fire on board, additional oxygen would have fed the flames.
Here's another reason the windows don't open at 40,000 feet: Because you're traveling at 550 miles per hour, which can slam a window awfully hard on your finger (in addition to ripping the window right off). Another reason, the air temperature is 70F below zero, which might give the passengers a slight chill when the guy in front of you refuses to close his window and the 500 mile per hour -70F wind is blowing in Mrs. Romney's face.  (Then there's the air pressure differential...)

How did Mitt Romney not know any of this?  I had to look at the exact temperature but I knew it was below -40F.  I also knew the cruising speed was around 500pm, and that the air pressure was pretty darn low up there in space where there isn't much oxygen to start with.

What was Romney thinking to even say something this dumb?  I'm increasingly thinking that the man is not the brightest bulb. Read the rest of this post...

Let's not forget that Mitt Romney saw the assassination of an ambassador as an "opportunity"

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The Romney campaign is doing another of its now-infamous Hail Mary foreign policy throws today.

This time in an attempt to undercut the United States on the day before the President speaks at a huge meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York.

Rather than lob bombs from the west coast, where Mitt Romney today accused Californians of being socialists, the GOP candidate should fly to New York and let himself be heard in person.  Just imagine the efficacy of being able to insult nearly 80 heads of state and government ministers in one fell swoop.

And when Mitt Romney suggests that President Obama doesn't care about the death of a US ambassador, don't forget what Mitt Romney said about that death - the Romney campaign said it was an opportunity.  His staff was elated.  They saw the death of an American, a foreign policy crisis, as an "opportunity."  I wonder if our dead ambassador's family agrees with Mitt Romney that the murder of their family member was an opportunity?

Keep in mind that Mitt Romney also called the Iran hostage crisis in 1980 an "opportunity."  And that he was keeping his eyes out for another "opportunity" for Americans' lives to be threatened.

Republicans can't win on the facts, as facts have a liberal bias.  So they have to lie and fight dirty.  The only problem for them is that their candidate stinks.  Heck, he's not even a Republican.  And all the lies, and flip-flops, are finally coming home to roost.  So as Mitt Romney's popularity drops like a stone all they have left is what they started the campaign with, lies.

Fortunately for us, Mitt Romney doesn't know when to shut up.

Read the rest of this post...

Did Romney close his Swiss account to evade prosecution?

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As I mentioned the other day, there are so many unanswered questions about Mitt Romney's taxes.

One issue that is increasingly being asked is whether Mitt Romney closed his Swiss bank account at UBS to avoid serious prosecution for avoiding taxes.

UBS reached a settlement with the IRS for nearly $800 million for their role in helping rich Americans avoid paying US taxes. Following the settlement, the IRS announced an amnesty period for Americans who may have been hiding money at UBS, and thousands came forward.

It's still not clear whether Mitt Romney participated in that amnesty period, but what we do now know is that he no longer has a Swiss bank account with UBS as of 2010. The timing is certainly interesting. 

Because Romney won't release full details of his taxes, and instead only released a pile of documents signed by PWC and lawyers, we can't say for sure whether he hid millions in Switzerland or not.

Paul Abrams at the Huffington Post has been following this closely for a while now and has made a list of the circumstantial evidence that points towards Romney participating in the amnesty program. Romney is only answering questions via email about his taxes and of course, he's not answering any questions about amnesty.

Huffington Post:
To review, here is the circumstantial evidence:
i) Romney closed ONLY his Swiss UBS Account, not Caymans or Bermuda or Luxembourg. Hence, he cannot claim "bad optics for a campaign" as the alternative explanation;
ii) Romney closed the UBS account during the time required to receive amnesty;
iii) Romney omitted from his public disclosure of his 2010 returns the specific information about the UBS account;
iv) Romney took six extra months to prepare his 2011 returns, disclosing them in the countdown to the election, whereas he could have disclosed 2009 immediately with 2010, getting all that bad news out at once, during the primary, so that it would be ancient history by now. That is strong evidence that 2009, that would have shown the amnesty with flashing lights, was too toxic.
Someone in the traditional media needs to ask Mitt Romney directly whether he did or did not close his Swiss bank account during the amnesty program. But they also need to demand that he release the full details of his taxes like every other candidate for president in modern times. Read the rest of this post...

Romney slams California as socialist, while campaigning in California

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At this point, the Obama campaign doesn't even need to run negative ads.  They only need to hand Mitt Romney a microphone and start recording.

Besides not caring about 47% of the US population, Mitt Romney also doesn't think much of the most populous state in the US. Mitt Romney really has a problem with many Americans which is maybe why he listed the US as a foreign country on his US tax returns.

And now Mitt thinks California is a bit too "Europeans" - which in GOP-land means "socialist" (which really means "communist").  The RNC chair was taken down by Chris Matthews a month or so ago for pushing the "Obama is foreign/European," aka socialist (in addition to it being a racial insult that blacks aren't real "anglo-saxons" like the rest of us (who mostly aren't anglo-saxons either)).

And while it's one thing for Romney to think California is socialist, it's another for him to admit it, and put at risk California's 55 electoral votes, and it's absolutely insanity to admit it while he's campaigning in California.

Who will Mitt Romney offend next?
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney came to the Golden State for a two-day series of high-profile fundraisers and reportedly took a shot at California in front of a $25,000 a ticket crowd in Del Mar.

Romney “took a pretty big shot at California,” according to a pool reporter.

“He said that under President Obama we’re becoming a lot more European and that the state of California was something he didn’t want to see the rest of the U.S. look like in a few years,” a pool reporter related.
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Video: Leave Mitt Alone

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It was only a matter of time before one of these came out in response to Mrs. Romney's call for people to stop criticizing her husband because political campaigns are "hard."  This video does a surprisingly good job at overall satirizing Mitt Romney's campaign.  It's less about his wife, and more about him.

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Study: Fact-checkers find Romney/GOP lie twice as much as Democrats

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Facts have a liberal bias.  And lies have a conservative one.

This study is from George Mason University, a lesser college in the Washington, DC area that is known as a hotbed of conservative activism.  So take anything you ever hear from "GMU" with a huge grain of salt.  Often there's a conservative bias, and funding stream, underlying folks from that university.

This study, by the self-proclaimed non-partisan "Center for Media and Public Affairs" - which has been accused of conservative ties in the past - finds that media fact-checkers found Mitt Romney and the GOP lied twice as much as Democrats.  It's some coincidence that the study came out just a few weeks after the Republican party collectively decided that it's time to start tearing down fact-checkers.

In any case, the study found that the fact-checkers rated Romney and the GOP liars twice as much as they rated Dems as liars. While conservatives will surely say this is a sign of the fact-checkers' inherent bias, it's just as likely that fact-checkers are finding twice as often that the GOP lies because the GOP lies twice as often as Democrats do.

From the study:
The study examined 98 election-related statements by the presidential candidates, their surrogates, and campaign ads fact-checked by from June 1 to September 11. Major findings:

PolitiFact checked the assertions of Democrats slightly more often than those of Republicans (54% vs. 46% of all statements).

However, PolitiFact rated Democratic statements as “mostly true” or “entirely true” about twice as often as Republican statements -- 42% true ratings for Democrats vs. 20% for Republicans.

Conversely, statements by Republicans were rated as entirely false about twice as often as Democratic statements – 29% false ratings for GOP statements vs. 15% false ratings for Democrats. (This includes categories labeled “false” and “pants on fire.”)

The same pattern holds for statements made directly by the presidential candidates and their campaigns. A majority of the Obama campaign’s statements (55%) were rated as true or mostly true, compared to one out of four statements (26%) by the Romney campaign.

The difference is even greater at the other end of the spectrum, where 26% of the Romney campaign’s statements were rated as either false or “pants on fire,” compared to only 5% of the Obama campaign’s statements.
Get ready for Republicans to, coincidentally all in unison, denounce the fact-checkers, in a massive playing of the refs designed to push fact-checkers further to the right.  But the larger point remains: What are fact-checkers to do if "hypothetically" one party is taken over by extremists who have decided that the only way they can win is to lie?

I think back to 2004 when pundit/journalist Mark Halperin, who was then with ABC, wrote a famous memo in which he warned ABC staff not to simply assume that both sides in the 2004 presidential race were being equally dishonest.
In October 2004 the Drudge Report published a memo Halperin sent to ABC News staff about coverage of the U.S. presidential election directing them not to "reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable" and that both John Kerry and George W. Bush used "distortion" in their campaign, but that Kerry’s distortions were not "central to his efforts to win."[8] Halperin was criticized by conservatives who used the memo to reinforce long-standing complaints of media bias.
Conservatives had a conniption fit. But what if Halperin was right. Or more to the point, why should we assume necessarily that Halperin was wrong? Why is it impossible that one political party, one presidential candidate, could lie more than the other?

If we're willing to believe, and we do, that some candidates pulled their punches and were "too nice" during their campaigns, then why wouldn't the opposite also be true, that some candidates are too negative, and too willing to lie?

Mitt Romney's first ad of his presidential campaign was a lie about President Obama (that was the infamous ad in which Romney took Obama quoting McCain and made it look like Obama had come up with the quote himself). Obama didn't do the same for his first ad.

Mitt Romney chose to devote his entire convention to a lie, "you didn't build it." Barack Obama's convention theme was "bringing Americans together."

Mitt Romney is now, yet again, suggesting that the foreign-seeming Barack Obama is a socialist (he's using the code-phrase "redistribution of wealth"). When has President Obama suggested anything equally offensive about Mitt Romney?

Some people are more dishonest than others. And some of them run for President. Read the rest of this post...

Romney endorses "socialism" on 60 Minutes in yet another flip-flop

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You can only flip flop so much before you start tripping up badly.

Mitt Romney's latest? He just endorsed "socialism" last night. Which probably won't go over too well with the GOP base two days after Romney declared in his federal tax forms that to him America was a "foreign country."

You see, five years ago Mitt Romney told Glenn Beck that letting the uninsured get free health care via emergency rooms (which is what our country does) is "socialism.
"And in a 2007 interview with Glenn Beck, Romney called the fact that people without insurance were able to get "free care" in emergency rooms "a form of socialism."

"When they show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that's not a form of socialism, I don't know what is," he said at the time.
As HuffPost notes, Romney was singing a completely different tune last night on 60 Minutes:
Downplaying the need for the government to ensure that every person has health insurance, Mitt Romney on Sunday suggested that emergency room care suffices as a substitute for the uninsured.

"Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance," he said in an interview with Scott Pelley of CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday night. "If someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care."
So the new "conservative" Mitt Romney is now in favor of "socialism."

I seem to remember, during the health care reform debate, hearing that we pay four times as much for people to go to emergency rooms than what we'd pay if we simply helped them get insurance, government or otherwise.

So, Romney isn't entirely wrong. It is a form of socialized medicine having the government insure health care for everyone who's uninsured. They do it in Israel, and Romney praised that only a few months ago.

But in America, all you have to do is use a dirty word to describe thing - preferably the word socialist or communist - and everyone screams in horror, even though they don't usually understand what socialism even is, or what the thing is that's being compared to socialism (ask the average American to name three things that the dreaded Obamacare actually does - good luck getting two).

But back to emergency rooms, they're expensive as hell in this country, and hardly a suitable alternative to health insurance. In France, you pay around 27 euros or so for an emergency room visit - that's about 35 US dollars. And if you have a medical procedure, they charge you more. But unlike the US, they don't nickel and dime you to death by charging you for every doctor, and every aspirin, separately. It's one flat rate, and the procedure is another flat rate.

In the US, you pay for everything, and you pay a LOT. I believe I read the average American emergency room visit costs around $1000. (That's 770 euros, for you foreigners.) And that's just walking in the door. The price goes up quickly from there.

Were emergency room visits to cost only $35 a person, then I might be more inclined to the Romney point of view (though how do you manage diabetes with regular emergency room visits - and at that point, it's no longer an "emergency" room if we're expecting people to go there regularly for non-emergencies - we might as well skip the facade and admit we have nationalized health care and pay 1/4 of the price we pay today).

I was recently in a US emergency room for more eye troubles on a recent weekend (I was concerned I might have another retinal tear, or worse), and I shudder at the bills I'm going to receive.  I also still shudder at the care I did receive from the 1st year resident who didn't appear to have a lot of hands-on experience dealing with actual living human eyeballs (my eye hurt for a week after).  (My eye is fine.  It did have a small tear, that the resident didn't see - my doc, who was willing to see me on a Sunday morning, did see it, and fixed it.)

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Is Romney preparing for a new war in the Middle East?

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Or, is he just trying to show the Republicans that he can be a tough guy like Bush? Either way, the end result is not very good. If he thinks people want yet another costly war that will never end in the Middle East, he's sadly mistaken. Americans that actually watch their own budget are fed up with spending billions upon billions for unnecessary wars that the political class imagines are needed.

If Romney is trying to have a "I have a big penis" moment in order to win over the many Republicans who don't like him or trust him (like the NASCAR voters who now prefer Obama), he's failing to see how dangerous the war talk really is. By promoting another expensive war it only shows how ill prepared he is to lead. Romney's pro-war talk is not productive for any reason.
President Barack Obama hit back hard in a "60 Minutes" interview broadcast Sunday at Mitt Romney's criticisms of his handling of Syria and Iran, saying that if the Republican standard-bearer "is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so."

Obama also brushed aside talk that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressuring him to take a harder line on Iran's suspicious nuclear program — source of some of Romney's sharpest campaign-trail criticisms.

"When it comes to our national security decisions-- any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there," the president said.
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Murdoch's disgraced son promoted to prime job at Fox

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Among the super rich, you can't screw up enough to get a demotion.

Whether it's Wall Street getting massive bonuses after destroying the banking system, and the entire economy, or Mitt Romney's own team who were just paid nearly a quarter of a million in bonuses for getting Romney into last place, or of course the Bush team who never faced the music for ignoring the pre-9/11 warnings, there are different rules for this class.

It's hard to believe that they still think of themselves as victims.

Rupert Murdoch's son James, who slipped out of the UK in disgrace following the extensive phone-hacking scandal, now has a plum position at Fox.

When you are as rich as the Murdoch family, the norms that apply to everyone else do not apply to you. They write their own rules while thumbing their nose at everyone else.
James Murdoch will be given more responsibility over News Corp's U.S. television operations more than a year after he became a central figure in the company's telephone hacking scandal in the UK, two sources familiar with the matter said.

News of the promotion comes on the heels of a ruling earlier on Thursday by a UK regulator that appears to have cleared pay-TV company BSkyB of any connection to the scandal that tainted News Corp last year.

The 39-year-old son of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch will be given a larger, more operational role in the Fox Networks Group, which oversees Fox's broadcast network and its cable channels that include FX, National Geographic and Fox sports channels, according to two people with knowledge of the move.
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Dead militiamen found in Benghazi

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It sounds like the people of Benghazi are not interested in seeing the extremists have their way in the area. The Guardian:
The Libyan city of Benghazi was tense after the bodies of six militiamen apparently executed after the storming of a base on the southern outskirts were discovered in a field.

The bodies were found the day after crowds marched on three militia bases, including that of Ansar al-Sharia, blamed by many in the city for the murder of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, earlier this month. Funerals were held for nine protesters killed when crowds tried to force their way into the Rafallah al-Sahati militia base early on Saturday morning.

The militia was the only one of three to fire back when demonstrators swarmed over their bases, following a rally on Friday in which 30,000 people vowed to retake the streets of the city.
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Romney says it's "fair" that he only pays 14 percent taxes and you pay more

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Romney on 60 Minutes tonight:
(PELLEY) Now you made, on your investments, personally, about $20 million last year. And you paid 14% in federal taxes. That's the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes $50,000 and paid a higher rate than you did?

(ROMNEY) It is a low rate. And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as 35%.

( PELLEY) So you think it is fair.

(ROMNEY) Yeah, I-- I think it's the right way to encourage economic growth-- to get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work.
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Video: Romney was destroyed on the Sunday shows for the 47 percent remark

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Romney: "I used to think that becoming rich and becoming famous would make me happy. Boy was I right."

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Mitt Romney, on film:
"I used to think that becoming rich and becoming famous would make me happy. Boy was I right."

Keep in mind that Romney has based his entire campaign on attacking President Obama for out of context comments, so I'm not even going to give you the context. It doesn't matter when discussing the man whose first campaign ad was a lie (taking video of President Obama quoting John McCcain, but leaving out the McCain reference so it looks like Obama is saying the words on behalf of himself), and whose entire convention was devoted to another out of context quote ("you didn't built it," which was referring to roads and infrastructure, not your business).

In a related matter, don't forget that Mitt Romney thinks America is a foreign country. Read the rest of this post...

Is there $9 million missing from Romney's taxes?

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Another day and another list of questions related to Mitt Romney's partial tax document dump on Friday.

Either his team of tax attorneys are complete idiots - doubtful, to say the least - or they're playing games. Romney's initial 2011 earnings estimates in January were $22.7 million, up from $21.58 million in 2010. In September, the updated tax filing showed $13.7 million for his 2011 earnings.

Just as there were a number of questions yesterday, there are more again today. Click through to read the full article at It's disturbing, but will the traditional media ask questions?

- Is it credible to believe that his team was off by $9 million?
- Did this radical change help him lower his tax rate?

There are too many issues with the information that he provided and they all reflect poorly on his ability to ever come clean and be honest with the American public. When Romney is not making gaffes, he is providing spin that only the super rich can spin. All of his answers feel slippery, as though he's convinced himself that he just tricked everyone.

People of the Romney class have means beyond the reach of everyone else and they use every resource available to exploit the system. What's worse is that they then go out and try pointing the finger at the most vulnerable people who rely on assistance to keep living. The Romney class relies on loopholes and tax attorneys to fund the construction of an elevator in their house or for tax write offs to fund their Olympic show horse. Read the rest of this post...

Romney family trust invested in China, bet against America

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Much like his strange decision to pay more taxes than he had to pay in 2011, the supposedly blind trust sold off it's investments in China as the Romney campaign gained momentum. Wow, what are the odds of that happening in a blind trust?

And how about old Mitt taking bets against America? Who runs for president of the United States and makes financial bets against his own country?

NY Yimes:
The 2011 tax returns his campaign released on Friday show that Mr. Romney’s family trusts had invested in shares of a Chinese-owned state oil company but got rid of those investments this summer as Mr. Romney’s anti-Chinese rhetoric heated up on the campaign trail.

In 2009 and 2010, the W. Mitt Romney blind trust invested $77,262 in shares of Cnooc Limited, the state-owned Chinese oil company, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. On Aug. 10, 2011, as Mr. Romney was emerging as a harsh critic of China, the shares were sold, producing a profit of $8,138, as the trust made money on the oil company but lost money on the bank.

The trust also invested in derivative securities linked to the Japanese stock market and to an index that includes stocks in every major country except the United States. It invested in a derivative that would profit if the dollar fell against a group of foreign currencies.
Is Mitt Romney arrogant enough to think that people are stupid and not paying attention or is he just arrogant? Read the rest of this post...

How to handle the Right — "join" them

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I'm going to make a fun point and a serious point with this one.

The fun point

The story — a couple of dozen "Tea Party" activists held a rally in Manhattan on Thursday to "stand up to Occupy Wall Street extremists".

(I put "Tea Party" in quotes because the rally was organized by Americans for Prosperity, the operative arm of the Koch Bros. God knows who believes what in that outfit.)

The rally was foiled by Occupyers, however — who playfully joined in. The Guardian:
A conservative rally billed as an opportunity to "stand up to Occupy Wall Street extremists" fell flat on Thursday when it was co-opted by members of Occupy Wall Street.

Supporters of Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-esque group [-esque indeed] funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, gathered at the Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan to demonstrate against both Occupy Wall Street and President Obama.

But almost half of the sparse crowd were Occupy Wall Street protesters, smartly dressed and bearing signs parodying Americans for Prosperity's ultra-conservative message.

"My sign says: 'I'm dreaming of a white president, just like the ones we used to have,'" said Stan Williams, a labour organiser and member of the Occupy movement.
It must have been a lot of fun putting that together. Other signs included "I hate libraries" and "'Every man for himself.' –Jesus".

There are also several interesting videos in the article; it's worth a visit.

The serious point

Now my serious point. This is so under-appreciated as a technique. Not only is it non-violent, it's effective.

I'll give you three examples — one that should have happened, and two that still could.

Should have happened — When all those rightwingers open-carried guns to Democratic events, the only effective response was to do the same at their events. Mirror mirror.

But not dressed as leftwing counter-narrative gun-types. To do this right, you go as a rightwing gun-job — read your NRA bible, bone up on all your rightwing rights, and profess exactly what the guys at the Dem rallies profess.

Just be them, like in the story above. Be a Second-Amendment American to the bone. Chew tobacco if you think that helps. Spit.

Instantly two things will happen: (1) You'll strip all the political context from the act, and everyone who sees you will see how stupid (and dangerous) the act itself is. That will happen on camera, by the way, since you've timed this to get the same news coverage everyone like you is getting.

And (2) the rightwing Blackwater cop-jobs will jump you like nobody's business. You'll spout off about your rightwing rights, and your rightwing bro's and sisters will shuck those rights right out of you — also on camera. (Be sure to cover your face, and don't forget your lines.)

How perfect is that? The right doesn't stand by that stuff; they just pretend to. Here's a perfect chance to make them show it. Believe me, they will, eagerly. You might even get a lawsuit out of it.

So that's one perfect opportunity that we missed. But file it, folks. This can be done anytime the time is ripe.

Still can happen — We're drowning in conscience objections from the right, challenges in court, the whole nine yards. Even my alma mater is soiling itself.

To respond, don't use words; use deeds. You have a conscience too, right? Sure you do; what real American doesn't? So use it.

Go get a job at ... oh, Chic-fil-A would be nice ... then start using your conscience to object. You don't have to object to gays. Object to ... chicken. You'll serve anything on the menu, but not the chicken, because your religion worships birds.

You'll serve anything else — fries are good, and anyone who likes the tasty sides can have all of them they want. You'll serve the breakfast sausage with both hands. Just not the bird. Make sure there's a camera handy when the boss objects to your objections.

I'm making this up, and you can probably do better. Opportunities for this kind of fun are endless.

Your model is the pharmacist who won't dole out birth control and Plan B.

Your advantage? Anyplace that honors one conscience objection honors all conscience objection — it's the dirty secret of conscience objection. All conscience is individual. Again, just strip politics from the act, and go with it. Be sure someone with a camera is handy.

Honors class project — Get a job at a pharmacy that has already supported someone who conscience-objects to vagina products (BC, Plan B, IUDs), and turn the tables. Refuse to dole out ... Viagra would make sense. Or asthma drugs. Or corn plasters, if there's a prescription version. You pick.

Then when the boss comes to see what the fuss is about, stand by your conscience and demand he defend it as well. After all, he defended the other guy's.

Put him on the spot and make sure there's a camera around. Just remember to play your role completely — be sincere, have a conscience, and object on that basis. If there's follow-up (and if you're good, there will be), stay in character.

You're not making a point; the point is making itself through you.

Your November dissertation — Want a real one you can do in two months? If you live in a state where wingers are challenging black and brown voters, you can Mirror-Mirror them at white polling places.

Don't go outside the script. Just find out what they're doing — word for word if need be — and do that. Make sure that the cameras covering the dust-up at black and brown polling places are covering yours.

This works if you mirror them and don't push further. Do that, get the press, and your diploma awaits. You've arrived. If this RW stuff is happening your state, and ten groups (say) on our side play the Mirror Game, I guarantee you a solid 15 minutes of fame. If not more.

Bottom line

The point of all of this is to strip the Right of its ability to make the ridiculous make sense — but only in the context of their presumed specialness. You do it by playing Mirror-Mirror without the context, then let the world play "who's the fool?".

A Hindu refusing to serve beef at a restaurant would be fired and laughed out of town. But a vagina-cop drug dispenser at a pharmacy makes sense?

Not after you're done doing the same. This is how you tar their act with your own (kind of the way the right tarred impeachment using Clinton; there will never be another one).

And to go back to my first point — this really is fun. There are plenty of worse ways to make a point. Effective tactics can also be a blast.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius
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